"Made in Japan"-- what's the story?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by dave_s, Apr 11, 2006.

  1. OK, Classic Camera geeks. While they're squabbling over 20th century
    politics on the adjacent Zeiss thread, I have a question I've been
    meaning to ask for a while.

    First, a preamble: when I was a small kid in the late 1950s/early
    1960s, "made in Japan" was, of course, synonymous with 'crap'. So
    the question is: if it was really crap, why are those Eisenhower-era
    Mamiya Cs, Canon Ps, and Nikon Ss still chuggin' along?

    Could it be that Japanese post-war precision technology was really
    pretty damn good, but that we said it was crap to protect our home
    industries? Or was there really a lot of Japanese-made crap out
    there, and a tiny amount of excellent stuff that survived 50 years to
    become classics?

    Opinions please.
     
  2. I have a Minolta 6x4.5 folder made in Japan around 1947. It is really a piece of "junk". Waited till Canon came along with the FTb before purchasing another Made in Japan camera. Took them awhile to get things "staightened out". Regards.
     
  3. Right after the war the Japanese industrial base was pretty well destroyed and the economy was in shambles. Initially the stuff they produced for export, with a few exceptions, was pretty shoddy--that's all they had the capability to produce.

    I think the camera industry was the first industry to gain international recognition. photographers covering the Korean war discovered Nikon and Canon cameras and optics. A big change came when Sony broke into the electronics market and developed a reputation for quality and innovation. Then, as the Japanese got into R&D they started producing slrs that literally took over the camera market. In the late '60s and early '70s Datsun and Toyota started bringing in well-built cars with standard features that cost extra on American cars. The speed with which the Japanese recovered from the war was pretty astounding. I think they tried harder because they were behind while American industry sort of assumed the consumer would buy anything they produced, even if it wasn't innovative.
     
  4. Much of it was myth. How could a country that constructed two of the world's largest battleships (The Yamato and Mushashi) and the Zero fighter be backward technologically? There was a lot of crap made by all countries including the USA.
     
  5. I know that, for decades following WWII, the "Made in Japan" legend was indeed
    synonymous with junk. Make no mistake, it WAS junk.

    The intent of the Western occupiers of Japan following the war was that Japan should NOT
    return, at least not quickly, to its full technological glory. We DIRECTED the industrial and
    economic reconstruction of Japan, steering it into the production of small, cheap, mass-
    produced items, which could contribute to the recovering Japanese economy without
    contributing to great advances in Japanese technology (read as military technology). So,
    for many years, Japan produced wooden matches, tin wind-up toys, handheld transistor
    radios, and myriad cheap novelties almost exclusively. This was OUR doing, and it was
    intentional.

    As it happened, though, these mass-produced items became the backbone of the
    Japanese economy, so they just continued investing in the industry, and in the process
    invented newer and better ways to operate and manage mass-production facilities. Japan
    eventually became THE MODEL for mass-production business around the world, and that's
    when "Made in Japan" became synonymous with efficiency and high quality technology.
     
  6. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    actually you have to go back a little further to find the root of the "Made in Japan is crap" Point of view. before WWII Japan made and sold a lot of cheaper quality produce especially toys and household goods. These were however bought in large quantities by us because they were cheap and just barely coming out of the Depression anything cheap meant money went further. Items like kids toys wern't important so the cheapest was bought.

    By 1947 the Japanese camera industry was putting out MANY very high quality cameras. As evidensed by those cameras still being found in good working order 50 years later.

    The Japanese camera industry had a huge help by the Occupation forces who bought almost everything they could make (where do you think the <EP> mark came from.

    Not sure of the others but the Canon P was a much later product being first marketed in March of 1959 I own a 1957 model L-1 that is twice the camera from a users point of view when compared to my 1959 Leica model IIIg and 3 times the camera as compared to my 1951 IIIf RD.

    I'm sure that the others (like Nikon with the F in 1959) were every bit as good as any camera company in the world by the late 50's

    Over priced and over foddled Leicas included.
     
  7. Could it be that Japanese post-war precision technology was really pretty damn good, but that we said it was crap to protect our home industries?
    By "we" you seem to mean people in the US. I can't pretend to know the reasons why people in the US said what they did, but I'd imagine that it's just another example of the way that cognitions (pardon the grandiose word) are simplified and popularized and thereafter last well beyond their sell-by date.
    I have a Minolta 6x4.5 folder made in Japan around 1947. It is really a piece of "junk".
    I'm sorry to hear it. I have a Fuji 6x6 folder made in Japan around 1949 that looks as if it has had a lot of use (yes, it's a "user") and yet is not at all a piece of junk.
    I know that, for decades following WWII, the "Made in Japan" legend was indeed synonymous with junk. Make no mistake, it WAS junk.
    Gosh, sorry, I must have made a mistake then. The cameras I have that were made in Japan during the decades following WWII were junk. I mean, we're told this in CAPITALS, so it must be true.
    But seriously, this "discussion" strikes me as a bit silly. What do you mean by "crap" or "junk"?
    Or was there really a lot of Japanese-made crap out there, and a tiny amount of excellent stuff that survived 50 years to become classics?
    Yes, there were a lot of Japanese-made cheap cameras. Plastic was sometimes misused, alloys were sometimes poor, and designs were sometimes flawed. The percentage of excellent stuff (by most people's definitions of excellent) was a long way under 100% but it also wasn't tiny.
     
  8. In the post ww2 1940's and 1950's "made in japan" often meant garbage or junk in some toys, flashlights, batteries, but not always. I remember these terrible "made in Japan" flashlights and batteries that were flakey, leaked alot too. Part of the problem was poor temper and metals in these cheapie items.. With cameras the Nikkors of the early 1950's are excellent, they never were junk. There were always these cheapie "HIT" type 16mm toy cameras, that had goofy pigskin cases, that broke after a few years, and many cheapie box cameras, with plastics that were brittle.
     
