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Hello David,

I'm a camera collector and recently came across one of these small cameras. I've been told it is a Japanese No Darkroom box camera.  From what I do know there were a number of different models of these types of cameras. One question I have though, is why there is no viewfinders with this one. I've seen others with no viewfinders so I know it's not the only one. So I'm curious how they knew what they were taking. Also any other info you can give me would be great.

Thanks Derek


Hi Derek.

What you have is generically referred to as a Yen camera. They were very common and popular in Japan during the 1930's, and then again for a short time after World War II. The camera came with a developing kit, and it used single sheets of special film in stiff paper holders. After exposure, the film could be developed in daylight by dipping the entire holder into a red solution, and then the negative was fixed by dipping the entire thing into a green solution, followed by a good long dunk in water to remove as much of the chemicals as possible. The process was simply identified by the descriptive title "No Need Darkroom". This was NOT rocket science! The camera kits were easy to use and very inexpensive, but also cheap and obviously not terribly well constructed, and the image results were mediocre at best. Why no viewfinder? Why bother?! Just point the darn thing! If you were worried about what the image might actually cover, you could preview on the ground glass first. The "Camera" version you have is by far the most common, but the box form came in dozens of other names, and there was a fairly remarkable less common folding bellows version as well. In today's collectible camera market, the most basic box forms with the more common names tend to sell for around $20-$25, the more exotic names will go as high as $40, the folding bellows versions range around $50-$60, and complete outfits, whether box or folding models, can run $75 to $100. They remain most common in Japan, but soldiers brought home many to the USA after the war, so we see our share on this side of the ocean.

Best wishes,

David F. Silver -- President
International Photographic Historical Organization  

Collectibles-General (Antiques)

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David Silver


I'm an expert on all types of antique and classic CAMERAS, vintage PHOTOGRAPHS, and the HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY. Everything from ancient box cameras to modern single-lens-reflex; from simple Kodaks to sophisticated Leica and Nikon; from glass plates and roll film to movie and 35mm; from daguerreotypes and tintypes to the black & white images by the 20th century masters. I can identify and appraise, explain techniques and processes, offer insights on restoration and preservation, and provide guidelines for buying and selling.


I've been a professional photographer and a student of the history of photography for over 30 years. During that time my collection of vintage cameras and photographic paraphernalia has grown beyond 2000 significant pieces. I've published nearly 70 articles in the field, including 16 in the popular "Buying Classic Cameras" series for PHOTO SHOPPER MAGAZINE from 1995 to 1997, I'm currently a contributing editor for CAMERA SHOPPER MAGAZINE and McKEOWN'S PRICE GUIDE TO ANTIQUE AND CLASSIC CAMERAS, and I've written numerous entries for WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA. Portions of my collection have been displayed in museums and special exhibits in the past two decades, and many of the items were photographed as illustrations for books. In 1985 I founded the International Photographic Historical Organization (InPHO), which eventually evolved into its intended purpose as the best first resource for information on the history of photography. I'm also a founding member of several e-mail forums dedicated to specialized areas of photography, and I'm the moderator of the Internet Directory of Camera Collectors (IDCC), which remains the largest and most successful such group in the world. For more information about the International Photographic Historical Organization and its many services, please visit its web pages at:

BA and MA in anthropology

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