Speed Pocket

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Japanese Vest (4×5 and 4×6.5) (edit)
4×4.5 Orient
4×5 Minion
4×6.5 Clover Vest | Dianette | Eagle | Friend | Kooa | National | New Vest | Nifcarette | Pearlette | B Pearlette | Special Pearlette | Pionette | Pocket Prince | Sirius Bebe | Speed Pocket | Tsubasa Spring | Victory
rigid or collapsible
4×5 Alfax | Olympus Standard | Sakura (bakelite) | Well Standard
4×6.5 Vest Adler | Vest Alex | Kowa Kid | Light | Light Super | Baby Minolta | Minolta Vest | Regal Olympic | Vest Olympic | Tsubasa Chrome | Zen-99
4×6.5 Baby Clover | Sakura (box) | Spirit
4×5 Vesten
4×6.5 Victor Vest
unknown Meiro
Japanese 3×4 and 4×4, 4.5×6, 6×6 and 6×9 ->

The Speed Pocket (スピード・ポケット) is a Japanese folding camera taking 4×6.5 pictures on 127 film made by Kuribayashi.[1] It was advertised in 1936 and 1937 by First Camera Works or Minagawa Shōten, and it was perhaps still made during the war.[2]

Description of the body

The Speed Pocket is a vertical folder copied from the Agfa Billy Zero, with a body made of alloy.[3] The metal struts have an incurved slot guiding the front standard when folding the bed. There is a folding frame finder in the middle of the top plate. The key to wind the film and the folding bed release are at the bottom right, as seen by a photographer holding the camera horizontally. The back is hinged to the left and contains two red windows in the middle, protected by a cover retracted by a common lever, the same system as on the early Semi First.

The top and bottom plates and the standing leg have "art-deco" patterns directly copied from the Billy 0. The name SPEED is embossed in the front leather, in capital letters with a higher "S".

The body casting, hinged parts, decorative fittings and internal details of the film chamber are exactly identical to the Billy 0.[4] The only differences between the Speed Pocket and the Billy 0 are the finder, red windows, leatherette covering and of course the lens and shutter assembly. A plausible theory would be that camera bodies were supplied by Agfa, and that only the final assembly took place in Japan. It is however defeated by the attribution of the Speed Pocket to Kuribayashi in a government inquiry dated April 1943, a date when any import from Germany was all but impossible.[5]

The Pocket Prince distributed by Fukada Shōkai has an almost identical body, with no provision for 3×4cm exposures and no decorative patterns. The two cameras are perhaps related, and Kuribayashi maybe worked as a subcontractor for Fukada.

Evolution, lens and shutter equipment

The first known mention of the Speed Pocket is in an advertisement for the First cameras in the October 1936 supplement to Camera Club.[6] An advertisement in Asahi Camera December 1936 presents the camera as a new model, together with the Semi First A and B and First Six.[7] The company name is given as "First Camera Works", and there is a list of authorized dealers.[8] The Speed Pocket is offered for ¥50 with a Toko f/4.5 three element lens by Tōkyō Kōgaku and a selftimer-equipped Licht shutter by Seikōsha.[9] Versions equipped with a Magna shutter and an f/6.3 or f/4.5 lens are also announced as available soon. No mention is made of the ability to take 3×4cm pictures, and the viewfinder of the pictured camera does not appear to be adapted for that purpose.[10] The camera was also featured in the new products column of the January 1937 issue of Asahi Camera.[11]

The April 1937 advertisement in Camera Club now mentions the dual-format feature, but the illustration does not show the details of the viewfinder.[12] The Licht and Toko combination is offered for the slightly lower price of ¥48, and the Magna shutter is no longer mentioned.

The Speed Pocket appears for ¥45 in the official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941.[13] It appears again in a similar list dated November 1941, where it is attributed to Minagawa.[14] It is still mentioned in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production, with the Toko 75/4.5 lens and Licht shutter; this document attributes the camera to Kuribayashi.[15]

Actual examples

The camera pictured as a Speed Pocket in Sugiyama, Baird, McKeown and Lewis[16] is probably misidentified: it has a Baron Anastigmat 7.5cm f/4.5 lens in a Kerio shutter, no art-deco patterns and no SPEED embossing, and it is certainly a Pocket Prince. The only genuine Speed Pocket observed so far is pictured in Shinohara.[17]


  1. The attribution to Kuribayashi is confirmed by the "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 180.
  2. Dates: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.340, lists advertisements and articles dated 1936 and 1937. Baird, pp.99–101, says that it was first called "Speed Pocket" in 1934 then "First Speed Pocket" in 1936 but this seems wrong, and Lewis, p.54, also gives 1934 as the release date. Sugiyama, item 1052, McKeown, p.577, and this page of the JCII collection all say 1936. The Speed Pocket appears in the list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and in the "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras") of April 1943.
  3. Alloy body: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 180.
  4. This is demonstrated by Shinohara, pp.26–9 of Camera Collectors' News no.269.
  5. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 180.
  6. October 1936 supplement to Camera Club, second cover.
  7. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.86.
  8. List of authorized dealers: Hattori Tokei-ten, Ōmiya Shashin-yōhin, Mizuno Shashinki-ten, Asanuma Shōkai, Misuzu Shōkai and Ueda Shashinki-ten.
  9. Three elements: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lc1.
  10. The picture is also reproduced in this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology.
  11. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.340.
  12. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.88.
  13. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 2, section 6B.
  14. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 2, section 6B.
  15. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 180.
  16. Sugiyama, item 1052, Baird, pp.99–101, McKeown, p.577 and Lewis, p.51.
  17. Shinohara, pp.27–8 of Camera Collectors' News no.269.


  • 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 209. (See also the advertisements for item 199.)
  • Baird, John R. Collectors guide to Kuribayashi-Petri Cameras. Grantsburg, WI (USA): Centennial Photo Service, 1991. ISBN 0-931838-16-9. Pp.18 and 99–101.
  • Camera Club. Saishin shashinki zenshū (最新写真機全集, Compendium of the latest cameras.) Supplement to the October 1936 issue. Advertisement on the second cover.
  • "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 2, section 6B.
  • "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 180.
  • "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 2, section 6B.
  • 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.51.
  • 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.577.
  • 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 1052.
  • Shinohara. (篠原慈昆). "'Sokkuri' kamera monogatari" ("ソックリ"カメラ物語り, Stories of "clone" cameras). In Camera Collectors' News no.269 (November 1999). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. Pp.25–9.

Kuribayashi prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
rollfilm folders
Eagle | Speed Pocket | First Roll | First Center | Semi First | First Six | Baby Semi First | Semi Rotte | Hokoku | Mizuho
plate folders rigid SLR TLR unknown
Mikuni | First | First Etui | Kokka | Romax | Tokiwa Molby Speed Reflex First Reflex Baby First