  9. A crap of camera example: Canon IIb 1949 MIOJ
    00G0wB-29374484.jpg
     
  10. The idea that Japanese products were of poor quality was nothing more than propaganda on the part of (mainly) American business. It was almost certainly a reaction to the high quality of much Japanese export material, especially machine tools and other high value items. These were considerably cheaper than American products because Japan was, at the time, a low wage economy. The 'Japanese junk' label was easy to apply because, as in most economies transitioning to high levels of industrialisation, there was a lot of low cost, low technology stuff made by a workforce unfamiliar with high quality production standards. This transition was complete by the 'sixties and 'Japanese' became synonymous with 'high quality' in almost all areas.
    00G0wM-29374684.jpg
     
  11. The japan weaker quality against better german quality in the '50 e '60 was an urban legend.
    Ciao.

    Vincenzo Maielli Italy
     
  12. Ditto: Most of my dad's generation, the depression era & WWII folks bought into the propaganda that made in Japan meant cheaply made. As was mentioned a lot of cheap stamped and folded together metal toys did come from Japan that may of contributed to the false sense of American-made superiority, but most of it was prejudice.

    The Japanese really had to pull themselves up from the bottom in 1946 and not every camera from the 1950's was of stellar quality. Niccas, Canon and Nikon rangefinders were exceptionally well made. Yashica and Minolta TLR's weren't as exceptionally well made as a Rolleiflex, but they were of exceptional value. I still have a 1958 Minolta Autocord and it is going strong.

    In the 60's when the second wave of 35mm SLR's came out, Japanese manufacturers were leading innovators. The rest is history.
     
  13. In the years just before Pearl Harbor the Japanese were buying lots of scrap metal from the US and I guess we assumed it wasn't coming back in much better shape. But some of their military equipment was state of the art like Emily flying boats.
     
  14. I think the Japanese simply copied the prestigious "Made in Germany" and built their own reputation by making great products instead of the expected junk -- just like it had happened in Germany at the end of the 19th century. The British required that the "Made in Germany" label had to be on all imported goods from Germany to protect their own economy from cheap and poorly constructed foreign junk ("Merchandise Marks Act", 1887). But very quickly that label became a great advertising brand that had exactly the opposite effect (what we would call today corporate identity).
     
  15. The 1947 vintage Semi Minolta 6x4.5 folder I purchased new was a poorly designed/manufactured product, period. No comparison to an Argus C3 or Kodak Retinas, period. Can't speak for any other Japanese cameras till my Canon FTb came along in the early 70's, they had it "right" by then in the camera industry.

    As far as improvements in Japanese design and manufacturing, an American named Demming was responsible, check it out. Seems they needed alot of quality control improvements, among other things. The Japanese "idolized" him!

    I'm trying to remember...... when was the last time I saw a Datsun 240Z on the road........ compared to Corvettes and Mustangs? I understand the Yamamoto never saw combat, they scuttled her at sea. Zeros were cannon fodder for P38's.

    Amazing how "Uncle Sam" takes all the "heat" now. Regards.
     
  16. Zero's High Tech? No, they were acceptable aircraft but they achieved their fame because (a) their pilots were very experinced after several years of flying over China and (b) they lacked such high tech items as armor protection for their pilots. In fact, once an intact Zero was captured during the Aleutian campaign and repaired, the allies discoverd how to beat it.

    The super battleships? Sure big and impressive but in reality they didnt sink many ships (a couple of destroyer escorts and light carriers during the Phillipines campaign) before being sunk themselves. Though they never met an Iowa class battleship, experts agree that the Iowa class would have been the victor. Also there was a third ship of that class the Shinano which was converted to an aircraft carrier and was sunk on the first night of its maiden voyage, by a single submarine and 6 torpedos.

    Here ends the lesson from the History Channel.
     
  17. The Japs actually listened to R.Demming and all the quality stuff.
    Americans didn't.... same thing that will happen in the next 5 year with hybrid cars.

    And they had access to the German optic/shutter designs they just went head on to produce those, and improve them somehow.

    I think like in everything, Canon, Minolta, Pentax, and a few others were the cream of the crop and they have survived, stil work, were made of high quality and are considered classics by many nostalgic people.
     
  18. >I understand the Yamamoto never saw combat, they scuttled her at sea. Zeros were cannon fodder for P38's<

    The Yamato was sunk in the final months of the war and went down fighting (although on a totally impractical mission) The super battleships were dinosaurs when they were built but who knew at the time? The Zero fighter was the best plane in the air at the beginning of the war. They claimed more than their share of Allied planes--including the P-38 in the early going. It was only after U.S. industry really kicked in and pilot training and tactics improved that our fliers could match up with the Zero. Junk? I think not.

    I think a lot of the "crap" idea was based on the cheap, tinplate toys that were imported before and after the war.
     
  19. The 1947 vintage Semi Minolta 6x4.5 folder I purchased new was a poorly designed/manufactured product, period. No comparison to an Argus C3 or Kodak Retinas, period. Can't speak for any other Japanese cameras till my Canon FTb came along in the early 70's, they had it "right" by then in the camera industry.
    Ah, but even without personal experience of any of them, you may have noticed that the Nikon and Canon rangefinder cameras of the fifties were used with at least moderate success and without excessively loud howls of complaint by David Duncan and other western photographers.
    I think what may have helped to put a question mark over Japanese cameras were the ambitions of some of them. My impression is that a number of manufacturers put out medium-format SLRs, for example, before they'd ironed out the snags. (Most of these brands are now forgotten.)
    Here in Tokyo, working examples of prewar Minolta TLR and Mamiya RF folders aren't that hard to find. I don't want to belittle the contribution of W E Deming [one "m"] when I point out that their manufacture predated his arrival (c. 1950, I think) in Japan.
     
  20. Peter, I'm not sure that Deming's ideas ever percolated down to the tiny Japanese manufacturers of TLRs and such. But by the time my father went to Japan in 1953 to teach Mitsubishi Electric Westinghouse Electric trade secrets -- all correct, WECo sent him -- Mitsubishi Electric was full of enthusiastic disciples of Deming.

    I suspect that Nikon was also full of 'em. The transition from rangefinder to SLR was very difficult, most camera manufacturers took several tries to come up with a reasonably satisfactory SLR. Nikon is the big exception; the F system seems to me the best thought-out of them all. Unlike all of the others, it was, um, preadapted for TTL metering. Canon, at the other extreme, thrashed and flailed and had horrible problems before they got things right. Leica, alas, had an even harder time making the transition.

    Dave, as has been mentioned, in the '50s Japan was a major source of inexpensive and poorly-made toys. In the '60s, they sent us inexpensive and poorly-made transistor radios. And in the early '70s they sent us inexpensive cars that weren't well-suited to US conditions. But at the same time some Japanese companies' products were as good as, sometimes better than, anything else in the world. As usual, broad generalizations aren't quite true.

    Cheers,
     
  21. The idea that Japanese products were of poor quality was nothing more than propaganda on the part of (mainly) American business.

    What total horse dung BS


    Here I remember holding several "Made in Japan" flashlights while changing a tire at night in Indiana in the 1950's, and both died during the ordeal, then we would use a robust decades old Made in USA rayovac flashlight in the car to finish the job. The socket sets then that were made in Japan would shatter, like the heat treating was too harse. We used a "Made in Japan" rachet during that Indiana tire change, the detent,pawl got goofed up during the late night ordeal. We used the stock made in USA wrench to finish the job. To say there was never any crap "Made in Japan" stuff made is an totally BS retarted statement, maybe a feel good lets candy coat the past BS sins of making crap products that broke and pissed folks off. There are some "Made in Japan" stuff that was total crap, it crapped out, broke, died, sheared off during normal usage, and folks would utter. "that god damn "Made in Japan" crap garbage" etc. Today most all stuff "Made in Japan" is decent, that doesnt mean it was always that way.

    In the 1950's "Made in Japan" Christmas lights were way cheaper than GE's or Westinghouse bulbs, but then the paint was often chipped, or a percentage of the bulbs didnt work. With a series string of bulbs only a mad man would buy a "Made in Japan" set then.

    When Fuji started to sell E4 slide film in the USA decades ago, they used NON crimped snap cap cassettes, that would come apart if dropped, when mailed off for processing, even sometimes just in a camera bag, sometimes in the canvas lab send away bags too. If one sent off Fuji E4 film for processing, one had to always use a film can, and make sure the local labs didnt remove them if you used a local lab that farms out work. Sometimes the E4 Fuji crimps were really weak, like they were learning or having stamping problems.

    Long ago with Fuji in 620 rolls, they got the same "620 weakened roll crimp flange problem" as Kodak briefly did, the film flange of the 620 rolls would fall off, and expose the entire edge of a roll.

    In japanese low cost telescopes alot of the early post ww2 refractors were way worst than todays walmart made in china stuff. The ones I had stripped out the focusing rack, the rack was a cheap die casting riddled with porosity, just begging to break. Then to get parts would require months, and often the item one got was wrong.

    The Japansese refractor I had in the 1950's had to have its mount retro fitted becuase the casting broke, again due to massive porosity,and non uniform wall thicknesses that set up stress risers in the casting.

    We had a low cost japansese microscope in the 1950's that the rack too was a die casting, abit stronger than butter, it broke after a few months.

    The made in usa Testrite enlarger we got in the early 1960's had a "Made in Japan" lens, a Perflex that would catch and not stop down. Sears replaced the lens with another Perflex, and it never failed.

    My dad had this cute "Made in Japan" tripod in the 1950's that was a mess of collapsable sections, a real SOB to collapse, and about steady as Jello. We had to file down the 1/4-20 nut to make it work on the old Retina IIIc, so the screw wouldnt bottom out. The screw was WAY tool tall, giving it a "Made in Japan" is not the greatest stuff award.

    The cool Print tri-lite strobes I used in the 1960's were "Made in Japan", they worked well, but the 90 degree tilt detent would loosen up after just a dozen or two tilts. One constantly would be popping off the ASA computer dial, and tighting the way too small metric screws and expoxing the heads. The screws were too undersized, and were stretching, yielding due to poor material of the screws. We futzed around and replaced them with some German metric screws, which were radically better, but the pitch was a grunt different.

    In strobes, some of the early "Made in Japan" ones would not handle the current of a Nicad , and the strobe would short out an become a molten brick of plastic. At one repair shop we had a mess of failures of "Made in Japan" strobes when Nicads first tended to be used in the 1960's.

    All countrys of the world have turned out some crap, "Made in Japan" is no different. Today "Made in Japan" is a sign usually of quality, once there were some really flakey stuff made in japan, in SOME products.
     
  22. I think this has more to do with markets than technology.After WWII,
    the Japanese camera industry targeted the world wide mass market of consumer/prosumer cameras.By the time electronics figured into cameras in mid to late '60's,the Japanese owned this market(and still do).

    How many 240 Z's are still on the road?---probably not many---how many cars did DeLorean sell?----how many americans still build "American" cars? Will Ford and GM survive
    if the Gov'ment(you and me) don't bail them out?

    The first question a consumer asks when buying a product is---How much is it?(not ---will it last 40 years)
     
  23. I wonder....... where the Japanese camera industry would be today without "Uncle Sam's" financial/technical support? Their part of the equation was cheap labor.

    This business model is repeated every decade or so. Taiwan was next and now it's China. In a few more years maybe we'll get back in the cycle. We just aren't poor enough yet. Is someone working on that? Regards.
     
  24. John Wire, we've drifted far off topic. IMO, we in the US are not hungry enough yet. We're collectively fat and complacent. When we want to do well, we will. Until then, we won't.

    My parents' cohort grew up during the great depression. They were nearly all scared. My cohort grew up hearing our parents' tales of want and difficulty. We were and I hope still are nearly all at least worried. I'm not sure our children know what worry is.

    A propos of the Japanese, for years after my father's visit to Mitsubishi pilgrims from Mitsubishi to Westinghouse stopped by our house. I heard many of their stories, went on picnics with them, ... They'd been through losing a vicious war, didn't want more of the hardships they'd been through.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  25. Dan, you hit the nail on the head. There is something to be said for the work ethic that comes from building up a country from the post-war rubble or even a Great Depression.

    By the way, those Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson era cameras made photography affordable. In 1971, my US Army take home pay was $140 a month. So, a second or third hand Yashica D and a two year old Yashica Electro 35 GT weren't cheap, but each were under a week's salary used.

    Yes, there were crap products that had an abismal build quality, but there were others were as good or better than most.

    By the way, I do remember some of those castings made with pot metal as we called the stuff. Pot metal castings were the predecessor to the plastic components that we all know and love. Most modern tripods that I see in use have a metal lock screw for the column which is screwed into a threaded plastic casting.
     
