Japanese Semi (4.5×6)
Prewar and wartime models (edit)
Semi Ace | Semi Adler | Adler III | Adler A | Adler B | Adler C | Semi Ako | Ami | Bakyna | Semi Chrome | Semi Clover | Collex | Semi Condor | Semi Dymos | Semi Elega | Semi First | Auto Semi First | Baby Semi First | Gaica | Semi Gelto | Semi Germa | Hansa Semi Rollette | Heil | Hokoku | Hope | Kadera | Kankyu | Kelly | Kiko Semi | Semi Kinka | Semi Konter | Semi Kreis | Semi Kulax | Semi Lead | Semi Leotax | Semi Lester | Loyal | Semi Lucky | Semi Lyra | Semi Makinet | Semi Metax | Semi Minolta (I) and II | Auto Semi Minolta | Semi Miss | Mizuho | Semi Mulber | Semi National | New Gold | Okaco | Oko Semi | Semi Olympus | Semi Olympus II | Semi Osamo | Semi Pearl | Primo | Semi Prince | Semi Proud | Semi Prux | Roavic | Semi Rody | Rondex | Semi Rosen | Semi Rotte | Seica | Seves | Semi Shiks | Sintax | Semi Sixteenth | Semi Solon | Semi Sport | Star Semi | Semi-Tex | Tsubasa Kiko Three | Tsubasa Nettar | Tsubasa Super Semi | Ugein | Vester-Lette | Victor | Waltax | Wester | Zeitax
Semi Kinsi | Lord | Lyrax | Nippon | New Olympic | Semi Olympic | Semi Renky | Auto Victor | Well Super
Sun Stereo
Semi Elka | Semi Keef | Napoleon
Postwar models (edit)
Apollo | Semi Blond | Semi Crystar | Daido Semi | Doris | Semi Frank | Semi Gelto | Semi Golder | Karoron | Karoron RF | Kely | Kiko Semi | Korin | Kuri | BB Kuri | Lark | Semi Leotax | Semi Leotax DL / R | Lo Ruby | Semi Lord | Luck | Semi Lyra | Semi Masmy | Middl 120 | Semi Mihama | Mikado | Million Proud | Semi Minolta III | Semi Minolta P | Semi Oscon | Semi Pearl | Pearl I–III | Pearl IV | Petri | Petri RF | Petri Super | Pioneer | Semi Proud | Semi Rocket | Rocky Semi | Rosen | Ruby | Shinkoh Rabbit | Semi Sport | Tsubasa Semi | Union Semi | Union Model U | Walcon Semi | Waltax | Semi Wester | Zenobia
rigid or collapsible
Semi Dak | Semi Hobix | Super Semi Plum | Rocket Camera | Tomy
Japanese SLR, TLR, pseudo TLR and stereo models ->
Japanese 3×4 and 4×4, 4×5 and 4×6.5, 6×6 and 6×9 ->

The Semi Leotax (セミレオタックス) is a series of Japanese 4.5×6 folders made from 1940 by Shōwa Kōgaku,[1] the company that also made the Leotax Leica copies. The cameras were distributed by Misuzu Shōkai before and during the war.

This page is on the original Semi Leotax with folding finder. These cameras were succeeded by the Semi Leotax DL and R, treated in a separate page.

Common features[]

The first generation of Semi Leotax are vertical folders, copies of the 4.5×6 Nettar, with plain diagonal struts. The folding optical finder is at the center of the top plate. The viewfinder and front door are simultaneously opened by a button on the right — as seen by the photographer holding the camera horizontally. The shutter release is on the other side.

The back is hinged to the left and is locked by a sliding bar on the right. There are flanges at both ends of the top part, which can be lifted to insert the film spools.

The lens is a 7.5cm f/4.5 or f/3.5, and is focused by turning the front cell on all the models. The folding bed has a bulge to accommodate the lens front rim.

Wartime cameras[]

General description[]

The wartime cameras have two red windows near the top of the back, protected by a horizontally sliding common cover. The lens standard has a corner protruding at the top right (as seen from the front), to attach a removable brilliant finder. The model name SEMI LEOTAX in a hexagon is embossed in the leather covering at the front, and the company name SHOWA KOGAKU is embossed in another hexagon on the back.

The cameras have a Riese-Anastigmat or Rieze-Anastigmat 7.5cm lens, made by Fujita, with f/4.5 or f/3.5 maximum aperture.[2] The shutter is a New Torio (T, B, 1–200) or New Torio II (300–1, B, T) by Nippon Kōsokki,[3] or an Orient A (200–1, B, T, self-timer) by Tōyō Kōki Seizō.

