The Nifca-Dox (ニフカドックス) is a Japanese strut folding camera taking 6.5×9cm film plates or pack film. It was made by Nichidoku Shashinki Shōten (predecessor of Minolta) from 1930 or 1931 (see below).
"Nifca" comes from Nichidoku Foto Camera. Nichi in Nichidoku means Japan, and it is certainly not coincidental that "Nifca" can also be read as Nippon Foto Camera.
It is said that "Dox" refers to the giant flying boat Dornier Do X (see for example this Wikipedia page) which first flew in 1929 and made a transatlantic flight, leaving Friedrichshafen in November 1930 and reaching New York in August 1931.
Description of the body
The Nifca-Dox has a metal body. There is no folding bed but a rectangular front plate supported by straight spring-loaded struts at the four corners. This configuration is similar to that of the Goerz Vest-Pocket Tenax. (Nichidoku also copied the Roll-Tenax, another Goerz product, for the focusing device of the Nifcarette A.) Unlike the Tenax, the bellows is of the classical type, with multiple creases.
|Nichidoku logo on a Nifcarette. Picture by A. Apra (Image rights)|
There is a Newton finder on the photographer's left; the front element swings down along the front plate to gain size, and the rear bead is retractable too. A handle is attached to the right end of the body.
The name NIFCA–DOX is inscribed of the front plate at the bottom right, as seen from the front. The serial number is at the bottom left, and the logo of Nichidoku is at the top left; the logo has the letters N, D, PH and Co assembled inside a circle, surely for Nichi Doku Photo Company. The ground glass back has the same round logo embossed in the leather hood.
Lens and shutter
The shutter is ostensibly a Koilos, but at least one source says for some reason that it was "clearly made by the company (Nichidoku) itself". It is mounted in a black octagonal casing protruding from the front plate. It is everset and gives 25, 50, 100, B, T speeds, set by a wheel at the top. This wheel is covered by a metal plate inscribed KOILOS and Nifca Photo, the same as on the isolated example of the Nifcarette B found with a Koilos shutter. The release lever is attached to the front of the shutter casing, and there is a connector for a cable release protruding from the octagon's left edge (as seen from the front).
The lens is a front-cell focusing Nifca Anastigmat 105mm f/6.8, engraved Nifca–Anastigmat 1:6.8 f=105mm Nr xxxx with no mention of a lens maker. (Some sources mention a 105mm f/6.3 lens too, probably by mistake.) The Nifca-Dox was the first Japanese model to have a front-cell focusing lens. The aperture is set by a wheel protruding from the bottom right edge of the octagon (as seen from the front), certainly containing Waterhouse stops; the selected f-number is read in a small window on the right of the lens.
The Nifca Anastigmat was certainly an imported German lens that was rebranded; at the same time, the company was using a "Nifcaplan" lens made by Kenngott on the Nifcaklapp, and a "Nifcar" lens is also reported on the Nifcasport. It might have been assembled in Japan from imported elements, a practice which would become common in the 1930s (see for example Neumann & Heilemann). At least one source even suggests that the lens was made in Japan. If this is true, the Nifca-Dox would be the first Japanese camera sold with a Japanese lens, released shortly before the Tropical Lily with Hexar lens.
|Heavily retouched picture, from Shashin Kōgyō September 1958. (Image rights)|
Most sources say that the Nifca-Dox was released in 1930. However documents compiled by the company Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō (i.e. Minolta) and published in Shashin Kōgyō September 1958 say 1931 instead, and say that the Nifca-Dox appeared after the Nifcaklapp and Nifcasport. The fifty-year history book (1978) specifies February 1931, perhaps after the advertisement in Asahi Camera described below.
No original document dated 1930 is known to show the Nifca-Dox, and the camera does not appear in the January 1931 advertisement by Nichidoku Shashinki Shōten in Asahi Camera, which shows the Nifca range with the Nifcarette, Nifcaklapp and Nifcasport.
The following February 1931 issue of Asahi Camera contains a full page advertisement for the Nifca-Dox. The price is given as ¥29, with an f/6.8 Anastigmat lens, a Koilos shutter and three plate holders. The advertisement does not mention the Do X flying boat. Two pictures are provided, both heavily retouched; none shows a serial number.
