Semi Kulax and Kiko Semi

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The Semi Kulax (セミクラックス) and Kiko Semi (キコーセミ) are Japanese 4.5×6 folders made by Kigawa from 1941 to about 1946.

General description

All the models are vertical folders, copies of the 4.5×6 Nettar with straight folding struts. There is a key to wind the film at the bottom right, as seen by the photographer holding the camera horizontally. The back is hinged to the left and the back latch consists of a long sliding bar. There is a single red window at the bottom, protected by a horizontally sliding cover.

The Semi Kulax


The Semi Kulax has a short top housing containing both an eye level finder and a brilliant finder, with the shutter release and folding bed release symmetrically placed at both ends. The lens is front-cell focusing, and is normally surrounded by a depth-of-field scale. The name is normally embossed as KULAX in the front leather. The top housing has a large KSK logo, presumably for Kigawa Seimitsu Kōgaku.

Advertisements and original documents

The Semi Kulax was advertised in Japanese magazines from January 1941. It is already mentioned in the official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, in four versions: "Semi Kulax A" (¥100), "Semi Kulax I" (¥120), "Semi Kulax II" (¥121), "Semi Kulax III" (¥160).[1] By comparison with other cameras in the same price categories, we can presume that the models A and II have an f/4.5 lens and the models I and III have an f/3.5 lens. A similar price list dated November 1941 only has the Semi Kulax A, I and III, along with the Kiko Semi III (see below).[2] In the latter document, the camera is attributed to Nichiei Shōkai (previously called Optochrom-sha and later Kikō Shōji), the sales company associated to Kigawa Kōgaku.

The November 1941 advertisement in Shashin Bunka mentions the Erinar Anastigmat 75/3.5 lens and Kiko (キコー) shutter.[3] Two versions are listed, differing by the shutter speeds:

  • Semi Kulax I: T, B, 5–200 speeds, ¥105;
  • Semi Kulax III: T, B, 1–300 speeds, ¥130.

The camera is advertised together with the Gotex, and the distributor is Nichiei Shōkai. The pictured camera has the KULAX embossing and the KSK engraving. Its shutter casing is black, and the aperture scale is a separate part attached on top. No name is visible on the shutter rim.

The January 1942 advertisement in the same magazine lists the same two versions, at respectively ¥123 and ¥152, and shows the same picture.[4]

After the introduction of the Kiko Semi, the "Semi Kulax" and "Semi Kulax A" were still listed in the April 1943 government inquiry on camera production (see below).

Actual examples

The example pictured in Sugiyama is a presumably early one. The name is embossed in the front leather as KULEX.[5] This is perhaps not a name variant but rather a mistake in the marking, something not infrequent among Japanese cameras of the time. This example has T, B, 5–300 speeds and perhaps a missing depth-of-field scale. No shutter name is visible. The lens engraving is Kikō Anastigmat Erinar 1:3.5 f=75mm N°20279.

The example pictured in this page differs from the other known Semi Kulax by its all chrome shutter casing, with the speed and aperture scales directly engraved. The lens is engraved KIKO Anastigmat Erinar 1:3.5 f=75mm N°74629. The shutter is reported as a Rapid-Kiko, apparently giving T, B, 1–500 speeds (the top speed is unsure). The shutter name is inscribed at the bottom of the speed setting rim. The top housing has the words TOKYO JAPAN, KIGAWA KŌGAKU and 2601 engraved under the KSK logo. Number 2601 is surely not a serial number, but corresponds to year 2601 in the Japanese mythological calendar sometimes used in military ruled Japan, i.e. 1941.

Kiko Semi with dual finders


The dual finder Kiko Semi was an evolution of the Semi Kulax. It shares the same body and top housing containing dual finders. The main difference is that the lens and shutter assembly is mounted on a helical (unit focusing), the same as on the 6×6 Gotex introduced by Kigawa in late 1941. The front leather is embossed KIKO, and the back is embossed Kiko Semi.

Wartime advertisements and documents

The earliest mention of the Kiko Semi is in the November 1941 official price list cited above, which has a "Kiko Semi III" along with the Semi Kulax.[6] Advertisements dated February and October 1942 in Shashin Bunka list the camera for ¥158 with an Erinar Anastigmat 75/3.5 lens and a Kikō Rapid shutter (T, B, 1–500).[7] The picture is the same in the two advertisements. It shows the shutter name RAPID–KIKO at the bottom of the speed rim, and perhaps the KSK logo above the top housing. The camera has a plain lens standard, the same as on the Semi Kulax.

The April 1943 government inquiry on camera production mentions the Semi Kulax, Semi Kulax A and Kiko Semi.[8] It says nothing of the focusing mechanism. The Semi Kulax A is registered with a Lucomar 75/4.5 lens and a Kiko shutter (T, B, 5–200), both made by Kigawa.[9] The two other cameras are listed with a Kiko 75/3.5 three-element lens.[10] The shutter of the Kiko Semi is the Kiko Rapid (T, B, 1–500), and the shutter of the Semi Kulax is curiously given as a Licht by Seikōsha (T, B, 25–100, self-timer).[11]

An advertisement dated February 1944 shows the Kiko Semi with dual finders and unit focusing, together with the Gotex.[12] The picture is the same as in 1942. The lens is the Erinar Anastigmat f/3.5, and another picture shows lens no.60693, probably on a Gotex. It is unclear whether the shutter of the Kiko Semi is the Kiko Compur (1–300) or the Kiko Rapid (1–500), and it seems that the price is ¥180.94.[13]

Actual examples

All the examples actually observed with dual finders and unit focusing have a square lens standard with rounded corners, perhaps to protect the focusing control.

One example is known with 1–500 speeds and the name RAPID–KIKO on the shutter rim. Its lens engraving is Kikō Anastigmat Erinar 1:3.5 f=7.5cm N°xxxxx. Its top housing has the same engravings as on the Semi Kulax: a large KSK logo, TOKYO JAPAN, and KIGAWA KōGAKU. There is also a number, which might be the same 2601 as on the example of the Semi Kulax pictured above, or might correspond to the body serial number, as is the case on a Gotex with a similar marking.

Others have a shutter giving T, B, 5–200 speeds, and a bright shining top housing with no marking.[14] The lens marking is KIKO Anastigmat Erinar 1:3.5 f=75mm N°xxxxx and no engraving is visible on the shutter rim.

The dual-finder example pictured in McKeown has front-cell focusing and a plain round lens standard.[15] The shutter speeds are faintly legible but seem to be T, B, 5–200. The lens marking is Erinar Anastigmat 1:3.5 f=75mm N°101923. This example is presumably quite late. A similar marking and a lens number in the same range are known on an example of the 6×6 Gotex with front-cell focusing. This backward move to front-cell focusing lenses is probably due to a shortage of materials, which impeded the manufacture of the focusing helical. A similar reason has been alleged to explain why some examples of the Semi Pearl are found with a front-cell focusing lens.

Kiko Semi with folding finder

Actual examples

The Kiko Semi also exists with a folding optical finder. Two different types of finder are known, differing by the closing sequence. The presumably early finder has the front part folding above the rear one; it is the reverse for the presumably late finder. It is not known if the folding finder corresponds to a less expensive Kiko Semi sold in parallel to the dual-finder model, or if it was mounted because of a shortage of materials to manufacture the top housing. The actual examples observed so far differ one from the other, and give the impression of a disorganized production.

A single example has been observed with a folding optical finder and unit focusing.[16] The front part of the finder folds above the rear one. The camera has the square lens standard, and a Rapid-Kiko shutter, giving T, B, 1–500 speeds and engraved RAPID-KIKO in the speed rim. The lens marking is KIKO Anastigmat Erinar 1:3.5 f=75mm N°72909, and the number might indicate that it was made at the same time as the dual-finder unit-focusing model.

Another example is known with the same finder, a circular lens standard, a front-cell focusing Rieze-Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens and perhaps a Buick Model-1 shutter.[17] This equipment is perhaps not original.

Other examples have a different type of viewfinder, with the rear part folding above the front one. All have front-cell focusing and a circular lens standard. Two of them has a depth-of-field scale around the focusing ring, the same as on the Semi Kulax.[18] A third one has a plain lens surrounding, a Kiko Anastigmat Erinar 75mm f/3.5 lens and is reported to have 1–200 speeds.[19]

The Kely might be a further evolution of that camera.

Postwar advertisements

The Kiko Semi was advertised again in Japanese magazines dated mid-1946.[20] The advertisement in the May and July 1946 issues of Ars Camera shows a drawing of the camera with no top housing and a folding optical finder, whose rear part folds above the front one.[21] The drawing seems to show a unit-focused lens mounted on a plain round lens standard. The text confirms that the lens barrel moves front and back (前後玉鏡胴伸縮式), and mentions an Erinar 75/3.5 lens and a Kiko Compur[22] shutter (T, B, 1–300), but no price is indicated and no company name is given. It is probable that the cameras offered were old stock, or assembled from an old stock of parts. The last reported advertisement for the Kiko Semi is in the August 1946 issue of the same magazine.[23]


  1. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, sections 4B, 5B, 6B and 7B.
  2. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, sections 4B, 5B and 7B.
  3. Advertisement dated November 1941 reproduced in Nakamura, p.29 of Camera Collectors' News no.173 (the same advertisement is dated June 1941 in Onodera, p.18 of Camera Collectors' News no.127, perhaps by mistake).
  4. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.68.
  5. Sugiyama, item 1317. The camera is wrongly dated 1948. The name "Kulex" and the date are repeated in McKeown, p.464.
  6. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, section 7B.
  7. Advertisements reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, pp.66 and 71. See also the wartime advertisement reproduced in Nostalgic Camera by Toshio Inamura. In this advertisement, the prices of the Gotex (¥187) and Kiko Semi (¥158) are mismatched.
  8. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 56, 59 and 79.
  9. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lc20, shutter item 18-U-5.
  10. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lb8.
  11. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter items 18-R-3 and 12-V-4.
  12. Advertisement on the third cover of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, February 15, 1944, reproduced on p.77 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
  13. The columns listing the features of the Kiko Semi and Gotex are probably mismatched, as is indicated by the given format, and the Kiko Compur (1–300) shutter certainly applies to the Gotex. The prices are probably at the right place, and the Kiko Semi is presumably cheaper than the Gotex.
  14. Examples observed in online auctions, lens no.75694 and 75914, and example formerly pictured in a page at, lens no.x9659. See also the example pictured in this page of the Akahiro Camera Museum.
  15. Example pictured in McKeown, p.464.
  16. Example pictured in this page at Japan Family Camera.
  17. Example observed in an online auction.
  18. Examples observed in online auctions.
  19. Example observed for sale at a dealer.
  20. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.350.
  21. An identical advertisement appears in Ars Camera May 1946 (p.3) and July 1946 (p.29), reproduced in this page and in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.132.
  22. Inferred from the katakana キコーコンパー.
  23. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.350.


Original documents

  • Ars Camera. Advertisements in May 1946 (p.3) and July 1946 (p.29).
  • "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 4B, 5B and 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 56, 59 and 79.
  • "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 and 7B.
  • 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.77, corresponding to the third cover of the February 15, 1944 issue.

Recent sources

  • 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 57, 75 and 471. (See also the advertisement for item 101.)
  • 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.464.
  • Nakamura Kin (中村欽). "Hanseiki mae no jū-ichi-gatsu ni wa..." (半世紀前の十一月には..., In November, fifty years ago...) In Camera Collectors' News no.173 (November 1991). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. P.29.
  • Onodera Eiri (小野寺英里). "SNK to Kigawa to Taisei to Fujikō to" (SNKと木川と大成と富士光と, SNK, Kigawa, Taisei, Fujikō, etc.). In Camera Collectors' News no.127 (January 1988). Nishinomiya: Camera Collectors News-sha. Pp.15–20.
  • 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 1317.


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