Yashica YE & YF

The first and last Leica Copies

Contents

(Scroll down or click on Links)

Setting the Scene
Japanese Leica Copies - a Potted History
Nicca Story
Yashica YE

Yashica E, Fact or Fiction

Yashica YF
Serial Numbers & Production

Yashica YE
Yashica YF
Why this Information Probably Looks Different to What You Have Read Elsewhere

Lenses

Two Standard YE 5 cm f/2.8 Yashikor Lenses
Standard YF 5 cm f/1.8 Yashinon & Super-Yashinon Lenses
5 cm f/2 Yashikor
Who Made the Standard f/2.8 & f/1.8 5 cm Lenses?
Accessory Lenses

10 cm f/2.8 Super-Yashinon
13.5 cm f/3.5 Super Yashinon

Accessories

Setting the Scene

When Yashica acquired the struggling Nicca Camera Co. Ltd. in May 1958, it had just released its first 35 mm camera, the Yashica 35 fixed lens rangefinder in April 1958. This fixed lens between lens leaf shutter camera had very little in common with Nicca's interchangeable lens focal plane shutter Leica copies and the timing suggests that Nicca was unlikely to have had any role in the model's development or production.

After the Nicca acquisition, sale of the new Nicca III-L model continued into 1959 before Yashica re-released the Nicca 3-F/Type 33 and III-L as the YE and YF respectively. How much production there actually was in this period probably depended on levels of stock that had been produced for the model's impending release. Some sources claim that the Nicca III-L was not released until June 1958, i.e. a month after acquisition. A comprehensive brochure, probably prepared before release, has no Yashica branding at all, an ad has a simple “Yashica” in one corner, but note, both feature Yashica's head office address. So all III-L sales do seem to have occurred under Yashica ownership.

What of the Nicca Type 33 which is said to be the forerunner of the Yashica YE? The Type 33 is claimed to have been released in “early” 1958. An ad (further down this page) and a brochure still feature the address of Nicca distributor, Hinomaruya. Neither the Type 33 nor its direct ancestor, the Nicca 3-F, feature in any of Yashica's advertising nor does the Yashica address appear on any found advertising material. Whether Yashica continued to sell the Type 33 until the YE release in early 1959 is unknown.

The timeline is interesting. Yashica seemed to be happy to keep selling the Nicca III-L (and possibly Type 33), probably ticking along at fairly low levels and then in 1959, as the development of the Pentamatic SLR must have been approaching production ready, Yashica seemed to feel the need to rush out the YE, 99% Nicca 3-F/Type 33 based, and spend a few more months modifying the III-L into the YF, more in looks than anything substantial. Why? By now, sales of all Leica copies must have slumped to a trickle. Perhaps Yashica was hoping to do better because of its sharp pricing and the new lenses would have helped. Or, perhaps Yashica had a marketing urge to gain some brand recognition for more advanced 35 mm models before unleashing the Pentamatic into the SLR market.

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Japanese Leica Copies - a Potted History

What is a Leica copy? Leica copies generally follow the design parameters of the German Leica designed by Oskar Barnack and launched by Ernst Leitz in 1925. A basic criterion is the use of 35 mm film using 24x36 mm negative frame sizes (a few of the models mentioned below started smaller, e.g. Nikon, not a Leica copy, and Minolta) and the use of the 39 mm Leica Thread Mount (LTM) interchangeable lens mount. The shutter must be focal plane - nearly all examples copied the Leica cloth type fairly closely. Most Leica copies end up looking like a screw mount Leica, either the earlier slightly smaller stamped body type (typically Leica III and earlier) or the later larger die cast type (typically Leica IIIc and later), the Minolta 35 and some later variations by the more prolific makers, less so.

As an aside, in 1937, Tomioka seemed to have produced a couple of prototypes of what looked like a Leica Copy complete with 5 cm Leitz Elmar-like collapsible lens but it wouldn't qualify because it used 127 format roll film.

The first Japanese 35 mm camera and sort of Leica copy was the “Kwanon”, later Canon, which appeared as a prototype in 1934 and was released as the “Hansa Canon” in 1936. The earlier models sought to be different from Leica because of patent concerns and it wasn't until after the War that Canon initially more or less met Leica specs for what is considered a true Leica copy, particularly in regards to mount. By then, pre-War German patents had effectively been extinguished.

