a Yashica classic – Pentamatic ’35’

Yashica’s first ever 35mm SLR. Designed with the help from Nicca, the first Pentamatics were produced in late 1959 and made their debut in the US by the Spring of 1960. Tomioka Optical made a majority of the lenses that were used on all three models of the camera – Pentamatic ’35’, Pentamatic II, and the Pentamatic S. My good friend Paul Sokk has written an excellent piece about the development of this important camera for Yashica. Paul’s site can be found at http://www.yashicatlr.com/Pentamatic.html

Thanks for stopping by and have a happy and safe day!

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

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, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
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Studio Fun – A couple of first’s from Yashica

On the left, the Yashica ’35’ released in 1958 was Yashica’s first 35mm rangefinder (fixed lens) camera and on the right the Pentamatic ’35’ which was Yashica’s first 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. The Pentamatic was designed in 1959 and released by the Spring of 1960. Up to this point Yashica was know for building high-quality value priced twin-lens reflex (TLR) cameras. These two handsome examples are proudly displayed in my collection. The good news if you’re chasing these classics are that the rangefinder model is readily available online with many excellent examples for sale. The Pentamatic is not hard to find but chasing down a solid working model is a bit harder.

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

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, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

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Friday Fotos! – Yashica Pentamatic lenses

These two lenses are by far the earliest lenses made by Tomioka Optical for Yashica’s new Pentamatic ’35’.

Decoding the serial numbers, the lens on the left was made in October 1959 and it was number 92 in the production run. The lens on the right was made in December 1959 and it was number 1,630 in the run.

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

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, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

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My first post…

First Look!

CHRIS AND CAROL

The exciting first look (in print) of the Pentamatic…

First official appearance of the Pentamatic occurs in the May 1960 issue of Modern Photography magazine. In the June 1960 issues of Modern PhotographyU. S. Camera and Popular Photography, the first full-page ads appeared for the Pentamatic ’35’ reflex camera. The actual release date in the United States has almost always been considered by many to be March of 1960.

As of yet, I haven’t found evidence in print to support the March date. I do know that the Pentamatic was shown at the 36th annual ‘Master Photo DeaIers & Finishers Association’ trade show (MPDFA) held in St. Louis from March 21-25, 1960. I don’t know if the Pentamatic was released in Japan at an earlier date. From the progression of the serial numbers, by March 1960, about 1,500 cameras had been produced since production began in December 1959 at the Yashica Suwa factory. I doubt that there were enough cameras by March to support any widespread release in Japan or in Asia at that time. By June 1960, about 6,000 cameras had been built. There may have been enough to ship to the world markets starting in April and May. At their peak of production (summer 1960), it looks like Yashica was rolling out about 1,200 to 1,400 cameras each month.

Have a “Camera Holiday” in Japan. May 1960 magazine ad.

Part two of the “Camera Holiday” in Japan promotion. Very nice mention of Yashica’s factory in Suwa and the wonders of Japan!

Yashica provided this first ever look at their new Pentamatic SLR at the March 1960 MPDFA trade show in St. Louis.

First published look at the new Pentamatic from Yashica. May 1960

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

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, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

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Yashica YEM-35 Meter & Pentamatic ’35’

The Pentamatic was unique in the fact that the accessory shoe was located on the camera’s left side just above the rewind lever. Since the Pentamatic didn’t have TTL metering adding a separate meter was as easy as simply sliding whichever model you wanted on. Of course, the meter wasn’t coupled with the camera so you would set the camera’s aperture and shutter speed according to the meters readings.

Vintage view with the meter attached to the accessory shoe.
Sears catalog ad from 1961.

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

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, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

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Yashica Heavyweights – 1960s glass & brass

Here is a fun visual comparison between three early Yashica cameras.

Yashica’s first 35mm SLR released in early 1960. The Pentamatic 35 with its fast f/1.8 lens was a neck breaker to be sure.
Yashica’s first modern 35mm SLR released shortly after the end of the Pentamatic series in 1962.
First released in 1964, the Yashica Mat EM (Exposure Meter) was and still is a very popular TLR (twin-lens reflex) 120 roll film camera. It features a built-in exposure meter powered by selenium cells. The meter on mine is still working and is accurate when shooting negative films.

What’s the heaviest camera in your collection? Not pictured here I’d say my fully decked out Canon F-1 with a motor drive and big f/1.2 lens is crazy heavy. I’ll have to dig it out and post the results here soon.

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

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, Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2021 Chasing Classic Cameras with Chris (Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic), Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

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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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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 with 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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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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Earliest known sales brochure for the Pentamatic ’35’. The best guess is that it was printed in the Spring of 1960.

Yas inside P1 bro

A machine translation of this page from inside of the brochure states clearly that Nicca and Yashica developed the Pentamatic.

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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. – 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.

Copyright © 2015-2019 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

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

Yas inside P1 bro

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

Yas Cover P1 bro (1)

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 –

yashica P2 Box

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.

Time Capsule – 1960

yashica pentamatic set

The original Pentamatic.

A nice example of Yashica’s first 35mm SLR – the Pentamatic. Also known as the Pentamatic ’35’ in its earliest advertisements and sales brochures. This particular camera is from August 1960 – the same month that Yashica started production of the Pentamatic II – a model that was destined for the Japanese home market and not for world export. The Pentamatic II stayed in production only until January 1961 when it was replaced a few months later with the Pentamatic S. The original Pentamatic was first produced in December 1959 but widescale production didn’t begin until January 1960. As of this update (Oct 11, 2018), I still haven’t found evidence of an instruction booklet printed in Japanese – only English booklets so far. I would think that there must be booklets in Japanese and at least 2 or 3 other languages but none found. The Pentamatic II booklet is in Japanese and no English editions have been found.

As always, thanks for stopping by and please check out my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com – 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.

Copyright © 2015-2019 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

My First Pentamatic – the quest begins

It was “love” at first sight! Well, kinda like love – more like a very strong attraction.

The starkness of the Pentamatic’s design caught my eye straight away. Here was a Yashica the likes of which I’d never seen before.

I thought I would share a very popular image of my first Yashica Pentamatic. I say popular because it’s been viewed more times than anything else I’ve ever posted on my Flickr page.

yashica p1 in blue

Designed in middle 1959, Yashica’s first 35mm single-lens reflex camera is a stunning beauty. It appears it was a collaborative effort between Yashica and Nicca with some “help” from the designers at Zunow. The first lenses for the Pentamatic were made by Tomioka and most carried the Yashinon name – a few, like this one, sported the Tominon branding along with Yashica’s Yashinon name. By the way, the serial number on this lens is fairly easy to “decode”. The first 2 digits indicate the focal length of the lens – in this instance, the lens is a 3.5cm wide angle so the first digits are “35”. The next 4 digits are a simple production number that I’m guessing started at “0001”. This lens would have been the 246th lens made (0246).

Thanks for stopping by! I hope this little tease is enough to cause you to explore my blog (and Flickr site) to learn more about the Pentamatic and its sister models – the Pentamatic II and the Pentamatic S. – 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.

Copyright © 2015-2018 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.