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Honor S1

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The Honor 35 (オーナー35) or Honor S1 (オーナーS1) is a Japanese Leica copy, made from 1956 to 1959 by Mejiro Kōgaku, later Zuihō Kōgaku. It seems that the project was originally developed by Daiichi Kōgaku as the Ichicon-35 (イチコン35) around 1954, before that company went bankrupt. The camera was succeeded in 1959 by the Honor SL.

Description Edit

The Honor is copied on the Leica screw models, with a horizontally running focal-plane shutter and a screw mount lens.

The camera has a die-cast body and an integral top cover, as on the Leica IIIc and later. The position of the controls — advance knob, exposure counter, release button, rewind lever, speed dial and extractable rewind knob — is the same as on the Leica. The advance knob contains a film reminder disc at the top. The shutter normally provides speeds from 1s to 1/500, with the fast and slow speeds controlled by two separate dials (see exceptions below). The camera is synchronized for flash, via one or two PC sockets at the front.

The eyepieces of the viewfinder and rangefinder are separate parts, spaced by a few millimetres only, a configuration which is intermediate between the Leica IIIa and IIIb. The rangefinder eyepiece has a diopter correction lever, shaped the same as on the Leica IIIa. The rangefinder has 1.5× magnification and 38mm distance between the two windows, giving 57mm effective base.[1] The viewfinder window is surrounded by a thin rectangular bump, and there is a small screw on the side, certainly for rangefinder adjustment. There is a small hump under the rewind knob, as on the Leica IIIc, but this is a stylistic feature only.

The back is removable together with the bottom plate for film loading, and is locked by two keys at the bottom. The camera can take standard film cartridges or refillable Leica cassettes.[2] There are strap lugs on both sides of the body, slightly offset to the front.

Ichicon-35 prototype Edit

Original project by Kumagai Genji, developed by Daiichi Edit

It seems that the camera was first developed by the company Daiichi Kōgaku as the Ichicon-35 (イチコン35), though no original document has yet been found to confirm this.

The story was first related in the late 1970s in an interview of Kumagai Genji, former developer of the Nippon Leica copy.[3] The text of the interview does not easily make sense. Kumagai apparently told that he brought a camera to "Zenobia Kōgaku" before that company faced failure, then someone rescued the project and released the camera as the Honor, without noticing him.[4]

Kumagai does not mention the name "Ichicon-35", which is found on at least one surviving example, or the name variant "Zenobia 35" (see below). The mention of "Zenobia Kōgaku" is perhaps inaccurate: the company, whose main product was the Zenobia folding camera, was actually called Daiichi Kōgaku until it temporarily closed its doors in March 1955 — certainly the failure told by Kumagai. It was reorganized as Zenobia Kōgaku only in February 1956, operating under that name until its final demise in 1958. The name "Ichicon" was certainly chosen after the current company name.

The same interview presented the Jeicy Leica copy as Kumagai's last attempt at camera production;[5] this camera, of which at least two surviving examples are known, shares various parts with the Ichicon-35 and early Honor S1 but has a hinged or detachable back and a fixed bottom plate. At least one author suggests that the Jeicy was the original camera brought to Daiichi,[6] but this is not certain. It might instead correspond to a further development of the Ichicon, using various parts salvaged after Daiichi's failure, perhaps in the hope of starting independent production, before it was outstripped by the maker of the Honor S1.

It seems that all the recent sources linking the Ichicon-35 to Daiichi Kōgaku are based on Kumagai's interview. Many state that the camera was made in 1954,[7] but it seems that this is only a guess, based on the date of Daiichi's bankruptcy and subsequently repeated.

Surviving example(s) Edit

At least one example of the Ichicon-35 has survived, pictured in various collectors' books.[8] It is extremely similar to the early Honor S1 (see below), from which it differs in small details only. The main speed dial has B, 20–1, 30, 40, 60, 100, 200, 500 positions, and the slow speed dial has T, 1, 2, 4, 8, 20. There is a single PC socket at the front, and the camera lacks a film plane indicator. The name ICHICON — 35 is inscribed above the viewfinder, together with a serial number, and no company name appears on the camera.

