Fuji Kōgaku

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Fuji Kōgaku was a Japanese camera maker active at least from 1936 to 1944, and maybe also for some time after the war. It is unrelated to the much better known company Fuji Film. At some point in the 1950s it became Katsuma Kōgaku Kōgyō and established the related company Pioneer Camera.

Contents

History

Prewar and wartime

The company appeared c.1936 as Fuji Kōgaku Kikai Seisakusho (富士光学器械製作所), based in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.[1] Its first cameras were the Dianette and Pionette, copies of the Pearlette or Piccolette. At the beginning, the company used a round logo reading FUJI OPTISCHE WERK and TK. It was soon replaced by a FUJI KŌGAKU logo inside a doublet lens scheme with a protuberance at the top, reminding the silhouette of Mount Fuji. The company also used the short name Fujikō (富士光).

From 1936, Fuji Kōgaku released a range of cameras called "Lyra" (ライラ, raira); this name was certainly meant to recall "Leica" (ライカ, raika in Japanese). By 1937, the company's headquarters moved to Hongō, Tokyo, whereas the main plant was still in Ikebukuro.[2]

In 1938 or 1939, the company was renamed Fuji Kōgaku Kōgyō K.K. (富士光学工業㈱, Fuji Optical Industries Co., Ltd.); it retained the same name at least until 1944. From c.1939, a second plant appeared in Itabashi, Tokyo.[3]

The Fujikō cameras were first distributed by various dealers, among which Yamamoto Shashinki-ten,[4] before the separate trading company Fujikō Shōji K.K. (富士光商事株式会社) was formed around 1941.[5]

Postwar

The company probably survived the war: a version of the Lyra Six has been observed that is probably postwar, as indicated by the style of the top housing and the presence of a synchronized shutter with a PC connector. This camera has a logo similar in shape to the one described above, but written LYRA FUJIKŌ. It seems that the postwar Lyraflex was made around the same time, when the company was still using the Fujikō name. The late model of the Baby Balnet has FUJI.K TOKYŌ markings, and was probably made after the war too. Finally, a column about the Balnet Four dated 1953 mentions the distributor Fuji Shōji (富士商事), based in Nakameguro (Tokyo), perhaps an associated trading company.[6]

It is said that Fuji Kōgaku was split in two parts, one of them becoming Taisei Kōki (see this page) and the other taking the name Katsuma Kōgaku Kōgyō K.K. (勝間光学工業株式会社).[7] Both companies used the Terionar lens name and had similar logos, but only Katsuma kept the Lyra brand name, making the postwar Semi Lyra in 1955 and 1956. The company used a KATUMA[8] LYRA logo that was similar in shape to the logo used by Fuji Kōgaku.

It seems that another company called Pioneer Camera K.K. (パイオニアカメラ株式会社) was set up at the end of 1955 to make or sell the Pioneer folder. This company shared the same address as Katsuma[9] and the Pioneer folder seems to share its body casting with the postwar Semi Lyra. Katsuma and Pioneer cameras were separately advertised in 1955 and 1956[10] before both companies ceased camera production.

Katsuma is mentioned by various sources as a binocular maker, and it seems that it continued to make binoculars long after it dropped the camera activity, sometimes using the English name Katsuma Optical Company and the corresponding KOC logo inside a triangle, itself inside a circle.

120 film cameras

4.5×6 rangefinder, collapsible

4.5×6 folding

The Bakyna strut-folder is attributed by some sources[11] to Fuji Kōgaku, but this is unsure.

The Semi Elka might be related to Fuji Kōgaku,[12] but this is unconfirmed.

6×6 folding

6×6 TLR

6×9 folding

127 film cameras

3×4 folding

4×4 telescopic

4×6.5 folding

Unknown

Subminiature cameras

The Nikkobaby, name variant of the Comex, was perhaps made by the company too.

Other products

Shutters

  • Elka (attribution unconfirmed)
  • Picco
  • Noblo
  • Fujikō A and B
  • Fujikō F and J

Lenses

Advertisements in Asahi Camera dated February to April 1936 say that the company was supplying lenses from f/6.3 to f/3.5.[13] A Terionar 50mm f/4.5 lens by Fuji Kōgaku was offered as an option on the Baby Rosen by Proud.

