Chasing a Classic from Yashica – Yashica Flex AS-II

I first spotted this lovely camera on Etsy way back in November 2020. At that time the seller was in a bit of a funk and we couldn’t put a deal together. Now after four short months of watching it sit I made an offer and they accepted. Yeah! Chasing classic cameras is as much of a hunt as it is a waiting game.

This TLR was made by Yashima Kogaku Seiki Company, Ltd. (later Yashica) around November 1954 based on its early serial number.

The selenium cells are located behind the nameplate flap.
Flap in the open position. The cells inside sent a small electric current to the built-in exposure which is mounted on the left side of the camera.
A close-up view of the exposure meter which was made by Sekonic (Seiko Electric Instruments Industry, Company).
The lens on the bottom is called the taking lens and the one on top is the viewing lens. Both lenses were made by Tomioka Optical for Yashima. The shutter was made by Copal and as I mentioned earlier, the exposure meter was made by Sekonic.
A view inside the film chamber shows the serial number – No.31147. The serial number in the first edition of the user’s guide is 30126 and another AS-II that I own is 30302. BTW, there was a roll of unexposed Kodak film inside as a nice bonus.
My first and earliest AS-II showing the lowest serial number found in the wild. Take notice of the “Made in Japan”.

If you would like to know more about Yashica’s earliest days then my good friend Paul Sokk’s site is the place you want to go – you can find Paul’s site at

Back to the chase. I wanted this AS-II but the seller didn’t offer much information about its overall condition or whether it even worked. It was listed with the complete contents of an old leather camera case so there were lots of goodies inside along with the camera. Sometimes you’ve got to follow your instincts and go for it. A lack of info can add some excitement to the chase! The camera also had it’s original case which was sort of welded to the camera. The case even left some of its green crud behind as you may be able to see on the exposure meter housing.

Bonus! A roll of unexposed Kodak Verichrome Pan (VP-120) film inside.

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

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Yashica Flex AS-II by Yashima Optical

One of the original group of 6 cameras that Yashica (Yashima Optical Industries Company, Ltd.) made in the early to mid 1950s. This AS-II was introduced in 1954 and featured a built-in (well, attached) light meter. They’re solid cameras these early Yashica TLRs, and in our opinion, had some underrated features as well as great lenses. The light meter was made by Sekonic by the way.


Yashica Flex AS-II with built-in light meter (just visible on the camera’s left side). The light meter’s cells were located under the nameplate and were exposed by lifting up the nameplate flap.


The AS-II featured Yashimar lenses that were made by Tomioka Optical for Yashica. A Copal shutter with a blazing fast 1/200 top speed!

If you’re in the market for a vintage Yashica TLR then the AS-II should be on your list. Be advised that most will not have a working light meter – if you get one with one it’s a bonus. They are a bit hard to find – 63 year old cameras don’t often look this good or work perfectly. We were lucky as we were able to purchase this one from a collector in the US for a reasonable price.

Taken on the US Post Office steps in downtown Fernandina Beach, Florida. The post office dates to 1911.

Camera: Samsung Galaxy S4


1954… Yashica Flex Model S

When Yashima started making twin-lens reflex cameras in a small factory along the shores of Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture, they were but one of hundreds of “start-ups” entering the already crowded Japanese camera manufacturing business. Many would fail – and fail quickly they did. But little Yashima, with two brothers from Nagano at the helm, managed to take a big step – to make a second and then third camera.

The first was the Pigeonflex (great name but how do you grow with a name like that), then came the Yashima Flex and Yashica Flex B. In 1954 (late) they built the now famous Yashica Flex Model S. The first TLR in the world with an attached exposure meter! Yep, in the world! None of the already established players had produced one like that. The meter was supplied by Sekonic and screwed to the side of the body and hidden light sensors under the name flap sent electricity to the meter. Bingo. Meter and camera merged! 1954


Cropped scan from a rather rare (in the US) Yashima sales flyer for the Yashica Flex Model S. It’s one of the earliest pamphlets around for this camera.

The light sensing cells were built-in under the flap that was the nameplate. You would open the flap and the maximum amount of light would strike the cells and send an electrical signal to the meter  (#1 above). You then used # 2, 3, 4, and 5 to “compute” your exposure settings. Simple except that you needed the eyesight of an eagle to actually see the numbers on the scale. It it was real sunny out, you didn’t need to lift the flap to get an accurate reading – there were 12 holes in the flap that would let in enough light to set the exposure.

In a testament to the designers, many of these early exposure meters still function even after 6 decades of use. But, many have fail too mostly caused by a failure of the wire to meter connection. The cells are fine (no batteries, sun powered).

As always we appreciate your visit. We’re glad to share some of our collection of early sales material and of course to chat up our Yashima-Yashicas. In the spirit of fair play, we ask that you do not copy or post our images in your blog or post without our permission. Thanks.

Chris & Carol