CAMERAS > Konishiroku (Konica)
Konica was the oldest Japanese photographic company until it stopped camera manufacturing in 2006.
The company originated as a drugstore called Konishi-ya Rokubei Ten (小西屋六兵衞店), operated by Sugiura Rokuemon V (5代杉浦六衞門). His son Sugiura Rokusaburō (杉浦六三郎) entered the company and expanded its activities by selling photographic products beginning in 1873. Sugiura Rokusaburō took the name of Sugiura Rokuemon VI (6代杉浦六衞門) in 1879, and the company was subsequently renamed Honten Konishi Rokuemon (本店小西六右衞門), abridged as Konishi Honten (小西本店). Early cameras were produced by artisan subcontractors, such as Hasegawa Toshinosuke (長谷川利之助) and Tōjō Kamejirō (東条亀次郎).
The company founded a manufacturing branch called Rokuoh-sha (六桜社) in 1902, and released the Cherry in 1903, the first Japanese camera to have a brand name. The factory of Hasegawa Toshinosuke became the wood workshop of Rokuoh-sha in 1906. Most of the camera production was still assumed by other subcontractors, many of which were merged into Rokuoh-sha in 1919.
The company became G.K. Konishiroku Honten (合資会社小西六本店) in 1921. The character roku (六) is a double allusion to Sugiura Rokuemon VI: it means "six" and is the first character of Rokuemon. The logo of the company shows this character inside a cherry blossom. Konishiroku founded the Konishi College of Photography (小西写真専門学校) in Tokyo in 1923. It introduced the Pearlette in 1925, which would be the first mass-produced Japanese camera, under the supervision of Yamada Kōgorō (山田幸五郎). In 1929, it launched the Sakura rollfilm, the second rollfilm brand in Japan. In 1931, it released the first Japanese camera lens commercially available, called Hexar; this name was again formed after the number "six".
The company changed status again in 1936 and became K.K. Konishiroku (㈱小西六). The cameras and lenses were still marked as made by the manufacturing branch Rokuoh-sha. In April 1943, the retail and wholesale activities were stopped and the company was reorganized as Konishiroku Shashin Kōgyō K.K. (小西六写真工業㈱), based in Yodobashi, Tokyo; the name Rokuoh-sha was abandoned around that time. The company name was translated after the war as Konishiroku Photo Industry Co., Ltd.
The name Konica was originally that of a 35mm rangefinder model presented in 1947. Similarly to "Leica", "Yashica" and many others, the name "Konica" was constructed by abbreviating the name of the manufacturer and attaching "ca" (for "camera") as a suffix.
In August 1960, Konishiroku bought all the shares of Taisei Kōki, a minor camera maker in Itabashi, Tokyo. This moved to Tsuru - in the prefecture of Yamanashi - in 1968, and became K.K. Yamanashi Konica (㈱山梨コニカ) in 1972; then K.K. Konica Denshi (㈱コニカ電子, Konica Electronics) in 1983, and is today Konica Minolta Electronics Co., Ltd.
The company as a whole changed its name to Konica Corporation only in 1987, although its US branch did so earlier (in 1984). Konica merged with Minolta in 2003 and became Konica Minolta, which would stop the production of cameras in 2006.