Cameras for Dreaming

Blackbird, fly

Japan is famous for its camera makers, but there is no other camera maker like Tokyo based PowerShovel.

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PowerShovel makes toy cameras which makes you look at the world differently. They are so much fun that you just have to get one.

PowerShovel was started by Hideki Ohmori in the mid 90s. He started customizing Russian toy cameras and sold them on the Internet. When Russia stopped making them, Ohmori decided to make cameras himself. He now runs two companies, SuperHeadzINaBabylon and PowerShovel.

Or is it perhaps, one company with two names?

Like the photos that come out of Ohmori’s cameras, this is a bit ambiguous. The company site has this to say:

SuperHeadz is one of the most radical creative teams in Tokyo, where we design, edit and plan to collage fragments of this city. PowerShovel is our corporate name and it is used for our more-business-oriented part. They are like two sides of a coin. They never face each other, like light and shadow, but they reverberate in unison as flower and water do.

When I shop for a camera and lenses, I look for sharpness and fidelity. PowerShovel cameras are the complete opposite.

“We never wanted cameras as precision machines,” the site explains, “rather we imagine the camera as a sort of sketch book, something with which you easily record bits of your life.”

One of their main cameras, the Blackbird, fly is just perfect for this kind of sketching of life. And it looks really cool, too. This is something you’d almost buy as a fashion accessory…

Blackbird, fly

Blackbird, fly - Photos

One of my own favorites is the Digital Harinezumi (hedgehog). It is a tiny digital video camera that sells for around JPY 20,000 (USD 222.00†). It fits inside the palm of your hand. It is actually so small, that you can carry it in your pocket and zip it out whenever you see something that catches your fancy.

Digital Harinezumi

It not only shoots video, but also photos, and it is wonderful fun to use. You can’t help but use it.

This camera perfectly exemplifies POWERSHOVEL’s philosophy of a camera for sketching life.

Sometimes you get lucky, and you can find some Digital Harinezumi being offered on eBay. At this very moment, there are actually some listed in our eBay affiliate store. The eBlackbird, fly is also being offered.

Amazingly, PowerShovel does even more than making cool cameras. They also organize events, exhibitions, publish books, produce music CD’s, produce film and do graphic and web design.

PowerShovel’s exhibitions are just as much fun as their cameras. One time they showed no less than 10 million photographs in a single show!


Someone who makes cameras, naturally likes to shoot, too. Between 2000 and 2008, Ohmori took thousands of photographs of young Japanese women which he regularly showed in sold out events. The site for this project is still live, as well as this video presentation:

Ohmori’s photo shows touched people deeply as can be seen on the site’s feedback page. One person writes:

“I really liked their facial expression. The show was awesome. Showing pictures of nude, fashion, kids and grandma with best timing and music. After seeing the show, I felt so happy like pleased that I’m alive.”

It is a comment that must have made Ohmori happy. In an interview with Wired, Ohmori once said, “We do not always want a faithful representation of reality. Sometimes we yearn for a dream.”

If you would like to dream a little, too, plan a trip to PowerShovel’s camera shop in Tokyo’s Shibuya. Called Camera Cabaret Grand Shop it is like a treasure cave full of unexpected and mysterious finds.

Name: Camera Cabaret Grand Shop
Address: 1-15-2 Jinnan, Hidejima Bld. 2F, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0041 (東京都渋谷区神南1-15-12 秀島ビル2F)
Hours: AM 12:00- PM 8:00
Phone: 03-5428-5162
Fax: 03-5428-5163

Access: Walk towards Yoyogikoen Park from Shibuya Station.

Check our shop:
Digital Harinezumi
eBlackbird, fly

Today’s exchange rate: 1 USD = 89.9800 JPY

Kjeld Duits About the Author

Inspired by the stunningly creative street fashion that exploded on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka in the late 1990’s, photo-journalist Kjeld Duits launched JAPANESE STREETS in 2002. This makes JS one of the first fashion blogs on the net, and the very first to cover Japanese street fashion.

Recent articles by Kjeld Duits:

Comment (日本語もOK)

oh my, i love these camera’s, i wanted a new one and these make pretty unique pics and the design is so nice too~!

Feb 14, 2010 (4737 days ago)

Cool, eh! I saw them when I went shopping at LOFT and immediately fell in love with them. The company has been around for a while, but the Digital Harinezumi recently got a big update, so it’s still a pretty new product.

Kjeld Duits (author)
Feb 14, 2010 (4737 days ago)

yes, they are so cute! too bad they’re only sold in Japan >__< as are all the cool products..

Feb 14, 2010 (4736 days ago)

@Jini: you can buy them online, in English, wherever you are:

Digital Harinezumi
eBlackbird, fly

Kjeld Duits (author)
Feb 14, 2010 (4736 days ago)

With really good small lenses out there and good video in a small camera, I wonder what the attraction of these are…unless inexpensive? My Sony cybershot is old already but does digitally almost what my Nikkormat used to do, and also makes nice video, and fits in my pocket. Before I got it, I was intrigued by my cellphone camera. It was Johnny on the spot but low definition. Couldn’t transfer easily to a computer, but because it was early digital it had light capturing qualities that my film camera did not. So what is this cute device really? When I visited Myanmar, expecting empiricist tourists to be enthralled, the bazaar sold a camera made entirely out of wood thad clicked when you pushed the shutter.

Tom Pinkowski
Feb 15, 2010 (4736 days ago)

Hi Tom, if you are looking for Sony cybershot quality, these cameras don’t measure up. But if you just want to have fun with an unpredictable toy camera, than these are game. Toy cameras are about fun and unpredictability. And PowerShovel cameras also offer cool design. The wooden camera in Myanmar you mentioned enthralls me!

Kjeld Duits (author)
Feb 15, 2010 (4736 days ago)

thanks kjeld, but honestly i don’t really like to buy from ebay ):

Feb 19, 2010 (4732 days ago)

@Jini: Really? I buy lots of stuff from eBay, myself. I think 70% of my online purchase come from eBay, maybe even more. We’ll have to find another way for you to get nice stuff from Japan!

Kjeld Duits (author)
Feb 19, 2010 (4732 days ago)

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