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Nifca-Dox

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Japanese plate strut-folding cameras (edit)
No.0 (4×5cm) CH
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daimeishi (6.5×9cm) Idea Spring | Minolta | Auto Minolta | Auto Press Minolta | Nifca-Dox | Vester Klapp
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10×15cm Kongo Press
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Japanese plate film: monocular, box, folding bed and SLR ->
3×4 and 4×4, 4×5 and 4×6.5, 4.5×6, 6×6 and 6×9 ->

The Nifca-Dox (ニフカドックス) is a Japanese strut folding camera taking 6.5×9cm film plates or pack film. It was made by Nichidoku Shashinki Shōten (predecessor of Minolta) from 1930 or 1931 (see below).

Name Edit

"Nifca" comes from Nichidoku Foto Camera.[1] Nichi in Nichidoku means Japan, and it is certainly not coincidental that "Nifca" can also be read as Nippon Foto Camera.

It is said that "Dox" refers to the giant flying boat Dornier Do X (see for example this Wikipedia page) which first flew in 1929 and made a transatlantic flight, leaving Friedrichshafen in November 1930 and reaching New York in August 1931.[2]

Description of the body Edit

The Nifca-Dox has a metal body. There is no folding bed but a rectangular front plate supported by straight spring-loaded struts at the four corners. This configuration is similar to that of the Goerz Pocket Tenax. (Nichidoku also copied the Roll-Tenax, another Goerz product, for the focusing device of the Nifcarette A.) Unlike the Tenax, the bellows is of the classical type, with multiple creases.

There is a Newton finder on the photographer's left; the front element swings down along the front plate to gain size, and the rear bead is retractable too. A handle is attached to the right end of the body.

The name NIFCA–DOX is inscribed of the front plate at the bottom right, as seen from the front. The serial number is at the bottom left, and the logo of Nichidoku is at the top left; the logo has the letters N, D, PH and Co assembled inside a circle, surely for Nichi Doku Photo Company. The ground glass back has the same round logo embossed in the leather hood.[3]

Lens and shutter Edit

The shutter is ostensibly a Koilos, but at least one source says for some reason that it was "clearly made by the company (Nichidoku) itself".[4] It is mounted in a black octagonal casing protruding from the front plate. It is everset and gives 25, 50, 100, B, T speeds, set by a wheel at the top. This wheel is covered by a metal plate inscribed KOILOS and Nifca Photo, the same as on the isolated example of the Nifcarette B found with a Koilos shutter. The release lever is attached to the front of the shutter casing, and there is a connector for a cable release protruding from the octagon's left edge (as seen from the front).

The lens is a front-cell focusing Nifca Anastigmat 105mm f/6.8, engraved Nifca–Anastigmat 1:6.8 f=105mm Nr xxxx with no mention of a lens maker. (Some sources mention a 105mm f/6.3 lens too, probably by mistake.)[5] The Nifca-Dox was the first Japanese model to have a front-cell focusing lens.[6] The aperture is set by a wheel protruding from the bottom right edge of the octagon (as seen from the front), certainly containing Waterhouse stops; the selected f-number is read in a small window on the right of the lens.

The Nifca Anastigmat was certainly an imported German lens that was rebranded; at the same time, the company was using a "Nifcaplan" lens made by Kenngott on the Nifcaklapp, and a "Nifcar" lens is also reported on the Nifcasport. It might have been assembled in Japan from imported elements, a practice which would become common in the 1930s (see for example Neumann & Heilemann). At least one source even suggests that the lens was made in Japan.[7] If this is true, the Nifca-Dox would be the first Japanese camera sold with a Japanese lens, released shortly before the Tropical Lily with Hexar lens.

Commercial life Edit

Most sources say that the Nifca-Dox was released in 1930.[8] However documents compiled by the company Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō (i.e. Minolta) and published in Shashin Kōgyō September 1958 say 1931 instead, and say that the Nifca-Dox appeared after the Nifcaklapp and Nifcasport.[9] The fifty-year history book (1978) specifies February 1931, perhaps after the advertisement in Asahi Camera described below.[10]

No original document dated 1930 is known to show the Nifca-Dox, and the camera does not appear in the January 1931 advertisement by Nichidoku Shashinki Shōten in Asahi Camera, which shows the Nifca range with the Nifcarette, Nifcaklapp and Nifcasport.[11]

