Introduction & contents

This section contains a growing list of "Hit" style 17.5mm Subminiature cameras and their accessories. There are over 450 difference Hit cameras all to a similar basic design using 17.5mm roll film (451 variations are detailed here and only 45 without an accompanying photograph).

Each camera is listed on a separate page including variations, photographs and details of manufacture date, purchase date and an estimate of the current cost of purchase (new or second-hand),  and links to hand books, instructions and leaflets that have been published about them. Dimensions and weight are taken from the sample and measurements are to the extreme of any protruding clips or knobs - a flatten clip could change the measurement by 1-2mm. The mass is taken of the camera as shown, with any film spools and clips in place and is accurate 1g.

Last five shown in the photograph above are Rubix/Rubina that are 16mm cartridge loading but also take 17.5mm roll film.

17.5mm or "Hit" Style Cameras

During the 1930s a 17.5mm format was used for showing movie films in rural areas that lacked their own  cinemas. The format is known as Pathe Rural. News footage was also shot on this format. The film is standard 35mm but simply split down the middle.

For similar economic reasons still cameras where made to use this film format.

The best known of the cameras using the 17.5mm format are those with "HIT" on the name plate and so has been used as collective noun for cameras of this type even when manufactured by different companies. The definition of a HIT camera (based upon the definition in "Spy Camera" Michael Pritchard and Douglas St. Denny and McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras) is generally a camera that:

  • takes 17.5mm paper-backed roll film,
  • producing 14x14mm negatives,
  • has a body made of stamped metal and plastic,
  • has a simple, direct vision or optical viewfinder,
  • a body style similar to the original HIT in a horizontal aspect,
  • the lens must be permanently fixed to the body,
  • has a single shutter speed,
  • has a fixed-focus lens,
  • has a fixed aperture.

Many of the variations have two shutter speeds and some of the better constructed have also variable aperture. A few have a waist level view finder in addition to the direct viewfinder. The "HIT" style is a miniature Leica camera and some emulated the Leica 1F with a cylinder for a view finder, but most follow the lines of the Leica IIIf.

Other camera styles where also miniaturized and the Rolleiflex vertical styling can be seen in the Gemflex and Baby flex cameras that use the same Hit film.

The odd ones out are the Top, Lovely and Robin cameras that resembles the later Minolta 16mm and 110 cameras.

Some of the variations of the "HIT" style were made by Tougodo Optical, a company established by Masanori Nagatsuka in 1930 and named after Admiral Tougo of the Japanese Navy. However, even those made by other manufacturers have very similar parts and kept the same basic styling.

The obvious variations include the colour of the body and leatherette, which side of the top plate holds the winding knob and the number of lines cut into it. Serious collectors look for subtle variations in the name plate surround the lens, the shape of the viewfinder window and the surround or fitting of the lens, the texture of the leatherette finish and engravings such as "MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN". For a more detailed description of the variations see Classification.

HIT style cameras, under many names, became popular in Japan just after the end of World War II. Cameras, film and processing were exorbitantly expensive in Japan at that time and HIT style cameras recycled materials in their construction. They are very simple mechanically and easily manufactured by small workshops. Hit film was typically sold in packs of 6 reducing distribution and production costs. They where sold as toys and novelty items in Bubble Gum vending machines in the United States.

In 1937 the Misuzu Trading Co produced a small all-metal camera similar to the Le Photolet/Ulca with a folding frame finder, fixed focus doublet lens, f6.8, 22mm, the usual two setting shutter, I and B and a single winding lever on the left of the viewfinder. It was called the Midget Jilona I. In 1938 the Sanwa Trading Co. introduced a similar camera with more features. This was the Mycro I and has a fixed focus doublet lens with an aperture of f4.5, which stopped to f11, the shutter had three speeds of B, 1/25 and 1/100s.

In 1949 a number of novelty designs where made in relatively small numbers and hence are now scarce. Possibly the rarest of them all is the Jenic, styled to resemble a tiny motion picture camera. If featured an f2.8 35mm lens.

Today these cameras are mainly collected, as opposed to used for their picture quality.  Whilst most  give poor results a few produce acceptable prints.  Among the better built and heavier "HIT" cameras are the Beauty, Corona, Epochs, Hope, Midget Model III, Mighty, Mycro IIIA, Myracle, Rocket, Tacker, Tone, Vesta and Vestkam.

A style shift and satin chrome plating gives the Epochs and Vestkam, both  from Taiyoda Koki, a sense of of quality. The Epoch has a faster f3.5 20mm Talent lens and the Vestkam a f4.5 25mm lens.  The Beauty 14 also has a right angle viewfinder, which allowed aiming the camera while looking sideways through the right end, a true deceptive angle finder.

The Tone is at the pinnacle of "HIT" style cameras. It has a 25mm Ansastigmat f3.5 lens with apertures of f3.5, f4.5, f6.3, f8 and f11. Shutter speeds of B, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 second, and variable focus from 2 feet to infinity. It has a dual viewfinder; direct line and a waist level finder. The red window to show the current frame number also has a sliding door and the sliding bar release is also different.

Also rare is the Swallow, not to be confused with the cheap HIT type of the same name. This looked similar to the Tone but with only the waist-level finder.

