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 http://www.yashicatlr.com

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 http://www.ccstudio2380.com (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.

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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.

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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

Chris

Yashica Super Yashinon-R f/3.5 13.5cm Telephoto Lens

Nice little addition to our Pentamatic family of lenses. Purchased in Japan and was with an early model Pentamatic’35’ set in “well used” but stable working condition. It came with the original Yashica brown leather case, unbranded plastic rear lens cap, Yashica front metal 52mm push-on lens cap, unbranded lens hood, and a very nice looking Walz chrome metal and glass Skylight C. (cloudy) 52mm filter.

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Pentamatic bayonet mount 13.5cm short telephoto lens… f/3.5 with rather low serial number. Early Yashica lenses were often given a serial number that starts with the focal length of the lens. In this example, ‘135 0722’ shows it to be a 135mm lens with a sequential production number of 722. Best guess is that this lens was made in early to mid-1960. We have another Super Yashinon-R 13.5cm lens with a serial number of ‘135 0927’.

The above image shows the lens partially disassembled for cleaning and inspection. No fungus or mold, but I’ve found some funky streaks on the face of the first removable lens element (large lens element to the right).

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The chrome nose removed.

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The main lens group removed. If you look closely, you may see the funky streaks across the face of the lens.

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Aperture blades set at f/ 22. No oil and no problems (looking into the lens barrel from the front of the lens). Note the 12 aperture blades.

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Here is a similar lens with the 12 blades that was for sale recently. The seller identified the lens as having been made by Kyoei Optical Co., Ltd.  using the brand name “Acall” Kyoei was also abbreviated as “KOC” which may be the reason for the red “K.C.”

New info as of Feb 5, 2020 – At first, I guessed that my lens was made by Tomioka Optical as they were responsible for most of Yashica’s lenses. A reader has pointed out the similarities between my lens and the design of the Acall lenses with both  Pentamatic and M42 mounts. I must say that I agree with them upon further review. Thank you for your input!

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Partially assembled body. Nice clear markings and solid-looking bayonet mount.

These first Pentamatic lenses were pre-set and not automatic and were the kings of the heavyweight division. Lots of metal and glass here! When properly stored they were not prone to fungus… but almost all classic lenses will have some sort of mold, dust or fungal issues when left in the dark and in their leather cases.

Thanks for the visit!

Chris and Carol

You’re invited to visit our online store at https://www.ccstudio2380.com for some great vintage and collectible cameras, lenses, and accessories.

Pentamatic S – 1961 to 1962

The Pentamatic S… the last true Pentamatic in the short lived series of SLRs from Yashica. The Pentamatic II is the hardest to find from a collector’s standpoint as they were only available for sale in Japan with the S close behind.

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The Pentamatic S. The last camera in the short lived Pentamatic series.

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Pentamatic cameras tend to have very well designed film paths and film chambers. We rarely find corrosion and the chambers are large and easy to keep clean. The Nicca inspired cloth focal-plane shutter in this example is super clean and shows no white mold spots.

The Pentamatic S pictured above, the serial number is NO. 140572. Our other S is NO. 140294. These numbers decode to… 1=1961, 4=April, and the last four digits equal the sequential production numbers. The S models were not produced in great numbers so it is possible that both of these cameras were made during the same month as they are within 300 units of one another. Another serial number in our database is… NO. 141796 which suggests that it was the 1,796 th unit made in April of 1961. Interestingly the serial number of the model S in Yashica’s instruction booklet is NO. 140893. It is odd that the camera in the booklet has a higher production number than two cameras we own.

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The only difference between the S and the original Pentamatic ’35’ is the notch in the shutter speed dial on the S. It is used to couple the clip-on exposure meter to the dial.

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The biggest changes in the S from the original… the shutter release button is no longer at a 45 degree angle but its position on the body is the same. The S adds a self-timer and the light meter (exposure meter) lug on the face just below the shutter speed dial.

