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Well Standard

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The Well or Well Standard (ウエルスタンダード) is a Japanese camera taking ten 4×5cm pictures on 127 film. It was made by Nippon Kōki between 1939 and 1942 and distributed by Misuzu Shōkai.[1] The Well Super is an evolution in 4.5×6cm format, described in a separate page.

Description Edit

The Well Standard is trying to imitate the luxury 35mm rangefinder it is not. The lens and shutter are mounted on a telescopic tube. The direct vision finder and a brilliant finder are positioned on each side of the top housing, thus showing two windows like a rangefinder camera. There is an accessory shoe between the two finders, and the name Well Standard is engraved above the eye-level finder, together with the model number and the initials N.K.K.

Two knobs are visible on either end of the top plate. That on the photographer's right is real, and is used to advance the film. That on the left is a fake, imitating the rewind knob of contemporary 35mm cameras.

Traditional advance control by red windows was not possible, because the paper backing of 127 film is not marked for the unusual 4×5cm format. To overcome this, almost all other Japanese cameras of the time taking 4×4cm and 4×5cm exposures were equipped with an automatic stop advance device, but the Well Standard has a manual counter, merely consisting of numbers engraved on a disc turning together with the advance knob. To advance one exposure, you have to manually stop turning when the correct number is facing an index engraved on the top plate. This approach is less than ideal, and irregular spacing is probably frequent. The counter is shaped as the automatic exposure counter of the contemporary Leica. It is reset manually to "1" after the film is loaded and the first exposure is positioned.

To load the film, the back is removed together with the bottom plate and is locked by a key placed under the camera, in the middle. It contains a single red window at the left end, to set the position of the first exposure. The tripod thread is offset to the right, as seen by the photographer.

Two shutter types exist. The NKK shutter has a black front plate, inscribed NKK at the bottom, and T, B, 150, 100, 50, 25 speeds engraved in that order. The Well-Rapid shutter (T, B, 1–500) has a silver front plate and the name WELL–RAPID inscribed at the bottom of the rim.

All the models have a front-cell focusing Well Anastigmat lens of 65mm focal length. The f/4.5 lenses have a black bezel and the f/3.5 lenses have a silver bezel. A metal-finished dedicated lens hood was available, engraved Well.

Evolution Edit

The camera was first advertised in August 1939, and was featured in the new products column of Asahi Camera in September 1939.[2] It was simply called "Well" (ウエル) in advertising until about 1941,[3] but it seems that all the examples of the camera have Well Standard markings.

In the April 1940 advertisement in Asahi Camera, placed by Misuzu Shōkai, the camera is offered for ¥60 with a Well Anastigmat f/4.5 lens and a shutter providing T, B, 25, 50, 100, 150 speeds.[4]

An undated leaflet by Kankyū Hyakkaten lists three versions:[5]

  • Model I: f/3.5 lens, Well-Rapid shutter (T, B, 1–500, self-timer), ¥110;
  • Model II: f/4.5 lens, T, B, 25, 50, 100, 150 speeds, ¥60;
  • Model III: f/3.5 lens, T, B, 25, 50, 100, 150 speeds, ¥80.

The Well-Rapid shutter was made by Nippon Kōki itself and the three-element Well Anastigmat 65mm f/3.5 lens was made by Suzuki (the f/4.5 lens was certainly made by Suzuki too but this is unconfirmed).[6] The camera pictured in the leaflet has a Well-Rapid and lens no.1004; the lens number sequence presumably started at 1001 and this is probably one of the earliest made.

The official price list compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941 mentions the "Well Standard I" (¥125), "Well Standard II" (¥60) and "Well Standard III" (¥92), probably corresponding to the above versions.[7] At least the Well Standard II and III appear again in a similar price list dated November 1941.[8]

The March 1942 advertisement in Hōdō Shashin, again by Misuzu Shōkai, offers the same three versions, respectively at ¥129, ¥71 and ¥94.[9] The Well Standard is still mentioned in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production, in a single version with f/3.5 lens and Well-Rapid shutter.[10]

The model numbering observed on the surviving examples is quite inconsistent. Either the company changed its mind about the model numbers at some time, or it simply used whatever top housing was available regardless of the information given in the advertisements. The observed combinations are summarized in this table (no MODEL III has been observed so far):

Combination Lens Shutter Marking on the camera Model number in the advertisements
1[11] f/3.5 Well-Rapid MODEL I Model I
2[12] f/4.5 25–150 MODEL I Model II
3[13] f/4.5 25–150 MODEL II Model II
4[14] f/3.5 25–150 MODEL II Model III

Notes Edit

  1. The attribution to Nippon Kōki is confirmed in the "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 155.
  2. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.334.
  3. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.334.
  4. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.60.
  5. Leaflet by Kankyū Hyakkaten reproduced in this page.
  6. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter item 18-R-7 and lens item K8.
  7. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 1, section 10 and type 2, sections 5B and 7.
  8. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 2, sections 5B and 7.
  9. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.60.
  10. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 155.
  11. Marking observed in this page at Tomei Collection (lens no.2472), and in an online auction (lens no.2486). Marking reported in Sugiyama, item 3060 (lens no.1755), in McKeown, p.721 (lens no.214x), and in an announce by a Russian dealer.
  12. Marking observed in this page at je2luz, in an announce by a Japanese dealer (lens no.3713), and in online auctions (lens no.4543, 7279 and 8569). Marking reported in Sugiyama, item 3059 (lens no.4570), and on the example pictured in this page. The same version is pictured in this page at Asacame (lens no.4100) but the marking is unknown.
  13. Marking observed in an online auction (lens no.6095). Marking reported in Sugiyama, item 3061 (lens no.4944).
  14. Marking observed in an online auction (lens no.1610).

Bibliography Edit

Original documents Edit

  • "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō" (カメラの公定価格官報発表, Official announcement of the set prices of the cameras), November 1941. Extract of a table listing Japanese camera production and setting the retail prices, reproduced in "Bebī Semi Fāsuto 'Kore ha bebī wo nanotta semi-ki da'" (ベビーセミファースト"これはベビーを名乗ったセミ機だ", Baby Semi First, 'this is a Semi camera called Baby'), an article by Furukawa Yasuo (古川保男) in Camera Collectors' News no. 277 (July 2000). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. P. 27. Type 2, sections 5B and 7.
  • Kankyū Hyakkaten. Leaflet for the New Midget II, Romax, Semi Leotax and Well Standard. Date not indicated. Document reproduced in this Flickr album by Rebollo_fr.
  • "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" (国産写真機ノ現状調査, Inquiry into Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of April 1943. Reproduced in Supuringu kamera de ikou: Zen 69 kishu no shōkai to tsukaikata (スプリングカメラでいこう: 全69機種の紹介と使い方, Let's try spring cameras: Presentation and use of 69 machines). Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppan-sha, 2004. ISBN 4-87956-072-3. Pp.180–7. Item 155.
  • "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku" (国産写真機の公定価格, Set prices of the Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of October 25, 1940 and setting the retail prices from December 10, 1940. Published in Asahi Camera January 1941 and reproduced in Shōwa 10—40nen kōkoku ni miru kokusan kamera no rekishi (昭和10〜40年広告にみる国産カメラの歴史, Japanese camera history as seen in advertisements, 1935—1965). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1994. ISBN 4-02-330312-7. Pp.108—9. Type 1, section 10; type 2, sections 5B and 7.

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