The following February 1931 issue of Asahi Camera contains a full page advertisement for the Nifca-Dox.[12] The price is given as ¥29, with an f/6.8 Anastigmat lens, a Koilos shutter and three plate holders. The advertisement does not mention the Do X flying boat. Two pictures are provided, both heavily retouched; none shows a serial number.[13]

It is said that 2–3,000 examples of the Nifca-Dox were made.[14] In his autobiography, Tashima Kazuo mentioned that the camera "sold like hot cakes" (free translation of 飛ぶように売れ).[15]

Actual examples Edit

Very few surviving examples of the Nifca-Dox have been observed so far, perhaps five or six. The first was belonging to the Minolta company in the 1980s; it has body no.6650, engraved as No 6650.[16] It was not displayed in the JCII exhibition about Konica and Minolta in 2005, and its current fate is unknown. The second and third examples have no.6671 and no.6798; their serial number is prefixed by Nr instead of No.[17] The fourth belongs to the Pentax Gallery; its front markings have faded away and are only faintly legible.[18] Pictures are known of perhaps two more examples, but their serial number is not legible.[19] All these cameras look exactly identical, except for the serial number prefix.

Notes Edit

  1. Taniguchi, p.276 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (article also reproduced in Tanimura, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116), Francesch, p.17, Nifcarette page of the Konica Minolta website.
  2. Taniguchi, p.275 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (article also reproduced in Tanimura, pp.7–8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116). This is repeated in Francesch, p.19, Baird, p.40, Lewis, p.45, Scheibel, p.11, Sugiyama, item 1182, Tanimura in Camera Collectors' News no.116.
  3. Picture of the ground glass back visible in this page of the Nagoya Club website.
  4. Awano, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12: シャッターもコイロス名ではあるが、明らかに自社製と思われるものを取り付け. Kamera no ayumi, p.59, says that the shutter is "of the Koilos type": コイロス型.
  5. McKeown, p.672, says that two models were made, with f/6.8 or f/6.3 lens, perhaps after incorrect reports. This page of the Nagoya Camera Club says that the lens is a Nifca-Anastigmat 105mm f/6.3, perhaps a typo.
  6. Kamera no ayumi, p.59, and Awano, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  7. Awano, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  8. Francesch, pp.18, 67 and 263, Awano, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, Saeki, p.77 of the same magazine, Baird, p.40, Scheibel, p.11, McKeown, p.672, Sugiyama, item 1182.
  9. Taniguchi, p.275 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77, and "Hensen kamera ichiran-pyō", p.295 of the same magazine. Both documents are reproduced in Tanimura, pp.7–8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116, and the chronology is reproduced in this Flickr page by Rebollo_fr.
  10. Minolta 50-nen no ayumi, pp.5 and 65.
  11. Advertisement reproduced in Awano, p.6 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  12. Advertisement reproduced in Hagiya, p.9 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  13. One of these pictures was re-used by the company in the September 1958 historical article by Taniguchi, p.275 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (article also reproduced in Tanimura, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116).
  14. According to Tashima Gizō, interviewed by Saeki Kakugorō on p.77 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  15. Tashima Kazuo, Watakushi no rirekisho, reproduced in Andō, p.2 of Camera Collectors' News no.127.
  16. Example pictured in Francesch, p.70, and in Sugiyama, item 1182. Its origin mentioned in Sugiyama.
  17. No.6671 is pictured in Minolta 50-nen no ayumi, p.5, Baird, p.40, Lewis, p.45, McKeown, p.672, Scheibel, p.10, this page of the Manual Minolta website and this Chinese webpage. No.6798 is pictured in Awano, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  18. Example pictured in Kamera no ayumi, p.59.
  19. Example pictured in this page of the Nagoya Camera Club, and example pictured in Eimukku 735 Minolta, pp.131–2.

Bibliography Edit

Links Edit

In English:

In Japanese:

In Chinese:


Nifca, Molta and Chiyoda prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
folding plate cameras
Nifcaklapp | Nifcasport | Sirius | Arcadia | Lomax | Eaton | Happy
folding rollfilm cameras telescopic bakelite cameras
Nifcarette | Sirius Bebe | Semi Minolta | Auto Semi Minolta Minolta Vest | Baby Minolta | Minolta Six
strut-folding cameras TLR cameras
Nifca-Dox | Minolta | Auto Minolta | Auto Press Minolta Minoltaflex | Minoltaflex Automat | Minoltaflex military prototype

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