Approaching the War, desirable German cameras became difficult to obtain and close copies began to be developed without concerns for existing patents. We have already seen that with TLRs and 6x6 and 6x4.5 folding cameras. There are claims of many efforts that don't have surviving examples or may not even have made it into production. Of the better known examples that did make it, the first was the 1940 Leotax made by Shōwa Kōgaku. Its lenses were mainly sourced from Tokyo Optical, later Topcon (Simlar and Topcor lenses), with some from Fuji, however, at least three of its last normal lenses were branded “Leonon” and one has a part to play with the Yashica YF, as we shall see further down the page.

Nicca was next in 1942 (story below). Aside from Canon, which developed its own unique features and style, and Nikon, if considering interchangeable lens rangefinder cameras rather than just Leica copies, Leotax and Nicca are generally considered to be the best of the rest. However, perhaps that mantle should belong to the Minolta 35 introduced by Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō in 1947. It seems to be largely ignored, perhaps because by some definitions it is on the margins of what is considered to be a true Leica copy. But it was a better mousetrap. Then followed the Tanack (1952), Melcon (1955) and Honor (1956) cameras, the first two with opening backs, the Honor with removable back. Apart from the backs, they were faithful Leica copies but some of the later models did things differently, e.g. the Melcon II is a Nikon copy but with Leica screw mount and rounded ends.

Although the Nikon rangefinders are not Leica copies per se, Nikon had a very important role in the category. For the record, the 1948 Nikon I copied the Contax II look and bayonet lens mount but also used the Leica cloth focal plane shutter type and modified Leica style rangefinder. Whilst the Nikons would eventually prove themselves as highly desirable and successful professional level cameras, Nikon's greatest contribution was its Nikkor lenses, also first used on the early Canon cameras (pre-LTM and also early LTM) before Canon developed its own Serenar series. In addition to the early Canon lenses and its own Contax mount lenses, Nikon made LTM lenses from the late 1940s onward. They were standard fitments on both the Nicca (most post-War models) and the Melcon models (Nikkor f/2, an f/3.5 Hexar was a budget alternative on the initial Melcon).

Due to some fortuitous circumstances, Nikkor lenses were highlighted on the world stage during the Korean War. They surprised professional photographers and in some cases, were regarded to be equal to, or even superior to, their German counterparts and almost certainly outperformed them in terms of price/performance ratio. By the mid-1950s, the Nikkors signaled the beginning of the end of the world-wide dominance of the German photographic industry and the beginning of the rise of the Japanese. There were other highly regarded Japanese lenses too by now and the changeover was about to accelerate with the Japanese enthusiasm for developing the SLR from a niche product to mainstream mainstay of both professionals and photography enthusiasts alike. By the end of the 1950s, most of the Leica copy makers had exited the market, or were about to, the specialised and highly developed Canon 7s remaining until 1967.

In 1959, into the now difficult interchangeable lens rangefinder market place stepped Yashica with its Nicca based YE and YF models. In 1960, it too departed but left behind more surprises than most people realise.

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Nicca Story

The origins of Kōgaku Seiki-sha (Optics & Precision Co.) date to 1940 when it was founded by former employees of the company that became Canon (source: Camera-wiki.org). In 1941, it received a military order to design and build a 35 mm Leica type camera, the first model being delivered in 1942. All its cameras would be Leica copies, typically bottom loading and with separate viewfinder and rangefinder viewing windows except on the final model. They were initially named “Nippon”, a name also then adopted by the company, and then from 1947, “Nicca” with the company again soon changing its own name to match. The Nicca, Nicca Type 3, Type 3A, 3B and 3S only differed in small details like flash sync. The various Type 3 models also seem to be interchangeably called Model III-A, Model III-S etc. Versions of various models were branded for their importers and sold mainly as “Tower” (Sears, Roebuck & Co.) but also as “Peerless” (re-branded Nicca Type 3) and “Snider” (re-branded Nicca Type 5, unique to Australia).

The first models were based on the earlier, smaller bodied Leica III with front mounted slow speed shutter dial (much the same as the earlier Leica II series bodies without slow speeds), later models starting with the Type 5 and 5-L (lever wind) on the slightly larger die-cast Leica IIIc-IIIg body, probably inspired by the IIIf. Below is a size comparison between the earlier Nicca Type 3-S (on right) and later 3-F (on left), released in both knob wind (1956) and lever wind forms (1957 or 1958, the top plate having higher shoulders like the Type 33 in the brochure and YE further below):

(Images courtesy of Chris Whelan)

Apart from one Nicca branded f/3.5 5 cm collapsible Elmar copy (rare, probably not Nicca produced but not the same as the also rare Nikkor of this type), and the Nicca branded f/2.8 50mm lens on the late 33 model, standard and accessory lenses listed in post-War brochures were Nikkors, making the cameras very attractive options. The bodies themselves are well regarded as Leica copies.

After the Type 3 variations, the early bodies culminated in the Type 4 with the shutter speed increased to 1/1000. The new body Type 5 and 5-L (note, “Type” is no longer included in the 5-L model name on the top plate) continued with the higher speed and also added the Leica M3 idea of a trapdoor in the back to aid with film loading. Oddly however, on the Type 5, the design is side-hinged and different in detail to both the Leica M3 and Nicca III-L and its Yashica YF sibling whilst the 5-L is top hinged in the style of the M3 and basically the same as the III-L and YF. There are other differences too, like the black metal band above the leatherette on the front of the Type 5 but not there on the 5-L. They are more different models than a variation.

Confusingly, at this point Nicca nomenclature reverted to having a form of “3” in the model name. The 3-F looks like an attempt to reduce the price point of the camera with the Type 5's/5-L's back trapdoor and 1/1000 top speed being deleted. The 5-L's lever wind also wasn't initially available but returned later, in either 1957 or early 1958, I'm not sure whether as a replacement, or as an optional model (no additional version identifier on the top plate).

The final Leica IIIf look-alike model was the Type 33 released in early 1958 (no name on the top plate, “Type 33” label inside on a base plate label). Why “Type 33”? A Japanese blogger has suggested it is named for Showa 33, the Japanese calendar year for 1958. Although similar to the 3-F with lever wind (I'm not sure whether to replace it or supplement it), this version featured a flash sync of 1/60 instead of the 1/25 on the 3-F and a cosmetic change with the top plate of the larger body type no longer continuing down to the sides of the lens mount. The biggest change was the dropping of the Nikkor standard lens in favour of the f/2.8 50 mm Nicca branded item. Speculation has surrounded the source of this lens. Camerapedia claims it is a rebranded Fujinon and whilst the cosmetic appearance is certainly similar, there are key differences too such as the Nicca has curved aperture blades and the Fujinon straight blades and the ribbing on the Nicca aperture ring is on the higher ridges whilst on the Fujinon it is in the hollow valleys. I would say that I agree with Japanese Wikipedia that the source of the lens is unknown.

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on ad for larger view)

The last release, the III-L (III-L in earlier advertising, IIIL where it appears with Yashica's YE below), is still a Leica copy under the skin but the top plate design is very different and the camera features some innovative ideas.

(Detail from III-L brochure)

The top plate is quite flat across the top but it is taller too to accommodate the larger combined viewfinder/ rangefinder and its windows with parallax corrected projected frame lines (for a 50 mm lens only whereas the Yashica YF also has them for 100 mm, or 105 mm depending on which Yashica ad/brochure). The film advance is no longer on the top plate but operates through a slot on the side and like the 5-L, the camera back now contains a large top hinged Leica M3-like flap to assist with film loading. Below left is the younger sibling Yashica YF flap compared to the inspiration on the Leica M3 on the right:

(Detail from larger web images)

Like the Type 33, the slow speed dial was retained but the flash sync speed dropped to 1/30 instead of the 33's 1/60. The standard lens continued to be a Nikkor f/2 50 mm, or the optional f/1.4 version. The practical advantages outweighed the concerns about the appearance and some have described it as a Leica M3 with screw mount but the classic size and look were gone and that main shutter speed dial seems both a little odd and awkward.

Even under Yashica ownership, the III-L was still sold by Sears as a “Tower” model.

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Yashica YE

Dismissive commentators often refer to the YE as a “relabelled” or “rebadged” Nicca Type 33. It's true that the body is about 99% Nicca but at least let's get the facts straight! The Type 33 was a derivative of the 3-F with lever wind, the headline changes being the dropping of the Nikkor lens, a new visually simplified top plate and an increase in flash sync speed. The YE takes the 3-F lever wind body and its Leica IIIf-like top plate, uses the “modern” shutter speeds progression from the Type 33 but sticks with the 3-F's 1/25 flash sync upped slightly to 1/30 as a result of the change in speed progression, uses the Type 33's black background inserts for the frame counter, main shutter dial and re-wind knob but uses new plain finishes and ribbing on the round bits on the top plate (frame counter on lever wind, shutter button surround and re-wind knob) which are different to the knurling on both the 3-F and Type 33 (the 1% Yashica contribution) and adopts the slow speed shutter dial design from the Nicca III-L. The 3-F featured Nikkor lenses, the Type 33 an f/2.8 Nicca and the YE an f/2.8 Yashikor of different appearance and in all likelihood, different manufacture. The lenses are the major point of difference between the three models. In my mind, the correct way to look at the lineage is to call both the Type 33 and YE as derivatives, or same generation children if that makes it easier, of the 3-F. It's just that one child is a little younger.

Because the basic specs (f/2.8 and 5 cm) are the same, some have wondered wether the Yashikor is the same lens as the Nicca with a new barrel but this is probably unlikely as the Nicca has 9 curved aperture blades and the Yashikor has 6 straight blades for a hexagonal aperture.

With the Type 5 and 3-F already, Nicca had changed the look of its ever-ready cases from the earlier Leica derived cases with a perfectly round, tubular, lens cover to the more “modern” 1950's swoopy designer look of the Leica IIIg case. Yashica obviously didn't like what Nicca designers had done to the the cases (and the 33 itself) and Yashica's case design invoked the earlier look in an updated interpretation, complete with chrome dress ring on the front and border trim on top. Type 3-S case, Type 33 case (the 3-F is similar but without the model name embossed in the back, the Type 5 is quite different to the others with a chrome trimmed moulded hard leather case) and Yashica YE case (the YF case is not that different to the middle Type 33 case):

(Details from larger web images)

All the branding on the camera is Yashica and there is no mention of Nicca in the ads or brochures which only feature this model by itself (there is a Yashica ad with the Nicca III-L and Yashica YE together, see below, but even then, there is nothing to link the YE to Nicca, unlike the later YF with “Nicca” on the front).

Most see the flash sync speed reduction as a feature downgrade but I wonder if there was a technical issue. Shutters up to this point had been mainly limited to a top speed of 1/500 (1/1000 on the Types 4 and 5) and before the Type 33, a flash sync speed of 1/25. Both the premium Nicca III-L and Yashica YF upped the top speed back to 1/1,000 but the sync speed on both was also lowered to 1/30 from the Type 33's 1/60.

(Scanned brochure courtesy of Chris Whelan)

Click on cover for 2 page PDF

In my research, I have found no English language ads, brochures, user manuals or other documents for the YE and I have to wonder whether this model was ever officially exported.

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Yashica E, Fact or Fiction

Guide to Classic Cameras claims that the “Yashica YE was originally launched under the name of Yashica E in 1959.” The Google translation of Japanese Wikipedia also claims that the camera was released as the “"Yashika E" (later "Yashika YE")”, however, no reference is cited. I guess the possibility is there that following the release of the Yashica D TLR in November 1958, the YE may have been intended to be called “Yashica E” but I have not been able to find any verifiable sources to support the claim. On the other hand, “launched” may mean “announced” which at least makes it more feasible than meaning “released”. The earliest camera found is 128004 (Japanese brochure), probably the 4th camera made (possibly pre-production but no longer prototype). It would have been very early from before the production of stock for the impending release. It is marked YE already so I can't imagine a Yashica E (as in Leica copy, not TLR) being released, in case anyone is hoping to find one. The earliest production camera found is 12804x. As explained in Serial Numbers & Production below, cameras with a “128” prefix were likely made in December 1958 in preparation for the 1959 release so a 1959 launch as the “Yashica E” seems extremely unlikely.

There is also a fair possibility that the confusion actually arises from Yashica's domestic marketing practices. My serial number theory suggests that production of the YF didn't start until YE production ended, so well after the model names were supposed to be settled. Several Japanese sites seem to agree. The English language user manual for the YF says “Yashica 35 YF Instruction Booklet”. The Japanese version cover has “Yashica Instruction F 35” in English with the “F” in a box and “35” by itself even though the companion camera box from the same set is clearly marked “YF”:

(Detail from larger web images)

I am yet to see the Japanese YE manual, perhaps it is similar?

In the same vein, the following advertising of accessories for several other models is taken from the YF “Fair-Way” ad near the bottom of this page. We know that it is at least from 1960 because the main ad features the YF with Super-Yashinon lens already and one of the items below mentions the Minister model which was released in 1960:

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

The main title on the left is “Special Accessories”. The first item is marked “Lens Hood for Yashica 35” and advertised as fitting the YK and YL with f/2.8 lens but note, the ad does not use the “Y” for the model names. Neither does it for the Yashica YE lens hood featured next and advertised as being for “Yashica E type”. The filters fit the f/2.8 YK, YL & Minister but again, the “Y” is omitted. Finally, there is a reloadable film casette for the “Yashica E type”.

Bearing in mind that the examples so far are all from well after the release of the YE, here is a page from perhaps a slightly earlier brochure but still from after the YK and YL release:

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on brochure page for larger view)

Presenting the “Yashica 35 E” (engraved YE on the top plate), “Yashica 35 L” and “Yashica 35 K”. Personally, I think that the myth that it was released as the Yashica E and then changed to YE is busted. But on the other hand, the Japanese market seemed to know it as that. At least some of the time. Here is another page from a brochure featuring the “Yashica YE” and also the “Yashica 35 YL” (only the YE is shown on this page, the YL is on the Yashica 35 page) and of course there is also the YE brochure a little way up the page:

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on brochure page for larger view)

So apart from confusion, what was the idea that Yashica marketing was trying to convey?

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Yashica YF

(Detail from larger web image)

Clearly, the Yashica YF was released after the YE. Below left is part of a larger Japanese Yashica ad featuring the Yashica YE together with the Nicca III-L still with its Nikkor lens. The YF, above, is different in appearance to the III-L but is basically the same camera, now with Yashinon f/1.8 5 cm lens, later called “Super-Yashinon” (see Standard YF 5 cm f/1.8 Yashinon & Super-Yashinon Lenses below) and sometimes also found with an f/2 5 cm Yashikor:

(Detail from larger web image)
(Note, the address is given as “Yashica Nicca Camera Co., Ltd. Tokyo. Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-8”, which was Yashica's head office. Nicca became the wholly owned subsidiary Taiho Optical Co. so the Yashica Nicca Camera Co. reference is unusual and not something I understand yet. It is also mentioned in another Japanese YE brochure. Perhaps the company was a subsidiary for marketing of the LTM models.)

Whereas the Nicca III-L had a unique, spartan, appearance, the Yashica appeared to be to be channelling the Leica M3 look more vigorously and for some, the alloy viewfinder frame on the front is an unnecessary design flourish. Nevertheless, the stepped top plate did lower the shoulders of the camera and made it look more compact. There were other detail changes too, like reverting to a manual re-set frame counter from the III-L's Leica M3-like counter and removing the film speed reminder dial from the back. On the plus side, the viewfinder did add parallax corrected frame lines for 100/105 mm lenses (depending on which Yashica ad or brochure). Even though the YF seems to have arrived after the YE and Yashica had more significantly altered the camera in its own image, “Nicca” was proudly displayed on the front of the top plate above the slow speed dial whilst “Yashica YF” was displayed on top in the same place as on the YE.

The example below has a non-standard Nikkor 5 cm f/2 lens mounted:

(Images courtesy of Chris Whelan)

In Japan, the camera was advertised as the “Yashica 35 Fair-Way” (see also below):

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

The Singaporean importer, “Tithes” Dental & Photo Supply, Ltd., advertised it as the “Yashica YF-Nicca” in the 29 September 1959 edition of The Free Singapore Press. The US ad below in Modern Photography, January 1960, makes no reference to Nicca at all and the “Nicca” on the front of the camera is covered up! Another early US ad for the Yashica-Mat and YF together (publication and date unknown) doesn't just cover the name - it is missing completely. It is again proudly displayed in a 1961 Sears catalogue (by then, it must have been old stock).

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on ad for larger view)

I suspect the Nicca name was still there to give credibility to a camera made by a company better known for low priced TLRs. Perhaps the marketing dynamics may have been a little different in the US with Yashica really pushing its brand recognition and value for money equation over the previous two years and maybe Nicca was less well known than in Japan. On the other hand, contributor Chris Whelan points out that perhaps it was a prototype and the “Nicca” decision was still to be finalised. The lens is almost certainly a prototype or a pre-production unit - the serial number is 910004 which is obviously early, but also still in the Yashikor format (see Serial Numbers & Production below) and “Yashica” and “Japan” are lower case whereas on production lenses they were upper case.

Headline specs are also listed in the ad. Note the projected parallax corrected frame lines are quoted for 50 mm and 105 mm lenses (as also in the Sears catalogue and some other places) whilst most blog sites generally refer to the outer frame line as “100 mm”, not that it makes any practical difference. However, the bloggers do have some support from Yashica in this US brochure:

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on brochure page for larger view)

So is it 100 mm or 105 mm? I don't know but having just been sent a Japanese brochure scan by Chris Whelan which says 100 mm, I'm starting to think that is more likely. Why use 105 mm if you are going to offer a 100 mm lens? Unless of course there was a late change...

