Category Archives: History

The ROC … umm, Rochester Optical Folding Premier

I am going to deviate from my pattern of introducing a camera and then posting the servicing information … the next camera that I am going to talk about does not have any documented servicing as I have decided not to. The reason … it is a big restoration and requires a lot of thought since the camera is really more a collector’s item than a working camera.

So here is the schpeel …

Before Eastman Kodak (yes, photography did exist before roll film was invented), there was the Rochester Optical Company … hmm, now that I have have re-read this sentence I realize that many of todays generation of photographers may not know who/what Kodak is.

In 1880, William H. Walker opened a photographic camera manufacturing company in … Rochester NY. Now there is some interesting historical significance with this man, he made the a very easy to use dry-plate camera for the average person to use (it even included it’s own tripod). This was also the first camera with interchangeable parts (makes production of cameras easier)

In 1883, a Mr. Carlton bought the company and used the name of Rochester Optical Company (Mr. Walker went on to join Eastman Kodak and co-created roll film technology and a roll film holder for plate cameras).

There appears to have been some odd history with ROC during this period … sibling rivalry, multiple companies amalgamating, and market share loss to Kodak … eventually leading to a takeover (well it was probably just a purchase of an almost bankrupt company) by Eastman Kodak in 1903. Rochester Optical Company (R.O.C.) was one of the most dominant camera companies in North America prior to Kodak appearing on the market. A large number of cameras were produced, with the Premo being their most known name brand.

There is one camera that I will talk about … and that is the Folding Premier camera.


First made in 1892, it’s a box style self-casing camera. This is a version of the Premier camera but with a fold out front bed. Four versions were made up to 1895.

The model I have may be the first version based on the descriptions that I could find. It used 5×7 dry plates (was available in a 4×5 version), but also could support celluloid plates (cut film) and even a roll film holder was available.

It has the unique mechanism in the lensboard that spring loaded the shutter release … you wind a spring and it could fire the shutter six times and it was also had interchangeable lens as the shutter was not in the lens. In 1893 they changed the camera shutter so the rapid fire shutter is no longer available.

This ROC was “rescued” from a collection of cameras being sold off. Silvano (of Silvano Colour Lab, closed in 2009) was in the photography business since 1955, and he collected many cameras over that time. When the business finally closed they family sold off everything (including lab equipment). I had a personal connection with this lab (people that worked there, including the owners) so I went to the liquidation sale. Sadly I missed out on a couple of great Alpa reflex cameras as I casually decided to go there later in the day (I was expecting the prime cameras to be taken within minutes of the sale as they posted the cameras for sale days before they opened the liquidation) … when I got there it was mostly the “unwanted” that was left.

One of these unwanted cameras was a big “dirty” brown box sitting on the counter with a bunch of Kodak folders. I figured this was the ROC  they advertised, but I thought that it would have been bought by now. Having purchased the little items that I wanted to get, we (my wife and I) decided that the ROC had to go to a good home and not swallowed up by one of the “Lomo” scavengers that were picking up anything that looked really “vintage” … some of them were even trying to bargain the price down on $15.00 Kodak folders … lucky for us that Lomo photographers aren’t heavy into large format.


Ok, back to the camera … the Folding Premier was in poor shape, and I guessed that Silvano tried to restore it at one time but probably got distracted by other projects. The black leather covering has been affected by red rot so it is flaking off in many places, piece of wood on the front/top is broken off, the leather handle is missing, wood cover is also separating, and the ground screen is missing (a large ground glass sheet was in the back of the camera, probably to eventually be shaped down to size).


The shutter is in perfect working condition. The spring still can fire six times (I think because the extended 4×5 model held 6 plate holders in the back, though that model never had this shutter).

The knob on the front loads up the spring, and the shutter release is the button on top.

It has the standard R.O. Co. single view #2 – 10” lens with rotating diaphragm (that moves freely), and the glass is almost perfect.

Unlike the leather body covering, the bellows look in good shape, and it came with two original wood plate holders.SONY DSC

So … what to do with it ? It is a very scarce camera, and 128 years old.

I was thinking of just keeping it in its present form, it’s magic is its age … though I keep thinking of stablizing the leather with Klucel G.

Konishiroku … numero uno.

Konica … it still exists today, better known as a copier company merged with the iconic company named Minolta … but both companies have old origins … most people do not realize that Konica is one of the oldest camera companies ever! The History of Konica Minolta

Konica originated in 1873 by Rokuemon Suguira, and his son Rokusaburo. Rokuemon was a pharmacist with a drugstore in Tokyo, and Rokusaburo initiated the start of  the store into selling imported photographic materials. His is considered the very first camera company in Japan.

They opened a second shop and company name became Konishi Honten in 1878.

1882 they started producing photographic supplies and subcontracted camera manufacturing … note, in 1888 the Eastman Kodak Co. was founded in USA.

1902 founded manufacturing branch Rokuoh-sha.

1903 first photosensitive paper manufacturer in Japan

1903 Cherry Portable Camera, a simple box camera becomes Japans first brand name camera.

1907 Sakura Reflex Pano, the first Japanese SLR.

The company name changed to G.K. Konishiroku Honten in 1921.

1923 opened the first professional school of photography in Japan.

1925 Pearlette medium format folder, becomes the Japans first mass produced camera.

1929 started producing Sakura brand B&W film.

1931 first commercially available lens in Japan … Hexar, based on Carl Zeiss Tessar design. which later on became the Hexanon in 1959.

1936 another name change to K.K. Konishiroku

1940 first Japanese colour film

1943 … yes another name change … Konishiroku Shashin Kōgyō K.K.

1948 they make The Konica, which is their first 135mm format rangefinder camera.

1960 Konica F, worlds first SLR to hit 1/2000s shutter speed by creating the worlds first metal bladed shutter … it was also the first SLR to have a built in light meter.

1965 Autoreflex, first focal plane shutter 35mm SLR to feature an auto exposure system.

1968 Autoreflex T, first with auto exposure and TTL metering.

1972 … company became K.K. Yamanashi Konica

1975 C35 EF, world’s first compact 35mm camera to feature a built-in flash.

1977’s C35 AF, which was the wolds first mass produced autofocus 35mm compact camera.

1978 FS-1 … worlds first 35mm SLR to have a built-in motor drive.

1983 name change K.K. Konica Denshi

1987, finally to Konica … company name to Konica Corp. in 1987

Merged with Minolta 2003 … stopped camera production in 2006


Note: last 35mm film camera they made was the awesome Konica Hexar RF … for those not familiar, it has a Leica M-mount !!

Oh, I forgot … they made an AiBorg! One of the most difficult camera’s I ever had to sell. Just look Google it and you will know why.

Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Tōsei Kōki Y.K. … also known as Tosei Optical Instruments. They started out in Tokyo Japan in the early 1950’s, and appeared to ended only four years later. Not a lot of info … anyway … they made mostly folders that did not deviate much in design, though the last camera they did make was a TLR … and they made their own shutters (TKS).

The Frank Six seems to have been their primary camera … they made many variants of it, I think they made five sixes. The Six is a medium format folding camera.

The camera I have is the model I version made in 1952 (stamped on back) … that was a dual format 6×6/4.5×6, sadly my camera is missing the internal mask.

Tosei TKS shutter … 80mm f/3.5 Seriter Anastigmat lens


… just a couple of Tourists

Everybody dreams of a Universal Camera … well that’s what Kodak said in an advertisement for their new camera, the Kodak Tourist. The Tourist line (ok, a line to two models) were the last of the folders that they produced. The first model was in production between 1948 – 51.


In my opinion, they were big and ugly … but many Kodak cameras were no designed to be awesomely attractive … after all, they are primarily a film company. Both were designed with an aluminum body, a plastic top cover, and covered on the outside with Kodadur leather (yeah, they had their own special brand of synthetic leatherette).

Both were medium format folders that used 620 film and produced eight 6×9 exposures. FYI, 620 is the same stock size as 120 except that it wound on  a thinner spool. Different variations different shutter and lens combinations … Kodon+Kodet, Diomatic+Anaston, Synchro-Rapid+Anastar. The ones I happen to have came with the Kodon shutter that had a three settings, I, B, and T.  the I was about 1/60s. The aperture ranged from f/12.5 to 32. The Kodet lens is a fixed focus single element 86mm focal length.

The models that I have received came with a fixed focus single element Kodet 86mm f/12.5 lens in Flash Kodon shutter app. 1/50 sec plus bulb and time


The “universal” thing about the camera was the adapter kit … “4 picture sizes with 1 camera”. It allowed the camera to shoot in different formats and even use different film … Bantam 828 film, half 620, square 620, full 620.

As you can notice in the image (that one to the left), the film back can be removed because it is double hinged.

The second model, which happens to be called the Tourist II had some slight modifications … made between 1951 – 58, and was the last of the Kodak folders.

The Nikon FM2 … the speed demon.

1977 … Nikon makes a mechanical version of the FE called the FM. I think they did this to appease all those old foggie shooters pining for a lighter version of their F2’s. It had the similar body design as the FE so it was small/compact.

This post is about the successor … the Nikon FM2. The FM2 has quite the following and it deserves it. It is a very well made camera that carries on Nikon’s F legacy.

The FM2 had upgraded to a super duper dual silicon photo-diodes, and the super-super duper vertically traveling titanium shutter that could achieve 1/4000s!!!! Wow (I think Copal made the shutter for Nikon). The early FM2’s has a honeycomb pattern on the blades … sometime in 1989 they got rid of that and replaced it with unpatterned aluminum alloy blades that were on the FE2.

The original 1982 FM2 is not easily found as it only lasted a year before being slightly changed in 1983. The updated version is still labeled as FM2, though like the Canon F-1 it is considered the FM2n (the serial number starts with N) … the visual difference is the increase in flash sync from X200 to X250 on the shutter speed knob.

The FM2 has been a favorite among Nikon shooters for may years due to it ruggist-ness- nesss. Many are still working perfectly to this day, even after being discontinued in 2001.

Unless you put your thumb through the shutter …