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Ofuna Six

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Japanese Six (6×6)
Postwar models (edit)
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rigid or collapsible
Dia Six | Ehira Chrome Six | Enon Six | Flora | Flashline | Fujipet | Harmony | Mikono-6 | Orion | Ponix | Rich-Ray-6 | Shumy | Weha Chrome Six
Japanese 6×6 TLR, pseudo TLR and medium format SLR ->
Japanese Semi (4.5×6) and older 6×9 ->

Ofuna Six (オフナーシックス, Ofunā Shikkusu)[1] was the name used by Ōfuna for two very different 6×6 rangefinder folders from 1953 to about 1957.

Original Ofuna Six, with non-coupled rangefinder Edit

Description Edit

The earlier and much better-known model was released at the very end of 1953 and was still advertised in summer 1956.[2] It has a diecast body with rounded edges, and a non-coupled rangefinder which shares the eyepiece of the viewfinder, offset to the left as the camera is viewed by the photographer. The finder housing has an accessory shoe and is inscribed OFUNA SIX in the centre, and has the body serial number marked above the eyepiece. The rangefinder is controlled by a wheel falling under the right thumb, and the distance appears under a crescent-shaped window on the right end of the top plate. The film winding knob is to the left, and contains a film reminder.

The struts for the door are curved and are not marked with any manufacturer's name. The OFUNA logo is embossed in the leather covering of the front door. The back is hinged to the right and has two square red windows for 6×6 and 6×4.5, protected by horizontally sliding covers. The company name OFUNA OPTICAL CO. is embossed in the leather covering at the bottom of the back.

The lens is a unit-focussed Ofunar 75mm f/3.5 F.C., designed by Kunitomo Kenji (国友健司) within Ōfuna and made by the company itself, the same lens as is used on the Ofunaflex.

Evolution Edit

The shutter changed over time: originally a Nissei-Rapid (B, 1–500), from December 1954 an NKS-FB (B, 1–300), and finally (from some time in 1955) a Copal (B, 1–300). All three are synchronized via a PC socket.

Cosmetic and perhaps other changes were made over the camera's lifetime. The early examples, with Nissei-Rapid shutter, have OFUNA SIX in one line in oblique script (the ends of the "S" extending below the "F" and above the X"), an OFUNA logo to the right of the accessory shoe (as seen by the photographer), ∞—feet—4 inscribed below the distance scale of the rangefinder, and no frame around the viewfinder or rangefinder window.[3] Some might have 1/400 instead of 1/500 top speed.[4]

The later examples, with NKS or Copal shutter, have "OFUNA SIX" in one line and in a straightforward (non-oblique) script, no OFUNA logo on the top, no inscription below the distance scale, and frames added around the viewfinder and rangefinder windows.[5] It is said that the rangefinder mirror became gilded together with the adoption of the NKS shutter.[6] At least one late camera with a Copal shutter has an additional screw at the right end of the top housing.[7]

Advertisements and price Edit

The Ofuna Six was advertised in Japanese magazines from November 1953, and featured as a new product in various magazines dated November and December.[8] The advertisement in the November 1953 issue of Asahi Camera offers the Ofuna Six with Nissei-Rapid shutter for ¥15,000 (exactly half the price of the Ofunaflex).[9] The model with Nissei-Rapid was advertised until November 1954, and the switch to the NKS-FB shutter occurred on the following month.[10] The advertisement in the December issue of Asahi Camera offers the camera with NKS shutter for ¥14,500 (and the Mamiya Six K for ¥18,800).[11]

An advertisement dated August 1955 reportedly mentions the NKS shutter again.[12] The Ofuna Six is featured in special issues of Photo Art dated October and November 1955, where the price is given as ¥12,500.[13] The article dated October mentions the NKS-FB shutter and that dated November mentions the Copal, but the picture seems to be the same in both, certainly showing a camera with a Copal shutter, recognized by its CPL logo faintly visible on the side. The Ofuna Six was finally advertised with the Copal shutter in June and July 1956 issues of Japanese magazines.[14] The June advertisement in Asahi Camera does not mention a price, and presents the camera along with the Taron 35.

Production estimate Edit

According to Kano Masayuki (狩野正之), who was responsible for the assembly and quality control of the Ofunaflex and Ofuna Six from 1954, and whose testimony was recorded by Hagiya, about 2,000 Ofuna Six were made, four times more than the Ofunaflex.[15] The known body numbers have five digits in the 60xxx, 62xxx or 63xxx range,[16] Lens numbers have four digits, in the 7xxx, 8xxx and perhaps 6xxx range, and do not follow the evolution of the camera in strict sequence.[17] This data might indicate that the production was closer to 3,000 units.

