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Tsubasa Super Semi

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Japanese Semi (4.5×6)
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The Tsubasa Super Semi (ツバサスーパーセミ) is a series of Japanese 4.5×6 folding cameras, made by Kigawa from 1938.

General description Edit

The Tsubasa Super Semi is a horizontal folder with incurved folding struts. On all the models, the film is advanced by a key at the bottom right, as seen by the photographer. The folding bed release is above the top plate and looks very much like a shutter release; the latter is actually hidden beneath the folding bed.[1] The back is hinged to the left and has two red windows to control the film advance, protected by an internal pivoting mask actuated by a thumbwheel. The leather covering is embossed TSUBASA SUPER SEMI CHROME under the red windows and has an NE logo on the folding bed.

The original Tsubasa Super Semi Edit

First version Edit

The original model has a folding optical finder. In the first version, the front part of the finder folds above the rear part, the folding bed release is on the photographer's left, the film flanges at both ends of the top plate have a low profile and the back is opened by a sliding button covered by a leather handle.

The shutter is everset and gives giving T, B, 25, 50, 100, 150 speeds (engraved in that order). The shutter plate is inscribed TSUBASA SHUTTER at the top, with the NE logo between the two words, and NEW GOLD at the bottom, with metal stripes on both sides. The distance scale is engraved at the front of the lens rim, at least on the cameras with the Lucomar lens.

The first version is pictured in advertisements in Asahi Camera June and September 1938.[2] The shutter is called Tsubasa, and a choice of two lenses is given:

  • Lucomar f/4.5 (¥45);
  • Lausar[3] f/4.5 (¥50, case ¥5 extra).

The advertisement in Asahi Camera February 1939 shows the same camera.[4] The Lucomar lens is listed alone, at the same price of ¥45 (case ¥6 extra).

A single surviving example has been observed so far, with the Lucomar Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 lens.[5]

Second version Edit

On the second version, the top film flanges have a conical shape and the folding bed release has moved to the photographer's right, perhaps to look more like a body release.

The markings on the shutter plate are the same as on the first version. All the surviving examples observed so far have the Lucomar Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5.[6] The lens rim is different and has the distance scale engraved on the outer side. One example is known with lens no.486, a very low three-digit number.[7]

The second version is pictured in advertisements in Asahi Camera April and September 1939, where it is offered for ¥50 with the Lucomar f/4.5 lens.[8]

Third version Edit

The third version has a new type of back latch consisting of a long sliding bar, and has a cutoff in the folding struts, perhaps to save raw material. The rest of the camera is unchanged, including the viewfinder. A single surviving example has been observed so far,[9] and no original document has been found yet.

Z99 Tsubasa Super Semi a 001

Tsubasa Super Semi IV - Kigawa Koguku shutter KIKO C

=== Fourth version ===

The fourth version has a new type of viewfinder, whose rear part folds above the front one. It has the new back latch and perforated struts, the same as on the third version.

The fourth version is pictured in advertisements dated October 1940 and March 1941, where it is listed with the Lucomar f/4.5 lens for ¥58 (including the lens hood).[10] The shutter is reportedly called Kikō (キコー) instead of Tsubasa in some advertisements dated 1941.[11] (Kikō is an acronym of Kigawa Kōgaku.)

The official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941 has the Tsubasa Super Semi and the Tsubasa Super Semi II for ¥62, and the Tsubasa Super Semi IIA for ¥74, with no further details.[12] The official price list dated November 1941 has the same three models, attributed to the distributor Nichiei Shōkai, successor of Optochrom.[13] It is not known for sure if the models II and IIA correspond to the Tsubasa II Super Semi described below.

