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Well Super

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Japanese Semi (4.5×6)
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The Well Super (ウエルスーパー) is a Japanese camera taking 4.5×6cm pictures on 120 film. It was made by Nippon Kōki in 1941–2 and distributed by Misuzu Shōkai.[1]

Description Edit

The Well Super is very similar to the Well Standard, a 4×5cm camera made from 1939 by the same manufacturer. For both cameras, the company made blatant attempts to imitate the look and feel of a luxury 35mm rangefinder model.

The lens and shutter are mounted on a telescopic tube. The top housing is similar to that of the Well Standard but is a little higher and extends further to the left. It contains a direct vision finder and a brilliant finder, imitating the two windows of a rangefinder camera. There is an accessory shoe at the top, between the two finders. The front of the top housing is marked ウエル ("Well" in katakana writing). The marking above the top housing reads WELL SUPER, 4.5x6 and something else, maybe an NKK logo.[2]

To load the film, the back is removed together with the bottom plate. It contains a single red window at the bottom left, protected by a horizontally sliding cover.

Two knobs are visible on either end of the top plate. That on the photographer's left is a fake rewind knob, further imitating contemporary 35mm cameras. That on the right is real, and is used to advance the film. It is shaped the same as on the Well Standard, and has an exposure counter at the bottom, looking like the automatic counter of the contemporary Leica. This is actually a manual counter, merely consisting of numbers engraved on a disc turning together with the advance knob, with no auto-stop device. To advance one exposure, you have to manually stop turning when the correct number is facing an index engraved on the top plate. The disc is manually reset to "1" when a new film roll is loaded, after the first exposure is positioned via the red window.

The various models of the Well Super have a front-cell focusing Well Anastigmat lens of 75mm focal length.

Evolution Edit

The earliest mention of the Well Super is in the list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941. It gives the names "Well Super I" (¥80), "Well Super IIA" and "Well Super IIIA" (both at ¥121), "Well Super IIB" and "Well Super IIIB" (both at ¥160), with no further details.[3] Only the I, IIIA and IIIB appear in the official price list dated November 1941.[4]

An advertisement in the March 1942 issue of Hōdō Shashin, placed by Misuzu Shōkai, offers the Well Standard and Well Super.[5] The same three versions are listed, all with a Well Anastigmat lens:

  • Model I: f/4.5 lens, T, B, 25–150 speeds (¥88);
  • Model IIIA: f/4.5 lens, T, B, 1–300 speeds (¥111);
  • Model IIIB: f/3.5 lens, T, B, 1–300 speeds (¥129).

Another advertisement dated 1942 shows the same versions again, except that the IIIA is simply called III or perhaps II.[6] The two advertisements show the same picture of a Model IIIB. The f/3.5 lens has a silver lens bezel and the shutter rim probably reads SUPER–WELL.

The April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production still mentions the camera, in a single version with f/4.5 lens and 25–150 speeds.[7] The document says that the f/4.5 lens has three elements and was made by Suzuki; it was certainly also the case of the f/3.5 lens.[8] (They were probably identical to the Tenobder lenses mounted on the New Semi Renky.)

The only example of the Well Super observed so far has a Well Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 with a black lens bezel and the shutter rim marked SUPER–WELL. It certainly corresponds to the Model IIIA.[9]

Notes Edit

  1. The attribution to Nippon Kōki is confirmed for the Well Standard in the "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 155.
  2. Example observed in an online auction.
  3. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, sections 3B, 6B, 7B.
  4. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, sections 3B, 6B, 7B.
  5. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.60.
  6. Advertisement published in 1942 in an unidentified magazine, reproduced in Nostalgic Camera by Toshio Inamura.
  7. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 72.
  8. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lc17.
  9. Example observed in an online auction, lens number 1629 or 1829.

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, sections 3B, 6B and 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. Item 72.
  • "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 3B, 6B and 7B.

Recent sources Edit

The Well Super is not listed in Sugiyama.

Links Edit

In Japanese:

  • Advertisement for the Well Super, also mentioning the Well Standard, published in an unidentified Japanese magazine in 1942, reproduced in Nostalgic Camera, a page of old Japanese advertisements by Toshio Inamura.

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