Pearl (6×9 self-erecting)
The name Pearl (パール) was given by Konishi Honten and Konishiroku Honten (the later Konica) to many models of rollfilm folders. This article deals with the 6×9cm self-erecting models, sold from 1933 to the immediate postwar period.
The Pearl sold from 1933 onwards are vertical folders with a self-erecting lens. It was the first Japanese folding camera whose lens would spring to the ready when the body was opened. This innovation very quickly became as ubiquitous among Japanese as among other folding cameras, to the point where "spring camera" (supuringu kamera) became the standard Japanese term for a folding camera. Japanese accounts of domestically produced "spring cameras" of course start with the Year-Eight Pearl, which thus has rather more historical significance within Japan than those unfamiliar with the Japanese term might guess.
The Pearl appears to be a copy of the Ikonta (520/2) released in 1929 by Zeiss Ikon, from which it retains the octagonal body sides, strut arrangement and self-erecting mechanism; however, focusing moves the entire lens and shutter assembly, mounted on a helical, and not merely the frontmost element.
All the models have an eye-level finder on the body side and a brilliant finder on the front standard. The advance key is at the top right — as seen by the photographer holding the camera vertically — and the release button for the folding bed is placed next to it. There are two tripod threads: under the folding bed and opposite the advance key. The back is hinged to the bottom, and has a depth-of-field table attached towards the top. The film advance is controlled via two red windows, allowing to take 4.5×6cm exposures with a mask in the exposure chamber.
The lens and shutter unit as a whole is mounted on a helix driven by a small tab, allowing to focus down to 2m. This feature was quite unusual on folding cameras in the 1930s, and was an improvement on the original Ikonta design. It is not known if the Japanese engineers chose this solution because it was theoretically better, or because they did not master the computations involved by front-focusing lenses: these were only recently introduced on the Ikonta, whereas the first Japanese camera lenses were commercially available for two years only.
The Year-Eight Pearl
The Pearl camera released in April 1933 is called Year-Eight Pearl (an arbitrary translation of 八年型パール, hachinen-gata Pāru) after the release year, the eighth of the Shōwa era. The name was perhaps used at the time for advertising — this is confirmed for the similarly named "Year-Eight Idea" but not for the Pearl.
The camera has a folding optical finder on the body side, with two hairlines on the front element to delineate the field of view for 4.5×6cm exposures, and a blue-tinted round eyepiece. The two red windows are uncovered, and have a characteristic shape with a round indent allowing to see the number before it comes into the proper position. At the time of the release, the lens was announced as a Zion 10.5cm f/6.3 or f/4.5, certainly a triplet designed by Rokuoh-sha and manufactured by Asahi Kōgaku, and there was a choice between two everset shutters made by Rokuoh-sha: an Apus (アパス, copy of the German Vario; T, B, 25, 50, 100) or a Zeus (ゼウス, copy of the German Ibsor; T, B, 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 125). Both shutters have two blades, a dial at the top, and a thread and needle release device (a crude replacement for a self-timer). The prices reportedly ranged from ¥43 (f/6.3, Apus) to ¥58 (f/4.5, Zeus). The Zion was swiftly replaced by or renamed as the Optor, again a triplet, and the Zeus shutter became the Durax, with similar features.
Surviving examples of the Pearl are known with a Zion f/6.3as well as with all four combinations of the Optor f/6.3 and f/4.5 lenses with the Apus and Durax shutters. Some cameras have frame finders instead of the main optical finder, this might be the standard equipment of the first examples produced, or the result of a later repair.
After some time, the back was modified with a single slider to cover both red windows, perhaps with the introduction of the Sakura Pan F panchromatic film by Rokuoh-sha in January 1936, and surely before the introduction of the Hexar lens (see below). This feature is sometimes presented as defining the "Year-Eleven Pearl" (11年型パール, jūichinen-gata Pāru), but this name was recently invented by collectors and is rarely used, the camera being merely called "Pearl" at the time.
Hexar lens and rangefinder equipment
In November 1936 was announced an additional lens option: the Hexar f/4.5, only available with the Durax shutter. When this option was introduced, it was simply presented as a "new Pearl camera" (新型パールカメラ). The Hexar is a Tessar-based design with four elements in three groups, made by Rokuoh-sha, and which had earlier appeared on the Tropical Lily. It originally appeared in 11.5cm focal length, which was later supplemented by 10.5cm and 12cm. (The metal depth-of-field plate attached to the back is adapted for each focal length.) All the cameras with Hexar lens observed so far have covered red windows.
