Teikoku Kōgaku, later Zunow Kōgaku, was a Japanese optical company from 1930 to 1960.
Zunow was founded by Suzuki Sakuta (鈴木作太) as Teikoku Kōgaku Kenkyūjo (帝国光学研究所). Most sources say that the company was founded in 1930, but at least one says 1940. It began as a lens grinding facility, working as a subcontractor for other companies, and also made military material before and during WWII. This included wide-aperture lenses designed by Hamano Michisaburō (浜野道三郎), a former lens designer of Nippon Kōgaku who entered the company in 1941. An f/1.2 lens was experimented in 1945 for X-ray photography, and another wide-aperture lens was perhaps made for infrared photography. The factory was completely destroyed in the final months of the war, and no example of these lenses survived.
The company was revived under the same name in 1948, to make wide aperture camera lenses. The first prototypes were completed in 1950, and the company released the 50mm f/1.1 Zunow in 1953. This was probably the fastest lens commercially available at the time. The brand Zunow (ズノー) possibly refers to the Japanese word zunō (頭脳), meaning "brain".
In 1951, during the development of the 50mm f/1.1, the company made one or several prototypes of its first camera, called Teica. This was a Leica copy equipped with a Zunow 50/1.2, certainly an early version of the f/1.1 lens.
In 1954 the company was incorporated as Teikoku Kōgaku Kōgyō K.K. (帝国光学工業㈱). In December 1956, it became Zunow Kōgaku Kōgyō K.K. (ズノー光学㈱, meaning Zunow Optical Industry Co., Ltd.), unifying the name of the company with the name of the lenses. It released other fast lenses for still and cine cameras, and also provided less expensive lenses for the fixed-lens cameras of other Japanese manufacturers (such as Neoca).
In 1958, Zunow also introduced a very ambitiously designed 35mm SLR, simply marked "Zunow", whose development had started in 1956. It was the first 35mm SLR camera with auto diaphragm, instant-return mirror, and bayonet mount interchangeable lenses. Production and capital problems resulted in low production.
In the meantime, the production of cine lenses had become the company's main source of income, making it increasingly dependent on the cine camera makers which were its main clients. The bankruptcy of Neoca in January 1960 and that of Arco at the end of the year precipitated the collapse of the company, which closed its doors on January 1st, 1961.
Cameras made by Zunow
Interchangeable lenses made by Zunow
- Zunow lenses for rangefinder cameras:
- Leica screw mount
- Contax mount
- Nikon mount
- Lenses for the Zunow 35mm SLR
- Zunow 5cm f/1.9 for the Miranda T and TII
Cameras with fixed lenses made by Zunow
Picture by Carlo Colombo. (Image rights)
This section is incomplete.
Zunow 6cm f/2.8
Zuminor 7.5cm f/3.5
(This lens was labeled Zunow but actually designed and perhaps also made by Ōfuna.)
- Mine Six IIIS, IIISB
Zunow 4.5cm f/1.8
Zunow 4.5cm f/2.8
- Neoca SV Super
- Hagiya, p.11 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, Hattori, p.154 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.30.
- 1930: Hagiya, p.11 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, and various websites, maybe after Hagiya's article. 1940: Hattori, p.154 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.30. Hagiya's article is based on interviews of key figures of the company, and is therefore reliable; however it gives the date of 1930 in one place only, and this could be a misprint. Year 1930 seems quite early for the apparition of a lens grinding subcontractor. Moreover, this would mean that the company survived as a minor subcontractor for eleven years before hiring Hamano and engaging in lens development, a period of time which seems abnormally long.
- Hagiya, pp.11 and 13–4 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Hagiya, pp.13–4 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- The f/1.2 X-ray lens is mentioned as a 50mm lens in Hagiya, p.14 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, whereas it is mentioned as a huge lens covering 6×6cm format in Hattori, p.154 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.30. The infrared lens is only mentioned in the latter source.
- Hagiya, pp.14–5 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, Hattori, p.154 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.30.
- Hagiya, p.15 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Hagiya, p.15 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, Hattori, p.154 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.30.
- Hagiya, p.15 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Hattori, p.154 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.30.
- Development started in 1956: Hagiya, pp.8–9 and 17 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Closed its doors on January 1st, 1961: Hagiya, p.30 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari. Arco bankruptcy: see the corresponding article. Two different bankruptcy dates are given in Lewis for both Arco and Zunow: December 1959 on p.104 and January 1961 on p.97. The same source says on p.104 that Neoca went bankrupt in January 1960.
- Hagiya Takeshi (萩谷剛). "Zunō kamera tanjō: Maboroshi no 35mm ichigan-refu" (ズノーカメラ誕生：幻の35mm一眼レフ, The birth of the Zunow camera: A phantom 35mm SLR). Chapter 1 of Zunō kamera tanjō: Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari (ズノーカメラ誕生：戦後国産カメラ10物語, The birth of the Zunow camera: Ten stories of postwar Japanese camera makers). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1999. ISBN 4-257-12023-1. Originally published in 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.6, September 1985. No ISBN number. Meiki no himitsu (名機の秘密, secrets of famous cameras)..
- Hattori Yutaka (服部豊). "Kokusan raika maunto renzu 2: Zunō hen" (国産ライカマウントレンズ2・ズノー編, Japanese Leica mount lenses 2: Zunow). 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.30, September 1994. No ISBN number. Pentakkusu no subete (ペンタックスのすべて, special issue on Pentax) and Kurashikku kamera no tsukaikata (クラシックカメラの使い方, use of classic cameras). Pp.154–5.
- 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).
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