The Semi Frank is a vertical folder, with no rangefinder and controlling film advance via a red window on the back. The folding struts are copied on the Ikonta, and the body casting and folding struts look very similar to the Semi Mihama. The viewfinder and controls are to the right when the camera is held vertically by the photographer, the reverse of the majority of the 4.5×6 folders.
The first model has a stepped top housing, containing the viewfinder in the middle. The advance key is at the left end and its base is separate from the top housing. The release button is to the right of the viewfinder and has a smooth shape, perhaps designed to minimize the vibrations. There is an accessory shoe placed just behind, and a folding bed release on the left of the viewfinder. The back is hinged to the right and contains a red window at the top left, protected by a vertically sliding cover. The lens standard is chrome and has protruding corners, one of them having a round lever actuating the self-timer.
The name Frank is engraved above the viewfinder in cursive style, surrounded by the drawing of a concave lens element. It is also embossed in the leather covering at the front. The name SEMI FRANK is stamped in capital letters on the pressure plate, inside the back. The T.K logo of Tōsei Kōki is engraved on the folding struts and on one corner of the lens standard. Finally, the bottom plate is engraved TOSE.O.W., certainly for Tosei Optical Works. The leather case is embossed Frank at the front, sometimes with the word SEMI added above.
|Semi Frank in Camera Fan October 1951. (Image rights)|
The Semi Frank was listed in the October 1951 issue of Camera Fan, reproduced above; this is the first known mention of the camera. The document mentions Tōsei Kōki as the manufacturer and Endō Kamera-ten as the distributor. It lists the camera at ¥10,500 (case included), with a Seriter f/3.5 lens and a TKS synchronized shutter (B, 1–200 and self-timer).
An advertisement in Camera Fan May 1952 lists the camera with the same Seriter (coated) and TKS combination, at the slightly reduced price of ¥9,800 (case included), now under the ¥10,000 mark. The advertisement does not mention the manufacturer, only the distributor Million Shōkai. The document contains the wrong Roman spellings "Semi Flank" and "Flank Six" (for Semi Frank and Frank Six); the pronunciation would be the same for a Japanese reader.
Most examples observed so far have a Seriter Anastigmat 75mm f/3.5 lens in an NKS shutter (B, 1–200, self-timer), synchronized via a pin at the bottom right. The lens bezel is engraved SERITER Anastigmat 1:3.5 F=75mm N°xxxx, with the name SERITER in red, sometimes prefixed with a black C (for Coated).
One isolated camera is known with an E. Chibanone Anastigmat 80mm f/3.5 lens in a TKS shutter (B, 1–200, self-timer), with a synch pin at the bottom right. The name "Chibanone" is an early spelling for "Chibanon", a brand name used by Sankyō Kōki on camera lenses before settling on the Komura brand, and used on enlarging lenses for a longer period. The E. Chibanone lens observed on that camera seems original, but the "E" prefix is more suitable for an enlarging lens. The TKS shutter mounted on that particular example has a pattern of black and white triangles on the front plate.
The Seriter and TKS combination has not yet been confirmed on a surviving example, but is certainly that pictured in the October 1951 article reproduced above.
The second model is known from a single example, which was perhaps a prototype. It has a smoother top housing, whose shape was copied on the Pearl. The viewfinder is slightly offset to the right and there are two decorative lines next to the front window. The advance key is replaced by a knob, with a round leather patch at the top and an arrow to indicate the winding direction. The shutter release has a more classical shape and the accessory shoe is at the extreme right. The lens standard is black with a white T.K logo.
The only actual example observed has a Tosei Anastigmat 80mm f/3.5 lens and a TKS shutter. The shutter plate has a black stripe and a black diamond at the top, and is perhaps inscribed TOSEI at the bottom (see Frank Six).
- Dates: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.362.
- Role of this lever: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.352 (item 526, about the Sanon Six II).
- Column in Camera Fan October 1951, p.31.
- List of articles and advertisements in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.362.
- Advertisement in Camera Fan May 1952, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.174.
- Examples observed in online auctions, and for sale by an online dealer.
- Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1302.
- Sugiyama, item 1302, says (in Japanese only) that the pattern of black and white triangles is a feature of early production cameras, and this is repeated in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.362 (items 779 and 783). However this is an oversimplification, see analysis in the page on the Frank Six.
- Example pictured in this page by Classic Camera Moritz.
- 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 783.
- Camera Fan October 1951. "Kokusan kamera daitokushū" (国産カメラ大特集, Large special issue on Japanese cameras). Pp.25–44.
- 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.75 (brief mention only).
- 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 1302.