Zunow SLR – 1958

Another look at this hyper-rare SLR.

Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic

One of the rarest early Japanese 35mm SLR cameras ever made. The Zunow SLR (below).

zunow beauty Zunow SLR 1958.

This gorgeous Zunow sold for a cool ¥ 1,880,000 (about $16,700 USD)!

The Yashica Pentamatic (below) just sold for $16,598 less!

DSCF6236 Yashica Pentamatic 35mm SLR. Yashica’s first ever. A cousin to the Zunow? We think so.

We believe designers and engineers from Zunow and Nicca played a big part in bringing the Pentamatic to market by early 1960.

Thanks for your visit! To find out more about Yashica and the Zunow connection stay a bit and check out our blog here on the ‘Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic’!

Chris and Carol ^.^

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.

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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.

 

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.

Yashica’s Ultra Rare “Yasinon” Lenses

Are these previously unknown lenses made by Zunow Optical?

My good friend Paul Sokk (www.yashicatlr.com) spotted a rather unique lens name in a Yashica catalog that I sent him. The catalog is from 1958.

yasinon lens box

Look closely at the two boxes in the lower center part of the scan. Plainly marked is the name “Yasinon” and Yashica. Just to the right are two boxes made in the same style that displays the lens maker “Zunow”.

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From the same year Yashica catalog here’s a grouping of three 8mm movie camera lenses – two marked made by Zunow and one marked with the name “Yasinon”.

What’s the most interesting about this discovery is that the name Yasinon was unknown to us prior to seeing these catalogs.

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Yashica’s first 35mm camera – the Yashica 35. If you look closely at the camera lenses you’ll see that they’re marked with the Yasinon name.

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Yashica incorrectly labels the lenses as Yashinon in the banners even though the lenses in the pictures say Yasinon.

Shortly after the marketing people put these catalogs together someone made the decision to change from Yasinon to Yashinon. It appears that some of these lenses have made it into the marketplace as Paul has shared some findings of such from Japanese auction sites. Of course, Yashica stayed with the Yashinon name from this point onward. Does this make the lenses marked Yasinon rare? In my view it does. Does it mean these lenses were made for Yashica by Zunow? Yes, in my mind it does. Do I have solid proof? No, but the circumstantial evidence points strongly towards Zunow as being the manufacturer.

yashica zunow cine lens

Further proof as to how close Yashica’s relationship with Zunow was.

The box above in my mind is super unique – it places Zunow’s logo with Yashica’s logo on the same box – not something that was seen during the late 1950s in Japan.

Comments? Do you have a rare Zunow hiding in your closet? If you do let me know – I am actively looking to add some to my collection.

Thanks

Chris

Yashica Pentamatic II – The Phantom

A new Pentamatic joins the family – this one was made in September of 1960.

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Seldom seen in the wild, Yashica’s “Phantom” camera – the P2

The Pentamatic II was fitted with a limited production lens made by Zunow Optical – a 5.8cm f1.7 Auto Yashinon with 10 aperture blades. It’s a massive camera with a ton (1,028 grams) of brass and glass.

It’s a distinctive design – very modern but classic at the same time. A clean pentaprism without the cold shoe mounted on it – in fact, the cold shoe (accessory shoe) is mounted on the camera’s left shoulder just above the hidden rewind knob.

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The serial number (NO. 96000944) indicates the “when” of this camera. The “9” is for September and the next digits, “60” is for 1960. The last 5 digits are the sequence number or production number. This one is the 944th made since production began in August 1960.

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A rather unique lens for its time – I feel that the lens was made by Zunow Optical for Yashica and was only produced in an extremely limited number for the short run of the Pentamatic II (about 6 months). This is one of Yashica’s hardest cameras to acquire – there may only be less than 500 of these (if that much) left in the wild.

Thanks for stopping by!

Chris

Was this beautiful lens, which was made exclusively for the Pentamatic II designed by Zunow Optical?

Simple Answer – Yes

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Yashica Auto Yashinon f/ 1.7 5.8cm lens designed exclusively for Yashica’s Pentamatic II. It appears for the first time in August 1960 and disappears from use by Yashica in January 1961. There’s no documentation about the lens and no hard evidence that Zunow made the lens. Hard evidence would be sales brochures or advertisements that specifically link Yashica and Zunow. Co-branding on the lens ring would have been nice but never happened. Unfortunately our claim that it was made by Zunow is, at this point in time, circumstantial and coincidental. Much more digging around needs to be done on our part.

The lens features the unique Pentamatic bayonet mount that couldn’t be used on any other SLR of the time without an adapter. That in and of itself could have been a major reason for the quick demise of the Pentamatic series of cameras.

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Two “clues” that link this lens to Zunow – the serial number style with its unique “No xxxxxx” vice the more typical serial number style that Tomioka used “No. xxxxxxxx” at the time (as did most lens makers). Another clue, the style of the lowercase “a” in Japan. Most Zunow lenses used a fat “a” vice the keyboard style lowercase “a”. We know, these are hardly the type of clues needed to link the two but they’re good ones for now.

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Close-up of a Zunow made f/ 1.8 4.5cm lens for the Yashica Lynx-1000 (1960). Note the fat “a” and distinctive serial number style.

Could the f/ 1.7 5.8cm lens have been made by Tomioka Optical? Of course, Tomioka was the almost exclusive lens supplier to Yashica since the beginnings of Yashica in 1953. We feel that Tomioka had their hands full making nearly 1,500 lenses per month for Yashica’s first Pentamatic model (which was still very much in production at the time), and then taking on this lens at about 1,000 lenses per month for the Pentamatic II may have been a bit much for Tomioka.

This lens is so radically different in design and function of other Tomioka made SLR lenses of the time (Tomioka only started making lenses for an SLR in September 1959 with no known examples found before that).

