Konishiroku Baby Pearl 1934

Tomei Collection


In 1931, Konishiroku Honten (eventually to emerge as Konica Corporation in post-war Japan) produced what are often considered to be the first Japanese camera lenses, the four element Hexar 105mm f/4.5, and the three element 50mm f/4.5 and f/6.3 Optor through Rokuoh-sha, its subsidiary originally established in 1902 in Yodobashi, Tokyo.  In 1932, Konishiroku Honten also began to manufacture the Pegasus, Apus, and Rox shutters.  These initiatives on the part of the major Japanese manufacturers reflected the climate in Japan during the early 1930's which was strongly in favor of developing domestic cameras and components.

 

Here is the first Japanese Baby format camera built in 1934 by Konishiroku Honten.  This camera is held by historians to be a major milestone in Japanese camera development.  It was considered to be a copy of the German Zeiss Baby Ikonta with a spring-action opening and folding optical viewfinder.  Although the Baby Ikonta was the name of a model, in Japan the term "baby" came to mean an entirely new image format.  In 1934 this camera was sold for 25 yen with the f/6.3 Rokuoh-sha Optor lens as shown here, and 32 yen with the optional f/4.5 lens.  Some time later a model with a fast f/3.8 Hexar lens was also produced.  The lens serial number 7414 on the example shown here indicates that it is likely among the earliest produced by Konishiroku Honten. The Rox shutter has three speeds from 1/25 to 1/100 sec.

 

This example is in excellent condition with intact bellows, a working Rox shutter and clear f/6.3 50mm Optor lens.

The Baby Pearl took 16 exposures on type 127 film.  It was in production from 1934 through 1936 and, according to McKeown, these early cameras are marked by the black lens bezel and black shutter face.  The original leather case is also shown.

As mentioned in "The History of the Japanese Camera" (see References page), the success of the Baby Pearl led to the production of a colored version called the "Lady's Pearl", an exceptionally rare model.