From December 1936, the Pearl was offered in a special version, whose main finder is offset to the far left (as seen by the photographer holding the camera horizontally), above the hinge, thereby making space for a separate, horizontal rangefinder. The clip-on device is attached via an L-shaped metal part to a shoe added to the camera's top plate, larger than the standard accessory shoe found on most other cameras. Today, this version is sometimes called "Rangefinder Pearl" (距離計付パール); at the time, it was announced as the "rangefinder-equipped Pearl camera" (距離計を備えたパールカメラ). It was offered with all five lens and shutter combinations, and the prices reportedly ranged from ¥55 to ¥85, including the rangefinder.
The "Sakura" brand rangefinder supplied with the Rangefinder Pearl is a device of high quality, with a baselength of 60mm (and calibrated in metres). It is black and inscribed with a stylized cherry blossom (sakura) leaf in the centre of which is a stylized character 六: the roku (literally "six") of both Konishiroku and Rokuoh-sha. As well as being part of a set with the camera, the rangefinder was sold separately for ¥12, in both metre and foot versions. For owners of a regular Pearl, the conversion to the rangefinder-equipped version was offered for free.
The regular Pearl continued to be available after the introduction of the rangefinder-equipped version. An advertisement in Kogata Camera February 1937 gives the price of ¥43 with an Optor f/6.3 (unchanged since 1933) and ¥73 with an Hexar f/4.5.
|Pearl, Durax shutter, Hexar Ser.1 10.5cm f/4.5 lens no.3149. (Image rights)|
|Hexar Ser.1 10.5cm f/4.5 lens no.3149 in a Durax shutter. (Image rights)|
The Luxury Pearl (高級パール, Kōkyū Pāru) was announced in Sakura no Kuni in October 1937. It has a folding Albada finder on the top, sometimes central, sometimes offset for an accessory shoe and rangefinder. Three two lens/shutter combinations were offered: a Hexar 10.5cm f/4.5 lens with an imported Compur-Rapid (T, B, 1–400) or Durax shutter (T, B, 1–125), and a Simlar 10.5cm f/4.5 lens from Tōkyō Kōgaku with a rim-set Leo shutter (T, B, 1–250) by Seikōsha. Prices of ¥105 (with Simlar and Leo) and ¥145 (with Hexar and Compur-Rapid) have been reported. Actual examples have been observed with the national combinations, but none with the Compur-Rapid.
The Albada finder and the expensive lens/shutter combinations were shared with the New Lily released the same year 1937. It is said that Konishiroku bought Simlar lenses and Leo shutters after the Rokuoh-sha factory became increasingly involved into military contracts, and could not cope with the production of civilian lenses and shutters any more. Another explanation for the adoption of the Leo, actually a rebadged Seikosha, was perhaps that Rokuoh-sha was lacking a suitable high-specification shutter to replace the Compur-Rapid after the stock of imported parts dried out, and had to turn to an external supplier.
The Pearl is mentioned in the official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, in five versions called "Pearl I" (¥45), "Pearl II" (¥56), "Pearl III" (¥61), "Pearl IV" and "Special Pearl" (both at ¥103), with no further details. The version with Hexar lens and Durax shutter still appears under the name "Pearl II" in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production.
|Luxury Pearl, Leo shutter, Simlar 10.5cm f/4.5 lens no.25150.|
Pictures by eBayer imagemeister. (Image rights)
Demise of the big Pearl
The Pearl does not seem to have been developed further. Stocks of parts were still assembled into whole cameras after the war, when its lack of a body shutter release and its consumption of film would have made it seem old-fashioned and extravagant. It is probable that very few were sold, and that they were indistinguishable from the wartime cameras. The retail price was fixed at ¥2,330 in June 1946, about the same as a Semi Pearl (¥2,050 to ¥2,600) but as much as an Olympus Six (¥2,350 to ¥2,640). From 1949, Konishiroku would skip the qualifier "Semi" and use the name "Pearl" alone again for its 4.5×6 folders. The big Pearl was not the last 6×9cm folding camera made in Japan, this dubious distinction belonging to the hardly known Royal Junior.