The serial number of the surviving camera is 5512; this might indicate that it was the 12th camera produced in 1955 but this is unconfirmed. It is usually pictured with a collapsible Hexanon 50mm f/3.5, itself a prototype too, but its owner says that this lens was not originally mounted on the camera but attached at a later period.[9]

It is said that other cameras exist with the name "Zenobia 35", but no picture has been found yet.[10] This hypothetical Zenobia 35 is not to be confused with the later Zenobia 35 rangefinder camera with leaf shutter, made from 1957 by Zenobia Kōgaku.

Early Honor Edit

Description Edit

The early Honor are distinguished by the shape of the back and bottom plate. The opening keys at both ends are surrounded by a circular bulge, with OPEN and CLOSE indications. The tripod thread is situated approximately under the lens mount, and is surrounded by another circular bulge. There is a raised rectangular zone on the back, surrounded by a black frame, and containing the pressure plate springs. The strap lugs are not attached to the main body but to the ends of the top cover, and four screws are apparent on the side of the latter.

These early cameras normally have the name Honor engraved in double-struck letters at the top, with the dummy company name HONOR. Opt, a model name, a serial number and a film plane indicator. The film reminder inside the advance knob has a black background, ASA indications from 15 to 800, and an E position (presumably for Empty).

Honor Sa Edit

The earliest camera observed so far, presumably called Honor Sa, has serial number 5646 prefixed by the model name: Sa—N°5646.[11] It lacks a slow speed dial, for which no hole is provided, and has a single PC socket. This version appears in no original document, and probably corresponds to preseries cameras. The serial number might mean that it was the 46th camera assembled in 1956, but this is unsure.

Early documents Edit

The Honor was first announced and advertised in the May 1956 issue of Camera Mainichi,[12] and it appeared in the new products column of various other Japanese photo magazines in the following months.[13][14][15][16] A detailed article by Yamashita Kamenosuke (山下亀之助) of the Mejiro company appeared in the August issue of Shashin Kōgyō,[17] and the camera was featured again in the same magazine in September[18][19] and October,[20] sometimes compared with other Leica copies.

In the early documents, the camera is simply called "Honor"[13] or "Honor 35",[21][14][15][16] but the full name used by Yamashita Kamenosuke is "Honor 35 S1",[17] certainly the official name used by the company (the name "Honor 35 1S" found in a document[19] is surely mistaken). The camera is either attributed to its distributor Zuihō Kōgaku Seiki or to its manufacturer Mejiro Kōgaku, and one document explains that the newly formed Mejiro was a "brother company" of Zuihō.[22] The wholesale dealers were Kashimura, Shikishima and Chūō Shashin-yōhin.[15]

The first column in Camera Mainichi says that that the camera was released in early April[21] — perhaps the date of the first presentation to the press — whereas other articles dated June and July say that the camera would be available shortly.[13][15] The price, initially announced as ¥30,000,[21][13] was actually set at ¥29,500,[14][15][16] with a standard Hexar 50mm f/3.5 collapsible lens, a case and refillable cassettes. One document says that the camera body was thoroughly tested by Konishiroku before fitting the Hexar lens;[23] it does not specify if these tests occurred once and for all on an early production sample, or if Konishiroku took care of the quality control for each of the camera bodies.

The pictures displayed in these early articles are those reproduced above, showing an early Honor S1. It has the slow speed dial and dual flash synch. The upper contact is for FP bulbs, and the lower one is for X-synch.[24] The range of speeds is not visible in the pictures, but that announced in the documents is similar to that of the Ichicon-35.

Delayed production and marking change Edit

The company perhaps had some problems to enter serial production, and the camera was apparently not available to the general public before 1957. Advertisements in Asahi Camera January to March 1957 say: "We have made you wait terribly. We are currently making all our efforts to increase the production, and it will shortly hit the shelves."[25]

The March and May 1957 advertisements in the same magazine show a new Honor engraving on the top cover, again in double-struck letters but admittedly more legible.

