Type 99 Handheld Aerial Camera

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Contents

History

The Type 99 Handheld Aerial Camera (15cm) (九九式航空写真機十五糎) was produced for the Japanese Navy by Rokuoh-sha (六桜社) ) / Konishiroku) (小西六) and also by Fuji Shashin Film (富士寫眞フィルム株式會社)[1][2] As was usual practice with the Japanese military ordnance of the time, the name "type 99" stands for year 2599 in the Japanese imperial calendar, i.e. 1939, and signals the year the Japanese military issued the type specification. It was the smaller of the Japanese Navy's aerial cameras and mainly used for hand-held, oblique shots taken from reconnaissance planes.

The total number of cameras produced is unknown at this point in time. A report from the U.S. Naval Technical Mission to Japan, written in December 1945, gives detailed production figures, they refer to the Konishiroku-built Navy Type 99 Handheld Aerial Cameras only (Table 1). The total production was higher, as the numbers of cameras made by Fuji are unknown. A Japanese source claims that the introduction of the camera was plagued with reliability problems, and it only went in full service around 1943.[3] This seems to be borne out by the statistics provided in the U.S. report that show that production started in 1942 and was ramped up in 1943, peaking in 1944. The dramatic drop of actual deliveries compared or orders in 1945 shows the impact of the Allied bombing on specialised camera production.

Table 1 Production volume of Navy Type 99 Handheld Aerial Cameras for the period 1941-1945[1]

Year 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 Total
Ordered _ 50 700 1416 1440 3606
Delivered _ 50 600 1231 65 1946

The camera

The camera is loaded with 9cm wide[1] perforated film rolls. The picture format is about 7.5×10cm.[4][5] The film strips are 2.3 metres in length,[1][6] allowing for 20 exposures.[7]

The camera has a folding, self-erecting frame finder at the top, and wooden handles on both sides of the body. The shutter is of the focal-plane type, with horizontally running curtains. It normally gives 1/75, 1/150, 1/250 and 1/400 speeds,[8] selected by a wheel at the top. [9] The aperture selection occurs by twisting the front section of the lens cone, copied from the mechanism of the Rokuoh Sha-bult Navy Handheld Aerial Camera 25cm F-8 type, which in tun was a copy of the Fairchild F-8. The main release has the shape of a trigger, actioned by the right index.[10] The film is advanced and the shutter is wound by turning the right-hand handle by 90 degrees twice.[11][3] The camera has an automatic exposure counter. The back is fully removable and is locked by two keys, with open (開) and close (閉) indications.

At least two versions were made, reputedly one for aerial use only and the other for both aerial and terrestrial use.[3] The American report mentions two variants distinguished by the lens maximal aperture, either f/3.5 or f/4.5, saying that the latter was more common as the faster lens did not provide advantages that warranted the higher cost of production.[12]

Surviving Examples

A number of examples have appeared in recent years, which allow the identification of two types (Rokuoh Sha and Fuji) and some variants among the former.[13] The distinguishing criteria between the two types are set out on this seperate page. At this point, it is not clear which company designed the camera. It is probable that the design originated by Rokuoh Sha / Konishiroku which had designed and manufactured several other cameras for the Japanese military. On the other hand, the top line of the contents list attached to the inside lid of the transport case of the Fuji-built unit sn#62 reads " 假稱" 九九式 (kashō 99-shiki; temporary designation Type 99), with the first two characters of the aluminium tag blackened out.[14] Given the reputed reliability problems which delayed the introduction into service,[3] it is quite possible that the early units were testing models entering limited service before they were formally approved.


Cameras manufactured by Rokuoh Sha / Konishiroku

The front cone is attached to the camera with four visible screws. It has four ratchet stops machined into the fore edge, even if only a three-aperture setting lens was fitted.[15] The shutter advance grip on the right has a vertically ribbed, oval-shaped metal plate the front and a straight band on the back. The bottom bracket holding the grip protrudes from the camera body at an angle and with a visible step. The thumb push-button to release the film-advance lock is curved with broad grooves. The finger surface of the shutter release shows wide grooves (8 grooves/10mm).

