This Cool Looking Pistol Is Actually a Working Vintage Camera

The Doryu 2-16 Flash Camera Pistol Subminiature Camera is an incredibly curious piece of vintage photo history.

For our vintage series, I do a lot of hunting for particular cameras. And when I saw this Doryu 2-16, I gasped. One could say that this is the perfect clickbait. Others might find it genuinely fascinating. Both guns and cameras can shoot. Some folks have an affinity for both–like photographer Dewey Keithly whom with we’ve previously spoken. The camera can be a far more dangerous weapon. But more than likely, it’s taking pictures of whatever tantalizes us. This Doryu 2-16 listing on eBay is one of the rarer types of fusions.

About the Doryu 2-16

According to the eBay listing, this Doryu 2-16 loads flash pellets into the magazine like bullets. For most of you to understand that, you need to go back into history. Photographers only got flash done by using flash powder. At its base, it’s essentially a variation of gun powder. Some photographers will use it today just for fun. But it’s incredibly difficult as you have to get just the right amount of powder. Then you need to set it off at just the right time. When you’re done taking the photo, you need to add more powder. This eventually evolved into using Flash Tubes. Said tubes were literal light bulbs containing the flash powder. When you were done, you just threw them away. The Kodak Instamatic helped make flash tubes popular. Eventually, we progressed to the modern flash system. But this Doryu 2-16 is from a time when we needed to use flash pellets/tubes.

Back in 2017, we featured another variant of this camera. And we wrote:

In the early 1950s, the Japanese police looked into the development of pistol-shaped cameras with the goal of obtaining photographic evidence of crime in action. It was especially conceptualized with bloody demonstrations in mind, following the clash between police and Tokyo protesters in the “bloody May Day incident” of 1952.

Doryu began research work for the project in 1949, and completed a prototype called Doryu 1 in 1952. It was designed to take 9.5mm film but did not progress to production due to durability and film availability problems. In the same year, the company continued to work on the prototype to create a model that took the more common 16mm film.

Shaped like an automatic pistol complete with a handgrip and trigger, it actually works like a real gun. The hand grip takes a magazine like a real pistol, and can be loaded with six magnesium cartridges. Each cartridge contains 0.8 gram of magnesium powder, and ignited by a paper strip with gunpowder. Pulling the trigger trips the shutter and fires the magnesium cartridge through an opening at the top, lighting up the scene for up to 15 meters outdoors and 20 meters indoors.

Meanwhile, the camera at front had a standard f2.7 lens, with a left-hand side plate that can be removed for loading film. Behind the lens mount is the shutter, which has speeds of B, 25, 50, and 100. Interestingly, the lens is interchangeable and can take C-mount cine lenses.”

For this particular listing in question, the camera is in great shape. They also state it’s in perfect working condition. I highly doubt you’ll be able to find flash bullets. However, it uses special cartridges of 16mm film. I’m positive that those can be found and loaded up with rolls of film sold by Lomography. Of course, all that will be yours once you cough up nearly $14,000.

Photos for the Doryu 2-16 are taken from the listing by breguetcamera.

Chris Gampat

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