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

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

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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 –

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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.

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a man, a watch, a camera

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Mr. David Yulee as seen in downtown Fernandina Beach

Yashica Pentamatic S 35mm SLR mated with the sharp 5.8cm f/1.7 lens which I believe was designed by Zunow. No direct written evidence to support that claim but the design cues are clearly more Zunow than Tomioka. The camera is from 1961 and the lens is from 1960.

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Yashica Pentamatic S with attached exposure meter.

Yashica’s first SLRs represented a steep learning curve for the company.

The original Pentamatic ’35’ was co-designed with Nicca Camera starting in 1958. The camera was groundbreaking for Yashica to be sure but a miss overall against the competition (think Nikon F). Yashica’s best was yet to come. I happen to appreciate the rock-solid construction of this often overlooked camera. The lens was only in production for six months and disappeared from Yashica’s lineup at the same time as Zunow’s demise (January 1961). It was the standard lens for the Pentamatic II. This was not the lens that was supplied with the S – Yashica went back to the 5.5cm, f/1.8

Shot with my Samsung Galaxy S4 – January 2015

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com for some great cameras and photo gear. – 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.

 

Pentamatic vs. Pentamatic S – Yashica’s Heavyweights

It’s time to revisit this post as it introduces new readers to the “wonders” of the Pentamatic series of SLRs from Yashica. Chris

Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic

The Pentamatic was Yashica’s first single-lens reflex (SLR) and was released in 1960 (May-June) timeframe. The Pentamatic S was released about mid to late 1961. Not much changed between the two – the S model added a built-in self-timer and most notably, a provision for mounting an exposure meter to the top right of the camera that coupled with the shutter speed dial. Other small changes were to add lugs for holding the neck strap (moving them from the extreme right and left sides of the body on the Pentamatic to a more typical front mounting on the S). Unseen from the exterior is a change to the focusing screen inside the pentaprism. The original fresnel screen in the Pentamatic was replaced with a split image screen in the model S. For me, that change makes the Pentamatic S much easier to focus and improves the brightness inside the viewfinder.

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Rare Yashica Pentamatic S Box – c1961

The Yashica Pentamatic S was the last camera in the Pentamatic series of Yashica’s first ever 35mm SLR. We believe that the S model was first produced (by serial number) in April 1961. Approximately 3,200 units later, Yashica stopped producing the S in March 1962.

The Pentamatic S was sold in the US as we have a sales brochure (in English) that features the model S along with the Yashica Penta J and Yashica J-3 (Yashica’s first m42 mount bodies). We’ve never seen an advertisement for the model S in any of the major camera magazines of the period. We aren’t aware of any sales brochures in Japanese either for the model S and we’re not sure that it was available in Japan. No solid proof one way or another yet.

So with all of that said, the Yashica Pentamatic S was produced for an extremely short period of time in very limited quantities (about 3,200 total worldwide). That alone makes finding the original box for the model S quite a rare find. So here it is –

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It’s also one of the few Yashica camera boxes that feature a photograph of the camera on the box.

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Back of the box specs for the model S.

Another interesting item (to us) is the lens that’s pictured on the box. By serial number, it was made by Tomioka Optical for Yashica in October 1959 and it would have been first used on the original Pentamatic ’35’. The model S went back to using the original lens on its newest model – all part of the general confusion at Yashica during an extremely busy period in the history of the company.

If you have anything relating to the Yashica Pentamatic S, please feel free to share it with us. In addition to being Yashica researchers we’re buyers of almost anything relating to Yashica. Contact us here or at chriscarol@ccstudio2380.com

Thanks for your visit! Chris ^.^

Please respect that all content, including photos and text are property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2017 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

 

Yashica Arrivals – Pentamatic S & 635

As if the collection needed more Yashica anything – but collections are dynamic things and as such, something “new” arrives which paves the way for a duplicate(s) to go.

Although we have some very nice Pentamatic-S models in the family, this one is close to mint new and is in fully working condition (including the “no name” exposure meter). So we’ll take a hard look at the others and decide which will be listed for sale in our online store.

The Yashica-635 is another story.

The first one we acquired (about a year ago) looked perfect – new in fact – but it had a fatal flaw – the shutter was jammed because the “M-X” lever was in the wrong position when someone tried to use the self-timer. That one was sold for parts. This one came to us from England and was likely purchased new in Singapore in the late 1950s. A guess on our part but there’s a cleaning cloth with it from a camera store in Changi Village, Singapore which was located right outside the gates of the RAF Changi airbase. This 635 is super clean and works! It even came with the hard to find large Yashica-635 carry case in excellent condition. We can’t wait to try the 35mm feature on it.

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The Yashica-635 is a dual format TLR which was released in 1958 (this model) and the Yashica Pentamatic-S came out in early 1961 – possibly January (this one September 1961).

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Much more to come on the Yashica-635. We hope to restore the large leather carry case that came with it and we’ll do a complete feature on the dual formats. The ability to shoot 12 6x6cm negatives with 120 roll film and with a few easy change outs inside, switch to shooting a roll of 35mm film with the same camera. Cool.

Thanks for stopping by!

Studio Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S9900W

Chris

 

Pentamatic S on a walkabout.

Here’s one of our nicer S models outfitted with the “no name” add on light meter (clip on exposure meter) from Yashica.

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Another in Yashica’s short lived series of the Pentamatic 35mm SLR. This one c1961. Yashica’s first SLRs had a steep learning curve for the company. Groundbreaking for Yashica to be sure but a miss overall against the competition. Yashica’s best was still to come. We happen to appreciate the rock solid construction of this often overlooked camera… the Tomioka Optical “normal” lens focal length of 5.8cm was a bit odd but the bayonet mount lenses were sharp and attached very solidly to the body. This was not the lens that was supplied with the S – Yashica went back to the 5.5cm, f/1.8 lens. No batteries needed for either the camera or meter.

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The Pentamatic S wasn’t made in large quantities over a long period of time. Nice working examples are still available and some very nice collector quality examples are still out there. You are much more likely to find a Pentamatic S for sale than a Pentamatic II – probably by a 4 to 1 margin.

Happy hunting!

Chris

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.