Contax RTS – an old dog gets new life

My Contax RTS (Real Time System) 35mm SLR camera with its new “skins”. These cameras which were first released back in 1975 are notorious for shedding their original factory applied coverings. If you search online selling sites you’ll find plenty of these cameras for sale but very few have their leatherette covers still attached as they tend to peel away from the metal bodies and shrink (dry out) over time. The good news is that the old coverings are a breeze to remove and there’s a wide selection of aftermarket replacement options to choose from. Black is no longer the only color as bold colors like red, blue, and even green have become popular and textures like lizard skin to well, whatever you think you may like. I wanted to stay with the more traditional look and feel so I went with recycled leather from Hugo Studio’s Custom Camera Covers (hugostudio.com).

The previous owner of my RTS had attempted to reattach the original leatherette with some type of contact adhesive but even that failed over time. Yashica’s choice of coverings just didn’t stand the test of time no matter how they were reattached.

While waiting for the new coverings to arrive I added a new to me Yashica ML 50mm f1.7 lens which I was able to chase down in near mint condition. I went with the Yashica made (likely Tomioka-Zeiss) f1.7 based solely on cost. The original Carl Zeiss designed glass for the RTS is way out of my comfort zone pricewise so I went with what I know. Besides, both lenses were made in Japan probably on the same factory line by Yashica anyway.

This would be the standard lens that would have been on the RTS. Here is an empty box that I found for sale on an auction site with everything but the lens. A nice find for any serious collector (and if I had the lens I would buy this in a second).
Here’s a nice Zeiss lens kit that sold recently from a seller in Japan for around $280.

So there it is. Recovered and looking much better. Now to recover the data back so everything matches.

Contax Data Back for the original RTS with it’s slightly detached leatherette.

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
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Studio Fun – A couple of first’s from Yashica

On the left, the Yashica ’35’ released in 1958 was Yashica’s first 35mm rangefinder (fixed lens) camera and on the right the Pentamatic ’35’ which was Yashica’s first 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. The Pentamatic was designed in 1959 and released by the Spring of 1960. Up to this point Yashica was know for building high-quality value priced twin-lens reflex (TLR) cameras. These two handsome examples are proudly displayed in my collection. The good news if you’re chasing these classics are that the rangefinder model is readily available online with many excellent examples for sale. The Pentamatic is not hard to find but chasing down a solid working model is a bit harder.

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
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Yashica’s first 35mm camera – 1958

63 years of dirt. Here’s the before image of my recently acquired Yashica 35 by Yashima. It was made in April 1958 which makes it one of the earliest known examples of this historic camera. Sharp eyed viewers will also notice that the lens says Yasinon vice the name that was eventually used, Yashinon.

Nice and clean now. This one was assembled in April 1958 at Yashima’s Shimosuwa factory on the shores of Lake Suwa, Nagano Prefecture, Japan.

This one features the Yasinon (vice Yashinon) f/1.9 lens. It’s one of the earliest known examples still in the wild.
Earliest known advertisement.

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
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Chasing Classic Sales Brochures

In addition to chasing after classic cameras I enjoy chasing down vintage sales brochures as they can be a great source of detailed information direct from the manufacturer. Often times it’s the only avenue for discovering which accessory goes with which camera. Here’s a great Canon brochure from Japan dated 05/1980 (PUB. CJ01 – 022).

Actually Canon refers to this as a catalog.

Although I have this same information in other brochures and catalogs they’re scattered around in different albums so it’s nice to have them all here in one place. Since this catalog was released in May of 1980, some early and discontinued accessories are not shown. Also missing from this publication is the Canon AE1-Program and the AT-1 and it predates the release of the T Series (T50, T70). I’ll scan and post some additional pages over the next few days. Stay tuned!

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
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Contax RTS Data Back

I like collecting data backs for my 1970s 35mm SLR cameras because they were such a hot item when new. The idea of recording information on your image was kind of a novel idea back then and adding the date the image was taken could be useful. Do you want to know how many images I took back then with the date imprinted? Zero. Back in the 1970s and ’80s data backs were really expensive and money spent on one could be better spent on another lens or a year’s worth of film. But they’re fun to collect now and I have one for my Canon F-1, Canon A-1 and I had one for a Canon T-70 that I owned.