Actual examples Edit

The early Honor S1 have a serial number in the 6xxx range, with the model name as a prefix: S1—N°xxxx. The numbering sequence was perhaps reset to 6000 or 6001 after the pre-series cameras in the 56xx range. The first digit "6" might indicate year 1956 again, when the batch was started. The earliest Honor S1 known so far has number 6040, and is typical of the early production.[26] Its range of speeds is the same as on the Ichicon-35: B, 20–1, 30, 40, 60, 100, 200, 500 and T, 1, 2, 4, 8, 20. The camera tested in the October 1956 issue of Shashin Kōgyō has number 607x, and has similar features.[27]

The next known camera has body no.6121. It still has the older engraving, and is distinguished by a black slow speed dial, going to 1/25 instead of 1/20; the indications on the main speed dial may be B, 25–1, 50, 75, 100, 200, 500.[28] (This new speed range was adopted on later cameras, but the slow speed dial returned to an all chrome finish.)

The camera pictured in the March and May 1957 advertisements in Asahi Camera seems to have a serial number in the 61xx range. (The same picture appears in the column in Shashin Kōgyō Summer 1957, reproduced on the right.)[29] Despite its newer engraving, it has the older range of speeds, with slow speeds from 1/20. This overlap of the features is typical of small-scale production.

The next known example has body no.6317, and combines the new range of speeds and the newer engraving.[30] It is the last example known so far with the older back unit.

Adoption of the Hexanon f/1.9 Edit

The Hexanon 50mm f/1.9 lens was announced on the camera in September 1957.[31] The announce issued that month in Shashin Kōgyō does not mention any change on the camera body, and shows a picture of an early Honor S1, with the same top engraving as no.6317 (see the picture below).[32] The lens attached to the camera, with serial number 3121034, is a very early example of the Hexanon. At the time, the camera was available either as a body only for ¥22,000, with the Hexar f/3.5 for ¥29,500, or with the Hexanon f/1.9 for ¥43,000.

Regular Honor Edit

Description Edit

The regular Honor is much more common than the early version, but still qualifies as a rare camera. It is mainly distinguished by the new back unit. The bottom plate is flat, and the two opening keys are recessed at both ends, with O and C indications. The tripod thread is contained inside the right-hand key. The back is smooth and has no raised zone. The strap lugs are attached to the main body, immediately under the top cover, and no screw is visible on the latter's side. The shape of the Honor name was altered once again, and it is now written with single-struck ligatured letters.

It is said that the internal mechanism, of which some parts were presumably apparent in the early Honor, is no longer visible on the regular model.[33] Some documents also indicate that the viewfinder magnification was raised from 0.6× to 0.7× at some time between late 1958 and late 1959, perhaps with the introduction of the regular model.[34] However no external difference is visible on the viewfinder part, and this report might be based on different data supplied by the manufacturer to the press, with no actual change on the camera.

Early variant Edit

The first examples of the regular Honor still has the dummy name HONOR. Opt and a four-digit serial number with S1 prefix, and has the same film reminder as on the early Honor.

A top picture of that variant appears in an advertisement dated December 1957 in Camera Mainichi, maybe with a serial number in the 64xx range.[35] The document says that changes were applied to the camera, and lists the unchanged price of ¥43,000 with f/1.9 lens. The 1958 camera annual by Nihon Camera, published in late 1957, shows a front picture of the same variant, and is the first document to say that the camera was manufactured by Zuihō Kōgaku.[36]

The same front picture also appears in the September 1958 advertisement in Camera Mainichi,[37] the earliest one to mention Zuihō as the manufacturer (製造元).[38] This document shows the camera along with Zuihō binoculars, and gives the lower price of ¥37,000 with the Hexanon f/1.9; another document dated late 1958 shows that the other prices, as body only or with Hexar f/3.5, remained unchanged.[39]

New markings and main production Edit

The top markings were certainly altered after the original manufacturer Mejiro was absorbed into Zuihō in 1957 or 1958. The top plate now reads Zuiho Opt. Co., Ltd. Japan. The film reminder has indications for black and white or colour film: EMPTY, ASA 36 EXP, COLOR and ASA 20 EXP. The serial number is inscribed in front of the accessory shoe, and has five digits in the 70xxx or 71xxx range, with prefix No. The sequence was certainly reset at 70000 or 70001, with "7" perhaps for year 1957, when the batch was started.

