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Star Semi

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Japanese Semi (4.5×6)
Prewar and wartime models (edit)
folding
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The Star Semi (スターセミ) is a series of Japanese 4.5×6 folders, distributed by Ueda Shashinki-ten from 1940 to 1943.[1] Two very different models were sold under the name Star Semi, with right-hand or left-hand body release, and at least one of these was made by Takahashi, most likely the former.[2] (Some sources attribute the camera to "Star Camera Works"[3] but this was certainly a dummy name used for advertising purpose only, the same as other names ending in Camera Works.)

Right-hand release models Edit

Most models of the Star Semi are vertical folders with straight folding struts and a rounded body. They are extremely similar to the Semi Kreis and were certainly made by the same manufacturer. The finder, advance knob and body release are to the right when the camera is held vertically by the photographer, the reverse of the usual arrangement. The body release is actioned by the right hand's finger. The back is hinged to the right. The brand name Star is embossed in the front leather in fancy letters. All the models have a Star 75/3.5 or 75/4.5 three-element lens made by Takahashi.[4] The shutters are called Star-Alpha or Star-Rapid and were made by Takahashi too.[5]

Early range Edit

The Star Semi I and II appeared in early 1940. Both have a Star Anastigmat 75/4.5 lens and T, B, 5–200 speeds. The Star Semi I has a folding optical finder and red window advance. The Star Semi II has a tubular optical finder and an automatic stop advance device with an exposure counter, located in a small housing extending from the advance knob to the viewfinder.

The two models were advertised in Asahi Camera from January 1940, and were featured in the new products column of the February issue.[6] The advertisements dated April and May, reproduced below, still list the two cameras as new products, and show a picture of the Star Semi II;[7] the August advertisement is very similar.[8] The model I was priced at ¥100, and the model II at ¥120. In the description of the cameras, the shutter is called Star Alpha, but the picture shows the name STAR GAMMA at the top of the front plate. The November advertisement shows a picture of the model I, and gives no price.[9]

Later range Edit

Other models, called Star Semi III, IIIA, IIIB and V,[10] appeared at the end of 1940. They were first advertised in the December 1940 issue of Asahi Camera,[11] where the range was listed as follows:

  • Star Semi I: f/4.5 lens, T, B, 5–200 speeds (already described above), ¥74;
  • Star Semi V: same as model I with a "special finder" (特殊ファインダー), ¥90;
  • Star Semi II: same as model I with auto-stop advance and exposure counter, ¥100;
  • Star Semi III: f/4.5 lens, Star-Rapid shutter (T, B, 1–500), manual advance, ¥121;
  • Star Semi IIIA: f/3.5 lens, Star-Rapid shutter (T, B, 1–500), manual advance, ¥140;
  • Star Semi IIIB: f/3.5 lens, Star-Rapid shutter (T, B, 1–500), auto-stop advance and exposure counter, ¥155.[12]

The Star Semi III and IIIA have the same folding optical finder as the Star Semi I. The Star Semi IIIB presumably has the same tubular finder and auto-stop mechanism as the model II.

The nature of the "special finder" of the Star Semi V is not described in the advertisements. An example of the Star Semi is pictured in Sugiyama with both a brilliant finder and a direct vision finder grouped together in a small housing.[13] (The exact same part has been observed on the second model of the Semi Mulber and on an Oko Semi.)[14] This example of the Star Semi has a Star Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens and a Star-Rapid shutter. The dual finder unit probably corresponds to the "special finder" of the Star Semi V, even if the lens and shutter do not match.

