Nicca 3-S on location

1950s vintage Nicca rangefinder 35mm camera shot on location – c1911 post office.

Nicca at PO

After a day spent on a photo walk in our local historic district, our Nicca takes a break for a beauty shot. The mid-afternoon lighting is always just right in this 100-year-old post office – the table once held ink wells (the hole behind the camera) and the wood table top has such a wonderful patina and texture.

Our Nicca 3-S is fully operational – it’s considered to be one of the best Leica copy cameras produced in Japan in the early part of the 1950s. The 5cm f/ 2 lens is a Nikkor and is clear and sharp.

Of interest, the <E.P> mark on the rewind knob (extreme left) indicates that this camera was available for sale in Japan as an exempt purchase, meaning that it was for sale only to military personnel and their families, diplomatic personnel and their families and possibly available at duty-free shops. Photogear marked with the <E.P> symbol was not for sale to Japanese citizens as it was tax-exempt.

Thanks for your visit!

Chris

Shameless plug – stop by our e-commerce shop at https://www.ccstudio2380.com for more great and interesting stuff! ^.^

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Copyright © 2015-2017 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
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Nicca Type 33 and the Yashica YE… Mighty Morphing Classic Cameras!

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.

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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.

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Beautiful condition Nicca branded lens that recently sold at auction in Japan. Note the 4 digit serial number.

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Original Type 33 instruction booklet.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

E.P Marked Photo Gear. Is it really worth more?

Photo gear made in Japan will sometimes carry a strange marking  <E.P>

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In the above example, the <E.P> mark is engraved on the rewind knob of this Nicca camera. This camera is from the 1955 to 1957 period.

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In the example above, this Nikkor 13.5cm lens has the <E.P> mark engraved on a small lever near the base of the lens. On the lens case below, the <E.P> mark is stamped into the leather just below the JAPAN stamp. The case belongs with the lens pictured above.

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First time we’ve seen the mark on a lens case. To us that implies that the case was mated with that lens from the factory (or wherever the mark was applied).

So what’s up with the <E.P> mark anyway?

As we understand it, the Japanese government needed a way to identify which pieces of photo gear were sold through military facilities and duty free shops in Japan. We feel that the mark means “Exempt Product” – cameras or electronic gear purchased without paying taxes to the government of Japan and purchased by authorized personnel (military members and their families, tourists and by diplomatic members and their families). We’ve seen alternate meanings as “Post Exchange” (military base stores) but U.S. Navy stores are called “Navy Exchange – NEX” and U.S. Army/Air Force stores are “BX/PX or Base Exchange/Post Exchange”. It’s hard to make “NEX or BX” into “EP”.  Other explanations of <E.P> include: Export Permitted (or Export Permit), Exchange Program and Export Production.

The “Black Market”.

The majority of the photo gear we have in our collection that bears the <E.P> mark, was in fact purchased through military facilities and not at duty free shops. Another cause for concern after the War, and we know this first hand from having lived in Japan in the late 1970s, was the so called black market that may have existed (it did) in Japan. The difference between what a service member could buy a camera for at the Navy Exchange (reduced cost and no taxes) and what that same item sold for at a Japanese camera store was just too great not to tempt some selling on the black market. The military stores kept tabs on the amount of tobacco and liquor that a family could purchase and big ticket items (cameras and stereo equipment) included a statement on the receipt that the service member would check and then sign that the item was for their personal use. A direct reminder that you were not to resell the item to unauthorized individuals. Our guess would be that if a Japanese citizen had a camera in their possession with the <E.P> mark it would be easy to question where it was purchased. However, the <E.P> marks were normally on parts of the camera that could be removed and replaced with non marked parts. No system is perfect so if there’s a will they’ll be a way.

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The <EP> mark on a Yashica-Mat from 1960.

So, does the mark make my photo gear more valuable? Yes. Collectible? Yes. Desirable? Yes. But to whom?

Like anything that’s collected, if someone wants it just because of the mark (in this case), then the <E.P> mark makes your item more desirable. In the real world, the gear is no different except for the mark. But – and it’s a big but – there are fewer of them out there. In the case of the nice Yashica-Mat pictured above, let’s say that Yashica sold 1,000 of them in 1960 throughout Japan. Maybe 5% were marked <E.P> (and that may be way high). So if you want to collect a mint condition Yashica-Mat made in 1960, there may be, let’s say only 10 available worldwide at any one time, and if one of those has the mark, well that adds a nice bonus of rarity to the mix. Another way to look at the mark is that the gear was less likely purchased by a professional photographer and therefore may have been better taken care of by its owner. Lots of exceptions to that line of thinking but it does have some merits.

So there you have it. Something of an explanation. If you have photo gear from the 1950s, 1960s and sometimes from as late as the early 1970s and you have the mark, well now you know a bit more about it. If you’d like us to appraise it for you we will be more than happy to. Just contact us here on the blog and we can get something going for you.

