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Japanese plate box cameras (edit)
No.0 (4×5cm) Adam | Hayatori Renshūyō
atom (4.5×6cm) Atom Hayatori Shashinki
meishi (5.5×8cm) Cherry
tefuda (8×10.5cm) Champion | Cherry | Sakura Army | Sakura Honor | Sakura Navy
nimaigake (8×12cm) Sakura Honor
kabine (12×16.5cm) Sakura Honor
Japanese plate film: monocular, folding bed, strut-folding and SLR ->
3×4 and 4×4, 4×5 and 4×6.5, 4.5×6, 6×6 and 6×9 ->

The Cherry Hand Camera (チェリー手提暗函)[1] is a magazine camera, released by Konishi Honten (predecessor of Konica) in 1903. It was assembled in the Kubo factory, a subcontractor for Konishi.[2]

The Cherry is historically significant as the first Japanese camera to have an individual brand name (instead of a generic description).

Cherry No.1 Edit

The Cherry No.1 was patterned after the Little Nipper by Butcher, itself copied on the Gnom by Hüttig. It was kept simple so that even children could be taught how to use it. Of course simplicity helped to keep its price low, at about ¥2, slightly less than the original Little Nipper, available in Japan for ¥3 (see below for the price details).

The box-shaped camera takes six[3] meishi-size dry plates (about 5.5×8cm). With dimensions of only 12.5×12.1×7.2cm it is quite a small magazine camera.[4] The reflecting type viewfinder — of a kind which is sometimes called "Watson finder" — is detachable and can be clipped on the top or on the side, for vertical or horizontal pictures.

The lens barrel protrudes from the front plate, unlike on the popular American box cameras of the time. It contains a special kind of rotary shutter, placed in front of the lens, that needs cocking for instant mode — see the drawings in this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha. (At the time, Konishi was selling Goerz Choroskop lenses in a similar shutter.)[5]

The back is hinged to the photographer's left, and is retained by two locks on the right. The camera takes special plate holders, standing on an internal T-profile to which they are hooked. It has a very simple falling plate mechanism to let exposed plates fall onto a stack. It is controlled by a sliding lever at the top, and it is powered by a spring inside the back.

The name CHERRY is printed in Latin letters on the leather covering, under the lens. The use of Latin letters is a mere commercial strategy, and does not mean that the camera was intended for export or made for foreign customers. The same way, the brand name used in all the original documents is the English word "Cherry", written phonetically in katakana script: チェリー. The Japanese word for "cherry" is sakura, normally written with the kanji character 桜, or in hiragana: さくら.

No surviving example of the Cherry No.1 has ever surfaced. A replica was made by the Konica company in the 1970s.

Cherry No.2 Edit

The Cherry No.2 looks more like common box cameras. It has two inbuilt reflecting type finders at the top. The back and falling plate mechanism are apparently unchanged. There is a small nameplate inscribed CHERRY CAMERA attached under the lens.

The shutter release is on the right-hand side, at the bottom, and a selector is visible at the front, presumably switching Time and Instant shutter modes. In original illustrations, variations are visible in these two parts.[6]

The lens is hidden behind a plate with three holes to adjust the aperture. The original illustrations show a round disc,[7] a configuration which is also found on various contemporary European cameras, like some Houghton models, or Conley's Kewpie box cameras. The surviving example pictured in Sugiyama and Lewis has a fan-shaped plate instead, pivoting on an axis placed below the lens.[8]

Cherry No.3 Edit

The Cherry No.3 is a larger model, taking six tefuda-size plates (about 8×10.5cm).[9] It is extremely similar to the Cherry No.2, with a round disc to adjust the aperture, offering three positions at f/8, f/11 and f/22. The name Cherry is embossed in the leather covering under the lens.

At least two surviving examples are known.[10] They differ by the position of the shutter selector, and perhaps other minor details.

Commercial life Edit

The Cherry No.1 was released in September 1903.[11] Its release price was perhaps ¥2.30, as appears in an original document by Konishi Honten.[12] The Cherry No.2 and 3 were released in January 1904,[13] and the three models were sold in parallel for some time.[14] They appear together in a September 1906 catalogue by Fusō Shōkai, under the name "Fusō Cherry" (フソーチェリー), and in an April 1907 catalogue by Ueda Shashinki-ten.[15] In both documents, the prices are ¥2, ¥2.50 and ¥3.90 for the No.1, 2 and 3 respectively.[16] It seems that the No.1 was dropped the same year, but the No.2 and No.3 were sold much longer. The two cameras are listed at an unchanged price in the December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten.[17] It is said that they were sold until about 1920, along with the folding Minimum Idea.[18]

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 "Cherry 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. Lewis, p.17, this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  3. The mention of twelve exposures in Baird, p.31, is a mistake.
  4. See this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  5. See this page and this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  6. Compare the illustrations reproduced in this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  7. See this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  8. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1022 (see also the colour pictures at the beginning of the book), and in Lewis, p.17.
  9. Six plates: Sakai, p.16 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, and this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha. The mention of twelve plates in Sugiyama, item 1023, is presumably a mistake.
  10. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1023, and example pictured in this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  11. Lewis, p.17, chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, quote from the same book in this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha, and this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology.
  12. Document reproduced at the bottom of this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha. The same price is given in Sakai, p.16 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10. This page by Konica Minolta says ¥2.50 for the original Cherry, but perhaps makes a confusion between the No.1 and No.2.
  13. Lewis, p.17, chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, quote from the same book in this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha, and this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology.
  14. Lewis, p.18, says that the meishi model was dropped very soon but this is wrong.
  15. Documents reproduced in this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  16. The same prices are given for the Cherry No.2 and No.3 in Sakai, p.16 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  17. December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten, p.24.
  18. See this page at R.Konishi Rokuoh-sha.

Bibliography Edit

Links Edit

In English:

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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