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The Zessan is a Japanese camera taking 3×4cm pictures on 127 film, made by Mori and sold by Riken Kōgaku Kōgyō (the predecessor of Ricoh) from about 1941.[1]


The Zessan has a metal body with a telescopic tube supporting the lens and shutter assembly. The advance knob is at the top right, as seen by the photographer. The tubular optical finder is offset to the left, and extends further to the left to support the accessory shoe. The top plate is removable for film loading (as on the Picny and Gelto cameras, to which the Zessan is directly comparable). It is locked by a small knob between the finder and advance knob, with O and L indications.

The back has two red windows to control the film advance, protected by horizontally sliding individual covers. There are two round film flanges at the bottom; the serial number is engraved on that on the left. The tripod thread is offset to the right. The name ZESSAN is normally embossed in the leather covering at the front, on the same side as the accessory shoe. It is repeated at the front of the ever-ready case.

The shutter is an everset Licht by Seikōsha, with a thread and pin release (a simple replacement for a self-timer). The lens is a front-cell focusing 50mm f/4.5, either a Roico Anastigmat or a Seica Anastigmat. Both have three elements and were made by Riken.[2]

Advertisements and other documents[]

The Zessan appears in the list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in 1941, in two versions called "Zessan I" (¥60) and "Zessan II" (¥77) with no further detail.[3] The camera is also pictured in an advertisement dated February 1941 but again no detail was given.[4]

The Zessan again appears in the April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production, in two versions differing by the lens name.[5] Both are called "Zessan I" in a recent reproduction of the document, but the original document presumably has "Zessan I" and "Zessan II";[6] it is not known which has the Roico and which has the Seica.

Actual examples[]

Very few examples of the Zessan have been observed. The body numbers known so far are 1806 (Roico lens no.4180), 2971 (Roico lens no.3412), 3283 (Seica lens no.50183) and 3997 (Seica lens no.50025).[7]


The Japanese word zessan means "praise" when written 絶賛 or 絶讃. Riken used many such names in the prewar and wartime period. The name has not yet been observed on any original document and the actual writing used by the company is not known.


  1. Made by Mori: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 158–9.
  2. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens items Jc8 and Jc9.
  3. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 1, sections 5 and 7.
  4. Advertisement in Gakusei no Kagaku, reproduced in the Gochamaze website.
  5. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 158–9. The lens name is "Seiko" (セイコ) on one version, but this is surely a typo for "Seica" (セイカ).
  6. Supuringu kamera de ikou, p.187, says that the original document is hardly legible at some places.
  7. Example pictured in this article, and examples observed in online auctions.


The Zessan is not mentioned in Kokusan kamera no rekishi nor in Sugiyama.


In Japanese:

In French and English:

Asahi Bussan and Riken prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
rigid or collapsible
Vest Adler | Gokoku | Semi Kinsi | Letix | Olympic | New Olympic | Regal Olympic | Semi Olympic | Super Olympic | Vest Olympic | Riken No.1 | Ricohl | Roico | Seica | Zessan
folders pseudo TLR TLR
Semi Adler | Adler III | Adler A | Adler B | Adler C | Adler Four | Adler Six | Gaica | Heil | Kinsi Chukon Ref Ricohflex | Ricohflex B