Very few surviving examples of the Nifca-Dox have been observed so far, perhaps five or six. The first was belonging to the Minolta company in the 1980s; it has body no.6650, engraved as No 6650. It was not displayed in the JCII exhibition about Konica and Minolta in 2005, and its current fate is unknown. The second and third examples have no.6671 and no.6798; their serial number is prefixed by Nr instead of No. The fourth belongs to the Pentax Gallery; its front markings have faded away and are only faintly legible. Pictures are known of perhaps two more examples, but their serial number is not legible. All these cameras look exactly identical, except for the serial number prefix.
- Taniguchi, p.276 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (article also reproduced in Tanimura, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116), Francesch, p.17, Nifcarette page of the Konica Minolta website.
- Taniguchi, p.275 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (article also reproduced in Tanimura, pp.7–8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116). This is repeated in Francesch, p.19, Baird, p.40, Lewis, p.45, Scheibel, p.11, Sugiyama, item 1182, Tanimura in Camera Collectors' News no.116.
- Picture of the ground glass back visible in this page of the Nagoya Club website (archived).
- Awano, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12: シャッターもコイロス名ではあるが、明らかに自社製と思われるものを取り付け. Kamera no ayumi, p.59, says that the shutter is "of the Koilos type": コイロス型.
- McKeown, p.672, says that two models were made, with f/6.8 or f/6.3 lens, perhaps after incorrect reports. This page of the Nagoya Camera Club (archived) says that the lens is a Nifca-Anastigmat 105mm f/6.3, perhaps a typo.
- Kamera no ayumi, p.59, and Awano, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
- Awano, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
- Francesch, pp.18, 67 and 263, Awano, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, Saeki, p.77 of the same magazine, Baird, p.40, Scheibel, p.11, McKeown, p.672, Sugiyama, item 1182.
- Taniguchi, p.275 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77, and "Hensen kamera ichiran-pyō", p.295 of the same magazine. Both documents are reproduced in Tanimura, pp.7–8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116, and the chronology is reproduced in this Flickr page by Rebollo_fr.
- Minolta 50-nen no ayumi, pp.5 and 65.
- Advertisement reproduced in Awano, p.6 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
- Advertisement reproduced in Hagiya, p.9 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
- One of these pictures was re-used by the company in the September 1958 historical article by Taniguchi, p.275 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (article also reproduced in Tanimura, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116).
- According to Tashima Gizō, interviewed by Saeki Kakugorō on p.77 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
- Tashima Kazuo, Watakushi no rirekisho, reproduced in Andō, p.2 of Camera Collectors' News no.127.
- Example pictured in Francesch, p.70, and in Sugiyama, item 1182. Its origin mentioned in Sugiyama.
- No.6671 is pictured in Minolta 50-nen no ayumi, p.5, Baird, p.40, Lewis, p.45, McKeown, p.672, Scheibel, p.10, this page of the Manual Minolta website and this Chinese webpage (archived). No.6798 is pictured in Awano, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
- Example pictured in Kamera no ayumi, p.59.
- Example pictured in this page of the Nagoya Camera Club (archived), and example pictured in Eimukku 735 Minolta, pp.131–2.
- Andō Yoshinobu (安藤嘉信). "Arukadia no nazo" (アルカデリアの謎, Arcadia mystery). In Camera Collectors' News no.127 (January 1988). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. (Brief mention of the Nifca-Dox in a quote from Tashima Kazuo's book Watakushi no rirekisho.)
- Awano Mikio (粟野幹男). "Minoruta ryakushi" (ミノルタ略史, Minolta short history). 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.12, October 1988. No ISBN number. Minoruta kamera no subete (ミノルタカメラのすべて, special issue on Minolta). Pp.6–8.
- Awano Mikio (粟野幹男). "Senzen no Minoruta kamera" (戦前のミノルタカメラ, "Prewar Minolta cameras"). 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.12, October 1988. No ISBN number. Minoruta kamera no subete (ミノルタカメラのすべて, special issue on Minolta). Pp.13–17.
- Baird, John R. The Japanese Camera. Yakima, WA: Historical Camera Publications, 1990. ISBN 1-879561-02-6. P.40.
- Eimukku 735, Manyuaru Kamera Shirīzu 15 (エイムック735・マニュアルカメラシリーズ15). Minolta: Minoruta kamera no subete (Minolta:ミノルタカメラのすべて, Minolta: all of Minolta cameras). Tokyo: Ei Shuppansha, 2003. ISBN 4-87099-923-4. "Jabara-shiki kamera no kiseki" (蛇腹式カメラの軌跡", Evolution of folding cameras). Pp.131–2. Shows a very small picture with a brief caption.
- Francesch, Dominique and Jean-Paul. Histoire de l'appareil photographique Minolta de 1929 à 1985. Paris: Dessain et Tolra, 1985. ISBN 2-249-27685-4. Pp.18–9, 67, 70–1 and 263.
- Hagiya Takeshi (萩谷剛). "Kōkoku ni miru Minoruta kamera no rekishi" (広告に見るミノルタカメラの歴史, "Minolta camera history seen through the advertisements"). 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.12, October 1988. No ISBN number. Minoruta kamera no subete (ミノルタカメラのすべて, special issue on Minolta). Pp.9–12.
- Kamera no ayumi. Zen nihon shashin renmei sōritsu 50-shūnen kinen (カメラのあゆみ・全日本写真連盟創立五〇周年記念, History of cameras, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the All Japan Association of Photographic Societies). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1976. No ISBN number. P.59.
- Lewis, Gordon, ed. The History of the Japanese Camera. Rochester, N.Y.: George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography & Film, 1991. ISBN 0-935398-17-1 (paper), 0-935398-16-3 (hard). P.45.
- McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). P.672.
- Minolta Camera. Minolta 50-nen no ayumi (Minolta・50年のあゆみ, Minolta 50-year history). November 1978. Pp.5 and 65.
- Saeki Kakugorō (佐伯恪五郎). "Tashima Gizō-shi ni kiku" (田嶋義三氏に聞く, "Asking Tashima Gizō"). 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.12, October 1988. No ISBN number. Minoruta kamera no subete (ミノルタカメラのすべて, special issue on Minolta). Pp.76–9.
- Scheibel, Anni Rita and Joseph. 70 Jahre Minolta Kameratechnik — Von der Nifcalette bis zur Dynax 9. Stuttgart: Lindemanns Verlag, 3rd edition, 1999. ISBN 3-89506-191-3. Pp.10–1.
- Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (September 1958). "Hensen kamera ichiran-pyō" (変遷カメラ一らん表, Table of camera evolution.) P.295. (This is a chronology of Minolta cameras from the Nifcarette onwards. This document is reproduced in this Flickr page by Rebollo_fr.)
- 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 1182.
- Taniguchi Masao (谷口匡男), from the commercial department (営業部) of Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō. "Minoruta kamera no sakujitsu, konnichi" (ミノルタ・カメラの昨日、今日, Minolta cameras, yesterday and today). In Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (September 1958). Pp.275–9. (The two first pages of this document, on pre-1937 cameras, are also reproduced in Tanimura, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116.)
- Tanimura Yoshihiko (谷村吉彦). "Semi Minoruta I-gata to II-gata." (セミミノルタⅠ型とⅡ型, "Semi Minolta I and II") In Camera Collectors' News no.116 (February 1987). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. (Contains a reproduction of the articles in Shashin Kōgyō no.77, a discussion of the release dates and no other information on the Nifca-Dox.)
- Nifca-Dox in the Camera database of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology
- Nifca-Dox at the Nagoya Camera Club (archived)
- Nifca-Dox in a Chinese webpage
|Nifca, Molta and Chiyoda prewar and wartime cameras ( )|
|folding plate cameras|
|Nifcaklapp | Nifcasport | Sirius | Arcadia | Lomax | Eaton | Happy|
|folding rollfilm cameras||telescopic bakelite cameras|
|Nifcarette | Sirius Bebe | Semi Minolta | Auto Semi Minolta||Minolta Vest | Baby Minolta | Minolta Six|
|strut-folding cameras||TLR cameras|
|Nifca-Dox | Minolta | Auto Minolta | Auto Press Minolta||Minoltaflex | Minoltaflex Automat | Minoltaflex military prototype|