The Noble Hand Camera (ノーブル手提暗函) is a Japanese folding camera made from 1908 by Rokuoh-sha, the manufacturing branch of Konishi (predecessor of Konica). It reportedly exists in hagaki (8×14cm) and kabine (12×16.5cm) formats.
Early model, older front standard
The Noble was reportedly released in January 1908 in kabine-size. It is a vertical folder, with double extension bellows driven by a small wheel on the photographer's right. The early model has a front standard made of various parts including two cylindrical masts, and allowing vertical and horizontal movements. The brilliant finder is perched atop the left-hand mast and has a bubble level attached on the side.
It seems that the Noble was modified at some time to allow tilt movement. A screw was added on each side of the body, towards the bottom, and a small wheel was added to the bottom right, moving the folding bed back and forth, resulting in a tilting movement of the main body. At least one surviving example of the Noble is known with the older front standard and tilt movement ability.
An advertisement dated 1908 gives the model name Noble Hand Camera (ノーブル手提暗函). It says that the camera is made of mahogany with aluminium or nickel-plated metal parts, and insists on the small dimensions of the camera (20.3×15.2×4.8cm) and case (22.7×21.2×12.1cm), containing the body and three double-sided plate holders. The illustration shows the right-hand side of the body, which has no visible tilt control. The following versions are listed:
- Carl Zeiss Ser.IIb No.5a lens (i.e. Tessar 180/6.3), Compound shutter, ¥205;
- Carl Zeiss Ser.IIa No.3 lens (i.e. Protar 167/8), Auto shutter, ¥160;
- Bausch & Lomb Symmetrical lens, Auto shutter, ¥75.
The December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten shows a slightly different front standard, certainly having a removable lensboard. One of the illustrations shows the camera with a tripod, three plate holders and a suitcase. The camera is drawn from the right-hand side, and no tilt control is visible. The other illustration shows the camera from the left-hand side, and shows a screw towards the bottom of the body, perhaps associated with tilt controls on the other side. The following versions are listed:
- Carl Zeiss Ser.IIb No.5a lens (i.e. Tessar 180/6.3), Compound shutter, ¥188;
- Carl Zeiss Ser.IIIa No.3 lens (i.e. Protar 172/9), Auto shutter, ¥143;
- Extra Rapid Aplanat lens, Compound shutter, ¥105.
An advertisement by Mitsukoshi shows a different illustration where the camera side is hidden by the plate holders, and it is not possible to tell if the camera has tilt movement ability or not. Three versions are listed, named "Kō" (甲), "Otsu" (乙) and "Hei" (丙); these names were probably not officially given by Konishi but attributed by the distributor. The "Kō" has an Extra Rapid Aplanat lens and a Compound shutter (T, B, 1–200), and comes with three double-sided plate holders and a tripod in a dedicated suitcase. It was priced at ¥103. The "Otsu", priced at ¥90, is the same with no tripod and a simple case. The "Hei", at ¥125, has a Dallmeyer Carfac Ser.IV No.3 and a Koilos shutter, and comes in a suitcase.
Original illustrations depicting the camera with the older front standard and tilt movement ability are reproduced in some sources, but no complete document has been observed so far showing this.
It is said that the camera was also released in hagaki-size (8×14cm) in 1914, and Voigtländer Dynar and Heliar lenses are mentioned along with the Extra Rapid Aplanat, in Ibsor or Compound shutters.
Late model, newer front standard
The Noble was modified at some time with a front standard made of a single U-shaped alloy part. The lensboard is fixed and has the brilliant finder attached at the top. The newer front standard looks much like that of the Lily horizontal models or of the late kabine-size Idea.
It is said that the new model was already pictured in the 1918 catalogue by Konishiroku, and Tessar and Heliar f/4.5 lenses are mentioned with a Compur shutter. One surviving example is known with a silver brilliant finder and a bubble level attached on its side, reportedly having a Wollensak Velostigmat Ser.I lens and an Optimo shutter. Another example is known with a different brilliant finder having a more modern shape, and no bubble level. It is said that the variant with the newer finder was pictured in the January 1922 catalogue by Konishiroku, with a Dagor lens and a Compound shutter. This is the last reported mention of the Noble camera.
