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Semi Olympic

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

The Semi Olympic or New Olympic is a Japanese 4.5×6 camera made of bakelite, released in 1937. The camera was marketed by Asahi Bussan for a short time, and its production certainly began in the company's own manufacturing facilities (see the discussion in Asahi Bussan). In late 1937, the manufacturer was bought by Riken and reorganized as the dependent Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō. (The examples found today have an AKK logo on the shutter plate, for Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō.) After 1938 or 1939, the distribution of the cameras was gradually taken over by Riken Kōgaku Kōgyō. The New Olympic II was renamed Semi Kinsi in 1941.

See also the 3×4cm and 4×4cm Olympic, the 24×36mm Super Olympic and the 4×6.5cm Vest Olympic and Regal Olympic.

General description Edit

The Semi Olympic and New Olympic looks like an enlarged version of the Olympic C, with a bakelite body moulded so as to imitate leather covering. There is a bakelite helical supporting the lens and shutter assembly. This helical is driven by a massive metal ring at the base. The back contains two uncovered red windows near the top and it is usually hinged to the right. The name NEW.OLYMPIC is moulded in the bakelite at the bottom of the back. There is a nameplate inscribed The Olympic Camera Works, usually screwed to the left side of the body. (This is decorative only and is certainly not the maker's name, see Asahi Bussan.) The lens is a front-cell focusing 75mm f/4.5 and the shutter gives T, B, 25–150 speeds.

Early configuration: Semi Olympic Edit

The Semi Olympic was presented under that name in an advertisement by Asahi Bussan published at the end of 1937 in The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1938.[1] The pictured camera differs from all the examples observed so far. The back is hinged to the left (as seen by the user) and the nameplate is to the right, next to the back latch. The advance knob is at the top left and differs from the advance knob of the examples observed. There is a folding optical finder in the middle of the top plate. It is not known if this original version was actually sold or not.

Bottom advance: New Olympic Edit

After a few months, the camera was advertised again as the New Olympic (ニューオリンピック). The configuration was completely reversed, and the main body was turned upside down. As a consequence, the back is hinged to the right, the advance knob has moved to the bottom right, and the nameplate is placed on the left, next to the back latch. The tripod thread is at the middle of the bottom plate.

The New Olympic with bottom advance first appears in a catalogue by Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō, dated c.1938 and reproduced below.[2] The price is given as ¥35 (case ¥7 extra). The pictured camera has a folding optical finder and the words NEW OLYMPIC at the top of the shutter plate. The advance knob is not the same as on later documents and actual examples.

The leaflet by Riken Kōgaku Kōgyō dated c.1939, reproduced above, shows the camera with a "two-stage" advance knob and a tubular finder.[3] The shutter plate has SEMI OLYMPIC at the top, and the helical ring is engraved NEW OLYMPIC SIZE 4.5X6CM. The price has risen to ¥38 (case ¥7).

The New Olympic with bottom advance also appears in an advertisement by the distributor Ueno Shōten in the April 1940 issue of Asahi Camera, reproduced above.[4] The document mentions the price of ¥38 and a "special price" (特価) of ¥34. The New Olympic still appears in the official price list compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, for ¥43.[5] It was later superseded by the New Olympic II (see below).

The cameras observed so far show a few minor variations. Some have the folding finder,[6] whereas others have the tubular finder attached by two screws.[7] All have the "two-stage" advance knob. Most have the marking SEMI OLYMPIC SIZE 4.5X6CM on the helical ring,[8] but at least one has NEW OLYMPIC SIZE 4.5X6CM instead.[9]

On all these cameras, the lens is engraved UKAS Anastigmat 1:4.5 F=75mm N°xxxxx and the shutter plate is inscribed SEMI OLYMPIC at the top (in capital letters, with a larger "S" and "O") and FISKUS at the bottom, with the AKK logo of Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō on the right. At least one example is known with the mention MADE IN JAPAN in small letters above the FISKUS marking; this was perhaps written only on cameras made for export.[10] The speed settings are engraved in the shutter rim in that order: 25, 50, 100, 150, B, T. The aperture scale is at the bottom of the shutter plate. The lens and shutter equipment is identical to the Vest Olympic.

Top advance: New Olympic II and Semi Kinsi Edit

The camera configuration was reversed again on the New Olympic II (ニューオリンピックⅡ型). On this model, the advance knob is at the top left again but the back is still hinged to the right. The back latch is modified and consists of a long sliding bar instead of a sliding button. There is a folding optical finder in the middle of the top plate and a black accessory shoe at the top right.