  26. The Industrial revolution in the US died with the end of the Cold War----We're in the

    "Third Wave"(01101000101010101)

    -Toffler
     
  27. That's interesting about the Fuji film canisters not being properly crimped. I remember Ilford's films from the 1970s and early '80s - they weren't crimped either. I loved it because I could reuse the cartridges for bulk film, but you did have to treat them pretty carefully. In the mid-'80s (maybe a nudge earlier), Ilford changed that practice.

    Of course, I'm old enough to remember when 20-exposure rolls of film were common.
     
  28. Kelly, I don't think there's any call to be offensive.

    If you disagree with a posting, wouldn't it be better just to say so without unpleasantness?

    I can just remember when Japanese cameras started to become available in Britain and they really were a revelation. Next to the German and British cameras they seemed so stylish and so well designed. The only European cameras that seemed to be in the same class were the Leica and the Hasselblad. Everything else seemed tawdry by comparison.

    To answer Dave's question, I believe the perception of poor quality in Japanese goods was a combination of the public experiencing some very cheap products made in 'sweat shops' and a deliberate policy of what we now call misinformation by manufacturers who felt threatened by the low prices and high quality of the better class of Japanese goods.
     
  29. "I know that, for decades following WWII, the "Made in Japan" legend was indeed synonymous with junk. Make no mistake, it WAS junk."

    Did Japan sell cheap stamped out toys after the war...sure. And there was a ready market for that stuff just as there is now.

    If "decades after WWII" means at least 3 decades after WWII then that takes us to 1975. By 1960 the Japanese camera and sport optic manufacurers had completely surprised american and german competitors in those markets and begun to bypass them as serious competitors. By 1975 they had all but eclipsed them. In automobiles it took a litle longer, but by the late 1960's Japanese cars were highly reliable, got good milage and again began to eat away at the sizable market share enjoyed by the big three. And Toyota is posed to eclipse GM. Japan has done literally the same thing in several other markets.

    "The intent of the Western occupiers of Japan following the war was that Japan should NOT return, at least not quickly, to its full technological glory."

    That's wrong. If that was the case how do you account for the several examples of solid Japanese success noted above. Also remember that Japan successfully hosted the 1964 Olympics as proff that they had jopined the big leagues. The Olympics showcased several consumer goods made especially for that show.

    " We DIRECTED the industrial and economic reconstruction of Japan, steering it into the production of small, cheap, mass- produced items, which could contribute to the recovering Japanese economy without contributing to great advances in Japanese technology (read as military technology). So, for many years, Japan produced wooden matches, tin wind-up toys, handheld transistor radios, and myriad cheap novelties almost exclusively. This was OUR doing, and it was intentional."

    Do you really believe this stuff? And actually the hand-held transistor radio was quite a technical accomplishment at the time and expensive.

    "As it happened, though, these mass-produced items became the backbone of the Japanese economy, so they just continued investing in the industry, and in the process invented newer and better ways to operate and manage mass-production facilities. Japan eventually became THE MODEL for mass-production business around the world, and that's when "Made in Japan" became synonymous with efficiency and high quality technology."

    The production of high quality goods happened before 1960. As an example the first three Pentax SLR's produced from 1957 to 1959 clearly pointed the way but american and german camera makes ignored the obvious. Other japanese camera makers were quick to follow and we all know the result. Also take a look at RF cameras from Canon and Nikon made in the early 1950's. The equivalent of german competition.

    You are repeating the nonsense that was so popular and so widely heard in the 1950's. I remember idiotic statements like "All Japanese goods are made from recycled tin cans...just look inside". Etc., etc.
     
  30. John Wire wrote:
    "I'm trying to remember...... when was the last time I saw a Datsun 240Z on the road........ compared to Corvettes and Mustangs? I understand the Yamamoto never saw combat, they scuttled her at sea. Zeros were cannon fodder for P38's."

    The 240Z is less fondly remembered in the US than the pony cars. Nobody wrote songs about Datsuns. There's a lot more of them in Japan and even magazines dedicated to the Zed and other 70s era Japanese muscle cars (old school Skylines, etc). I don't think it's because Vettes and Mustangs are particularly reliable or even pleasant to drive today...

    About the rebuilding of Japan, sure there is plenty of occupation crap from the early years. Go to Ebay, type in Japan occupation and see all the little figureens and other junk trinkets made for export. Then fast forward to the Korean War, where Japan grew rich and strong helping supply the US military effort next door. Japan had a high-speed national rail network done by the 64 olympics that is light years beyond what the US currently has.

    In the 50s, Japan's shipbuilding overtook England's, by the '70s, in the 60s, cameras, and by the 70s, the Japanese were handing it to the big three automakers. They got there through ingenuity and hard work and succeeded where conventional wisdom thought they would fail.
     
  31. Hi John, did you own and drive a 60's Japanese auto, I must have missed that stellar model. As I recall, it was the fake "First Energy Crisis" in the 70's that frightened everyone into the midget cars produced in Japan. Who knows where the fake "Second Energy Crisis" will lead, maybe Chinese midget cars for less.

    Back to the Japanese camera industry. Where are the familiar Japanese cameras manufactured today? Not Japan. And that's the point about cheap labor. Manufacturing/Investment follows cheap labor wherever it can be found.

    China is fast becoming a major camera manufacturing "hot spot". Can't wait to get my hands on a "Made in China" FF DSLR with an FD mount.

    Regards.
     
  32. "Hi John, did you own and drive a 60's Japanese auto, I must have missed that stellar model."

    1968 Datsun 1600, 1970 Toyota Corona Sedan (1969 production date), 1979 Toyota Corona Wagon.

    All of the post 1965 Japanese cars met buyers demands because a lot of people bought them and kept on as repeat buyers. Detroit never really figured out that american car buyers were ready for a well made smaller car that got good milage. They kept making boats and poor quality smaller cars. VW, Toyota and Datsun were hugely popular before the gas crunch and the gas lines only made those good cars even more popular. .

    "As I recall, it was the fake "First Energy Crisis" in the 70's that frightened everyone into the midget cars produced in Japan. Who knows where the fake "Second Energy Crisis" will lead, maybe Chinese midget cars for less."

    Hmmm...I remember the 1970's gas prices and they were not fake. Possibly you were living in another world? Actually you can expect that the Chinese car makers will initially produce cars that have more than their share of quality and design problems. But count on the chinese car makers to learn very quickly and produce cars that are accepted broadly. Should there be any wonder that the current big boys of the car industry are lining up to partner with the chinese car companies?


    "Back to the Japanese camera industry. Where are the familiar Japanese cameras manufactured today? Not Japan. And that's the point about cheap labor. Manufacturing/Investment follows cheap labor wherever it can be found."

    You are mixing information. The original question dealt with 1950's and 1960's Japanese cameras which were clearly:
    1. Leaders in technology.
    2. Leaders in consumer acceptance.
    3. High quality reasonably priced products.
    4. The products that eliminated german and american camera companies from being serious producers of cameras.

    "China is fast becoming a major camera manufacturing "hot spot". Can't wait to get my hands on a "Made in China" FF DSLR with an FD mount."

    To be sure the chinese are moving rapidly, but that is not new news.
    I'm glad to read that you are as excited as I am about the prospects of high quality inexpensive goods from China.

    Actually the Chinese are not to blame. It is the beloved Japanese companies like Canon, Nikon, Sony Seiko, etc., that are rapidly outsourcing production to China. Ever what the country of origin was for the components in that Dell Computer, GE Washer, Hotpoint Microwave, Radio in a Chevy Suburban?
     
  33. Good luck finding a lot of "Made in Japan" products from Japanese companies. My '70s era Canonet is made in Taiwan, and high skilled Japanese autoworkers, for example, are worried about jobs shifting to the mainland.
    As before, the only thing that's going to save us high-wage workers is innovation and high-skill, high value-added fields, so hope your education is up to par.
     
  34. 1970s US autos? All I have to say is Gremlin, Pacer, Pinto, station wagons, etc. Horrid. Even the Mustangs were ugly and slow crap. 1970s motorbikes- the Japanese had some great rides. Click around here for some examples driven by Japanese bike gangs:
    http://www.kyuusha.com/kyuushakai.html

    I personally switched from Chrysler to Honda (and my parents from GM to Toyota) and spend a lot less on repairs these days. There are Americans (and Canadians) assembling many of these "Japanese" vehicles. We'll see if China can make reliable cars, but I'll let someone else be the guinea pig.
     
  35. hahaha-

    I wonder how many Pinto's are still on the road? Fords answer to the "Asian Invasion." US car mfg.ers gambled that Americans would buy BIG cars and the SUV market was born.Even the tree-hugging,crunchy granola yuppies bought into it---now gas is 3 bucks a gallon and rising.If they put another 2 bucks a gallon tax on gas,we can bail out Ford and GM.
     
  36. Hi John S, I think Japanese camera quality began in the 60's but hey, what's ten years among friends?

    Answering the original question, in the beginning quality was bad, got better as they incorporated Deming's quality "religion", improved with the European technology given to them, peaked in the late 60's and 70's and continued on a gradual decline to today's levels as they moved manufacturing offshore.

    An after thought, in the 60's I could never get all the kids in the midget Japanese cars and they never made it through the winter snows without getting stuck or not operating in sub-zero temperatures (how did your heaters work in the cold). In other words they were sub-par and still are compared to American "Iron" for me.

    The fake "First Energy Crisis" was about pricing to inflate the economy to pay off the Vietnam fiasco. There was never a real shortage of oil, just like today. Guess what we're going to payoff this time.

    Hi Roger S, a corvette is a very, very pleasant drive. In fact they are a "HOOT" to drive! Smilie!

    Regards.
     
  37. "Hi John S, I think Japanese camera quality began in the 60's but hey, what's ten years among friends? "

    Take a look at the early 1950's rangefinders from Canon and Nikon. Very very high quality bodies and lenses. Pentax, which was working on reflex cameras in the early 1950's came up with the first successful SLR, the AP in 1957, followed immediately by the S and the hugely successful K model in 1958. They were excellent quality cameras that led the way for other Japanese camera makers to follow. They were so successful because they provided what consumers wanted, not what the camera company thought consumers should have. A crucial difference in mindset.

    "Answering the original question, in the beginning quality was bad,"

    Only in cheap consumer goods. They quickly became prime producers of high quality consumer goods of many types. The emericans sat there with their collective thumbs stuck where the sun don't shine.

    "got better as they incorporated Deming's quality "religion","

    Deming was popular in soime large companies and his ideas made sense. Too bad american companies had their heads stuck so firmly in the sand that they ignored him.

    "improved with the European technology given to them,"

    There is not a business around that does not borrow technology when given the opportunity. Look at the history of the U.S. automotive business.

    "peaked in the late 60's and 70's and continued on a gradual decline to today's levels as they moved manufacturing offshore. "

    Nonsense. Goods from Japanese manufacturers continue to receive positive marks and are held in high esteem by consumers. Why, because they are well designed and don't have the quality problems american goods have the reputation for having.

    "An after thought, in the 60's I could never get all the kids in the midget Japanese cars and they never made it through the winter snows without getting stuck or not operating in sub-zero temperatures (how did your heaters work in the cold)."

    The choice was simple: buy a bigger poorer quality american car, put the occupants on a diet or stop having kids. I had no problem moving three kinds and wife around in that 1970 Corona sedan.

    I had no problem with the heater or the air conditioner doing the job in those Toyotas. Somehow I think that rear wheel drive cars of any make are not known for their snow handling abilities. Actually we had a 2 foot snow here that fell over 8 hours or so. It took a good deal of backtracking and running on partly deflated tires but I made it home in that rear wheel drive stick shift 1979 Toyota Corona wagon.

    " In other words they were sub-par and still are compared to American "Iron" for me."

    Oh, yeah, like the Pinto, Vega, Valiant, Pacer, Chevette POS that detroit cranked out?

    "The fake "First Energy Crisis" was about pricing to inflate the economy to pay off the Vietnam fiasco. There was never a real shortage of oil, just like today. Guess what we're going to payoff this time. "

    No kidding. On what bit of conspiratorial fantasy do you base this on. So tell me which cabal mysteriously cranked up the market prices worldwide.

    "Hi Roger S, a corvette is a very, very pleasant drive. In fact they are a "HOOT" to drive! Smilie! "

    The older corvettes had a suspension and ride that could rival an empty lumber truck. A real butt buster. Fun to be seen in though.
     