I thought adding a Contax Data Back for my RTS would add to its classic look. Notice that the first year that could be imprinted was 1975 and on this model of the data back it went up to 1993.

The good news is that this data back is fully working. It takes the same battery as the camera which is handy (A544 6V).

The back is covered in the same material as the RTS body which means it’s slowly peeling off just like 99% of all the rest. I may try and save the skin on this one since it’s only lifting around the Contax label ATM.

I imagine quite a bit of engineering went into designing these backs which explains why they were so expensive when new. This one came with its original box but no instruction booklet. Time to chase one down.

The data back pictured here will only work on the original RTS and not the RTS II or III. The Yashica branded back for the FR is very close in design but it’s not interchangeable with the Contax.

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
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Contax RTS – getting it right

My recently acquired RTS stripped of its faulty skins. It’s a blank canvas and I like the look for now. The mirror is locked in the up position (the little lever to the right of the lens mount).

This scan (below) is from a Yashica marketing brochure from early 1975. There’s been so much misinformation about the origins of the RTS that I thought it would be best to go to the source to get the facts straight.

Lots of flowing marketing speak in there but it delivers with no uncertainties who did what and why. The when isn’t mentioned but many of the pictures inside this brochure are from mid 1974 based on the cameras, lenses, and accessories pictured (not just the RTS stuff). It’s generally believed that the initial talks between Yashica and Zeiss started as early as 1971. I might mention that this was an extremely challenging time financially and structurally for Yashica with some accounting and management issues reported in the global press which led to a bit of a scandal of epic proportions for Yashica’s founder(s).

Some of these accessories weren’t fully developed at the time this brochure was published and I’m far from being an expert on which lens was or was not available. I’ve never looked closely at the Carl Zeiss lens line developed for and with Yashica.

Contax RTS Real Time System.

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
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the Ugly Duckling

It isn’t a great way to start off a post about one of your cameras, but it’s appropriate. Especially a camera that I’ve been chasing for a long time and had an interest in since the late 1970s. My first 35mm SLR was a Yashica TL Electro X (purchased new in 1972) with an Auto Yashinon 50mm f1.7 M42 lens (screw mount). I loved that camera but wasn’t a fan of having to screw-in the lenses whenever I wanted to change focal lengths. I saw other photographers quickly attach and detach their lenses quickly (Canon, Nikon) and wanted a new camera that could do the same. But Yashica in 1977 wasn’t sexy enough sitting alongside the other SLRs for sale in the Navy Exchange store in Yokosuka, Japan. The Canon, Nikon, and Minolta reps were better prepared than the Yashica guy to present their products to cash flush Sailors looking to spend their hard earned dollars on new cameras, stereos, and watches. I vaguely remember looking at the then still new Yashica-Contax RTS in the Exchange catalog but wasn’t captured by its specs or looks. The Yashica FR and FR I versions didn’t capture my attention either. By this time I only wanted to get my hands of the Canon F-1 and Canon FD lenses not to mention all of the goodies you could add on to the F-1 (motor drives, a winder, finders, data backs…). So when I got to the store I didn’t even pick up the RTS.

Fast forward to the present and that RTS I didn’t think of much way back then I just purchased 44 years later. I want to see if the Contax RTS is a worthy camera that I missed out on or did I make the right choice. I still own that F-1 I purchased in 1978 and it’s held up beautifully over the years and followed me around the world.

Almost all present day RTS bodies share a common trait – peeling leatherette (or whatever that stuff was). A quick look at the online selling sites will show that it’s a rare camera that has complete original coverings and if it does look good and well attached then there’s a good likelihood it’s been replaced by aftermarket skins (I have some ordered).

My new to me RTS peeling skins and all. Most importantly, it works. Being an all electronic camera if something goes wrong it’s a paperweight. It uses the still easy to find A544 6V alkaline battery to power everything.
Not only does the leatherette peel away from the metal body but it dries out and shrinks a bit too which makes it nearly impossible to simply dab some glue behind the upturned edges.
It was super easy to peel away the covering on the film door – my guess is that it’s been reattached at some point before with contact adhesive. I cleaned any residual adhesive from the camera with isopropyl alcohol (70%) and some Q-tips and a rag.

