Original Ofuna Six, with non-coupled rangefinder
The earlier and much better-known model seems to have been sold from the very end of 1953 and was still advertised in summer 1956. It has a diecast body with rounded edges, and a non-coupled rangefinder which shares the eyepiece of the viewfinder, offset to the left as the camera is viewed by the photographer. The finder housing has an accessory shoe and is inscribed OFUNA SIX in the centre, and has the body serial number marked above the eyepiece. The rangefinder is controlled by a wheel falling under the right thumb, and the distance appears under a crescent-shaped window on the right end of the top plate. The film winding knob is to the left, and contains a film reminder.
The struts for the door are curved and are not marked with any manufacturer's name. The OFUNA logo is embossed in the leather covering of the front door. The back is hinged to the right and has two square red windows for 6×6 and 6×4.5, protected by horizontally sliding covers. The company name OFUNA OPTICAL CO. is embossed in the leather covering at the bottom of the back.
The shutter changed over time: originally a Nissei Rapid (B, 1–500), from December 1954 an NKS-FB (B, 1–300), and finally (from some time in 1955–6) a Copal (B, 1–300). The lens is a unit-focussed Ofunar 75mm f/3.5, designed by Kunitomo Kenji (国友健司) within Ōfuna and made by the company itself, the same lens as is used on the Ofunaflex.
Cosmetic and perhaps other changes were made over the camera's lifetime. An early example (to judge by its Nissei shutter) has "OFUNA SIX" in one line in oblique script (the ends of the "S" extending below the "F" and above the X"), an "OFUNA" logo to the right of the accessory shoe (as the camera is held for use), "∞—feet—4" inscribed below the distance scale of the rangefinder, and no frame around the viewfinder window; a later example (to judge by its Copal shutter) has "OFUNA SIX" in one line and in a straightforward (non-oblique) script, no "OFUNA" logo, no inscription below the distance scale, and an added frame surrounding the viewfinder window.
An advertisement in the November 1953 issue of Asahi Camera offers the Ofuna Six (with Nissei Rapid shutter) for ¥15,000 (exactly half the price of the Ofunaflex); one in the December 1954 issue offers it (with NKS shutter) for ¥14,500 (and the Mamiya Six K for ¥18,800).
About 2000 of these cameras were made.
Rebadged Mine Six, with coupled rangefinder
A later model (c.1956–7) is only known from a single photograph, published in Hagiya from the album of Kano Masayuki (狩野正之), who was responsible for the assembly and quality control of the Ofunaflex and Ofuna Six from 1954.
According to the testimonies of Kano Masayuki and Kunitomo Kenji recorded by Hagiya, this new Ofuna Six was ordered by Kashimura for export, after the production of the previous model had stopped. The body was supplied by Takane and is the same as that of the Mine Six IIF. The lens is the Ofunar 7.5cm f/3.5 of the previous Ōfuna models. (Takane's manufacture of this camera was one part of an arrangement whereby Takane was able to obtain these Ofunar lenses rebranded as the Zunow Zuminor for the Mine Six IIIS(B); see Takane.)
The pictured camera is indeed very similar to the Mine Six IIF. It has a sliding control on the front of the finder housing to move a 6×4.5 finder mask in and out of position. OFUNA–SIX is inscribed in one line of a non-oblique lettering across the top, and another illegible marking is written below. The knobs at both ends of the top housing are identical, and differ from those of the Mine Six IIF; the one at the photographer's left notably does not have a film reminder. The shutter is of an unknown type. It gives B, 1–300 speeds, engraved in the reverse order (300–1, B) on the silver shutter plate, and is synchronized via a PC synch socket. The pictured camera has a four-digit lens number, perhaps in the 78xx range.
- Note the change of pronunciation from that of Ōfuna (大船), the manufacturer.
- Much of the information in this article derives from Hagiya, "Ōfuna Kōgaku no kamera."
- Advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.348 and 379.
- Older example shown here, later example shown by Hagiya, pp.160–61.
- Both advertisements are reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.125.
- Hagiya, p.162.
- Picture in Hagiya, p.166 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari. Kano Masayuki: p.162 of the same source.
- Hagiya, p.167 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
- Hagiya, p.167 of Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari.
Sources / further reading
- 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 436–7 and 1141.
- Hagiya Takeshi (萩谷剛). "Ōfuna Kōgaku no kamera: Kamera kara kōgaku heiki e" (大船光学のカメラ：カメラから光学兵器へ, The cameras of Ōfuna Kōgaku: From cameras to military optics). Chapter 8 of Zunō kamera tanjō: Sengo kokusan kamera jū monogatari (ズノーカメラ誕生：戦後国産カメラ10物語, The birth of the Zunow camera: Ten stories of postwar Japanese camera makers). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1999. ISBN 4-257-12023-1. Originally published in Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.39, September 1996. ISBN 4-257-13007-5. Modan kurashikku renzu-hen (特集：モダンクラシックレンズ編, Modern classic lenses)..
- Ofuna Six (very early version) at Kamera no heya
- Ofuna Six (early version) in a page of the All Japan Classic Camera Club. The photograph shows four folders with non-coupled rangefinders; clockwise from top left these are: Ofuna Six, Zenobia, Sisley 1 and Balm Six.
- Ofuna Six (Copal shutter) at Doraku Oyaji no Kamera Koheya
- Advertisement for the Ofuna Six and Ofunaflex dated 1954, reproduced in Shashin-Bako
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