The name Pearl was given by Rokuoh-sha and Konishiroku (the later Konica) to many models of rollfilm folders. Other articles deal with the 6×9 and larger models, and the Baby Pearl and Pearlette cameras (both using 127 film); this one deals with the Semi Pearl and Pearl for 4.5×6cm.
The successive models of Semi Pearl and Pearl show considerable variety, as is described below; but all 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 are obviously 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.
The viewfinder-only Semi Pearl
Prewar and wartime period
The Semi Pearl, released at the beginning of 1938, is a 4.5×6 folder copied from the Ikonta A, with curved folding struts, unit focusing, a folding optical finder, a shutter release on the door (parallel and close to the hinge), a key to advance the film (to the bottom right, as seen by a photographer holding the camera horizontally), and a strap along the edge of the camera next to the take-up spool.
The back is hinged to the left and has two red windows near the top, protected by a common sliding cover, to control film advance. The front leather is embossed SEMI PEARL in a rectangular frame and the folding struts are engraved with Konishiroku's logo: a five-petal cherry blossom containing the Japanese character 六 (the roku within both "Rokuoh-sha" and "Konishiroku"). The metal parts of the body are generally painted black, but some examples exist with chrome finish. A number of advertisements dated 1938 and 1939 show the chrome finish, and it possibly corresponds to the earliest cameras.
One version has an Optor 75mm f/4.5 lens (designed by Konishiroku but manufactured by Asahi Kōgaku) and an Apus shutter with 10–100, B, T speeds (¥78), another a Hexar 75mm f/4.5 lens and a Durax shutter with 1–100, B, T speeds (¥105). Both lens and shutter are marked Rokuoh-sha. The company name was changed to Konishiroku in 1943, and the markings were changed accordingly. Given the circumstances of the time, the marking change was probably not instantaneous, and cameras engraved Rokuoh-sha were perhaps still sold after the war. At least one example has been observed with mismatched lens and shutter markings.
After the war
The production of the Semi Pearl was resumed between 1946 and 1948. It largely used stocks of older parts, at least at first. Postwar examples have Optor or Hexar lenses mounted on Apus or Durax shutters. All combinations are known to exist, the Hexar and Durax being the most common. Perhaps because of a shortage of parts or raw materials, some examples only have front-cell focusing. It is reported that the price in 1946 was ¥3,050.
Slight modifications occurred during the presumably postwar production (the cameras marked Konishiroku). The frame of the SEMI PEARL embossing in the front leather was switched from a rectangular to a hexagonal shape. The back leather also received a KONISHIROKU embossing in a hexagon, perhaps at the same time. On the shutter plate, direct engravings of the Durax name and aperture scale replaced the small screwed metal plates. The Hexar Ser.1 lens name was replaced by the simpler Hexar a bit later, around lens number 37000 or 38000.
Some examples of the Semi Pearl (with Konishiroku markings) have been observed with only one red window in the back, near the bottom, protected by a cover horizontally sliding under a metal plate. The back is exactly the same as on the later Pearl I, and these are probably among the last examples of the Semi Pearl. The existence of this variant indicates that not all the postwar Semi Pearl were assembled from stocks of old parts and that the production had effectively resumed, at least for some important parts.
At least one example has been observed with a diamond-shaped CPO logo engraved in black in the standing leg. CPO stands for Central Purchasing Office and means that the camera was to be sold at an American military Post Exchange facility.
| Postwar Semi Pearl, unit focusing Hexar lens, Durax shutter, Konishiroku markings.|
Pictures courtesy of Geoff Cliffe, Melbourne. (Image rights)
Pearl and Pearl RS, with uncoupled rangefinder
|Pearl RS. Pictures courtesy of Thomas Harvey. (Image rights)|
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 Hexar–Durax combination of the Semi Pearl, but now the Hexar lens is coated. 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 II and IIB, with coupled rangefinder
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 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
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.
Pearl IV, with brightframe finder
The Pearl IV (December 1958) is a radical redesign, with a completely different diecast aluminium body and a finder of advanced design with a projected frameline. The finder has additional lines for parallax but there is no automatic parallax correction: the frame does not move when focusing.
The door over the bellows is hinged on the right hand side (as experienced by a photographer holding the camera horizontally), as opposed to all the earlier models; the shutter release is still at the top of the door and near the hinge, it is thus pressed by the right hand whereas the earlier models had a left-handed release button. The diecast body pushes the weight over 700g. The housing for the finders extends almost the whole way across the top, and the accessory shoe is no longer next to it but instead above its centre. The Hexar lens and Seikosha-MXL shutter are inherited from the IIIL, but the focusing aid is no longer convex but instead a simple tab. There is double exposure prevention as well as auto-stop film advance and an auto-reset exposure counter.
