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Super Olympic

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The Super Olympic (スーパーオリンピック) is a Japanese 35mm camera made of bakelite from 1935 or 1936 (see below). It was distributed by Asahi Bussan, and certainly made 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. After 1938 or 1939, the distribution of the cameras was gradually taken over by Riken Kōgaku Kōgyō, but the production of the Super Olympic was perhaps stopped by the time.

See also the 3×4cm and 4×4cm Olympic, the 4×6.5cm Vest Olympic and Regal Olympic and the 4.5×6cm Semi Olympic.

Release date Edit

The sources conflict on the camera's release date: some say 1935, sometimes specifying April or May, whereas others say 1936.[1] The earliest advertisement reported so far is dated March 1936, and the camera is featured in the new products column of the April 1936 issue of Asahi Camera.[2] Year 1936 is thus more plausible.

The camera was the first 35mm Japanese camera with a leaf shutter. Depending on the release date, it might be the first 35mm Japanese camera, coming before the Hansa Canon.

General description Edit

The Super Olympic has a bakelite body. The name SUPER is moulded in the bakelite on the front left side. The body has a rounded shape like the first Olympic cameras but it is longer. The back and bottom plate are detachable to load the film. They are locked in place by a small screw at the rear center, near the bottom edge of the back. The pressure plate is hinged to the top of the exposure chamber.

The lens and shutter assembly is fixed and there is a massive metal ring at the base of the lens barrel. It looks like the ring for the bakelite helical of the Olympic C and Vest Olympic but it has a decorative purpose only. There is a tubular optical finder, an advance knob at the top right, an automatic film advance device and an exposure counter. The advance is unlocked by a small button on the right of the finder.

The Super Olympic D Edit

The Super Olympic D uses 35mm film in a pair of cassettes. It does not have a rewind knob and transports the film from one cassette to the other. The advance knob has a flat top and the exposure counter is at the left end of the top plate: the frame number appears in a window inside a fixed knob, and a smaller knob protrudes at the top of the latter, certainly for manual reset. The tubular finder is in the middle of the top plate and is attached to the body by two screws.

The name and frame size are engraved on the metal ring at the base of the lens barrel: SUPER OLYMPIC MOD. D PICTURE SIZE 3.6 X 2.4 cm. The everset shutter gives T, B, 150, 100, 50, 25 speeds and the shutter plate is marked SUPER OLYMPIC at the top and MADE IN JAPAN MOD. D. 36×24mm at the bottom, with the AB logo of Asahi Bussan on the right. The lens is a front-cell focusing Ukas 50mm f/4.5. The aperture scale is at the bottom of the shutter plate. On the early examples, the distance numbers are engraved on the front of the lens rim and the lens bezel is engraved UKAS 1:4.5 F=50mm Nr xxxx; on later examples the distance scale is on the outer edge of the rim and the lens bezel is engraved UKAS Anastigmat 1:4.5 F=50mm Nr xxxxx.[3]

In advertisements by Asahi Bussan dated August 1936, February and March 1937, the Super Olympic D is simply called "Super Olympic" (スーパーオリンピック) and is priced at ¥35 (case ¥4 extra).[4] All these advertisements show the same picture, with the early type of distance ring.

The company made an attempt at exporting the camera, and placed an advertisement in The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1937, published at the end of 1936.[5] The picture is the same again. The shutter is mentioned as "Bario System", an incorrect translation of the "Vario-type" mention found in the original Japanese advertisements.

The Super Olympic DIII and DIIIA Edit

The Super Olympic DIII and DIIIA were an evolution of the model D, offered as more expensive versions (it seems that there was no Super Olympic DII). They use only one film cassette and have a rewind knob and a take-up spool. The advance knob has a smaller stepped part in the middle. The engraving on the metal ring reads SUPER OLYMPIC MOD. D III PICTURE SIZE 3.6 X 2.4 cm. The two models differ by the lens type: the DIII has a Ukas Anastigmat 50mm f/4.5 and the DIIIA has a Ukas Anastigmat 50mm f/3.5.

The camera was modified during its production run. The regular version has the exposure counter at the left end of the top plate. It consists of a disc which can be manually reset by two pins and which is topped by a small rewind knob shaped as a mushroom. The finder and the advance unlock button are identical to those mounted on the Super Olympic D.