- "Pearl" is written in roman script on most or all of these models. In Japanese, the line was and is called Pāru (i.e. the English word "Pearl" within Japanese phonology): the Japanese word for "pearl" is shinju (真珠), but this does not seem ever to have been applied to the camera. None of the cameras dealt with in this article was exported, and it is unlikely that any was either labeled or advertised with any roman script other than "Pearl". Thus the choice of names within this article is sometimes difficult.
- Release month: Yamawaki, p.109 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4, and this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology.
- Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8 and p.43 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10; Hagiya, pp.40 and 42–3 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76; Japanese Historical Camera, p.18; Konika-Minoruta-ten, p.6.
- Hagiya, p.40 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76; Lewis, p.50. Yamawaki, p.109 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4, quotes similar prices: ¥43 (f/6.3, Apus), ¥48 (f/4.5, Apus), ¥53 (f/6.3, Durax), ¥58 (f/4.5, Durax).
- Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8 and p.43 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
- Optor f/6.3, Apus: examples pictured in Sugiyama, item 1115, in Yamawaki, p.108 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4, in Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8, and sold as lot no.721 of Westlicht Photographica Auction no.11; see links below. Optor f/4.5, Apus: example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1116, in Tanaka, p.43 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10. Optor f/6.3, Durax: example pictured here at Neco's collection. Optor f/4.5, Durax: examples pictured in Sugiyama, item 1114, in Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8, in Sakai, p.11 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, in Hagiya, p.40 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76, in Miyazaki, p.11, here, here and here at Neco's collection, and observed in online auctions. Known lens numbers from 7974 to 15782.
- Example with frame finder, Optor f/6.3 and Apus pictured in Yamawaki, p.108 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4.
- This is suggested for the Baby Pearl in an article by Masaki Masayoshi (正木正佳) on p.46 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
- The name "Year-Eleven Pearl" is only found in the article by Hagiya in Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76, and in an earlier version of this page.
- Hagiya, p.42 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76.
- Hagiya, p.42 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76, from the November 1936 issue of Sakura no Kuni.
- Originally in 11.5cm focal length: Hagiya, p.42 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76. Examples with 10.5cm, 11.5cm and 12cm focal length are pictured in the same article.
- Hagiya, pp.41–2 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76.
- Hexar 11.5cm, Durax: examples pictured in Tanaka, p.43 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10 (offset frame finder, perhaps not original), in Hagiya, pp.41–2 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76, and observed in an online auction, known lens number 2586. Hexar 12cm, Durax: examples pictured in Hagiya, p.41 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76 (offset finder) and in Yazawa, pp.9–12 of Camera Collectors' News no.276 (offset finder). Hexar 10.5cm, Durax: examples pictured in Hagiya, p.41 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76, here at Neco's collection and observed in online auctions, known lens numbers from 3149 to 5126.
- Release date: Yamawaki, pp.108–9 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4; Hagiya, p.42 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76. Lewis says 1935 on p.53, surely by mistake.
- Larger accessory shoe: Yazawa, p.10 of Camera Collectors' News no.276.
- Hagiya, p.42 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76, from the December 1936 issue of Sakura no Kuni.
- Yamawaki, p.109 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4, listing all five lens and shutter combinations for the rangefinder model. Tanaka says ¥60 to ¥85 on p.43 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
- Baselength: Yamawaki, p.108 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4; Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8 and p.43 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10. Calibrated in metres: Hagiya, p.42 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76.
- Hagiya, p.42 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76. The price is confirmed in Yamawaki, p.109 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4.
- Yamawaki, p.109 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4; Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8 and p.43 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10; Hagiya, p.42 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76.
- Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.82.
- The translation "Luxury Pearl" is arbitrary, and previous versions of this page had the equally arbitrary "High-Grade Pearl" instead.
- Hagiya, p.43 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76. The date is given as November 1937 in Yamawaki, p.109 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4, and Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8.
- Central: example pictured in Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8 and p.44 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10. Offset: example pictured in Hagiya, pp.42–3 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76.
- Yamawaki, p.109 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4; Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8 and p.44 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10; Hagiya, p.43 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76.
- Yamawaki, p.109 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4.
- Simlar and Leo: examples pictured in Yamawaki, p.108 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4, in Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8, in Tanaka, p.43 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, in Hagiya, p.42 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.76 (offset finder), in this page of the AJCC, and observed in an online auction. Hexar and Durax: example pictured in Yamawaki, p.108 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4.