Top plate: The shutter speed selector sits off centric on a raised oval-shaped base. The shutter speed is set by lifting the entire mushroom-shaped knob with a thin top. The self-erecting viewfinder protrudes slightly from the front plate and has a front wire frame with an round cross-section (dimensions: front frame 2 1/8" x 1 3/4", back frame 1 1/4" x 1 1/2").[16] The film counter is more or less in line with the left hand grip of the camera, with the varying positions of the round counter window.

Bottom plate: The locks for the film spools show an aluminium knob with a central crew. In the center of the bottom plate is the serial number tag (aluminium or Bakelite).

Removable back: The Bakelite note slate on the removable back is more high than wide (3" x 2 3/8").

Over time, some modifications occurred.[17] An inspection of a range of examples has shown the existence of at least two major variants which can be distinguished based on the film counter mechanism:[18]

Variant A

The film counter window is flush with the top plate and located towards the back of the camera.

Variant A1 (early): The camera has a serial number tag made from aluminium (punched unit stamp,[19] Rokuoh-Sha/Konishuroku Symbol, punched naval anchor[20] | punched serial number). The removable backs have the fasteners for the pressure plate shown on the outside of the back as four raised circles, each with a raised central dome.[21].

Variant A2 (late): The camera has a serial number tag made from white Bakelite (engraved unit stamp,[22] Rokuoh-Sha/Konishuroku Symbol, engraved naval anchor[23] | engraved serial number). [24] The earlier removable backs have the fasteners for the pressure plate shown on the outside of the back as four raised circles, each with a raised central dome, [25] while the later backs lack the raised central domes.[26] Note that there is no discernible serial number pattern whether the tags with the closing directions are made from aluminium or from Bakelite.[27]

Variant B

The film counter window is located on a well-defined circular area plate slightly raised off the top plate, with the window located towards the front of the camera.[28] The camera has a serial number tag made from white Bakelite (engraved unit stamp,[29] Rokuoh-Sha/Konishuroku Symbol, engraved naval anchor[30] | engraved serial number).[31]

Documented Lens Options

The lens is attached to the camera through a mounting flange held by by four screws. It has the standard three prongs at the front for filter attachment. The aperture ring is fitted with a two-pronged lever tab that is connected to the inner sleeve of the lens cone. Aperture is set by turning the end of the inner sleeve which protrudes from the outer lens cone.[32]

Documented are the following three lens options:

  • Hexar Ser. II B 1:3.5 f=15cm Rokuoh-sha Tokyo Nº xxxx [33]
  • Hexar Ser. I B 1:4.5 f=15cm Konishiroku Tokyo Nº xxxx [34][35]
  • Hexar Ser. I B 1:4.5 f=15cm xxxx[36]


Cameras manufactured by Fuji

The front cone is attached to the camera without visible screws. The shutter advance grip on the right has a smooth oval-shaped metal plate on both the front and back. The bottom bracket holding the grip protrudes from the camera body at an angle, but without a visible step. The thumb push-button to release the film-advance lock is angular with fine grooves. The finger surface of the shutter release shows fine grooves (15 grooves/10mm).

Top plate: The shutter speed selector sits on a raised circular base. The shutter speed is set by lifting the narrow external ring of a mushroom-shaped knob with a thick top. The self-erecting viewfinder is mounted flush with the front plate and has a front wire frame with an angular cross-section (dimensions: front frame, 2" x 1 7/8", back frame 1" x 1 1/2").[37] The film counter with its square window is positioned to the right of the left hand grip of the camera.

Bottom plate: The locks for the film spools show an aluminium knob without a central crew. In the center of the bottom plate is the serial number tag (silver text on black background with date | punched unit stamp,[38] serial number, punched naval anchor[39] | Fuji Photo Film Co Ltd).