Original version, manual film advance[]

The original version, released in 1940, has manual film advance. It is not known if it was driven by a key or a knob.

This version is only known from advertisements dated May and November 1940,[4] and no surviving example has been observed so far. The November advertisement in Asahi Camera[5] offers the camera as a new model with a T, B, 1–200 shutter apparently called New Torio[6] and a Riese-Anastigmat (or Rieze-Anastigmat, リーゼアナスチグマット) 7.5cm lens in a choice of f/3.5 or f/4.5 maximum aperture. No price is indicated but it is said that the official price was ¥155.[7]

The official list of set prices compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941 has six versions of the Semi Leotax, called "Semi Leotax I" (¥80), "Semi Leotax II" (¥100), "Semi Leotax III" (¥100 too), "Semi Leotax IV" (¥120), "Semi Leotax V" (¥121) and "Semi Leotax VI" (¥160).[8] From the features of other cameras classified in the same price categories, it is likely that the model I has an f/4.5 lens and a shutter with no slow speeds, the models II and III have an f/4.5 lens and a better shutter, the model IV has an f/3.5 lens and the same shutter, whereas the models V and VI presumably correspond to the f/4.5 and f/3.5 versions with auto-stop advance (see below).

Auto-stop version[]

The more advanced version with auto-stop film advance[9] was perhaps released in late 1940 or early 1941.

Description of the advance mechanism[]

The advance mechanism is contained in a small housing on the right of the bottom plate, looking from the rear. On the other side of the base is the tripod mount socket. The advance knob is coupled to the auto-stop advance feature, and the film counter can display the maximum of 16 shots from a 120 roll film, in a tiny window just below the Leotax logo and serial number. There is a spring loaded lever to the rear of the advance cover, to unlock the mechanism. To advance, the user must slide the lever to the right and start turning the knob (in the direction of the engraved curved arrow) until the next number appears, then release the lever and keep on turning until it clicks and locks the knob.


The version with auto-stop advance was first advertised in March 1941, and was featured in the new products column of the May issue of Asahi Camera.[10] The September 1941 advertisement in Asahi Camera mentions a New Torio shutter (T, B, 1–200) and a Riese-Anastigmat (or Rieze-Anastigmat, リーゼアナスチグマット) 7.5cm lens, and gives the following price list:[11]

  • Semi Leotax V, f/4.5 lens, ¥115;
  • Semi Leotax VI, f/3.5 lens, ¥140;
  • ever-ready case, ¥6.50;
  • dedicated lens hood, ¥1.80.

The leaflet by Kankyū Hyakkaten reproduced in this page is perhaps dated 1941.[12] The picture is the same as in the September advertisement in Asahi Camera, and the information is very similar, except that the document does not mention the model numbers or the hood.

The official list of set prices dated November 1941 has the "Semi Leotax V", "Semi Leotax VI" and "Semi Leotax 7", attributed to Shōwa Kōgaku.[13] The Semi Leotax 7 is listed in the same price category as the model VI, and might correspond to the version with self-timer mentioned below.

The April 1943 government inquiry on Japanese camera production has two versions of the Semi Leotax, both with an f/3.5 Riese or Rieze lens and a New Torio shutter (T, B, 1–200).[14] They only differ by the presence or absence of a self-timer.

The advertisement in Shashin Bunka October 1943 lists the same two versions, for respectively ¥189 and ¥216; the f/4.5 lens is not mentioned any more.[15] The document uses the same picture as in the September 1941 advertisement and in the above leaflet.

Advertisements for the Semi Leotax with auto-stop advance are reported until September 1944.[16] Rangefinder conversions were offered in 1943 by Hakkōdō for the Semi Leotax and various other copies of the Ikonta or Nettar (see this page).

Z99 Semi Leotax w chrome auto stop

late Semi Leotax Auto Stop with chrome Version # 13,449

Actual examples[]

The early examples of the auto-stop version have a black cover for the advance mechanism, the same as in the advertising picture, with the Leotax logo and serial number engraved in white. For these, serial numbers are known from the 1xxx to 9xxx range, in a sequence certainly starting at 1001.[17] All have a New Torio shutter, giving T, B, 1–200 speeds, and none has been observed with a self-timer. The shutter is engraved NEW TORIO in the speed rim, and also fashions a cable release socket on the side.

