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Guzzi

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Japanese subminiature
on paper-backed roll film and round film (edit)
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20mm film Guzzi | Mycroflex | Top
round film Evarax | Petal | Sakura Petal | Star
unknown Hallow | Lyravit | Tsubasa
cine film see Japanese cine film subminiature
110 film see Japanese 110 film

The Guzzi (グッチー) is a Japanese subminiature camera, made by Earth Kōgaku from 1938 by 1944 and mainly distributed by Sanwa Shōkai. The Top (トップ) is a minor evolution of the Guzzi, distributed around 1948 by Asahi Shōten.

Context Edit

The Guzzi appeared in 1938 as a copy of the German Ulca. It was the second Japanese subminiature camera using rollfilm, released one year after the Midget. Compared with the latter, it used a slightly larger film and was priced about two times cheaper, mostly aiming a younger public.

All the models take ten exposures on special paper backed rollfilm; the nominal exposure size is 20×20mm but the actual size is 18×18mm on 20mm wide film.[1] The Guzzi was first released with a die-cast metal body (as the Ulca), but the company later switched to pressed metal for the late Guzzi and the Top (see below for the detail variations).

The lens and shutter assembly is mounted on a tube at the front. The lens is a fixed-focus meniscus; it has 30mm focal length and a single aperture, about f/8.[2] The shutter has Bulb and Instant settings selected by a button on one side of the casing, and is tripped by a lever placed on the other side. The film is advanced by a knob at the top left, as seen by the photographer. The back is hinged to the right and contains a single uncovered red window to control the advance. The frame finder unit at the top is made of a bent sheet of metal; it also acts as a back latch, swiveling upwards to open the camera and holding the back shut when in normal position.

The early Guzzi Edit

The Guzzi was first advertised and featured in the June 1938 issue of Asahi Camera. The column wrongly says that the camera is made of black bakelite and has T and B shutter settings, perhaps because the journalist didn't have access to an actual example. The camera is attributed to Earth Kōgaku, and the price is given as ¥5.50 — one roll of film costing ¥0.25. (This is an extremely low price, and the Guzzi was perhaps the cheapest Japanese camera available at the time, except for no-need-darkroom models.)

The early Guzzi are actually made of die-cast metal, and have a metal advance knob. The die-casting is grainy at some places, faking a leather covering. The earliest examples perhaps have GUZZI above the lens and EARTH KOHGAKU below, as illustrated in the August 1938 advertisement in Asahi Camera[3] — no surviving example has been observed so far with these markings. At some time, the bottom marking became EARTH K.K. — at least one surviving example of the diecast version has this inscription.[4] This variant is pictured without interruption in advertisements until April 1940, at the unchanged price of ¥5.50.[5] A common catch phrase used in these advertisements is "a camera smaller than a matchbox" (マッチ箱より小さいカメラ). Most were placed by the distributor Sanwa Shōkai, but at least one was placed directly by the manufacturer Earth Kōgaku, showing the name of two other distributors — Mizuno Shashinki-ten and Yamamoto Shashinki-ten — along with that of Sanwa.[6]

The late Guzzi or New Guzzi Edit

The late Guzzi are made of pressed metal with actual leatherette covering, and have a black bakelite knob with the name GUZZI moulded at the top. These changes certainly occurred because of a shortage in raw materials. Most of the examples found today correspond to this late version.[7] One of them has been found in its original box, marked "New Guzzi" in Japanese characters (新型グッチー); this name was perhaps used by the manufacturer for the late version, but does not appear on the advertisement in Asahi Camera May 1940 — the earliest to show the new model, still priced at ¥5.50.[8] Outdated pictures of the early model were intermittently used for advertising after that date.[9]

The Guzzi appears in the official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941.[10] The rigid system of price categories theoretically resulted in a much higher price at ¥10; however this price rise was not fully applied, and the camera was reportedly sold for ¥6 in 1941 and ¥7 in 1942.[11] The Guzzi is mentioned in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production,[12] and was sold until 1944. The last advertisement observed so far is in the February 15, 1944 issue of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin; it was placed by Earth Kōgaku and lists the three distributors Mizuno, Sanwa and Yamamoto — the price of the camera is given as ¥7.88.[13]

The Top Edit

The Top is almost identical to the late Guzzi made of pressed steel, from which it differs only by a few details: the advance knob is made of metal again, with the name TOP engraved above, the release lever has a silver round tip instead of a red dot, and the shutter plate is inscribed TOP above the lens and TOP CAMERA WORKS below.[14] The camera comes in a small box inscribed 20×20mm, TOP Camera and TOP CAMERA WORKS.

