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Semi Minolta (I) and II

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Japanese Semi (4.5×6)
Prewar and wartime models (edit)
folding
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Postwar models ->
Japanese SLR, TLR, pseudo TLR and stereo ->
Japanese 3×4, 4×4, 4×5, 4×6.5, 6×6 and 6×9 ->

The Semi Minolta (セミ・ミノルタ) is a series of Japanese 4.5×6 folders made by Molta and then Chiyoda Kōgaku (the predecessors of Minolta) from 1934 to 1955.

The present page deals with the prewar and wartime viewfinder models, called Semi Minolta (I) and Semi Minolta II and distributed by Asanuma Shōkai. The Auto Semi Minolta rangefinder model, released in 1937, is a very different camera and is described in a separate page, as well as the Semi Minolta III, a postwar evolution of the viewfinder model, and the Semi Minolta P, a completely redesigned camera.

General description Edit

The Semi Minolta are inspired by the 4.5×6 Ikonta but they are not plain copies. The folding struts are simpler than those of the Ikonta, and anticipate those of the later 4.5×6 Nettar. The body has a mixed pressed steel and die-cast alloy construction on the model I and early model II.[1] This was replaced by an all die-cast construction during the production of the model II. The all die-cast cameras are easily recognized by the absence of the leather handle covering the back latch on earlier cameras.

The name Minolta is embossed in the leather covering at the front, and all the cameras but the very late ones have an MTS logo engraved in the folding struts.

Over the top plate, the folding finder is offset to the left, as seen by the photographer holding the camera horizontally. The accessory post is slightly offset to the right, and the folding bed release is further to the right. There are round film flanges at both ends. On the model I, the main release is on the shutter casing; on the model II it moved to the top plate, to the viewfinder's left.

The film is wound by a key at the bottom right, and the tripod screw is at the opposite end of the bottom plate. The back is hinged to the left for film loading and locked by a latch on the right. It contains one or two red windows to control the film advance.

All the models have a Coronar 75mm three-element lens, with f/4.5 or f/3.5 maximal aperture, made by Asahi Kōgaku (predecessor of Pentax).[2] The engraving Coronar Anastigmat Nippon was replaced by Coronar Nippon during the production of the model II. Most cameras have a version of the Crown shutter made by Molta or Chiyoda itself, and only a few Semi Minolta II have an imported shutter.

All the Semi Minolta and Semi Minolta II were produced in the company's original Mukogawa (武庫川) plant.[3] The production rate was about 800 units per month around 1938.[4]

The Semi Minolta I Edit

The original Semi Minolta can be recognized by the absence of a body release. It is retrospectively called Semi Minolta I by today's collectors, but it is not known if this name was originally used by the company.[5] Many Western sources identify this camera wrongly and confuse it with the early model of the Semi Minolta II (see below).[6]

Release date Edit

Early historical accounts compiled by the Minolta company or its predecessor Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō give an extremely early release date. The official chronology published in the September 1958 issue of Shashin Kōgyō says 1932,[7] whereas later official histories say 1933, sometimes specifying June.[8] These dates have been repeated in many later documents.[9] Evidence found in original advertisements and magazine articles proves that these dates are too early: the camera did not appear until the end of 1934 and was not actually sold before 1935.[10]

The patent of the Crown E shutter of this model was filed on April 16, 1934 and published on October 13 of the same year.[11] The camera itself was reportedly mentioned in the photo notes column of the December 1934 issue of Asahi Camera as available soon,[12] and it was briefly mentioned in the January 1935 issue of the same magazine, at the end of an article on the Semi Prince.[13] The latter camera, made by Fujimoto, another company based in Osaka, competes with the Semi Minolta for the title of first Japanese 4.5×6 camera. Advertisements for the Semi Prince are reported as early as November 1934, and it seems that it came a few months before the Minolta model.[14]

The earliest reported advertisement for the Semi Minolta is in the March 1935 issue of Asahi Camera.[15] The next one, in the April issue of the same magazine, still mentions the camera as soon to be sold (近日発売), at the price of ¥70 with an accessory rangefinder costing ¥15.[16] No picture or description is given and the camera is called "Minolta Semi Bro" (ミノルタ・セミ・ブロ), where "Bro" is an abbreviation for "Brownie": it seems that the name was not yet fully settled at the time.

Lens and shutter equipment Edit

All the Semi Minolta I have an everset Crown E, giving first T, B, 5–100 speeds and later T, B, 5–200. The name "Crown E" was used in advertisements as early as July 1935, but this was not consistent and the shutter was sometimes simply called "Crown".[17]

The Crown E is equipped with a small disc acting as an exposure counter, object of the 1934 patent mentioned above. This disc advances each time the release is tripped and it can be manually reset. It is graduated from 1 to 8 with an intermediate stop between two consecutive numbers so that each number is used twice, the same as in the red windows. The disc makes two full turns during the 16 exposures and each numbered position is shared by two numbers: 5/1, 6/2, 7/3 and 8/4.

On all the examples except the late transitional ones, the shutter plate is black. It is engraved Patents-Nippon at the top and CROWN at the bottom and has the MTS logo on the right. The aperture scale is graduated from 4.5 to 25 and is screwed at the bottom.

All the Semi Minolta I have the Coronar Anastigmat Nippon lens engraving. Most have the f/4.5 lens, but the late transitional cameras also exist with the f/3.5 lens (see below).