Rebadged Mine Six, with coupled rangefinder Edit

A later model (c.1956–7) is only known from a single photograph, published in Hagiya from the album of Kano Masayuki.[18]

According to the testimonies of Kano Masayuki and Kunitomo Kenji recorded by Hagiya, this new Ofuna Six was ordered by Kashimura for export, after the production of the previous model had stopped.[19] The body was supplied by Takane and is the same as that of the Mine Six IIF. The lens is the Ofunar 7.5cm f/3.5 of the previous Ōfuna models. (Takane's manufacture of this camera was one part of an arrangement whereby Takane was able to obtain these Ofunar lenses rebranded as the Zunow Zuminor for the Mine Six IIIS(B); see Takane.)[20]

The pictured camera is indeed very similar to the Mine Six IIF. It has a sliding control on the front of the finder housing to move a 6×4.5 finder mask in and out of position. OFUNA–SIX is inscribed in one line of a non-oblique lettering across the top, and another illegible marking is written below. The knobs at both ends of the top housing are identical, and differ from those of the Mine Six IIF; the one at the photographer's left notably does not have a film reminder. The shutter is of an unknown type. It gives B, 1–300 speeds, engraved in the reverse order (300–1, B) on the silver shutter plate, and is synchronized via a PC synch socket. The pictured camera has a four-digit lens number, perhaps in the 78xx range.

Notes Edit

  1. Note the change of pronunciation from that of Ōfuna (大船), the manufacturer.
  2. Advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.348 and 379.
  3. This version is called "Ofuna Six (I)" in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.348. Examples with Nissei-Rapid shutter are shown in this page at Kamera no heya and in the November 1953 advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.125.
  4. The example pictured in this page at Kamera no heya seems to have 1/400 top speed, though this is not clearly legible on the picture.
  5. The version with NKS shutter is called "Ofuna Six (II)" in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.348. Detailed pictures of an example NKS shutter are shown in Hagiya, pp.160–61 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  6. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.348.
  7. Picture in Hagiya, p.161 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  8. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.348.
  9. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.125. See also the 1954 advertisement reproduced in this page at Shashin-Bako, and the advertisement reproduced in Hagiya, p.157 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari (certainly dated 1954 despite what is said in the caption).
  10. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.348.
  11. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.125.
  12. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.348.
  13. Special issues of Photo Art October 1955, p.85, and November 1955, p.62.
  14. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.379.
  15. Production figures and details of Kano Masayuki: Hagiya, p.162 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  16. Lowest body number is 60532, on the camera pictured in this page at Kamera no heya. Highest is 63386, observed in an online auction.
  17. Lowest is perhaps 6418, on the camera pictured in this page at Kamera no heya. Highest is 8748, visible in the photograph of a camera with Copal shutter pictured in Hagiya, p.166 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari, from Kano Masayuki's album. Not in strict sequence: lens no.8210 is mounted on an NKS shutter, whereas lens no.7xxx is mounted on a Copal.
  18. Picture in Hagiya, p.166 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  19. Hagiya, p.167 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
  20. Hagiya, p.167 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.

Sources / further reading Edit

Original documents Edit

  • Photo Art rinji zōkan: Kamera no chishiki (フォトアート臨時増刊・カメラの知識, Photo Art special issue: Knowledge of cameras). October 1955, no.87 of the magazine. "Kokusan kamera no hatten 2: Supuringu kamera" (国産カメラの祭典2・スプリングカメラ, Japanese camera festival 2: folding cameras). Pp.83–6.
  • Photo Art rinji zōkan: Saishin supuringu kamera zensho (フォトアート臨時増刊・最新スプリングカメラ全書, Photo Art special issue: All the latest folding cameras). November 1955, no.89 of the magazine. "Supuringu kamera mihonshi" (スプリングカメラ見本市, Folding camera trade fair). Pp.55–69.
  • Sakurai Minoru. "Kokusan supuringu kamera benran" (国産スプリングカメラ便覽, Guide to Japanese folding cameras.) In Shashin zasshi Camera zōkan shirīzu: Supuringu kamera (写真雑誌Camera増刊シリーズ・スプリングカメラ). Tokyo: Ars, February 1954. Pp.31–56.

Recent sources Edit

Links Edit

In Japanese:

Ōfuna cameras (edit)
Herlight | Ofunaflex | Ofuna Six

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