The Mulber Six (マルバシックス) is a Japanese folding camera taking both 6×6cm and 4.5×6cm pictures on 120 film. It was distributed by Kuwata Shōkai from 1935 or 1936 to the early 1940s, and was one of the first Japanese 6×6 cameras.
The Mulber Six is a vertical folder, unlike most 6×6 models. It is inspired by the Baldax but it is not an exact copy.
The camera has a folding optical finder on the left of the body — as seen by a photographer holding the camera vertically. There is a cross engraved in the finder's front element and indents in the four corners to indicate the field of view for 4.5×6cm exposures.
The film is advanced by a knob on the opposite side. The camera has some sort of index surrounding the advance knob, certainly a manual exposure counter. (This feature was necessary because the paper backing of 120 film sold in Japan was not yet marked for 6×6cm format when the camera was introduced.)
The back is hinged to the left — as seen by a photographer holding the camera horizontally — and opened by a sliding button on the right. The name Mulber Six is embossed in the leather covering at the front of the camera.
The original model
With Combur and Komvur shutter
The original model has no body release. It was reportedly advertised in the October 1935 issue of Asahi Camera. It was first produced with a Combur shutter, renamed Komvur at some point. These names are obvious rip-offs of "Compur", and it is plausible that the renaming occurred after a complaint from the German company Deckel. It seems that this shutter was the first Compur copy made in Japan.
The shutter's front plate is marked Patents~Pending at the top and COMBUR or KOMVUR at the bottom in handwritten style. There is a logo on the right, with the letters "F" and "B" mixed in a circle, obviously intended to ape the Deckel logo ("F" and "D") of genuine Compur shutters.
In the original documents, the shutter name is given in katakana script as komubā (コムバー) or komuvā (コムヴァー), this is very close to konpā (コンパー) which is how the Compur name is spelled in Japan.
The advertisements reproduced below were placed in Asahi Camera from October 1936 to May 1937, and show the camera with a Combur shutter.
|October 1936||November 1936||December 1936||January 1937|
|February 1937||March 1937||April 1937||May 1937|
|Advertisements for the Mulber Six in Asahi Camera. (Image rights)|
The October 1936 advertisement lists the camera as a new model, available with a Combur (コムバー, 5–150) and a choice of two lenses, either an Eclat Anastigmat f/4.5, at ¥60, or a Lausar Anastigmat f/4.5, at ¥65 (case ¥5 extra). The document shows a picture or a drawing of the camera; the marking on the front leather is absent, and details of the viewfinder differ from the regular examples. The release lever is placed under the shutter casing, an inconvenient location for a camera with no body release.
The advertisements dated November and December 1936 show an actual picture of the camera. They use the katakana spelling コムヴァー (komuvā) instead of コムバー (komubā) for the shutter name, though the pictured camera has the same COMBUR engraving. Various lens and shutter combinations are listed, but it is unsure if all were actually produced at the time:
The advertisements dated January to April 1937 show the same picture, and only list the less expensive version with Eclat f/4.5 and 5–150 speeds, though that dated April mentions the existence of other options (外各種). The May advertisement sees the return of the 1–300 shutter option, announced as a new version; this might indicate that the only shutter actually produced before that date was the cheapest one.
|Advertisement for the Mulber Six in Asahi Camera June and July 1937. (Image rights)|
The advertisements placed in the June and July 1937 issues of Asahi Camera are identical, and show the Komvur shutter. A release arm has been added at the front of the shutter plate, for easier handling. Two models of Komvur shutters are shown, differing by the shape and position of the setting lever, release arm and cable thread; one has 1–300, B, T speeds and no self-timer; the other has a mushroom-shaped self-timer control at the top, as on the genuine Compur. Both are paired with an Eclat Anastigmat f/4.5 lens, and one of the lens numbers is legible as 1609. A full range of lens and shutter options is listed, with the most expensive ones still mentioned as new models:
A single example of the camera has been observed so far with Komvur shutter. It corresponds to the cheapest version, with Eclat Anastigmat 7.5cm f/4.5 lens and 5–150, B, T speeds. The lens number is 1700, slightly higher than that visible in the advertisement, but the shutter has no release arm. The camera has an accessory shoe to the right of the viewfinder, but it is probably not original.
With Mulber shutter
The Komvur shutter was renamed Mulber in summer 1937. The camera itself was unchanged. The MULBER name under the lens is inscribed on the aperture scale, attached to the shutter plate by two screws. It is very likely that the actual shutter plate was not modified, and that the name KOMVUR is still present under the new nameplate.
An advertisement in Asahi Graph dated mid-July 1937 already shows the new shutter name. The advertisements reproduced below were placed in Asahi Camera from August 1937 to January 1939, and depict the camera with a Mulber shutter. All these documents show the same picture, which is actually a retouched version of that used in June and July 1937, with the KOMVUR marking replaced by MULBER. Depending on the print quality, the lens number is sometimes legible as 1503, lower than no.1609 pictured on the isolated Komvur shutter on the previous advertisement.
|August 1937||October 1937||November 1937||December 1937||January 1938||February 1938|
|March 1938||April 1938||May 1938||June 1938||September 1938||January 1939|
|Advertisements for the Mulber Six in Asahi Camera. (Image rights)|
|Column on the Mulber Six in Asahi Camera September 1937. (Image rights)|
The range of versions is the same as in June and July 1937, and the prices are unaltered, despite the additional taxes levied after the outbreak of war with China. The advertisements dated October to December 1937 make special mention of the unchanged prices (特に価格は改訂致しません), by contrast with other companies which passed the increase on to customers.
The camera was also briefly featured as a new product in the September 1937 issue of Asahi Camera, reproduced on the right.
At least two surviving examples have been observed with an Eclat Anastigmat 7.5cm f/4.5 lens and a Mulber shutter. One has 1–300, B, T speeds and no visible self-timer; another has 5–150, B, T speeds. They have the same release arm as visible in the June and July 1937 advertisement on the standalone Komvur shutter.
The Mulber Six III
The Mulber Six III has a body release. It was advertised under that name in the April 1939 issue of Asahi Camera, though the document shows the same outdated picture of a camera with a release arm. In advertisements dated June, September and December 1939, the model is simply called "Mulber Six" and no picture is shown. In all these documents, the following versions were listed:
- Mulber 75/4.5 lens, Mulber shutter (5–150, B, T), ¥70;
- Mulber 75/4.5 lens, Mulber shutter (1–300, B, T), ¥80;
- Mulber 75/4.5 lens, Mulber shutter (1–300, B, T, self-timer), ¥105.
The list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, still has a "Mulber Six I" for ¥79 and a "Mulber Six II" for ¥128, with no further details. These probably correspond to specific lens and shutter combinations mounted on the Mulber Six with body release, and it is not known if these model names were actually used by Kuwata.
- This page of the JCII says マルバーシックス, but the advertisements have no long vowel, except on rare occasions about the Mulber shutter written マルバーシャッター.
- Lewis, p.53, says that the camera was released in 1935, and Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.341, reports an advertisement in Asahi Camera October 1935. However, the list of documents in the latter source is incomplete, and the date of October 1935 is perhaps wrong. The earliest advertisement actually observed so far is in Asahi Camera October 1936, and describes the camera as a new model (新発売).
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.341.
- Omoide no supuringu-kamera-ten, p.21, about the Mulber shutter equipping the second model.
- Advertisement in Asahi Camera October 1936, p.A63.
- Advertisements in Asahi Camera November 1936, p.A65, and December 1936, p.A61. The latter is also reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.95.
- Advertisements in Asahi Camera January 1937, p.A57, February 1937, p.A52, March 1937, p.A104, and April 1937, p.A108.
- Advertisement in Asahi Camera May 1937, p.A65.
- Advertisements in Asahi Camera June 1937, p.A52, and July 1937, p.A54.
- Example observed in an online auction.
- The new model with Mulber shutter is called "Mulber Six II" in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, item 259, but the camera was only called "Mulber Six" in the original documents.
- Advertisement in Asahi Graph, 14 July 1937, reproduced at Gochamaze.
- Advertisements in Asahi Camera August 1937, p.A53, October 1937, p.A50, November 1937, p.A50, December 1937, p.A40, January 1938, p.A44, February 1938, p.A37, March 1938, p.A44, April 1938, p.A46, May 1938, p.A44, June 1938, p.A42, September 1938, p.A36, and January 1939, p.A27. That dated October 1937 is also reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.95. Also an advertisement in Asahi Graph, 8 June 1938, formerly reproduced at Gochamaze (archived).
- Example pictured in Omoide no supuringu-kamera-ten, p.21, and in Shunkan o torae-tsuzukeru shattā-ten, p.21.
- Example pictured in an online auction.
- Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.95.
- Advertisements in Asahi Camera June and September 1939 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.95–6, and advertisement on p.17 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, December 15, 1939, reproduced on p.51 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 4, sections 3 and 5B.
- Asahi Camera September 1937. "Atarashii kikai to zairyō" (新しい機械と材料, New equipment and machinery). P.523.
- Asahi Camera. Advertisements by Kuwata Shōkai:
- October 1936, p.A63;
- November 1936, p.A65;
- December 1936, p.A61;
- January 1937, p.A57;
- February 1937, p.A52;
- March 1937, p.A104;
- April 1937, p.A108;
- May 1937, p.A65;
- June 1937, p.A52;
- July 1937, p.A54;
- August 1937, p.A53;
- October 1937, p.A50;
- November 1937, p.A50;
- December 1937, p.A40;
- January 1938, p.A44;
- February 1938, p.A37;
- March 1938, p.A44;
- April 1938, p.A46;
- May 1938, p.A44;
- June 1938, p.A42;
- September 1938, p.A36;
- January 1939, p.A27.
- Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin (日本写真興業通信). Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku (百号ごと十回の記録, Ten records, every hundred issues). Tokyo: Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin Sha (日本写真興業通信社), 1967. No ISBN number. Advertisement on p.51, corresponding to p.17 of the December 15, 1939 issue.
- 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 258–60. (See also the advertisements for item 261.)
- Kamera no mekanizumu sono I: "Hai! Chīzu" Shunkan o torae-tsuzukeru shattā-ten (カメラのメカニズム・そのⅠ・「ハイ！チーズ」瞬間をとらえ続けるシャッター展, Camera mechanism, part 1 "Cheese!" Exhibition of instant taking shutters). Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 2002. (Exhibition catalogue, no ISBN number) P.21.
- "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 4, sections 3 and 5B.
- 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), 0-935398-16-3 (hard). P.53 (brief mention only).
- 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.21.
The Mulber Six is not listed in Sugiyama.