The name Pearl was given by Konishiroku (the later Konica) to many models of rollfilm folders. This article deals with the Pearl (I), II and III made from 1949 in 4.5×6cm format, successors of the Semi Pearl. These were replaced in 1958 by the ephemeral Pearl IV, which has a completely different construction.
All these Pearl models share a design quirk that is likely to confuse somebody who is moderately accustomed to other folders but is new to any in this particular line. What would seem to be the shutter-release button at the top of the body and the door-opening button at the top of the door are in fact the reverse of what they seem: the photographer opens the door with the button on the top plate or top housing, and releases the shutter with the button on the opened door.
Pearl and Pearl RS, with uncoupled rangefinder
The Pearl (in retrospect Pearl I, first half of 1949) has the same basic body as the Semi Pearl, with a top housing (simply inscribed "Pearl") for a viewfinder and an uncoupled rangefinder. The rangefinder is set by a knob above the top housing, and the distance read must be transfered by the user to the distance scale of the lens. Film advance is still by key. The back has only one red window and is similar to the last examples of the Semi Pearl. The camera retains the combination of a coated Hexar 75mm f/4.5 lens and a Durax shutter (1–100, B, T) found on the Semi Pearl. There is still no flash synchronization. Presumably "Semi" was dropped from the name in view of the unlikeliness of a revival of any 6×9 folder (the prewar 6×9 Pearl had been rather unusual among Japanese cameras even when new, and even a modernized successor would probably have struck most photographers in 1949 as a bulky extravagance); the disappearance of the Baby Pearl may have been another factor.
The Pearl RS (in retrospect Pearl I RS, but also simply inscribed "Pearl"; late 1950) has a Konirapid-S shutter (B, 1–500) with Kodak-type flash synchronization. An accessory shoe is added at the top right of the camera (as seen by a photographer holding it horizontally), the back latch is modified and the strap has disappeared. The price in 1951 was ¥14,850.
|Pearl RS. Pictures courtesy of Thomas Harvey. (Image rights)|
Pearl II and IIB, with coupled rangefinder
|Pearl II. Picture by Bye Bye Bird. (Image rights)|
The Pearl II was released together with the Pearl RS and maybe sold a little after; it is the same camera with a coupled rangefinder and inscribed Pearl II on the top housing. The focusing tab is modified and the focusing scale has disappeared from the front assembly. It is replaced by a rotating disc that shows the distance against a simple depth-of-field scale, placed under a window in the top housing, where the uncoupled model has a focusing knob for the rangefinder. In 1952 an f/3.5 Hexar option (¥30,150) was added to the standard f/4.5 Hexar (¥26,650). With the f/4.5 lens, the camera's dimensions open are 120×100×92mm (43mm closed); it weighs 580g.
In response to increasing competition from 35mm cameras, the Pearl IIB (still engraved Pearl II) was released in mid-1955 as a cheaper (¥23,500) alternative to the II (¥30,150). It retains the f/3.5 Hexar lens but the shutter is a Durax-S (top speed 1/400) and the focusing scale is back to the front assembly. There is still a depth-of-field scale above the top housing, but it must be turned manually. The Pearl IIB has one innovation: a PC rather than Kodak flash terminal. (At least one example of the Pearl II has been observed with this feature.)
Pearl III, with auto-stop advance
|Pearl III L. Picture by Mech_for_i. (Image rights)|
The Pearl III (late 1955, inscribed Pearl III above the top housing) adds "semi-automatic" (auto-stop) film advance: once the "start" line on the backup paper is lined up with a dot on the film rail, the camera calculates how far the photographer may wind the film before each exposure. The red window accordingly disappears from the film back. An advance knob replaces the advance key of the previous models, it contains a manually reset exposure counter. The auto-stop mechanism was designed by Nakagawa Kenzō and supplied to Konishiroku by his company Aram Kōgaku, at a pace of 2,000 units per month.
The Pearl III also substitutes a film-reminder dial (color, panchromatic, etc., as well as speed) for the distance and depth-of-field dial of the II. It retains the Konirapid S shutter of the II but has the PC flash terminal of the IIB. The lens is the Hexar f/3.5, except for a few examples said to be fitted with a three-element Konitor lens, certainly the same 75mm f/3.5 as on the Aram Six. The focusing ring is fitted with a concave tab and a depth-of-field scale.