Many bloggers claim that the full area of the viewfinder, i.e. including the part outside of the frame lines, matches the field of view of a 35 mm lens. The May 1985 edition of Japanese “Camera Collectors’ News” also mentions this and claims that the magnification has been reduced to .7x to accommodate the wider view. Interestingly, the Sears catalogue mentions that an accessory finder for both 35 mm and 135 mm lenses is included. This begs the question of why offer a 35 mm finder if the camera viewfinder had been consciously adapted to suit?

The yellow cornered brochure page also mentions the availability of two lenses; an f/2.8 35 mm wide angle and an f/2.8 100 mm telephoto. That is not exactly what have been found so far. Hold that thought and wait until Accessory Lenses further below.

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Serial Numbers & Production

So far, all camera models that Chris Whelan and I have looked at from mid-1958 (and most from September 1957) into the 1970s (1980 for the Yashica Mat-124G) exhibit body serial numbers with a date code followed by a production number which counts up from zero, e.g. each month for TLRs and for the entire model run with the Pentamatics and early SLRs. The two Yashica branded rangefinders were produced for a short period only but I'm assuming that similar numbering rules apply.

The format and overview is at Yashica YE &YF Serial Numbers on the Serial Numbers page. Below is a more detailed analysis.

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Yashica YE

Based on 92 examples so far, found YE serial numbers seem to begin in December 1958 starting in my database with 12804x (fits with an early 1959 release in line with other sources, Guide to Classic Cameras suggests “first introduced in March, 1959” - see note below). It looks like the serial number on the Yashica 35 brochure above is 128004, probably a pre-production example. Chris' and my starting assumption, based on success with other much longer running models is that “12” represents the month and “8” represents the year, as in 1958. That means that the production sequence number is only 3 digit, not much head room but not to worry. In my database, they reach 12897x, so the first month looks like less than 1,000. The next number sequence is 19000x to 19088x. We presume that “1” is January and “9” is the year again as in 1959. It looks like the sequence numbers have started again, as with monthly production. However, that is not the case and from this point they steadily increase until the end and with the extra digit available, the limit available is now 9,999 instead of just 999. In effect we have a total 1958 production figure (albeit, only one month) and a 1959 production figure.

The following prefix numbers (the “date code”) behave predictably with the following sequences; 29, 39, 49, 59 and 69 being observed as the production sequence numbers tick over ever upward. The final number is 69992x, or the 992xst/nd/rd/th camera made in 1959 and it was actually made in June. Total 1958 to 1959 production is between 10,901 and 10,998 cameras and ran from December 1958 until June 1959 inclusive. This is a tabular representation of how I think the number patterns work, based on the serial numbers I have collected (serial number 128004 is from a Japanese brochure):

Serial No. Prefix
Sequence No.
Production
From
To
Year
Number Made
128
004 93x
1958
97x
19
000x 084x
29
110x 244x
39
274x 396x
49
417x 542x
59
561x 659x
69
753x 992x
1959
992x
Total
10,901

 

Yashica was not big on using date codes for its lenses but they do appear in some serial numbers (see YF lenses below for example). All the Yashikor f/2.8 5 cm lenses, fitted as standard, have 6 digit serial numbers commencing with either “81” or “91”. They begin with 812, suggesting that they are going to follow the body's pattern but then they keep going; 813 and 814 before the new series start with 910 and rises to 919 at the end. The “8” and “9” could refer to 1958 and 1959. Or not. As noted further below, there are some significant actual and claimed differences between lenses from the two series. In any case, the prefix number is only the first two digits (the “81” and “91”) and the rest is a sequence number that seemed to start at around 2000 (just to confuse us!) with the lens on the camera in the YE brochure above being numbered 812006 and another in the multiple lens background design being numbered 812079. The earliest I have found in the wild is 81207x. They count up from there to 81496x but then start again from presumably zero when changing to the “91” prefix (earliest “91” lens found is 91003x). Regardless of the high start point for the first series, the sequence numbers seem to be continuous and the total (taking off the 2,000 start point) is pretty close to a match for body numbers (using found serial numbers, approximately 11,000 bodies and approximately 12,000 lenses is pretty close).

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Yashica YF

YF numbers require a leap of faith but remember, Chris Whelan and I have found no Yashica camera models or types in the 1958 to early 1970s period that don't follow some sort of date code followed by a sequence number and usually there are lots of examples with months spanning both single digit (as in “9” for September) and double digit (as in “10” for October) formats.

