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Sakura Reflex Prano and Idea Reflex

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Japanese plate SLR cameras (edit)
atom (4.5×6cm) Simplex Reflex | Speed Reflex
meishi (5.5×8cm) Speed Reflex
daimeishi (6.5×9cm) Convex Reflex | Hogo Reflex | Idea Reflex (1932) | Neat Reflex | Simplex Reflex | Speed Reflex
tefuda (8×10.5cm) Idea Reflex (1910 and 1911) | Idea Reflex (1932) | Neat Reflex | Photo Deluxe Reflex | Speed Reflex
nimaigake (8×12cm) Idea Reflex (1910 and 1911) | Sakura Reflex Prano
kabine (12×16.5cm) Idea Reflex (1910 and 1911)
daikabine (13×18cm) Guaranteed Reflex
unknown Hardflex | Leinflex | Photoman Special Reflex
Japanese plate film: monocular, box, folding bed and strut-folding ->
3×4 and 4×4, 4×5 and 4×6.5, 4.5×6, 6×6 and 6×9 ->

The Sakura Reflex Prano (さくらレフレックスプラノ)[1] was the first Japanese SLR, made from 1907 by Rokuoh-sha, the manufacturing branch of Konishi (predecessor of Konica), and by various subcontractors. It was renamed Idea Reflex (アイデアレフレックス) in 1910, and was replaced by a different Idea Reflex model in 1911.

Origin Edit

Some people question the origin of the Sakura Reflex Prano and suggest that it was actually a rebadged imported camera.[2] However one advertisement for the Sakura Reflex Prano apparently says that it was "made by Konishi Honten in Tokyo, Nihonbashi", and the December 1911 catalogue by the company says that the Idea Reflex was the result of many years of effort by the company.[3]

The Sakura Reflex Prano and Idea Reflex (1910) Edit

The only picture of the Sakura Reflex Prano observed so far is a drawing taken from an original catalogue.[4] It shows an exact copy of the Rochester Premo Reflecting Camera (the name "Prano" itself was undoubtedly crafted after "Premo"). The body is made of wood and has the shape of a box. There is a folding bed at the front; the lens standard is mounted on bellows and slides out of the main box. There is a large viewing hood at the top, further lengthened by trellis struts. A lever is visible on the right-hand side of the body, perhaps used to raise the mirror and trip the shutter.

The camera has a focal plane shutter, and one advertisement mentions 1/75 to 1/1200 speeds.[5] Other speed ranges are reported, with 1/1000 top speed.[6] The cameras were certainly hand-made one at a time, and these small variations are not surprising.

The Sakura Reflex Prano was reportedly released in April 1907.[7] Most sources say that it was only available in nimaigake-size (8×12cm), but at least one source mentions tefuda-size (8×10.5cm) instead, perhaps by mistake.[8] It was offered with various lenses from Carl Zeiss or Goerz.[9] It was also available without a lens, reportedly for ¥135.[10]

The camera was renamed Idea Reflex in 1910, and some sources specify September.[11] It seems that the catalogue entry for this model was illustrated with the exact same drawing as for the Sakura Reflex Prano.[12] It is said that tefuda (8×10.5cm) and kabine (12×16.5cm) models were introduced, and top speed is reported as 1/1200.[13]

The Idea Reflex (1911) Edit

The Idea Reflex was heavily modified in 1911.[14] The new model is mainly known from an entry in the December 1911 catalogue of Konishi Honten,[15] where it is called "Idea" Reflex Hand Camera (アイデヤ、レフレックス手提暗函). Two versions are listed: the Idea Reflex No.1 (壹號) in tefuda size (8×10.5cm) and the Idea Reflex No.2 (貳號), in nimaigake (8×12cm) and kabine (12×16.5cm) size.[16] The text says that No.2 has a revolving back, which is implicitly absent from No.1.

The pictures show box-shaped SLR cameras with bellows and a large viewing hood. It seems that No.1 has no folding bed but large rack-and-pinion struts driven by a wheel on the photographer's right. No.2 has a folding bed and a front standard sliding on rails with a smaller rack-and-pinion device. Various shutter controls are visible on the right-hand side plate, including a winding key at the top. The picture of No.1 shows more controls on the right, and a table of shutter speeds. The picture of No.2 shows a leather handle on the right, less controls and no shutter speed table.

The cameras were available with or without a lens. The listed lenses are featured in further pages of the same catalogue, showing the Carl Zeiss lenses imported by Konishi.[17] The prices are summarized in the following table.

body version No.1 (tefuda) No.2 (nimaigake) No.2 (kabine)
lens option
body only ¥95 ¥135 ¥175
Carl Zeiss Tessar Series Ic 150/4.8, ¥176 180/4.5, ¥235 210/4.5, ¥300
Carl Zeiss Tessar Series IIb 135/6.3, ¥155 180/6.3, ¥198 210/6.3, ¥281

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.
  2. Lewis, p.20: the Sakura Reflex Prano "so closely resembled the Western originals there is some question whether they were really Japanese copies, or whether they were imported cameras sold under the Sakura name". The same doubts are expressed about the Sakura Honor, Sakura Palace and Midg.
  3. Advertisement reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10: 東京日本橋小西本店製 (hardly legible), and reprint of the December 1911 catalogue of Konishi Honten, p.14: 本店が多年の苦心によりて成れる.
  4. Illustration reproduced in Sakai, p.18 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, in this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology, and in this page of the R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha website.
  5. Advertisement reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  6. Sakai, p.18 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, and this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology.
  7. Chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10. The date is simply given as 1907 in Sakai, p.18 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, in this page of the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology, and in the chronology at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  8. Nimaigake: Sakai, p.18 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, Lewis, p.19, and this page of the R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha website. (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.) Tefuda: chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  9. Lists are given in Sakai, p.18 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, and in this page of the R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha website. They disagree on the focal length, the former saying 12.8cm, 15cm and 15.5cm, and the latter saying 21cm.
  10. Sakai, p.18 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10.
  11. Kikuoka, p.28 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, and chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10. The date is simply given as 1910 in the chronology at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  12. Compare the drawings reproduced in Sakai, p.18 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, and in Kikuoka, p.28 of the same magazine.
  13. Kikuoka, p.28 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, mentions 1/1200 top speed and tefuda and kabine formats, but does not mention nimaigake. The chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, says that the camera was made in tefuda and nimaigake formats.
  14. The date is given as January 1911 in Kikuoka, p.28 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, and as August 1911 in the chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10. It is simply given as 1911 in the chronology at R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha.
  15. Reprint of the December 1911 catalogue of Konishi Honten, p.14. The page is also reproduced in this page of the R. Konishi Rokuoh-sha website.
  16. The chronology from the official company history Shashin to tomo ni hyaku-nen, reproduced in Tanaka, p.94 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.10, only mentions kabine-size but this is an omission.
  17. Reprint of the December 1911 catalogue of Konishi Honten, pp.39–40.

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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