There are two later variants, which are also simply inscribed Pearl III and must be distinguished by looking at the lens. The Pearl IIIMX (1956) replaces the Konirapid S with a Seikosha-MX shutter. This adds X synchronization for electronic flash, becoming popular at around this time. In a time of increased competition in the industry, companies such as Konishiroku that had previously produced shutters for their own cameras found it more economical to buy them in from either Seikosha or Copal. The Hexar lens on this model has a seven-digit serial number and is said to be an improved model (maybe recomputed). The Pearl IIIL (1957) has two further innovations: a Seikosha-MXL shutter, using the light-value system, and a new amber coating for the lens. When closed, the IIIL has the same dimensions as the II, and weighs 600g.
The Pearl III was succeeded in December 1958 by the Pearl IV, which is a radical redesign of the original concept.
- Miyazaki, p.183, says March 1949, while Tanimura, "Pāru II", says April 1949. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.358, says that the Pearl was tested in the August 1949 issues of Ars Camera and Kōga Gekkan.
- Tanaka, "Nihon no supuringu-kamera: Konishiroku", p.60. For this and subsequent models: Konika-Minoruta-ten, p.8.
- Tanimura, "Pāru II", and Miyazaki, p.128, both say October 1950. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.358, says that the Pearl RS and Pearl II are mentioned together in the November 1950 issue of Asahi Camera. The earliest advertisement is dated January 1951.
- Tanaka, "Nihon no supuringu-kamera: Konishiroku", pp.60–1; Uchida, "Hekisā 75mm no shikaku.
- Advertisement for the Pearl RS and Pearl II published in the January 1951 issue of Camera Fan, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.160.
- Miyazaki, p.128, says that the Pearl II and Pearl RS were released in October 1950, but gives January 1951 for the Pearl II on p.183. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.358, says that the Pearl RS and Pearl II were mentioned together in the November 1950 issue of Asahi Camera. The earliest advertisement is dated January 1951. It is reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.160, and shows a price for the Pearl RS but not for the Pearl II. Uchida, "Konpakuto na Pāru RS", says that the Pearl II was released in 1951, the year after the Pearl RS.
- Miyazaki, p.183, says April 1952. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.358, says that the f/3.5 lens is first advertised in the November 1952 issue of Asahi Camera.
- Tanaka, "Nihon no supuringu-kamera: Konishiroku", pp.60–61; Tanimura, "Pāru II."
- Miyazaki, p.183, says April 1955. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.358, says that the Pearl IIB was reviewed in the issues dated July or August 1955 of many Japanese magazines. The first advertisements are dated August 1955.
- Tanaka, "Nihon no supuringu-kamera: Konishiroku", pp.60–61.
- Miyazaki, p.183, says December 1955. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.395, says that the first mention in Japanese magazines was in January 1951 issues.
- Sugiyama, p.76; Yazawa, p.13 of Camera Collectors' News no.254.
- Miyazaki, Konika kamera no 50nen, p.129 (the source for examples with Konitor lenses); Tanaka, "Nihon no supuringu-kamera: Konishiroku", p.61. All Konitor lenses have three elements, see Yazawa in Camera Collectors' News no.254.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.395, says that it was featured in the new products column of the May 1956 issue of Camera Mainichi.
- Tanaka, "Nihon no supuringu-kamera: Konishiroku", p.61.
- Miyazaki, p.131.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.395, says that it was featured in the new products column of the June 1957 issue of Nippon Camera.
- Miyazaki, Konika kamera no 50nen, p.129; Tanaka, "Nihon no supuringu-kamera: Konishiroku", p.61.
- Kawamata, p.98.
Sources and further reading
- 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. Items 676–9 and 1440–42. (See also the picture on p.20.)
- Iwama Tomohisa (岩間倶久). Atarashii Pāru no tsukaikata (新しいパールの使い方). Tokyo: Amico, 1956.
- Kawamata Masataku (川又正卓). "Konishiroku Pāru III" (小西六パールIII, Konishiroku Pearl III). Supuringu kamera de ikō: Zen 69 kishu no tsukaikata to jissha sakurei (スプリングカメラでいこう: 全69機種の使い方と実写作例, Let's try spring cameras: The use of and actual examples from 69 machines). Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppan-sha, 2004. ISBN 4879560723 Pp.98–9. About the Pearl IIIL.
- Konika-Minoruta-ten (コニカミノルタ展, Konica Minolta exhibition). Exhibition catalogue. Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 2005.
- Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.10, September 1987. No ISBN number. Konishiroku kamera no rekishi (小西六カメラの歴史, special issue on Konishiroku).
- Lewis, Gordon, ed. The History of the Japanese Camera. Rochester, N.Y.: George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography & Film, 1991. ISBN 0-935398-17-1 (paper), ISBN 0-935398-16-3 (hard). Pp.67–8, 74 and 92.
- 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.544.
- Miki Akira (三木旺). Pāru no tsukaikata (パールの使い方). Tokyo: Amico.
- Miyazaki Shigemoto (宮崎繁幹). Konika kamera no 50nen: Konika I-gata kara Hekisā RF e (コニカカメラの50年：コニカI型からヘキサーRFへ, Fifty years of Konica cameras: From the Konica I to the Hexar RF). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 2003. ISBN 4-257-12038-X.
- Omoide no supuringu-kamera-ten (思い出のスプリングカメラ展, Exhibition of beloved self-erecting cameras). Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 1992. (Exhibition catalogue, no ISBN number.) P.18.
- 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. P.76.
- Tanaka Masao (田中政雄). "Nihon no supuringu-kamera: Konishiroku" (日本のスプリングカメラ Konishiroku, The spring cameras of Japan: Konishiroku). Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.8, September 1986. No ISBN number. Supuringu kamera (スプリングカメラ, special issue on spring cameras). Pp.58–61.
- Tanimura Yoshihiko (谷村吉彦). "Dentō aru kyorikei-rendō semi-han supuringu kamera Pāru II" (伝統ある距離計連動セミ判スプリングカメラ：パールII, A coupled-rangefinder 4.5×6 spring camera with tradition: The Pearl II). Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.35, November 1995. Nihon no kamera 50nen (日本のカメラ50年, special issue on 50 years of Japanese cameras). P.63.
- Uchida Yasuo (内田康男). "Hekisā 75mm no shikaku ni osamatta sangaku-shashin: Konpakuto na Pāru RS" (ヘキサー75mmの視角に収まった山岳写真: コンパクトなパールRS, Mountain photography from the perspective of a 75mm Hexar: The compact Pearl RS). Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.76, June 2005. ISBN 4-257-13078-4. Kurashikku kamera katachi to kinō 'supuringu kamera hen' (クラシックカメラ形と機能「スプリングカメラ編」, special issue on spring cameras). Pp.32–5.
- Yazawa Seiichirō (矢沢征一郎). "Renzu no hanashi (164) Konitā" (レンズの話コニター, Lens story  Konitor). In Camera Collectors' News no.254 (August 1998). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. Pp.13–6. (On the outsourcing of the auto-stop mechanism of the Pearl III to Aram.)
- Pearl RS & II by Anthony, at his photo website
- Pearl IIB at The Classic Camera
- Pearl II and IIB, lots no.655–6 of auction no.6 (6 November 2004) by Westlicht Photographica Auction
- Pearl I and Pearl II in the official Konica Minolta camera history site (copied in this page and this page of the Kitamura Camera Museum)
- Pearl I in the Zeppan Tōsan photo site (incorporating this photograph). If the link does not work, go to the main site, follow the link marked "武器庫" in the page menu, and search for "パールI" in the left menu
- Restoration of a Pearl I at ME Fukkatsu Ōjō
- Pearl RS at Nagoya's Camera Club
- Restoration of a Pearl RS at Kan's Room
- Pearl II in the Damono Suki blog
- Pearl II at Bon's Homepage
- Pearl II and III within a Konishiroku page at Yume o hakobu shashinki
- Pearl II at Doraku Oyaji no Kamera Koheya
- Pearl II in a page of classic cameras at Kimata Photo Studio
- Restoration of a Pearl II, restoration and sample photos from a Pearl III at Shiroto shashinki shūri kōbō
- Pearl family, with pictures of the Pearl IIB and III, at The Classic Camera
- Pearl III at Gacha's Box
- Pearl III in the first page of the Yamada Camera Museum