  38. Hi John S,

    You are overwhelming me with all this subjective Pentax stuff. OK, Pentax is great, and was always great, in fact I'm going to get an "ist" when Samsung makes one, those old lenses are great, I've used them, not as good as Canon FD breechlocks though.

    Don't forget that consumers want what marketing tells them to want, not always what's best for them.

    Deming's ideas were never ignored by American companies that I am aware of, sometimes deferred for various reasons though.

    The Japanese were given German lens and shutter proprietary information by Uncle Sam. A lot different than reverse engineering and then tweaking the design to avoid patent infringement. An aside, the Chinese steal the proprietary information they need.

    I believe consumer "high esteem" is the result of careful surveying techniques. My personal experience, newer Canon cameras are lesser quality than the 70's designs. Older Mamiya RB's seem to be more reliable than newer RZ's. Much subjectivity. Maybe that's why the pollsters end interviews with me after a few questions. So a gradual decline is OK for me to say, right?

    Another after thought, the wife, four kids, luggage and a big dog wouldn't work/fit in the midget Japanese station wagons or the miniature American models, especially when taking a five hour trip. That's where the big American "Iron" shines even with the higher gasoline prices, which leads into the mystery of higher gasoline prices.

    As I recall thirty cents a gallon was an average price in the early 70's and was established by OPEC based on something or other. Is that like a cabal? I think OPEC still sets the per barrel price today.

    Interesting, someone said we were running out of oil in the 70's (First Energy Crisis) and that's why the price went up. Oh well.... and..... a Corvette ride is determined by the suspension setup, doesn't need to rival an empty lumber truck... and it's not about being seen.... it's about WOT once in awhileナ. and that is sort of like Kodachrome rules. Regards and Goodnight.
     
  39. There's been rather a lot of heat as well as light here.
    Of course Japan has turned out some junk -- even rather recently. I have a one-year-old Japanese (yes, made in Japan) water cooler here in my office whose thermostat is only half useless, unlike the totally useless thermostat of its predecessor (returned to the store in disgust), and that makes a noise like a coffee grinder in order to cool water (or to warm it? I'm never quite sure). And of course Japan has long turned out some stuff that isn't junk. But if people insist on a black or white answer, then the discussion is going to alternate:
    "Black!"
    "No, white!"
    "That's a load of bull. Black!"
    "What utter horsedung. White!"
    "Jeez, you're full of it. Black!"​
    Until of course the thread gets pulled, which would be rather a pity, as it contains pleasant nuggets about cars (that perennial middle-aged male obsession).
    And here's today's leisure reading.
     
  40. I give Japan credit for resisting foreign invaders and Western colonialism for as long as it did. By the 18th century much of Asia and most of Africa and Latin America had succumbed to the Western powers. Japan was one of the few native societies that maintained its independence and culture free of Western influence. The visit of Commodore Perry's American fleet led to the Meiji Restoration of the late 1860s and a decision was made to pursue industrialization. Early on, this industrialization depended on the importation and copying of Western technologies. This gave rise to the perception that the Japanese were incapable of innovation and that they merely produced second-rate imitations of Western products. But no industrial nation came as far and as fast as Japan did.

    While I do not like the Japanese militarism of the first half of the 20th century, it must be seen in the context of Western expansionism and colonialism in Asia. Japan wanted to free Asia from Western control and invented the concept of the "Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." Unfortunately, its methods of dealing with its fellow Asian nations were often brutal and reflected Japan's own imperial ambitions. World War II ended that. But today Japan has rightfully earned its place as one of the world's premier manufacturing nations and its products are sought after worldwide.
     
  41. The Japanese camera industry started with copying German stuff, i.e. Leica, Contax, right after WWII was over (1945). At first Canon, Minolta, Pentax were family business (with the exception of Nikon which stil was a big optical trust, working for the army, in WWII)

    Their cameras and lenses were very cheap at the beginning, and quality less than German origin. But quality/price ratio was not so bad. As they made good sales, companies get bigger and made investments in better machines and designs, enhancing overall quality.

    The breakthrough came 1956-1958, when the following Japanese cameras were procuded, beeing better than German competitors of the same price class:

    Asahi Pentax (first SLR with pentaprism AND instant-return-mirror)
    Canon V/VI/L/P (Rangefinder with excellent design)
    Nikon SP (better than Contax, and some may think, Leica)

    German camera industry failed to take this competitor for real and therefore, died ten years later due to lack of sales and money to put in R&D effort.

    http://www.taunusreiter.de/Cameras/SLR_History_1950_e.html

    cheers, Frank (Germany)
     
  42. The Japanese camera industry started with copying German stuff, i.e. Leica, Contax, right after WWII was over (1945).
    Again?
    Look, if you want to see the Japanese copying German stuff, how about the Auto Press Minolta (1937), a pretty respectable copy of a Plaubel?
    The first camera from what would be Konishiroku dates from 1903, which I think predates any camera from Leitz. A MF SLR with revolving back? The Konishiroku Neat Reflex of 1926. Something like a 6x6 Exakta? The Shinkoflex of 1940. A TLR with crank winding and self-cocking shutter? The Minolta Flex Automat of 1941. Immediate postwar innovation? The Steky of 1947, a subminiature from a predecessor of Ricoh.
     
  43. Perhaps they did both. They were technological geniuses for building all those high quality planes, ships and cameras and financial geniuses for exporting and making huge profits on "junk" toys, flashlights and the like. Too bad the genius of that Japanese generation did not extend to the strategic and diplomatic side of things-how on earth could anyone (several of them U.S. educated Japanese war planners) think that the U.S. would not retaliate all the way after Pearl Harbor?

    FWIW
     
  44. Two Japanese Co.'s that get little mention-


    http://www.tlr-cameras.com/Japanese/Tomioka%20Lenses.html



    http://www.vermontel.com/~wsalati/CasualCollector/cosina.htm
     
  45. Peter, the cameras you mentioned - to be honest, never heard of them :) Like most camera enthusiasts, probably... Pretty logical to me that there was no "start" at 1945 (except they started with export then) - they most have done some work before. Which I know for sure for Nippon and Seiki Kogaku. All I read was that most German industry patents weren't valid in Japan before WWII, which probably gave them a good point to start.

    So is "early history of Japanese camera industry" always written somewhere?

    I forget to mention, 1959, Nikon F. First professional SLR camera with changable finder.

    And, 1959 as well, wrong answer from Germany to the Japanese challange, called Zeiss-Ikon Contarex. Start of agony here...
     
  46. Frank Mechelhoff wrote "I forget to mention, 1959, Nikon F. First professional SLR camera with changable finder."

    Hmm. So the Exakta wasn't a professional SLR camera and didn't have a changeable finder? Hmm.
     
  47. "You are overwhelming me with all this subjective Pentax stuff. OK, Pentax is great, and was always great, in fact I'm going to get an "ist" when Samsung makes one, those old lenses are great, I've used them, not as good as Canon FD breechlocks though."

    There is nothing subjective about the dates that Pentax delivered the first commercially successful SLR that used a pentaprism and offered a wider range of lenses than the german and american camera makers did.

    "Don't forget that consumers want what marketing tells them to want, not always what's best for them."

    Really?? If that was the case then why didn't the great masses of consumers who bought the new pentaprism slr's just stick with the from outdated leaf shutter cameras pushed by the american and german companies. Those outdated cameras were widely advertised. Somehow in the space of 2.5 years Pentax was able to determine what camera buyers really wanted and to deliver it. And in that short period of time Pentax turned the german and american camera companies into also rans.

    "Deming's ideas were never ignored by American companies that I am aware of, sometimes deferred for various reasons though."

    He was listened to politely by a few of the biggies.



    "The Japanese were given German lens and shutter proprietary information by Uncle Sam. A lot different than reverse engineering and then tweaking the design to avoid patent infringement."

    Really now...

    "An aside, the Chinese steal the proprietary information they need. "

    You seem to have a very short and selective focus. Borrowing, using one another's ideas, etc., etc., is nothing new my friend. It goes as far back as people have been in business. The americans were great at borrowing ideas from the europeans in the 19th century.



    "I believe consumer "high esteem" is the result of careful surveying techniques. My personal experience, newer Canon cameras are lesser quality than the 70's designs. Older Mamiya RB's seem to be more reliable than newer RZ's. Much subjectivity. Maybe that's why the pollsters end interviews with me after a few questions. So a gradual decline is OK for me to say, right? "

    I'm sorry, but decades of success by Japanese camera, car, etc., manufacturers is hardly the result of artful survey techniques. Consumers would not keep returning for shoddy products. The Japanese have a proven record over five decades of delivering products that consumers are willing to pay for.

    If artful surveys and advertising were the criteria that determined product success then the Yugo should have outshined Toyota and Nissan. Massive advertising by the Bricklin organization should have made it a best seller. Of course we know that it was an old design and that the core quality was sorely lacking.

    "Another after thought, the wife, four kids, luggage and a big dog wouldn't work/fit in the midget Japanese station wagons or the miniature American models, especially when taking a five hour trip."

    I never had a problem taking a family of 5 on long vacations in a Toyota. Europeans likewise have found that families and small cars are compatible.


    "That's where the big American "Iron" shines even with the higher gasoline prices, which leads into the mystery of higher gasoline prices."

    It is going to be increaingly difficult to justify the purchase of big american iron that can't make 18mpg.

    "As I recall thirty cents a gallon was an average price in the early 70's and was established by OPEC based on something or other. Is that like a cabal? I think OPEC still sets the per barrel price today."



    "Interesting, someone said we were running out of oil in the 70's (First Energy Crisis) and that's why the price went up. Oh well.... and..... a Corvette ride is determined by the suspension setup, doesn't need to rival an empty lumber truck... and it's not about being seen.... it's about WOT once in awhile?. and that is sort of like Kodachrome rules. Regards and Goodnight."

     
  48. John Smullen wrote "There is nothing subjective about the dates that Pentax delivered the first commercially successful SLR that used a pentaprism and offered a wider range of lenses than the german and american camera makers did."

    More lenses from Pentax in the thread-mount system than from Nikon in the F-mount system? Are you sure?

    More lenses from PX ... than from all makers for Exakta, who didn't make lenses? Are you sure?

    First commercially successful SLR that used a pentaprism? Contax-S, 1949. It had a broad range of lenses too.

    FYI, John, Asahi Optical licensed the name Pentax from Zeiss.

    American-made 35 mm SLRs? Name two, John.

    Ya gotta love the web in general and photo.net in particular. A wonderful mix of, um, excrement and, um, shoe polish.

    Cheers,
     
  49. John Smullen wrote "There is nothing subjective about the dates that Pentax delivered the first commercially successful SLR that used a pentaprism and offered a wider range of lenses than the german and american camera makers did."

    "More lenses from Pentax in the thread-mount system than from Nikon in the F-mount system? Are you sure? "

    Well, screwmount ran from 1957 through 1975 and morphed into K mount. Given the number of screw mount and later K mount lenses that one sees for sale I would think that Pentax did outsell Nikon in number of lenses and bodies sold.

    "More lenses from PX ... than from all makers for Exakta, who didn't make lenses? Are you sure? "

    Not sure what you are asking about here?????

    "First commercially successful SLR that used a pentaprism? Contax-S, 1949. It had a broad range of lenses too. "

    I stand corrected. But it and it's relatives were not a commercial success on the same scale as the Pentax AP, S, K and all their successors.

    "FYI, John, Asahi Optical licensed the name Pentax from Zeiss. "

    That's certainly possible. The issue however is who became a commercial success and who got left behind in the dust.

    "American-made 35 mm SLRs? Name two, John."

    The original comment referred to american made cameras not just slr's. Indeed that was the problem - there were no american made slr's and the big gun Kodak was out of the race before they knew what happened. Although it was rumored that Kodak had one on the boards in the late 1960's. The german and american camera makers continued to make outdated VF and RF cameras in the face of the SLR onslaught from Japan. They just kept producing what had worked well in the past, choosing to ignore what the customer wanted and paid the price. Last minute attempts like the Kodak Retina S and it's relatives were quite attractive, but proved to be not successful for a variety of reasons.

    "Ya gotta love the web in general and photo.net in particular. A wonderful mix of, um, excrement and, um, shoe polish. "

    Yes, especially excretory are the comments from those that feel the need to belittle the considerable achievements of the japanese.
     