The Tsubasa Super Semi is also mentioned in the government inquiry dated April 1943.[14] The document gives Kigawa as the maker and Kikō as the distributor. Two versions are listed, one has the Lucomar 75/4.5 lens and a Kikō shutter giving T, B, 25–150 speeds, the other has a Kikō 75/3.5 three-element lens and a Kikō shutter giving T, B, 5–200 speeds.[15] No surviving example has been observed so far with an f/3.5 lens, and it is wondered if this corresponds to the more expensive Tsubasa Super Semi IIA mentioned in the official price lists cited above.

The observation of surviving examples seems to confirm that the shutter was changed at some time, from the "New Gold" to the "Kiko-C". The presumably early examples have the same lens and shutter unit as on the previous versions.[16] Some presumably late examples have a different shutter plate, inscribed Patent–Tubasa at the top, and KIKO–C at the bottom.[17] This Kiko-C shutter has the same features as the New Gold, and gives T, B, 25, 50, 100, 150 speeds, engraved in that order on the shutter plate. An isolated example has been observed with a different Kikō-C shutter, giving 150, 100, 50, 25, B, T speeds, engraved in that order on the rim.[18] Its shutter plate is cream coloured with black stripes, and is inscribed KIKŌ–C at the top and KIGAWAKOGAKU at the bottom.[19]

The Rondex Edit

The Rondex (ロンデックス) is a name variant of the Tsubasa Super Semi. It is attributed to Yamashita Yūjirō Shōten (certainly only the distributor), and it was featured in the new products column of the May 1940 issue of Asahi Camera.[20] It also appears in the January 1941 price list cited above, for ¥62, the same price as the Tsubasa Super Semi.[21]

The only known surviving example is pictured in Sugiyama and belongs to the Pentax Gallery.[22] The body is similar to the fourth version of the Tsubasa Super Semi except for the RONDEX embossing in the front leather and for the presence of an accessory shoe to the left of the viewfinder, which is perhaps not original. The lens is a Ronder Anastigmat 75/4.5 and the shutter is a Romper, inscribed as such at the bottom; they are certainly rebadged versions of the Lucomar Anastigmat and New Gold.[23] The Rondex name is certainly related to the Rondo brand used by Yamashita Yūjirō Shōten and its postwar successor Chūō Shashin-yōhin for various photographic products.

The Tsubasa II Super Semi Edit

The Tsubasa II Super Semi (ツバサⅡ型スーパーセミ) has a short top housing containing a direct vision finder on the left and a brilliant finder on the right, and perhaps supporting an accessory shoe between the two. The body is otherwise similar to the third and fourth versions of the original model, with the newer back latch and perforated struts.

In an April 1940 advertisement,[24] the Tsubasa II Super Semi is listed with a Lucomar f/4.5 lens for ¥60. The shutter speeds are not mentioned and the shutter plate looks different from that of the original model. The camera was only advertised for a brief period in spring 1940 and was replaced by more expensive models such as the Tsubasa Nettar and Tsubasa Kiko Three.

No surviving example of the Tsubasa II Super Semi has been observed so far.

Further derivatives Edit

The Ruby Edit

The Ruby is a derivative of the Tsubasa Super Semi, known from a single example, whose overall finish is very crude.[25] The body has the newer back latch but unperforated struts. There is a housing attached to the top plate, in polished chrome finish, containing an eye-level finder on the left and a brilliant finder in the middle. The front windows are rectangular, and the eyepiece of the brilliant finder is round. The name Ruby and the words N.K.CAMERA WORKS are engraved above the eye-level finder. The film flanges and advance key are the same as on the Tsubasa Super Semi. The back contains a single red window at the bottom right, protected by a horizontally sliding cover. The lens standard is square with rounded corners. The shutter is perhaps the same Kikō-C as described earlier.

The Lark Edit

The Lark is another derivative of the Tsubasa Super Semi, only known from this page at Japan Family Camera.[26] It is conceptually very similar to the Ruby, but the realization is different and the finish is more elaborate.

