Nicca Pentamatic!?

Stay with us and we’ll try to make our case. Recently discovered information has filled-in some of the missing links in the development of our favorite obsession camera. The mysterious and seldom seen Pentamatic ’35’… Yashica’s first SLR.

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A few interesting bits of info have come to our attention recently. We were alerted to an auction by our friend Paul Sokk (http://www.yashicatlr.com) that listed a 13.5 cm f/ 2.8 lens made by Taiho Optical Company –  Nicca Lens. Having never heard of the company, Taiho Optical, and knowing about Nicca’s history, we couldn’t figure out where and how there could be a Nicca connection.

taiho_optical_co_nicca_135mm_f28_04

Let’s backtrack a bit with a quick history lesson. Yashima-Yashica was a very successful maker of high quality, low-cost twin-lens reflex cameras but hadn’t moved into the 35 mm market as of early 1957. It appears that the president and founder of Yashima-Yashica, Mr. Yoshimasa Ushiyama could see that although Yashica was successful building TLRs, the market for them would slowly diminish as new, smaller and easier to use 35 mm cameras would grab the marketplace. He wanted in but how?

Yashica had no experience with 35 mm cameras, especially rangefinder cameras with cloth focal-plane shutters. There were dozens of Leica copy cameras in Japan (and the world for that matter) but possible patents protected specific manufacturer’s shutter designs. If he could buy into an established company then he could use their shutter design and incorporate it with early Yashima-Yashica designs. In May of 1958, an opportunity presented itself. Nicca Camera Company was apparently experiencing financial difficulties and may have been on the brink of bankruptcy. Nicca cameras were well known and well respected – they made high quality 35 mm rangefinder cameras with focal-plane shutters. They used Nikkor lenses with the L39 screw mount. Mr. Ushiyama was in a rush to purchase Nicca before they went belly up. Advisers cautioned to wait until Nicca went bankrupt arguing that they would be able to acquire it for a better price. Mr. Ushiyama knew that that outcome of a bankruptcy could take longer than he was willing to wait and there would certainly be more suitors to compete with. So the deal went through… sort of. As best as we can glean from our research, a “religionist” “admonished” Mr. Ushiyama for rushing into the deal and cautioned that Yashica itself would suffer a “decline” if all of the transfer were made immediately.

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OK, OK! We give!!! We share your feelings dear reader –  what’s the connection between Nicca and the Pentamatic? Taking the advice of the religionist, Mr. Ushiyama created a new company. Nicca would become Taiho Optical Company. Say what? Nicca wasn’t absorbed into Yashica in May of 1958, instead, they became another company that could continue to operate with Yashica but without becoming Yashica. Simple. Confused? Mr. Ushiyama listened to his adviser so nothing bad happened. It appears that the former Nicca employees were now free to develop new processes and designs with the financial and technical support of the much larger Yashica. What did Yashica get for its money? Plenty it would seem. Access to years of 35 mm rangefinder manufacturing experience and access to a proven focal-plane shutter. Important steps in building a 35 mm single-lens reflex camera. We don’t know (yet) which one of the two companies came up with the design of what would become the Pentamatic. Was it mostly a Yashica design that had been kicking around for a while lacking a focal-plane shutter, or was it mostly a Nicca design that lacked the financial means to bring it to market? We feel that it was more than likely a 60 – 40 split with Nicca as the 60%. Just a hunch, no facts at the moment.

Yas Cover P1 bro (1)

Earliest known sales brochure for the Pentamatic ’35’. The best guess is that it was printed in the Spring of 1960.

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A machine translation of this page from inside of the brochure states clearly that Nicca and Yashica developed the Pentamatic.

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But what did the Taiho Optical Company make? Yashica didn’t make their own lenses, Tomioka Optical of Tokyo did. Was the former Nicca, now that it had become Taiho Optical, going to suddenly start making lenses? At the start of this blog, we mentioned that we were alerted to the existence of a 13.5 cm lens for sale with the Taiho Optical Company-Nicca Japan markings. Other than that, nothing.

So when did Mr. Ushiyama merge the two companies? He apparently listed to his adviser and waited eight long years before merging the two. From 1960 (when the Pentamatic was released) until 1968, when he not only made Yashica whole, but he also acquired long time lens supplier Tomioka Optical.

