Japanese Field Camera
Special Thin Portable Camera (特別製薄形携帯用暗函)
Cherry wood and brass, about 1910 (1894-1919)
The camera bears the ivory (or bone) name plate "Manufactory | R. Konishi | Tokyo, & Osaka, Japan"
Format: kabine (カビネ) (12 x 16.5 cm)
Double extension. Reversible dry-plate holders.
Lens: Wollensak Versar Portrait & View 5 x 7 f6
Shutter: Thornton – Pickard rouleau shutter (in front of the lens)
© Dirk HR Spennemann 2010, All Rights Reserved
The following quote is from the Camerapedia page for Rokuoh-Sha :
"Early cameras were produced by artisan subcontractors, such as Hasegawa Toshinosuke (長谷川利之助) and Tōjō Kamejirō (東条亀次郎). The company (Honten Konishi Rokuemon, 本店小西六右衞門) founded a manufacturing branch called Rokuoh-sha (六桜社) in 1902, and released the Cherry in 1903, the first Japanese camera to have a brand name. The factory of Hasegawa Toshinosuke became the wood workshop of Rokuoh-sha in 1906. Most of the camera production was still assumed by other subcontractors, many of which were merged into Rokuoh-sha in 1919."
Given the maker’s plate R.Konishi, it is certain that the camera dates to pre 1919. While the camera has some similarity with the field cameras produced by Rokuoh-sha for the Japanese Navy in the late 1920s and 1930s, all of these Navy cameras use Hexar Series I lenses, and the design of the front standard is very different. The camera shown above has clear design similarities with an Asanuma King. This is not surprising, however, if we consider that the artisan Tōjō Kamejirō (東条亀次郎), who had made cameras for Asanuma, from 1890 (also?) worked for Konishi Honten.
The Rokuoh-sha History Website shows this camera as the Special Thin Portable Camera (特別製薄形携帯用暗函) introduced in Meiji 27 (1894). Reading the chronology at the site (with translation via honyaku.yahoo.co.jp), it seems the camera was made artisan subcontractors, most likely by Tōjō Kamejirō (東条亀次郎) for the woodwork and by Takashi Korudairō (黒田宗次郎) for the metal parts.
Further below are two images of the Special Thin Portable Camera linked in from the Rokuoh-sha History Website.
It is at present unclear how long the camera model was in production.
If the lens is the original lens that was bought with the camera, and there is at present no reason to assume that it was not (as the wood of the lensboard seems the same), then we can surmise that the camera was produced between 1908 and 1919. The Wollensak Versar Portrait & View 5 x 7 f6 , an ‘Extra Rapid Rectilinear’-type lens, is listed in the Catalogue and Price List of Wollensak Photographic Shutters and Lenses (Wollensak Optical Company, Rochester, N.Y. USA) for 1912-13, p. 10; for 1916-17, p. 12, as well as for 1919, p. 26, but not yet in 1906-07 and no longer in 1922.
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