All the models share the same body, and take ten 14×14mm exposures on a roll of 17.5mm film. The camera is comparable in size and style to the Toyoca 16 by Tougodo. The design is more angular and larger than regular Hit-type cameras, and is inspired by contemporary 35mm viewfinder cameras.
The back is removable together with the bottom plate for film loading. It is locked by a key situated under the camera. The film is advanced by a knob at the top right, as seen by the photographer. Its path is curved to compensate the lens aberrations. Its position is controlled via a window in the middle of the back. There is a fake rewind knob at the top left, mimicking that of 35mm cameras.
The shutter is tripped by a button on the top cover, next to the viewfinder, a rare feature on Hit-type cameras. It only gives Bulb and Instant exposures, selected by a knob at the front, reminding the slow-speed dial of the Leica III and of various Leica copies.
The lens barrel is silver finished and has various fake rings, imitating the chrome lenses of 35mm rangefinder cameras. The lens has a fixed focus and a small fixed aperture, even if the large diameter of the front element tries to deceive the potential buyer.
The camera sometimes comes with an accessory yellow filter, in a heavy push-on mount almost doubling the length of the lens barrel. Various types of ever-ready case are found, some of which are embossed Kiku, KIKU 16 or GEM 16.
The Saica, Kiku 16 and Gem 16 share a common design of the top plate, with a low profile and a protrusion for the viewfinder. The Halmat looks like an updated version, with a higher top cover.
The Saica is probably the earliest model. It has an everset shutter and an uncovered red window. The back opening key must be turned with a coin, and is certainly less convenient than the folding key found on other models. The top-mounted knobs have a flat profile and the lens barrel looks slightly simpler than on the Kiku 16 or Gem 16. The name Saica is engraved above the viewfinder. The camera was sold in a yellow and red box, inscribed Saica in red letters. No original document mentioning the Saica has been found so far.
Kiku 16 Model I
The Kiku 16 Model I is featured in the new products column of the June 1956 issue of Sankei Camera, where it is attributed to Morita Shōkai. This company is mentioned elsewhere as the maker and distributor of the Inoca Stereo camera taking Bolta film. It certainly produced and distributed the Kiku 16, and perhaps owned the "Kiku" brand (a Japanese word meaning "chrysanthemum").
The camera is easily identified by the name Kiku 16 Model I engraved above the viewfinder. It is similar to the Saica but seems better made. The two knobs have concentric rings at the top, and the lens barrel has a slightly conical shape. The back opening key still has a coin slot, but looks slightly different and is perhaps easier to operate. The speed selector has a larger red index engraved on the top plate, instead of the small index used on the Saica. The camera still has an everset shutter and an uncovered film advance window.
The Kiku 16 Model I was sold in a green box, inscribed KIKU–16 SIZE 14×14mm in golden letters.
Kiku 16 Model II
The Kiku 16 Model II is featured in the April 1957 issue of Shashin Salon, where it is attributed to Morita Shōkai too. The main distinguishing features are the shutter cocking lever added under the speed selector, the sliding cover protecting the film advance window, the folding key to open the back, and the name Kiku 16 Model II engraved above the viewfinder. A collar was also added at the base of the release button. The film advance window is either red or green, depending on the particular example. The camera was sold either in a blue box inscribed KIKU 16 Model II in golden letters, or in a red and brown box marked KIKU 16 CAMERA.
Gem 16 Model II
The Gem 16 Model II is exactly similar to the Kiku 16 Model II, except for the name GEM 16 MODEL II engraved on the top plate. It was sold in a blue box, inscribed GEM 16 MODEL II. No "Gem 16 Model I" has ever been observed, and it seems that this variant does not exist, certainly because the Gem 16 appeared after the Kiku 16 switched to the Model II.
Various documents reproduced in this page at Submin.com point to a company called Gem Industrial Corp. and based in Tokyo, surely the camera's distributor. The wholesale prices offered by this company to the US retailers was $65.00 for a lot of fifty cameras, $20.00 for a lot of 600 film rolls, and $2.00 for a sample camera with six film rolls.
The Halmat looks more modern, with a redesigned higher top plate. It has a shutter cocking lever and a folding key to open the back, as on the Kiku 16 Model II. The film advance window has a green colour and no sliding cover, a strange backward change. The name Halmat engraved on the top plate is sometimes misread as "Kalmat". The camera was sold in a blue box marked HALMAT CAMERA, similar to the box of the Kiku 16 Model II or Gem 16 Model II. The distributor of the Halmat is unknown.
- Original box observed in an online auction. The picture is reproduced in this page at Submin.com.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.382.
- Compare the pictures in this page (Saica) and this page (Kiku 16 Model I) at Submin.com.
- Original box pictured in this page at Fotomuseet i Osby.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.382.
- Compare the pictures in this page (red) and this page (green) at Submin.com.
- Blue box observed in an online auction and pictured in this page at Submin.com. Red and brown box pictured in this page at Submin.com.
- See the original box in this page at Submin.com.
- Purchase order reproduced in this page at Submin.com.
- See for example Pritchard, p.79.
- 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 1207–8.
- 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.376 and 700.
- 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.75, 77 and 79 (the Halmat is spelled "Kalmet" and "Kalmat" by mistake).
- 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. Items 5038, 5047 and 5129.
- Pages at Submin.com:
- Past auctions by Westlicht Photographica Auction
- Past auctions by Christies
- Past sales by LP Foto:
- Saica: lot no.440 of auction no.17 (Dec. 8, 2002)
- Gem 16 among other subminiature cameras at the Subminiature site of Gary Sivertsen
- Kiku 16 Model I among subminiature cameras at Cameras Downunder
- Kiku 16 Model II in Nigel Richards' website
- Kiku 16 Model II at Benbojo's Classic Cameras