The lens rim reads RIESE–ANASTIGMAT in the advertising picture and on at least one very early example with f/4.5 lens,[18] but RIEZE–ANASTIGMAT on all the other cameras. No lens number is visible on the front rim, but a four-digit number appears on the rear of the lens fastening ring on the example pictured in this page. The focus ring has distance markings in metres at 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.5, 8, 10, 20 and ∞.

The late examples of the auto-stop version have a chrome finished advance cover, with the name Leotax and the serial number engraved in black. The shape of the cover is slightly altered, with more rounded edges. Serial numbers are known in the 11xxx to 14xxx range, indicating a total production of about 15,000 wartime cameras.

All the examples known so far with the chrome cover have the Rieze-Anastigmat f/3.5 lens. At least one has the same New Torio shutter (T, B, 1–200) as on the previous cameras.[19] Others have a New Torio II, giving 300–1, B, T speeds arranged in the reverse order, engraved NEW TORIO II on the speed rim.[20] Finally, a few examples have an Orient A shutter by Tōyō Kōki Seizō, giving 200–1, B, T speeds with a self-timer;[21] on these, the speed scale is inscribed at the top of the front face and the name Orient A appears at the bottom. These two shutters are not explicitly mentioned in the original documents; it is nonetheless possible that the version with self-timer listed in 1943 is that with the Orient A, and that the mention of a self-timer equipped New Torio in the government inquiry is a mistake.

Z99 katakana marked camera viewfinder

katakana Script marked C.P.O. of 1948 -M.I.O.J.= on a Semi Leotax folding Camera.-Eastwestphoto 10-22-2013 " Very rare in USA"

Postwar version[]

The postwar version has a key for film advance and no auto-stop feature.[22] The number of red windows was reduced from two to one during the production run, and other minor details were altered. It seems that all the cameras have Made in Occupied Japan engraved on the rear of the viewfinder, visible when it is in folded position.

Early documents[]

The production of the camera was perhaps resumed in 1949, and the earliest advertisements are dated September and October of that year.[23] The camera is mentioned in the December issue of Photo Art.[24] This document still mentions the auto-stop advance, and shows an outdated picture, actually the same as in the wartime leaflet reproduced above. This does not necessarily mean that the auto-stop version was still produced, only that it was still available in some camera shops. The same document says that the camera has a Stamina or Staminar[25] shutter (T, B, 1–200) and a Stamina or Staminar 75/3.5 lens; no other mention of this has been found so far.

Two red windows[]

The first Semi Leotax made after the war are identical to the wartime examples, except for the absence of the auto-stop device and for the different lens and shutter equipment. They notably have two red windows, and other older features, such as the attachment for a brilliant finder on the corner on the front standard, black paint on the finder's front part, the ⅜-inch tripod thread, and the older hexagonal SEMI LEOTAX logo on the leather.

The earliest cameras have a Wester Anastigmat 75mm f/3.5 lens, made by Nishida, with a black bezel and a five-digit serial number. The shutter is a Northter I (T, B, 1–200, self-timer) by the same manufacturer.[26] The shutter's front plate has the name NORTHTER inscribed at the top, and certainly MODEL–I at the bottom, and have WESTER. N.S.D. on the speed rim.

The Northter shutter was very soon replaced by a Wester (T, B, 1–200, self-timer), with a WESTER marking in silver letters at the bottom of the front plate, and the initials N.K.K. engraved at the bottom of the speed rim.[27] The picture in the 1951 annual by Nihon Camera, reproduced on the right, shows an example dating from that period (it was already outdated when published).[28]

The aspect of the body was slightly modernized afterwards: the black paint around the viewfinder window was replaced by bright chrome plating, and the natural leather covering was replaced by artificial leather, with a slanted SEMI LEOTAX embossing at the front and an SOW logo on the back (for Showa Optical Works). The brilliant finder attachment is still visible on the example pictured above, but it gradually disappeared from that period.[29]

At about the same time, the Wester Anastigmat lens was replaced by a C. Reginon Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5, with a chrome bezel. The lens numbers of the C. Reginon seem to continue those of the Wester Anastigmat,[30] and the lens was perhaps supplied by the same Nishida company.[31] Flash synchronization was introduced on the Wester shutter at that period, via a single pin at the bottom right (as seen from the front).[32] The example pictured above nonetheless still lacks this feature.

