Yashica “J” Series of 35mm SLRs – 1960s

The Yashica ‘J’ series of 35mm SLR film cameras. Top body is the J-7, next is the J-4, then the J-5 and finally the first one in the series the J-3. These were heavyweight cameras in their day…the best (for the most part) that Yashica produced from their factory in Nagano Prefecture (Shimosuwa).

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Produced in 1962 to around 1967 to early 1968. The black body J-3 was Yashica’s first 35mm SLR ‘Pro Black’ camera. They were released in the following order… J-3, J-5, J-4 and J-7. These cameras feature lots of brass and glass. They also represent Yashica’s first SLRs with built-in exposure meters. TTL exposure metering was just around the corner for Yashica after the release of the J-7 in the form of the TL Super.

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The J-5 was super popular in the mid 1960s.

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Another tough one in the series to find complete and in mint condition.

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One of the harder ones in the series to find in mint condition.

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A J-3 all set for just about anything.

Thanks for your visit.

Chris

Yashica Moves to a New Factory 1972

We’ll be the first to admit – not an exciting title or topic for a blog. It may even be a stretch for a blog named the ‘Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic’. But we feel compelled to share information about the Yashica Company, however slight and trivial, with our dear readers.

Yashica’s first factory was along the shores of beautiful Lake Suwa in the small town of Suwa. The next location (from Yashica brochures) was in Shimosuwa-machi, Suwa-gun, Nagano Prefecture. This was the industrial campus of Yashica and it grew over the years to occupy almost every square meter of the property.

Yashica's Shimosuwa Factory

Opened in 1956 along the shores of Lake Suwa in Nagano.

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A different view of the same campus. Yashica was running out of room by the mid-1960s.

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Back cover of the Yashica TL Electro-X ITS instruction booklet. The booklet was printed in Japan in June 1972.

At the time of the printing of the above book, Yashica was operating 3 factories. The top line that begins with the Yashica ‘Y’ on the far left is the address of the main headquarters of Yashica which was in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. The next line is the location of the Suwa plant – Shimosuwa. The third line is the new plant in Okaya which was still in Nagano Prefecture. The 4th line was an unknown (to us until recently) factory in Sagamihara-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture (southwest of Tokyo and just west of Yokohama). As you can see, Yashica operated at least 14 other sales offices and service centers across Japan in mid-1972.

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Back cover of the Yashinon Lenses & Accessories booklet printed in Japan in January 1973.

Between June 1972 (the first book above) and January 1973 (the second book above), Yashica closed its campus and factory in Shimosuwa. The only factories listed are the new Okaya factory and the Sagamihara factory. That was a big move for Yashica and as we understand it, they had purchased the old silk mill in Okaya as far back as 1959. As of this book, Yashica did not close any of its other sales offices listed from the previous book.

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The factory was officially dedicated in December 1972. According to Yashica documents, the factory didn’t achieve full production until late 1974 or early 1975.

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The Yashica Okaya factory complex in the summer of 1974.

Why is any of this important? It isn’t unless you’re a Yashica Fanatic like us. Oh, it did have a strong ripple effect on the company though. Japan was in a bit of an economic slowdown in the early 1970s and it came to a head in late 1974 for Yashica. Mismanagement and embezzlement (and the costly move) caused Yashica to lay off workers – unheard of in Japan at the time. They closed the Sagamihara factory which put 900 Yashica employees out of work. That had an effect on the factory at Okaya and Yashica was soon in deep financial trouble. Their cameras were still top notch but the first warning shots about their future were fired.

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It is my understanding that Mr. Shiro Kaneko was installed as the new president of Yashica by the Nissho-Iwai Company (Yashica’s distributor) and by the Taiyo Kobe Bank which by 1974 had put its full financial resources behind Yashica’s new marketing efforts.

Thanks for your visit! Hope you got a little something out of it. – Chris

 

Yashima-Yashica Leather

A misleading title? We’re not sure. It’s doubtful that in Yashima’s early days of camera manufacturing, that they made their own leather case goods. They had plenty on their plate already – lens production (mostly testing), machining parts, pouring cast aluminum bodies, stamping out metal pieces and of course, putting it all together in a box and shipping it off to various Trading Companies and camera dealers around Japan and the world. Oh did we mention, inventing new camera designs too.

We believe that Yashima-Yashica had their leather case goods made by at least 4 different suppliers – each with their own maker’s marks stamped on the bottom of the case.

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Could the trademark be ‘Tomioka Kogaku’? In the early days of Yashima/Yashica, did they use leather cases made by outside companies? More than likely since they would not have had the facilities or skills to produce quality leather products in large quantities IMO.

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This image is of the bottom of our Yashicaflex Rookie’s leather camera case. Some of the 1950s era Yashima-Yashica cases have similar marks. With an occasional exception, most 1960s era cases do not carry these marks.

The mystery… we believe that these are ‘maker’s marks’ or trademarks of the company that manufactured the case for Yashima-Yashica. The marks are similar to marks found on Japanese tin toys from the same period. Our theory is that Yashica did not have the facilities or skills to make leather cases on their own in the early days of production and that outside leather crafters added their individual trademarks to the cases.

Other marks that we’ve seen… T.K , NT , GSS and another K.K but in a diamond shaped box.

If you know of the origins of these type of marks on Japanese leather goods please add your comments. We would love to know for sure.

Thanks… C&C ^.^

 

 

 

Pentamatic – Finally Found ‘in the wild’. Nerds heaven!

After many years of searching for proof that Yashica had in fact released its first production run (from December 1959) of the 5.5cm f1.8 Auto-Yashinon lenses for the Pentamatic ’35’ – we finally found one in the wild! Now it’s ours.

We stumbled upon this lens the other day on an online auction site. After some negotiations with the seller, we reached an accord. The camera this lens was mounted on was a pure dog… “Junk Treatment” as ‘Google Translates’ the kanji for crap (one would think) items. We took a chance that the lens was going to be OK. We’ve seen enough of these over the years to get a good feel – this one we just had to have even if it matched the condition of the camera body it was on. Man was it dirty – sooty and a tad yellow (the markings yellow over time). But it was a hidden gem. No mold – no fungus – no cleaning marks or haze – and, the best part, it focuses crisply and although the aperture blades are a bit worn, they move nicely (snappy as ‘they’ say).

The Pentamatic went into production at Yashica’s modern factory campus in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture in December 1959. At the same time, or just slightly before (maybe in October), Tomioka Optical started making the lenses for the first Pentamatics. We don’t know for certain if Tomioka delivered completed lenses to Yashica or only manufactured the optics for them and Yashica did the rest – we just don’t have that information yet.

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Here’s the lens we just acquired – Auto Yashinon 55mm (5.5cm) f1.8 which was the normal lens supplied with Yashica’s first Pentamatics. The background ad is from a ‘Popular Photography’ magazine – June 1960 issue. The ad lens serial number is – No. 59100581 – our lens serial number is – No. 59100092. Not often do you find a lens in the wild with a lower serial number than an ad. By the way, the advertisement was the first ever for the Pentamatic.

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The lens that is featured in one of the first sales brochures for the Pentamatic, is serial numbered – No. 59100036. Our lens was made just slightly after the lens in the brochure (same day?). We don’t know when the sales brochure came out. Our guess is March 1960. The photographs were probably taken by the marketing people in Yashica’s Shibuya headquarters sometime in late 1959 or early 1960.

We know – this is all super boring nerd stuff that only Yashica fanatics would find interesting – wait, that’s a great name for a blog… ‘Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic’. ^.^

So what does the serial numbers tell us? The SN No. 59100092 (our lens) translates to – made in 1959, the ’10’ is for October, and the 0092 is the sequential production number of the lens assembly. This means that Tomioka Optical started production of the new lenses for the Pentamatic as early as October 1959! Lenses made in 1960 are labeled No. 605xxxxx. The ‘5’ being a placekeeper or model number. The highest serial number we have in our collection is No. 60515157. That lens came with a Pentamatic body that was made in January 1961 and the lens was the 15,157th made up until that point.

The highest serial number seen in the wild is No. 60521460 which was mounted on a Pentamatic-S body.

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Thanks for your visit and if you made it to this point in the post, pat yourself on the back! You may be a bit of a camera nerd – just like us!

Chris & Carol ^.^