The Snappy is well made with an all metal body. It was introduced by Konishiroku Kogaku, one of Japan's oldest camera traders, now known as Konica. The Snappy looks like a miniature Exacta and came in an elegant box shaped to fit it unusual contours and included a leather case. Equipped with an Optar f3.5, 25mm lens, behind the lens Guillotine shutter with marked speeds of B, 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 s. A special Cherry Tel lens f5.6, 40 mm was available. Because the camera is definitively better than the usual 17.5mm models the results are more than passable - enlargements to  11.5x11.5cm could definitely be made from the 14x14mm negatives. There is also a Snapy (with one "p") and a Snoopy series of cameras.

The Corona made by KSK of Japan is "gold" plated with red leatherette and has an Ansastigmat 20mm lens with aperture control of f4.5 to f11 and shutter speeds of 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 second putting it into the top of the hit list along side the Tacker by TSC and the Hope by Sugaya Optical Co Ltd which have similar lens and shutter.

The Midget Jilona from the Misuzu Trading Company are better built than most HIT style cameras. The model III includes an f4.5 lens with variable shutter speed and aperture and a shutter release button on the top plate.,

The Toyoca 16, Saica, (Kiku and Gem) and Halmat are slightly larger than the "Hit" and include the shutter speed adjustment on the body of the camera and the lens can be unscrewed.

Many cameras have a f4.5 20mm Anastigmat lens with no aperture control and a single shutter speed.  Cameras like the New Rocket from Rocket Camera Company Ltd and the original Mycro camera from Sanwa, the Kolt from Okada Optical Works and the Vesta by GRC fit into this category.

The Mighty from Toko Photographic Works has an additional waist level reflex finder and add-on x2 telephoto lens.

To further complicate matters 17.5mm cameras and the film format are sometimes termed Mycro (or Micro), after one of the earliest models.  

"HIT" style cameras are still being manufactured today in Hong Kong and other locations.  
1960s Gumball vending machine display card (left) with a Mini Camera, ring set, detective special metal cap gun keychain, clamshell, hippie peace sign necklace, slot machine charm, pair of dice, tire compass keychain, soccer pinball game, fake peal necklace, bracelet, metal flintlock cap pistol keychain, bubba teeth.
This resembles the Hit Type and is marked Made in Occupied Japan. Is actually a rubber squirt camera.

Detailed and accurate Information about any particular camera is virtually impossible to find. This is not helped by  incorrect spelling in publications and several camera with different features and styles being sold under the same name. Often the the only information available is a photograph of the camera.

This section also includes other cameras that use the 17.5mm film format but differ from the basic definition of a HIT camera.  "HIT" style cameras that used 16mm film, such as  Whittaker Pixie, Mykro Fine and  Rubix for 16mm are listed under the 16mm camera section.  Seen below are the take up spool from Mycro (starting with the frame), Petie/Tuxi, Homer 16 and Coronet Midget. The Petie and Coronet Midget are 16mm format cameras.

If you would like a desktop wall paper of HIT cameras open up one at 1920x1200, 1200x768 different cameras using 17.5mm film.

Set at 1280x1024 one, two, three, four, five, six, seven

The Collection

See side panel.

Prices

The auction price and value given with each camera have been largely taken from Ebay. Under Forsale the prices quoted are a rough guide to a 'book' price for a camera in good condition, but not complete with original packaging. The results on Ebay vary wildly and a dozen collectors account for over 80% of all bids, thus artificially raising the price. This is particularly confirmed when a collector is seen to pay $200 at the beginning of the month and sells it for $50 at the end of the same month.

The wild card values show up clearly when the same model and variation appear on auction before and after and sell at much lower values. Such wild bidding is due to impatience and a desire to complete a collection quickly. This does not account for aggressive bidding seen on apparently several identical models following a successful winning bid.  It is irrational to take the highest value bids as the indicator for the next sale. Take these high bids as a forewarning of the extent some may go to get a similar variation. Apparent scarcity is often due to the fact that the camera where purchased for a couple of dollars in the 1950s and 60s and are considered of next to no value by the current owners.

The auction observation of the Cluster effect should be noted; where a camera is not seen for many months and then several, 2 or 3 turn up in the space of a few days or weeks. The first or second of such a cluster getting very much higher interest from collectors. Some sellers have a 'horde' of identical, particularly Arrow style, cameras which are then offered to all the bidders from $82 down to $15 and appear again a month later and get no interest from collectors or any of the previous bidders.

Collectors have also to watch out for mis-matched name plates and engravings on the top of the camera. The obvious interpretations is that someone has swapped over parts in the past. The combinations of body types to name plates is large and if these are swapped over two new and fake variations are created.

The leatherette is paper and as such prone to wear. Some cameras have been sold as colour variations when clearly the leatherette has been replaced, even leaving the origin showing under the lens surround plate and the frame counter plate. Boxes have also been "boot polished" over to hide the original details. Even if the effect is good it is not original and may have been done simply to turn a $30 camera into one that might fetch $100.

Although the internet and in particular Ebay has enabled collectors around the world to buy more easily the number of active collectors appears to be diminishing. Prices vary from country to country with a few cameras being cheaper in France, Germany or England than in the USA.

 

Go to the main index Last Updated on 25th January 2008