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Sister Six, Crystar Six and Super Naiku

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The Crystar Six is a series of Japanese 6×6 folding cameras made from 1954 to 1957 by Crystar Kōki, later Crystal. The Sister Six and Super Naiku are rebadged versions.

Common features Edit

All the models share the same horizontally folding body with smoothly tapered ends. The three-part folding struts are inspired from the 6×6 Ikonta, and they are engraved COC, certainly for Crystar Optical Company. The film is advanced by a knob at the left end of the top plate, as seen by the photographer, and there is a decorative flange on the other end. The shutter release is at its usual location on the right.

The back is hinged to the right, and contains two red windows, one above the other, protected by horizontally sliding individual covers. The upper red window is for 4.5×6cm exposures and the middle one is for 6×6cm; the cover housings are accordingly engraved 4.5X6 and 6X6. The exposure chamber contains two hinged flaps to select the picture format; they must be moved by hand before loading the camera, but are more convenient than the (easily lost) removable mask used on most other dual-format folders.[1] The tripod thread is in the middle of the bottom plate and there are film flanges at both ends. All the models have a striated covering, certainly made of some synthetic material.

The viewfinder models Edit

Description Edit

The Sister Six and the Crystar Six or Crystar 15 are viewfinder-only models. The viewfinder is contained in the middle of the top housing, and the accessory shoe is placed immediately above. The top housing normally has two leatherette strips, covering a shallow depression on either side of the accessory shoe. The folding bed release is placed on the left, next to the advance knob. The aperture for the folding bed is surrounded by a chrome strip. The name Crystar or Sister is engraved on the top housing, in front of the accessory shoe. The shape of the top housing and the striated covering are somewhat reminiscent of the Agfa Isolette.

The shutter is synchronized and has a self-timer on all the cameras. The range of speeds is either B, 1–200 or B, 1–300. The lens is a front-cell focusing 75mm f/3.5, usually called C-Master C Anastigmat, or sometimes C-Master Anastigmat.

The Sister Six Edit

It seems that the camera was first released as the Sister Six (シスターシックス). It was featured in Japanese magazines dated January to March 1954 and was advertised in February and March.[2] The February advertisement in Asahi Camera lists the camera for ¥9,800 (case included), together with the Crystar 25.[3] The shutter is called Crystar, the maker is mentioned as Crystar Kōki and the distributor as Sumimitsu.

A column in a Japanese magazine featuring the Sister Six says that the maker was called Sister Kōgaku Kōgyō;[4] this was perhaps the original maker of the camera, later merged into Crystar Kōki. In the same column, the shutter is already called Crystar and the distributor is mentioned as Sumimitsu.

The Sister Six has the name Sister engraved on the top housing, an SOC logo stamped on the covering of the front door, perhaps for Sister Optical Company, and no marking on the back; the folding struts have the same COC markings as on all the later models. The advance knob has a double row of knurls.

All the examples known so far have B, 1–200 speeds and an ASA synch post, but the shutter markings differ. Some cameras have the name SISTER at the bottom of the speed rim and an OKK marking at the top of the front plate;[5] at least one other camera has CRYSTAR on the speed rim and no other marking.[6]

The Crystar Six or Crystar 15 Edit

The camera was soon renamed Crystar Six (クリスターシックス) or Crystar 15 (クリスター15). The SOC logo was replaced by a Crystar embossing in the covering of the folding bed, and a similar embossing was added at the bottom right of the back. The engraving on the top housing was changed from Sister to Crystar. The only other apparent change is the addition of a black depth-of-field plate around the lens, inscribed CRYSTAR OPTL. CO. at the bottom.

The camera was featured under one of the two names in Japanese magazines dated May 1954, and was advertised from April to August.[7] The May 1954 advertisement in Asahi Camera, again by the distributor Sumimitsu, lists the camera as the Crystar 15 for the unchanged price of ¥9,800.[8] The August advertisement in Camera Mainichi lists the camera as the Crystar Six, for the same price; the distributor has become Lista Shōkai.[9] Both advertisements show an ASA bayonet post.


Presumably early examples have an ASA synch post, 1/200 top speed, and the same advance knob as on the Sister Six, with a double row of knurls.[10] Regular examples have a PC socket and a newer advance knob with a single row of knurls. Most have 1/200 top speed,[11] but some have 1/300 instead, such as that pictured above.[12] The latter has the unusual lens marking C–MASTER Anastigmat, without the intermediate C, and a low lens number with five instead of six digits.