Frame finder and unit focusing Edit

The very first examples of the Semi Minolta ("type A1")[18] have unit focusing, a folding frame finder and a fixed cylindrical post instead of a shoe to attach the accessory rangefinder. This version is pictured in advertisements dated June and July 1935.[19] The price is either ¥70 or ¥75, the latter certainly including the case. The two leaflets reproduced above are dated about the same, and list the camera alone for ¥70, the rangefinder for ¥15 and the case for ¥5.[20] They show a camera with lens no.2842, certainly among the earliest ones. In all these documents, the top speed is given as 1/100 when specified, and this is confirmed by the pictures.

At some time, the price of the camera was lowered to ¥65, that of the accessories being unchanged. In the leaflet reproduced above, the original ¥70 price tag is crossed out and replaced by a newer ¥65 tag.[21] The assertion that the distance scale can be read through the finder is crossed out too, and is replaced by a more sober description of helical unit focusing, perhaps because the former description was misleading.

An advertisement dated November 1935 has the lower ¥65 price, and mentions 1/200 top speed.[23] The leaflet reproduced above also says 1/200, and gives the price as ¥70, either because it was printed before the price change or because the case is included.[24]

The Semi Minolta with frame finder ("types A1, A2, A3")[18] is extremely rare, and only very few surviving examples are known so far, with lens numbers in the 3xxx range.[25] All have an accessory shoe ("type A2")[18] instead of the cylindrical post found on the advertising pictures. The lens and shutter assembly is mounted on a focusing helix and the distance scale is on a metal strip above the front standard. The lens bezel is black and of course the front element is fixed. The frame finder is opened by lifting the rear edge, and its front part folds over the rear one. The back has two uncovered red windows, which are offset to the left compared with later examples, and look slightly smaller.

Other features are common to all the early Semi Minolta I: the film spools are retained by thin flanges with a striated top, the back is opened by a sliding button on the side, and the latch and leather handle are attached to the body.

Frame finder and front-cell focusing Edit

The company perhaps had some difficulties to manufacture the focusing helix at a fair price. Moreover, the combination of the expensive unit focusing feature with a frame finder was a bit weird, and these two features were soon modified. It seems that some transitional examples combine the folding frame finder with front cell focusing ("type A3").[18]

This version appears in advertisements dated January and July 1936, and in a contemporary leaflet reproduced above.[27] The January 1936 advertisement in Ars Camera mentions 1/200 top speed again, but the leaflet and the July advertisement in Toki no nagare have 1/100 instead. The latter two documents are the first to distinguish between a regular ever-ready case, priced at ¥4.50, containing the camera only, and a large ever-ready case, priced at ¥5.00, containing the camera with the rangefinder attached.

No surviving example of this version has yet been found.

Optical finder Edit

The next examples have a folding optical finder, whose rear part folds over the front one ("type B").[18] They still have the early film flanges and back latch mentioned for the frame finder version. The two uncovered red windows are placed near the top of the back, and are laterally centered, unlike those of the earliest cameras.

The lens outer rim is nickel plated, with a black inner bezel. The distance scale is engraved on its front face, from 1.25m to ∞, with an Mtr indication. There is a big cylindrical infinity stop; it is usually situated above the exposure counter disc but the exact position varies. The name Semi Minolta and the serial number are engraved on a brown metal strip above the front standard — that was the focusing scale of the unit-focusing version. (All these features were probably already present on the previous version with front-cell focusing and frame finder.) The serial number has four digits with NO. prefix on the earliest cameras, then five digits beginning with "0" and Nr. prefix.[28]

The example pictured above has 1/100 top speed ("type B1"),[18] but others are known with 1/200 ("type B2").[18][29] Examples of this version are known with body numbers in the 02xxx range and lens numbers in the 9xxx to 11xxx range. The transition from 1/100 to 1/200 shows some overlapping of the lens numbers: no.9429 is known on a 1/200 shutter, lower than no.10379 pictured above on a 1/100 shutter.

The version with optical finder and low film flanges is pictured in advertisements dated November 1936 (mentioning 1/200) and August 1937.[30]

Higher film flanges Edit

At some point after the definitive adoption of 1/200 top speed, the low film flanges were replaced by higher ones, similar to those mounted on the model II. The newer flanges ("type C")[18] can be lifted only after they are turned so that the small screw on the rim is pointing to the back, unlike the older ones which could be lifted in any position. A few examples or this version are known, with lens numbers in the 11xxx to 15xxx range.[31]

New back latch Edit

It seems that the next step in the camera's evolution was the adoption of a new back latch ("types D1 and D2"),[18] attached to the back instead of the body side. The handle attachment looks more robust and the back is opened by a button placed behind. The same arrangement was retained until the early model II. Very few examples are known with the new back latch, the older shutter plate and no guide rails in the exposure chamber.[32] It is said that the pressure plate was modified with stepped sides at about the same time.[33]

Guide rails Edit

Soon after, separate guide rails were added to the exposure chamber, presumably to improve film flatness. The early type of guide rails consists of two metal strips attached by four screws each.[34] The late model I with f/3.5 lens pictured below has longer and wider strips, attached by three screws each and covering the film rollers. This was modified again on the early model II, which has slightly shorter strips, leaving the film rollers uncovered.

Examples made during that period ("type D1")[18] have been observed with serial numbers in the 05xxx range, and lens numbers in the 27xxx range.[35]

New shutter plate Edit

Towards the end of the production of the model I, the Crown E received a new front plate, similar to that of the Semi Minolta II, though retaining the typical exposure counter disc. It is inscribed PATENT NIPPON at the top and CROWN at the bottom in block letters, it has three metal stripes on either side of the lens, and no MTS logo. The introduction of that new shutter plate perhaps postdates the introduction of the Semi Minolta II at the very end of 1937.

The examples with f/4.5 lens have an unchanged lens bezel and infinity stop, and presumably an unchanged folding bed, notably recognized by the thicker standing leg ("type D2").[18][36] Lens numbers are known in the 28xxx and 29xxx range, and one camera has body no.05690.[37]

F/3.5 lens, new folding bed Edit

The late version also exists with an f/3.5 lens. The distance scale is engraved on the side of the focusing rim and the infinity stop consists of a small red plate. There is a new type of folding bed ("type E"),[18] same as found on the model II, with a recessed oval and a thinner standing leg, certainly to accomodate the larger f/3.5 lens. Compared with an earlier example, the spring mechanism releasing the folding bed is different, but it is unknown if this is related to the bed modification. All the other features are unchanged. The only serial numbers known so far correspond to the camera pictures above, with body no.05943 and lens no.30234.

Single red window Edit

One isolated example of the model I has been observed with an f/3.5 lens and the newer back with single red window ("type F")[18] normally found on the model II.[38] It is certainly among the very late examples, made in Spring 1938.

It is possible that some Semi I were assembled with the two covered red windows briefly mounted on the early model II, but the existence of this version has not been confirmed so far.

Late documents Edit

The Semi Minolta I was reportedly advertised until July 1938.[39] The advertisement in the January 1938 issue of Asahi Camera lists the f/4.5 version for ¥75 and the f/3.5 version for ¥89, along with the Semi Minolta II.[40] It shows an outdated picture of a camera with the older shutter plate and f/4.5 lens, but pictures of the model I with f/3.5 lens are found in an original user manual for the camera.[41]

Accessories Edit

The accessory rangefinder is black and has Molta's MTS logo at the top. It is 76mm long, and is normally found in a small brown leather case, embossed Minolta on the cover. It was listed as an accessory from the very beginning, and its price was ¥15 (see above). A different chrome rangefinder was perhaps offered at the time of the Semi Minolta II (see below).

The rangefinders pictured in the early leaflets reproduced above have a distance scale in metres, either 1–10m–∞ or 1.25–10m–∞.[42] Distance scales found on actual examples are either in metres (1.25–10m–∞ or 1–30m–∞) or in feet (from 3ft).[43] All the Semi Minolta I and II have a distance scale in metres, and the version engraved in feet was certainly sold as a general purpose accessory for other cameras.

The rangefinder has a cylindrical part at the bottom, fitting the corresponding post of the very first Semi Minolta I. This part has a serial number engraved underside, made of a letter and three digits.

The device usually comes with an adapter to fit a regular accessory shoe. The whole rangefinder rotates by 180 degrees inside the adapter, perhaps to give access to the film flange to change the spool, or to fit inside a large ever-ready case. It seems that early adapters have no engraving, whereas later ones have a serial number underside, matching that of the rangefinder itself.

In addition to the adapter, the rangefinder is regularly found with a spare accessory shoe, identical to that normally fitted on the Semi Minolta I. It was perhaps supplied to the customers to modify other camera models lacking a shoe.

Two different cases were offered for the Semi Minolta: an ordinary one for ¥4.50 and a larger one for ¥5, holding the camera with the rangefinder attached (see above). No surviving example of the latter has yet been observed.

The Semi Minolta II Edit

The Semi Minolta II (セミ・ミノルタⅡ型) is distinguished by the addition of a body release and the removal of the exposure counter disc. It was announced in the December 1937 issue of Asahi Camera and was advertised from 1938 to 1943 (all versions included).[44]

The name "Semi Minolta II" appears on advertisements for the Prontor version; the camera was simply called "Semi Minolta" on later advertising material.[45] The names "Semi Minolta II" and "Semi Minolta III" appear from 1941 to 1943 in official lists of set prices and in a government inquiry about camera production; in these documents, they apply to the Crown f/4.5 and Crown f/3.5 versions respectively (see below).

Early model, mixed construction Edit

The early model has the same mixed construction as the Semi Minolta I, made of pressed steel and die-cast alloy. It is often mistaken for the Semi Minolta I in Western publications.[46] The finder and accessory shoe are slightly moved to the right, to leave space for the body release. The Semi Minolta II has all the cumulative changes described above for the Semi Minolta I: high film flanges, newer back latch opened by a button on the rear, guide rails in the exposure chamber and recessed folding bed with a thin standing leg (even on the f/4.5 version). Another change has been observed on the model II: the advance can be turned clockwise only and the internal film key seems to be a bit larger.

Dual, then single red windows Edit

The Semi Minolta II was first offered for ¥105 with a Prontor II shutter (175–1, B, T, self-timer) and a Coronar Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, as appears in advertisements dated January 1938.[47]

The first examples have two red windows in the back, protected by a cover that is retracted by a lever. This feature is pictured in one of the advertisements for the Prontor model mentioned above. It only appears on a few examples with Prontor II shutter and f/3.5 lens (numbers are known in the 32xxx and 33xxx range),[48] or with Crown shutter and f/4.5 lens having the old lens bezel.[49] On these, the control lever is sometimes broken, hinting that the part was too fragile.[50]

The dual red windows were very soon replaced by a single red window, centred at the bottom of the back, protected by a vertically sliding cover. This arrangement appears on most examples of the first model, whether with Prontor or with Crown shutter.

Prontor II, f/3.5 Edit

The front face of the Prontor shutter is marked PRONTOR II at the bottom and has the AGC logo of Gauthier, either on the right or at the top.[51] Unlike the other versions, the aperture scale is above the shutter housing and there is a release lever on the shutter itself in addition to the body release.

The Prontor-equipped examples have a plain release button with a rounded tip whereas the Crown-equipped cameras have a screw-threaded button to attach a distant release. This is probably because the Prontor shutter does have its own connector for a cable release whereas the Crown does not.

A version with f/3.5 lens and Compur shutter giving T, B, 1–300 speeds is mentioned in some sources, but no confirmation has been found and no example has surfaced so far.[52]

Crown, f/4.5 Edit

A less expensive version soon appeared with a Coronar Anastigmat f/4.5 lens and an everset Crown B shutter giving B, 5–200 speeds.[53] This version was first advertised in the April 1938 issue of Shashin Shinpō.[54] The shutter plate of the Crown B is engraved PATENT NIPPON at the top and CROWN at the bottom, it is similar to the one found on the transitional Semi Minolta I described above but it lacks the exposure counter disc and the aperture index is modified.

Some early examples have the same lens bezel and infinity stop as the original Semi Minolta, with lens numbers up to the 38xxx range.[55] This was soon changed for a new lens bezel and infinity stop similar to the f/3.5 version.[56]

Crown, f/3.5 Edit

After about a year, the Prontor II shutter was substituted by the Crown B on the f/3.5 version,[57] certainly because the supply of imported parts had stopped and the stocks were running out.

The first advertisements mentioning the new combination are dated January 1939.[58] In that in Shashin Shinpō,[59] the camera is simply called "Semi Minolta" and is offered with a Crown B shutter but the picture has not been updated and still shows the Prontor II. The price is given as ¥100 with the f/4.5 lens and ¥120 with the f/3.5 lens. Some accessories are listed too (see below).

The earliest lens numbers known for the Crown and f/3.5 combination are in the 38xxx range, and there was some overlap with the Prontor equipment until the 40xxx range. Known lens numbers for the early model (f/4.5 or f/3.5) run into the 48xxx range.

Middle model, die-cast body Edit

Nickel plating Edit

The Semi Minolta II was heavily modified at some point. The new features were reportedly discussed in the new products column of the June 1940 issue of Asahi Camera.[60] This middle model is what is called "Semi Minolta II" by many sources, whereas the early model is incorrectly called "Semi Minolta I".[61] It only exists with the Crown B shutter (T, B, 5–200) and the f/4.5 or f/3.5 lens. Confirmed lens numbers for the nickel plated version run from the 53xxx to 64xxx range.

This model has a full die-cast alloy body, with a slightly different shape. The back is opened by a long bar sliding under a flat cover, and there is no strap handle. The viewfinder opening is coupled to the folding bed release, whereas the finder of the previous model was simply opened by lifting its front edge. The coupling mechanism involves a small mushroom-like part visible on the left of the finder. This part keeps the spring-loaded finder closed; when the folding bed release is pressed, it is moved further to the left, thus releasing the finder too.

The new body construction came with internal changes. For example the internal body corners were altered, the film rollers were modified and the guide rails were made integral to the body casting. Some sources say that at the same time the spool loading parts were made thicker for easier film loading.[62] The surrounding of the internal film key was indeed modified, but it is not much bigger and it is unclear whether film loading is really easier.

The official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941 has two models called "Semi Minolta II" and "Semi Minolta III", for ¥100 and ¥120 respectively.[63] These names are found again in a similar price list dated November 1941,[64] and in the government inquiry of April 1943 listing Japanese camera production.[65] The latter document confirms that they apply to the regular versions with Coronar f/4.5 and f/3.5 lens respectively, and Crown shutter (5–200). After the war, the name Semi Minolta III would be used again for a different model.

An advertisement in the March 1941 issue of Shashin Bunka lists the camera at an unchanged price: ¥100 with f/4.5 lens and ¥120 with f/3.5 lens.[66] The Asanuma Shōkai catalogue dated October 1941 offers the same two models, at respectively ¥117 and ¥141.[67] Various accessories are listed too (see below).

Towards the end of the production of the nickel plated version (lens numbers in the 62xxx to 64xxx range), the advance key was modified with sharper edges, and the transitional cameras received a chrome plated lens and shutter unit.[68]

Chrome plating Edit

At some point, the metal parts that were nickel plated became chrome plated.[69] This came together with a change in the shape of the folding bed release, modified with a flat top. The advance key had been modified shortly before, as said above. A lens number in the 70xxx range is confirmed on an early chrome finished camera, with the older Coronar Anastigmat Nippon engraving.[70]

The lens marking was soon changed to Coronar Nippon. Lens numbers are known with the new marking from the 74xxx range onwards.

It seems that artificial leather replaced the natural leather covering simultaneously with chrome plating.

All the examples observed of this model have a black lacquered body, whether they have nickel or chrome finish.[71]


Late model, plain folding struts Edit

Regular Crown shutter Edit

The late model of the Semi Minolta II has plain diagonal struts, without any logo, increasing the similarity with the 4.5×6 Nettar. This model exists both with the f/4.5 lens and with the f/3.5 lens, normally engraved Coronar Nippon. Lens numbers are confirmed from the 83xxx to the 108xxx range. One isolated example has been observed with the older lens marking and an out of sequence serial number in the 69xxx range, perhaps because remaining lens stock was used.[72]

Most examples of this model have bare metal body edges.[73] The body shape was left unchanged but the edges were ground sharp for a better finish. This might have been caused by a shortage of paint, or to imitate the silver painted finish of the competing Semi Pearl by Konishiroku.

Some examples have been observed with the black painted body and round edges of the previous version, mostly in the early production and with the f/3.5 lens, except for that pictured below with an f/4.5 lens and a cocking shutter.

Cocking shutter Edit

In addition to the usual everset Crown shutter giving T, B, 5–200 speeds, the late model has also been observed with a Crown shutter of the cocking type.[74] It is known with both types of lenses.[75] Apart from the cocking lever, this shutter has the same features and the same markings as the previous model.

At least one example has been observed with an f/3.5 lens and a Crown II shutter, apparently giving B, 1–300 speeds, very similar to that mounted on the Minoltaflex (I). It has a nameplate inscribed CROWNⅡ–TIYOKO at the top, and a cocking lever placed the same as on the cocking Crown shutter pictured above. It seems that the shutter is an original equipment adapted by the factory: it does not seem that the shutter unit was salvaged from a Minoltaflex, whose cocking lever and release lever are different.

It is said that a Crown A shutter (T, B, 1–200) was advertised on the Semi Minolta II from the February 1942 issue of Asahi Camera,[76] but no example of the Semi Minolta II has yet been observed with this range of speeds.

Non standard example with Rokkor lens Edit

The example pictured above has a Rokkor 75mm f/3.5 lens (no.1720) made by Chiyoda Kōgaku itself, engraved CHIYOKO OSAKA ROKKOR.[77] The shutter is a Crown with cocking lever (T, B, 5–200). The Rokkor 75mm f/3.5 lens was reputedly developed after the war and first mounted on the postwar Semi Minolta III. The serial number of this lens is not extremely early, and this rules out the possibility of an experimental model assembled during the war with an early prototype of the Rokkor.

The camera also has a crudely made advance key, maybe the sign of a repair. It was certainly modified after leaving the factory, and its lens equipment is maybe not original. However, it is not impossible that a few Semi Minolta II were assembled and sold after the war from remaining stocks of parts, some of them having the new Rokkor lens, and that this camera is one of these.

Accessories Edit

The external rangefinder introduced for the Semi Minolta I was still offered as an accessory for the the model II, as well as the two types of ever-ready case. Two different hoods were offered, holding 25mm or 30mm filters, for the f/4.5 or f/3.5 lens. The prices evolved as follows:

date January 1938[78] January 1939[79] March 1941[80] October 1941[81]
external rangefinder ¥18 ¥18 ¥18 ¥18
small ever-ready case,
for the camera only
_ ¥5 _ ¥7.70
large ever-ready case,
for the camera and rangefinder
_ ¥5.50 _ ¥8.35
hood for 25mm filters,
for the f/4.5 lens
_ ¥1.50 _ ¥1.50
hood for 30mm filters,
for the f/3.5 lens
_ ¥1.70 _ ¥1.70

The all chrome rangefinder pictured below has no marking, but fits in a brown leather case with a Minolta logo of a type used in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The case is too short to hold the black rangefinder, and no other Minolta accessory or the period is known to fit inside. This might indicate that this chrome rangefinder was an original Minolta product, perhaps a successor to the black model. The device has a cylindrical post at the bottom, as the original rangefinder, and a dial on the rear, graduated in metres from ∞ to 0.9m.

A waist-level finder (反対ファインダー) was introduced for the Semi Minolta in early 1938. It clips to the front part of the eye-level finder. The device is described in the new products column of Asahi Camera March 1938, reproduced below.[82] The document says that it was priced at ¥1.80.

The Foca-Finder is another accessory available for Minolta cameras in the prewar or wartime period. It consists of a close-up attachment combined with a right-angle split-image rangefinder. (Despite being vaguely similar to an angle finder, the device has no framing ability.) The split-image optics are preset at a fixed distance and contain no moving part. The close-up lens is calculated to take sharp pictures at that distance when the camera's focusing ring is set at infinity.

The example pictured above is a Foca-Finder C-50, set at 50cm. Its front rim is engraved FOCA–FINDER C–50 at the bottom and "MINOLTA" at the top. It fits the front rim of an f/4.5 Semi Minolta II, to which it is held by a tightening screw, and it is too small to fit an f/3.5 Semi Minolta II or an Auto Semi Minolta. It comes in a small box, marked Minolta FOCA FINDER on the lid and Minolta inside.

Several versions might exist, and one recent source reports a preset distance of 20cm.[83] The same source says that the Foca-Finder was sold from 1941 by "Walz" (certainly Nihon Shōkai, which owned the Walz brand at the time).[83]

Original box Edit

The original box for the Semi Minolta and Semi Minolta II is made of heavy cardboard. The main sides are inscribed 4½×6CM and Semi Minolta, and have a sticker distinguishing f/4.5 and f/3.5 models, with the words CORONAR ANASTIGMAT LENS. The small sides are inscribed Minolta SEMI. The bottom side has a long sticker with a description of the lens and shutter and a picture of the camera — not necessarily showing the actual variant. The body and lens serial numbers are sometimes handwritten on that sticker. The box pictured above has blue colours and was for f/3.5 camera no.5251, probably a Semi Minolta I.[84] Another original box has been observed with brown colours, for an f/4.5 Semi Minolta II.[85]

Aftermarket conversion Edit

The Sun film stop is an auto-stop device, advertised by Yamashita Yūjirō Shōten in January 1939, and described in the page about Yamashita. The conversion was available for the Semi Minolta and other similar cameras, such as the Super Ikonta, Ikonta, Nettar, Welta Perle, Semi Lyra and Semi Prince.

Notes Edit

  1. Tanimura explains the construction in detail in Camera Collectors' News no.131 and includes a drawing that is also reproduced on p.19 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  2. Coronar made by Asahi Kōgaku: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens items Lb5 and Lc9. This is also found in Sugiyama, p.27, Lewis, p.182.
  3. Awano, p.7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  4. Tashima Gizō, interviewed by Saeki Kakugorō on p.78 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  5. The advertisement in Asahi Camera January 1938 reproduced in Tanimura, p.15 of Camera Collectors' News no.118, lists the "Semi Minolta" and "Semi Minolta II" side by side, hinting that the name "Semi Minolta I" was not in use.
  6. For example Francesch, p.74, Scheibel, p.17, Sugiyama, items 1199–1204, and McKeown, p.672. The origin of this mistake is perhaps a wrong caption in an early historical account issued by the manufacturer, as in Taniguchi, p.276 of Shashin Kōgyō September 1958, where the picture captioned as a "Semi Minolta I" actually shows a Semi Minolta II.
  7. "Hensen kamera ichiran-pyō", p.295 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77, reproduced in this Flickr page by Rebollo_fr. The document makes other mistakes, saying that the 1932 "Minolta Semi I" has an f/3.5 lens.
  8. Awano, p.1 of Camera Collectors' News no.104, says that the year 1933 is mentioned in 35-nen no ayumi ("Minolta's first thirty-five years", 1963) and in 45-nen no ayumi ("Minolta's first forty-five years", 1973). The fifty-year history Minolta 50-nen no ayumi (1978), says June 1933 on pp.5 and 65.
  9. Francesch (pp.74 and 80) and Scheibel (p.17) say 1932. Eimukku 735 Minolta, pp.131 and 133, and Kikan Classic Camera, p.14, say 1933. In Supuringu kamera de ikou, Kawamata says 1933 on p.76 but 1935 on p.79. McKeown, p.672, says 1934, which is closer to the actual date of 1935.
  10. This is notably demonstrated in Tanimura, p.1 of Camera Collectors' News no.116.
  11. Patent reproduced in Tanimura, pp.5–7 of Camera Collectors' News no.131. An extract is also reproduced on p.19 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  12. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342.
  13. Tanimura, pp.1–2 of Camera Collectors' News no.116.
  14. See Semi Prince.
  15. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342.
  16. Advertisement reproduced in Tanimura, p.11 of Camera Collectors' News no.118.
  17. The name "Crown E" notably appears in the July 1935 advertisement in Toki no Nagare, a publication of Asanuma Shōkai, reproduced in Tanimura, p.9 of Camera Collectors' News no.116 and p.19 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12. The later inconsistencies probably explain why Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342, mistakenly says that the Crown E with exposure counter disc replaced the "Crown" at the end of 1936.
  18. 18.00 18.01 18.02 18.03 18.04 18.05 18.06 18.07 18.08 18.09 18.10 18.11 18.12 The type names between quotes were created for that article, to distinguish the variants of the Semi Minolta, and were not official names used by the manufacturer.
  19. Advertisement on the second cover of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin June 1st, 1935, reproduced on p.18 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku, and advertisement in Toki no Nagare July 1935 (a publication of Asanuma Shōkai), reproduced in Tanimura, p.9 of Camera Collectors' News no.116 and p.19 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  20. Leaflets Semi Minoruta Kamera.
  21. Leaflet Semi Minoruta Kamera.
  22. Leaflet Asanuma Shōkai hatsubai no kokusan kamera Minoruta Happī.
  23. Advertisement in Toki no Nagare (a publication of Asanuma Shōkai), reproduced in Tanimura, p.9 of Camera Collectors' News no.116.
  24. Leaflet Asanuma Shōkai hatsubai no kokusan kamera Minoruta Happī.
  25. Example pictured in this page (lens no.3455, 1/100 top speed), example pictured in Awano, Camera Collectors' News no.104, in Tanimura, Camera Collectors' News no.116 and on p.20 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12 (lens no.3332, 1/100 top speed), and example pictured in Eimukku 735 Minolta, pp.131 and 133 (the pictures are swapped with those of the Semi Minolta II).
  26. Leaflet Danzen kesshutsu shita kokusan kamera.
  27. January 1936: advertisement in Ars Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.96. — July 1936: advertisement in Shashin Shinpō, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.97 and in Hagiya, p.9 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, and advertisement in Toki no Nagare (a publication of Asanuma Shōkai), reproduced in Tanimura, p.9 of Camera Collectors' News no.116. — Leaflet: Danzen kesshutsu shita kokusan kamera.
  28. Four digits with NO. prefix: no.2147, observed in an online auction. Lowest five-digit number with Nr. prefix: no.02366, observed in an online auction.
  29. 1/100: examples pictured in Sugiyama, item 1199, in Tanimura, p.5 of Camera Collectors' News no.116 (picture 4), in Omoide no supuringu-kamera-ten, p.9, and in the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology [1], and observed in online auctions. — 1/200: examples pictured in Kawamata, p.76 of Supuringu kamera de ikou, and in Tanimura, p.5 of Camera Collectors' News no.116 (pictures 5–6) and Camera Collectors' News no.131.
  30. November 1936: advertisement reproduced in Tanimura, p.10 of Camera Collectors' News no.116, probably from Toki no Nagare (a publication of Asanuma Shōkai). — August 1937: advertisement published in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.97.
  31. Examples pictured in Tanimura, p.20 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12 (picture no.3), p.1 of Camera Collectors' News no.124, at Cameras Downunder and observed in online auctions.
  32. Examples pictured in Tanimura, Camera Collectors' News no.116 and 131.
  33. Tanimura, pp.3 and 6 (pic.8) of Camera Collectors' News no.116.
  34. Tanimura, p.20 (pic.5) of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, and p.6 (pic.10) of Camera Collectors' News no.116.
  35. Examples observed in online auctions.
  36. Version pictured in Sugiyama, item 1200, in Awano, Camera Collectors' News no.104, in Tanimura, p.6 of Camera Collectors' News no.116 and p.20 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12 (left of picture 6, whose caption erroneously says f/3.5), and in this page of Miyazawa Noriyuki's camera site.
  37. Examples pictured in Awano, Camera Collectors' News no.104, and in this page of Miyazawa Noriyuki's camera site.
  38. Example pictured in an online auction.
  39. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342.
  40. Advertisement reproduced in Tanimura, p.15 of Camera Collectors' News no.118.
  41. Semi Minolta user manual, reproduced in Tanimura, pp.10–1 of Camera Collectors' News no.116.
  42. Leaflets Semi Minoruta Kamera.
  43. 1.25–10m–∞: example pictured in this page. 1–30m–∞: examples pictured in this page. 3ft–∞: example observed in a Japanese blog which is now dead. A previous version of this page reported a fourth variant with 0.9–30m–∞ engraving, but it actually corresponds to the regular 1–30m–∞ marking with 0.9m added by hand.
  44. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342. The fifty-year history Minolta 50-nen no ayumi (1978), also says December 1937 on p.65.
  45. "Semi Minolta II": advertisements dated 1937 and January 1938 reproduced in Tanimura, pp.15 and 16 of Camera Collectors' News no.118 and in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.97. All subsequent advertisements and catalogues have "Semi Minolta".
  46. Francesch (p.74) and Scheibel (pp.16–7) say "Semi Minolta I", Sugiyama (items 1201–2) says "Semi Minolta I" as opposed to "Semi Minolta I (Original)" and McKeown (p.672) says "Semi Minolta I (1935 type)" as opposed to "Semi Minolta I (1934 type)". It is explicitly called "Semi Minolta II" in various original documents.
  47. Advertisement in Shashin Shinpō reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.97, and advertisement in Asahi Camera reproduced in Tanimura, p.15 of Camera Collectors' News no.118. (A similar advertisement reproduced in Tanimura, p.16 of Camera Collectors' News no.118, is reportedly dated 1937.)
  48. Examples pictured in this page, in Tanimura, p.5 of Camera Collectors' News no.118 and p.20 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12 (pictures no.7 and 8), and offered for sale by a dealer.
  49. Example pictured in Awano, pp.4–5 of Camera Collectors' News no.104.
  50. Example pictured in this page, and example offered for sale by a dealer.
  51. Logo at the top: example pictured in Tanimura, Camera Collectors' News no.118 and p.20 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  52. Tanimura, Camera Collectors' News no.118 and p.20 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12. Scheibel, p.23, mentions a T, B, 1–250 shutter option, perhaps referring to the Compur version. (The 1/300 top speed would be more plausible given the date and shutter size.)
  53. It is the model pictured in McKeown (p.672) and in Scheibel (p.16) as a "Semi Minolta I".
  54. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342.
  55. Examples pictured in Awano, pp.4–5 of Camera Collectors' News no.104, in the Semi Minolta user manual reproduced in Tanimura, p.14 of Camera Collectors' News no.118, and observed in online auctions.
  56. This variant is pictured for example in Sugiyama, item 1201, where it is wrongly called "Semi Minolta I".
  57. It is the combination pictured by Francesch as a Semi Minolta I (p.74).
  58. Advertising dates: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342. Tanimura, in Camera Collectors' News no.118 and on p.20 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, says that this version appeared in 1937 but this is unlikely.
  59. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.97.
  60. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342.
  61. See e.g. Francesch, pp.74 and 80, Scheibel, pp.16–7 and 22–3, Sugiyama, items 1201–4, and McKeown, p.672.
  62. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342, and this page of Mediajoy's Guide to Classic Cameras. Kokusan kamera no rekishi explicitly says that the new model is characterized by the new back latch, the new film loading spool and the new finder opening, without mentioning the die-cast construction.
  63. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, sections 4B and 5B.
  64. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, sections 4B and 5B.
  65. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 44–5.
  66. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.97.
  67. Catalogue Shashinki to zairyō by Asanuma Shōkai, dated October 1941, p.10.
  68. Examples offered for sale by a dealer and observed in an online auction.
  69. Tanimura, pp.20–1 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, says that all the cameras with die-cast alloy body have chrome plated parts, but many exampes have been observed in nickel finish, one of them being pictured above in this page.
  70. Example observed in an online auction.
  71. A picture appearing in Francesch (p.80) and Scheibel (p.22) seems to show this model with bare metal body trimming. The example pictured has the smooth edged advance key and striated folding bed release typical of the nickel-plated version. The picture probably belongs to the company and it is heavily retouched, to the point that the MTS logo normally found on the folding struts in depicted like a star. What looks like metal body trimming is simply the result of this retouching.
  72. Example observed in an online auction, with f/4.5 lens no.69915.
  73. This variant is pictured for example in Sugiyama, item 1203, with an f/3.5 lens.
  74. This last variant, with cocking shutter and all the other changes, is called "Semi Minolta II/8" (セミミノルタII・8型) in this page of Mediajoy's Guide to Classic Cameras and its Japanese version. This is a name recently coined by collectors, after a recension of versions 1 to 7 as appears in Tanimura's articles in Camera Collectors' News no.118 and in Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  75. Coronar f/4.5: examples pictured in this page and in Tanimura, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.118 and pp.15 and 21 (pic.11) of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12. Coronar f/3.5: examples pictured in this page of Mediajoy's Guide to Classic Cameras and observed in online auctions.
  76. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.342.
  77. Example observed for sale at a dealer.
  78. Advertisement in Shashin Shinpō, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.97.
  79. Advertisement in Shashin Shinpō, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.97.
  80. Advertisement in Shashin Bunka, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.97.
  81. Catalogue Shashinki to zairyō by Asanuma Shōkai, dated October 1941, p.10.
  82. Column on the waist-level finder in Asahi Camera March 1938, pp.470–1.
  83. 83.0 83.1 Noma, p.71.
  84. That particular box was sold at an online auction together with a Semi Minolta III (body no.2156), but the two items were probably mismatched.
  85. Box observed in an online auction.

Bibliography Edit

Original documents Edit

  • Asanuma Shōkai. Shashinki to zairyō (写真機と材料, Cameras and supplies). Catalogue dated October 1941. P.10. Document partly reproduced in this Flickr album by Rebollo_fr.
  • "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō" (カメラの公定価格官報発表, Official announcement of the set prices of the cameras), November 1941. Extract of a table listing Japanese camera production and setting the retail prices, reproduced in "Bebī Semi Fāsuto 'Kore ha bebī wo nanotta semi-ki da'" (ベビーセミファースト"これはベビーを名乗ったセミ機だ", Baby Semi First, 'this is a Semi camera called Baby'), an article by Furukawa Yasuo (古川保男) in Camera Collectors' News no. 277 (July 2000). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. P. 27. Type 3, sections 4B and 5B.
  • "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" (国産写真機ノ現状調査, Inquiry into Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of April 1943. Reproduced in Supuringu kamera de ikou: Zen 69 kishu no shōkai to tsukaikata (スプリングカメラでいこう: 全69機種の紹介と使い方, Let's try spring cameras: Presentation and use of 69 machines). Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppan-sha, 2004. ISBN 4-87956-072-3. Pp.180–7. Items 44–5.
  • "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku" (国産写真機の公定価格, Set prices of the Japanese cameras), listing Japanese camera production as of October 25, 1940 and setting the retail prices from December 10, 1940. Published in Asahi Camera January 1941 and reproduced in Shōwa 10—40nen kōkoku ni miru kokusan kamera no rekishi (昭和10〜40年広告にみる国産カメラの歴史, Japanese camera history as seen in advertisements, 1935—1965). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1994. ISBN 4-02-330312-7. Pp.108—9. Type 3, sections 4B and 5B.
  • Leaflets for the Semi Minolta, dating c.1935. Semi Minoruta kamera (セミミノルタカメラ, Semi Minolta camera). Two slightly different leaflets are known, and a third variant has errata stamped on various places. Documents are owned by A. Apra and reproduced by Rebollo_fr in these Flickr albums: [2] [3] [4].
  • Leaflet for the Minolta and Happy range, dating c.1935. Asanuma Shōkai hatsubai no kokusan kamera Minoruta Happī (浅沼商会発売の国産カメラミノルタ・ハッピー, Japan-made Minolta and Happy cameras distributed by Asanuma Shōkai). Document owned by A. Apra and reproduced in this Flickr album by Rebollo_fr.
  • Leaflet for the Minolta and Happy range, dating c.1936. Danzen kesshutsu shita kokusan kamera (断然傑出した国産カメラ, Definitely excellent Japan-made cameras). Document owned by A. Apra and reproduced in this Flickr album by Rebollo_fr.
  • Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin (日本写真興業通信). Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku (百号ごと十回の記録, Ten records, every hundred issues). Tokyo: Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin Sha (日本写真興業通信社), 1967. No ISBN number. Advertisement on p.18, corresponding to the second cover of the June 1st, 1935 issue.

Official historical accounts Edit

  • Minolta Camera. Minolta 50-nen no ayumi (Minolta・50年のあゆみ, Minolta 50-year history). November 1978. Pp.5–6 and 65.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (September 1958). "Hensen kamera ichiran-pyō" (変遷カメラ一らん表, Table of camera evolution.) P.295. (This is a chronology of Minolta cameras from the Nifcarette onwards. This document is reproduced in this Flickr page by Rebollo_fr.)
  • Taniguchi Masao (谷口匡男), from the commercial department (営業部) of Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō. "Minoruta kamera no sakujitsu, konnichi" (ミノルタ・カメラの昨日、今日, Minolta cameras, yesterday and today). In Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (September 1958). Pp.275–9. (The two first pages of this document, on pre-1937 cameras, are also reproduced in Tanimura, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116.)

Recent sources Edit

Links Edit

General links Edit

In English:

In Japanese:

In French :


Original documents Edit

In Japanese:


Nifca, Molta and Chiyoda prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
folding plate cameras
Nifcaklapp | Nifcasport | Sirius | Arcadia | Lomax | Eaton | Happy
folding rollfilm cameras telescopic bakelite cameras
Nifcarette | Sirius Bebe | Semi Minolta | Auto Semi Minolta Minolta Vest | Baby Minolta | Minolta Six
strut-folding cameras TLR cameras
Nifca-Dox | Minolta | Auto Minolta | Auto Press Minolta Minoltaflex | Minoltaflex Automat | Minoltaflex military prototype

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