By Jo Lommen
Japanese Professional Press and Studio Camera
Produced by the Komamura Corporation which was established in 1947 and has been an important player in the international professional camera business for more than 60 years.
Komamura Corporation developed and marketed the Horseman Professional Cameras product range for large format film.
The Horseman VH-R is a Japanese look-a-like of the American Press cameras of the fifties and sixties of the twenties century such as the Graflex, Busch, Beseler, Burke & James and Meridian. All these cameras were equiped with a drop bed. Opening the front door of the camera shows the track with the rails and standard. The inside of the door now serves as a gangway for the focusing rails and thus for the lens standard. The standard can be drawn out of the housing by squeezing both front standard locks together and by pulling out the standard firmly against both of the infinity stops. The infinity stops have a pop up hinged stop. Depending on which stop has been set, the standard will stop and is focused automatically on infinity for the particular lens. There are more than the usual two or four infinity stops on the other mentioned press cameras. The Horseman camera is standard equipped with 5 pairs of them which can be used for 5 different lenses. From the back to the front we see a pair of white ones followed by red, green, yellow and finally orange. The white stop should couple the 75 mm lens, the red stop 105 mm and 90 mm and so on. The cams are marked with the corresponding lenses and the color indicates the infinity stops to be used with them.
The Horseman Lenses
In order to couple the rangefinder, the cam, lens and infinity stops must be used in a set.
That means: Yellow cam, yellow distance-stop set upwards and yellow cocking-lever on lens means the fitting 150 mm lens.
The camera is now ready for focusing on infinity or nearby distances by the use of the focusing knobs at the front of the drop bed.
All lenses are mounted in the Horseman 4 way lensboard measuring 80x80 mm which is exclusively prepared and equiped with a safety lock.
There are several lenses available for use with this exclusive camera:
Wide Angle: Super Horseman 65 mm ƒ=7 White Cam
Professional Horseman 75 mm ƒ=5,6 White Cam
Standard: Super Horseman 90 mm ƒ=5,6 Red Cam
Professional Horseman 105 mm ƒ=3,5 Red Cam
Super Horseman 105 mm ƒ=4,5 Blue Cam
Super Horseman 120 mm ƒ 5,6 Green Cam
Long Focal: Super Horseman 150 mm ƒ=5,6 Green Cam
Telephoto: Horseman 180 ƒ=5,6 Orange Cam
The Horseman Camera
Revolving back, revolving viewfinder frame for landscape and portrait and a new automatic revolving all viewfinder frame parallax compensation mechanism which can also be used with wide angle lenses. The camera body is finished in a black hard coat layer applied over a basic construction of light alloy diecast. The camera body contains the finder and the lens standard mechanism. The finder section on top of the camera house contains the rangefinder and viewfinder. The viewfinder can be turned in landscape or portrait mode or any position in between matching the position of the revolving back. Parallax correction is automatically achieved when focusing. The lens board is sturdily built and it features a reinforced design to safeguard against distortion and reflection. The important camera bed extension mechanism which is made up of the focusing track and rail guide features an oil-less finish which is specially processed. In order for the camera bed to be opened 90° or 105° from the camera body and for it to be secured, the bed braces are L- shaped for easy movement when wide angle lenses are being used. There are two focusing knobs at each end of the camera bed and a focusing lock is provided at the left. The whole of the camera bed serves as a front cover for the camera and the focusing knobs double as a mechanism that locks the front cover.
Revolving back with ground glass and viewing hood. On the right camera in drop bed mode for use with wide angle.
Revolving back with roll film holder mounted and on the right the open back ready to mount the 6x9 film holder or the ground glass assembly.
My camera came with four cams: 90, 105, 190 and 150 mm. However unfortunately with no lens, but I was lucky to find an original and mint Super Horseman 150 mm in Seiko SLV shutter. Having the camera complete then I wanted to go off and take photos with it. However I found out that the rangefinder was out of focus. The distance needle in the top of the rangefinder house was out of range and the rangefinder itself as well. The double image didn't change at all when turning the focusing knobs. Despite close inspection of the camera-house and drop-bed there was no sign of the presents of adjusting screws or any thing that could be used to adjust the rangefinder. The only thing that obviously was part of some adjustment could be found inside the camera house on the bottom of the left side seen from the front. However no way to get to it without having the camera dismantled to its outer shell. After hours and hours I gave up searching. The internet wasn't helpful either and I placed the camera on the shelf and decided to get back to it at due time. I use to do that very often to give myself the opportunity to relax and wait for inspiration. After all the factory workers who did assemble the camera, surely had to adjust the rangefinder as being the last handling. So there must be a hidden "something". A couple of days later I grabbed the camera from the shelf and felt with my fingers along the leatherette on top, front and back and along the rangefinder housing. On the back on the lower part on the right side seen from the back I felt an irregularity. I peeled off the leatherette and found a hole.
Left: Hidden hole gives access to the infinity adjustment. Right: Distance indicator out of range.
On the left: removed leatherette and hidden screws to lift the rangefinder cover. On the right the vertical rangefinder adjustment access hole.
The hole gave access to the screw I mentioned before. This is the screw to adjust the infinity position of the distance scale on top of the camera. Unfortunately it brought me not any further as the needle was too far out of range. I had to try to remove the top of the rangefinder and see what caused the problem. I peeled off the leatherette on the top of the housing and found two interesting positions on the right and left side underneath the leatherette, two hidden screws on each side as well as a hole on top of the camera which gave access to a screw beneath it. After unscrewing I could lift the top of the rangefinder and had free access to all of the optical mechanics.
The reason why the distance scale needle was invisible in the window was obvious as the position of the gear was out of range. I loosened both screws next to the gear and reset the indicator in the right infinity position. It is obvious that the camera should be fixed in its infinity position before resetting the needle. Having done this part of the job, one has to check the double image in the rangefinder eye piece. If both images don not coincide you may try to solve this problem by placing the camera without the top cover on a tripod. Be aware that the top cover is off and the mechanics are very vulnerable. Aim the camera on a far away object by turning the focusing knob until the track is back into the housing. The distance is now set on infinity. The ground glass image of the far away subject should be needle sharp. If not take care of that first by checking if the infinity stops are corresponding with the lens and cam.
If necessary turn screw behind the hole in the back until the needle points to the infinity mark. The distance indicator has been adjusted now and corresponds with the sharp infinity image on the ground glass, the infinity position of the track rails, the color of the infinity stops and corresponding lens.
Now we have come to the rangefinder itself. If the two images of the far away subject in the rangefinder do not coinside than turn the screw next to the round window (right photo) very carefully until both horizontal images coinside. If the images do not coincide vertically, than leave it that way and continue by remounting the top cover (very carefully) but not yet the leatherette.
Photo left: the needle indicator mechanism. On the right the adjustment for horizontal correction.
Having done that successfully you may correct the vertical coincide by inserting a fitting screwdriver inside the hole on top of the rangefinder. Try to find the adjusting screw by the feeling and when found it turn it clockwise. If the difference between both images is getting wider than turn it anticlockwise until the images coinside. Fix the leatherette and enjoy working with this amazing camera.
Jo Lommen Classic Cameras