Studio Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S9900W

Chris

Nicca 3-S vs. Nicca 3-F

We’ve always assumed that the Nicca cameras were pretty much the same size from one model to another. The early 1950s models look for the most part, the same as the 1958 models. Now that we have two Niccas in our collection it’s time to do some comparisons.

Nicca 3-F on the left and the Nicca 3-S on the right.

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First off, without the lenses attached, there is a slight difference in weight between the two with the 3-F weighing in at 445 grams and the 3-S weighing 432 grams.

There is however a difference in size which surprised us. The later model 3-F (left) is taller than the 3-S (right) by about 4mm.

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The 3-F is also longer than the 3-S by about 7mm.

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The 3-F is about 7mm longer and 1mm wider than the 3-S.

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The 3-F is the top body with the 3-S on the bottom.

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Since these Niccas share the same specs it’s surprising that Nicca expanded the body of the 3-F.

Our best guess is that the later model (3-F) uses its extra length to improve the film path. Measuring the distance between the spindles with the baseplates off, the 3-F is 5mm longer than the 3-S (108mm vice 103mm).

So nothing earth shaking – just some subtle differences. As we have stated before, these are high quality cameras with exceptional fit and finish. Adding a Nicca will enhance any collection of 1950s Japanese made rangefinder cameras.

Studio Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S9900W

Chris

Nicca 3-S… Quality Rangefinder from 1955

A beautiful example of a mid 1950s 35mm rangefinder camera – made by Nicca Camera Company, Ltd.DSCF5405

Mated with a sharp Nippon Kogaku Nikkor f/ 2, 5cm lens.

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Main shutter speeds of 1/25 to 1/500th of a second.

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Added bonus on this Nicca – marked <E.P> for exempt purchase. Normally marked for purchases made at military facilities and duty free shops.

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Nicca cameras were considered to be well made cameras during the 1950s. This example is at least 62 years old and the fit and finish is almost flawless. Nicca was acquired by Yashica in 1958 and the merger of the two companies helped Yashica to design and release their first 35mm single lens reflex camera in 1960 – the Yashica Pentamatic.

Studio Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S9900W

Chris

US 17 Florida – Riverside Motel

The last strip of highway heading north towards Georgia. Up ahead the St. Marys River and bridge – heat radiates off the already hot pavement as a reminder that it’s only Spring – wait ’til Summer.

United States Highway 17 was the life giving link to the Eastern Seaboard and beyond. If you came to Florida in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s you crossed that bridge (well one like it but it was a drawbridge then but it’s not anymore even though the sign says it is, whew!) and your first glimpse of the Sunshine State was this patch of pavement. I-95 didn’t exist and it was 17 or nothing in those days. Now it’s only travelled by locals, log trucks or tourists looking for the original Florida. Along this stretch, cheap but nice motels with air conditioning and swimming pools beckoned those travellers that wanted their first taste of Florida and a cool bed. If you were real lucky, you’d spot a gator or two in the wet areas just off the the road.

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Distance wise, this is Florida’s first motel – just a half mile from the Georgia line. It closed decades ago, driven out by high speed travel on smooth highways. The doors were closed and locked once – now termites and rot have opened them again. Couples would snuggle together in these rooms while on their honeymoon. Children would run wild through the parking lot waiting for the car ride that would take them to Florida’s first attractions still well south. Now only grass and weeds run wild.

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Air conditioned – and just down the road souvenirs, film, food , whiskey and ice cream. Too far north for oranges. Just right for cold beer.

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I like coming here… it’s quiet except for the occasional log truck along the highway heading south to the mills and of course the stray local or curious tourist. Not like it used to be – a steady stream of cars spilling across that bridge into the sunshine.

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Yep, no trespassing. Trespassers will be stung or bitten – wasps and fire ants do the enforcing. No tourists – just bugs, heat and photographers.

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Be sure to get off I-95 at Exit 3 in South Georgia and head west on Georgia 40 to US 17 in Kingsland (just a few miles away). Turn south on US 17 (left) and in a little bit you’ll cross that all too narrow bridge over the St. Marys River and you’ll be in Florida. Just a half mile south on your left you’ll find that first motel in Florida pictured above. Oh there’s no plaque or marker telling you about the history of this place, and that’s a shame. It was part of the gateway to the “New South” and it deserves recognition. It is for sale though! ^.^

Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S9900W

Thanks for your visit! Be sure to watch out for the fire ants!

Chris

 

 

 

Yashica Pentamatic Refreshed –

20160326_164016_richtonehdrThe 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.

JN Pentamatic SN 16000375Decoding 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.

16233739912_d43f6fb30f_oThis Pentamatic body (above) decodes to… 3 = March / 60 = 1960 / 01500 = 1,500th made up to that point.

Bold bright colors...

Clean simple lines. Show the customers that this camera was a SLR! Not your dad’s TLR.

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Inspiration and the technical know-how came from the Nicca Camera Company. Pictured on the left is an early Nicca 3-F.

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By May 1960, number 3,354 had been made.

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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