  50. John, until the Nikon F came along the Exakta system was IT for scientific photography. The range of lenses made for Exakta exceeded that made for any other mount system except the Nikon F until the F system arrived. The only camera that came close was the Alpa, which could use Exakta mount lenses, but which had fixed pentaprism. Topcon (remember them? Tokyo Optical!) adopted the Exakta mount for its first-line SLRs, whose pentaprisms do come off. First rate cameras, subject to the limitations of the Exakta mount, and Topcon didn't offer many lenses to fit them.

    We may be talking a little at cross purposes here. I have the impression that you mean "number of lenses sold." I meant "number of focal length/maximum apertures offered."

    And I don't think its fair to include K-mount as Pentax when talking in this forum. Its out of our historical range and also out of the time period covered in this discussion.

    The Praktica-Pentax mount system turned out to be a considerable blunder. Nikon's designers had the advantage of thinking about cross-coupling shutter speed and aperture settings before going to production. Manufacturers stuck with M42 mount resorted to all sorts of second-best solutions to get TTL metering to work with it and eventually gave up on M42 in favor of various bayonet mounts. As I said early in the thread, the Nikon F's designers were very thoughtful people.
     
  51. the cameras you mentioned - to be honest, never heard of them :) Like most camera enthusiasts, probably...
    I don't think that any Japanese camera was exported till 1947 or thereabouts; if this is so, then knowledge in the west of older Japanese cameras would have started as historical knowledge.
    So is "early history of Japanese camera industry" always written somewhere?
    There's a lot in Japanese; even if you can read Japanese, it's rather confusing, as most of it has come out in magazines rather than books. There are also some books in English that are said to be good. Three are mentioned in this thread (I already have two of these on order from ABE).
     
  52. "We may be talking a little at cross purposes here. I have the impression that you mean "number of lenses sold." I meant "number of focal length/maximum apertures offered."

    I agree. And I got carried away and would like to offer an apology to one and all.

    Mt point in getting wrapped in this thread was to try and dispel some of the xenophobic nonsense about the quality of products from Japanese companies including camera makers. I grew up hearing stuff like "Japanese products are made from beer cans", etc. Stories like that are perpetuated by people who were blindsided by nimble competition or feel threatened by rapid change. It took me a few years to sort out fact from fiction and I get riled when I see that stuff from 50 years ago surfacing again.
     
  53. Gosh, sorry, I must have made a mistake then. The cameras I have that were made in Japan during the decades following WWII were junk. I mean, we're told this in CAPITALS, so it must be true.
    Stop apologizing for everything, Peter. Seems like your every sarcastic utterance is prefaced with sorry this and sorry that. It's not your fault that your information is as defective as your attitude, so there's no need to constantly apologize. Nobody likes that. Now, be a good lad and go play in the garden.
     
  54. I grew up hearing stuff like "Japanese products are made from beer cans", etc. Stories like that are perpetuated by people who were blindsided by nimble competition or feel threatened by rapid change.
    Point of fact, a great number of Japanese tin toys from the 50s and 60s were made from tin cans and other recycled bits. And not in the modern sense of recycling, but in the sense that old cans were simply squashed flat and die-stamped into new shapes.
    In another and more lucrative area of collecting---that of tin litho toys and robots from the 50s and 60s, the great majority of which were manufactured in Japan---it's generally accepted that any given specimen of wind-up toy may very well bear a lithographed coffee or tea or tobacco tin label on the inside.
    So, no, stories such as that aren't perpetuated by slackjawed xenophobes---stories such as that happen to have a strong basis in fact. Fact that has seemingly escaped those who haven't thoroughly researched the subject. :)
     
  55. That was a pleasant time in the garden. (Thanks for the suggestion.) I'm now back.
    It's not your fault that your information is as defective as your attitude
    How is my information defective?
     
  56. A meaningless jab. It gave me pleasure. :)
     
  57. Oh, that's quite all right then.
    You know, you should really explore the wonderful world of funky old Japanese cameras. (Nah, you don't have to spend any money. Web surfing will suffice.) Whether or not they're crap (and I think we've done that to death), their charms include their naming.
     
  58. dang, this is the longest thread I've seen in a long time-

    Japanese camera/optical/photography history,if anyone's interested-

    http://photojpn.org/notes/node.php?id=35
     
  59. "Point of fact, a great number of Japanese tin toys from the 50s and 60s were made from tin cans and other recycled bits. And not in the modern sense of recycling, but in the sense that old cans were simply squashed flat and die-stamped into new shapes.

    In another and more lucrative area of collecting---that of tin litho toys and robots from the 50s and 60s, the great majority of which were manufactured in Japan---it's generally accepted that any given specimen of wind-up toy may very well bear a lithographed coffee or tea or tobacco tin label on the inside.

    So, no, stories such as that aren't perpetuated by slackjawed xenophobes---stories such as that happen to have a strong basis in fact. Fact that has seemingly escaped those who haven't thoroughly researched the subject. :)"

    If those that repeat such stories were to qualify them by saying "Toys from Japan made in the 1950's were cheap..." that would be fine, because by in large the toys were cheap and inexpensive and they met a huge demand :). I suppose there were some toys made directly early on from re-stamped cans, but that was the exception. From first hand experience I can tell you that the insides of my pressed metal wind-up Constellation airplane were not made from Sapporo beer cans.

    We all know (or should know by now) that Japan was rapidly rebuilding after the war. They were also moving to become big in trading, ship building, consumer electronics, watch making, banking, car manufacture, etc. Heck, by 1964 they hosted the Olympics in Tokyo and used it to showcase a recovered Japan and several new products.

    To bring this back on point their camera and sport optics industries were producing quality products that within 10 years would come to dominate those markets. I'm fortunate to own a few good examples from Canon and Pentax. Japan also made some fun to collect inexpensive cameras. I've got a Toko Mighty (love that name) that has a dual finder system, extra lens, hood, film cassette, etc., and could at one time actually take a picture.

    Unfortunately most of the comments I hear cover all Japanese products with no limitation as to product or time. Statements like "Japanese products made for several decades after the war are cheap junk, etc." are clearly wrong. They come across as mean spirited and xenophobic.
     

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