A long neglected (not by us) Yashica Pentamatic S is getting a much needed restoration and some re-imagineering by us as a top-level professional SLR.
A few peeks before the color coats get applied. Stripped of its hardware and sanded to slickness – 2000 grit sandpaper – she’s ready to shine again!
We love the hints of brass that are showing through the factory silver finish after the wet sanding. The Pentamatic family of SLRs have one of the sharpest looking pentaprisms around. Without a clunky accessory shoe on the top of the finder, the Pentamatics have a clean, modern design. This one is from early in the production run in 1961. It’s number 237 off the assembly line at the Yashica campus in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture.
Stay with us as we will post updates along the way!
Some time ago we purchased (through an online auction) what was listed as a rare black body Yashica J-5. The camera was sold by a well known camera dealer with a long track record of excellent prior sales. We know from our research and hands-on experience that Yashica’s first ‘Pro-Black’ 35mm SLR was the J-3 as we own two of them and have sold others that were in our collection.
I (Chris) knew that there was about a 99% chance that this J-5 was faked and I don’t have a problem with buying modified or restored cameras as long as it is disclosed as such. But I took a chance on this one even though there were numerous red flags about its originality. The bidding was through an online auction site in another country and my desire to own this ‘rare’ camera got the best of me. My purchase bid went for much more than a typical J-5 should go for and I actually paid more for it (not including the over-the-top shipping fees) than one would pay for a genuine ‘Pro-Black’ body (from the Yashica factory) J-3. In our years of research, we’ve never come across anything in print from Yashica about the black body J-3. No sales brochures (Japanese or English) have a mention of it – but we know that they did produce one a we’ve had a few and have kept track of them online in our database.
Prior to bidding on the faked black J-5, I asked the agent representing this camera if in fact was a genuine, previously unknown black J-5. His answer was that the seller said it was… no worries.
After looking at my new fake for some two years now, I’ve decided to remove the still fresh black enamel paint and reveal the satin chrome paint underneath its black mask. It was shocking just how easy the paint was to remove with alcohol and cotton swabs.
I wrote to the seller’s agent to complain that the camera was in fact faked and after some time (2 weeks) he came back with a no it wasn’t. Even with the pictures in front of them they denied that it was a re-paint. Oh well.
Clue number 1 – the presence of orange peel in the black paint.
As received from the auction. From a distance it looked to be all original. When I opened the shipping box the first time I could tell something wasn’t right, the smell of fresh paint! Got me!
So lesson learned for me… only trust in what you know exists… if it’s not documented elsewhere as existing then there’s a good chance it’s been faked. Ask lots of questions. But, and it’s a big but (pardon the pun), Yashica has never mentioned that they made a black body J-3 in 1963 so it was possible that they made a few black J-5s.
The good news in all of this is that this camera is now in the home stretch of a complete rebuild and will be better than ever. It has been re-imagined as a tribute camera to the U.S. Navy. Stay tuned!
Restoration challenge! Six decades of dirt, grime, soot and corrosion have taken their toll on this once beautiful Yashicaflex. There isn’t a part that escaped the corrosion – except the workings. The glass is just fine, shutter works, aperture blades are problem free – film advance works as does the focus.
I’m finally on the home stretch of this year plus project. My desire to re-imagine this camera into the modern age has been the biggest holdup. Actually I’m calling it an “interpretative restoration” – that allows the artist and designer in me to reconcile with the fussy photographer that I am.
Watch the blog over the next two weeks or so as I bring it all together for the final reveal.