The numbers in my database (57 cameras) range from 47004x to 49618x. The last 4 digits clearly count up from zero to 618x. What of the first 2 digits? I think that “4” represents the year 1959 and that the second digit is this time the month. Why “4”? A Japanese blog site about YE & YF serial numbers makes the link between 1959 and the Japanese calendar Showa 34, details at Yashica YE &YF Serial Numbers (in fact the author and I seem to be totally on the same wave length about serial and production numbers). I think that Yashica wanted the serial numbers to look different to the YE numbers and there is also very good evidence on the Serial Numbers page that Yashica used “4” to signify 1959 for the months of October to December for all TLR models in production. This is what the number pattern looks like to me:

Serial No. Prefix
Sequence No.
From
To
47
004x 071x
48
107x 290x
49
306x 618x

 

Therefore, in my view, total production in 1959 was just over 6,000 cameras and ran from July to September 1959 inclusive. In regards to actual release and on-sale dates, one Japanese blog site claims that the YF was not released on the Japanese market until December 1959. An article by Hiroshi Sugawara in Japanese “Camera Collectors' News” of November 1999 claims that the Fair-Way (YF) was not released until February 1960. That would be in Japan and a month after the Pentamatic. The US ad further above was featured in the January 1960 edition of Modern Photography. However, the earliest ad that I have found is in The Free Singapore Press newspaper of 29 September 1959. Apart from those dates, I have found nothing more specific. Also, I have found only one ad or brochure where the YE and YF appear together so it does look like maybe the YF followed the YE with little, or no sales overlap.

As far as I can tell from ads, brochures and found copies, the higher spec Yashinon/Super-Yashinon f/1.8 5 cm lens was fitted as standard (two cameras in my database have the f/2.8 Yashikor but they may, or may not, be later replacements and there is another third 5cm lens, see Lenses below). Lens numbers in my database all begin with “59” and are either 7 or 8 digit. I assume that the last 4 digits are again a sequence number, that makes the prefixes “595”, “596”, “597” and “5910”. They look suspiciously like year and month to me with only “598” and “599” for 1959, August and September, missing (either I haven't found any yet or there may not have been any made in those two months or there were only very few made). The months broadly align to the camera production months so that is reassuring but I am confused by the sequence numbers. My database comprises 47 of the Yashinon/Super-Yashinon f/1.8 lenses which is enough to see patterns forming but unfortunately too small to answer some of the questions.

May numbers, “595”, seem to count from zero up to 225x. There are only two June numbers for which the sequence numbers are both 039x so the count seems to have begun again. July sequence numbers start from 162x and rise to 241x. I don't know if the earlier July numbers are simply missing from my search results, weren't issued or the July count starts from where June may have left off. The next serial numbers in my database are 59725xx to 597301x (July, sequence numbers 25xx to 301x) which herald a name change from “Yashinon” to “Super-Yashinon” - there are no changes to the lens' cosmetic appearance. The prefix numbers then change to 5910 (I'm guessing October) and the sequence number seems to continue on from 475x all the way to 643x (serial number 5910643x).

If 643x represented lenses produced, it is in the ballpark of the 618x bodies suggested by the body sequence number so perhaps at some point, lens sequence numbers changed from counting months to counting the total? Whilst it seems that Yashica could have used a date code for production, lens numbers generally behave far less predictably than body numbers and lens date codes are certainly the exception rather than the rule.

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Why this Information Probably Looks Different to What You Have Read Elsewhere

The best and most comprehensive site I am aware of for Nicca models, including the Yashica YE and YF is this one http://corsopolaris.net/supercameras/nicca/nicca.html. The author claims that both cameras were made from 1959 to 1960 and that Yashica made 4,000 YE cameras and 10,000 YF cameras. Some of these claims are repeated elsewhere.

First up, the start of production is in the ball park and there is no doubt that the cameras were not on sale until 1959. I don't disagree with the cameras still being for sale in 1960 but in my view, production of the YE ceased at the end of June 1959, being replaced by YF production from July until October. These seem like very brief production periods. Yes, but even so, they only represent a few thousand cameras per month, barely ticking over for a production line that may have been needed for the upcoming Pentamatic.