The New Olympic II appears in advertisements by Doi Shōten placed in issues of Asahi Camera dated January, February, April and August 1941.[11] In all these documents, the camera is priced at ¥43. The 75/4.5 lens is called AKK Anastigmat in January, merely Anastigmat in February and April, and finally Ukas Anastigmat in August. The picture is the same in all the advertisements; on the camera, the shutter plate is inscribed Kinsi at the top and the shutter speeds are engraved in the order T, B, 150, 100, 50, 25. The same picture also appears in an advertisement by Riken Kōgaku Kōgyō dated February 1941, with no further detail.[12]

The New Olympic II also appears in the January 1941 official price list already cited above, along with the New Olympic and at the same price of ¥43.[13] The camera appears as the Semi Kinsi (セミキンシ) in the official price list dated November 1941.[14] (The name Kinsi was also used by Riken for a 3×4cm folder.)

No example of the New Olympic II has been observed so far, but some examples are known of the Semi Kinsi, which seems to differ from the New Olympic II by the markings only.[15] The shutter plate is inscribed Kinsi at the top and has the AKK logo on the right. The speed settings are in the T, B, 150, 100, 50, 25 order and the aperture scale is above the shutter housing. The helical ring is engraved SIZE 4.5X6CM and SEMI KINSI — at least one example has SEMI KINIS, obviously an engraving mistake.[16] The NEW.OLYMPIC marking at the bottom of the back is unchanged. The lens is reported as an AKK Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 on at least one example.[17]

Notes Edit

  1. Advertisement by Asahi Bussan in The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1938, pp.694–5.
  2. Catalogue Olympic Products, c.1938, p.11.
  3. Leaflet Riken Kōgaku no kamera to sōgankyō, c.1939.
  4. Advertisement in Asahi Camera April 1940, pp.A49–50. An extract of the document is also reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.64.
  5. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 1.
  6. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3040, and example pictured in Tanaka, p.15 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14, and in this page of the Ricoh official website. The latter has holes on the top plate, which might indicate that it was originally fitted with the tubular finder.
  7. Example pictured in McKeown, p.747, example owned by User:Rebollo_fr and example observed in an online auction.
  8. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 3040, example pictured in Tanaka, p.15 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14, and in this page of the Ricoh official website, and example owned by User:Rebollo_fr.
  9. Example pictured in this page at Oozusi's website.
  10. Example owned by User:Rebollo_fr.
  11. Advertisements in Asahi Camera January and February 1941, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.64 and 104, advertisement in Asahi Camera April 1941, p.509, advertisement in Asahi Camera August 1941, reproduced in Nakamura, p.32 of Camera Collectors' News no.171.
  12. Advertisement in Gakusei no Kagaku February 1941, reproduced at Gochamaze.
  13. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 1.
  14. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, section 1.
  15. Example pictured in this page, and examples observed in online auctions.
  16. Example observed in an online auction.
  17. Example observed in an online auction.

Bibliography Edit

Original documents Edit

  • Asahi Camera. Advertisement by Ueno Shōten in April 1940, pp.A49–50.
  • Asahi Camera. Advertisement by Doi Shōten in April 1941, p.509.
  • Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō. Olympic Products. Catalogue published c.1938 (date not indicated). Document reproduced in this Flickr set 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, section 1.
  • "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, section 1.
  • Riken Kōgaku Kōgyō. Riken Kōgaku no kamera to sōgankyō (理研光学のカメラと双眼鏡, Riken Kōgaku cameras and binoculars). Leaflet published c.1939 (date not indicated). Document reproduced in this Flickr set by Rebollo_fr.
  • The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1938, edited by Arthur J. Dalladay. London: Henri Greenwood & Co., Ltd. Publication date not indicated, certainly late 1937. Advertisement by Asahi Bussan on pp.694–5.

Recent sources Edit

Links Edit

In Japanese:


Asahi Bussan and Riken prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
rigid or collapsible
Vest Adler | Gokoku | Semi Kinsi | Letix | Olympic | New Olympic | Regal Olympic | Semi Olympic | Super Olympic | Vest Olympic | Riken No.1 | Ricohl | Roico | Seica | Zessan
folders pseudo TLR TLR
Semi Adler | Adler III | Adler A | Adler B | Adler C | Adler Four | Adler Six | Gaica | Heil | Kinsi Chukon Ref Ricohflex | Ricohflex B

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