Here’s a peek inside of this lens –

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It features quality construction throughout and what we feel is another Zunow cue, 10 aperture blades. The Tomioka f/ 1.8 5.5cm lens for the original Pentamatic has only 6 blades. We’ve yet to take one apart (soon).

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Pictured above is the f/ 1.7 5.8 Pentamatic II lens with its 10 aperture blades. Below, the front lens group removed from the lens barrel.

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Original sales brochure (below) dated February 1961 featuring the Pentamatic II and its very unique lens.

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Is All of This Enough to Prove a Connection to Zunow?

No of course not. Our claim is a merely a starting point for further discussions and discoveries. We hope to disassemble the Tomioka f/ 1.8 5.5cm lens that was made for the first Pentamatic and compare it to this f/ 1.7 5.8cm lens for the Pentamatic II. By the way, the Pentamatic II was only available for sale in the domestic markets in Japan. There’s no evidence that it was ever exported. We do know that Zunow Optical and Yashica did have a working relationship by the mid 1950s with Zunow supplying high quality D mount cine lenses for Yashica’s 8mm movie cameras (see below).

yashica zunow cine lens (2)

Thanks for your visit! Comments are always welcome and your input is important to us. This post is designed to stimulate discussion as to the validity of our assertions. Heck, we may have missed significant clues along the way that would either prove or disprove our claim.

By the way. A special shout out to my good friend and fellow Yashicaphile, Paul Sokk! Our frequent correspondence on this subject first planted the seed that this lens could have been made by Zunow. Paul rightly reminded me that the bankruptcy of Zunow in January 1961 coincided with Yashica stopping production of the Pentamatic II. Yashica is thought to have acquired Zunow after that and one would assume all of Zunow’s assets and debts.

Chris

Be sure to stop by our online store CC’s Studio Twenty-3 Eighty at https://www.ccstudio2380.com for some neat items of photographic interest! Thanks, C&C

Yashica Lynx – the ‘Wildcat’ in Yashica’s den!

We haven’t paid much attention to rangefinder cameras here on the “Fanatic” – it’s not that we don’t find them interesting – quite the opposite, many rangefinder cameras associated with Yashica are groundbreaking and historically significant and are worthy of further research.

The Yashica Lynx – aka the Lynx-1000. It was the first in a long line of successful fixed-lens rangefinder cameras from Yashica in the early 1960s. The first Lynx was made in May 1960 based on the serial number of the camera in an early sales brochure (in English below).

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We find early sales brochures extremely helpful when attempting to place a date of production of a camera. In this case, the serial number NO. 650048 would indicate that the Lynx was first produced in May 1960 (6 = 1960, 5 = May, 0048 = number 48th made).

This early box (below) confirms that Yashica referred to the camera as just the Lynx vice Lynx-1000 when it was first released. The success of the Lynx paved the way for the subsequent versions of the camera.

Yashica Lynx Box

Yashica Lynx Box 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decided to get a Lynx mainly because of the reputation of its fast Yashinon f/1.8 4.5cm lens. The Lynx we received (below) has a working shutter and super clean glass. The camera’s exposure meter does not work which is typical for these nearly 60-year-old cameras.

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An overall clean example but missing an important piece – the rangefinder window is obviously missing with some damage visible to the internal pieces of the finder (top center above the lens).

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Our camera was produced in August 1960 and was the 723rd made.

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This lens (our camera) features a unique serial number (only 6 digits long) and is in a font that’s not consistent with earlier versions or versions that came later. We feel that this type of lens was made by Zunow Optical vice Tomioka Optical.

The lens on the Yashica Lynx has earned high praise and its reputation amongst photographers is top-notch. For the time period having a fast f/1.8 aperture combined with a leaf shutter (Copal-SV) with a top speed of 1/1000 second was a nice feature in a low-cost rangefinder.

***There is some chatter on more than a few Japanese blogs that some of the earliest lenses for the Lynx were made by the Zunow Optical Company. The majority of the lenses were made by Yashica’s normal lens maker, Tomioka Optical of Tokyo. No verifiable references or links are given in these Japanese blogs as to the source(s) of this claim – it would appear that at this time it may be a case of one blogger makes the claim and others simply followed suite. We’re not disputing these claims, in fact, we’re intrigued by them and have set out to either prove or disprove them. Zunow has an interesting place in the Japanese camera industry of the 1950s. In early 1958, Zunow made one of Japan’s first modern 35mm SLR cameras with a semi-automatic lens and instant return mirror. Interestingly the Zunow 35 and the Yashica Pentamatic 35 (Yashica’s first 35mm SLR –  1959) share a related look and design style that goes beyond coincidence. More on this in another post.

Back to Zunow Optical and the possible connection to the Lynx. Below is an example of a very similar looking f/1.8 4.5cm lens from Zunow made in about 1959 and was fixed to the Neoca-SV.

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Zunow f/1.8 4.5cm lens on the Neoca-SV. Compare the lens ring font with the font on the Yashinon lens pictured earlier in this post. To us, these were made by the same manufacturer.

One of the biggest clues for us that some of the Japanese bloggers claim that Zunow and Tomioka made the lenses for the Lynx are the similarities of the serial number fonts. The lens with the serial number No 40450 (Zunow pictured above) is in the same style as the serial number on our Yashinon lens (No359708). We have another Lynx headed our way with what we feel is a Tomioka version of the lens. We’ll take both lenses apart to see if there are differences in the design.

Thanks for stopping by! If you have additional information about anything we’ve blogged about please feel free to contact us. We’re never too old to learn something new!

Chris and Carol ^.^

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Zunow lens on the Neoca-SV

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Zunow? lens of the Yashica Lynx.