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The lug for the neck strap has been relocated to the front from its previous position (on the side). It’s interesting to note that this lug is super corroded while the lug on the other side is not.

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As we mentioned in the previous post on our blog, the Pentamatic series of cameras are prone to mirror lock-up. This S is currently in the locked-up position and has resisted my attempts at freeing it. It had been working at the higher shutter speeds (1/125 and higher) but now it sticks at all speeds. Ugh!

In summary… the Pentamatic S is a very worthy camera and is built like a tank. The S went back to using the Auto Yashinon f/1.8 5.5cm lens which was the standard lens on the original Pentamatic ’35’. The Tomioka Optical built lens is sharp and smooth. The S allows for the attachment of a separate exposure meter on the front lug (where the “S” is) and can couple with the shutter speed dial. Still a long way from TTL metering but at least headed that way.

Thanks for your visit!

Chris and Carol

Please visit our online store at https://www.ccstudio2380.com for a nice selection of classic film cameras and vintage photo accessories.

Pentamatic ’35’… 11.3.2016

The tank that is the Pentamatic ’35’.

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A nice example of an everyday shooter. This one was made in May of 1960 and looks like it saw some regular use. The Auto Yashinon lens is spotless inside and shows a nice patina on the barrel.

The Pentamatic pictured above shows some signs of frequent past usage. Some bright marks on the silver finish, a few dings and dents here and there… some bits of surface corrosion but nothing broken or inop. Per the serial number on the body and on the lens, this camera and lens set were made in May of 1960. The body was the 4,410 th to roll out of the factory since production began in December 1959.

The Pentamatic and its standard lens – the Auto Yashinon f1.8 5.5cm is a beast! Lots of brass and glass went into making these beauties. We love the chrome nose on the lens… a quick swab with some 91% isopropyl alcohol and it shines like new.

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As is typical with these 56 year old cameras, the mirror tends to show some grime and “soot”. A very very gentle swab with water and some dish soap does a good job with the dirt and some of the soot but the mirrors never really come fully back to their original shine.

The metal lens cap (52mm) is quite solid and is backed with black felt like material. Occasionally you’ll find some pretty dented up caps but since they were so well built you’ll more than likely find a good example out there.

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The Nicca Camera Company (Taiho Optical Company) inspired cloth focal-plane shutter. Simple and pretty rugged. This one has some white spots on it as most do… we tend to leave them be rather than trying to clean the them off.

This one (above) has a nice clean film path and film chambers. They’re easy to keep clean with a cotton swab and some canned air. Don’t blow directly on the shutter curtain with the high pressure air!

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Since the Pentamatic with lens weighs nearly 2.5 pounds, the base plates usually take a beating. This one is rather good and has held up well!

If you’re interested in adding a nice Pentamatic’35’ to your vintage camera collection, hopefully we’ve shown what a super clean but well used camera looks like. Be careful when you’re shopping around – the mirrors often get stuck in the up position. A few little adjustments (and some lube) usually get them working again but they’ll remain “tricky”. Obviously look for evidence of severe damage – a major dent that prevents something from operating properly would be one to definitely stay away from. The lenses often freeze up do to lack of use… a short time with a hair dryer can often get them moving again.

Best of luck on your search! Any questions please feel free to contact us.

Many thanks, C&C

Nicca Pentamatic!?

We know… doesn’t make sense, does it? Doesn’t even sound right… “Nicca Pentamatic”.

Stay with us and we’ll try to make our case. Recently discovered information has filled-in some of the missing links in the development of our favorite obsession camera. The mysterious and seldom seen Pentamatic ’35’… Yashica’s first SLR.

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Nicca 3-F 35 mm rangefinder (left) and Yashica Pentamatic 35 mm single-lens reflex SLR (right).

