The Semi Chrome (セミクローム) are Japanese 4.5×6 folders made in 1937 and 1938 by Optochrom. Two very different versions were announced, but the first one was perhaps never sold.
The Semi Chrome A
The Semi Chrome A is a vertical folder. It has a folding optical finder on one side. The advance key is at the bottom right, as seen by the photographer holding the camera horizontally. The back is hinged to the left and the back latch is covered by a leather handle.
The only known advertisement is in the February 1937 issue of Camera Art. The shutter has T, B, 5–150 speeds, and is probably a Rulex: on the picture, the shutter plate is marked Semi Chrome at the top and perhaps RULEX at the bottom, with a logo on the right which is probably the NH logo of Neumann & Heilemann. The lens aperture is f/4.5, and two lens options are mentioned: New Gold or Lausar. No price is indicated, and the Semi Chrome A was probably never sold. It was perhaps succeeded by the Semi Sixteenth.
The Semi Chrome B
The Semi Chrome B is a strut folding camera. It has a folding optical finder, apparently similar to the finder of the Semi Chrome A. There is a button on the left of the viewfinder (as seen by the photographer); it looks like a body release but it is actually the release of the front standard. There is an advance knob, whose location varies (see below). The back is hinged to the left and the back latch is covered by a leather handle, the same as on the Semi Chrome A.
The Semi Chrome B was announced in the advertisement cited above, dated February 1937. It was priced at ¥38 with a New Gold f/4.5 lens and an everset shutter giving T, B, 100, 50, 25 speeds. In the picture, the advance knob seems to be at the top left, next to the folding bed release. The name inscribed in the front leather reads SEMI–CHROME, but this might result from a picture retouch. The shutter plate has an illegible inscription at the top and is perhaps marked New Gold in cursive style at the bottom.
In an advertisement dated August 1937, the Semi Chrome B is offered with the New Gold lens for the same price, or with a Lausar f/4.5 lens for ¥45 (case ¥5 extra). The pictured camera has the advance knob at the bottom right, near the back latch, and the front leather is simply embossed CHROME. The shutter has the same speeds; the shutter plate has a thin silver strip on each side and is certainly marked OPTOCHROM SHUTTER at the top — with an NE logo between both words — and NEW GOLD at the bottom.
Advertisements for the camera were placed until January 1938.
Three surviving cameras are known so far, showing minor variations. The presumably older example is similar to that pictured in the August 1937 advertisement, with the same advance knob and shutter plate. It has a Maintain Anastigmat 7.5cm f/4.5, focusing to 5 feet, with serial number 1008. It has two red windows in the back, protected by a common slider moving under a black striated casing.
|Semi Chrome B, New Gold shutter, Lucomar Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 lens no.1905.|
Pictures by Igor Stowbunenko. (Image rights)
The example pictured in this page has an advance key in place of the knob. Its lens is a Lucomar Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5, focusing to 1 metre, with serial number 1905. Its shutter is identical to that of the previous example. The red windows are protected by an internal flap, controlled by a thumb wheel.
The third example, pictured in Sugiyama, is certainly later. It has the advance knob again, and a Lucomar Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 lens, with a serial number in the 2xxx range. The new shutter plate has a new design with three silver strips on each side; it is inscribed TSUBASA SHUTTER at the top — with the NE logo — and NEW GOLD at the bottom.
- Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi in two parts, pp.61 (items 34 and 91) and 70 (items 89–90).
- The advertisement has ニユーゴールド on one line and ローザー付F4.5 on the following line. This certainly corresponds to two lens options.
- This model is called "Semi Tsubasa Chrome" in Sugiyama, item 1255, and in McKeown, p.464.
- Advertisement in Asahi Camera August 1937, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.78.
- Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.336.
- Example observed in an online auction.
- 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 89–90 and 143.
- 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.
- 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 1255.