Rare Tower Type-3 35mm Rangefinder Camera made by Nicca

Made by Nicca for the Sears, Roebuck and Company for sale in the United States and Canada under the Tower brand. This beautiful camera set is from 1951.

Collectors “Dream Set”.

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The Tower Type-3 is a 35mm rangefinder camera made by Nicca in 1951. The design is based on the original camera from Leica Many people call these types of cameras “Leica Clones or Leica Copies” but I like to refer to them as Leica inspired as many of the cameras made by Nicca were equal to if not superior to the Leica.

The camera is fully working at all speeds and the rangefinder is bright and accurate. There’s no dents, no marks, and no corrosion. It’s nearly perfect even after all these years.

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The camera body accepts all M39 / L39 screw-in mount lenses. This camera is fitted with its original Nikkor-H.C f/ 2 5cm lens made by Nippon Kogaku.

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The camera features a clean simple design on the top plate. The shutter’s top speed is 1/500th of a second.

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Cameras made in Japan prior to April 1952 were required to be marked “Made In Occupied Japan” somewhere on the baseplate. This camera is properly marked.

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Not many presentation boxes from the early 1950s still exist and few exist in such good condition as this one. A nice find and its the proper box for the camera.

Below is another amazing survivor from the early 1950s – the original leather camera case and strap. I can’t begin to explain just how rare it is to find an intact leather case from Japan made over 65 years ago. Usually, they come apart at the stitching and the leather separates at the joints. This case looks as though it was just made. A beauty.

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The original instruction booklet and guarantee-registration card are included with this amazing set. 

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The aperture blades look great – they function smoothly and show little wear. The optics are also free of distracting marks such as scratches or cleaning marks. The rear element does have some whitish fungus which means the lens would need to be cleaned in order to use it fully.

Below is a test picture that I took using the lens on my Fujifilm mirrorless digital camera. You can clearly see the “haze” from the fungus but you can see that it’s not a total loss either. I believe the fungus can be cleaned if you know how to service these types of lenses or if a professional camera repair facility does the work.

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Test image taken with the Nikkor lens mounted on my Fujifilm X-A10 mirrorless digital camera.

Thanks for stopping by! If you’re interested in my set it’s available in my online camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com which is hosted by Etsy. – 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.

Nicca Type 33 Brochure – 1958

One of the last cameras made by Nicca just before the takeover by Yashica was this simple 35mm rangefinder camera – the Nicca Type 33

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The Nicca Type 33. Released around May 1958 just as Yashica was taking over the company. As best as I can tell, Yashica had no part in the design of this camera or the first-ever Nicca lens.

Although the top plate isn’t engraved “Type 33” there are markings inside on the bottom plate that identifies it as the Type 33. If you look closely at the lens pictured it’s marked as a Nicca f/2.8 50mm lens with an interesting serial number of No. 8002. The first-ever Nicca branded lens of any type. Origins of this lens are not known as Nicca had never produced a lens on their own.

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The front and back covers of this rather rare brochure.

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The inside of the brochure showing the available accessories.

The Nicca Type 33 is a worthy addition to any collection that features Japanese made 35mm rangefinder cameras – it’s not often available for sale outside of Japan and it can be rather hard to find (in good condition) on Japanese online auctions. Finding one in collector condition and with its original Nicca lens and box would be an interesting challenge and would test your collecting skills.

Thanks for stopping by! – 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.

 

 

Nicca Type-5 35mm Rangefinder Camera – 1955

The Nicca Camera Company was well known during the 1950s as producing high-quality Leica inspired 35mm rangefinder cameras often of better quality than what Leica produced.

The Nicca Type-5 was released in March 1955 and it was the first Nicca camera to feature a rear film door that opened from a hinge on the right side of the body. This made it easier to load film as the film path was accessible directly from the rear. It was the only Nicca to open this way until a top-hinged model was introduced with the release of the Nicca 5-L (the L added a film winding lever vice dial shown here).

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Another feature of this Nicca is the added high-speed shutter which has a top speed of 1/1000 of a second.

The film back (rear cover) is side-hinged which is a unique feature of the Nicca Type-5.

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From the front, an easy way to identify the Type-5 is by the black band that runs around the body just above the leatherette.

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The film cassette is inserted on the left side of the camera and the film leader is drawn across the shutter curtain and is wound around the take-up spool on the right side. When the rear cover is closed the film pressure plate will keep the film flat. In the above picture, the bottom plate is reversed from its mounted position.