Stay with me on this series of posts as I bring this ugly duckling back to life (appearance wise) and put it through some actual film tests. But first, I need to find a lens for it that won’t break the bank. The Carl Zeiss lenses designed to compliment this model are way over my paygrade so I’ll turn to the less expensive and maybe equally competent Yashica ML lenses in the C/Y mount. I have a sharp ML 50mm f1.7 on the way. BTW, RTS stands for Real Time System.

What the covering is supposed to look like.

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
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The Best of Yashica – 1972

All the goodies!

From the Yashica book The Creative System of Photography. Some of the lenses pictured here are nearly impossible to find today in mint or near mint condition. I do know some intrepid Yashica collectors that have come very close to owning all of this.

To chase down all of this is a pretty monumental task so I’d give it a Chase Factor of a solid 10 (CF-10). Good luck chasers!

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
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HTF Yashica Lens

This image was scanned from a Yashica TL ELECTRO-X book from 1972 titled The Creative System of Photography.

Taken with a Yashica TL Electro-X and Yashinon-DX 21mm f/3.3 lens at f/5.6 at 1/60 second. Image by acclaimed professional photographer Takeji Iwamiya. Titled “Solarization”.

A scan from the Yashica Yashinon Lenses & Accessories booklet dated December 1973.

As you can see in the above scan, as late as late 1973 Yashica was still marketing their 21mm lens alongside the newer and certainly more modern 20mm ultra-wide lens. The 21mm is a retrofocus lens meaning that the mirror on a 35mm SLR would have to be in the up position as the rear element of the lens was just millimeters away from the film plane. A separate matching viewfinder would need to be mounted on the accessory shoe in order to frame your image. Fortunately an ultra-wide lens usually has such a wide view that parallax error would only be a factor at extreme close-up imaging.

Do to the relative scarcity of the 21mm lens, prices are much higher than one would expect to pay for a ultra-wide lens of a more modern design. If you find the lens in excellent physical and optical condition with its matching viewfinder and original lens case, expect to see asking prices generally north of $500 USD. If you’re lucky, you may get a good one with no issues at around half that price. I give this lens set a Chase Factor of 8 (CF-8) for the reasons stated above. I certainly don’t need it in my collection but it would be a nice to have.

Rear view of the Yashica 21mm DX lens with its matching 21mm viewfinder.

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
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Yashica’s last TLR – Chasing a True Classic!

Yashica’s (Kyocera by this point) last TLR model. This one was part of the last run of the model before production shut down in 1986. Yashica (originally named Yashima) started off in 1953 with the obscure Pigeonflex TLR followed by the Yashima Flex and then continued to build TLRs way longer than the market could bear (or need). The good news is that the 124G can be found today in great quantities and cameras as “young” as 35 years-old.
It’s a very affordable way to get into medium format photography and in the case of this model, be able to use both 120 and 220 roll film giving you either 12 or 24 exposures.

After about 33 years of making TLRs, this was Yashica’s best.
A beauty – here’s what a modern TLR looked like back in 1985.
The design of the last box that held the 124G (1985-1986).
This gorgeous camera was the first to carry the company name – Yashica Flex made in 1954.

For contrast, compare the Yashima Flex to the Yashica Mat 124G. Their excellent build quality remained throughout the decades. If you’re chasing one of these for your collection you’re in luck because Yashica made a bunch of 124Gs and there’s a bunch still out there. Expect to pay a premium for mint examples but be careful, they’re still older cameras and a host of bad things can happen to them from lack of use and improper storage. Ask lots of questions of the seller if you’re buying online and look for sellers with excellent reputations for selling quality classic and vintage cameras. BTW, not too many of the original Yashima Flex cameras will look like my example pictured above. I was so very lucky to buy mine from the original owner in Japan who obviously kept it in pristine condition both physically and mechanically.

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

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