Lausar and Baika
The Lausar (ローザー) and Baika (バイカ) are Japanese cameras taking 3×4cm pictures on 127 film, made c.1937 by Tomioka and perhaps Sankyō Kōgaku. They have a focal plane shutter and look like the Leica models of the time, though without a rangefinder. Their features are similar to the Riken No.1 and Gokoku, which appeared later and were perhaps related.
The camera has a dodecagonal metal body with leather covering and chrome top and bottom plates. The viewfinder is offset to the left, as seen by the photographer; it is contained in a short casing extending to the right. There is an accessory shoe next to the viewfinder, and the speed dial and shutter release are further to the right. The name, logo and serial number are engraved above the viewfinder.
The film is advanced by a knob at the right end, whose base is surrounded by an exposure counter. There is a fake rewind knob at the left end of the top plate: as the camera uses 127 film it does not need to rewind, and the knob merely serves to make the camera look like a Leica. The back is removed together with the bottom plate for film loading.
The Lausar (ローザー) is recognized by its name Lausar engraved above the viewfinder, together with a logo, the company name Tomioka kogaku Tokyo and the serial number.
Only two surviving examples of the Lausar are known. Body no.1096 was shown on a blog in 2012 and sold at Westlicht in 2013. Its speed dial has Z, 20–500 settings. It is paired with a collapsible Lausar 5cm f/4.5 lens, whose barrel is modelled on the Leitz Elmar 5cm f/3.5. The focusing mount is driven by a tab with an infinity stop. The diaphragm is controlled by an index around the front element, and the aperture scale goes from 4.5 to 18. The front rim is engraved Lausar f=5cm 1:4,5. The camera comes with its original metal lens cap, painted black and engraved Lausar.
The other camera, with a serial number in the 11xx range (perhaps 1198), was shown in a letter by Ōishi Hiroshi to the Japanese collectors' magazine Kurashikku Kamera Senka. It is similar but perhaps lacks the 1/20 setting. It is paired with a collapsible Lausar 5cm f/3.5 lens, very similar to the f/4.5 version except for the maximal aperture and for the engraving Tomioka Lausar f=5cm 1:3,5 on the front rim.
Ōishi says that he asked the Tomioka company about the camera, and the answer was that "about ten prototypes were made at the time of the China events" (an euphemism for the war with China which broke out in 1937) but "it did not enter serial production because of the war".
|Baika in Camera Club, April 1937. (Image rights)|
The Baika (バイカ) is featured in the April 1937 issue of Camera Club, reproduced above. The document presents the camera as a Leica copy, and the name "Baika" itself is very close to Leica (ライカ, raika in Japanese). The word baika has various meanings in kanji characters, one of which is "plum blossom" (with the characters 梅花), but it is only written in katakana script in the document. The text describes auto-stop film advance, chrome finish, B, 25–500 speeds and a Lausar f/4.5 lens. It gives the price of ¥120, and says that the camera was distributed by the Ōsaka department store Daimaru Hyakkaten.
A single surviving example of the Baika has been found, exactly similar to the camera pictured in Camera Club. There is a Baika logo above the viewfinder, looking like a five-leaf plum blossom, an indication of origin MADE IN NIPPON TOKYO, a company name SANKYO KOGAKU and a serial number. The company might correspond to the current Sankyō Kōgaku Kōgyō, but nothing has yet been confirmed. The camera is identical to the Lausar by Tomioka, except for the lens.
The lens mounted on the Baika pictured in Camera Club and on the surviving example is a collapsible Lausar 5cm f/4.5. Its barrel is similar to that of the f/3.5 lens attached to the Lausar camera. The front element has a reduced diameter, and the aperture scale goes from 4.5 to 18. The front rim is engraved Lausar f=5cm 1:4,5, with no mention of the maker.
|Baika, from Camera Club, April 1937. (Image rights)|
Relation with the Riken
The general aspect and the layout of the controls on the Lausar and Baika are very similar to the camera Riken announced in 1938 as the Riken No.1 and released in 1939 as the Gokoku. The main body of the Riken and Gokoku has a different, smoother shape, and it seems that they have no part in common with the Lausar and Baika. The design similarity is nonetheless striking, and this naturally leads to the hypothesis that Riken took over the Lausar or Baika project from Tomioka or Sankyō and developed it into the Gokoku.
- Lausar serial no. 1096, sold at the 23rd Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 25 May 2013; several good photographs showing details of the camera.
- All the pictures of the Lausar and Baika show an interchangeable lens, and a screw mount is mentioned in Awano, p.59 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.37. The compatibility with the Leica mount is plausible but unconfirmed.
- This page by Japancamerahunter.
- Ōishi, "Dokusha-dayori", pp.161–2 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14.
- Original text: 当社製である。戦前(支那事変当時当時)試作機として10台程造った。だが戦争のため量産化を断念した.
- Column in Camera Club April 1937, p.53.
- Original text: ライカのそっくりの型です.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.338.
- Example pictured in Awano, p.59 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.37.
- Camera Club April 1937. "Sokuhōtō" (速報塔, News column). P.53.
- Asahi Camera (アサヒカメラ) editorial staff. Shōwa 10–40nen kōkoku ni miru kokusan kamera no rekishi (昭和10–40年広告にみる国産カメラの歴史, Japanese camera history as seen in advertisements, 1935–1965). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1994. ISBN 4-02-330312-7. Item 172.
- Awano Mikio (粟野幹男). "Kokusan Barunakku-gata kamera: Gokoku, Rikōru" (国産バルナック型カメラ・ゴコク、リコール, Japanese Leica-type cameras: Gokoku, Ricohl). In Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.37, March 1996. No ISBN number. Leica Book '96 (ライカブック'96). Pp.58–9.
- Ōishi Hiroshi (大石博). Letter to Kurashikku Kamera Senka in Dokusha-dayori (読者だより, Readers' letters). Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.14, October 1989. No ISBN number. Rikō kamera no subete (リコーカメラのすべて, special issue on Ricoh). Pp.161–2.
- Pont, P.-H., and Princelle, J.-L. 300 Leica Copies. Neuilly: Fotosaga, 1990. ISBN 2-906840-03-3. P.198. (Brief mention only, the Lausar and "Baica" are wrongly described as name variants of the Riken No.1.)
The Lausar and Baika are not listed in Sugiyama.
- Lausar serial no. 1096, sold at the 23rd Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 25 May 2013
- Lausar serial no. 1096 shown at [Japancamerahunter's blog