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Another feature of the Type-5 is that the film door can be removed for even better access to the camera’s interior to facilitate film loading. The film take-up spool is on the far right.

The Type-5 is not a common Nicca today although it appears that nearly 6,500 were made during its run based on the thought that the serial numbers ran consecutively with no breaks in production. The earliest serial found is 125001 which is the camera depicted in the instruction book and the latest serial number found in the wild is 131531. My camera depicted here has a serial number of 130109.

Here’s an ad from May 1955 for the Type-5.

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The advertisement is dated May 1955 which is a few months after the initially reported release date of March 1955. The distributor’s name is Hinomaruya ひのまるや which can be seen just below the Nicca name on the lower right of the ad. Scan courtesy of Paul Sokk.

For more, much more, please check out my good friend Paul Sokk’s wonderful site. 

Thanks for stopping by and please visit our camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com – 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.

 

 

Another Time, Another Place – Sears Tower Camera Manual 1950

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Sears, Roebuck and Company sold an extensive line of cameras and photo accessories under the Tower name. Here’s a scan from an instruction booklet from around 1950.

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Sears refers to the camera as the TOWER 35 but the camera’s top plate is engraved with Tower Type-3. The booklet also calls the camera the TYPE III. The camera was made for Sears by the Nicca Camera Company of Tokyo starting in the late 1940s through at least 1952 or so. Nicca also sold the same camera under their own name as the Nicca Type-3 or simply the Type III. They’re beautiful examples of craftsmanship that survive today as not only awesome cameras but works of industrial art.

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The Tower logo as it appears on the lid of the camera box. It’s a super cool design.

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A gorgeous early example of this wonderful camera.

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The cover of an original Nicca Type-3 instruction booklet – 1950

If you’re looking to collect an early example of these wonderful cameras they are readily available on various online auction sites both here in the United States and in Japan. Be advised that if you plan of actually taking pictures with it most if not all will require a complete service by a qualified technician (about $200 to $300). If you’re just looking to add one to your collection then expect to spend in the vicinity of $200 for one that shows well.

Thanks for stopping by! – 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.

 

 

Nicca Flash Unit from around 1953

As you may have guessed by now if you casually follow this blog that I also have a passion for collecting bits of camera gear made by and for the Nicca Camera Company. Nicca was acquired by Yashica in 1958 and that acquisition led directly to Yashica developing (with lots of help from Nicca designers) its first 35mm single-lens reflex camera the Pentamatic 35 by early 1960. Yashica was a bit slow to the marketplace with an SLR as Canon, Asahi Pentax and Canon (among others) had already introduced SLRs by then.

Because of this relationship, Nicca has always held a prominent spot in my collection and the Nicca 3-S remains one of my favorite 35mm rangefinders to shoot with. Recently I’ve added this wonderful flash set to my collection.

From the instruction booklet, it describes this as “an automatic rechargeable flash gun specifically designed for Nicca cameras”.

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Considering its age (1953) it’s in outstanding condition. Hey, it’s as old as me!

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All set to go. The Nicca B.C.B. flash unit attached to my Nicca 3-S.

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Viewed from above the pilot lamp is visible on the top center of the flash head. It lights up when the flash is ready to fire.

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The red-tipped bulb ejector button. You don’t want to handle a hot bulb.

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As part of the set, I received the original instruction booklet and a pamphlet for the flashbulbs which were made by West Electric Company of Tokyo and Osaka – later to become or at least partner with National-Matsushita.

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A closer look at the “Exposure Guide Numbers” card pictured in the previous image above.

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The reflector is about 5.5 inches across. The bulb looks tiny compared to the reflector but believe me, it puts out some light!

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Advertisement from late 1951 0r 1952.  The flash looks like it used a slightly different connector cord than the one in my set. Hinomaruya ( ひのまるや ) was the Domestic General Agent for Nicca in Japan.

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Details from the instruction booklet. Shown in this image is a capacitor and 22.5-volt battery to power the flash but it could also be powered by two “D” cell batteries or three “AA” penlight batteries with an adapter.

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Size comparison between the flash handle and two D-cell batteries. As can be seen, the optional add on handle extension would need to be used. 

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Front view without the reflector. My guess is that the “BC” means battery-capacitor and the “B” is for battery (I don’t know for sure about the last “B” at this point).