Now we know how the Pentamatic came to be and why it could be called the Nicca Pentamatic.

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Thanks for sticking with us. – Chris

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2019 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

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Nicca 3-S vs. Nicca 3-F

Another look at these two classic cameras from Nicca.

Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic

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…

View original post 98 more words

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 Pentamatic!?

We know… doesn’t make sense, does it? Doesn’t even sound right… “Nicca Pentamatic”.

Stay with us and we’ll try to make our case. Recently discovered information has filled-in some of the missing links in the development of our favorite obsession camera. The mysterious and seldom seen Pentamatic ’35’… Yashica’s first SLR.

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Nicca 3-F 35 mm rangefinder (left) and Yashica Pentamatic 35 mm single-lens reflex SLR (right).

A few interesting bits of info have come to our attention recently. We were alerted to an auction by our friend Paul Sokk (http://www.yashicatlr.com) that listed a 13.5 cm f/ 2.8 lens made by Taiho Optical Company –  Nicca Lens. Having never heard of the company, Taiho Optical, and knowing about Nicca’s history, we couldn’t figure out where and how there could be a Nicca connection.

taiho_optical_co_nicca_135mm_f28_04

 

 

Let’s backtrack a bit with a quick history lesson. Yashima-Yashica was a very successful maker of high quality, low-cost twin-lens reflex cameras but hadn’t moved into the 35 mm market as of early 1957. It appears that the president and founder of Yashima-Yashica, Mr. Yoshimasa Ushiyama could see that although Yashica was successful building TLRs, the market for them would slowly diminish as new, smaller and easier to use 35 mm cameras would grab the marketplace. He wanted in but how? Yashica had no experience in 35 mm cameras, especially rangefinder cameras with cloth focal-plane shutters. There were dozens of Leica copy cameras in Japan (and the world for that matter) but possible patents protected specific manufacturer’s shutter designs. If he could buy into an established company then he could use their shutter design and incorporate it with early Yashima-Yashica designs. In May of 1958, an opportunity presented itself. Nicca Camera Company was apparently experiencing financial difficulties and may have been on the brink of bankruptcy. Nicca cameras were well known and well respected – they made high quality 35 mm rangefinder cameras with focal-plane shutters. They used Nikkor lenses with the L39 screw mount. Mr. Ushiyama was in a rush to purchase Nicca before they went belly up. Advisers cautioned to wait until Nicca went bankrupt arguing that they would be able to acquire it for a better price. Mr. Ushiyama knew that that outcome of a bankruptcy could take longer than he was willing to wait and there would certainly be more suitors to compete with. So the deal went through… sort of. As best as we can glean from our research, a “religionist” “admonished” Mr. Ushiyama for rushing into the deal and cautioned that Yashica itself would suffer a “decline” if all of the transfer were made immediately.

record-image_939x-h3sn-v1

Yashima-Yashica founder Mr. Yoshimasa Ushiyama.

OK, OK! We give!!! We share your feelings dear reader –  what’s the connection between Nicca and the Pentamatic? Taking the advice of the religionist, Mr. Ushiyama created a new company. Nicca would become Taiho Optical Company. Say what? Nicca wasn’t absorbed into Yashica in May of 1958, instead, they became another company that could continue to operate with Yashica but without becoming Yashica. Simple. Confused? Mr. Ushiyama listened to his adviser so nothing bad happened. It appears that the former Nicca employees were now free to develop new processes and designs with the financial and technical support of the much larger Yashica. What did Yashica get for its money? Plenty it would seem. Access to years of 35 mm rangefinder manufacturing experience and access to a proven focal-plane shutter. Important steps in building a 35 mm single-lens reflex camera. We don’t know (yet) which one of the two companies came up with the design of what would become the Pentamatic. Was it mostly a Yashica design that had been kicking around for a while lacking a focal-plane shutter, or was it mostly a Nicca design that lacked the financial means to bring it to market? We feel that it was more than likely a 60 – 40 split with Nicca as the 60%. Just a hunch, no facts at the moment.

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Pentamatic’s focal-plane shutter. Thanks to Nicca.

