The Semi Sport (セミスポーツ) is a Japanese 4.5×6 folding camera, made by Fujimoto from 1940 to the end of the war, and advertised as late as 1949. It is said that it was a renaming of the Semi Prince, released after the contract between the manufacturer Fujimoto and the distributor Fukada, owner of the name "Prince", was rescinded.
The Semi Sport is a copy of the Ikonta, with the typical folding struts. It has a folding optical finder, whose opening is coupled to the release of the folding bed. The body release is placed to the left of the viewfinder, as seen by the photographer holding the camera horizontally. There is an advance key at the bottom right. 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 left of the back, protected by a vertically sliding cover.
The Semi Sport has the same body as its predecessor the Semi Prince III, made by the same manufacturer. The main difference is the new Rapidex shutter. At the same time, the company was also making the Semi Lucky III with a slightly smaller body.
The Rapidex shutter was made by Fujimoto itself, in its Mukogawa plant. It gives T, B, 1–300 speeds and has a self-timer. The shutter plate has the name RAPIDEX inscribed at the bottom, three silver strips on each side and the FT logo of Fujimoto on the right — FT are the initials of Fujimoto Tōjirō (藤本藤次郎), the founder of the company. The aperture scale is placed above the shutter housing.
The lenses were either imported lenses made by Schneider or Laack, or Japanese-made Lucky Anastigmat lenses, said to be supplied by Nishida Kōgaku. The Semi Sport was one of the very last wartime Japanese cameras to have imported lenses, at a time when the imports of camera parts had stopped, perhaps because a large stock was bought at the time of the Semi Prince.
Prewar and wartime documents
The Semi Sport was announced in mid-1940. In an advertisement dated September 1940, it is presented as similar to the Semi Prince (セミプリンスカメラと殆んど同様品) and available soon (近日発売). The picture of the advertisement already shows the Rapidex shutter.
In a December 1940 advertisement, the camera is offered with a Radionar 75/4.5 lens, for ¥121. The official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941 has a Semi Sport for ¥121, certainly corresponding to this version.
In an advertisement dated September 1941, the Semi Sport is offered in a choice of versions:
- Schneider Xenar 75/4.5 lens (¥160);
- Lucky Anastigmat 75/3.5 lens (¥160);
- Laack Regulyt 75/4.5 lens (¥121);
- Lucky Anastigmat 75/4.5 lens (¥121).
The official price list dated November 1941 has a Semi Sport I and a Semi Sport II, certainly corresponding to the cheap and expensive versions respectively.
In January 1942, the Xenar version was no longer offered and the prices rose to ¥188 for the Lucky f/3.5 version and ¥142 for the f/4.5 versions. At that time, the distributor was Taihō Shōkai (大宝商会).
The government inquiry compiled in April 1943 mentions three versions of the Semi Sport I, with Lucky f/4.5, Regulyt f/4.5 or Isco f/4.5 and two versions of the Semi Sport II, with Lucky f/3.5 or Xenar f/4.5.
Variations on actual examples
Other non-standard variations have been observed. One example is known with a Super-Rapid shutter (T, B, 1–500) and a Lucky Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens. The lens has a very low serial number (no.00111) and the camera is perhaps an early prototype.
One example of the Semi Sport is known with a Compur-Rapid shutter (T, B, 1–500) and a Schneider Xenar 7.5cm f/4.5 lens. This example belongs to the Fujimoto company, and it is perhaps a composite reusing the lens and shutter assembly of a Semi Prince.
Another example has been observed with a Compur-Rapid shutter and a four-element Lausar 7.5cm f/3.5 lens made by Tomioka. This Lausar lens equipment is maybe original. A Lausar 7.5cm f/3.5 lens mounted on a Rapidex shutter, probably coming from a Semi Sport, is pictured in Sugiyama on a Liner Six postwar camera.
At last, one example has been observed with a Rokuoh-Sha Hexar Ser. II 75mm f/3.5 lens mounted on a leaf shutter with only three speed settings on the rim: 100, 200 and 400; a similar lens and shutter assembly has been observed on a GSK-99 aerial camera, and the example found on the Semi Sport certainly comes from one such camera.
