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Weha Chrome Six

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Japanese Six (6×6)
Prewar and wartime models (edit)
folding
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collapsible
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unknown
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folding
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rigid or collapsible
Dia Six | Ehira Chrome Six | Enon Six | Flora | Flashline | Fujipet | Harmony | Mikono-6 | Orion | Ponix | Rich-Ray-6 | Shumy | Weha Chrome Six
Japanese SLR, TLR, pseudo TLR and stereo models ->
Japanese 3×4 and 4×4, 4×5 and 4×6.5, 4.5×6 and older 6×9 ->

The Weha Chrome Six are Japanese 6×6 coupled-rangefinder cameras. They were made by Ehira and distributed by Yamamoto Shashinki-ten from 1937 to 1942.[1]

General description Edit

The Weha Chrome Six has a rigid body and a telescopic tube supporting the lens and shutter assembly. The most striking feature is the coupled-rangefinder arm, externally looking like the rangefinder of the Super Ikonta. The lens is front-cell focusing and the rangefinder coupling is optical, with no mechanical linkage to the body: the lens front element is geared to an optical device placed in front of the second image window. The Weha Chrome Six does not have a rotating wedge prism like the Super Ikonta and other Zeiss Ikon cameras but a small lens that is moved laterally while focusing.[2]

All the models have a 75mm f/3.5 lens. The massive aperture ring is placed behind the shutter and it can be easily confused for a focusing ring. There is a small button at the front of the body, to the right: it slides towards the bottom to unlock the telescopic tube from the fully extended position.

On all the models, the advance knob is mounted on a stepped base at the right end of the top plate. The body release is placed next to it. The back is hinged to the left and the back latch consists of a sliding bar.

First generation: separate range and view-finder Edit

Common features Edit

The first generation consisted of three models, produced from 1937 to 1941. They have a separate range and view-finder. The viewfinder is slightly offset to the right and the rangefinder eyepiece is further to the right. The rangefinder arm is to the left and the focusing is controlled by a small wheel protruding to the left. This wheel both moves the rangefinder optical coupling lens and turns the lens frontmost element. The distance scale is engraved on the rotating lens rim and goes from infintiy to 3 feet.

There are strap lugs at both ends of the body and a small foot under the shutter housing, on which the serial number is engraved.

There is an exposure counter at the left end of the top plate. The back has a single red window at the top left, used to set the position of the first exposure and protected by a vertically sliding cover. There is a selector next to the exposure counter, with O and S positions. In the O position, the exposure counter is disengaged and can be manually reset to one. The film is loaded and wound until number "1" appears in the red window, then the selector is turned to the S position to engage the exposure counter mechanism.

The sources are conflicting on the film advance control system. An original advertisement mentions a "special film advance device" (フィルム特種捲取装置), an ambiguous formulation.[3] Contemporary articles in Asahi Camera say that the film advance automatically stops and that it is linked to the shutter button for double exposure prevention.[4] However recent articles showing some surviving examples say that the cameras have neither automatic stop nor double exposure prevention and that the film advance is manually controlled via the exposure counter.[5] The articles in Asahi Camera might be plainly wrong or might reproduce information given by the Ehira company, describing features which were not retained in the production model.[6]

Original Weha Chrome Six Edit

The original Weha Chrome Six (ウエハークロームシックス) — called in retrospect "Weha Chrome Six I" — is dual format, taking 6×6cm or 4.5×6cm pictures. It has a flat top plate except for the half-sunken tubular finder, and has no name engraving on the main body. The accessory shoe is attached to the top plate, to the left of the finder. It is said that below the top cover, the inner top plate supporting the rangefinder and the inner bottom plate are made of wood.[7]

The exposure counter has a conical shape and two concentric scales: the rotating inner scale is graduated from 1 to 12 and is used for 6×6 pictures whereas the fixed outer scale is graduated from 1 to 16 and is used for 4.5×6 pictures. There is no external index or arrow to indicate the exposure number; instead, the number 1 of a scale is used as a reference point for the other.[8] The O and S selector is a simple milled cylinder, turning 90 degrees.

The lens is a Weha Anastigmat 75mm f/3.5. The shutter is an Auto Genoa, said to be made by Ehira itself.[9] It gives T, B, 1–200 speeds, with a self-timer and a cable release thread, and it is cocked by a lever, independently from the film advance. The shutter plate is engraved Weha Chrome Six at the top and Auto Genoa at the bottom. The mention PATENT PENDING is inscribed on the rangefinder arm.

The original Weha Chrome Six was released in late 1937: it was advertised in Asahi Camera from October 1937 to August 1938 and was featured in the November issue of the same magazine.[10] It was also advertised in Asahi Graph in June 1938.[11] The price was ¥155.

Only one surviving example has been observed so far, with body no.503.[12]

Weha Chrome Six II Edit

The Weha Chrome Six II (ウエハークロームシックスⅡ型) has a redesigned top plate, with a stepped part between the two rangefinder windows, containing the viewfinder and a flush accessory shoe. The name WEHA CHROME–SIX is inscribed above this.

The exposure counter has a new flatter shape and still has two concentric scales with no external reference point; it was perhaps replaced by the single format exposure counter of the model III after the introduction of the latter. There are minor changes to many other parts, such as the O and S selector or the release button. It is said that the wooden inner plates are replaced by bakelite ones.[13]

The lens is the same Weha Anastigmat and the shutter adds 1/300 top speed to the previous range. The style of the front markings is different: the camera name is written WEHA CHROME–SIX in uppercase letters and the shutter name is written AUTO ZENOA.[14] This is perhaps not true of all the examples: the picture of the December 1938 advertisement in Asahi Camera, which was perhaps retouched, shows the name Weha Chrome Six in lowercase letters. Incidentally, it also shows the lens cap engraved Weha.

The model II was released in late 1938, and was advertised in Asahi Camera from December 1938 to July 1940.[15] The price was ¥195 in December 1938, ¥235 in April 1939 and ¥245 in December 1939 and February 1940.[16]

Only one surviving example of the Weha Chrome Six II has been observed so far, with body no.568.[17]

Weha Chrome Six III Edit

There is some degree of confusion about the Weha Chrome Six III, because the company sometimes used the same name for the second generation model presented below (also called Weha Chrome Six New).

The first Weha Chrome Six III (ウエハークロームシックスⅢ型) has a new Weha S lens and a new Auto Ehira Rapid shutter to 1/400, made by Ehira itself.[18] It has a red-dotted cocking lever, the 400 setting painted in red, and a self-timer control at the top shaped as a mushroom. The shutter face is marked AUTO RAPID EHIRA at the top and PATENT PENDING at the bottom. The rangefinder arm is marked PATENT instead of PATENT PENDING, certainly because the patent was accepted and published. The lens is engraved Weha S. Anastigmat 1:3.5 F=75mm N°xxxx.

The model III lost the ability to take 4.5×6cm pictures. The exposure counter has a single scale from 1 to 12, engraved in the fixed outer rim, and an arrow engraved on the inner rotating part, poniting to the frame number. This new exposure counter was perhaps also mounted on the late model II, when the production of the two models overlapped.

The model was released in 1940: it was advertised in Asahi Camera from February 1940 to March 1941.[19] It was featured in the May 1940 issue of the same magazine, where it is described as similar to the model II except for the lens and shutter, and where no mention is made of 4.5×6cm exposures.[20] The February 1940 advertisement lists the camera for ¥275, along with the model II for ¥245; the November 1940 advertisement has the model III alone and does not give a price.[21] In both cases, the advertising picture does not depict the model III, and is exactly the same as in the April 1939 advertisement for the model II. The official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941 has a "Weha Chrome Six" for ¥248, with no further detail.[22]

Various surviving examples of the old model III are known, with three or four-digit body numbers.[23]

Second generation: combined range and view-finder Edit

Common features Edit

The second generation models have a different body shape and a combined range and viewfinder. The common eyepiece is offset to the left and the second image window is to the right. The rangefinder arm is thus on the opposite side, but the focusing wheel is still on the left-hand side. The focusing scale goes from infinity to four feet, indicated by an arrow placed next to the focusing wheel.

The film advance is manually controlled by a single uncovered red window in the middle of the back, only allowing taking of 6×6cm pictures. The exposure counter and the associated O/S selector have disappeared, and the left end of the top plate is plain flat. The strap lugs have disappeared too.

Advertisements and other documents Edit

The second generation model was advertised from April 1941 to April 1942.[24] It was called Weha Chrome Six III (ウエハークロームシックスⅢ型) in some advertisements and Weha Chrome Six New (ウエハークロームシックス新型) in others; the price was ¥248 in the April and August 1941 advertisements in Asahi Camera, and ¥290 at a later date.[25] The official price list dated November 1941 again has a "Weha Chrome Six" with no further detail.[26]

The advertised lens and shutter were the same as on the previous model III: Weha S 75mm f/3.5 lens and Rapid shutter to 1/400. Two accessories were offered: a dedicated lens hood for ¥3.80 and a dedicated flash unit (専用発光器) for ¥20. This certainly means that the shutter is synchronized, however no synch post is visible on the camera itself (the post on one side of the shutter casing is a cable release attachment).