Removable Back: The surface of the back is smooth throughout without any protrusions. The Bakelite note slate is square (3" x 3"). The closing tags are made from aluminium.[40]


Links

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Japanese Naval Photography. Compiled by Lt W.D.Hedden, USNR, with LtCdr G.Z.Dimitroff USNR and Lt(jg) W.A. Seymour, USNR. Intelligence Targets Japan (DNI) of 4 September 1945. Facicle A-1, Target A-39. U.S. Naval Technical Mission to Japan. December 1945. pp.8-9.
  2. See also the examples depicted in this article.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Aerial camera types at Wetwing Aerial Camera.
  4. Iwama Tomohisa (岩間倶久). "Konica history 8. Konishiroku no gun'yō kamera." (Konica history 8. 小西六の軍用カメラ. Konishiroku military 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.10, September 1987. No ISBN number. Konishiroku kamera no rekishi (小西六カメラの歴史, special issue on Konishiroku). Pp.54–5.
  5. this page at Wetwing Aerial Camera, and Japanese Naval Photography, p.11, all say 7.5×10cm. This page at Kore Nāni says 70×100mm, and Sugiyama, item 6010, says 72×98mm.
  6. Japanese Naval Photography, p.18.
  7. The camera pictured in this page at Kore Nāni clearly shows an exposure counter graduated from 1 to 20. Japanese Naval Photography * p.11) also mentions 20 exposures. This page at Wetwing Aerial Camera, mentions 6 or 10-exposure film strips, perhaps by mistake. Sugiyama, item 6010, says that the camera takes glass plates and sheetfilm, but this is obviously a mistake.
  8. This page at Kore Nāni, and specifications in Sugiyama, item 6010.
  9. The American report mentions 1/25 to 1/500 speeds, probably by mistake: 'Japanese Naval Photography' (op. cit.), p.11.
  10. See this image.
  11. This page at Kore Nāni.
  12. 'Japanese Naval Photography' (op. cit.), p.10.
  13. Examples pictured in these image sets, as well as in this page at Kore Nāni, in this page at Wetwing Aerial Camera, in Sugiyama, item 6010, and in Iwama, p.54 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  14. see this image. Transliteration and translation by User:Rebollo_fr.
  15. See this image
  16. It is intriguing that the design seems to have been made in Imperial rather than Metric. All measurements work out in inches .
  17. At present it is not clear to what extent these variations are the result of different workshops/plants. The previously cited U.S. Naval Technical Mission to Japan reported that Konishiroku manufactured its aerial cameras at its Yodabashi and Hanno plants (both Tokyo)(Japanese Naval Photography, p.8).—Some changes, such as the shift from Aluminium to Bakelite tags is likely the result of cost saving measures in the face of material shortages.
  18. Note that the naming of the variants is arbitrary.
  19. Rarely present.
  20. Occasionally absent.
  21. Both criteria documented for serial numbers: #344.
  22. Rarely present.
  23. Occasionally absent.
  24. Documented for serial numbers: #393, #505, #566, #813, #819, #844, #1009, #1185.
  25. Documented for serial numbers: #132, #393, #505, #566, #593.
  26. Documented for serial numbers: #813, #819, #844, #849, #1009, #1117, #1184.
  27. Given the raw material shortages experienced by Japan in the later stages of World War II it is possible that what appears to be Bakelite are in fact tags made from bone. Close inspection of the tags shows that they are cut, rather than molded and that they seem to have straitios in the material, which would suggest bone as the raw material.
  28. As the overall position of the center of the exposure number wheel has not changed compared to Variant A, it is possible that top plate above the exposure number wheel was raised to allow for better movement.
  29. Occasionally absent.
  30. Occasionally absent.
  31. Documented for serial numbers: #1257.
  32. This is a direct copy of the mechanism used in the Fairchild F-8 and its Japanese copy, the Rokuoh Sha-bult Navy Handheld Aerial Camera 25cm F-8 type.
  33. On record are Hexar sn#3129 (body #132) and Hexar sn#3223 (possibly body #150 based on number painted on the packing case).
  34. On record are Hexar sn#3050 (body #344)(lettering 'Konishiroku' in very messy alignment); Hexar #3286 (body #505); Hexar #3910 (body #1009)
  35. See also example pictured in this page at Kore Nāni.
  36. On record are Hexar sn#4152 (on body #1185); Hexar #4098 (on body #1257);
  37. It is intriguing that the design seems to have been made in Imperial rather than Metric. All measurements work out in inches .
  38. Occasionally absent.
  39. Occasionally absent.
  40. Unlike the backs of the Rokuoh-Sha/Konishiroku-built cameras which have engraved serial numbers (theoretically matching with those of the camera bodies), the serial numbers of the Fuji-built units are hand painted.
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