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”.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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. 


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).


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


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.


Historic Advertising Flyer – 1958

I’ll say 1958 because it looks like it was produced shortly after Yashima-Yashica acquired the Nicca Camera Co., Ltd. in May 1958. As best as I can tell this is the one and only time that a piece of advertising contained all three key players in the Nicca III-L. Nicca, Nikkor (Nikon), and Yashica. The address at the bottom of the page matches the address that Yashica used in 1958-1959.

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My translation app has the address as 1-8 Nihonbashi, Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

The lenses for the Nicca cameras were almost exclusively supplied by Nikon and branded as Nikkor. Since this was a transition time (end of the line) for Nicca, this flyer clearly indicates that Yashica is the new player in the picture. Yashica would operate Nicca as Taiho Optical Company for a period of time with at least a few lenses getting produced with that brand name on the lens.

Yashica eventually (in well less than a year) started to supply lenses with the Yashinon name for these Nicca-Yashica crossover models. It’s not clear if these lenses were made for Yashica by an outside company such as Tomioka or that they may have been made by the newly acquired Nicca operating under their new name Taiho. There are at least a few Nicca branded lenses that I’ve seen so it’s not an impossible thought.

As always, thanks for your visit. Do you have something to add? I’d love to hear and see anything related to this dynamic period in Yashica’s history. – 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.

Yashica’s First 35mm Cameras – 1958-59

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From a rather hard to find (OK, kinda rare) sales brochure (above) from late 1960 or early 1961.

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The Yashica 35 YK (identified here simply as the “K type”) is the least expensive of the cameras and was produced in large numbers starting in June 1959. The camera is marked with the “YK” on the front right of the body in gold while the top has Yashica engraved in it next to the serial number (pictured below).

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Yashica 35 K type – aka the YK

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The Yashica 35 (above) was the first 35mm rangefinder camera from Yashica. In this brochure, the marketing department has added an “S” as part of the description of the camera (f2.8 lens). It appears from my translation that the “S” may have to do with something about the lens – either a new coating or some other design feature(s) which makes it new. Of course, it may be simple marketing hype as the 35 was getting on in years by this time.

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The Yashica 35 Fair-Way (YF) is the only one in this series that was given a name that I’m aware of. It’s also the only one marked Yashica and Nicca. It was a transition camera as Yashica had just acquired Nicca in 1958. It’s one of the most expensive in this series to acquire as sellers recognize the relative rarity of the model especially in mint or excellent condition.

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Yashica’s first interchangeable lens 35mm rangefinder camera – basically a Nicca in Yashica cladding.

The Yashica 35 E type (above) is also known as the Yashica YE which is engraved in the top plate. Here again, it’s a case of the marketing department manipulating the name of the camera – either to make it appear as a new model of it may be that the Japanese market tends to simplify the names of cameras. I believe that the unifying theme here is that Yashica wanted each of these cameras to feel connected to one another. By using the common name Yashica 35 “X” type the cameras couldn’t be mistaken for anything but a 35mm camera from a company known for TLRs and 8mm movie cameras.


My one and only Yashica YE


Thanks for stopping by and be sure to visit my shop at for some classic collectible cameras and photo gear. – 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 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???


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.


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.


Exposure counter and film reminder dial.


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