The Zessan has a metal body with a telescopic tube supporting the lens and shutter assembly. The advance knob is at the top right, as seen by the photographer. The tubular optical finder is offset to the left, and extends further to the left to support the accessory shoe. The top plate is removable for film loading (as on the Picny and Gelto cameras, to which the Zessan is directly comparable). It is locked by a small knob between the finder and advance knob, with O and L indications.
The back has two red windows to control the film advance, protected by horizontally sliding individual covers. There are two round film flanges at the bottom; the serial number is engraved on that on the left. The tripod thread is offset to the right. The name ZESSAN is normally embossed in the leather covering at the front, on the same side as the accessory shoe. It is repeated at the front of the ever-ready case.
The shutter is an everset Licht by Seikōsha, with a thread and pin release (a simple replacement for a self-timer). The lens is a front-cell focusing 50mm f/4.5, either a Roico Anastigmat or a Seica Anastigmat. Both have three elements and were made by Riken.
|Zessan no.3283, Seica Anastigmat 50mm f/4.5 lens no.50183.|
Pictures by eBayer collectablesrwcompany. (Image rights)
Advertisements and other documents
The Zessan appears in the list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in 1941, in two versions called "Zessan I" (¥60) and "Zessan II" (¥77) with no further detail. The camera is also pictured in an advertisement dated February 1941 but again no detail was given.
The Zessan again appears in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production, in two versions differing by the lens name. Both are called "Zessan I" in a recent reproduction of the document, but the original document presumably has "Zessan I" and "Zessan II"; it is not known which has the Roico and which has the Seica.
Very few examples of the Zessan have been observed. The body numbers known so far are 2788 (Roico lens no.3308), 2971 (Roico lens no.3412), 3283 (Seica lens no.50183) and 3997 (Seica lens no.50025).
The Japanese word zessan means "praise" when written 絶賛 or 絶讃. Riken used many such names in the prewar and wartime period. The name has not yet been observed on any original document and the actual writing used by the company is not known.
- Made by Mori: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 158–9.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens items Jc8 and Jc9.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 1, sections 5 and 7.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 158–9. The lens name is "Seiko" (セイコ) on one version, but this is surely a typo for "Seica" (セイカ).
- Supuringu kamera de ikou, p.187, says that the original document is hardly legible at some places.
- Example pictured in this article, and examples observed in online auctions.
- "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. Items 158–9.
- "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 1, sections 5 and 7.
- Tanaka Masao (田中政雄). "Rikō kamera no nagare" (リコーカメラの流れ, Evolution of the Ricoh 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.14, October 1989. No ISBN number. Rikō kamera no subete (リコーカメラのすべて, special issue on Ricoh). Pp.8–11. (The Zessan is only mentioned on pp.8–9 of this magazine issue, otherwise displaying most of the cameras made by Riken and Ricoh. It is not present in the camera list of the Ricoh official website, mostly based on this source.)
|Asahi Bussan and Riken prewar and wartime cameras ( )|
|rigid or collapsible|
|Vest Adler | Gokoku | Semi Kinsi | Letix | Olympic | New Olympic | Regal Olympic | Semi Olympic | Super Olympic | Vest Olympic | Riken No.1 | Ricohl | Roico | Seica | Zessan|
|Semi Adler | Adler III | Adler A | Adler B | Adler C | Adler Four | Adler Six | Gaica | Heil | Kinsi||Chukon Ref||Ricohflex | Ricohflex B|