This History Behind This WW2 Machine Gun Camera Is Fascinating

For $6,100, you can have this Machine Gun Camera, which is a piece of history.

Our Declassified series has uncovered some fascinating stories about photography and the military. But, the story behind this machine gun camera is unlike anything that we’ve seen. We’ve known about cameras mounted to planes for reconnaissance, however, we didn’t realize that kill confirmations were captured like this. Indeed, that’s what the Konishoruko Rokuoh-Sha Type 89 camera was designed for. When mounted onto a machine gun, it captured footage as it all happened. This is done in some ways today too, but back during World War it was pretty challenging to accomplish. So, how they did it and preserved the film is incredibly smart.

There’s an incredibly fascinating history about Konishoruko. For starters, they’re the predecessor of the company, Konica and can trace their history back to the 1870s. Konica later merged with Minolta. Minolta was later bought by Sony. Sony is now one of the largest camera manufacturers in the world. You could say that the Konishoruko Rokuoh-Sha Type 89 camera is a major predecessor to the Sony cameras of today, but that’s a bit farfetched.

The camera is rare these days, and collectors seek them out. This particular one has a higher price for good reason. Here’s the description from the seller, apod-aaro:

“**Price will continue to go up weekly. No need to negotiate on price as you won’t find another one anywhere at the moment** RARE WW2 JAPANESE MACHINE GUN CAMERA- Konishoruko Rokuoh-Sha Type 89 camera. Condition is Used. Shipped with USPS Priority Mail. Includes original box with original labels and postage, includes original instruction manual, includes 8 film canisters (7 have film in them), pictured accessories, AND INCLUDES PICTURED DOCUMENTATION OF MILITARY APPROVAL TO SHIP HOME. These rarely come up and I have never seen one with all of the cool historic extras like this. The Konishoruko Rokuoh-Sha Type 89 camera was used for military training exercises. Before the age of tiny digital cameras broadcasting live feeds, air forces around the world mounted large film cameras onto fighter planes for both actual battles and training. The battle cameras were used to confirm kills for pilots, while training gun cameras were used to evaluate how accurate fighter pilots were without having to use live rounds.”

The Konishoruko Rokuoh-Sha Type 89 camera has a 75mm Hexar lens. Overall, the Konishoruko Rokuoh-Sha Type 89 camera is mounted in a 29-inch housing. It only documents when the trigger is pulled. Photos and videos are shot at 18x24mm on 35mm cinefilm loaded in 2.5m strips. The footage was used to train pilots before they entered actual combat. But it saw use in real battle too. That’s how pilots confirmed their kills. Historically speaking, it’s super fascinating, though not uncommon. The Japanese really used these in the earlier part of the Second World War. Later, Japan adopted the Kamikaze style of suicide bombing, and I’d be shocked if any footage from Kamikaze planes survived.

The 75mm Hexar lens is probably the one in this YouTube Video. It spotlights a Konishiroku Durax Hexar 75mm f4.5 lens on a folding camera. That means that the imaging circle is much larger than 35mm, let alone cinefilm. When put on the camera, it probably was set to infinity focusing. Combine that with the crop factor, and it was probably perfect.

Like Leica cameras, the prices of this Machine Gun Camera vary: it depends on the condition and what accessories you get with it. DPReview reported on one a while back. They claim that the camera is highly prized by collectors. But the machine gun camera we’re linking to comes with the box, papers, film canisters, and more. Maybe that’s why it costs $6,100. VideoMaker cites another one that runs at $4,499. Further internet digging showed us another one at IMA-USA. That one costs less than $2,000, but don’t include all the additional relics.

All images taken from the original listing on eBay.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.