The Yashica Pentamatic – Our 8 Year Search – Some Conclusions & Wild Speculations

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Some Conclusions

The first Pentamatic was “born” in December 1959 but wasn’t available for sale in the U.S. until April 1960. The Pentamatic was Yashica’s first 35mm single-lens reflex camera and was designed with the help of technology obtained from Yashica’s acquisition of Nicca Camera in 1958 and with some involvement with designers from Zunow Optical in 1959. Of course, Yashica designers were involved too as well as collaboration with Tomioka Optical for the first lenses.

Below is a scan of what appears to be the first sales brochure for the Pentamatic found in Japanese. A machine translation of it proves that Yashica and Nicca designers worked together to jointly develop the camera over a 3-year period. The exact date of this brochure has not been established but it appears to be at least issued in the Spring of 1960. Many thanks to my good friend Paul Sokk for his efforts in researching the Pentamatic with me over the years. His fabulous site can be found at www.yashicatlr.com

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Below is a scan of the cover of that first sales brochure that features the new Pentamatic.

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The original Pentamatic was a failure. A beautiful, sleek and modern camera at a great price, but still a failure. A replacement for it (Pentamatic II) was released by September 1960 – just a few short months after the original Pentamatic debuted.

The Pentamatic and the Pentamatic II were both out of production by January 1961. The Pentamatic S didn’t appear until around April 1961. Little was significantly changed over the course of these 3 models during this short timeframe. The Pentamatic II and its one-off lens improved on its semi-automatic capabilities. The body stayed the same with the exception of adding the engraved “II” after the name. No logic to this as Yashica could have simply made the new lens available as an option to the original Pentamatic. There had to be another reason to call it the model II and it appears that there were some internal changes made to accommodate the new lens.

The standard lens that was available for the Pentamatic II was designed and built (quickly?) by Zunow vice Tomioka. Our best guess at this point.

The Pentamatic II was only available for sale in Japan.

The Pentamatic S essentially was the replacement for the original Pentamatic – not the Pentamatic II. The model S added a lug for attaching an accessory exposure meter that coupled to the shutter speed dial. The S also added a self-timer and the body got a redesign (the strap lugs were moved to the front and the shutter release button was no longer at a 45-degree angle).

The Instruction Booklets

The booklets have been an additional source of fun separate from the camera searches. The booklet for the original Pentamatic was relatively easy to find. The first Pentamatic saw about 16,000 units made so the booklet is much more available. The Pentamatic II booklet was the hardest to locate since only around 5,000 cameras were made. The Pentamatic S booklet is even rarer – only around 3,000 cameras produced.

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Inside the booklets…

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Wild Speculations

Wild Spec 1 – The first Pentamatic was not initially released in Japan. Yashica had a slow go with its early production so only a limited number were available for the April to June debut in the U.S. There were only about 4,000 cameras made by then and that just didn’t support a wide release of it in their home market. However, with the discovery of the as yet undated sales brochure found by my friend Paul Sokk it does appear that some of the first Pentamatics were in fact distributed in Japan. We do feel that Yashica had a suspicion that the original model would not go over well at home. Why do we feel this way? During our quest of all things Pentamatic, we’ve yet to find an instruction booklet for the original Pentamatic in Japanese (or any other language besides English). We’ve seen no early 1960s advertisements either. Although we’ve yet to find these items that does not mean they don’t exist.

Wild Spec 2 – The Pentamatic II was only available in Japan and was never intended for widespread availability in the world marketplace. We further feel that the Pentamatic II was the camera Yashica intended to release in Japan vice the original Pentamatic. Why? Same thing… in over 8 years of searching, we’ve never seen a Pentamatic II instruction booklet in English and the only sales brochures we have are in Japanese. No English ads or brochures anywhere (yet). Update: As of April 2019 still no English ads or books.

Wild Spec 3 – The Pentamatic S wasn’t available in Japan. Crazy right? The same thing applies here – no Japanese advertising or brochures and no instruction booklets in anything but English. Again, not finding them does not translate to not being produced but the likelihood looks slim.

Wild Spec 4 – As we stated in the conclusions section above, the standard lens for the Pentamatic II (5.8cm f/1.7) was made for Yashica by Zunow Optical vice Tomioka. This flies in the face of what’s known and we don’t have solid written proof (yet, if ever). Both the original Pentamatic and the Pentamatic II ended production in January 1961. By coincidence, that’s the reported date of Yashica’s acquisition of Zunow (or their bankruptcy). Once Zunow went bust they no longer make lenses for the Pentamatic II.

Wild Spec 5 – Once the Pentamatic II stopped production, Yashica started selling the original Pentamatic in Japan (or at least increased its availability in Japan). We would still like to find a Pentamatic instruction booklet in Japanese to validate this thought.

Wild Spec 6 – Since the Pentamatic S wasn’t sold in Japan, there was a rather large gap in Yashica’s SLR availability. The next camera to be sold widely in Japan (and the U.S.) was the Penta J but that didn’t come out until the Summer of 1961.

These marketing and production missteps led to a less than stellar debut for Yashica in the world of 35mm SLRs. The competition during this same period was “inventing” much more sophisticated (and mostly more expensive) cameras which had a wider range of interchangeable lenses and accessories. It took Yashica a long time to establish a “foot in the door” with their Penta J and their first internally coupled exposure metered SLR, the Yashica J-3 (Jaguar).

Things we would like to find…

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The first thing we would like to discover would be an ad, sales brochure or instruction booklet in English for the Pentamatic II. We don’t think we will as we feel that they don’t exist.

We would like to find a Pentamatic instruction booklet in Japanese. They must exist but we’ve yet to find one.

Pentamatic S instruction booklet and a sales brochure in Japanese. Don’t think they exist but time will tell.

Pentamatic II box!!! They must exist – someone’s got to have one in their collection! Update: Finally found one but we missed acquiring it for our collection so we “borrowed” this image –

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Pentamatic (any model) in its original boxes in factory fresh condition. WooHoo!

***Solid proof that the standard lens for the Pentamatic II was made by Zunow Optical.***

Other than these things, I think we’re good! ^.^

Thanks for your visit! If you’ve made it this far in the post give yourself a big pat on the back! You just may be on your way to becoming a ‘Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic’!

Please stop by our online shop at https://www.ccstudio2380.com and check out some of our classic cameras available for sale.

We are active buyers of quality cameras and equipment – especially anything Yashica, Nicca, Fujica or whatever! Contact us at chriscarol@ccstudio2380.com

Please stop by our camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com

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.

Yashica Pentamatic I & II – 1960

The original Pentamatic ’35’ and the Pentamatic II. The original Pentamatic made its debut in March 1960 and was first available for sale in  April 1960 (production started in December 1959). The Pentamatic II was rushed into production in August 1960 and was only for sale in Japan. The only change between the two cameras… was the lens!

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The P1 (left) came with the Auto Yashinon f/1.8 5.5cm lens. The P2 (right) came with the Auto Yashinon f/1.7 5.8cm lens. The goal of Yashica was to improve on the semi-automatic operation of the lens over the standard lens on the P1.

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Serial numbers. The SN on the top camera is on the original Pentamatic camera body. The number, NO. 126013189 contains a date code and production sequence number. This camera was made in December 1960 and was the 13,189th camera made. The bottom camera’s serial number (Pentamatic II), NO. 126004171 decodes to: December 1960 and it was the 4,171st made since August 1960 (the start of production on the P2). 

So both of the cameras were in production at the same time in the same factory. We’re highly confident in our analysis of the serial numbers. We have enough examples in our database and enough experience in decoding Yashica serial numbers to say that we are 100% correct.

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The whole process of releasing the Pentamatic II was rushed – the top plates were only slightly modified to accommodate squeezing in the “II”. The engraving was moved about 1 mm to the left so as to have room to engrave the “II”. On the back of the camera it only took a change in the serial number engraving to reflect the P2.

The Pentamatic II didn’t get any upgrades to the body… no self-timer and no hot shoe. The lens is a totally different lens and we’ll cover those differences in our next post.

Thanks for your visit!

