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Owla Stereo

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Japanese stereo cameras (edit)
on 16mm film CM-16 | Ricoreo 16
Stereo Alpen | Asahi Seimitsu | Inoca Stereo | Stereo Leader | Owla Stereo | Stereo Pluto | Stereo Rocca | Stereo Sankei
24×30mm Stecoon
3×4cm Stereo Hit
3.7×5cm Tokioscope
4.5×6cm Sun Stereo
8×12cm Idea Binocular | Sakura Binocular Prano
3×4 and 4×4, 4×5 and 4×6.5, 4.5×6, 6×6, 6×9 and plate ->

The Owla Stereo (アウラステレオ) is a Japanese stereo camera taking pairs of 23×24mm exposures on 35mm film. It was first announced in 1956 by Sankei Kōki under the name Stereo Sankei (ステレオサンケイ), and was later made by Owla Kōki until the early 1960s.

Original Owla Stereo Edit

Announced as the Stereo Sankei Edit

The camera was announced as the Stereo Sankei (ステレオサンケイ) by Sankei Kōki in 1956. It was advertised in the February 1956 issue of Sankei Camera and featured in the March 1956 issue of the same magazine.[1] It is not known if there is a further relationship between the magazine Sankei Camera and the company Sankei Kōki.

In the February advertisement, the lenses are announced as three-element 35/3.5, the speeds are given as B, 10–200 and the price is ¥12,000.[2] The pictured camera is very similar to the first version of the Owla Stereo, with the focus knob between the two lenses and the pivoting shutter cocking lever between the focus knob and the right-hand lens (see below). The marking at the front of the top housing only reads STEREO in small capital letters. The details of the top plate are not visible. It is said that the Stereo Sankei has auto-stop advance but no double exposure prevention;[3] the first Owla Stereo certainly has the same features.

No surviving example of the Stereo Sankei has been observed so far, and it is not known if the camera was actually sold as such.

Released as the Owla Stereo Edit

The camera was announced as the Owla Stereo (アウラステレオ) from June 1956.[4] The September 1956 issue of Camera Mainichi reportedly attributes the Owla Stereo to Sankei Kōki again.[5] Most sources attribute the camera to Owla Kōki, perhaps the new name of Sankei Kōki.[6] One source attributes the camera to "A.O. Kōkensha" (エーオー光研社), for an unknown reason.[7]

Description of the original Owla Stereo Edit

The camera has an all-metal body. The viewfinder window is contained in the middle of the top housing. The film is advanced by a knob at the right end of the top plate, as seen by the photographer, and the rewind knob is at the opposite end; arrows are engraved to indicate the turning direction. There is a small sliding button next to the advance knob, with the letter A engraved on its side, certainly used to unlock the film advance after each exposure; variations are known in the position and shape of this button (see below). The shutter release is at its usual location on the right, and is surrounded by a small cup. There is an accessory shoe on the right, and a round hole above the top housing, to the left of the viewfinder, used for the exposure counter reset control on the early examples and for the exposure counter disc or the later ones (see below). The back is hinged to the right for film loading.

There is a chrome-finished rectangular plate screwed to the front of the body, and a long black casing with round edges, grafted to this plate and containing the shutter and lenses. There is a PC synch socket buried in the chrome plate under the left-hand lens, and an F/X selector under the other lens. The shutter cocking lever, of which two versions are known, is on the black casing itself (see below).

The speed and aperture are controlled by turning the lens rims: the left-hand lens rim has the aperture scale and the right-hand lens rim has B, 10–200 speed settings. The top of the front casing has the words DIAPHRAGM, FOCUS and SPEED, reminding the position of the main controls. The lenses are Owla Anastigmat 35mm f/3.5.

The focus knob is placed between the two lenses, and its rim has the same diameter and shape as the two lens rims. It is engraved in feet and has depth-of-field indications and three coloured marks above, with FAR, MEDIUM and NEAR captions.

The name Owla STEREO is engraved at the front of the top housing, under the exposure counter. The body serial number is engraved on the accessory shoe, and PAT. N°34372 is inscribed on the top plate, above the viewfinder eyepiece. The original lens caps are black, with Owla in white.

