Doryu 1

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The Doryu 1 (ドリウ1型) or Doryu 1-9.5 (ドリウ1-9.5型) is a pistol-shaped camera taking 9.5mm film, completed in 1952 by the Doryu company at prototype level only, and predecessor of the Doryu 2-16. (The camera itself has markings identifying it as a "Doryu 3", and some sources have wrongly inferred that it was made in 1955 or 1956, after the model 2.)[1]

History and documents

The Doryu cameras were developed for police and surveillance tasks, mainly to catch photographic evidence of criminal behaviour in the act.[2] The first camera was developed from 1949, with some degree of official support, and was completed in 1952 as the Doryu 1 or 1-9.5, taking 9.5mm film.[3] It never went into production because of durability problems: the bakelite joints tended to come loose with heat, and shock-resistance was insufficient for the intended use.[4] The low availability of 9.5mm film stock in Japan was another drawback,[5] and the company began to develop the newer Doryu 2-16 on the same year 1952,[6] taking the more widespread 16mm film.

The Doryu 1 is mentioned in the March 1955 issue of Shashin Kōgyō, in an article about the Doryu 2-16 written by Andō Katsuyasu, an employee of the Doryu company. This is the only contemporary public appearance of the camera known so far.[7] In this article, the camera is consistently described as the "Doryu 1" or "Doryu 1-9.5", whereas the pictured camera has "Doryu 3" markings, for an unknown reason.

The single surviving example known so far is pictured in Sugiyama's book, with serial number 1109.[8][9] This camera has the same "Doryu 3" markings as mentioned above. It shows detail differences from the camera pictured in Andō's article, in the lens tip, in the chrome fitting at the gun nozzle, and in the hinge of the handgrip lid.


Main body

The device is shaped as an automatic pistol, with a handgrip and a trigger. It is predominantly made of black bakelite, and weighs 395g.[10] The top part has an aperture on the right, revealing a compartment for a magnesium cartridge, used for flash photography. There are inscriptions on both sides: certainly MADE IN JAPAN on the right, and something ending in PISTOL CAMERA on the left. There are round chrome parts at the gun nozzle and at the rear end of the breechblock. These look like a round window and an eyepiece, and at least one source inferred that the top part contains a "tubular optical sight".[11] However the presence of this unusually long tubular finder is dubious: the magnesium cartridge would stand in the way, and it is not mentioned by any of the authors who actually approached the camera. The purpose of the front window thus remains unknown.

The handgrip has some sort of logo made of various intertwined letters, in the middle of a cross-shaped structure visible on both sides. The name DORYU 3 is embossed at the bottom, on the left side only. It seems that the bottom lid is hinged to the rear and has an opening key. It certainly gives access to a magazine containing various magnesium cartridges, just as on the Doryu 2-16.

The trigger both trips the shutter and fires the magnesium cartridge. It is perhaps locked by one of the levers visible immediately to the rear. It is said that it is interlocked with the flash system to prevent double exposures.[12]

Camera part

The camera part is placed at the front end, in front of the trigger and below the viewfinder window. It takes five pictures in 8×8mm size.[13] The film stock reportedly consists of a short strip of 9.5mm cine film wrapped on a cylindrical drum, with the emulsion facing outwards, a system which was certainly prone to film flatness problems.[14] The drum is certainly rotated to advance to the next exposure. Andō's article says that this is driven by "moving the cover",[15] probably meaning the top part, reproducing the movement of the breechblock on a real pistol. This movement certainly ejects the used flash cartridge and extracts the next cartridge from the magazine contained inside the handgrip.

The film is loaded through the left-hand side plate, which is hinged to the bottom and contains a small window for an exposure counter. The door is engraved PATENTS at the top and Doryu3 at the bottom. The right side of the camera is engraved DORYU CAMERA CO. LTD. at the bottom and has a serial number at the top. There is an accessory shoe on the same side, which is vertically oriented and whose purpose is completely unknown. There is a round part on the underside, certainly containing a tripod socket.

Lens and shutter

The fixed lens is mounted at the front end, under the gun nozzle. The article by Andō mentions a 23/3.5 fixed-focus lens,[16] whereas Sugiyama mentions a 23/3.3 with helical focusing.[17] On the available pictures, the lenses seem to differ slightly. The camera pictured in Andō's article has a shorter front part, apparently unmarked, whereas the example pictured in Sugiyama has a longer front barrel, certainly engraved DORYU 3. However none of these seems to have a focusing ring, and the mention of helical focusing in Sugiyama is perhaps mistaken. Both sources agree on the presence of an adjustable diaphragm, closing to f/16 according to Sugiyama.[18] The guillotine shutter reportedly gives Bulb and 1/30 settings,[19] but the position of the selector is unknown.


  1. See for example Pritchard, p.147 (says 1956), or Sugiyama, item 5030 (says 1955).
  2. Andō, p.214: 防犯警備用を目的として設計されている and 犯人や現状の証拠撮影.
  3. Andō, p.214: 昭和24年関係当局の応援を得て、[...]設計しましたのが、昭和27年に完成したドリウ1-9.5型カメラであります.
  4. Andō, p.215: ベークライトの結合部が温度により変化して狂い易いこと、衝撃に対する耐久力の不足が原因となり量産を中止する.
  5. Andō, p.214: このカメラは耐久力とフィルムの入手困難のため、発売するに至らず.
  6. Andō, p.214: 同年新たにドリウ2-16型を設計[...]しました.
  7. This article is notably the only source listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.356.
  8. Sugiyama, item 5030.
  9. The same example of the camera is to be sold at the 37th Leitz Photographica Auction in November 2020 (several good pictures).
  10. Andō, p.214: ドリウ1型はベークライトボディで総重量は三九五グラム[...]であります.
  11. Pritchard, p.147, certainly after observing the pictures in Sugiyama, item 5030.
  12. Andō, p.215: 閃光弾の装填摘出を行い安全装置で二重露出防止になっております.
  13. Five pictures: Andō, p.215: 五枚撮りであります (also in Nakajima, p.144 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.35, and Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.356). 8×8mm size: Sugiyama, item 5030.
  14. Nakajima, p.144 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.35. Use of 9.5mm cine film is confirmed in Andō, pp.214–5: 九・五ミリシネフィルムを使用した.
  15. Andō, p.215: カバーの移動によりフィルム巻取り[...].
  16. Andō, p.215: レンズは二十三ミリF三・五の固定焦点[...].
  17. Sugiyama, item 5030.
  18. Andō, p.215: 虹彩絞りで[...]; Sugiyama, item 5030.
  19. Andō, p.215: シャッターは変型ギロチン式、B、1/30秒の二種; Sugiyama, item 5030.



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