A past article from the pages of

Reel Deals


Calling oneself a collector seems to be an excuse to never dispose of anything that looks even remotely like it may be of interest some day. Such was the fate of a couple of ( what I thought to be ) fairly uninteresting 16mm projectors.

These two - or more correctly one and a half - machines have been in my possession for some time. I think they were part of a ‘junk box’ bought at auction some time back. Apart from an initial inspection to confirm that between the two machines there were sufficient parts to assemble a complete unit, the almost complete projector and it’s virtually wrecked mate have sat all but forgotten on a shelf in my garage with other items that I hope to resurrect ‘one day’.

Some time back a collector friend called to ask if I had heard of a Sakurascope Dual Gauge ( 8mm & 16mm ) projector, he described it as looking similar to an early Bell & Howell 16mm silent projector. His description sounded familiar so the two old machines were retrieved from their very dusty location in the garage. On comparing the two Sakurascopes, we found they were all identical models. My friend’s machine had the 16mm components fitted, plus his had a set of interchangeable parts for 8mm. At this time we believed the machines to be dual gauge projectors.

I thought that the interchangeable components for my machines had long since disappeared, but a closer and much later inspection revealed something completely unexpected - what I thought was a complicated 16mm gate and pressure plate was in fact 9.5mm assembly clipped in place within the 16mm gate. Further searching in the ‘junk box’ came up with the 9.5mm claw and cam. Although missing the 9.5 sprocket and spool arm spindles, between all the projectors there is the makings of a full TRI-GAUGE projector.

The single ( entry and exit ) sprocket and the plate holding it’s guide rollers can be removed by holding the sprocket and rotating it’s shaft anti-clockwise. The whole assembly is interchanged for projection of other gauge films. The upper and lower arm spindles, the claw and cam, and the gate pressure assembly are also changeable.

The removal of a knurled screw releases the cam and claw, which is located in an open housing on the operating side of the machine. The fixed rear section of the gate has four slots in appropriate positions to allow the various claws to protrude to engage the film. The 16mm front sprung pressure plate is hinged at the bottom and has a small locating slot at the top to enable the removable 8 and 9.5mm pressure plates to locate within it.  

The offset lamphouse is fairly basic; comprising a reflector, single condenser and a 45 degree mirror. The three blade shutter rotates between the condenser and mirror. The housing containing the mirror slides out for ease of cleaning. The lamp ( in my machine anyway ) is a 300 watt 115 volt type. The motor and it’s rheostat speed control are mounted at the rear of the projector. The machine is for 110 volt operation.


The Sakurascope Tri-Gauge Projector.

Not being able to find any reference material on this machine I decided to do a little research myself. A phone call to the Japanese Consulate in Melbourne gave me the address and fax number of the J.C.I.I. Camera Museum in Tokyo. They were good enough to answer my fax and provided considerable information on the Sakurascope Tri-Gauge projector.

From their letter, it seems the original Sakurascope was a 16mm only machine made in 1931. The second and third models released in 1932 and 1933 respectively were tri-gauge machines. The projectors were manufactured by the Konishiroku Co. which is now known as Konica.

The general appearance of the Sakurascope resembles a cross between a Bell & Howell and a Keystone. The mechanism with it’s rear mounted spool arms and sprocket, off-set pressed steel lamp house and oval shaped metal body casting has a definite Keystone appearance. The whole assembly is mounted on a tilting pedestal base with an oval foot, similar to the early Bell & Howell Filmo series.

The remainder of the projector is fairly typical of similar units of the era. The feed and take up spools ( max. 400' ) are at the rear of the machine and the upper spool arm incorporates a geared rewinder.

Two not so usual features of these machines are a lever to de-clutch the motor for still operation or manual cranking ( a handle was supplied ) and a small light mounted on an arm which could be swivelled out to aid threading. The lamp is on when the motor/lamp switch is off and vice versa.

With the first model tri-gauge Sakurascope being manufactured in November 1932 only months after the introduction of 8mm and some 12 months before the release of the Paillard Bolex model G tri-gauge projector, could it be that the Sakurascope was the first tri-gauge projector on the market?

Copyright 1997 Mike Trickett. Geelong, Australia