This version appears with an f/4.5 lens in an advertisement in Asahi Camera March 1937,[6] the earliest document to mention the DIII.[7] The camera is offered for ¥45, along with the model D that is still priced at for ¥35. The pictured camera has the early type of distance ring — already described for the Super Olympic D — and a similar shutter plate (except perhaps for the bottom marking).

The design of the shutter plate was soon modified with larger silver stripes, applied on the DIII and DIIIA only. The Super Olympic D and DIII are presented side by side in the advertisement by Asahi Bussan placed in The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1938, published in late 1937.[8] In the picture, both cameras retain the older distance ring, and only the DIII has the newer shutter plate.

The catalogue by Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō reproduced below, dated c.1938, shows pictures of the D and DIIIA with the newer distance ring.[9] The D is priced at ¥40, the DIII at ¥50, and the DIIIA at ¥55 (case ¥6 extra).

Only a few examples of the DIII or DIIIA have been observed so far. All have the new type of distance ring and the newer shutter plate, marked MOD. D. III MADE IN JAPAN at the bottom. The aperture scale goes from 4.5 to 25 on the DIII,[10] and from 3.5 to 22 on the DIIIA.[11]

The late version is known from a single surviving example.[12] The exposure counter has moved between the viewfinder and rewind knob. It consists of a rotating disc which can be reset by turning a small knob in the middle. The rewind knob has a cylindrical shape, and a screw thread in the middle of the top. The viewfinder is slightly offset to the right and is attached to the body by four screws. The camera corresponds to a DIIIA, and has a Ukas Anastigmat 50mm f/3.5 lens and T, B, 250, 150, 50, 25 speeds (with no 1/100 setting). The shutter plate and focusing ring are unchanged.

None of the cameras observed so far has the AKK logo of Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō, certainly because the production was stopped before the AB logo of Asahi Bussan was removed the company's products — certainly in 1938. The Super Olympic is nonetheless still mentioned for ¥55 in the official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, with no further detail.[13]

Notes Edit

  1. This page of the JCII collection says April 1935. Lewis says May 1935 on p.42 and simply 1935 on p.53. The year is given as 1936 in Tanaka, p.13 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14, Sugiyama, item 3039, and McKeown, p.85.
  2. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.335.
  3. Examples with the early type of distance ring are pictured in this page of Massimo Bertacchi's website, in this page of the JCII collection, in Lewis, pp.42 and 53 and in Sugiyama, item 3039. An example with the late type of distance ring is pictured in McKeown, p.85 and another was sold in the Westlicht Auction no.4, lot 611.
  4. August 1936 advertisement published in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.63. February 1937 advertisement published in Camera Art, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.63. March 1937 advertisement published in Shashin Salon, reproduced in Tanaka, p.9 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14.
  5. Advertisement in The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1937, p.668.
  6. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.63.
  7. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.335.
  8. Advertisement in The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1938, pp.694–5.
  9. Catalogue Olympic Products, c.1938, pp.12–3.
  10. Example pictured in Tanaka, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14.
  11. Example observed in an online auction.
  12. Example pictured in Tanaka, p.14 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14. One of the pictures is reproduced in small size in this page and this page of the Ricoh official website.
  13. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 5, section 7.

Bibliography Edit

Original documents Edit

  • Asahi Camera April 1936. "Atarashii kikai to zairyō" (新しい機械と材料, New equipment and machinery). Pp.669–70.
  • Asahi Camera. Advertisements by Asahi Bussan or Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō:
    • July 1936, pp.A29–30;
    • August 1936, pp.A29–30;
    • September 1936, pp.A27–8;
    • October 1936, pp.A27–8;
    • November 1936, pp.A27–8;
    • December 1936, pp.A27–8;
    • January 1937, pp.A25–6;
    • February 1937, pp.A23–4;
    • March 1937, pp.A25–6;
    • April 1937, pp.A27–8;
    • May 1937, pp.A25–6;
    • June 1937, pp.A27–8;
    • July 1937, pp.A27–8;
    • August 1937, pp.A27–8;
    • September 1937, pp.A27–8;
    • October 1937, p.A28;
    • November 1937, p.A31;
    • December 1937, pp.A23–4.
    • January 1938, pp.A33–4.
  • Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō. Olympic Products. Catalogue published c.1938 (date not indicated). Document reproduced in this Flickr set by Rebollo_fr.
  • "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.
  • The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1937, edited by Arthur J. Dalladay. London: Henri Greenwood & Co., Ltd. Publication date not indicated, certainly late 1936. Advertisement by Asahi Bussan on p.668.
  • 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 English:

In Japanese:

In French :


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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