The only document observed so far is an advertisement in the April 20, 1948 issue of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, placed by Asahi Shōten with no mention of "Top Camera Works" (the latter was perhaps a dummy name, see Camera Works).[15] The Top is presented as a metal camera taking 20×20mm exposures, and a very awkward drawing is provided, barely allowing to identify the camera.

The Guzzi accessories and film Edit

The following accessories were offered for the Guzzi:[16]

  • case (¥0.85 in 1938–40, ¥1 c.1942, ¥1.15 in 1944);
  • filter (¥0.85 in 1939–40, ¥1 c.1942);
  • filter with hood (¥2 in 1939–40, ¥2.30 c.1942 ¥2.60 in 1944).

The case is made of brown leather and has the name GUZZI embossed at the front, with some variations.

Regular film rolls for the Guzzi were sold for ¥0.25 in 1938–40, for ¥0.29 c.1942 and for ¥0.33 in 1944.[17] Panchromatic film, announced in Asahi Camera December 1940, appeared for ¥0.30, and was priced at ¥0.41 c.1942 and at ¥0.47 in 1944.[18] It is reported that the film spools made for the early Guzzi cannot fit the slightly narrower body of the pressed steel model, and that those made after the war for the Top cannot fit the early Guzzi because the flanges have a slightly larger diameter.[19]

The film processing tank appeared about one year after the Guzzi, and was featured in Asahi Camera July 1939.[20] It was sold for ¥3 by Sanwa Shōkai under the name "Baby process tank" (ベビー現像タンク).[21] It can process 17.5mm film as well (for the Midget and Mycro), and was perhaps not made by the same manufacturer as the Guzzi camera itself.

Notes Edit

  1. 20×20mm: articles in Asahi Camera June 1938 and December 1940 and advertisement in Asahi Camera August 1938, reproduced in Awano, pp.4 and 7 of Camera Collectors' News no.277; advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.71. 18×18mm: Awano, p.4 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
  2. 30mm f/8: "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., lens item I3.
  3. Advertisement reproduced in Awano, pp.4–5 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
  4. Example pictured in Awano, Camera Collectors' News no.277.
  5. Advertisements on pp.13–4 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin December 15, 1939, reproduced in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, pp.47–8; advertisement in Asahi Graph September 20, 1939, reproduced at Gochamaze; advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.67; advertisement in Asahi Camera April 1940 reproduced in Awano, pp.5–6 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
  6. Advertisement on p.14 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin December 15, 1939, reproduced in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, p.48.
  7. See for example the example pictured in Sugiyama, item 5007.
  8. Advertisement reproduced in Awano, p.6 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
  9. See for example the advertisement dated c.1942 reproduced in Nostalgic Camera.
  10. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 5, section 5.
  11. Awano, p.3 of Camera Collectors' News no.277. See also the advertisement dated c.1942 reproduced in Nostalgic Camera, where the price is given as ¥7.
  12. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 188.
  13. Advertisement on p.7 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin February 15, 1944, reproduced in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, p.71.
  14. Examples pictured in Sugiyama, item 5149, and in this page at Submin.com.
  15. Advertisement on p.4 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin April 20, 1948, reproduced in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, p.82.
  16. Advertisement in Asahi Camera August 1938 reproduced in Awano, p.4 of Camera Collectors' News no.277; advertisement on p.13 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin December 15, 1939, reproduced in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, p.47; advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.67; advertisement dated c.1942 reproduced in Nostalgic Camera; advertisement on p.7 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin February 15, 1944, reproduced in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, p.71.
  17. Article in Asahi Camera June 1938 and advertisement in Asahi Camera August 1938 reproduced in Awano, pp.4 and 7 of Camera Collectors' News no.277; advertisement on p.13 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin December 15, 1939, reproduced in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, p.47; advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.67; advertisement dated c.1942 reproduced in Nostalgic Camera; advertisement on p.7 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin February 15, 1944, reproduced in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, p.71.
  18. Column in Asahi Camera December 1940 reproduced in Awano, p.7 of Camera Collectors' News no.277; advertisement dated c.1942 reproduced in Nostalgic Camera; advertisement on p.7 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin February 15, 1944, reproduced in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, p.71.
  19. Awano, p.4 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
  20. Column in Asahi Camera July 1939 reproduced in Awano, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.277.
  21. Column in Asahi Camera July 1939 reproduced in Awano, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.277; advertisement on pp.13 and 15 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin December 15, 1939, reproduced in Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, pp.47 and 49; advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1940 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.67; advertisement dated c.1942 reproduced in Nostalgic Camera.

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