The list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, has the Star Semi I, II, III, IIIA and IIIB at similar prices, except for the IIIA and IIIB whose set price was ¥160.[15] A similar price list dated November 1941 mentions the Star Semi II, III, IIIA, IIIB and V.[16]

The April 1941 advertisement in Asahi Camera, reproduced on the right, only mentions the models III, IIIA and IIIB.[17] The prices are the same as in December 1940. The February 1942 advertisement in Asahi Camera mentions the same three models, but the March 1942 advertisement in Hōdō Shashin lists the whole range except for model I:[18]

Four models of the Star Semi are mentioned in the government inquiry listing the Japanese camera production as of April 1943. They were registered as made by Takahashi, and they were grouped in two body versions:[19]

  • first body version, Star 75/3.5 lens, Star-Rapid shutter, B, 1–500 speeds;
  • first body version, Star 75/4.5 lens, Star-Rapid shutter, B, 1–500 speeds;
  • second body version, Star 75/3.5 lens, Star-Rapid shutter, T, B, 1–300 speeds;
  • second body version, Star 75/4.5 lens, Star-Rapid shutter, B, 1–500 speeds.

The two body versions perhaps correspond to the models with and without auto-stop advance, or one might correspond to the left-hand release model described below.

Left-hand release model Edit

A very different model of the Star Semi has been observed twice.[20] It has a different body, with more angled edges and a reversed configuration: the folding optical finder, advance knob and body release are to the left as seen by the photographer holding the camera vertically. The folding struts are different too, they are now quite similar to the Ikonta struts and they have a star engraved on the articulation. It is not known if this model was made by Takahashi too.

The lens is a Star Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 and the shutter is a Star-Rapid, engraved STAR-RAPID in the speed rim. The shutter speeds are not legible. The lens standard protrudes to the top right (as seen from the front), probably providing an attachment for a removable brilliant finder. The camera has been observed with the name Star embossed in the front leather or with a small Star nameplate attached to the front leather.[21]

Notes Edit

  1. Dates: advertisements and articles listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.337.
  2. Made by Takahashi: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 25–8.
  3. Sugiyama, item 1246; McKeown, p.902.
  4. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens items Lb26 and Lc5.
  5. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter items 18-P-13, 18-Q-1 and 18-R-11.
  6. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.337.
  7. Advertisements in Asahi Camera April 1940, pp.A21–2, and May 1940, pp.A21–2.
  8. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.76.
  9. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.76.
  10. No model IV is known. This is perhaps because the number four is sometimes considered in Japan as bringing ill luck.
  11. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.72. The same source, p.337, says that it was the first advertisement listing the models III, IIIA, IIIB and V. The advertisement shows the same picture of the Star Semi II as in April, May and August.
  12. Shutter speeds: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.337.
  13. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1246, where it is described as a "Star Semi III". McKeown, p.902, also mentions this camera.
  14. Semi Mulber: see for example Sugiyama, item 1207. Oko Semi: example pictured in McKeown, p.746.
  15. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, sections 4A, 4B, 6B, 7B.
  16. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, sections 4B, 6B, 7B.
  17. Advertisement in Asahi Camera April 1941, no page number. See also the January 1941 advertisement in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.77.
  18. Advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1942, visible in this page of Xylocopal's photolog, and advertisement in Hōdō Shashin March 1942, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.76. The model pictured is a III or IIIA.
  19. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 25–8.
  20. Example pictured in McKeown, p.902, and example pictured in this page.
  21. Embossing: example pictured in McKeown, p.902. — Nameplate: example pictured in this page.

Bibliography Edit

  • Asahi Camera. Advertisements by Ueda Shashinki-ten:
    • April 1940, pp.A21–2;
    • May 1940, pp.A21–2;
    • April 1941, no page number.
  • Asahi Camera (アサヒカメラ) editorial staff. 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. Item 129. (See also the advertisements for items 108 and 136.)
  • "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 4A, 4B, 6B, 7B.
  • "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 25–8.
  • "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, 6B, 7B.
  • McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). P.902.
  • Sugiyama, Kōichi (杉山浩一); Naoi, Hiroaki (直井浩明); Bullock, John R. The Collector's Guide to Japanese Cameras. 国産カメラ図鑑 (Kokusan kamera zukan). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1985. ISBN 4-257-03187-5. Item 1246.

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