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Sakura Prano and Idea

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The Sakura Prano Hand Camera (さくらプラノ手提暗函)[1] is a Japanese folding camera made from 1907 by Rokuoh-sha, the manufacturing branch of Konishi (predecessor of Konica). It was succeeded by the similar Idea Hand Camera (アイデア手提暗函)[2] in 1909.

The Sakura Prano Edit

General description Edit

The Sakura Prano is a copy of the Rochester Pony Premo, and the name "Prano" itself was undoubtedly crafted after "Premo". It exists in nimaigake (8×12cm)[3] and kabine (12×16.5cm) formats. Focusing is done by a small wheel on the photographer's right. There is a screw in the middle of the body sides, perhaps locking the straight folding struts in position. The front standard consists of various parts assembled to form a rectangle, and allows some movements, at least on the more expensive models.[4] The brilliant finder is attached to the folding bed, on the photographer's right, and has a small hood.

Original model Edit

The camera was reportedly released in February 1907.[5] One source mentions No.2, No.4 and No.6 models, all of them available both in nimaigake and in kabine formats.[6] It seems that No.6 is distinguished from the other models by its triple extension bellows, and the difference between No.2 and No.4 is unclear.[7] No.2 and No.4 were reportedly sold with a Bausch & Lomb RR f/8 lens and a Gem (ゼム) shutter (T, B, I), whereas No.6 was offered with an Automatic shutter and a Symmetrical lens by Bausch & Lomb for the nimaigake version, and the same shutter and Zeiss or Goerz lenses for the kabine version.[8]

Year-Forty-One model Edit

It is said that an improved model was released in January 1908.[9] An advertisement or catalogue entry presents this new model as the Year-Forty-One Sakura Prano Camera (四十一年さくらプラノカメラ), where "Year-Forty-One" refers to Meiji year 41, i.e. 1908.[10] It says that the camera underwent various improvements, but one source says that these improvements were only pretended to lower the price in a competitive context.[11] The advertisement also says that the Sakura Prano was made in the company's workshops, but part of the production was certainly assumed by subcontractors.[12] The following versions are listed:

The No.7 with focal plane shutter was certainly a copy of the Rochester Premo Supreme. All the prices probably include a lens and shutter, but the advertisement does not specify which were fitted.[13] It however says that Carl Zeiss, Goerz and Dallmeyer lenses were available on request, and some sources mention Protar and Unar lenses by Carl Zeiss and Dagor and Double Anastigmat lenses by Goerz.[14]

The Sakura Prano was also sold by the Osaka-based Ueda Shashinki-ten. A catalogue by Ueda pictures the Prano No.4 and lists the following versions, including a No.3 which is otherwise unknown:[15]

name format price with a lens price with no lens
No.2 nimaigake ¥28 ¥18
No.2 kabine ¥43 ¥28
No.3 nimaigake ¥38 ¥22
No.3 kabine ¥50 ¥30
No.4 nimaigake ¥42 ¥26
No.4 kabine ¥60 ¥35
No.6 nimaigake ¥65 ¥40
No.6 kabine ¥73 ¥48

No surviving example of the nimaigake or kabine-size Sakura Prano is known so far.

The Idea Edit

The Sakura Prano was renamed Idea in 1909; some sources specify February.[16] At least one original illustration shows a SAKURA IDEA nameplate at the bottom of the front standard.[17]

Original advertisements Edit

An early advertisement by Konishi Honten confirms that the Idea Hand Camera (アイデアー手提カメラ) was a renaming of the Sakura Prano, and says that the camera received some improvements.[18] The illustration indeed shows a different front standard including two cylindrical masts and certainly allowing vertical and horizontal movements. The following versions are listed:

The prices are the same as those of the Sakura Prano, and this is emphasized in the advertisement. The No.2 and No.4 have a Bausch & Lomb RR lens and a "Gem" (ゼム) shutter, and the No.6 has a Bausch & Lomb Symmetrical lens and an "Auto" (オート) shutter. All the models were supplied with three double-sided plate holders and a case. One source says that the Idea No.2, No.4 and No.6 are respectively distinguished by the single, double and triple extension bellows, but this is unconfirmed.[19]

