The Viscawide-16 has the shape of a brick, with a rotating lens at the front, covering 120 degrees. The overall dimensions are 121.8×53.8×47mm. There is some controversy on the exposure size: many sources say 10×52mm, certainly corresponding to the nominal size advertised by the company, whereas actual users report 10×49mm. In any case, the resulting pictures fit in any 6×6cm enlarger.
The main body is made of black plastic, and the top and bottom plates are chrome plated. The bottom plate is removable for film loading, and is locked by a knob with O and C indications (for Open and Close). The film is inserted in a pair of cassettes, specific to the Viscawide and inscribed VISCAWIDE–16 CO.LTD. There is no sprocket shaft, and the camera can take any type of film stock, perforated (with one or two rows) or unperforated.
The rear part of the top plate is covered by a folding frame finder. The advance wheel is on the right, as seen by the photographer. Behind this, there is a small window for an exposure counter, and a small button which is certainly used to reset the counter.
The shutter consists of a slit running in front of the in-curving film path and coupled with the movement of the lens. It is wound by a key at the top, in front of the viewfinder, and tripped by a lever sliding backwards, at the right end of the body. The speeds are selected by a lever on the left, with a choice of H (High, 1/300) and S (Slow, 1/60) — most cameras have a third OFF position, acting as a shutter lock (see below). The shutter slit has a fixed width, and the speed only depends on the tension of the main spring.
The lens is a Lausar 2.5cm f/3.5 made by Tomioka. Its name and features are engraved on the advance wheel, and the lens rim itself is only engraved VISCAWIDE–16 JAPAN. The aperture is selected by an index around the lens, from 3.5 to 16. An exposure table is attached to the camera's back.
The camera is identified by the name VISCAWIDE–16 inscribed above the lens. The letters ST–D (whose meaning is unknown) are engraved on the top plate, together with the serial number. The company name TAIYOKOKI CO. LTD. is embossed on the camera's back, together with a logo. The bottom plate is engraved SANSHO.L.L. PAT.P MADE IN JAPAN, but the exact meaning of the engraving in unknown.
The camera is usually found with a zipped pouch and a short strap, attached to a single lug on the right end. A specific UV filter is known too, engraved VISCAWIDE–16 UV JAPAN.
Commercial life and evolution
The Viscawide-16 was announced in the September 1961 issue of Camera Geijutsu, and was advertised in Japanese magazines until September 1962. The May 1962 advertisement in Asahi Camera mentions the maker Taiyō Kōki and the distributor Ōsawa Shōkai. It gives the price of ¥7,600 for the camera with two film cassettes, and ¥800 for the case. The camera was perhaps also distributed by a company called Visca Co., Ltd., at least on some markets.
The camera slightly evolved during its production run. The first version has a three-position speed selector, including an OFF setting. The edges of the bottom plate are smooth and have no grips. For the first version, serial numbers are known in the 60xxx – 62xxx range, from 60148 to 62191. The second version is identical but for two small grips added to the bottom plate, to make it easier to remove. Serial numbers are known in the 62xxx and 64xxx – 68xxx range, from 62521 to 68538. The third version has a two-position speed selector, without the OFF setting. Serial numbers have been observed in the 67xxxx–70xxx range, from 67930 to 70137, perhaps indicating a cross over period in production. We can roughly estimate the total production of the Viscawide-16 at little more than 10,000 units, or maybe a few thousand less if the numbering sequence was not continuous.
- 120 degrees: advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.268.
- Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.268.
- 10×52mm: Sugiyama, item 6047; Lewis, p.111; Pritchard, p.64; Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.396. The advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.268, mentions a height to width ratio of 1:5.2. This page at Subclub.org and this page at Submin.com mention an actual size of 10×49mm. (The size is also wrongly reported as 14×52mm in Hagiya, p.158 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.35, and in "Panorama kamera", p.89 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.11, and as 10×46mm in McKeown, p.912.)
- Hagiya, p.158 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.35.
- Hagiya, p.158 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.35, and "Panorama kamera", p.88 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.11.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.396.
- An instruction sheet for the Viscawide-16, reproduced in this page at Submin.com, mentions the company name "Visca Co., Ltd.", with no further detail.
- S/n 60148 pictured in this page at Cameras Downunder. S/n 60209 observed in an online auction; S/n 60769 observed in a Japanese online auction; S/n 61370 pictured in Christies Sale 5690 / Lot 224; S/n 62009 observed in an online auction; S/n 62191 pictured in this page at Submin.com.
- S/n 62521 observed in an online auction; S/n 64314 observed here; S/n 64712 observed in a Japanese online auction; S/n 65180 pictured in Joop's Camera Collection; S/n 65465 pictured in Westlicht Photographica Auction 11, lot 675 (see links below); S/n 65959 observed in an online auction; S/n 66243 pictured in page at Submin.com S/n 66356 pictured in Westlicht auction 18, lot 523 (see links below); S/n 68617 observed in a Japanese online auction; S/n 67442 Flickr; S/n 68538 reported in this page at Submin.com (from eBay auction of 10th February 2003).
- S/n 67930 (to be photographed--heritagefutures); S/n 67983 observed in a Japanese online auction; S/n 68099 pictured in Pritchard, p.64. S/n 69321 pictured in Westlicht auction 18, lot 523(see links below); S/n 70137 pictured in this page at Submin.com.
- 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 1463.
- Hagiya Takeshi (萩谷剛). "16mm-haba firumu shiyō no panorama kamera Bisukawaido-16" (16mm幅フィルム使用のパノラマカメラビスカワイド-16, The Viscawide-16, a panorama camera using 16mm wide film). 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.35, November 1995. Nihon no kamera 50nen (日本のカメラ50年, special issue on 50 years of Japanese cameras). P.158.
- 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.11, March 1988. No ISBN number. Shirarezaru kamera (知られざるカメラ, special issue on unknown cameras). "Panorama kamera arakaruto part 2" (パノラマカメラあらかると part 2, Panorama cameras à la carte part 2). Pp.88–9.
- 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.111.
- 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.912.
- 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.64.
- 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 6047.
- Viscawide-16 and Viscawide manual at Submin.com
- Past auctions by Westlicht Photographica Auction:
- Viscawide-16 at Cameras Downunder