Evolution Edit

Two versions of the original Owla Stereo are known. The early version[8] has a pivoting lever to cock the shutter, placed between the focus knob and the right-hand lens, the same as on the Stereo Sankei. There is a small square window on the rear of the top housing, on the left of the viewfinder eyepiece, perhaps the exposure counter. There is a round thumbwheel above the top housing, with an arrow engraved next to it to indicate the turning direction; this thumbwheel is probably used to reset the exposure counter. The advance unlock button is almost rectangular and is placed immediately to the right of the accessory shoe.

The late version[9] has a sliding button to cock the shutter, placed above the black casing. The black exposure counter disc is directly contained inside the round hole above the top housing, with an index engraved next to it. It is said to work in the decreasing order, from 29 to 0.[10] The small square window at the rear of the top housing has consequently disappeared. The advance unlock button is circular and is placed immediately to the left of the advance knob.

Second model Edit

Description Edit

The second model of the Owla Stereo is immediately recognized by the position of the focus control. The focus knob placed between the two lenses is replaced by a wheel placed under the lens casing in the middle. The distance scale appears in a small crescent-shaped window on the top housing, above the viewfinder window. The space between the two lenses now has a triangular DDD logo. The rewind knob is different and contains a film reminder.

The rectangular chrome plate attached to the front of the body has disappeared, and is replaced by a black part protruding from the main body above the lens casing, and a smaller chrome plate below. The F/X selector and the single synch socket have been replaced by two separate PC sockets under the right-hand lens.

Some changes are visible inside the camera: the position of the sprocket wheel and the shape of the guide rails are different, and the spring for the film magazine has disappeared. It is also said that the second model has a bubble level inside the viewfinder; it is not known if this feature was already present on the first model.[11]

Commercial life Edit

An article in the October 1957 issue of Shashin Kōgyō is reportedly titled "Stereo Camera Owla II";[12] this perhaps indicates that the second model was released in 1957 and called Owla Stereo II.

The second model of the Owla Stereo appears in an advertisement published in Camerart (a Japanese magazine in English language), perhaps in 1960.[13] This advertisement was inserted by Tohko Co., Ltd., perhaps the distributor of the camera at the time, and also presents the Halma Flex, Halma Auto and Halma 44. One source also mentions that the name Tōkō K.K. (東光㈱) appears on a Japanese leaflet; this was probably the same distributing company.[14]

The Owla Stereo was also advertisement by the distributor Tenshōdō in the April 1962 issue of Asahi Camera, where the price was given as ¥19,000.[15] The camera was reportedly advertised in Japanese magazines until July 1962.[16]

Notes Edit

  1. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.388.
  2. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.252.
  3. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.388.
  4. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.376.
  5. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.388.
  6. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.376 (Owla Kōki K.K.), McKeown, p.770 ("Owla Koki"), Sugiyama, item 6037 ("Owla Optical Co.").
  7. Shima, p.22 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.27.
  8. Example pictured in Shima, p.22 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.27, and example observed in an online auction (left lens no.56270).
  9. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 6037, example pictured here at (body no.55716, right lens no.57221), and example observed in an online auction.
  10. Decreasing order: specs in Dekoyama's Stereo website.
  11. Bubble level: advertisement reproduced here at
  12. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.376.
  13. Advertisement reproduced in this page at
  14. Name reported in this page at Dekoyama's Stereo website.
  15. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.218.
  16. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.376.

Bibliography Edit

Original documents Edit

  • Kitano Kunio (北野邦雄). "Atarashii kamera: Aura Sutereo" (新しいカメラ・アウラステレオ, New cameras: Owla Stereo). In Shashin Kōgyō no.66 (October 1957). Pp.374–5.
  • Motohashi Sutezō (本橋捨三), from the company Owla Kōki. "Sutereo kamera Aura II-gata" (ステレオカメラ・アウラⅡ型), "Owla II, Stereoscopic Camera". In Shashin Kōgyō no.66 (October 1957). Pp.350–1.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.65 (September 1957). "News flash". P.330.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.66 (October 1957). Advertisement by Rikagaku Seiki. P.365.
  • Uchida Shintarō (内田信太郎). "Watakushi no kenkyūshitsu: Sutereo Kamera Aura" (私の研究室・ステレオカメラアウラ, My laboratory: Stereo Camera Owla). In Shashin Kōgyō no.97 (May 1960). P.111.

Recent sources Edit

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