Right before the modifications to the camera body described below, the Wester shutter was further updated by removing the T setting. The WESTER marking is now inscribed in black letters at the top of the front plate, and the synch pin is always present.[33]

Single red window[]

Later cameras have a single red window at the bottom left of the back, protected by a smoothly integrated retractible cover. The ⅜-inch tripod thread was replaced by a ¼-inch thread around the same time, and the viewfinder's front part switched from bright chrome to satin chrome finish shortly afterwards.[34] The production rate certainly gained momentum, and these cameras are more common than earlier postwar examples.

Nearly all these cameras with single red window have the C. Reginon Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 lens and the late Wester shutter (B, 1–200, synch pin) as described above. One isolated example has been observed with a Nitto Kominar 7.5cm f/3.5 lens and a Copal shutter (B, 1–200) with an ASA synch post.[35] It was maybe assembled just before the introduction of the Semi Leotax DL.

The advertisement in the December 1950 issue of Asahi Camera is the last to show the Semi Leotax with folding finder; the text actually describes the next model, under the name "New Semi Leotax".[36]


  1. The company was called Shōwa Kōgaku Seiki after the war. For the prewar and wartime period, Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343, gives the name "Shōwa Kōgaku Kōgyō-sha" for the original Leotax.
  2. Attribution to Fujita: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), lens item Lb1, for the f/3.5 lens. The f/4.5 version was certainly made by the same company.
  3. Attribution of the New Torio (T, B, 1–200) to Nippon Kōsokki: "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), shutter items 18-P-8 and 18-P-24. The New Torio II was certainly made by the same company.
  4. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343.
  5. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.103.
  6. New Torio is the name appearing on the auto-stop version, and the advertising picture seems to read the same.
  7. Lewis, p.56.
  8. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 3, sections 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B and 7B.
  9. It is the version called "Semi-Leotax (1941)" in McKeown, p.892 and "Semi Leotax I" in Sugiyama, item 1159.
  10. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343.
  11. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.103.
  12. Leaflet by Kankyū Hyakkaten reproduced in this page.
  13. "Kamera no kōtei kakaku kanpō happyō", November 1941, type 3, sections 6B and 7B.
  14. "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras"), items 35–6.
  15. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.103.
  16. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343.
  17. Example pictured in this page, and examples observed in online auctions.
  18. Example observed in an online auction (body no.1025).
  19. Example observed in a website that is now dead.
  20. Examples observed in online auctions.
  21. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1159, and example observed in an online auction (shutter name unclear).
  22. It is the version that is called "Semi-Leotax (postwar)" in McKeown, p.893, mistakenly illustrated with a picture of the later Semi Leotax New or DL.
  23. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343.
  24. Column in Photo Art December 1949, p.37.
  25. Name inferred from the katakana スタミナー.
  26. Examples pictured in this page of Wakamiya's site, and observed in an online auction.
  27. Example sold as lot no.273 of October 14, 1993 auction by Christies.
  28. 1951 annual by Nihon Camera, published in October 1950, p.17.
  29. The attachment is absent from a slightly earlier example with lens no.15693, observed in an online auction. It is still present on the presumaly later example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1318.
  30. The last Wester Anastigmat lens observed on a Semi Leotax has no.15506, and the earliest C. Reginon has no.15693.
  31. The Reginon lenses are systematically paired with Wester shutters on the later Semi Leotax DL and R, as opposed to the Toko and Copal or Kominar and Copal combinations.
  32. Examples observed in an online auction, and in a Japanese blog which is now dead.
  33. The example pictured in Sugiyama, item 1318, seems to have the bright chrome finder combined with the late Wester shutter with no T setting.
  34. Example with single red window and bright chrome finder, observed in an online auction (lens no.18722).
  35. Example pictured in this post at
  36. Advertisement reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.211.


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 6B and 7B.
  • Kankyū Hyakkaten. Leaflet for the New Midget II, Romax, Semi Leotax and Well Standard. Date not indicated, perhaps c.1941. Document reproduced in this Flickr album by Rebollo_fr.
  • "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 35–6.
  • "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 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B and 7B.
  • Nihon Camera special issue Kamera Nenkan 1951-nenban (カメラ年鑑1951年版, Camera annual, 1951 edition). October 1950.
    • "Supuringu kamera" (スプリングカメラ, Folding camera), p.17. (Contains a picture and no other information.)
    • "Kokusan kamera no shurui to seinō ichiran", (国産カメラの種類と性能一覧, Table of the versions and features of Japanese cameras), p.80.
  • Photo Art December 1949. "Ōru kokusan kamera" (オール国産カメラ, All of Japanese cameras). Pp.34–41.

Recent sources[]


In English:

In Japanese: