The beautiful, simple and clean lines of Yashica’s first SLR.
If you’re new to the Yashica Pentamatic then you’re in luck as this is the best place to be for the most accurate information about the mysterious Pentamatic. First envisioned when Yashica acquired the Nicca Camera Company in the summer of 1958. Yashica needed the technology and manufacturing know-how that Nicca had – focal plane shutters and the ability to build small complicated 35mm SLRs.
The timeline as best as we can tell looks like this – Yashica “invents” the Pentamatic in the summer of 1959. Yashica files for the trademark ‘Pentamatic’ in Japan September 18, 1959. The first Pentamatic bayonet mount lenses are made by Tomioka Optical for Yashica in October 1959. The first Pentamatic bodies roll off Yashica’s line by December 1959.
Yashica files for a patent/trademark in the US on February 12, 1960. The Pentamatic ’35’ is revealed at the ’36th Master Photo Dealers & Finishers Association Trade Show’ (St. Louis) in late March 1960. The lens shown on that Pentamatic is an Auto Yashinon 5.5cm f1.8 lens (SN 59100035). By April-May 1960, the first pictures appear in photography magazines in the US from the St. Louis show. The first Yashica Pentamatic ’35’ advertisements appear in both ‘Popular Photography’ and ‘Modern Photography’ magazines in their June 1960 issues. Ads within those publications have dealers in New York selling Pentamatics for $159.95.
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 and then again in the 1970s. Camera bodies and lenses (and accessories) remained a mystery until now. We believe we’ve finally decoded the serial numbers of Yashica’s first 35mm SLR, the Pentamatic. Look closely at this camera’s serial number… 16000375… knowing a little bit about when this camera was “invented” helped us decode the number. The trademark “Pentamatic” was filed by Yashica in September 1959 in Japan. The first lenses were built in October 1959 with the first bodies produced by December 1959. This camera (above) dates… 1 = January / 60 = 1960 / 00375 = 375th unit made since December 1959. The latest camera in our database has a serial number of 16115756. This decodes to… January 1961 and was the 15,756th unit produced since December of 1959.
This Pentamatic body (above) decodes to… 3 = March / 60 = 1960 / 01500 = 1,500th made up to that point.
Clean simple lines. Show the customers that this camera was a SLR! Not your dad’s TLR.
Inspiration and the technical know-how came from the Nicca Camera Company. Pictured on the left is an early Nicca 3-F.
By May 1960, number 3,354 had been made.
Earliest lens serial number (in our collection) decodes to – October 1959, the 92nd made. The ad behind it is a much higher serial number and appeared in a June 1960 ‘Popular Photography’ magazine ad.
The original Pentamatic ’35’ is a fun and challenging camera to collect. Knowing a little something about the serial numbers may add to your enjoyment of the chase. There was a short lived Pentamatic II (well less than 10K made) and another short run of the Pentamatic S which was the last model before Yashica ditched the Pentamatic bayonet mount in favor of the universal M42 mount.
Happy hunting! Questions? We’ve got answers.
Chris & Carol