This main production variant is notably pictured in the June 1959 advertisement in Camera Mainichi, showing the price of ¥37,000 again.[40] (The camera was perhaps no longer available with the Hexar f/3.5 lens.) The last advertisement for the camera is dated the following month.[41] It is possible that the camera was sold for a few more months, notably on the export market.

Serial numbers for this variant are known from 70003 to 71290.[42] This gives a total of about 1,300 units for the main production batch, whereas no more than 500 units were made of the earlier cameras. It seems that the production gained momentum after Zuihō absorbed Mejiro, perhaps after the manufacturing process was rendered more efficient.

The camera's main variant is sometimes found with a Honor 50mm f/2 or f/1.9 standard lens instead of the Hexar or Hexanon. The Honor lenses were badged by Zuihō but were certainly supplied by a third-party maker (see the corresponding article). They rarely appear in Japanese original documents, and were perhaps made for export only. The Honor 50mm f/2 is shown on the Honor S1 in the July 1959 issue of Shashin Kōgyō; the document mentions a price with the Hexanon f/1.9 only, perhaps the only option offered in Japan.[43]

The Honor S1 was succeeded by the Honor SL, announced in late 1959, which was not advertised in Japan and was perhaps only sold on the export market.

Non standard variants Edit

One isolated example of the regular Honor, with body no.70189, has been observed with no slow speeds, having a round plate with leatherette patch instead of the slow speed dial.[44] Another isolated example, with body no.70555, is known with 1/1000 top speed added to the main speed dial.[45] These modifications were perhaps applied in the factory for experimental purpose, but do not correspond to commercially available versions. (The shutter was certainly not designed to provide 1/1000 speed reliably, even if Kumagai Genji pushed to 1/1000 on the related Jeicy.)

