After many years of searching for proof that Yashica had in fact released its first production run (from December 1959) of the 5.5cm f1.8 Auto-Yashinon lenses for the Pentamatic ’35’ – we finally found one in the wild! Now it’s ours.
We stumbled upon this lens the other day on an online auction site. After some negotiations with the seller, we reached an accord. The camera this lens was mounted on was a pure dog… “Junk Treatment” as ‘Google Translates’ the kanji for crap (one would think) items. We took a chance that the lens was going to be OK. We’ve seen enough of these over the years to get a good feel – this one we just had to have even if it matched the condition of the camera body it was on. Man was it dirty – sooty and a tad yellow (the markings yellow over time). But it was a hidden gem. No mold – no fungus – no cleaning marks or haze – and, the best part, it focuses crisply and although the aperture blades are a bit worn, they move nicely (snappy as ‘they’ say).
The Pentamatic went into production at Yashica’s modern factory campus in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture in December 1959. At the same time, or just slightly before (maybe in October), Tomioka Optical started making the lenses for the first Pentamatics. We don’t know for certain if Tomioka delivered completed lenses to Yashica or only manufactured the optics for them and Yashica did the rest – we just don’t have that information yet.
Here’s the lens we just acquired – Auto Yashinon 55mm (5.5cm) f1.8 which was the normal lens supplied with Yashica’s first Pentamatics. The background ad is from a ‘Popular Photography’ magazine – June 1960 issue. The ad lens serial number is – No. 59100581 – our lens serial number is – No. 59100092. Not often do you find a lens in the wild with a lower serial number than an ad. By the way, the advertisement was the first ever for the Pentamatic.
The lens that is featured in one of the first sales brochures for the Pentamatic, is serial numbered – No. 59100036. Our lens was made just slightly after the lens in the brochure (same day?). We don’t know when the sales brochure came out. Our guess is March 1960. The photographs were probably taken by the marketing people in Yashica’s Shibuya headquarters sometime in late 1959 or early 1960.
We know – this is all super boring nerd stuff that only Yashica fanatics would find interesting – wait, that’s a great name for a blog… ‘Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic’. ^.^
So what does the serial numbers tell us? The SN No. 59100092 (our lens) translates to – made in 1959, the ’10’ is for October, and the 0092 is the sequential production number of the lens assembly. This means that Tomioka Optical started production of the new lenses for the Pentamatic as early as October 1959! Lenses made in 1960 are labeled No. 605xxxxx. The ‘5’ being a placekeeper or model number. The highest serial number we have in our collection is No. 60515157. That lens came with a Pentamatic body that was made in January 1961 and the lens was the 15,157th made up until that point.
The highest serial number seen in the wild is No. 60521460 which was mounted on a Pentamatic-S body.
Thanks for your visit and if you made it to this point in the post, pat yourself on the back! You may be a bit of a camera nerd – just like us!
Chris & Carol ^.^