Yashica factory office… c1958

Yashicas’ Headquarters were in Tokyo in 1958 but this building was located at the factory campus in Shimosuwa. This image is from the ‘Yashica Products Guide’

Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Yashica's corporate HQ.

Shimosuwa, Nagano Prefecture office building.



Of Boxes and Brochures… a small sample

The Yashica Pentamatic was a bold entry into the world, albeit small world at that time, of the fastest growing segment of the photographic industry… 35 mm Single Lens Reflex (SLR) photography. Yashica had grown by leaps and bounds during the decade of the 1950s. In only 7 short years, Yashica was out producing such other well known names as Canon, Nikon and Olympus just to name a few. But Yashica in 1959 was well know for its Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) medium format cameras, excellent 35 mm rangefinder cameras and movie cameras… not SLRs. If Yashica wanted to contend in the “space age decade” of the 1960s, it needed a camera that would bring it into the future and it had to be something the company could strengthen its reputation on. The Pentamatic was conceived in mid 1959 and the first units were produced by December 1959. The marketing team in Tokyo had a large task ahead of them. Convince the world that this new 35 mm camera was worthy of their attention. So, boxes to ship and display their new camera had to be designed. They had to stand out on the already busy retailers shelves and window displays. Sales brochures and catalogs printed. Flyers and pamphlets distributed. Advertising campaigns launched. All this by a planned March 1960 release date! Here is just a small sample of what they produced.

Clean simple lines. Show the customers that this camera was a SLR! Not your dad's TLR.

Clean simple lines. Show the customers that this camera was a SLR! Not your dad’s TLR.

An early US sales brochure for the Pentamatic. Back cover design depicted.

An early US sales brochure for the Pentamatic. Back cover design depicted.

No mistaking the details of this new camera... put it right on the box!

No mistaking the details of this new camera… put it right on the box!

Boxes from early 1961.

Boxes from early 1961… inner and outer boxes.

Short History of the “Mysterious” Pentamatic

Decoding serial numbers… Yashica has never been upfront with the dating of their cameras, lenses or printed materials. Instruction booklets and sales brochures are only occasionally dated and those were mostly in the 1950s. Camera bodies and lenses (and accessories) remained a mystery until now. I believe I have finally decoded the serial numbers of Yashica’s first 35mm SLR, the Pentamatic. Look closely at this camera’s serial number… 36001500… knowing a little bit about when this camera was “invented” helped me decode the number. The trademark “Pentamatic” was filed by Yashica in September 1959 in Japan. The first prototypes were built around then with the first consumer models produced by December 1959. This camera dates… 3 = March / 60 = 1960 / 01500 = 1,500th unit made since December 1959. The latest camera in my database has a serial number of 16115756. This decodes to… January 1961 and was the 15,756th unit produced since December of 1959. The earliest body in my database is 16000373 (discovered for sale in Japan 12/2015). It decodes to… 1 = January / 60 = 1960 / 00375 = the 375th unit made.

JN Pentamatic SN 16000375

Pentamatic with SN 16000373

Pentamatic with SN 36001500

Pentamatic with SN 36001500

Short History of the “Mysterious” Pentamatic