But what did the Taiho Optical Company make? Yashica didn’t make their own lenses, Tomioka Optical of Tokyo did. Was the former Nicca, now that it had become Taiho Optical, going to suddenly start making lenses? At the start of this blog, we mentioned that we were alerted to the existence of a 13.5 cm lens for sale with the Taiho Optical Company-Nicca Japan markings. Other than that, nothing.

So when did Mr. Ushiyama merge the two companies? He apparently listed to his adviser and waited eight long years before merging the two. From 1960 (when the Pentamatic was released) until 1968, when he not only made Yashica whole, but he also acquired long time lens supplier Tomioka Optical.

Now we know how the Pentamatic came to be and why it could be called the Nicca Pentamatic.

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Thanks for sticking with us. Comments? Likes?

Chris and Carol

Nicca 3-F… Nicca Camera Co., Ltd. & Yashica

What connection could this attractive 35 mm rangefinder camera have with Yashica? And why on earth is it in a blog about the Yashica Pentamatic???

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Nicca 3-F from early 1957 (maybe late 1956). Obviously, it is one of many Leica copy cameras that were built during the 1950s and beyond.

First a little bit about Nicca. Nicca was one of the literally hundreds of camera manufacturers in Japan during the late 1940s and through the 1950s. Production appears to have been, on average, anywhere from just a few hundred units per year to nearly 5,000 per year by 1958. Nicca made what many consider to be one of the better Leica copy cameras. The fit and finish of this particular 3-F are extraordinary. After six decades of use, the camera still functions perfectly and the finish is beautiful. Of note, the leatherette is some of the finest we’ve seen from this period. It is still tight and complete and is a joy to hold this camera.

To keep things in perspective, it is a rather simple camera… focal plane shutter, highest speed 1/500th of a second, no built-in exposure meter, no mirror, no self-timer and a straightforward film advance knob vice single stroke lever (later model did add the lever). Simple but executed well.

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The business side of the 3-F. Traditional layout of the controls… this was Nicca’s last model with the knob film advance (they did produce this model with a film advance lever in late 1957).

Where’s the connection with Yashica? In May 1958, Yashima (pre-Yashica) purchased the Nicca Camera Company which by some accounts was struggling and near bankruptcy. We’ve yet to find proof of the bankruptcy part of this narrative but we will continue to pursue it. Yashima, soon to be Yashica, wanted access to Nicca’s technology, design and small camera manufacturing abilities as Yashima lacked experience in 35 mm camera production. We’re sure there was some desire to acquire Nicca’s focal plane shutter technology as Yashima for the most part only made TLRs (just released an 8 mm movie camera and the Yashica 35). Nicca produced two more models(?) under its own name before Yashica released the Nicca-Yashica YF in 1959. Yashica quickly stopped making rangefinder cameras with interchangeable lenses by 1960. We have always found it to be a bit odd but rangefinders with interchangeable lenses were quickly being pushed aside by 35 mm SLRs for all angles… including Yashica with its Pentamatic ’35’.

What’s the relationship with the Pentamatic? The Pentamatic was more than likely designed in the early part of 1959 and may have been originally a Nicca design (more of that later). Distribution of the Pentamatic occurred in the spring of 1960 with a widescale release and advertising by June 1960 (in the US). The Pentamatic was Yashica’s first 35 mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. If featured a focal plane shutter with a top speed of 1/1000th of a second. Nicca’s knowledge was directly used in the Pentamatic.

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Exposure counter and film reminder dial.

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Close-up of the slow speed knob.

It appears that when Yashima purchased Nicca in 1958, there wasn’t an immediate transfer of the company’s assets to Yashima. Instead, Nicca Camera Company became Taiho Optics (or Optical) a subsidiary or new company of the Nicca-Yashica amalgamation. Mr. Ushiyama, founder, and president of Yashica received council that it was not in Yashica’s best interest to proceed with the merger (as the decision to acquire Nicca was made in haste). Instead, Taiho Optics would go on to produce some of its own lenses and lend support and design experience (and personnel) to Yashica. Why? Yashica wanted to build a 35 mm SLR and Nicca was an important stepping stone on that path.

Thanks for your visit… please feel free to leave comments.

Chris & Carol