See also the Top taking 20mm film, evolution of the Guzzi.
The Top Camera is a Japanese subminiature, launched in 1965. The camera is attributed to Maruso Trading Co. or Maruso Manufacturing. It was distributed in the USA and Canada by Tak-Air Sales Company.
The Top Camera looks like contemporary 16mm subminiature models but actually takes ten 14×14mm exposures on 17.5mm rollfilm. The main body is made of plastic, with metal front and back panels. The hammertone grey finish makes the camera look like it is all-metal.
The back panel is removable for film loading, and has a rectangular red window in the middle. It is retained by a latch on the right, as seen by the photographer. The film is advanced by a knob at the top right.
The viewfinder is at the left end. Most cameras have a dual eye- and waist-level finder, using a semi-transparent mirror, whereas others have a simple eye-level finder. The name TOP CAMERA is inscribed at the opposite end of the front panel.
The Top Camera has simple features, like most Hit-type cameras. The lens is non-focusable, and is reported as a 25mm f/8. It is placed behind a square aperture in the middle of the front plate. The shutter has Bulb and Instant settings, selected by a small lever at the top. It is everset, and is tripped by a lever at the right end of the front plate.
The camera is sometimes found in its original box, in red and cream colours, inscribed TOP CAMERA on the cover. It often comes with a vinyl case, which is sometimes black or cream-coloured. The camera often has a mere cord attached to a strap lug at the right end.
|Top Camera (dual finder) with original box and vinyl case|
image by John Bosko (Image rights)
Top Camera II
The Top Camera II is a later version, distinguished by the TOP II CAMERA nameplate. It has an eye-level finder only and no B setting, and the back is hinged to the left. At least some cameras retained the hammertone grey finish all around and the original advance knob, but most cameras have a modified advance knob and a two-tone finish with black front and back panels and smooth grey paint on the center part, and .
The Top Camera II was also sold as a kit called Spy-14, with a zipped case, a pack of six film rolls, a development tank and developer fluid.
- Date: Sugiyama, item 5150, McKeown, p.653.
- "Maruso Trading Co.": Sugiyama, item 5150, McKeown, p.653, Pritchard, p.80. "Maruso Manufacturing": Sugiyama, item 5151.
- English instruction manual reproduced in this page at Submin.com. The address of Tak-Air Sales Company was 175 – 7th Street, San Francisco 3, CA.
- Eye-level finder only: example pictured in McKeown, p.653. Dual finder: examples pictured in McKeown, p.653, in Sugiyama, item 5150, in Pritchard, p.80, and in various websites. The example pictured in this page at Moshe Bar-El's camera collection has a non-standard black advance knob, perhaps a non original replacement part.
- 25mm f/8: Sugiyama, item 5150.
- Hammertone grey finish and original advance knob: example pictured in this page (archived) at Shōwa no shōnen bōken nikki (part of the Spy-14 kit). Two-tone finish and modified advance knob: examples pictured in Sugiyama, item 5151, in McKeown, p.563, and in this page at Submin.com.
- See the contents in this page (archived) at Shōwa no shōnen bōken nikki.
- 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.653.
- Pritchard, Michael and St. Denny, Douglas. Spy Cameras — A century of detective and subminiature cameras. London: Classic Collection Publications, 1993. ISBN 1-874485-00-3. P.80.
- 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 5150–1.
The Top is not listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi.
- Top and Top II at Submin.com, also has the English instruction manual
- Top in Moshe Bar-El's camera collection
- Top Camera in Nigel Richards' website
- Top Camera among other subminiatures sold as lot no.639 of auction no.2/3 (May 24, 2003) by Westlicht Photographica Auction