The government inquiry listing Japanese camera production as of April 1943 has three models: a "Weha Six (Chrome)" (ウエハーシックス[クローム]), an "Ehira Six" (エヒラシックス) and an "Ehira Six (double barrel)" (エヒラシックス[ダブル鏡胴]).[27] The first two have identical features, with the Auto Rapid Ehira shutter and a three-element Enol Anastigmat 75mm f/3.5 lens, made by Fujita Kōgaku Kikai.[28] The third model, otherwise unknown, has a Kōki TTSH shutter (T, B, 1–400) made by Ehira and a four-element Lausar 85/3.5 lens made by Tomioka.[29] The 85mm lens is probably mounted on a longer barrel made of two collapsible elements, hence the "double barrel". The name Ehira Six was used again after the war on a bellows camera.

Weha Chrome Six III New Edit

The top housing of the Weha Chrome Six III New is inscribed CHROME–SIX above and Weha at the front, between the finder windows. There is a WEHA SIX logo embossed in the leather of the back. The shutter casing is marked AUTO RAPID EHIRA at the top and PATENTS at the bottom, and the rangefinder arm has the EHIRA K.S.K logo. The serial number is still engraved on a pod under the lens barrel.

The actual examples present some variations. The design of the top housing was slightly altered at some time. The early type has a circular cut-off at the left of the viewfinder; it was perhaps there to leave space for an exposure counter disc which was never installed. All the advertising pictures observed so far show this early type. Surviving examples are known with the Weha S or the Enol, and at least one is reported to have a K.O.L. Gojo Anastigmat 75/3.5 lens, certainly made by the company Gojō Kōki in 1941.[30]

The late type has a straight edge at the left of the viewfinder, instead of the circular cut-off. It is also known both with the Enol and with the Weha S.[31]

Ehira Chrome Six Edit

Some examples of the second generation model have no Weha marking between the finder windows and have the EHIRA K.S.K logo instead. They also have the EHIRA K.S.K logo embossed in the leather of the back, above the red window. They are usually called Ehira Chrome Six, and might correspond to the "Ehira Six" mentioned in the 1943 inquiry cited above.

The presumably early type is identical to the late Weha Chrome Six III New but for the marking. One example is known with the Enol lens, one with a K.O.L. Gojo 7.5cm f/3.5, and another with an unknown lens type.[32] The presumably late type has a slightly larger viewfinder window and no serial number pod under the lens barrel. Two examples of the late type have been observed with the Enol lens.[33]

Postwar production Edit

Some cameras were assembled after the war, from remaining stocks of parts. At least one surviving example of the Ehira Chrome Six (early type) is known with MADE IN JAPAN engraved at the rear of the top plate, a sure indication of postwar origin.[34] It is also said that some Weha Chrome Six were sold at the time with no rangefinder, but no example has been observed so far.[35]

Third generation: the Enon Six Edit

The Enon Six is only known from pictures of a camera sold in an online auction, where it was described as an export version of the Ehira Chrome Six. The camera actually shows a number of differences, and is more than a mere name variant.

The Enon Six is certainly based on the body casting of the bellows Ehira Six and Astoria Super Six, of which it was probably contemporary. The top plate is the same as on the Ehira Six, except for the absence of the folding bed release button, and is much thinner than on the previous models. The name Enon–Six is engraved above, together with other markings. The combined range and viewfinder is integrated in the body, under the top plate. The square viewfinder window and round second image window are surrounded by a metal plate engraved Enon in the middle, whose shape precisely corresponds to the folding bed's aperture of the Ehira Six.

The telescopic tube and unlock button are exactly the same as on the Ehira Chrome Six. The shutter plate with the rangefinder arm is the same as on the bellows Ehira Six: compared with the previous models, the focus wheel is smaller and slightly offset upwards and the rangefinder arm is thinner. The part is silver finished and is engraved RAPID SEREA at the top, PATENT on the rangefinder arm and perhaps MODEL at the bottom. The distance scale is engraved outside the lens rim, and the V-shaped distance index is engraved in red, between RAPID and SEREA. There is a pod under the lens barrel, so that the camera stands upright on a table, but it does not have a serial number.

The Rapid Serea shutter seems to have 1/400 top speed, and no self-timer control is visible. From the available pictures, the lens might be a Lausar 85mm f/3.5, the same as on the Ehira Six and Astoria Super Six, but this is not certain. This lens might come from stocks acquired during the war for the "Ehira Six (double barrel)" mentioned in the 1943 inquiry.

Notes Edit

  1. An advertisement dated October 1937 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.59, mentions Yamamoto as the maker and distributor (製造発売元) of the Weha Chrome Six. This might indicate that the early production was carried out by Yamamoto's own workshop. Tanimura, p.33, however says that the Ehira plant was set up in 1936 and that the Ehira company produced the Weha Chrome Six from the start.
  2. This is explained in this page of Gatapasya's camera repair blog and in Awano, pp.1–2. Both authors appear to have dismantled actual examples of the camera. Many other sources mistakenly say that the Weha Chrome Six has the same "drehkeil" system as the Super Ikonta.
  3. Advertisement published in Asahi Camera October 1937, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.59, and in Awano, p.8.
  4. Column of Asahi Camera November 1937, about the original Weha Chrome Six, and of Asahi Camera May 1940, about the Weha Chrome Six III, reproduced in Awano, p.3.
  5. Awano, p.2; Tanimura, p.34.
  6. The May 1940 article contains another mistake, saying that the camera has a lens barrel mounted on a helicoid (ヘリコイド鏡胴), whereas it has front-cell focusing.
  7. Awano, p.2.
  8. Tanimura, p.34.
  9. Shutter made by Ehira: Tanimura, p.34.
  10. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.334. The October 1937 advertisement is reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.59, and in Awano, p.8. The November 1937 article is reproduced in Awano, p.3.
  11. Advertisement published in the 8 June 1938 issue of Asahi Graph, reproduced in the Gochamaze website.
  12. Awano, p.4, front and back cover; Sugiyama, item 3055; Tanimura, p.32.
  13. Awano, p.2.
  14. Sugiyama, item 3056, says "Auto-Zenor" by mistake.
  15. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.334.
  16. Advertisements in Asahi Camera December 1938 and February 1940 reproduced in Awano, p.9. Advertisement in Asahi Camera April 1939 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.59. Advertisement on p.12 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, December 15, 1939, reproduced on p.46 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
  17. Awano, p.5; Sugiyama, item 3056. Tanimura, p.33, has a top picture of a Weha Chrome Six II, perhaps no.568. The front picture captioned as a model II actually shows a model III.
  18. Shutter made by Ehira: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter item 24-R-3.
  19. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.334.
  20. Article reproduced in Awano, p.3.
  21. February advertisement reproduced in Awano, p.9. November advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.60.
  22. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 9.
  23. Examples pictured in Tanimura, pp.33–4, in Lewis, p.54, in this page of the AJCC, in this page of Gatapasya's blog and observed in an online auction.
  24. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.334.
  25. Advertisement dated April 1941 reproduced in Awano, p.10, with "Weha Chrome Six III".
    Advertisement dated August 1941 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.60, with "Weha Chrome Six New".
    Other advertisement dated 1942 or later, reproduced in Nostalgic Camera by Toshio Inamura, with "Weha Chrome Six III" again.
  26. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, section 9.
  27. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 101–3.
  28. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter item 24-R-3, lens item Lb17.
  29. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter item 24-R-2, lens item M4.
  30. Weha S lens: example owned by Rebollo_fr, no.1769, lens no.7253.
    Enol lens: example pictured in Awano, p.6.
    K.O.L. Gojo lens: Sugiyama, item 3058.
  31. Enol lens: examples observed in online auctions. Weha S lens: example pictured in this page and example reported in Charles Leski Auction no.191 (lot 84).
  32. Enol lens: example pictured in Tanimura, p.34. K.O.L. Gojo lens: example pictured in this page at Handmade and Classic Camera. Unknown lens: example pictured in McKeown, p.255.
  33. Examples pictured in Sugiyama, item 3016, and in Awano, p.7.
  34. Example pictured in Tanimura, p.34. The captions of some of the pictures is mismatched: the three pictures of a second generation model on p.34 certainly correspond to the same postwar Ehira Chrome Six, whereas the picture on p.35 shows a Weha Chrome Six III New.
  35. Tanimura, p.36.

Bibliography Edit

Original documents Edit

  • "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 9.
  • "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 101–3.
  • "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 9.

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