The web is a wonderful place as we all know – But like anything in life, it can also be crawling with nonsense and ripe with inaccuracies. Digging through mounds of data requires tons of luck to weed out what’s important and what’s not.
Every now and then something really neat happens!
While surfing through some photography blogs from Japan, I stumbled upon a seemingly casual and offhand comment about the Yashica Lynx. I read that there are some bloggers (from Japan) who have speculated that Yashica’s super popular Lynx 35 (released around May 1960) may have had two lens suppliers during its first half-year or so of production and that there may be a way to tell if your Lynx has a lens supplied by Zunow Optical or a lens made by Tomioka Optical. These Japanese bloggers (roughly 4 or 5) plus one eBay seller from Japan, claim to have read something somewhere online that a Lynx with a body serial number that begins with “NO. xxxxxx” has one type of lens and that cameras whose body serial number begins with a Lxxxxxxx” have a different lens. They’re not talking about the lens serial numbers, just the body numbers. Naturally I was intrigued by this so I wrote my Japanese eBay colleague and asked if he could provide some hard evidence to support his claim and to give me some insight as to why they would think that. What I got were links to what appears to be multiple bloggers copying one another – No references and no additional links. Still I pressed on. I scanned hundreds of images of Zunow and Tomioka lenses and poured over the details of dozens of Yashica Lynx cameras for sale on various auction sites. I even looked at every picture of the Lynx that are posted on Flickr. My conclusion? There’s something to this!
This Yashica Lynx was made in August of 1960 and it was the 723rd off the assembly line. This is our Lynx-1000 with the Zunow lens.
Why is any of this important? If it’s true that some of the Yashica Lynx cameras were delivered with a Zunow made f/1.8 4.5cm lens vice the more common Tomioka made f/1.8 4.5cm lens then that would make the Zunow-Yashica Lynx more valuable to collectors. Why? Rarity could be one factor. The biggest reason is because Zunow lenses (across the board) enjoy a cult-like following from collectors and those in the know. It doesn’t make sense because although Zunow made some groundbreaking lenses (f/1.1 fast!) and some very expensive lenses (LTM) they also made simple and inexpensive lenses for 8mm movie cameras and 35mm fixed lens rangefinder and viewfinder cameras too.
Zunow lens on our Lynx-1000. Many unique features – Fully grooved focus ring without a focus lever. Simple “F / M” for feet and meters. Scale begins with 20 feet vice a typical 30 feet.
Could a Yashica Lynx with a Zunow lens outperform its Tomioka equipped cousin? Should it be worth more?
I can’t answer the first question as I’m not a techie when it comes to lens performance and the final image that a lens produces is subject to an individual’s taste and preferences. The second part I can offer something of an answer. It should be worth more as it appears that Zunow equipped Lynx cameras are few and far between compared to the much more common Tomioka versions.
Making the Case For Zunow
So how can you tell if you have a Zunow lens on your Lynx? Number one and the single most important thing is your Lynx must have a body serial number that begins with “NO. 6xxxx or x” AND have a lens serial number that begins with “No3xxxxx”. You must have both. The biggest clue to it being a Zunow made lens is the lens serial number. Zunow throughout its short history almost always used the “No” to begin its numbers. It didn’t matter who the lens was made for or if it was a Zunow branded lens – The “No” is the clue. If your lens has this type of serial number then you have a Zunow.
A Zunow lens on the left and a Tomioka lens on the right. Note the simple differences in the two serial numbers.
Close-up of the Zunow lens. The serial number will always begin with “No” and then 6 or 7 digits beginning with “3”. Also note the style of the “a”.
Close-up of the Tomioka lens showing a typical Tomioka (and Yashica) style serial number. Note the style of the “a’.
Examples of other Zunow Lenses
Here’s an example of a Zunow lens (below) for the Miranda T. – Same Zunow style serial number.
This is a 1956 Miranda T. Notice the fancy “f” in “f=5cm”. That was typical for Zunow in the first half of the 1950s. Sharp eyed readers will notice a small wrinkle in my theory. Look at the way “Japan” is written on this Zunow Miranda T lens and then compare it to the way “Japan” is written on the Tomioka Lynx lens above. Pretty darn close… But, both “a’s” in “Japan” are slightly different. Whew!
Here’s another example (below) of a Zunow lens on a Neoca-SV from around 1959 or so.
This is essentially the same lens as the Lynx lens. Note the style of the “a”.
How to Tell Internally Between Zunow and Tomioka
The lens of the left in the image below is the Zunow – on the right is the Tomioka. It’s fairly obvious that there’s significant differences between the two lens designs and some very similar design cues too. We admit that up to this point, these are the only two Lynx lenses that we’ve taken the front lens group out of the lens barrel. ***We don’t intend to keep purchasing additional Lynx cameras with the two different style lens rings to see if they’re all like this. We would encourage our readers to do so with their Lynx and to be so kind as to share their results with us.
The Zunow lens (left below) is about 3mm taller than the Tomioka lens on the right.
A close-up of the Zunow pictured below reveals a very distinct lens design. For lack of better terms, it is taller and more angular.
Tomioka lens close-up (below). For lack of better terms it’s obvious that the lens is shorter and more rounded.
A close-up of the Zunow front lens ring (below) shows a consistent height to the numbers. A typical Zunow feature and common to others as well.
A close-up of the Tomioka lens (below) shows a definite “high-low” style in the numbers. Small “8” and “5”. That same style is seen on some of Tomioka’s other lenses and it maintains this same style on this lens long after Zunow closed in early 1961.
Here’s our other Yashica Lynx (below). This one was made in July 1962 and it was the 1,184th made that month. Yashica reset the serial number sequence at the start of each month during this period. Many thanks to my friend Paul Sokk for that decode!
L = Lynx and “2071184” decodes to: 2 = 1962, 07 = July, 1184 = 1,184th made that month.
So in Summary
The easiest way to know if your Yashica Lynx-1000 has a lens made by Zunow is to check the lens serial number found on the front lens ring. If the serial number looks like this one below then you have a lens made by Zunow Optical for Yashica.
If the serial number looks like the lens ring below, then your lens was made by Tomioka Optical for Yashica. Tomioka was at this time Yashica’s number one supplier of lenses going back to Yashica’s earliest days.
This is a bold statement on our part and a pretty exciting discovery too. We never want to mislead anyone and certainly we wouldn’t post this if we weren’t sure of our conclusions.
If you find that our post doesn’t hold water, let us know and share your input and support for your theory. We’re always looking to discover something new and exciting.
Chris and Carol