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Auto Semi First

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Japanese Semi (4.5×6)
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The Auto Semi First (オートセミファースト) is a Japanese 4.5×6 folding camera with a coupled rangefinder, made by Kuribayashi[1] in the early 1940s. This camera was copied from the Welta Weltur and it is different from the viewfinder Semi First, with which it only shares a few parts.

Description Edit

The Auto Semi First is a close copy of the late model of the 4.5×6 Weltur, with a chrome top housing. The folding struts and the focusing system are identical. The camera is focused by a small knob placed on the right of the folding bed, moving the whole lens and shutter assembly (unit focusing). The distance scale is placed inside the folding bed, under a black or silver cover, and the distance is read in a small window.

The combined range- and viewfinder is contained under a chrome top housing, a straight copy of the Weltur's top part. The viewfinder window is rectangular and the second image window is round, and the eyepiece is at the right end of the camera. The body release comes out of the top plate, to the left of the rangefinder housing.

A depth-of-field plate, written in English, is screwed above the rangefinder and the name Auto Semi First is engraved on its right, above the viewfinder. The front leather is embossed Auto First, and a First logo is engraved on the distance scale cover.

The film is advanced by a knob at the bottom right, and the folding bed is released by a small button placed next to it. The tripod thread is at the opposite end of the bottom plate. The back is hinged to the left and contains two red windows. The back latch was modified at some time: on the early examples, the back is opened by a small sliding button and there is a leather handle, whereas on the late examples, the latch consists of a long sliding bar and there is no handle. The film advance is manually controlled and there is no exposure counter, like the Weltur but unlike the Auto Semi Minolta, another Japanese copy of the same camera.

Advertisements and other documents Edit

The list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, mentions the Auto Semi First for ¥248, in the same price category as the Auto Semi Minolta.[2] The same occurs in a similar list dated November 1941.[3]

The April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese production also mentions the camera, with a Hit 75mm f/3.5 four-element lens (same as on the First Reflex II) and a Wester I shutter (T, B, 1–200).[4] The Wester shutter was made by Nishida, and the document says that the Hit lens was made by Tōkyō Kōgaku, but this is perhaps a mistake and it is more likely that the lens was made by Tokiwa Kōgaku.[5]

In an advertisement by Doi Shōten dated May 1944, the camera was offered for ¥392.54, with no further detail. It was advertised as late as December 1944.[6]

Actual examples Edit

The Auto Semi First has been observed in the following variants:

  • early back latch, black focusing cover, First Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T);[7]
  • late back latch, black focusing cover, First Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T);[8]
  • late back latch, black focusing cover, Tokiwa Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T);[9]
  • late back latch, silver focusing cover, Tokiwa Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T);[10]
  • late back latch, silver focusing cover, First Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Mirror I shutter (1–200, B, T);[11]
  • late back latch, silver focusing cover, S. Kuri Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Seikosha shutter (T, B, 1–250, self-timer).[12]

The First f/3.5 lens has three elements and was made by Tokiwa Kōgaku.[13] The Tokiwa f/3.5 lens has four elements and its name certainly indicates that it was made by Tokiwa Kōgaku too.[14] The S. Kuri f/3.5 lens is otherwise unknown; its name certainly indicates that it was made by Kuribayashi itself, and the "S" perhaps means that it has four elements. It was surely one the earliest camera lenses made by the company.[15] The Mirror I shutter has not been observed on any other camera. The shutter plate has braid patterns on both sides and is inscribed MIRROR~MODEL–I at the top.

The Auto Semi First is also reported with a Kokka f/3.5 lens on a Wester shutter, but this is unconfirmed.[16]

Notes Edit

  1. The attribution to Kuribayashi is confirmed by the "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 12.
  2. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 9.
  3. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, section 9.
  4. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 12, lens item Lb38, shutter item 24-P-1.
  5. See the discussion in the page on the First Reflex.
  6. Date: last advertisement listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.340.
  7. Example pictured in this page.
  8. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1062, and example pictured in McKeown, p.577.
  9. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1061, and example observed in an online auction.
  10. Example pictured in this page.
  11. Example sold as lot 79 in the March 25, 2006 Photographica and Film auction by Auction Team Breker.
  12. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1063.
  13. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lb18.
  14. Four elements: advertisement for the First Reflex published in Shashin Bunka October 1943, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.88.
  15. Baird, p.25, says that lens production by Kuribayashi began in 1942. Kuri 7.5cm f/4.5 lenses are mounted on the postwar Kuri camera.
  16. Tanaka, p.78 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8.

Bibliography Edit

Links Edit

In English:

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