- Tanaka, p.44 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
- Example observed in an online auction.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 6, sections 1, 2, 3, 4.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 198.
- Tanaka, p.58 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8 and p.44 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10. This is not mentioned in Miyazaki, certainly because only few examples were sold.
- See full reference in the page on Japanese prices#1946, June (controlled prices). Similar information is given in Lewis, p.60, but with typos.
Sources and further reading
- 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 167.
- Hagiya Takeshi (萩谷剛). "Kokusan-hatsu no supuringu kamera de Hekisā renzu ga sōchaku sareta '11-nen-gata Pāru'" (国産初のスプリングカメラでヘキサーレンズが装着された「11年型パール」, The Year-Eleven Pearl, first Japanese spring camera, equipped with a Hexar lens). 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.76, June 2005. ISBN 4-257-13078-4. Kurashikku kamera katachi to kinō 'supuringu kamera hen' (クラシックカメラ形と機能「スプリングカメラ編」, special issue on spring cameras). Pp.40–43.
- Inoue Yasuo (井上康夫). "Koten meigyoku o sagasō: Hachinen-gata Pāru, Oputā 10.5cm f/4.5" (古典名玉を探そう: 8年型パール・オプター10.5cmF4.5, Let's hunt out famous old lenses: The Year-Eight Pearl and Optor 10.5cm f/4.5). Shashin Kōgyō, March 2005.
- The Japanese Historical Camera. 日本の歴史的カメラ (Nihon no rekishiteki kamera). 2nd ed. Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 2004. Pp.15 and 18.
- "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 198.
- "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 6, sections 1, 2, 3, 4.
- Konika-Minoruta-ten (コニカミノルタ展, Konica Minolta exhibition). Exhibition catalogue. Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 2005.
- 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.50, 53 and 60.
- 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.544.
- Miyazaki Shigemoto (宮崎繁幹). Konika kamera no 50-nen: Konika I-gata kara Hekisā RF e (コニカカメラの50年：コニカI型からヘキサーRFへ, Fifty years of Konica cameras: From the Konica I to the Hexar RF). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 2003. ISBN 4-257-12038-X. Pp.10–1. (This book on postwar Konishiroku cameras contains a picture of the Pearl and says little else of the camera.)
- Omoide no supuringu-kamera-ten (思い出のスプリングカメラ展, Exhibition of beloved self-erecting cameras). Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 1992. (Exhibition catalogue, no ISBN number.) P.17.
- Sakai Shūichi (酒井修一). "'Anbako' kara 'ōtofōkasu' he: kamera no hensen to tomo ni ayunda 114-nen" (「暗函」から「オートフォーカス」へ・カメラの変遷と共に歩んだ114年, From 'camera obscura' to 'autofocus': 114 years of camera evolution). 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.8–13.
- 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. Items 1114–6.
- Tanaka Masao (田中政雄). "Konica history 5. Shōwa 8-nen – 20-nen" (Konica history 5. 昭和8年–20年. From Shōwa year 8  to Shōwa year 20 ). 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.40–4.
- Tanaka Masao (田中政雄). "Nihon no supuringu kamera: Konishiroku" (日本のスプリングカメラ Konishiroku, The spring cameras of Japan: Konishiroku). 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.8, September 1986. No ISBN number. Supuringu kamera (スプリングカメラ, special issue on spring cameras). Pp.58–61.
- Yamawaki Kunio (山脇邦男). "Senzen kokusan taishū kamera no genten: Pearl, Semi Pearl" (戦前国産大衆カメラの原点・パール・セミパール, The Pearl and Semi Pearl, origin of the prewar Japanese popular 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.4, March 1984. No ISBN number. Meiki no keifu (名機の系譜, special issue on famous camera families). Pp.108–10.
- Yazawa Seiichirō (矢沢征一郎). "Renzu no hanashi (186) Hekisā 12cm" (レンズの話ヘキサー12cm, Lens story  Hexar 12cm). In Camera Collectors' News no.276 (June 2000). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. Pp.9–12.
- Pages of Neco's camera collection:
- Pages of the R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha website:
- Luxury Pearl (Leo, Simlar f/4.5) in a page of the AJCC website
- Year-Eight Pearl in the Camera database of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology
|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|