At ¥22,000, the IV was slightly cheaper than the IIIL (¥24,800). However, interest in folding cameras was waning fast, and production of this camera stopped after about six months and after only about five thousand had been made.
The Pearl IV is now regarded as one of the finest cameras of this format. Konishiroku would never again attempt anything like it (or reuse the name "Pearl", which dated from 1909). The closest thing to a successor is probably the Fujica GS645 of 1983.
The Pearl IV is often referred to as a rarity. This is an exaggeration: five thousand is not so few, and it is not the kind of device that even the ignorant will unhesitatingly throw into the trash. Examples are not particularly hard to find in the Japanese market; however, they are expensive by folder standards, now (2006) costing around three times as much as examples of the Pearl III in similar condition.
- ↑ Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p. 338, says that the Semi Pearl was featured in the new products column of the February 1938 issue of Asahi Camera, and that it was advertised in the same magazine from January 1938 and in Kogata Camera from February. Tanimura, "Pāru II", says April 1938. Lewis, p. 54, says 1937.
- ↑ In the June 1938 and January 1939 issues of Asahi Camera and in the August and December 1938 issues of Kogata Camera. All these advertisements are reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p. 82.
- ↑ Tanaka, "Nihon no supuringu-kamera: Konishiroku", p. 60. Prices are from advertisements dated 1938 and 1939, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p. 82.
- ↑ Miyazaki, p. 12–3, explains this for the Baby Pearl. It is similarly mentioned in Omoide no supuringu-kamera-ten, p. 18.
- ↑ Lewis, p. 60.
- ↑ Example observed in an eBay auction.
- ↑ 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. 60–61; 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.
- ↑ The finder is sometimes described as having a frameline whose position adjusts to compensate for parallax. This is untrue: hold the camera steady, focus from the closest distance to infinity, and the view is unchanged and the frameline stays where it was. The frameline does have extra lines to indicate the variation caused by parallax: in this it is similar to some of the better accessory viewfinders (for 35mm rangefinder cameras, etc.) that lack an adjustment for distance.
- ↑ Miyazaki, Konika kamera no 50nen, pp. 129–30; Tanaka, "Nihon no supuringu-kamera: Konishiroku", p. 61.
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 169, 675–9, 1440–43. (See also the advertisement for item 168 and 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.
- Konishiroku Kamera no Rekishi (小西六カメラの歴史, History of Konishiroku cameras), vol. 10 (Autumn 1985 issue) of Kamera Rebyū Bessatsu: Kurashikku Kamera Senka / All about Historical Cameras.
- 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).
- 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). Pp. 544–5.
- 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 Bessatsu: Kurashikku Kamera Senka / All about Historical Cameras, no. 8, Autumn 1986 (special issue on Supuringu Kamera [スプリングカメラ, spring cameras]), 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.
- Pearl RS & II by Anthony, aka antjam65, at his photo website
- Pearl IIB and IV at The Classic Camera
- Pearl II, Pearl IIB and Semi Pearl, lots no.655–7 of auction no.6 (6 November 2004) by Westlicht Photographica Auction
- Semi Pearl within a Konica page at Sarusuberi
- Semi Pearl overhaul at Handmade and Classic Camera
- Semi Pearl with sample pictures at Doru's blog
- Pearl I and Pearl II at Konica Minolta "old and new" (copied in 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 Zeppan Tōsan photo site, follow the link marked "武器庫" in the page menu, and then the link marked "小西六 パールI" in the "next" menu
- Pearl RS at Yukara's site
- Pearl RS at infocam.co.kr
- Restoration of a Pearl RS at Kan's Room
- Pearl II in the Damono Suki blog
- Pearl II at Bon's Homepage
- Pearl II, III and IV within a Konishiroku page at Yume o hakobu shashinki
- Pearl II (with sample photos) at Puppy's Island
- 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 at Shiroto shashinki shūri kōbō
- Pearl family, with pictures of the Pearl IIB, III and IV, at The Classic Camera
- Pearl III at Gacha's Box
- Pearl III (photo and short comment only) at Kurakame to dejikame monokuro
- Restoration and sample photos from a Pearl III at Shiroto shashinki shūri kōbō
- Pearl IV and more pictures at Hayata Camera Laboratory