Auto Semi First
The Auto Semi First (オートセミファースト) is a Japanese 4.5×6 folding camera with a coupled rangefinder, made by Kuribayashi in the early 1940s. This camera was copied from the Welta Weltur and it is different from the viewfinder Semi First, with which it only shares a few parts.
The Auto Semi First is a close copy of the late model of the 4.5×6 Weltur, with a chrome top housing. The folding struts and the focusing system are identical. The camera is focused by a small knob placed on the right of the folding bed, moving the whole lens and shutter assembly (unit focusing). The distance scale is placed inside the folding bed, under a black or silver cover, and the distance is read in a small window.
|Focusing knob, and black focusing cover.|
The combined range- and viewfinder is contained under a chrome top housing, a straight copy of the Weltur's top part. The viewfinder window is rectangular and the second image window is round, and the eyepiece is at the right end of the camera. The body release comes out of the top plate, to the left of the rangefinder housing.
|Top cover, body release and depth-of-field plate.|
A depth-of-field plate, written in English, is screwed above the rangefinder and the name Auto Semi First is engraved on its right, above the viewfinder. The front leather is embossed Auto First, and a First logo is engraved on the distance scale cover.
|Early and late back latch.|
The film is advanced by a knob at the bottom right, and the folding bed is released by a small button placed next to it. The tripod thread is at the opposite end of the bottom plate. The back is hinged to the left and contains two red windows. The back latch was modified at some time: on the early examples, the back is opened by a small sliding button and there is a leather handle, whereas on the late examples, the latch consists of a long sliding bar and there is no handle. The film advance is manually controlled and there is no exposure counter, like the Weltur but unlike the Auto Semi Minolta, another Japanese copy of the same camera.
Advertisements and other documents
The list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, mentions the Auto Semi First for ¥248, in the same price category as the Auto Semi Minolta. The same occurs in a similar list dated November 1941.
The April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese production also mentions the camera, with a Hit 75mm f/3.5 four-element lens (same as on the First Reflex II) and a Wester I shutter (T, B, 1–200). The Wester shutter was made by Nishida, and the document says that the Hit lens was made by Tōkyō Kōgaku, but this is perhaps a mistake and it is more likely that the lens was made by Tokiwa Kōgaku.
|Auto Semi First, early back latch, black focusing cover,|
First Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens no.34239, Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T).
Pictures courtesy of an anonymous eBayer. (Image rights)
|Auto Semi First, black focusing cover,|
Tokiwa Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens,
Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T).
late back latch, pictures
by eBayer Yalluflex. (Image rights)
The Auto Semi First has been observed in the following variants:
- early back latch, black focusing cover, First Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T);
- late back latch, black focusing cover, First Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T);
- late back latch, black focusing cover, Tokiwa Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T);
- late back latch, silver focusing cover, Tokiwa Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T);
- late back latch, silver focusing cover, First Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Mirror I shutter (1–200, B, T);
- late back latch, silver focusing cover, S. Kuri Anastigmat f/3.5 lens, Seikosha shutter (T, B, 1–250, self-timer).
- as Kuri with S. Kuri 1:3.5 F=7.5cm lens and T.S.M Auto-II leaf shutter (T, B, 1–250, self-timer). (see images below)
|Kuri, front & comparison w/ Auto Semi First|
images by yalluflex (Image rights)
The First f/3.5 lens has three elements and was made by Tokiwa Kōgaku. The Tokiwa f/3.5 lens has four elements and its name certainly indicates that it was made by Tokiwa Kōgaku too. The S. Kuri f/3.5 lens is otherwise unknown; its name certainly indicates that it was made by Kuribayashi itself, and the "S" perhaps means that it has four elements. It was surely one the earliest camera lenses made by the company. The Mirror I shutter has not been observed on any other camera. The shutter plate has braid patterns on both sides and is inscribed MIRROR~MODEL–I at the top.
|Auto Semi First, late back latch, silver focusing cover,|
Tokiwa Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens no.29178, Wester I shutter (1–200, B, T).
Pictures courtesy of Jay Tepper. (Image rights)
|Kuribayashi Camera Works Japan Kuri 6x4.5cm, S.Kuri f3.5/7.5cm lens|
Images by yalluflex. (Image rights)
- The attribution to Kuribayashi is confirmed by the "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 12.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 9.
- "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, section 9.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), item 12, lens item Lb38, shutter item 24-P-1.
- See the discussion in the page on the First Reflex.
- Date: last advertisement listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.340.
- Example pictured in this page.
- Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1062, and example pictured in McKeown, p.577.
- Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1061, and example observed in an online auction.
- Example pictured in this page.
- Example sold as lot 79 in the March 25, 2006 Photographica and Film auction by Auction Team Breker.
- Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1063.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lb18.
- Four elements: advertisement for the First Reflex published in Shashin Bunka October 1943, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.88.
- Baird, p.25, says that lens production by Kuribayashi began in 1942. Kuri 7.5cm f/4.5 lenses are mounted on the postwar Kuri camera.
- Tanaka, p.78 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8.
- 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. Item 207.
- Baird, John R. Collectors guide to Kuribayashi-Petri Cameras. Grantsburg, WI (USA): Centennial Photo Service, 1991. ISBN 0-931838-16-9. Pp.28, 66 and 82.
- "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. Item 12.
- "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.
- 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). P.577.
- 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 1061–3.
- Tanaka Masao (田中政雄). "Sonota no nihon no supuringu-kamera" (その他の日本のスプリングカメラ, "Other Japanese folding cameras"). 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.8, September 1986. No ISBN number. Supuringu kamera (スプリングカメラ, special issue on spring cameras). Pp.76–80.