Semi Rocket and Doris

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The Semi Rocket (セミロケット) and Doris (ドリス) are Japanese 4.5×6 folding cameras made between 1952 and 1955 by Tōkyō Seiki, later Doris Camera.[1] This company was the successor of the prewar Motodori and Nissan Kōgaku, presumably founded by a Mr Motodori (本鳥). It is said that this is the source of the camera's name: "Dori's camera", thus "Doris".[2]

General description

The Semi Rocket and Doris are vertical folders. The viewfinder is contained in a top housing. The film advance knob and body release are on the left — as seen by a photographer holding the camera horizontally. The accessory shoe and folding bed release are on the right, above the viewfinder.

The back is hinged to the left and locked by a sliding bar on the right. There is a single red window at the top of the back, protected by a horizontally sliding cover.

The Semi Rocket

The Semi Rocket (セミロケット) has an uncoupled rangefinder, controlled by a wheel falling under the user's right thumb. It has plain folding struts, different from those of the Doris. The viewfinder window is surrounded by a metal frame screwed to the top housing, and there is a round second-image window. The name Semi Rocket is embossed in the front leather, and the word Rocket is engraved above the viewfinder, together with a serial number.[3]

The camera was announced in the February 1951 issue of Asahi Camera, reproduced above.[4] The documents gives wrong lens and shutter data,[5] which were fixed in an erratum placed the following month, mentioning a Perfa f/3.5 lens and a Convex-Rapid shutter, both by Tōkyō Seiki.[6] The camera was also featured in a December 1951 supplement to Photo Art, reproduced on the right, with similar specifications.[7] The pictured camera has a round window for the rangefinder setting, apparently with no depth-of-field indications. The price is given as about ¥10,000.

The examples of the Semi Rocket known so far have a Perfa-Anastigmat 75mm f/3.5 lens in a no-name shutter (B, 1–200, self-timer), synchronized via a dual pin at the bottom; or in an NKS shutter (also B, 10-200). The window for the rangefinder setting is crescent-shaped, with depth-of-field indications.

The Doris

The Doris has three-part folding struts, inspired by the Ikonta. The front leather and the folding struts are marked DORIS in curved letters.

Original model

The original model has a depth-of-field dial on the right end of the top plate. The front of the top housing has two black lines mimicking the ones that appear on the Pearl, except that they are on the other side of the finder. The viewfinder window is surrounded by a metal frame, as on the Semi Rocket. The name DORIS is engraved above the viewfinder in the same curved font as on the front leather and folding struts. The serial number is also engraved above the top housing.

The Doris was advertised in Japanese magazines from July to October 1952.[8] In the July advertisement in Asahi Camera, it is offered as a new product; the lens is a coated Perfa Anastigmat 75/3.5 and the shutter is a NKS giving B, 1–200 speeds, with a self-timer and an ASA bayonet synch post.[9]

The original model with depth-of-field indicator was soon replaced by the Doris-P. A few examples have been observed, and serial numbers are known in the 13xx and 14xx range.[10]


The Doris-P[11] is a cheaper model. Its appearance is similar except that the depth-of-field dial is replaced by a smaller decorative flange.

The Doris-P was advertised in Japan from November 1952 to January 1954.[12] In the November advertisement in Asahi Camera, placed by Tōkyō Seiki, it is offered as a new product for ¥7,000.[13] The shutter is still an NKS but it gives B, 10–200 speeds. Other features are unchanged.

The Doris-P is listed along with the Doris II in the leaflet reproduced below, which also contains an instruction manual for the camera. (In the document, two pictures taken from the back still show an original Doris with depth-of-field dial.)

The Doris-P is by far the most common variant of the 4.5×6 Doris cameras, with serial numbers known in the 12xx to 101xx range.[14] It has been observed with various shutter types, all of them having a self-timer:[15]

Some of the Convex shutters have OKK markings and an OKK logo on the front plate, others have an OK logo on the aperture scale, and others have no logo at all. The MSK shutters have a similar OK or OKK logo on the aperture scale next to the synch post; they are perhaps different from other MSK shutters found on distinct Japanese cameras.

Doris II

The Doris II (ドリスII型) is an evolution of the original Doris, with an additional release button on the back of the top cover, falling under the right hand thumb. This version is only known from the leaflet reproduced above, where it is listed with a Perfa f/3.5 lens and NKS shutter (B, 1–200).[20] No actual example has been observed yet, and it was perhaps not commercially sold. (The Doris III and IIIA are 6×6 cameras, evolutions of the Doris Six.)