The Lark has the newer back latch but unperforated struts. There is a top housing, containing an eye-level finder offset to the left and a brilliant finder offset to the right. The two front windows and the eyepiece of the brilliant finder are rectangular. The folding bed release has moved to the left of the eye-level finder. The name Lark and the words S.K.CAMERA WORKS are engraved above the eye-level finder. The film flanges and advance key are the same as on the Tsubasa Super Semi. The back contains a single red window at the bottom right, protected by a horizontally sliding cover. The lens standard has a plain circular top. The shutter is unmarked and gives 5–200, B, T speeds. There is a single lever on the shutter casing. It is unclear if the body release of the Tsubasa Super Semi is retained or if the shutter is wound and tripped by this lever in a single movement. The lens is a front-cell focusing K.O.L. Trio Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5.

Origin of the Ruby and Lark Edit

The names "N.K. Camera Works" and "S.K. Camera Works" are otherwise unknown. They might be a dummy name for Kigawa, the same as other names ending in Camera Works, they might be related to Shin Nippon Kōgyō, the successor of Kigawa after the war, or they might correspond to a different company. The two cameras were certainly related, and the Lark was probably the successor of the Ruby. The design of the top housings is reminiscent of the Gotex, released around 1941. The use of English words such as "Camera Works" was discouraged during the war, and the cameras were perhaps made in the immediate postwar period, from unused Tsubasa Super Semi bodies. This would explain the crude aspect of the Ruby.

Notes Edit

  1. See this page of Aya's camera site.
  2. June 1938: advertisement published in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.78. Eight authorized dealers are mentioned: Asanuma Shōkai, Hagi Kōgyō Bōeki, Misuzu Shōkai, Mizuno Shashinki-ten, Yamashita Yūjirō Shōten, Eikōdō, Matsuzaki Shashinki-ten and Ueda Shashinki-ten. September 1938: advertisement published in Asahi Camera, reproduced in the Gochamaze website.
  3. Inferred from the katakana ローザー.
  4. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.78.
  5. Example observed in an online auction.
  6. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1253, example pictured in Omoide no supuringu-kamera-ten, p.24, and examples observed in online auctions.
  7. Example observed in an online auction, with a non original film reminder replacing the film flange at the top right.
  8. Advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.79.
  9. Example observed in an online auction, with lens no.15642.
  10. Advertisements published in Asahi Camera October 1940 and in Shashin Bunka March 1941, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.79.
  11. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.338.
  12. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, sections 3A and 4A.
  13. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, sections 3A and 4A.
  14. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 77–8.
  15. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens items Lb8 and Lc20, shutter items 18-U-5 and 18-V-1.
  16. Example pictured in {{SUG}, item 1253, and examples observed in online auctions.
  17. Example pictured in this page at Minorhouse, and example observed in an online auction.
  18. Example observed in an online auction.
  19. Example observed in an online auction.
  20. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.344.
  21. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 3A.
  22. Sugiyama, item 1239.
  23. Sugiyama, item 1239.
  24. Advertisement published in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.79.
  25. Example observed in an online auction.
  26. In Japan Family Camera, the camera is called "Lark Six" with no apparent reason, and the format is given as 6×6. However the viewfinder windows are rectangular, indicating 4.5×6 format, and the camera is clearly based on the Tsubasa Super Semi.

Bibliography Edit

  • 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. Items 149–50 and 344. (See also the advertisements for items 144, 146–7 and 151–2.)
  • "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 3A and 4A.
  • "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 77–8.
  • "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 3A and 4A.
  • Lewis, Gordon, ed. The History of the Japanese Camera. Rochester, N.Y.: George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography & Film, 1991. ISBN 0-935398-17-1 (paper), ISBN 0-935398-16-3 (hard). P.56 (brief mention only).
  • 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). Pp.465 and 1020.
  • Omoide no supuringu-kamera-ten (思い出のスプリングカメラ展, Exhibition of beloved self-erecting cameras). Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 1992. (Exhibition catalogue, no ISBN number.) P.24.
  • 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. Items 1239 and 1253–4.

Links Edit

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