Suzuki Optical Echo 8

After World War II, the Japanese camera industry was coming out with smaller and smaller cameras -- partly to keep costs low.  First, they split 35mm film and produced Hit film (17.5mm).  Then they used 16mm film.  But why stop there?  Why not 8mm film in a still camera?  In 1951, Suzuki Optical designed a cigarette lighter with a built-in camera using 8mm film. Or some would call it a camera with a built-in cigarette lighter.  Whatever.  Despite its tiny size, it had a fixed-focus 15mm lens with variable apertures from f3.5 to f8.0.  This is equivalent to a 75mm lens in the full-frame 35mm format -- a short telephoto.  Two shutter speeds of B and I (1/50). The shutter speed and aperture are controlled with tiny tabs under the lighter lid that are moved by a fingernail.  The camera produced a 6x6mm format on 8mm (split 16mm) film.  It's hard to believe, but the camera had a built-in waist-level-type viewfinder that was accessed by popping up the lighter lid, sliding the nameplate-panel on the lighter lid out of the way, and then looking down.  You view out at a 90 degree angle -- great for clandestine photography!.  You can identify this model by its square lens opening on the side of the lighter.  This camera was manufactured for the American market but never sold well and was soon dropped from production.  Much to the surprise of the manufacturer, it soon became famous as the camera that was used in the movie, ROMAN HOLIDAY, which premiered in 1953.  Audrey Hepburn played a princess who escapes her palatial confines to taste the street-life of Rome.  A reporter, Gregory Peck, discovers her identity and enlists a photographer, Eddie Albert, to take some clandestine photographs of the princess.  He accomplishs this feat with his trusty Echo 8 cigarette lighter/camera.  Suzuki Optical, the manufacturer of the Echo 8, was caught completely off guard.  With the free publicity that the movie offered, and their own lack of supply, Suzuki could not keep up with demand for the original model.  To fill the gap, they opted to quickly come out with a new, simplified, less-expensive version of the Echo 8, called the Camera Lite in 1955.

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