A few interesting bits of info have come to our attention recently. We were alerted to an auction by our friend Paul Sokk (http://www.yashicatlr.com) that listed a 13.5 cm f/ 2.8 lens made by Taiho Optical Company –  Nicca Lens. Having never heard of the company, Taiho Optical, and knowing about Nicca’s history, we couldn’t figure out where and how there could be a Nicca connection.

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Let’s backtrack a bit with a quick history lesson. Yashima-Yashica was a very successful maker of high quality, low-cost twin-lens reflex cameras but hadn’t moved into the 35 mm market as of early 1957. It appears that the president and founder of Yashima-Yashica, Mr. Yoshimasa Ushiyama could see that although Yashica was successful building TLRs, the market for them would slowly diminish as new, smaller and easier to use 35 mm cameras would grab the marketplace. He wanted in but how? Yashica had no experience in 35 mm cameras, especially rangefinder cameras with cloth focal-plane shutters. There were dozens of Leica copy cameras in Japan (and the world for that matter) but possible patents protected specific manufacturer’s shutter designs. If he could buy into an established company then he could use their shutter design and incorporate it with early Yashima-Yashica designs. In May of 1958, an opportunity presented itself. Nicca Camera Company was apparently experiencing financial difficulties and may have been on the brink of bankruptcy. Nicca cameras were well known and well respected – they made high quality 35 mm rangefinder cameras with focal-plane shutters. They used Nikkor lenses with the L39 screw mount. Mr. Ushiyama was in a rush to purchase Nicca before they went belly up. Advisers cautioned to wait until Nicca went bankrupt arguing that they would be able to acquire it for a better price. Mr. Ushiyama knew that that outcome of a bankruptcy could take longer than he was willing to wait and there would certainly be more suitors to compete with. So the deal went through… sort of. As best as we can glean from our research, a “religionist” “admonished” Mr. Ushiyama for rushing into the deal and cautioned that Yashica itself would suffer a “decline” if all of the transfer were made immediately.

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Yashima-Yashica founder Mr. Yoshimasa Ushiyama.

OK, OK! We give!!! We share your feelings dear reader –  what’s the connection between Nicca and the Pentamatic? Taking the advice of the religionist, Mr. Ushiyama created a new company. Nicca would become Taiho Optical Company. Say what? Nicca wasn’t absorbed into Yashica in May of 1958, instead, they became another company that could continue to operate with Yashica but without becoming Yashica. Simple. Confused? Mr. Ushiyama listened to his adviser so nothing bad happened. It appears that the former Nicca employees were now free to develop new processes and designs with the financial and technical support of the much larger Yashica. What did Yashica get for its money? Plenty it would seem. Access to years of 35 mm rangefinder manufacturing experience and access to a proven focal-plane shutter. Important steps in building a 35 mm single-lens reflex camera. We don’t know (yet) which one of the two companies came up with the design of what would become the Pentamatic. Was it mostly a Yashica design that had been kicking around for a while lacking a focal-plane shutter, or was it mostly a Nicca design that lacked the financial means to bring it to market? We feel that it was more than likely a 60 – 40 split with Nicca as the 60%. Just a hunch, no facts at the moment.

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Pentamatic’s focal-plane shutter. Thanks to Nicca.

But what did the Taiho Optical Company make? Yashica didn’t make their own lenses, Tomioka Optical of Tokyo did. Was the former Nicca, now that it had become Taiho Optical, going to suddenly start making lenses? At the start of this blog, we mentioned that we were alerted to the existence of a 13.5 cm lens for sale with the Taiho Optical Company-Nicca Japan markings. Other than that, nothing.

So when did Mr. Ushiyama merge the two companies? He apparently listed to his adviser and waited eight long years before merging the two. From 1960 (when the Pentamatic was released) until 1968, when he not only made Yashica whole, but he also acquired long time lens supplier Tomioka Optical.

Now we know how the Pentamatic came to be and why it could be called the Nicca Pentamatic.

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Thanks for sticking with us. Comments? Likes?

Chris and Carol