Miscellaneous

  • Elka accessory rangefinder, marked ELKA Distanzer, sold in 1936[13]
  • Lyra accessory rangefinder, sold ¥12 in 1937[14]
  • Lyra Meter[15]

Notes

  1. The address was Tōkyō-shi Toshima-ku Ikebukuro 6–1959 (東京市豊島区池袋六ノ一九五九). Source: advertisement in Asahi Camera April 1936, no page number.
  2. The address of the company was Tōkyō-shi Hongō-ku Hongō 3-chōme (東京市本郷区本郷三丁目) at least from 1937 to 1944. The first plant is mentioned from 1937 to 1939 at the same Ikebukuro address. Source: advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.100–1, and advertisements reproduced on pp.34 and 63 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
  3. The address was Tōkyō-shi Itabashi-ku Itabashi 1-chōme (東京市板橋区板橋一丁目). Source: advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.101, advertisement reproduced on p.34 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, and "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras").
  4. Advertisement by the distributor Yamamoto Shashinki-ten published in Sunday Mainichi (13 December 1936), reproduced in the Gochamaze website. Other dealers are mentioned in a September 1937 advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.100.
  5. The address of Fujikō Shōji was Tōkyō-shi Kyōbashi-ku Ginza Nishi 6-chōme (東京市京橋区銀座西六丁目) from 1941 to 1944. Source: advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.100–1, and advertisement on the front cover of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, February 15, 1944, reproduced on p.63 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
  6. Column of a Japanese magazine dated 1953 (perhaps the July 1953 issue of Asahi Camera), reproduced on p.34 of Camera Collectors' News no.31. The exact address was Tōkyō Meguro-ku Nakameguro 2–392 (東京目黒区中目黒2の392). The company name Fuji Shōji K.K. (富士商事㈱) also appears in an earlier advertisement on p.6 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, April 20, 1948, reproduced on p.84 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, for a company located in Nihonbashi (Tokyo) which is perhaps unrelated.
  7. According to Tanaka, p.44, and this page at Japan Family Camera. In 1932, a company called Katsuma Kōgaku Kikai Seisakusho (勝間光学機械製作所) is cited together as one of the two founders of Tōkyō Kōgaku, but this seems unrelated.
  8. 'Katuma' and 'Katsuma' are two alternative ways to write 勝間 in the Roman alphabet. The latter is closer to the true pronunciation.
  9. This address was Tōkyō-to Toshima-ku Ikebukuro 6–1981 (東京都豊島区池袋6の1981). Source: advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.160 and 204.
  10. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.358 and 371.
  11. Sugiyama, item 1031; McKeown, p.328.
  12. The name Elka was used by Fuji Kōgaku on an accessory rangefinder in 1936.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Advertisements in Asahi Camera February 1936, p.A25, March 1936, p.A25, and April 1936, p.A24. That dated March is also reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.77.
  14. Advertisement in Asahi Camera September 1937, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.100.
  15. Advertisement on the back cover of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, February 15, 1944, reproduced on p.78 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.

Bibliography

Original documents

  • Asahi Camera March 1936. "Atarashii kikai to zairyō" (新しい機械と材料, New equipment and machinery). P.457.
  • Asahi Camera. Advertisements by Fuji Kōgaku:
    • February 1936, p.A25;
    • March 1936, p.A25;
    • April 1936, p.A24;
    • April 1936, no page number.
  • "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" (国産写真機ノ現状調査, Inquiry into Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of April 1943. Reproduced in Supuringu kamera de ikou: Zen 69 kishu no shōkai to tsukaikata (スプリングカメラでいこう: 全69機種の紹介と使い方, Let's try spring cameras: Presentation and use of 69 machines). Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppan-sha, 2004. ISBN 4-87956-072-3. Pp.180–7.
  • Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin (日本写真興業通信). Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku (百号ごと十回の記録, Ten records, every hundred issues). Tokyo: Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin Sha (日本写真興業通信社), 1967. No ISBN number. Advertisements on p.34, corresponding to the second cover of the December 15, 1939 issue, on pp.63 and 78, corresponding to the front and back covers of the February 15, 1944 issue, and on p.84, corresponding to p.6 of the February 15, 1944 issue.

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Fuji Kōgaku cameras (edit)
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