Semi Clover

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Japanese Semi (4.5×6)
Prewar and wartime models (edit)
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Postwar models ->
Japanese SLR, TLR, pseudo TLR and stereo ->
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The Semi Clover[1] is a Japanese 4.5×6 folding camera, made from 1940 to 1943–4.


The Semi Clover was distributed by Hagi Kōgyō Bōeki and was certainly manufactured by Ginrei. This is confirmed by a mention in a February 1944 advertisement saying that Ginrei was the "manufacturer of Clover cameras".[2] The Venner lenses and Vester shutters were made by Ginrei too.[3]


The Semi Clover is a vertical folder. The finder and other controls are to the right as viewed by a photographer holding the camera vertically, this is the reverse of the usual arrangement.

The viewfinder is contained in a short housing that also supports the accessory shoe. There is a body release on the right and an advance knob on the left end of the top plate. The back is hinged to the right and has a single red window near the top to control film advance, protected by a horizontally sliding cover. The front leather is embossed CLOVER with a large "C" and the back leather is embossed Semi Clover in handwritten style.


The original Semi Clover was featured in the new products column of the April 1940 issue of Asahi Camera, with a Venner 75/4.5 lens and a Vester I shutter (T, B, 10–200).[4] The Venner have three elements.[5]

An actual example of the original Semi Clover has been observed with an Anastigmat Venner 75/4.5 lens and a black shutter plate marked GRC Co at the top and probably VESTER I at the bottom.[6]

The list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, mentioned the Semi Clover in a number of versions: "Semi Clover I" (¥100), "Semi Clover II" (¥120), "Semi Clover III" and "Semi Clover B" (¥121 each), "Semi Clover IV" and "Semi Clover BII" (¥160), with no further details.[7] The Semi Clover II, III, IV and BII were again in a similar price list dated November 1941.[8]

The Semi Clover 2, 3, 4 and B2 were advertised together between 1941 and early 1943.[9] An advertisement dated March 1942,[10] boasting the body release actioned by the right hand fingers, gives the following characteristics:

  • Semi Clover 2: f/3.5 lens, 10–200 speeds (¥118);
  • Semi Clover 3: f/4.5 lens, 1–200 speeds (¥118);
  • Semi Clover 4: f/3.5 lens, 1–200 speeds (¥140);
  • Semi Clover B2: f/3.5 lens, 1–200 speeds, self-timer (¥151).

The advertising picture shows an Anastigmat Venner lens, but Kokusan kamera no rekishi mentions a K.O.L. lens on all four models.[11] The self-timer equipped shutter is an Orient made by Tōyō Kōki and the others are Vester shutters.[12] It is probable that the "Semi Clover B" mentioned in the 1941 official price list was a version with f/4.5 lens and Orient shutter (1–200, self-timer).

The versions with the Venner 75/3.5 lens and either a Vester III (T, B, 1–200) or an Orient A shutter (T, B, 1–200, self-timer) were still mentioned in the government inquiry listing Japanese camera production as of April 1943.[13] The name of the manufacturer is unfortunately missing from the document.

Some examples of the Semi Clover 3 and 4 have been observed.[14] The shutter plate is marked GINREI KOHKI at the top and reportedly VESTER 3 at the bottom. On the f/4.5 examples observed, the lens is engraved Anastigmat Venner whereas it is engraved G.R.C. Venner 7.5cm f/3.5 on the Semi Clover 4. It is not known if this is a distinguishing feature of the f/4.5 and f/3.5 lenses or if the marking was changed at some time on all the lenses.


In an on-line auction a Semi Clover B2 with a Venner f/3.5 80mm in an Orient A shutter (T, B, 1–200, self-timer) has been observed marked with 'Made in Occupied Japan (on the thin side for the fold-down Albeda finder). Thus suggests (limited?) post-war production of some Semi Clover folders.[15]


  1. Sugiyama, item 1033, and McKeown, p.374, call the camera "Clover" but the full name in the advertisements was "Semi Clover".
  2. クロバーカメラ製造元: advertisement on p.12 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, February 15, 1944, reproduced on p.76 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
  3. Made by Ginrei: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item M2, shutter item 18-P-2. The names Venner and Vester appear on various other Ginrei products, sometimes in direct conjunction with the company name.
  4. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.336.
  5. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lb4 (for the 75/3.5).
  6. Example observed in an online auction.
  7. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, sections 5B, 6B and 7B.
  8. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, sections 4B, 5B, 6B and 7B.
  9. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.336.
  10. Advertisement published in Hōdō Shashin, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.69.
  11. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.336.
  12. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.336, says that the self-timer equipped shutter is an "Oriental" (オリエンタル), but this is invalidated by the "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter item 18-P-23.
  13. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 42–3, lens item Lb4, shutter items 18-P-2 and 18-P-23.
  14. Semi Clover 3 pictured in Sugiyama, item 1033, and in an online auction. Semi Clover 4 pictured in this page and in an online auction.
  15. Seen in an on-line auction (eBay September 2013).


  • 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 84–88.
  • "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 5B, 6B, 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. Items 42–3.
  • "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, sections 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B.
  • 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.374.
  • 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.76, corresponding to p.12 of the February 15, 1944 issue.
  • 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. Item 1033.


In Japanese: