Neat Little Find

A quick note about the Yashica Pentamatic and the beauty of their serial numbers. I found this camera listed for sale in Japan recently. It appears that Yashica may have been selling the Pentamatic in their home market earlier than most people thought (including myself) and may have released the Pentamatic in the United States and elsewhere sooner than commonly thought. My rational is that it’s not likely that this particular Pentamatic was sold in the U.S. and then made its way back to Japan during its lifetime. Possible yes but unlikely.

JN Pentamatic SN 16000375

Very early Yashica Pentamatic. The serial number (No. 16000375) decodes to… 1 = Jan / 60 = 1960 / 00375 = 375th body produced. Production did begin at the Yashica factory complex in early December 1959 with a very slow run-up to full production. This serial number would indicate that even by sometime in January 1960, fewer than 500 units were made. At its peak, the Pentamatic was rolling off the assembly line at an average of just under 1,300 units per month by the summer of 1960.

More Tomioka…

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Taking lens on the Pigeonflex. Uses full name Tomioka Opt. Co.

More Tomioka branded lenses. Tomioka Optical Co., Ltd. taking lens (above image) on the Pigeonflex. Yashima’s first ever TLR before becoming Yashima Flex.

(Below images)… This is the taking lens (on the bottom) and the viewing lens on our Yashima Flex TLR. The Yashima Flex is the first camera to carry the Yashima name. This example is from very late 1953 to early 1954. The Tomioka Tri-Lausar name would soon be removed from all future Yashima (later Yashica) TLRs.

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Both lenses on the Yashima Flex. Simply Tomioka.

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Taking lens on the Yashima Flex. Simply just Tomioka.

More Tomioka Optical…

Tomioka Kogaku K. K. (Tomioka Optical Co., Ltd.) of Tokyo and Yashica Co., Ltd. of (officially Tokyo) but the factory complex was in Shimosuwa, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Yashima (later Yashica) had a strong relationship with Tomioka from the start. Through the 1950s, Tomioka Optical occasionally put their name on Yashica lenses but not often. In the 1960s, even fewer lenses bore the Tomioka name even after being acquired by Yashica in 1968. In the early 1970s (maybe late 1969) Tomioka and Tominon would once again appear on Yashica lenses. One of the more famous was the Auto Yashinon f/ 1.2 55mm lens (pictured below from a Yashica TL ELECTRO-X ITS brochure). The Tomioka Japan stood out proudly on the lens ring. In other publications by Yashica, the Tomioka (or Tominon) name would be removed at the printers.

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Auto Yashinon Tomioka f/ 1.2 55mm lens. The serial number also indicates the model number of the lens (552) and then the production sequence number (in this case the 0124) indicates the 124th unit made.

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Another example of the dual names (Auto Yashinon and Tomioka).

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Another sales brochure from the early 1970s… shows a “prototype” lens with a fake (?) serial number of No. 440111.

Yashica Quick-Lite Flash

We recently added this wonderful electronic flash unit to our collection. Many of the lesser known accessories from Yashica often go unnoticed and become a bit mysterious…

We were lucky to find an almost complete set from around 1962 or so (could be earlier). I believe we’re only missing the instruction booklet and a few minor (but desirable) plastic bags. The box and styrofoam inserts are in excellent condition. The flash works perfectly and more than likely is unused (as is often the case). Image number 3 is from a Japanese Yashica-Mat EM instruction booklet. There are some differences between ours and the one pictured. One has a coiled cord vice a straight cord and the attachment bar and knobs are black vice silver with gray knobs on ours.

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Complete set from around 1962 (or a bit earlier). Takes 8 AA batteries to fire this thing up!

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PRO 40 Quick-Lite attached to our 1964 EM.

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From a Japanese instruction booklet for the Yashica-Mat EM.

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Front view of the flash. The flash diffuser is still bright and clear.

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Rear cover for the PRO 40 flash. It is made from metal while most of the remainder of the unit is plastic.

Pentamatic II Brochure

We finally have our proof that the original Pentamatic ’35’ and the Pentamatic II were advertised and sold in the Japanese domestic market. This brochure is dated February 1961 which validates the general release date of the model II. We have proof (via advertisements and brochures) that the Pentamatic S was also available for sale in Japan towards late 1961 (September?). By the way, included is this photo stream is a nice aerial view of Yashica’s factory complex in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture.