The same versions and prices are listed in a catalogue dated 1909 by Ueda Shashinki-ten, except that the shutter of the No.4 is an "Auto".[20] This document also mentions two expensive versions of the kabine-size No.6, both with the "Auto" shutter:

The December 1911 catalogue by Konishi Honten says that the Idea Hand Camera (アイデヤ手提暗函) received the Gold Prize at the Japan-British Exhibition, which took place at White City in London from May to October 1910.[22] Two illustrations are provided, one of them showing a No.6 with its bellows in fully extended position. The screw on the body side is located towards the bottom on the No.6 whereas it is around the middle in the other illustrated camera, but the reason for this is unknown.[23] The six basic versions are listed at an unchanged price, and the shutter of the No.4 is the "Auto" again. Two expensive versions of the kabine-size No.6 are mentioned:[24]

An advertisement dated August 1912 shows the nimaigake-size No.2 inside a specially designed suitcase.[25] The camera is called New Idea Camera No.2 (新アイデヤカメラ貳號) and the price is given as ¥30. It is not known if the camera received other improvements or if the introduction of the suitcase alone justifies the name "New Idea".

An advertisement dated 1914 in Shashin Geppō presents the Idea Camera No.2 (アイデアカメラ二號) and No.4 (四號), along with the tefuda-size A1 (A一號) shown in the illustration.[26] It says that the Idea received the Gold Medal at the Taishō Exhibition, which took place in Tokyo's Ueno Park in 1914.[27] The No.2 and No.4 are listed in nimaigake and kabine formats with an Extra Rapid Aplanat lens. The No.2 has a Single shutter and the No.4 has a Pronto. The prices are the same as in 1909, and it is not known if the camera was modified or not.

Surviving examples Edit

Two surviving examples of the large-format Idea are pictured in Sugiyama and in Kikuoka, one in nimaigake-size and the other in kabine-size.[28] These two cameras are certainly later than the advertisements observed so far, and the kabine-size example is probably later than the other.

The two cameras have triple extension bellows and perhaps correspond to the Idea No.6.[29] They have a screw on each side of the main body, towards the bottom, serving an unknown purpose. They also have a small wheel at the bottom of the right-hand side, perhaps used to tilt the film holder. This arrangement is similar to that of the Noble, and is not visible in the advertisements cited above.

The front standard of the nimaigake-size example has two cylindrical masts and allows horizontal and vertical movements, perhaps the same as shown in the 1911 catalogue for the Idea No.6. This front standard is similar to that of the early Noble, and also has some similarity to that of the original Lily. The brilliant finder is attached to the right-hand mast. The camera has a round nameplate attached to the left-hand side of the body, presumably with the "Idea" name. The shutter is a dial-set Compur and the lens is reported as a Tessar 16.5cm f/6.3.[30]

The kabine-size example has a U-shaped front standard made of a single alloy part, and allowing vertical and horizontal movements as well. This part is very similar to that of the late Noble, and comparable to that of the horizontal Lily models. The brilliant finder is attached to the folding bed on the photographer's right. The round nameplate is attached to the right-hand side of the body, and there is a folding Newton finder on the opposite side. The shutter is reported as an Optimo and the lens as a Wollensak Vinco Anastigmat 7in f/6.8.[31]

Notes Edit

  1. The name "Prano" is sometimes written "Plano" by mistake. The two spellings would be pronounced the same in Japanese, but "Prano" is confirmed by a marking on the Sakura Pocket Prano and by an advertisement reproduced in this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha. The phrase tesage anbako (手提暗函) is rendered as "Hand Camera" in the Konishi catalogue dated December 1911. In modern sources, it is often translated as "Portable Camera" and the camera called "Sakura Prano Portable". The Japanese word anbako literally means "dark box"; it was modeled after "camera obscura" and was used for cameras until around the 1910s.
  2. The name "Idea Portable" is found in some sources, see above note.
  3. Many sources say that nimaigake corresponds to 4×5in, but the actual measurements given in this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha do not confirm this.
  4. No movement ability is visible in the illustration reproduced in Lewis, p.19, and in this page and this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology. On the contrary, the illustration reproduced in Sakai, p.17 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, and in this page and this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha shows at least vertical movement ability. Nothing is clearly visible on the illustration of the "Prano Camera No.4" in the extract of the Ueda catalogue reproduced in this page of the same website.
  5. Chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, this page and this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology. The date is simply given as 1907 in Sakai, p.17 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, and in the chronology at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  6. Sakai, p.17 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  7. Sakai, p.17 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  8. Sakai, p.17 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  9. Chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  10. Advertisement reproduced towards the top of this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  11. Received various improvements: 今回更に諸点に改良を加えて in the advertisement cited above. Pretended improvements to lower the price: Sakai, p.10 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  12. Made in the company's workshops: 本店工場の特製品にして in the advertisement cited above. On subcontractors, see Sakai, p.10 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  13. The prices are the same as those given in Sakai, p.17 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, for cameras sold with a lens and shutter.
  14. Sakai, p.17 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, and this page and this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  15. Extract of an Ueda catalogue reproduced in this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  16. Kikuoka, pp.27 and 30 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of the same magazine, and Lewis, p.20. The date is simply given as 1909 in the chronology at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  17. Illustration reproduced in this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  18. Advertisement reproduced at the top of this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  19. Table in Kikuoka, p.30 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  20. Catalogue extract reproduced in this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha. The "Auto" shutter name for the No.4 is hardly legible.
  21. The lens features are given in the December 1911 catalogue of Konishi Honten, p.41.
  22. December 1911 catalogue of Konishi Honten, p.11. Received the Gold Medal at the Japan-British Exhibition: 日英博覧会金賞受領. Took place at White City in London from May to October 1910: this English Wikipedia page.
  23. Compare the illustrations of the Idea No.2, No.4 and No.6 in this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  24. Lens features: December 1911 catalogue of Konishi Honten, pp.40–1.
  25. Advertisement reproduced at the bottom of this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha. See also Kikuoka, pp.28 and 31 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  26. Advertisement reproduced in this page at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha, near the bottom.
  27. Received the Gold Medal at the Taishō Exhibition: 大正博覧会にて金牌を受領せる. Took place in Tokyo's Ueno Park in 1914: this Japanese Wikipedia page.
  28. Kikuoka, p.27 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, Sugiyama, items 1081–2. The formats are mentioned as "4×5in" and "13×18cm" (or "5×7in" in McKeown, p.538), but this is inaccurate.
  29. Triple extension bellows: Kikuoka, p.27 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  30. Sugiyama, item 1081.
  31. Sugiyama, item 1082.

Bibliography Edit

Links Edit

In Japanese:


Konishiroku prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
plate hand cameras stereo hand cameras strut folders box telephoto SLR
Idea (original) | Idea A | Idea B | Idea Snap | Idea No.1 | Idea (metal) | Lily (original) | Lily (horizontal) | Lily (metal) | Tropical Lily | Noble | Ohca | Sakura Palace | Sakura Pocket Prano | Sakura Prano Idea Binocular | Sakura Binocular Prano Minimum Idea | Idea Spring | Korok Champion | Cherry | Sakura Army | Sakura Honor | Sakura Navy Idea Telephoto Idea Reflex (1910 and 1911) | Idea Reflex (1932) | Neat Reflex | Sakura Reflex Prano
rollfilm folders box or collapsible TLR
Pearlette | Special Pearlette | B Pearlette | Pearl (for plates and rollfilm) | Pearl No.2 | Pearl (Year 8) | Baby Pearl | Semi Pearl | Sakura Palace Record | Sakura (box) | Sakura (bakelite) Sakura-flex

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