Studio Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S9900W

Chris

Finally! A Pentamatic II will be joining our Yashica family!

Success! After literally years of searching and countless missed bids, we’ve acquired a Yashica Pentamatic II. One of Yashica’s lowest production cameras – ever. Estimated at less than 5 thousand – and since it failed in the marketplace and wasn’t distributed outside of Japan, it wasn’t considered a collector’s camera and many were simply dumped whenever they broke. It’s hard to estimate how many exist today, but a wild guess would be around 1 to 2 thousand (and that may be high). Production started in August 1960 and for the most part ended in very early 1961 (late January) when the Pentamatic S came out worldwide.

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Yashica Pentamatic II – the hardest Pokemon of all to catch!

Our camera has the original short lived Auto Yashinon f1.7 5.8cm lens. It also has the correct leather strap and strap hangers and comes with the original Yashica metal lens cap and lower leather case.

This has been a long chase – but fun! The camera was sold as “junk” – Yahoo Japan Auction speak for a camera that is not functioning properly or has not been fully tested. Sometimes junk cameras are little gems and sometimes they are as the word junk implies.

We’ll have more about our exciting find in the next few weeks as our little Yashica sails or flies across the Pacific to our studio (at many thousands of yen).

Thanks for your visit and stay tuned!

Chris ^.^

Pentamatic II Brochure

We finally have our proof that the original Pentamatic ’35’ and the Pentamatic II were advertised and sold in the Japanese domestic market. This brochure is dated February 1961 which validates the general release date of the model II. We have proof (via advertisements and brochures) that the Pentamatic S was also available for sale in Japan towards late 1961 (September?). By the way, included is this photo stream is a nice aerial view of Yashica’s factory complex in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture.

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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

Yashica Pentamatic Timeline… update 3 (Oct 2017)

Our best timeline for the development of the Yashica Pentamatic 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) film camera… Pentamatic ’35’

Please note that this is a “dynamic timeline” and it will be updated as we discover new dates and developments…

  • Summer 1959… Yashica develops / invents its first 35mm SLR
  • September 1959… Yashica files to trademark the name ‘Pentamatic’ in Japan
  • October 1959… Tomioka starts production of a new lens for the Pentamatic. f/1.8 5.5cm
  • December 1959… First Pentamatics assembled at the Suwa factory
  • February 1960… Yashica files to trademark the name ‘Pentamatic’ in the U.S.
  • March 1960… Production reaches 1,500 units
  • March 1960… First showing of the Pentamatic occurs at a trade show in St. Louis… first images of the camera are provided by Yashica
  • April 1960… First published look at the Pentamatic in the May 1960 issue of Modern Photography magazine
  • May 1960… First full page advertisements for the Pentamatic ’35’ appear in the June 1960 issues of Modern Photography, Popular Photography and U.S. Camera magazines and the Pentamatic is available at Yashica dealers by early May
  • June 1960… Production reaches 5,000 units
  • June 1960… First review of the camera appears in the July issue of Modern Photography magazine
  • August 1960… Production reaches 9,300 units
  • August 1960… The Pentamatic II goes into production. Sold only in Japan
  • August 1960… Zunow produces a new lens for the Pentamatic II. f/1.7 5.8cm
  • Winter 1960-1961… The Pentamatic I and II are are both sold in Japan
  • December 1960… Camera dealers in New York advertise new Pentamatics at under $110 (USD)
  • January 1961… Production reaches 15,700 units
  • January 1961… The Pentamatic S goes into production
  • January 1961… The Pentamatic II ends production at under 6,000 units
  • February 1962… February issue of Modern Photography has only two advertisements for the Pentamatic and NO mention of the Pentamatic II or Pentamatic S
  • Late 1961… The Pentamatic models are replaced by the Penta J
  • End of Production… About 30,000 Pentamatic cameras (all models) are made over 3 years
  • August 1963… ‘Pentamatic’ receives trademark registration in the U.S.
  • Pentamatic Advertisement

    By January 1961, some pretty strong discounts on the original Pentamatic I. No Pentamatic S advertised.

    First Look?

    First look at the new camera in the May 1960 issue of Modern Photography.