After the war
The Semi Sport was offered again in 1949. It appears in a September 1949 advertisement, together with a Lucky enlarger, also made by Fujimoto in the prewar and wartime period. The lens is mentioned as a Texar 75/3.5, a name which is otherwise unknown. In the advertisement, the only company name is Nihon Kōki Kōgyō K.K. (日本光機工業株式会社). The pictured camera shows no visible change from the prewar and wartime model. The postwar Semi Sport was probably made from remaining stocks of parts, and it was maybe assembled by Nihon Kōki Kōgyō. (Fujimoto had ceased activity in 1945 and would not be reactivated until 1950.) The company was certainly conscious that the camera was a little outdated, and the advertising sentence is: "Based on an experience of several years, now available again!" (多年の経験に基いてここに再登場).
- Tanimura, p.51 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.11.
- Made by Fujimoto: Fujimoto official company history (archived). Mukogawa plant: Tanimura, p.51 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.11. The April 1943 government inquiry (shutter item 18-P-27) attributes the Rapidex to Chiyoda, the predecessor of Minolta, certainly by mistake.
- FT initials of Fujimoto Tōjirō: Tanimura, p.51 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.11.
- Lucky lenses made by Nishida: Tanimura, p.51 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.11, from an interview of Takahashi Kenzō.
- The earliest advertisement listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.337, is dated August 1940.
- Advertisment published in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Tanimura, p.51 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.11.
- Advertisement in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.76.
- "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, section 6B.
- Advertisement in Asahi Camera, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.76.
- "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, sections 6B and 7B. None of the original advertisements observed so far have a model number. The two examples pictured in Sugiyama, items 1249–50, are called "Semi Sport I", but item 1250 has a Lucky f/3.5 lens and corresponds to the "Semi Sport II". McKeown, p.332, calls the camera "Semi Sport I" after Sugiyama.
- Advertisement published in Shashin Bunka, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.76. See also this advertisement, dated between 1942 and 1945, reproduced in Nostalgic Camera by Toshio Inamura.
- The name was written 大寶商會 in old writing in the advertisements.
- "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 16–20, lens items Lb23, Lc3, Lc4, Lc24 and Lc27. The Laack Regulyt is wrongly registered as made by Schneider.
- Lucky f/3.5: examples pictured in this page, in Sugiyama, item 1250, formerly shown in a page at Japan Family Camera, and observed in online auctions. Regulyt f/4.5: examples pictured in Sugiyama, item 1249, and observed in an online auction.
- Example pictured in Tanimura, p.50 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.11.
- Example pictured in Supuringu kamera de ikou, pp.78–9.
- Example observed in an online auction, lens no.35914.
- Sugiyama, item 1322.
- Example observed in an online auction, lens no.4653.
- Tanaka, p.77 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.8, says that the Semi Sport was released in 1940 with an Isco lens and Prontor II shutter, and that the Rapidex shutter was introduced in 1941. The second affirmation is wrong.
- Date: advertisements and article listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.353.
- Advertisement published in Kohga Gekkan, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.143.
- Fujimoto official company history (archived).
- 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 131 and 561.
- "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 6B and 7B.
- Kawamata Masataku (川又正卓). Semi Prince — Luck. 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: The use of and actual examples from 69 machines). Tokyo: Shashinkogyo Syuppan-sha, 2004. ISBN 4-87956-072-3. Pp.78–80.
- "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 16–20.
- "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 6B.
- 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). Page 332.
- 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. Items 1249–50.
- Tanimura Yoshihiko (谷村吉彦). "Semi Purinsu kara Rakku made — Takahashi Kenzō shi ni kiku." (セミプリンスからラックまで・高橋健三氏にきく, "From the Semi Prince to the Luck — Asking Takahashi Kenzō") Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.11, March 1988. No ISBN number. Shirarezaru kamera (知られざるカメラ, special issue on unknown cameras). Pp.50–1. Based on an interview of Takahashi Kenzō, former CEO of Fujimoto, who entered the company in 1934.