- The phrase tesage anbako (手提暗函) is rendered as "Hand Camera" in the Konishi catalogue dated December 1911. In modern sources, it is often translated as "Portable Camera" and the camera called "Noble Portable" or "Sakura Noble Portable". The Japanese word anbako literally means "dark box"; it was modeled after "camera obscura" and was used for cameras until around the 1910s.
- The "postcard"-size model is mentioned in Kikuoka, p.32 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
- Kikuoka, p.30 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of the same magazine, and this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology. The date is simply given as 1908 in the chronology at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
- This is inferred from the brief description given in Kikuoka, p.30 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
- Example pictured in this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology].
- Advertisement reproduced in this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha (near the top of the page).
- Commercial names, focal and aperture of the Carl Zeiss lenses: this page and this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
- December 1911 catalogue of Konishi Honten, p.12.
- Commercial names, focal and aperture of the Carl Zeiss lenses: pp.40–1 of the same December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten. this page and this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
- Advertisement reproduced in this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
- Kō (甲), otsu (乙), hei (丙) are the three first characters of a sequence used to count from one to ten. See this Wikipedia page.
- Illustrations in Kikuoka, p.32 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10 (picture no.40), and in this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
- Kikuoka, p.32 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
- See this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha, near the bottom. Kikuoka, p.32 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, however says that the new model was released in December 1921.
- Example pictured in Kikuoka, p.32 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10. The lens and shutter features are in the table at the bottom, and are faintly visible in the picture.
- Example pictured in Kikuoka, p.32 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
- Kikuoka, p.32 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
- Kikuoka Sei (菊岡清). "Konica history 3. Meiji 41-nen – Taishō 12-nen." (Konica history 3. 明治41年–大正12年. From Meiji year 41 (1908) to Taishō year 12 (1923).) 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.10, September 1987. No ISBN number. Konishiroku kamera no rekishi (小西六カメラの歴史, special issue on Konishiroku). Pp.24–32.
- Konishi Honten. Saishin Shashin Kikai Mokuroku (最新写真器械目録, Latest catalogue of photographic apparatus). Published on December 18, 1911. Recent reprint.
- 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). Pp.20 and 24.
- Tanaka Yoshirō (田中芳郎). "Meiji–Taishō jidai no Konishi Honten no kamera wo shiru tame no hon" (明治・大正時代の小西本店のカメラを知るための本, Books about the Konishi Honten cameras of the Meiji and Taishō eras). 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.10, September 1987. No ISBN number. Konishiroku kamera no rekishi (小西六カメラの歴史, special issue on Konishiroku). Pp.92–4.
The Noble is not listed in Sugiyama.
- Sakura Noble in the Camera database of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology
- Pages of the R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha website:
|Konishiroku prewar and wartime cameras ( )|
|plate||hand cameras||stereo hand cameras||strut folders||box||telephoto||SLR|
|Idea (original) | Idea A | Idea B | Idea Snap | Idea No.1 | Idea (metal) | Lily (original) | Lily (horizontal) | Lily (metal) | Tropical Lily | Noble | Ohca | Sakura Palace | Sakura Pocket Prano | Sakura Prano||Idea Binocular | Sakura Binocular Prano||Minimum Idea | Idea Spring | Korok||Champion | Cherry | Sakura Army | Sakura Honor | Sakura Navy||Idea Telephoto||Idea Reflex (1910 and 1911) | Idea Reflex (1932) | Neat Reflex | Sakura Reflex Prano|
|rollfilm||folders||box or collapsible||TLR|
|Pearlette | Special Pearlette | B Pearlette | Pearl (for plates and rollfilm) | Pearl No.2 | Pearl (Year 8) | Baby Pearl | Semi Pearl | Sakura Palace||Record | Sakura (box) | Sakura (bakelite)||Sakura-flex|