Pentamatic vs. Pentamatic S – Yashica’s Heavyweights

The Pentamatic was Yashica’s first single-lens reflex (SLR) and was released in 1960 (May-June) timeframe. The Pentamatic S was released about mid to late 1961. Not much changed between the two – the S model added a built-in self-timer and most notably, a provision for mounting an exposure meter to the top right of the camera that coupled with the shutter speed dial. Other small changes were to add lugs for holding the neck strap (moving them from the extreme right and left sides of the body on the Pentamatic to a more typical front mounting on the S). Unseen from the exterior is a change to the focusing screen inside the pentaprism. The original fresnel screen in the Pentamatic was replaced with a split image screen in the model S. For me, that change makes the Pentamatic S much easier to focus and improves the brightness inside the viewfinder.

A look at both models shows these changes and the tiny bit of extra weight that the S carries over the original Pentamatic.

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At 978 grams, the original Pentamatic is anything but a lightweight. (2.16 lbs)

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At 1,004 grams, the S shows the slight weight increase from the changes made between the two models. (2.21 lbs)

Both cameras are photographed with the same lens attached – Auto Yashinon 5.5cm f1.8 lens which was the standard lens that came with both models. Only the Pentamatic II (released in September 1960) came with a different lens. (5.8cm f1.7)

Compared to other SLRs from the same time period, the Pentamatic was a bit of a beast to tote around. The buying public never embraced these wonderful cameras and they ended their production run in less than 2 years.

Finding good looking (and still working) Pentamatics is a challenge for any collector with the Pentamatic II being especially difficult to find in any condition.

Of note, if you have an Asahi Pentax, Nikon F or Canoflex camera with the standard lenses from the late 1950s or early 1960s, we would love for you to let us know what their combined weight is. We could be way off in our assumption that the Pentamatic was significantly heavier than the other cameras of that era. Thanks!

Studio Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S9900W

Chris

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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

 

Standard Lens for the Pentamatic II

The only difference we can tell between the original Yashica Pentamatic ’35’ and the Pentamatic II (which came out in August 1960), is the standard lens that came with the camera body.

The original Pentamatic came with the Auto-Yashinon, f/1.8, 5.5cm semi (fully?) automatic 6 element lens. Of course it has the unique Pentamatic bayonet mount and not the M42 screw mount. The Pentamatic II came with the Auto-Yashinon, f/1.7, 5.8cm lens (pictured below). The f/1.8 lens was made for Yashica by Tomioka Optical of Tokyo. New evidence uncovered by us (Oct 2017) indicates that the f/1.7 lens was made by Zunow Optical. It’s a beautiful lens and weighs a ton and is rather rare today at under 6,000 lenses made. It has 10 aperture blades.

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Update July 2017 – The Pentamatic II was only for sale in the Japanese home market and for only a short time (Aug 1960 to Jan 1961). Less than 6,000 cameras were made and of course about the same amount of these lenses. No English language sales brochures have been found that mention or feature the Pentamatic II. No advertisements either in English language newspapers or magazines.

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The Auto Yashinon f/ 1.7, 5.8cm lens mounted on a later model Pentamatic S.

If you find a sales brochure or advertisement in English that features the Yashica Pentamatic II, please bring it to our attention. Thanks!

Chris & Carol