Well Standard Model I c1939-41

Tomei Collection

The Well Standard Model I shown here is believed to have been made in Tokyo, Japan, between 1939 and 1941 by Nihon Koki and is engraved with N.K.K. (Japan Optical Company). The telescoping 65mm f/3.5 Well Anastigmat was made for N.K.K. by Suzuki, a lens maker that operated in the early 1940's. The Well Rapid shutter was made by Nihon Koki and has 9 speeds up to 1/500 plus T and B. The Model I as shown sold for ¥110-125, whereas less expensive Model II and III were marketed.

This is a roll film camera taking 10 exposures on 127 film but producing an unusual image size of 4 x 5 cm. It has two simple viewfinders and what appears to be a rudimentary non-functional frame counter to the right.  Also there is a dummy rewind knob to the left which is odd since 127 film does not require rewinding. Neither is the red window in the back useful since the odd format of this camera does not match the frame numbering on the 127 film - several useless and non-functional features that make this camera interesting.  The body is constructed of unusually thin alloy metal easily dented and distorted. I would guess that the leatherette on this example is not original. 

This is an uncommon pre-WWII Japanese camera that seems to be intended for the USA market. Similar to other cameras such as the RolleKonter with its English exposure tables, Japanese camera manufacturers had misunderstood US-Japan relations and had prepared a number of cameras for the US market immediately before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This camera was introduced during a period of critical shortages in Japan.  According to Tanaka and Miyabe (see The History of the Japanese Camera, References and Acknowledgements) the National Mobilization Act sought to convert many civilian enterprises into military production.  Stocks of imported cameras and components had dwindled and new supply routes through Manchuria were not capable of providing for continued camera production.  Consequently, very few new camera models were introduced after 1939.

Note the dummy rewind knob on the left upper housing, the frame counter, as well as the sliding window on the camera's back, none of which are functional.  These features were added to the camera presumably to produce the impression of being comparable to other popular designs of the time.  The twin viewfinders also contribute to the appearance that the camera has a rangefinder.

An advertisement by Kankyū Hyakkaten for the Well camera published some time between 1941 and 1944 (exact date unknown).

Document owned and scanned by rebollo_fr. It appears here through the kind permission of rebollo_fr (for more information see tp://www.flickr.com/photos/rebollo_fr/412970181/).