Lord (Tōkyō Kōgaku)

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The Lord (ロード) is a Japanese 4.5×6 camera with a coupled rangefinder, released in 1937. It was the first camera model made by Tōkyō Kōgaku (later Topcon).


The Lord has a rigid body and a two-part telescopic tube supporting the lens and shutter assembly. The tube is mounted on a large focusing helical driven by a focusing tab, with an infinity stop attached to the body. The combined range and viewfinder is enclosed in a top housing, with a LORD logo at the front. The eyepiece is at the right end of the camera.

There is a big advance knob at the left end of the top plate, containing an exposure counter. It is said that the camera has an auto-stop advance device with manual setting of the first exposure.[1] This device seems to be entirely contained inside the advance knob. The back is hinged to the right and contains a red window to set the position for the first exposure.

The shutter is a Seikosha, giving T, B, 1–250[2] speeds with a self-timer. The shutter plate is marked SEIKOSHA-TOKYO at the top and SEIKOSHA at the bottom, and has three metal strips on each side of the lens. There is a near-vertical bar attached to the shutter housing, serving as the shutter release; its top end resembles a flat-blade screwdriver.[3] The lens is a 7.5cm f/3.5, and the aperture is set by an index at the bottom of the shutter plate.


It is said that the project of the Lord was initiated in September 1936, the first prototypes were made in February 1937 and production began in July 1937.[4] The Lord was developed by Y. Ishiguro and M. Numata,[5] under the supervision of M. Aiseki.[6] It is estimated that only 50 examples of the camera were built in 1937 and 1938.[7] It is said that the production was halted because the military designs took priority after the outbreak of war with China in 1937.[8] This is probably only part of the truth, minimizing the fact that the camera was unreliable.[9] One author specifically mentions rangefinder accuracy problems, due to the choice of a pressed steel body instead of die-cast alloy.[10] The next camera made by Tōkyō Kōgaku was the Minion 4×5cm folder, advertised as early as April 1938 and thus shortly following the Lord.[11] The war priorities perhaps encouraged the company to develop a simpler camera design rather than curing the Lord's flaws.

A full-page advertisement for the Lord was placed in the January 1938 to March 1938 issues of Asahi Camera, and the camera was featured in the new products column (p.470) of the March 1938 issue.[12] The Lord was offered for ¥180, soon (近日).

The lens described and pictured in the advertisement is a Toko Anastigmat (トーコー・アナスチグマット) 7.5cm f/3.5. The shutter is called S Seiko (Sセイコー), an alternative name of the original Seikosha.

The official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941 gives the price of ¥248 for the Lord,[13] and it also appears in a similar price list dated November 1941.[14] The government inquiry dated early 1943 also mentions the Lord as a 4.5×6 camera with a telescopic tube and a Seikosha shutter.[15] The lens is said to be a three-element Rotte 75/3.5 made by Tokiwa Kōgaku, but this is certainly a mistake in the document or its reproduction: the Toko 75/3.5 is described on the line immediately above and there is surely a confusion.[16]

Surviving examples

At least one example has survived and is presented in collectors' books.[17] It has a Simlar 7.5cm f/3.5 lens, said to be a four-element Tessar type while Toko lenses have three elements.

Two other changes are visible when compared with the camera illustrated in the advertisement. The advertised camera has a small button between the advance knob and the top housing, absent in the surviving example, and whose function is unknown. It also has a different helical: the distance scale is black with white engravings and needs half a turn to go from infinity to the closest distance (1, probably for one metre), while on the surviving example the distance scale is chrome with black engravings and only turns 90 degrees.


  1. Auto-stop advance with manual setting: Antonetto, p.22; "Atarashii kikai to zairyō", p.470. The March 1938 advertisement observed only says "new system of film advance" (巻取装置の新考案).
  2. Antonetto and Russo, p.23, say 1/200 top speed by mistake.
  3. Antonetto and Russo, p.23, mention folding rods running inside the telescopic tube to connect the release button to the shutter. Either it is a mistake, or their description applies to an unknown variant.
  4. Baird, p.71. Antonetto and Russo, p.22, also say that the project was started in 1936.
  5. Baird, p.71; Antonetto and Russo, p.22.
  6. Baird, p.71.
  7. Baird, p.71; Antonetto and Russo, p.23; Sugiyama, item 3052.
  8. Baird, p.71; Antonetto and Russo, p.23.
  9. The same story of war priorities is told elsewhere about the Olympus Standard, with equal doubts about the camera's reliability.
  10. Baird, p.71. This author nonetheless says that the Lord was stopped because of military priorities. He is probably citing an internal source of the Topcon company. Antonetto and Russo, p.23, mention reliability problems too, but they make mistakes and misunderstood the camera construction.
  11. Dated: advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.341.
  12. The advertisements differ only in ink color; they are on pp. A74, A30 and A40 of the January, February and March issues respectively. The advertisement is reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.105. See also Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343.
  13. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 9.
  14. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 9.
  15. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 71, lens item Lb21, shutter item 24-Q-1.
  16. The presence of the Lord in documents dated 1941 and 1943 is mysterious: it might indicate that the camera was sold for longer than it is usually supposed.
  17. Antonetto and Russo, p.23; Baird, p.71; Schneider, p.109; Sugiyama, item 3052; this page of the Topcon Club website. (The pictures are better reproduced in Schneider and Sugiyama.) The camera illustrated is probably the same, with lens number ending in "09", said by Sugiyama to belong to the company.


Original documents

  • Asahi Camera. Advertisements for the Lord:
    • January 1938, p.A74;
    • February 1938, p.A30;
    • March 1938, p.A40.
  • Asahi Camera. "Atarashii kikai to zairyō" (新しい機械と材料, New equipment and materials), March 1938, pp.467–71. The monthly survey of new products; the Lord is written up on p.470.
  • "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō" (カメラの公定価格官報発表, Official announcement of the set prices of the cameras), November 1941. Extract of a table listing Japanese camera production and setting the retail prices, reproduced in "Bebī Semi Fāsuto 'Kore ha bebī wo nanotta semi-ki da'" (ベビーセミファースト"これはベビーを名乗ったセミ機だ", Baby Semi First, 'this is a Semi camera called Baby'), an article by Furukawa Yasuo (古川保男) in Camera Collectors' News no. 277 (July 2000). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. P. 27. Type 3, section 9.
  • "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. Item 71.
  • "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku" (国産写真機の公定価格, Set prices of the Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of October 25, 1940 and setting the retail prices from December 10, 1940. Published in Asahi Camera January 1941 and reproduced in 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. Pp.108—9. Type 3, section 9.

Recent sources

  • Antonetto, M. and Russo, C. Topcon Story. Lugano: Nassa Watch Gallery, 1997. ISBN 88-87161-00-3. Pp.22–3.
  • 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 332.
  • Baird, John R. The Japanese Camera. Yakima, WA: Historical Camera Publications, 1990. ISBN 1-879561-02-6. P.71.
  • Schneider, Jason. Jason Schneider on Camera Collecting, Book Two. Des Moines, Iowa: Wallace-Homestead, 1982. ISBN 0-87069-419-7. P.109.
  • Sugiyama, Kōichi (杉山浩一); Naoi, Hiroaki (直井浩明); Bullock, John R. The Collector's Guide to Japanese Cameras. 国産カメラ図鑑 (Kokusan kamera zukan). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1985. ISBN 4-257-03187-5. Item 3052.


In Japanese: