The Darling-16 is a Japanese subminiature taking 10×12mm pictures on 16mm perforated film, released in 1957 by Shinchō Seiki. The Albert is a name variant, certainly rebadged for a promotional purpose.
The Darling-16 has a vertical shape, just like a miniature movie camera. The whole camera is black finished. The main body is made of plastic, with a large tubular finder built-in at the top and a square shoe with a tripod thread underside, allowing the camera to stand upright on a table. The front casing, back door and right-hand control panel are made of metal. The camera name is inscribed at the front, under the lens, the company name SHINCHO SEIKI CO. LTD. is inscribed in relief on the left-hand side, towards the bottom, and the word JAPAN is written on the back door.
The camera takes twelve 10×12mm pictures on 16mm perforated film, loaded in special cassette pairs. The cassettes are either black or silver, and the take-up side is engraved DARLING–16. It is said that the camera can also take regular Mamiya 16 cassettes, which were certainly more readily available. The camera's back is removable for film loading, and is retained by a latch at the bottom.
The film is advanced by a knob on the photographer's right, which is pulled out to insert the take-up cassette. There is an exposure counter underneath, graduated from 0 to 14 — the last two graduations being used to wind the film on the take-up spool after the last exposure is taken. The knob automatically stops at each exposure, and is released by a small lever or button placed under the exposure counter. If the camera is operated with no film inside, the exposure counter must be manually reset to 14 by turning the advance knob before inserting a new film spool.
The lens is fixed-focus and has no marking. Its aperture is adjustable from f/8 to f/22. The shutter gives Bulb and Instant (about 1/80) exposures, selected by a switch placed above the lens. It is cocked by a lever on the photographer's left, towards the bottom, and tripped by another lever on the same side, near the top.
The Darling-16 was announced in Japanese magazines dated August and September 1957. The chronological order presented below is the most plausible, but it is still unconfirmed.
The first version has no flash synchronization. Its aperture is selected by a small knob above the lens, with three positions: 8, 11 and 22. Its lens rim is fixed and chrome finished. This version is known with yellow engravings.
The second version has a PC synch socket replacing the aperture knob. The aperture is selected by turning the black lens rim, with 8, 11, 16, 22 indications. This version is known with red, orange or green engravings.
The third version only differs by the small lever used to unlock the advance knob, replacing the sliding button of the previous cameras. This version is only known so far with green engravings.
The Albert is a name variant of the second version, inscribed Albert FIFTH AVENUE NEW YORK under the lens, instead of Darling–16. It was certainly made for a promotional purpose, perhaps for some "Albert" company based on Fifth Avenue.
The Darling-16 usually comes with a dedicated strap, attached into the tripod thread, and a zipped pouch, embossed Darling 16MM Camera. The original box is made of black cardboard. It is either inscribed Darling–16 alone, in yellow, or Darling–16 and SHINCHO SEIKI CO., LTD., in red, with some red logo on the back.
One source says that the camera was sold as a set containing a flashgun, a close-up lens, a processing tank and other accessories. No such set has been observed so far.
- Plastic body confirmed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.389 and McKeown, p.891. The caption in Pritchard, p.56, seems to imply that an all-metal version exists, but this is certainly a mistake.
- Instruction manuals reproduced in this page at Submin.com. Sugiyama, item 5028, mentions 10×14mm exposure size by mistake.
- See the pictures in this page at Submin.com.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.389.
- Instruction manuals reproduced in this page at Submin.com.
- Sugiyama, item 5028, mentions 35mm focal length, whereas Pritchard, p.55, says 25mm. The actual value is unknown.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.389.
- Examples pictured in this page at Submin.com (yellow) and in this page at Subclub.org.
- Examples pictured in McKeown, p.891 (colour unknown), in Pritchard, p.56 (colour unknown), as lot no.669 (green) of Westlicht Photographica Auction no.11, in this page at Submin.com (red), and in this page at Nekosan's website (orange).
- Examples pictured in Sugiyama, item 5028 (colour unknown), and in this page at Submin.com (green).
- Examples pictured in McKeown, p.891, and in Pritchard, p.56.
- See the pictures of lot no.669 (green) of Westlicht Photographica Auction no.11, and in this page and this page at Submin.com.
- Sugiyama, item 5028.
- Asahi Camera (アサヒカメラ) editorial staff. 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. Item 1336.
- McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). P.891.
- Pritchard, Michael and St. Denny, Douglas. Spy Cameras — A century of detective and subminiature cameras. London: Classic Collection Publications, 1993. ISBN 1-874485-00-3. Pp.55–6.
- Sugiyama, Kōichi (杉山浩一); Naoi, Hiroaki (直井浩明); Bullock, John R. The Collector's Guide to Japanese Cameras. 国産カメラ図鑑 (Kokusan kamera zukan). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1985. ISBN 4-257-03187-5. Item 5028.
- Darling-16 at Submin.com, with English instruction manuals
- Past auctions by Westlicht Photographica Auction:
- Darling-16 at Subclub.org
In Japanese and English: