Some background – Yashica acquired Nicca in May 1958. Nicca was well known for making high quality 35mm rangefinder cameras since the late 1940s.
Nicca cameras normally came with lenses branded as Nikkor. When the Nicca Type 33 was released in 1958, it came with a Nicca branded lens. We don’t know if Nicca was the actual lens maker or another company made the lens and Nicca had their name affixed. Either way, when Yashica took over the company the Nicca 33 was sold with the Nicca branded lens.
Cute original advertisement from July-August 1958 for the Nicca Type 33 35mm camera and lens.
If you look closely at the ad above, you can see that the lens is marked “Nicca Camera CO.” and is a 50mm f2.8 lens. The serial number isn’t completely clear but looks like a prototype number or some sort (maybe not)… maybe 8000 or something. The list price is interesting too at ¥28,000.
The serial number of the camera body is No. 157571 – which if it was recently made would put it about mid production. It’s claimed that only 1,000 units were made over a short period during 1958.
Beautiful condition Nicca branded lens that recently sold at auction in Japan. Note the 4 digit serial number.
Original Type 33 instruction booklet.
The booklet is dated (33. 7. 1M.) which should be 1958 July.
The Yashica YE – with some minor physical changes to the top plate, the Nicca 33 is now the Yashica YE!
Note the significant price difference from the Type 33. This ad is from about March 1959.
There is some conflict over exactly when Yashica released (or started building) the YE. Our thought is Yashica would wait until all of the Nicca Type 33 bodies and Nicca lenses were used before building their version. Since the YE was Yashica’s first 35mm rangefinder camera, you would think Yashica would want to bring the YE to market as soon as possible. The YE has the “new” Yashikor 5cm f2.8 lens – we’re unsure if this is a redesign of the Nicca lens that’s on the 33 or another lens made for them by Tomioka Optical or, a new lens made by Nicca for Yashica. Confusing we know. It gets even more confusing since Yashica didn’t “officially” complete the transaction with Nicca until the late 1960s! In the meantime, Nicca became Taiho Optical… a name that Yashica bestowed upon its newly acquired company. Go figure.
So when did the first Yashica YE models roll off the assembly line? Well we think we’ve decoded the serial numbers that Yashica etched into the YE. If our interpretation is correct, Yashica assigned a simple date code to them. Some sites claim that the YE came out in 1959 and still others claim 1958. Exact months were not given.
Our recently acquired Yashica YE. We’re not sure which lens we want to get for it yet. Of course it takes any lens with the L39 screw mount.
In our example below, the serial number (No. 392745) decodes to: 3 = March, 9 = 1959, and 2745 = 2,745th made since December 1958.
Why use December 1958 as the start date? We’ve seen a very nice Yashica YE with the following serial number (No. 128049) which decodes to: 12 = December, 8 = 1958, and 049 = the 49th made. We’re not in a position yet to conclusively claim that this is how to decode the serial numbers, but we feel very confident based on previous experience.
Our YE has a bit of surface corrosion here and there but it’s clean inside and out and has (not yet fully tested) a working shutter that sounds great at all speeds. The rangefinder windows are a bit cloudy but still viewable.
A note about the selling prices between the two cameras. The Nicca Type 33 listed for ¥28,000 and the newer YE for ¥23,800. Was this a perfect example of Yashica being able to deliver the same camera at a better price due to their sheer size or was it Nicca listing the camera at its fair price?
It’s claimed that the YE was produced at around 4,000 units during a short production run from December to June). We’ve seen the serial numbers go from a low of 128049 to 699821. If the production number is correct, then the serial numbers did not run continuous… or did they? If they did, then nearly 10,000 were made.