Semi Mulber

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Japanese Semi (4.5×6)
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The Semi Mulber (セミマルバ) is a Japanese 4.5×6 folding camera, distributed from 1939 by Kuwata Shōkai.[1] Two very different models are known: the first is a copy of the Ikonta A made of pressed steel and having a folding optical finder, whereas the other has a different die-cast body with a reversed configuration and dual finders. The first model was certainly made by Yamamoto Shashinki Kōsakusho and is similar to the late Semi Kinka, whereas the second model was reportedly made by Motodori.[2] Some recent sources attribute the cameras to a "Mulber Camera Co." or "Mulber Camera Works", but this was certainly not the name of any actual company.[3]

Ikonta copy, folding finder


The first model[4] has a body and folding struts copied on the 4.5×6 Ikonta. It is probably made of pressed steel. There is a marking engraved on the folding struts, perhaps reading KKS.

The folding optical finder is placed to the left — as seen by a photographer holding the camera vertically. If the camera is now held in a horizontal position, the body release is placed to the left of the finder, and there is a button on the right that simultaneously opens the viewfinder and folding bed.

The advance key is at the bottom right, and the tripod thread is at the bottom left. The back is hinged to the left, and locked by a sliding bar on the other side. It contains two red windows with individual horizontal sliders, marked A and B.

The camera is identical to the late Semi Kinka with body release, down to the shape of minor parts. It was certainly supplied to Kuwata by the manufacturer Yamamoto Shashinki Kōsakusho. The same camera was also sold by Riken as the Adler B.

Advertisements and actual examples

The first model was advertised in June 1939 in two versions:[5]

  • Lausar 75/4.5 lens, Mulber SR shutter (T, B, 1–300, self-timer), ¥85;
  • Mulber 75/4.5 lens, Mulber shutter (T, B, 1–300), ¥75.

In a later advertisement dated September 1939,[6] a cheaper version was added: In an advertisement dated September 1939, a cheaper version was added:[7]

An advertisement dated December 1939 shows the same range except that the Perfekt shutter now has 1/200 top speed.[8] However the #00 size Perfekt is only know with 1/250 or 1/300 top speed, and the mentioned top speeds are perhaps mistaken. The two advertisements show the same picture of a camera with Mulber shutter; the MULBER name is inscribed at the top of the shutter plate, and the name SEMI Mulber is embossed in the leather covering at the front of the camera.

The Semi Mulber appears for ¥74 in the official price list compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941, but no detail was given.[9] In a similar list dated November 1941, two versions are mentioned, called "Semi Mulber" and "Semi Mulber II", both attributed to Kuwata.[10]

Only two actual examples of this model have been observed so far. Both have the name Mulber embossed in the front leather, instead of SEMI Mulber. One camera is pictured in Sugiyama, and reportedly has a Mulber Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 lens and a KKS shutter.[11] On the picture, the shutter speeds are legible as T, B, 5–200.[12] The shutter plate is blank, perhaps because some part is missing. The other camera reportedly has a Perfekt shutter (5–250, B, T) and a Mulber Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 lens.[13]

Reversed model, dual finders


The second model[14] has a different die-cast body with different folding struts. The configuration is reversed, with a small housing placed to the right (as seen by a photographer holding the camera vertically) and containing a brilliant finder and a direct vision finder placed side by side. The exact same part has been observed on a Star Semi and on an Oko Semi.[15] The advance knob is on the left of the finder and the body release is on the right. The name Mulber is embossed in the front leather but the font differs from the previous embossing. There is an engraving in the folding struts, perhaps reading TK.

Documents and actual examples

No advertisement for this model has been observed so far. The government inquiry compiled in April 1943 mentions a Semi Mulber and a Semi Mulber II, made by Motodori and distributed by Kuwata.[16] These cameras are registered as made of alloy and they probably correspond to the second model with die-cast construction. Both versions have a Patent Mars shutter made by Mars and giving T, B, 1–250 speeds.[17] The Semi Mulber 75/3.5 has a Rifax 75/3.5 lens and the Semi Mulber II has a Mulber 75/3.5.[18] Both lenses are attributed to Motodori and said to have three elements. However the Rifax is mentioned as having four elements in contemporary advertisements for the Zeitax II and III.[19]

Three surviving examples have been observed.[20] They all have a 7.5cm f/3.5 lens engraved KKS Anastigmat MULBER. One example has a Mulber-Rapid shutter giving B, 1–300 speeds. The shutter is as follows:

  • MULBER–RAPID engraving at the bottom, B, 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 300 speeds (top speed barely legible);[21]
  • MULBER–RAPID engraving at the bottom, speeds down to 1s and B, unknown top speed;[22]
  • unknown engraving at the bottom, B, 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500 speeds (top speed barely legible).[23]


  1. Date: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.341.
  2. Attribution to Motodori: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 23–4.
  3. The camera is attributed to "Mulber Camera Co." or "Mulber Camera Works" in Sugiyama, items 1207–8 and McKeown, p.701. The name "Mulber Camera Works" was briefly used in advertisements for the Mulber (3×4) c.1936, but this was certainly a dummy name (see Camera Works).
  4. This model is called "Mulber Semi (1939)" in McKeown, p.701.
  5. Advertisement in Asahi Camera June 1939, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.95.
  6. Advertisement in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.96.
  7. Advertisement in Asahi Camera September 1939 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.96.
  8. Advertisement on p.17 of Nihon Shashin Kōgyō Tsūshin, December 15, 1939, reproduced on p.51 of Hyaku-gō goto jūkai no kiroku.
  9. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 4A.
  10. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, sections 4A and 7B.
  11. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1208.
  12. The top speed is reported as 1/500, but this is wrong. The same lens and shutter combination is reported in McKeown, p.701, obviously after Sugiyama.
  13. Example pictured in this page at Sencho6207's blog.
  14. This model is called "Mulber Semi (1940)" in McKeown, p.701.
  15. Star Semi: example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1246. The same source says about the item 1207 that the Semi Mulber is a die-cast version of the Star Semi but the only common part visible is the dual-finder assembly. Oko Semi: example pictured in McKeown, p.746.
  16. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 23–4.
  17. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter item 18-U-12.
  18. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens items Lb24 and Lb25. The Rifax name is inferred from the katakana リファックス.
  19. Advertisement dated September 1942 formerly reproduced in the Gochamaze (archived) website, and advertisement dated February 1943 reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.73.
  20. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1207, example pictured in this page and example sold in an online auction.
  21. Sugiyama, item 1207. McKeown, p.341, repeats the same information, obviously after Sugiyama.
  22. Example offered for sale by a dealer.
  23. Example sold in an online auction.


Original documents

  • "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 4A 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 23–4.
  • "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 4A.
  • 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.

Recent sources


In Japanese: