The Toyoca 16 is a Japanese subminiature camera made in the mid-1950s by Tougodo. The Kute and Saga 16 are name variants, and the Hit-II is a slightly redesigned version. Despite their names, all the models take ten 14×14mm exposures on 17.5mm rollfilm.
Description of the Toyoca 16
The Toyoca 16 has a rounded body, inspired by contemporary 35mm viewfinder cameras and larger than other Hit-type cameras. It is comparable in size and style to the Kiku 16 or Gem 16 by Morita. The dimensions are 61×38×36mm and the weight is 68g.
The bottom plate is removable for film loading. It is held by a large screw, has a tripod thread on one side, and is normally inscribed MADE IN JAPAN. The back is fixed, and contains an uncovered red window for film advance control.
The advance knob is at the top right, as seen by the photographer, and there is a fake rewind knob at the top left, mimicking that of 35mm cameras, and a small strap lug underneath. There is also a fake body release on the top plate, next to the viewfinder housing.
The shutter is actually released by a lever on the side of the lens. It only gives Bulb and Instant (1/20) exposures, selected by an index on the other side of the lens.
The lens barrel is silver finished and has various fake rings and a black front bezel, imitating the chrome lenses of 35mm rangefinder cameras. The lens has a fixed focus and a small fixed aperture. It was announced as a 30mm f/11.
Variants of the Toyoca 16
The Toyoca 16 was certainly distributed by Tougodo itself. The name Toyoca 16 is engraved above the viewfinder, and embossed at the front of the leather case. The camera was sold in a gray box inscribed Toyoca 16 in blue letters.
The Toyoca 16 exists in two versions, distinguished by the presence or absence of an exposure counter at the top of the advance knob. The exposure counter has an irregular spacing of the numbers, because the number of turns needed to advance the film by one frame varies with the number of pictures already taken. This device complements the back window, and actually has little usability. Some sources say that the version with an exposure counter has a single-speed shutter with no B setting, but both the English instruction manual and the observation of actual examples prove that this is wrong.
|Toyoca 16 in Shashin Kōgyō Summer 1957. (Image rights)|
The Saga 16 is a name variant, known to exist with the exposure counter. It has the name SAGA 16 instead of Toyoca 16 on the top plate and on the case.
The Kute is another name variant of the Toyoca 16 with exposure counter. The name KUTE is inscribed in fancy letters above the viewfinder. The camera was sold in a gray box inscribed KUTE CAMERA.
The Toyoca 16 appears in a column in the Summer 1957 special issue of Shashin Kōgyō, where it is attributed to Tōgōdō Kōki and priced at ¥500. It is the only Japanese period document known so far, certainly because the camera was primarily made for export.
The camera sometimes comes with an accessory hood with filter holder, in a heavy push-on mount almost doubling the length of the lens barrel. The ever-ready case is made of brown leather and has a hole at the front for the release lever. A folding miniature tripod was also supplied as an accessory.
It seems that a full set should include the following elements:
- leather case;
- lens hood;
- yellow filter in a green and white striped cardboard box;
- folding tripod in a red cardboard box;
- instruction sheet;
- grey cardboard outer box.
The Hit-II, a simplified model
The Hit-II is based on the same body as the Toyoca 16, of which it is a simplified version. The film loading and advance knob are similar. The top plate is redesigned with a shiny finish and does not have the fake rewind knob of the Toyoca 16. It is inscribed HIT–II above the viewfinder. The lens barrel is all silver and does not have the black bezel of the Toyoca 16, making it look less like 35mm cameras. The release lever is the same, but the shutter gives Instant exposures only. The ever-ready case is yellowish and is embossed HIT–II at the front.
- Column in Shashin Kōgyō no.63, p.117, reproduced in this page.
- 1/20: column in Shashin Kōgyō no.63, p.117, reproduced in this page.
- Column in Shashin Kōgyō no.63, p.117, reproduced in this page. The information is repeated in Sugiyama, item 5152–5, and Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.392.
- "Toyoca" is certainly the contraction of Toyohashi — Tougodo's hometown — and Camera.
- Original boxes pictured in this page and this page at Submin.com, and observed in an online auction.
- See for example Sugiyama, items 5152–3, and this page at Subclub.org.
- See the English instruction manual for the Toyoca 16 with exposure counter at Submin.com, and the various pictures of this version in the links at the bottom of the page.
- Saga 16 pictured as lot no.377 of Charles Leski auction no.191.
- Exposure counter: McKeown, p.929, and pictures in this page at Submin.com.
- Original box pictured in this page at Submin.com.
- Column in Shashin Kōgyō no.63, p.117, reproduced in this page.
- It is the only document listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.392.
- See the pictures in this page at Submin.com.
- 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 1393.
- 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.932.
- 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.77 and 79.
- Shashin Kōgyō no.63, Summer 1957. "Nihon no kamera zenbō: Tokushu – mame kamera" (日本のカメラ全貌・特殊・豆カメラ, Compendium of Japanese cameras: special and subminiature cameras). P.117.
- 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 5152–3.
- Toyoca 16 and Hit-II at Submin.com; also has English instructions for the Toyoca 16
- Toyoca 16 in Dave Thomas' Pbase gallery
- Toyoca 16 and Kute at Subclub.org
- Toyoca 16 in Nigel Richards' website
- Toyoca 16 at Benbojo's Classic Cameras
- Saga 16, lot no.377 of auction no.191 by Charles Leski
- Hit II in a page on Hit cameras at the Subminiature site of Gary Sivertsen