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Baby Chrome

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Japanese Baby (3×4) and Four (4×4) (edit)
folding
3×4 Baby Balnet | Doris | Baby Doris | Baby Germa | Kinsi | Baby Leotax | Loren | Baby Lyra | Baby Pearl | Baby Pilot | Baby Rosen | Baby Suzuka | Walz
4×4 Adler Four | Rosen Four
rigid or collapsible
3×4 Baika | Baby Chrome | Comet | Cyclon | Gelto | Baby Germa | Gokoku | Hamond | Baby Hawk | Kinka Lucky | Lausar | Light | Baby Light | Molby | Mulber | Olympic | Baby Ōso | Peacock | Picny | Ricohl | Rorox | Shinko Baby | Slick | Baby Sport | Tsubasa Arawashi | Baby Uirus | Zessan
3.5×4 Kenko 35
4×4 Alma Four | Andes Four | Anny 44 | Arsen | Balnet Four | Bonny Four | Freude | Kalimar 44 | Auto Keef | Kraft | Letix | Mykey-4 | Olympic Four | Roico | Royal Senior | Seica | Terra Junior | Vero Four | Welmy 44 | Yashica Future 127
unknown
Baby First | Baby Lyra Flex
Japanese SLR, TLR, pseudo TLR and stereo models ->
Japanese 4×5 and 4×6.5, 4.5×6, 6×6 and 6×9 ->

The Baby Chrome[1] (ベビー・クローム) is a Japanese 3×4 bakelite camera sold from 1936 by Optochrom. Its main competitor was the Olympic C, released the same year.

Description Edit

The Baby Chrome has a black bakelite body, with the name BABY–CHROME moulded at the front. The camera's body shape and general aspect is inspired by the Mentor Dreivier. The latter has unit focusing, driven by a large helical at the base of the lens tube. This is imitated in the Baby Chrome: the lens and shutter assembly is surrounded by a heavy metal ring, with Baby–Chrome engraved at the top and the serial number at the bottom. This fake focusing ring does not rotate and the whole assembly is mounted on a telescopic tube, which must be pulled forward before taking pictures.

There is a tubular optical finder in the middle of the top plate and a cylindrical post on the right of the finder, vaguely looking like a shutter release, but actually used to attach an external rangefinder. The advance knob is at the left end of the top plate. The whole top plate comes off together with the back to load the film.

The shutter is everset and tripped by a release lever directly mounted on the shutter housing. The aperture is set at the bottom of the shutter plate.

Evolution Edit

Early model Edit

The early model of the Baby Chrome has two red windows in the back, both uncovered. The advance knob is cylindrical, has three knurled rows on the rim and is attached by a flush screw.

The camera was released in late 1936, and the earliest advertisement is reportedly dated October.[2]

An undated leaflet,[3] pictured in this page, shows what is probably the original version. The following variants are listed:

  • New Gold f/6.3 fixed-focus lens, B, 25, 50, 100 speeds (¥18);
  • New Gold f/4.5 focusing lens, T, B, 25, 50, 100 speeds, (¥33).

Only the f/6.3 variant is illustrated. The lens rim is black and is engraved Baby-Chrome 1:6,3 F=50mm in white. The shutter plate is marked Optochrom at the top and presumably DUPLEX at the bottom. There is a logo in a circle on the right, apparently different from the NE logo of the later versions. The speed scale is engraved on the shutter rim in that order: 100, 50, 25, B. The aperture scale, from 6.3 to 15, is perhaps inscribed on a separate plate attached by two screws. No surviving example of the original version has been observed so far.

The regular version has a different shutter plate, marked OPTOCHROM SHUTTER at the top, with an NE logo between both words, and NEW GOLD at the bottom. The speed scale is directly inscribed at the top, in the order B, 25, 50, 100, and the aperture scale is directly inscribed at the bottom. The f/6.3 lens bezel is chrome plated and engraved NEW-GOLD 1:6.3 F=50mm in black.

This version is pictured in the advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1937,[4] listing the same two variants:

  • Optochrom shutter (B, 25, 50, 100), New Gold f/6.3 lens (¥15 — case ¥3.50 extra);
  • Optochrom shutter (T, B, 25, 50, 100), New Gold f/4.5 lens (¥28).

An advertisement by the distributor Matsuzaki Shashinki-ten dated May 1937 shows the same version and only lists the f/6.3 lens option.[5]

The regular version has only been observed with the f/6.3 lens so far.[6]

Late model Edit

The late model has a more rounded advance knob, having a single row of knurls and a concave top with a protruding axle. The shutter plate has three metal stripes on each side of the lens, and is marked TSUBASA at the top and NEW GOLD at the bottom, with the NE logo on the right.[7] The back has a single uncovered red window, placed at the bottom right. (It seems that the 127 film sold in Japan received a series of numbers for 3×4cm exposures in the mid or late 1930s, allowing to use a single red window.) All the examples observed so far have an f/6.3 lens.

The late model appears in advertisements dated September 1938, February and April 1939.[8] Two options are listed:

  • Tsubasa shutter (B, 25, 50, 100), New Gold f/6.3 lens (¥18 — case ¥4.50 extra);
  • Tsubasa shutter (B, 25, 50, 100), New Gold f/4.5 lens (¥33.50).

A further advertisement dated December 1939 has the f/6.3 option only.[9]

The camera is mentioned in the list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, under the names "Baby Chrome I" (¥19) and "Baby Chrome II" (¥32) with no further detail.[10] The Baby Chrome I probably corresponds to the f/6.3 version and the Baby Chrome II to the f/4.5 version. The last advertisement reported for the Baby Chrome is dated September 1941.[11] Optochrom released the Tsubasa Arawashi 3×4 camera in 1939 but it seems that the two cameras were sold side by side for some time.

Notes Edit

  1. McKeown, p.464, and Sugiyama, item 4100, call the camera "Tsubasa Baby Chrome", probably by mistake.
  2. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.336.
  3. Undated leaflet for the Victory, Semi Dymos, Reex, Baby Ref, Union Ref and Baby Chrome.
  4. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.61.
  5. Advertisement in Sunday Mainichi, May 2, 1937, reproduced at Gochamaze.
  6. See for example Sugiyama, items 4023–4, or this page at Asacame.
  7. The TSUBASA marking certainly explains why this model is called "Tsubasa Baby Chrome" in Sugiyama, item 4100.
  8. Advertisement in Asahi Camera September 1938, reproduced at Gochamaze; advertisements in Asahi Camera February and April 1939, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.78–9.
  9. Advertisement on p.18 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, December 15, 1939, reproduced on p.52 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
  10. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 1, sections 1 and 2.
  11. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.336.

Bibliography Edit

Original documents Edit

  • Anonymous company. Leaflet for the Victory, Semi Dymos, Reex, Baby Ref, Union Ref and Baby Chrome. Date not indicated. Document reproduced in this Flickr album by Rebollo_fr.
  • "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 1 and 2.
  • Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin (日本写真興業通信). Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku (百号ごと十回の記録, Ten records, every hundred issues). Tokyo: Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin Sha (日本写真興業通信社), 1967. No ISBN number. Advertisement on p.52, corresponding to p.18 of the December 15, 1939 issue.

Recent sources Edit

Links Edit

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