Doris IA

The Doris IA (ドリスIA型) is an evolution of the Doris-P. There is no metal frame surrounding the viewfinder window, the small decorative flange on the right is replaced by a larger one and the advance knob is replaced by a newer one, with a striated rim and a red arrow engraved on the top. The DORIS engraving above the top housing has a more squarish lettering while the other DORIS markings are unchanged. The lens is a front-cell focusing Doris C. 75mm f/3.5 and the shutter is a Helio giving B, 10–200 speeds, equipped with a self-timer and synchronized via a PC post.[21]

The Doris IA was featured as a new product in the August 1955 issue of Sankei Camera.[22] It was also advertised together with the Dorisflex A in the October 1955 issue of Asahi Camera.[23] The advertisement was placed by Doris Camera. It mentions a price of ¥6,000, but it is not fully clear if this applied to the Doris IA, the Dorisflex A or both cameras. The picture shows a camera with two black lines on one side of the viewfinder only, whereas an actual example has been observed with pairs of black lines on both sides of the viewfinder window.[24]


  1. Dates: Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.356.
  2. Niimi, p.92.
  3. Serial numbers:
    s/n 1423 Perfa Anastigmat s/n 1466 in no-name shutter B, 10-200 formerly shown by (Flickr member jacobs_a)
    s/n 1617 Perfa Anastigmat s/n 1645 in NKS shutter B, 10-200 (eBay Mach 2013)
  4. Column in Asahi Camera February 1951, p.104.
  5. Zuiko f/3.5 lens and a "Compur" shutter by Nihon Shōkai.
  6. Erratum in Asahi Camera March 1951, p.104.
  7. Column in the December 1951 supplement to Photo Art, p.44.
  8. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.356.
  9. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.153.
  10. Examples observed in online auctions.
  11. This model is called "Semi Doris P" in Sugiyama, item 1293, and "Doris Semi P" in McKeown, p.928, but the official name was Doris-P (actually "Doris-P型") or Doris Camera P (ドリスカメラP型).
  12. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.356. Lewis, p.86, mistakenly says that the "Semi Doris P" appeared in 1954.
  13. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.153.
  14. The serial numbers of the bodies and lenses are not in synch. Based on the lens serial numbers, is possible that they restarted the body serial numbers when they had reached 10,000 (sorted by LENS s/n):
    s/n 4828 Perfa Anastigmat s/n 7791 in Convex shutter B, 10-200 (Flickr)
    s/n xxxx Perfa Anastigmat s/n 9998 in NKS shutter B, 10–200, (Ojiichan no kamera-kan)
    s/n 7334 Perfa Anastigmat s/n 10417 in Convex shutter B, 10-200 Minorhouse)
    s/n 7953 Perfa Anastigmat s/n 10856 in Convex shutter B, 10-200 (Flickr)
    s/n 9737 Perfa Anastigmat s/n 12802 in Convex shutter B, 10-200 (eBay April 2013)
    s/n 1261 Perfa Anastigmat s/n 14126 in Convex shutter B, 10-200 (Flickr)
  15. One additional camera has been observed with an NKK Wester (B, 1–200) shutter and a C. Reginon Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens, but this equipment was certainly not original and was certainly taken from a Semi Leotax.
  16. Examples pictured in Sugiyama, item 1293, and observed in online auctions.
  17. Examples pictured in McKeown, p.928, in this page at Minorhouse, and observed in online auctions.
  18. Examples pictured in a website which is now dead and observed in an online auction.
  19. Example observed in an online auction.
  20. Lewis, p.86, also mentions a "Semi Doris II" dated 1954, but gives no further detail.
  21. Serial numbers:
    s/n 2197 Doris C s/n 1684) in Helio Shutter (Flickr)
  22. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p. 356.
  23. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.153.
  24. Example observed in an online auction.


Original documents

  • Asahi Camera February 1951. "Shinseihin memo" (新製品メモ, New products memo). P.104.
  • Asahi Camera March 1951. "Shinseihin memo" (新製品メモ, New products memo). P.104.
  • Photo Art 12-gatsu-gō furoku Saishin Kokusan Shashinki Sō-katarogu (フォトアート12月號附録最新国産写真機総カタログ, General catalogue of the latest Japanese cameras, supplement to the December issue). December 1951. P.44.
  • Tōkyō Seiki. Dorisu kamera (Doris camera). Leaflet and instruction manual published c.1952–4, reproduced in this Flickr set by Rebollo_fr.

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 634–6 and 1051.
  • 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.86 (brief mention only).
  • 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). Pp.927–8.
  • Niimi Kahee (新見嘉兵衛). Kamera-mei no gogen sanpo (カメラ名の語源散歩, Strolls in the etymology of camera names). 2nd ed. Tokyo: Shashin Kōgyō Shuppansha, 2002. ISBN 4-87956-060-X.
  • 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 1293.


In Japanese: