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Champion (Konishi)

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tefuda (8×10.5cm) Champion | Cherry | Sakura Army | Sakura Honor | Sakura Navy
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The Champion Hand Camera (チャンピオン手提暗函)[1] is a Japanese magazine camera released by Konishi (predecessor of Konica) in January 1904.[2]

Origin Edit

One source says that the Champion was an imported camera introduced in January 1904 and made by A. C. Jackson in the UK.[3] The Jackson company was absorbed into Houghtons in March 1904, and the Champion is quite similar to some of the Houghtons Klito magazine camera models. It is extremely difficult to know for sure if the camera was a Japanese model inspired by Western equivalents or an imported one. The original documents observed so far do not explicitly state that the Champion was made in Konishi's manufacturing facilities.[4] The naming of the products sold by Konishi perhaps gives a hint of the answer: it seems that all the imported cameras were sold under their original brand name and none was rebadged, whereas all the cameras sold under a local brand name were made in Japan.[5] This would mean that the Champion, whose brand name is not found in the West, was a local product.

Description Edit

The Champion has the shape of a vertically elongated box, and contains twelve plates in tefuda format (8×10.5cm).[6] The control of the changing mechanism is visible above the camera on the photographer's right, next to the top handle. The camera has an exposure counter, which perhaps corresponds to the round window visible in front of the changing lever.[7] The lens is slightly offset upwards, and there are two brilliant finders with square windows at the top of the front plate. These square windows consist of a concave optical element, to enhance the viewing image.[8] The back is locked by two keys on the right; it is certainly hinged to the left to load the plates.

The lens has two elements and an iris diaphragm, certainly set by an index at the bottom of the lens rim.[9] It is said that the maximal aperture is f/11.[10] There is a lever on the right of the lens (as seen from the front), certainly to switch from Time to Instant exposures.[11] The Instant setting is adjustable, reportedly from 1/20 to 1/100, certainly by turning the knob visible at the bottom right of the lens.[12] (This arrangement is similar to that of the Patent Klito shutter (T, 1–100) found on most Houghtons Klito models.) The shutter is released by a sliding lever placed on the photographer's right, near the bottom.

Commercial life and surviving example Edit

The Champion was reportedly released in January 1904.[13] The camera was not sold by Konishi only, and it appears for ¥8.50 in a September 1906 catalogue by Fusō Shōkai, under the name Fusō Champion (フソーチャンピオン).[14] The camera was still presented in the December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten, at an unchanged price.[15] It was an intermediate offering between the Cherry and the Navy.

At least one surviving example is known, pictured in various sources.[16] The illustration of the original catalogue differs from the surviving example by various points.[17] The Time and Instant selector and the speed knob are notably absent from the illustration, which instead shows an unidentified part under the lens (perhaps a nameplate), and a small button on the left of the lens (as seen from the front). The illustration also shows a round control instead of the sliding release lever, and a slanted instead of straight top handle. These differences perhaps say more of the inaccuracy of the advertising drawings used at the time than of actual production variants.

Notes Edit

  1. The phrase tesage anbako (手提暗函) is rendered as "Hand Camera" in the Konishi catalogue dated December 1911. In modern sources, it is often translated as "Portable Camera" and the camera is sometimes called "Champion Portable". The Japanese word anbako literally means "dark box"; it was modeled after "camera obscura" and was used for cameras until around the 1910s.
  2. Date: Lewis, p.18, Sakai, p.16 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of the same magazine, this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology and this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  3. Lewis, p.18.
  4. Kan'i Shashin-jutsu: September 1906 catalogue by Fusō Shōkai, p.15, electronically available at the National Diet Library, and December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten, p.25.
  5. This is inferred from the contents of the December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten. The case of the Midg is dubious but probably follows the general rule.
  6. Twelve plates in tefuda format: December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten, p.25.
  7. Exposure counter: December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten, p.25 (巧妙なる金具の作用に依り露出せる乾板の枚数を表示す).
  8. Concave optical element: December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten, p.25 (ファインダーは大なる二個の単凹境を具備すれば).
  9. Two elements and iris diaphragm: December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten, p.25 (境玉は迅速二枚玉にして前部に虹彩絞を装し).
  10. Sakai, pp.16–7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  11. Time and Instant: Sakai, p.17 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, and December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten, p.25 (定時及瞬間).
  12. > 1/20 to 1/100: Sakai, p.17 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  13. January 1904: chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, Sakai, p.16 of the same magazine, and Lewis, p.18. The date is simply given as 1904 in the chronology at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  14. Kan'i Shashin-jutsu: September 1906 catalogue by Fusō Shōkai, p.15, electronically available at the National Diet Library.
  15. December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten, p.25.
  16. Surviving example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1024, and in this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology.
  17. Original illustration: December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten, p.25, and this page and this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.

Bibliography Edit

Links Edit

In Japanese:


Konishiroku prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
plate hand cameras stereo hand cameras strut folders box telephoto SLR
Idea (original) | Idea A | Idea B | Idea Snap | Idea No.1 | Idea (metal) | Lily (original) | Lily (horizontal) | Lily (metal) | Tropical Lily | Noble | Ohca | Sakura Palace | Sakura Pocket Prano | Sakura Prano Idea Binocular | Sakura Binocular Prano Minimum Idea | Idea Spring | Korok Champion | Cherry | Sakura Army | Sakura Honor | Sakura Navy Idea Telephoto Idea Reflex (1910 and 1911) | Idea Reflex (1932) | Neat Reflex | Sakura Reflex Prano
rollfilm folders box or collapsible TLR
Pearlette | Special Pearlette | B Pearlette | Pearl (for plates and rollfilm) | Pearl No.2 | Pearl (Year 8) | Baby Pearl | Semi Pearl | Sakura Palace Record | Sakura (box) | Sakura (bakelite) Sakura-flex

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