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Molby

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The Molby (モルビー) is a Japanese rangefinder camera taking 3×4cm exposures on 127 film, made by Kuribayashi and distributed by Minagawa Shōten at the beginning of the 1940s.[1]

Description of the body Edit

The Molby has a rounded metal body, certainly the same as on the Roico 4×4 camera made by Riken. There is an advance knob, an auto-stop advance mechanism, an exposure counter and a reset button at the top right. All these parts are externally similar to the parts mounted on the Roico. The film chamber and exposure counter were probably adapted to the 3×4 format.

It is said that the body of the Roico itself is based on the body of the Gokoku and Ricohl made by Riken too (see the page about the Roico). It is possible that the body parts of the Molby were made by Riken and sold to Kuribayashi.

The Molby has a telescopic tube supporting the lens and shutter assembly and mounted on a focusing helix. These parts differ from the corresponding parts on the Roico.

Original documents Edit

The list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, mentions the "Molby I" (¥95), "Molby II" (¥125), "Molby III" (¥60) and "Molby IV" (¥190).[2] The Molby IV appears in the same price category as the Gokoku and Ricohl and the Canon ordinary model, two cameras which have a focal-plane shutter but no rangefinder.

The Molby reportedly appears in the December 1941 issue of Asahi Camera as an example of a Japanese camera with a good finish.[3] The article mentions a Rotte 60/3.5 lens and a Rotte shutter (T, B, 1–200).[4]

The camera appears again in the April 1943 government inquiry, with a Rotte 60/3.5 three-element lens made by Tokiwa Kōgaku and a shutter made by Nippon Kōsokki and giving T, B, 1–200 speeds.[5] The shutter name is given as "NSK", certainly a typo for NKS.

Surviving example Edit

The only surviving example known so far is pictured in Sugiyama.[6] It has an uncoupled rangefinder, and it likely corresponds to one of the more expensive versions of the camera.

The middle left part of the top plate (as seen by the photographer) is occupied by a housing containing the viewfinder and uncoupled rangefinder. The distance wheel is above this housing on the right, and the name MOLBY is engraved above the viewfinder, perhaps together with a serial number. Three windows are visible at the front, a rectangular one in the middle for the viewfinder and two round ones for the rangefinder. There is no accessory shoe and the left end of the top plate has a small step at the rear.

The lens is a Rotte Anastigmat 60mm f/3.5 lens and the shutter is an NKS giving T, B, 1–200 speeds. The shutter plate is marked MOLBY at the bottom and the shutter rim is engraved NKS.

Coupled rangefinder conversions Edit

The Cyclon rangefinder conversion offered in 1943 and 1944 for the Gelto was also available for the Molby.[7] The conversion is described in detail in this section of the Gelto page. It is not known if the earlier conversion with separate range- and viewfinder, called Suzuki coupled device, was offered for this camera. No surviving example has been observed with a coupled rangefinder conversion.

It is unlikely that the uncoupled rangefinder of the surviving example described above was added as an aftermarket conversion, because the camera name MOLBY appears on top of the rangefinder housing, unlike the rangefinder converted Gelto or Arsen found so far, which have the brand name of the conversion instead.

Notes Edit

  1. Made by Kuribayashi and distributed by Minagawa: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 163. Other sources only mention Minagawa: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342; Sugiyama, item 3035.
  2. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 1, sections 9 and 10, type 2, section 5B and type 5, section 1.
  3. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342.
  4. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342.
  5. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 163, lens item K5, shutter item 18-P-1.
  6. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3035.
  7. Advertisements dated July and October 1943 and May 1944 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.111–2.

Bibliography Edit


Kuribayashi prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
rollfilm folders
Eagle | Speed Pocket | First Roll | First Center | Semi First | First Six | Baby Semi First | Semi Rotte | Hokoku | Mizuho
plate folders rigid SLR TLR unknown
Mikuni | First | First Etui | Kokka | Romax | Tokiwa Molby Speed Reflex First Reflex Baby First

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