Yashima Optical Industries Company, Limited (Yashima) released their first 35mm rangefinder camera in April 1958. The camera was in development for at least a year (no proof of that but it seems reasonable to assume that an established TLR camera maker didn’t just pull this camera out of thin air). It could have been developed totally in-house as there is only speculation that Yashima received outside assistance in its development.
Here’s my earliest example of this historic camera. Note that the lens is marked “Yasinon” vice “Yashinon”. Yashima released at least two months of cameras (April and May 1958) with those markings before changing to what we now know as Yashinon.
My recently acquired Yashica 35 with 60 or more years of dirt! Straight from an online seller in Japan. Note the unfamiliar “Yasinon” lens. These super early examples are rather hard to find since there were only two months of production.
The good news is that it appears the camera lived most of its life in its leather case so there’s no damage to the surfaces of the body and lens. The bad news about living in a leather case is that it tends to support the growth of mold and fungus on the glass elements of the lens and in the rangefinder.
The dirt is mostly made up of dust and fibers from the felt lining of the leather case and not soot and finger grime – which is a good thing. Sometimes this type of dirt actually keeps the surfaces protected from metal corrosion as long as it’s been stored in a dry environment.
What it looked like on the Japanese auction site.
After some initial cleaning of the exterior (see below) with a bunch of Q-tips and some Windex, the camera is looking a whole lot better.
I use Q-tips and a bit of Windex to gently clean the surfaces of the camera. The Windex leaves no residue and doesn’t harm the leatherette, metal or glass (I’ve safely used that for years). I use the super soft toothbrush to gently clean those hard to reach crevices and to polish the surfaces to a nice sheen.
Looking sharp but not perfect. If I want a totally clean and usable camera I’ll have to remove the top plate and clean the rangefinder and viewfinder elements. The rangefinder is accurate and focus is easy to obtain but it’s just a little dim inside. If you look closely at the center of the lens you will see the patch of fungus. Unfortunately, that is not cleanable.
The serial number, No. 843945, decodes to 8 = 1958, 4 = April, 3945 is the production sequence number 3,945 since production began in April.
This is one of the earliest examples of this fine camera having been built sometime in April 1958. Yashima used quality materials and production techniques as the fit and feel of the camera are of a much more expensive camera.
Earliest sales brochure for the Yashica 35. The serial number of the camera pictured is just a bit earlier than my new camera. Here it’s No. 843002 and mine is No. 843945.
Same brochure as pictured above. The f1.9 lens model is on the left. The serial number on the lens is No. 18275. Mine is No. 20254.
If you look closely, the lens is described as a Yashinon F1.9 even though the lens says Yasinon. Yashima was in the process of changing over or was it them catching a mistake?
BTW, 17,000 JPY was about $47 USD in April 1958
By the way, it’s generally believed that these two lenses were made for Yashima by Tomioka Optical. Yashima did have a relationship with Zunow Optical by there’s no proof that these lenses are from Zunow.
Thanks for stopping by! – Chris
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