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Before there was ‘Yashica’…

Before there was Yashica there was Yashima. From its humble beginnings in the small town of Suwa in the shadows of the Japanese Alps and along the shores of Lake Suwa, Yashica grew to be Japan’s largest producer of high quality but low priced twin-lens reflex (TLR) medium format (6x6cm) cameras in less than a decade. The ‘Sailor Boy’ figurine is from 1962 and the box is from 1953. This box holds the very first camera that bore the Yashima name. The presentation box as they are called, has survived over six decades of use and represents the oldest box in our collection. Relatively rare (maybe really really rare) box is seldom seen outside of Japan. Most camera boxes from the 1950s were thrown away or just simply fell apart. 20151210_08273820151210_08302420151210_082922

Tomioka & Yashica

As best as I can tell, Tomioka Optical in Tokyo has always made the lenses used by Yashica and Yashima. In fact at some point in the late 1960s (I believe 1968) Yashica acquired Tomioka as part of their company. The Tominon name sometimes appeared on lenses that also had the Yashinon name. On occasion, Yashica would also “allow” Tomioka to put their name on the lens. The image attached to this article is an example of that. The Tomioka “branded” 55mm f/ 1.2 lens is to some the epitome of the classic fast lenses of the 1970s. I don’t have that lens in my collection as it almost always appears for sale on auction sites near the $1,000 mark… well out of my range for a lens that I would use infrequently. In addition, the mystique of the lens may outweigh the actual performance of the optics.

No doubt though the lens is fast and did perform well enough for its reputation to grow with an almost cult-like following. It is certainly a good looking lens that any Yashica collector would like to have.

This image is from a recently acquired Yashica publication titled Yashica TL ELECTRO-X, The Creative System of Photography. Some excellent images, illustrations, charts and descriptions of the TL Electro-X ITS and its accessories are spread out over its 45 pages.

Of note, the “model number” of these lenses are included in the serial numbers… they begin with 552 which tells the focal length of the lens (55mm) and the 2 indicates (f/ 1.2) aperture or “speed”. The next four numbers are the production sequence numbers. So when you see a serial number of “No. 5520312” you know that you’re looking at a 55mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/ 1.2 and it was the 312th unit made.

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Tomioka Auto-Yashinon f/ 1.2 55mm lens.

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45 page publication from around 1972.

Yashica TL Electro-X ‘ITS’

After nearly five years of research and thousands of “searches” on auction sites, I finally have my answer! ‘ITS‘ as it relates to the famous and groundbreaking Yashica TL Electro-X stands for… are you ready? Nothing!

That’s right… nothing. I’ve just finished reading what appears to be the most comprehensive guidebook on the TL Electro-X (from Yashica no less) and not one word as to why the marketing guys and gals at the office in Shibuya picked ‘ITS‘ to appear on the lower left front of the camera. Not one hint… no clues… nothing!

Okay so more than likely it was meant to mean exactly that… nothing. I can live with that. Marketing people don’t have to explain anything they do. ‘ITS‘ simply looks good. So fast forward from 1968 to the present day. Hear I am stressed out about what may have been a whim… an afterthought… or maybe something one of the designers casually mentioned in a meeting while you know, designing the thing. ‘ITS’… sounds good.

I’ve imagined what it may mean hundreds of times (sad to admit that) and nothing really fits for the time period except that maybe the ‘I‘ stands for “integrated”. Like integrated circuit or I.C. as I’ve sometimes seen it mentioned in other Yashica sales brochures. That’s got to be it. After all, the NASA people were always using that term during the height of the space race. Okay so maybe we now know that the ‘I‘ stands for “integrated”. Simple. The ‘T‘ has always stood for “technology” to me. What else would the ‘T‘ stand for? Timed? As in timed shutter. Oh that’s a good guess. I like it. Maybe the ‘TS’ part is for “timed shutter”? That’s another good one. Integrated… Timed… Shutter!!! Or how about “Interval” timed shutter? That’s ‘ITS‘ isn’t it?

Solved! Finished! No more worries right? No… that isn’t it. It’s got to mean something else. Something catchy, something better than that. Well the book (sales brochure) I just finished reading never mentioned what the ‘ITS‘ stood for. Just like the hundred other brochures and ads I’ve read. But wait! Hold on! There on the cover is a clue! There it is right in front of me! “SYSTEM”. Yashica called everything connected with the TL Electro-X ITS (lenses, filters, bellows, angle finders, accessories, etc.) SYSTEM.

So there it is! That was simple. Right? Well we’ll see. I’m going to keep on looking for that definitive statement from Yashica. Somewhere in black and white they’ll say it. For now though I’m sticking with… “Integrated Technology System” or “ITS” for brevity.

ITS = Integrated Technology System

DSC07504DSC07497Yashica 6-9-15 TL Electro-X Brochure back cover close

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A 45 page book from Yashica that explains everything about this fantastic camera.

No denying it – it’s a sharp looking camera and the ‘ITS’ just makes it that much cooler. It’s one of our favorite Yashicas in our collection. This one came to us via Okinawa, Japan. Purchased in late 1973 – that makes it one of our newest Yashica SLRs too. We’ve kept all of the original paperwork and of course the box. If you come across a nice looking one for sale (or better still get it as a gift) it should be on your list of must haves. The battery is an easy find and most will have working meters since they were only electronic (no moving match needle affair).

Happy hunting!

Chris and Carol ^.^