One example is known without the leatherette strips on the top housing and the corresponding shallow depression.[13] These are replaced by a leatherette patch surrounding the accessory shoe, and the Crystar engraving is still present under this patch.[14] This particular example was found with a leather case embossed ORIENT at the front, and its exact denomination is unknown.[15]

The rangefinder models Edit

The Crystar Six IIIA Edit

The Crystar Six IIIA (クリスターシックスⅢA型) has an uncoupled rangefinder, combined with the viewfinder in a redesigned top housing. The common eyepiece is offset to the right, as seen by the photographer. Two red strips are visible in the viewfinder window, indicating the field of view for 4.5×6cm exposures. The small second image window is almost centered at the front of the top housing. The position of the rangefinder setting control is unknown. The accessory shoe is offset to the left, and the folding bed release is just in front of it. The advance knob has a single row of knurls and has an enlarged base. The words Crystar and probably MODEL IIIA are engraved above the range and viewfinder.

The Crystar Six IIIA was featured in Japanese magazines dated November and December 1954, and was advertised from October 1954 to July 1955.[16] The October 1954 and June 1955 advertisements in Camera Mainichi list the camera for ¥12,000 and say that the shutter is a five-bladed NKS (B, 1–300).[17] The company name has become Crystal (クリスタル).

The Crystar Six IIIA is very uncommon. The example pictured below seems to have the same lens and shutter unit as the previous Crystar Six (with PC synch socket and 1/200 top speed). In addition to that camera, another example is visible in this page of the AJCC.

The Super Naiku Edit

The Super Naiku (スーパーナイク) is an evolution of the Crystar Six IIIA. It has a focusing helical placed behind the lens and shutter unit, driven by a focusing tab and coupled to the rangefinder. There is a frame surrounding the viewfinder and rangefinder windows, and containing the word Naiku in small letters. The rest of the top housing is very similar to that of the previous model, except certainly for the disappearance of the rangefinder setting control. It seems that the words Super Naiku and perhaps "Model IIIF" are engraved above the viewfinder unit.

The Super Naiku was featured in Japanese magazines dated January and February 1956, and was advertised from November 1955 to February 1957.[18] The November 1955 and June 1956 advertisements in Camera Mainichi show the price of ¥9,800.[19] The lens is reported as a Yagen 75/3.5 in November and as a Yargen 75/3.5 in June, one of the two is a typo. The shutter is reported as a five-bladed Naiku giving B, 1–300 speeds, with a self-timer and a PC synch socket.

The name "Naiku" is a Japanese transcription of "Nike", name of various US missiles of the 1950s, and the November 1955 advertisement shows a Nike Ajax rocket on the background.[20] Such use of a military related name is unusual in postwar Japan. The June 1956 advertisement shows a more pacific background of planets and stars.

Only two surviving examples of the Super Naiku have been observed so far. One is pictured in McKeown and has a C-Yargen Super Naiku 75mm f/3.5 lens and the word NAIKU at the bottom of a conical black shutter plate.[21] The other is pictured in Sugiyama and has a Toko 75/3.5 lens by Tōkyō Kōgaku and a Copal shutter (B, 1–300), engraved COPAL at the bottom of the speed rim.[22] Both are reported as "Super Naiku Model IIIF", certainly after the engraving on the top housing.

There is a third example of a Super Naiku Model IIIF in perfect condition in Argentina, with the same characteristics as the ones mentioned above. The camera also comes with the original Naiku leather case.

To contact the owner rtleather at gmail dotcom

Notes Edit

  1. These hinged masks are confirmed on the Sister Six and Crystar Six. They are certainly present on the Crystar Six IIIA and Super Naiku but this is yet unconfirmed.
  2. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.352.
  3. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.140. A similar advertisement is reproduced in Furukawa, p.23 of Camera Collectors' News no.275.
  4. Extract from an unknown magazine, reproduced in Furukawa, p.23 of Camera Collectors' News no.275.
  5. Example pictured in McKeown, p.231, and example observed in an online auction.
  6. Example pictured in this page by SCR.
  7. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.351.
  8. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.135.
  9. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.140.
  10. Example pictured in Furukawa, pp.21–2 of Camera Collectors' News no.275 (lens no.152008), and example observed in an online auction.
  11. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1291, example pictured in McKeown, p.231, and examples observed in online auctions.
  12. The example pictured in this page of the Yamada Camera Museum (lens no.153817), might have 1/300 too.
  13. Example pictured in Furukawa, pp.21–3 of Camera Collectors' News no.275 (lens no.157746).
  14. Picture in Furukawa, p.23 of Camera Collectors' News no.275.
  15. Furukawa, p.21 of Camera Collectors' News no.275.
  16. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.351.
  17. Advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.135.
  18. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.356.
  19. Advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.154 and 155.
  20. See Project Nike on the English Wikipedia.
  21. Example pictured in McKeown, p.232.
  22. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1367.

Bibliography Edit

Links Edit

In Japanese:

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