This family of cameras is bit of an enigma. I acquired one by accident. Now, I'm curious about the rest of the family.
During a normal eBay search for toy cameras I spotted a camera I had never seen. The seller had it bundled with some Japanese baby toys. At first, I thought it might be a non-working fake camera for babies, but when I zoomed in to have a closer look at it, it appeared to be a real, working camera. I did a bit of a search. I couldn’t find much information, but I did find a few shots taken with another Benesse camera and I found out that the Benesse Corporation in Japan sells education toys among other things. My curiosity was piqued, so I plunked down a few buck and bought myself a true Japanese toy camera.
The Benesse Family
I’ve managed to find five distinct models of Benesse cameras. One of them comes in at least three different color schemes. Two models have a built-in flash and a wheel to move various plastic filters in front of the lens. They include a diffraction grating, a multi-image prism, an either a wide-angle or macro converter — I’m not sure. One model appears to be a simple, fixed shutter speed, aperture, and focus “daylight” camera. One model has macro capabilities. One model includes a flash and appears to be held upside-down with the viewfinder below the lens — very odd.
The one I ended up with is the macro-capable “bug” design camera. It has a slide-to-open lens cover. When you slide the cover open a “flag” pops up on top of the camera to let you know that it’s ready to shoot. The cover will not close unless you push the flag down and the flag will not stay down unless you slide the cover closed, so it’s a good reminder for you to close the cover to protect the lens. Here’s a picture of the camera with the lens cover opened and the “Ready” flag deployed.
The macro-capabilities are activated by sliding a magnifying glass over the lens. When you slide the converter in place, a macro mode flag with a drawing of a magnifying glass pops out of the side to let you know you’re in macro mode. Here’s a shot of the camera with the macro lens in place.
I can’t read Japanese and I couldn’t find any more information about this camera on-line, so I had to guess at the close focusing distance with the macro lens in place. I’ve figured out that it’s somewhere between six inches to one foot, more likely 25 centimeters or something like that.
Here are some shots I took with the Benesse “Bug Cam.” These first shots are without the macro lens. You can see that there were lots of clouds in the sky and I had no idea what the shutter speed or aperture were, so I chose Kodak Ultra MAX 800 film.
I used the macro lens for the following shots. I guessed at the distance. I think about 25cm was right.
This camera is fun to shoot with and yields interesting results. Now I’m curious about its siblings. I’ve added “Benesse camera” to my standard auction site searches.