Notes Edit

  1. Yamashita, p.105 of Shashin Kōgyō August 1956, gives the physical spacing and effective base; the magnification is deduced by dividing the two.
  2. Yamashita, p.105 of Shashin Kōgyō August 1956.
  3. Shirai, p.25 of Maboroshi no kamera o otte.
  4. Shirai, p.25 of Maboroshi no kamera o otte: さらには、ニッポンカメラの製造を誇りうけたいといって、カメラをもっていったゼノビア光学は倒産して、だれかがそこから持ち出したカメラが、「オーナー」という名で熊谷氏にことわりなく作られた.
  5. Shirai, p.26 of Maboroshi no kamera o otte: これはカメラ界で最後に作ろうとして果たせなかった会社の名である (about "Jeicy Camera Works").
  6. Awano, p.1 of Camera Collectors' News no.35 and p.56 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.37.
  7. Sugiyama, item 3277, HPR, pp.183 and 185, Pont / Princelle, p.200, McKeown, p.239.
  8. Example pictured in Awano, pp.5–6 of Camera Collectors' News no.35 and pp.56–7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.37, in Sugiyama, item 3277, and in HPR, p.185–6. The drawing in Pont / Princelle, p.202, is based on those pictures but shows wrong serial numbers.
  9. Awano, p.2 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  10. Mention in Awano, p.56 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.37.
  11. Example observed for sale by a Japanese dealer.
  12. Column and advertisement in Camera Mainichi May 1956, reproduced in Awano, pp.7 and 9 of Camera Collectors' News no.35. These are the earliest documents listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.379.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Column in Ars Camera June 1956, reproduced in Awano, p.7 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Column in Shashin Kōgyō July 1956, p.28, reproduced in this page.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Column in Asahi Camera July 1956, reproduced in Awano, p.7 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Column in Nihon Camera August 1956, reproduced in Awano, p.7 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Yamashita, pp.105–6 of Shashin Kōgyō August 1956.
  18. Ōba, pp.171–3 of Shashin Kōgyō September 1956.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Column in Shashin Kōgyō September 1956, p.217.
  20. Article in Shashin Kōgyō October 1956, pp.265–9.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Column in Camera Mainichi May 1956, reproduced in Awano, p.7 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  22. Column in Asahi Camera July 1956, reproduced in Awano, p.7 of Camera Collectors' News no.37: 製造元は東京の目白光学という新しい会社で、発売元の瑞宝光学精機[...]とは兄弟会社.
  23. Column in Asahi Camera July 1956, reproduced in Awano, p.7 of Camera Collectors' News no.37: レンズは定評ある小西六製のものだが、このレンズをつけるために、カメラボディは小西六の厳密なテストを経たとのことである.
  24. Column in the 1957 camera annual by Nihon Camera, reproduced in Awano, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  25. Advertisements in Asahi Camera January 1957 (p.232), February 1957 (p.203) and March 1957 (p.197).
  26. Example pictured in Awano, Camera Collectors' News no.35 and pp.56–7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.37, and in Sugiyama, item 3273.
  27. Example pictured in Shashin Kōgyō October 1956, pp.266–8.
  28. Example observed in an online auction. The main speed dial appears in a very small picture only.
  29. Shashin Kōgyō Summer 1957 (no.63), p.107.
  30. Example pictured in HPR, p.187.
  31. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.379.
  32. Column in Shashin Kōgyō September 1957, p.328, reproduced in this page.
  33. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.379 (item 1139).
  34. Columns in the 1958 and 1959 camera annuals by Nihon Camera, reproduced in Awano, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.35: that dated 1958 has 0.6× and that dated 1959 has 0.7×. This is perhaps why the book Sengo Nihon Kamera Hatten-shi (戦後日本カメラ発展史) says that the viewfinder magnification was raised to 0.7× at some time (extract reproduced in Awano, p.3 of Camera Collectors' News no.35).
  35. Advertisement reproduced in Awano, p.9 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  36. Column in the 1958 camera annual by Nihon Camera, reproduced in Awano, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  37. Advertisement reproduced in Awano, p.9 of Camera Collectors' News no.35, and in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.225. The same picture also appears in the 1959 camera annual by Nihon Camera, reproduced in Awano, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  38. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.379.
  39. Column in the 1959 camera annual by Nihon Camera, reproduced in Awano, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  40. Advertisement reproduced in Awano, p.9 of Camera Collectors' News no.35.
  41. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.379.
  42. No.70003 reported in the text-only description of an online auction. No.71290 sold as lot no.47 of June 8, 1995 auction by Christies.
  43. Column in Shashin Kōgyō July 1959, p.39.
  44. Example observed in an online auction.
  45. Example pictured in Awano, p.5 of Camera Collectors' News no.35 and pp.56–7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.37, and in Sugiyama, item 3274.

Bibliography Edit

Original documents Edit

  • Asahi Camera. Advertisements by Zuihō Kōgaku Seiki:
    • January 1957, p.232;
    • February 1957, p.203;
    • March 1957, p.197;
    • May 1957, p.167.
  • Ōba Eiichi (大場栄一). "Renzu kōkan-shiki 35-miri kamera no genjō" (レンズ交換式35ミリカメラの現状, Current state of 35mm rangefinder cameras with interchangeable lens). In Shashin Kōgyō no.52, September 1956. Pp.171–3.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.50, July 1956. "News Flash". P.28.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.52, September 1956. "Kokusan kamera memo" (国産カメラメモ, Memo of Japanese cameras). P.217.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.53, October 1956. "Renzu kōkan-gata kamera go-shu o kentō suru" (レンズ交換型カメラ五種を検討する, Inspecting five cameras with interchangeable lens). Pp.265–9.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.63, Summer 1957. "Nihon no kamera zenbō: 35-miri kamera" (日本のカメラ全貌・35ミリカメラ, Compendium of Japanese cameras: 35mm cameras). P.107.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.65, September 1957. "News Flash". P.328.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.87, July 1959. "Line-Up: Kokusan fōkaru purēn shattā tsuki 35-miri kamera" (国産フォーカル・プレーンシャッター付35ミリカメラ, Japanese 35mm cameras with focal-plane shutter). Pp.38–9.
  • Yamashita Kamenosuke (山下亀之助). "Ōnā 35 S1 gata" (オーナー35S1型, Honor 35 S1). In Shashin Kōgyō no.51, August 1956. Pp.105–6.

Recent sources Edit

Links Edit

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