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Camera side view with the shutter cord connector and “L” bracket connector visible. The red-tipped bulb ejector button is also visible.

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Parts detail minus the reflector and the capacitor/battery.

Nicca only made 35mm rangefinder cameras (maybe a lens or two but unproven) during its existence so the flash unit was made by another company. It’s likely that the West Electric Company, Limited, of Osaka and Tokyo was the manufacturer although no part of the flash is marked with the name “West”. Only the included pamphlet mentioned West. As stated earlier in this post, it’s likely that West merged or partnered with National-Matsushita Electric to build additional models of flash units during the second half of the 1950s.

Thanks for stopping by! If you know what “B.C.B.” means please share it with me. – 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.

 

Nicca 3-F Camera Case – first of its kind?

I know, this is not an overly exciting post – rather obscure actually.

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Nicca 3-F ‘Snap Shot Case’.

The Nicca 3-F was one of many well-built 35mm rangefinder cameras produced by Nicca Camera Company in the late 1950s. Nicca would be acquired by Yashica in early 1958 and some of the technology that Nicca possessed went to Yashica in the deal. The acquisition directly led to the development of Yashica’s first 35mm SLR, the Pentamatic in late 1959. I digress.

My good friend Paul Sokk (www.yashicatlr.com) recently shared this scan of an instruction booklet he acquired for his Nicca. What struck me as I translated (actually an app on my phone translated it) is how this camera case was constructed.

Here’s the translation: “The snap shot case uses a brown box skin and comes with a shoulder strap as an accessory. It is glued, and the case of the stringer does not use any adhesive. Moreover, it has sufficient strength against external force (especially the projection of the lens part). Recently, there are those who use the camera out of the case and naked, but since it is likely that the camera is often hurt, it is recommended to put it in the case and use it as much as possible”.

I hadn’t noticed Nicca cases before this one that did not use stitching. Why is that important? On most vintage (40-year-old or more) cases the stitching has long since failed and the case falls apart. It will be interesting to see if these glued cases stood the test of time and in better condition than their stitched cousins.

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A close-up view of a glued case.

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Typical stitched case.

Thanks for stopping by! – 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.

Nicca Bits

I love finding “new” bits of vintage photo gear especially when you’ve been hunting for them for years.

These bits may seem like no big deal but if you collect hard to find items in their original boxes and cases it’s rewarding when it all comes together.

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Nicca-Hinomaruya Y2 filter and lens hood. Both are from at least 1955 but likely earlier.

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Hinomaruya was the exclusive distributor of Nicca cameras and accessories.

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Using a Y2 yellow filter is a must when shooting with black and white film. It will generally darken a blue sky and provide more contrast between the sky and clouds. It can also help add better definition when shooting landscapes where haze and light atmospheric fog is present. When using a Y2 filter on a camera such as this one you must compensate by a factor of two when taking your meter readings. If you’re using an SLR with TTL metering then the camera’s built-in meter will compensate for you.

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Nicca Type 33 sales brochure showing a slightly different box for the hood and for a color filter along with the older style filter box. The Type 33 was one of the last Nicca cameras produced by the company and was released in 1958 so this would represent the last style of filter and hood boxes. As with everything else, these items were distributed by Hinomaruya.

Studio Camera: Fujifilm X-A10

Thanks for stopping by! – 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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Sears Camera Catalog – 1952

Cute cover image for the Sears, Roebuck and Company Camera Catalog of 1952. The cover features the Nicca made Tower branded Type-3 (Type III) 35mm rangefinder camera of the early 1950s.

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A scan of the original cover of the catalog.

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From the Tower Type-3 instruction booklet – 1951

More “goodies” to follow from this exceptional camera set we recently acquired. – 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 © 2015-2018 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

Nicca & Tower Instruction Booklets

Not often seen, here’s a few instruction booklets for the classic Nicca and Nicca-Tower rangefinders. No dates on these but by the look of the cameras on the covers, I’d say the earliest is 1950.

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The Nicca Type III (Type-3) pictured above and below.

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The Nicca 3-S and Type 4 (below).

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The Tower Type III made by Nicca for Sears, Roebuck and Company (below).

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Do you have a Tower or Nicca instruction booklet? How about some early ads? We are interested buyers of anything relating to Nicca and the Tower rangefinder cameras of the 1950s. Let us know. Thanks – 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 © 2015-2018 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.