When you chase down something for over forty years the payoff should be special – it was! It’s not like these beasts are rare, if I had had a few more bucks in my pocket back in 1978 I could have purchased it for around $400 at the Navy Exchange in Yokosuka along with my F-1. But being an underpaid and over-deployed Sailor there’s only so much money to throw at cameras when there were hi-end stereos still to buy. ^.^
No one I knew at the time (including myself) needed one of these – they were meant for professional photographers and I was certainly not that. But how could a 25-year-old “camera bug” not want it? Just look at it! Crazy big but powerful and that sound it made when burning through film at 3.5 fps – wow! The F-1 was already a monster to lug around and this bit of motorized mayhem would add over 2 pounds to an already strained neck.
Yum-yum, eat ’em up!
So after 40 years I broke down and bought my Canon Motor Drive MF on eBay from a large camera retailer on the West Coast. I believe I got it at a great price – $60 plus shipping for a fully working and in nearly mint condition. I’m very happy with it and yes, it’s still a ridiculous piece of camera hardware but it harkens back to another time and place in photography and that makes it worth it.
It’s almost as big as the camera itself!
A gentle reminder that when in the continuous mode that the shutter speed range is from a low of 1/60 to a max of 1/2000. Single frame allows shooting down to 1 second.
It looks great on my original F-1 from 1978 and it’s a fun reminder of those heady days back in Japan when I wanted anything that could be attached to the F-1. After 40 years it just feels right! Merry Christmas to me.
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.
Some of the original accessories that were available for the new Pentamatic…
When Yashica’s first single lens reflex (SLR) 35mm camera hit the world markets in the May-June 1960 time period, they were ready with a host of well designed accessories. From simple screw-in filters to extension tubes and the new bayonet mount lenses, Yashica had a nice selection to choose from. Here are just a few examples…
Pentamatic ‘Right Angle Finder’ for low angle and close-up photography. This simple finder mounted securely to the camera’s eyepiece and had adjustments for focus and could be rotated 90 degrees to the left for vertical copy work. The image is reversed so it does require some getting used to. Here it’s mounted to our Pentamatic-S.
A small collection of boxes gives some idea as to the diversity of the early accessories. Note the general theme of the design… each shows off the pentaprism design of the camera. The right angle finder box appears to be from a slightly later design as it has a different look from the other two.
Pentamatic ‘Extension Tubes’ mounted on our Model-S Pentamatic camera body and Auto-Yashinon 5.8 cm (58 mm) f/1.7 standard lens. The lens is super bright and is super heavy! Camera and lens weigh-in at 2 lbs 5 oz (1056 g)!
Very early if not the earliest printed in the US sales brochure for the new Pentamatic.
We’re thinking the summer of 1960…
We haven’t found an earlier brochure that features the Pentamatic then this one – “Printed in the U.S.A.” on the back cover using the 234 Fifth Avenue, New York 1, N.Y. address. The cover is amazing in that other than Yashica’s name and an image of the camera, there’s no other writing. No “Pentamatic” – just an image of the camera. That was a first for Yashica as best as we can tell.
The first magazine advertisement was June 1960 in the US so we don’t believe this brochure was out before that. The only problem with our thinking is that most of the other cameras featured inside this brochure are 1959 model cameras and in some cases late 1958. There could even be a few that came out in early 1960. The two pages we’ve scanned (see below) contain an interesting wealth of info on the features and accessories for the Pentamatic. Of note, the lens serial number (No. 59100036) puts that lens to be one of the first lenses Tomioka made for Yashica with the new Pentamatic exclusive bayonet mount – 59 = 1959, 10 = October, 0036 = the 36th made in the production run.
We know from our research that the October 1959 date for the lens is 2 full months early from the first Pentamatic bodies (December 1960). Our best guess is that Tomioka Optical (the maker of the lens) needed to start production of the standard lens early in order to meet the demand for the camera body itself. No proof exists yet but it’s the best decoding of the lens serial number we can come up.
Page 1 provides a wealth of info for Yashica’s first 35mm SLR.
Page 2 shows (with prices) a nice selection of accessories for the Pentamatic. It appears that at the time of this brochure that there were 5 lenses available in the Pentamatic bayonet mount.
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!
Recently we’ve come across a nice Yashica Pentamatic sales brochure from Germany. It looks to have been printed around early 1961 as another brochure that was with it (same style) is for the Yashica Rapide camera and it was introduced in 1961.
Yashica sales brochure for the Pentamatic. Nothing new about the Pentamatic is noted… probably came out in early 1961.
What is surprising to me is that only two other lenses are shown in this brochure besides the standard 5.5 cm f/1.8 normal lens. Surprising because by early 1961 Yashica had at least three other lenses for the Pentamatic that we are aware of. The 35 mm f/2.8 and the 100 mm f/2.8 pictured are fantastic lenses designed and built for Yashica by Tomioka Optical of Tokyo. It is possible that in Germany the other lenses were not available in 1961. Just a guess.
Full front and back cover scan of the brochure. The back cover shows various accessories available for the Pentamatic.
The Yashica Rapide brochure pictures two different flashes for the Rapide. The one on the right of the camera is identified as the Yashica Quick Lite 11 (or is it II)? Not sure on these as we’ve yet to find them in another brochure.
Scan of the back cover of the Rapide brochure showing two flash units for the Yashica Rapide camera. One identified as the Yashica Quick Lite 11 (???).
Prior to seeing this brochure, we were not aware of Yashica branded flashbulbs. We would love to find those and add them to our collection. Hint hint!
Another of our favorites in the Yashica family. This limited edition J-3 is rather rare to find in nearly new condition these days. We haven’t found evidence from Yashica of the when and why they chose this model to be their first SLR in black (with matching lens). In all the brochures and pamphlets we’ve been able to read, nothing has ever been written about it and no pictures from Yashica either. We’ve checked Japanese home market sales brochures and of course those available in English. Not one word! The serial numbers (both the bodies and lenses) run within a small time period of mid 1962 (we believe).
***Please if a reader has more information about this elusive J let us know!
J-3 finished a roll of Sakura film.
Not quite the heavyweight the Pentamatic is but still a beast at just over 900 grams!
Same family but very distant cousins! Yashica made countless changes in its SLR line-up in just under three years.