Secondly, in terms of total numbers, the website claims that Yashica made 2 1/2 times as many YFs as YEs. Anyone involved in researching these cameras or trying to buy one will confirm that comparatively, examples of the YE are fairly easy to find and that examples of the YF are much harder despite the YF clearly being advertised in the US and Singapore at least with no evidence of the YE being sold anywhere but Japan. I don't know how the author extrapolated production numbers from serial numbers but I think that my approximate 10,900 YEs and 6,200 YFs is closer to the mark. Another useful Leica copy website by Ian Norris myweb.tiscali.co.uk/iannorris/home.htm repeats the above numbers but at least acknowledges that the serial numbers are “not continuous”. However, there is no evidence that he has seen the prefix/sequence number pattern and sought to decode them. He also notes the beginning and end serial numbers which differ slightly from me by missing the first 12xxxx range for the YE and for the YF, he surprises me by going down to 450xxx compared to my 47004x as the 4 digit sequence numbers clearly count up from zero and therefore camera 47004x is in the first day or two's production. However, it could well be be there were a small number of earlier already serial numbered pre-production cameras which have found their way into circulation (there is an example quoted on the Pentamatic page and several pre-production examples of the still-born Yashica Hi-Mec TLR model seem to have escaped). Or the “5” in 450xxx could have been a misread “8” for example - numbers can be very hard to work out from low resolution photos.

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Lenses

I thought that I was pretty clever and had sorted out lenses more than I had seen anywhere else, that is until I came across a Japanese magazine “Camera Collectors’ News” article in the May 1985 edition written by Mikio Awano (a direct translation from Japanese would put his surname, Awano, first), entitled “Yashica YE-YF Interchangeable Lenses” (there is next to nothing about the YE and YF models in Camera-wiki.org but Mikio Awano's name and Camera Collectors' News articles are referenced in many other Camera-wiki.org entries):

We are in sync on the accessory telephoto lenses and pretty much so also on the standard “normal” lenses but I was totally surprised by the revelation that there are two different YE 5 cm f/2.8 Yashikor lenses. I knew that there were two series of numbers but that's it. I don't agree with him on everything but I'll point that out when I come to it.

Two Standard YE 5 cm f/2.8 Yashikor Lenses

The standard “normal” lens for the Yashica YE is the 5 cm f/2.8 Yashikor, or the 5 cm f/2.8 Yashikor, two completely different lenses according to Mikio Awano and no doubt you will agree when you see the evidence. I had seen some blog discussions about whether the Yashikor was a 4 element in 3 group Tessar design or a 5 element in 4 group modified double-Gauss design of the Xenotar/5 element Planar type (invented by neither Schneider nor Zeiss but by C. G. Wynne of the UK company, Wray). Mikio Awano says that there is one of each.

But first, what I have found. Lens serial numbers are discussed in more detail in Serial Numbers & Production above but basically, the earlier serial numbers are prefixed with “81” and later numbers are prefixed with “91” (approximately 3,000 and 9,000 respectively by serial number). The earliest “81” numbers, perhaps the first 50% or 1,500 or so, have scales in feet marked “ft” (note, I am basing that on only five early examples in my database with scales visible plus Mikio Awano's comments). The others have metric distance scales marked “mtr” (twelve examples). As mentioned earlier, I have seen no evidence suggesting export. All lenses in my database prefixed “91” have metric scales marked “Meter”.

This is what Awano Mikio Awano has to say (translation slightly cleaned up):

“Former” type (“81” numbers): “The aperture scale is not evenly spaced, the coating of the lens is magenta and the 9 aperture blades are curved, the shape of the aperture is circular. Distance scale is ft. (see above, only early examples, later “81” numbers are metric). Around the depth of field scale of the rear end of the lens barrel is not knurled.“The former type is Tessar type (3 groups 4 elements).”

“Latter” type (“91” numbers): The aperture scale has “equally spaced graduation, coating is amber and the diaphragm is reduced to 6 blades, the shape of the aperture is hexagonal. The distance scale is Meter. Except for the scale area, the depth of field ring is knurled.” “The latter type is Planar type (4 groups 5 elements).”

Below left is an “81” lens with 9 curved aperture blades and right, my “91” lens from above with 6 straight blades:

(Left detail from larger web image)

Some of the other differences are illustrated in the two images from Mikio Awano's article:

The spacing of the aperture scale markings are starkly different. The lack of knurling on the earlier lens DoF scale is evident on the right side of the lens whereas knurling is clearly perceptible on the left side of the second lens (see back of lens, top set of three).

So Mikio Awano thinks that my “91” lens is a 5 element in 4 group design. Why not prove it? Using the technique outlined in Are all Yashinon Lenses 4 Element Tessar Types?, I tried. I don't know if it's me, or the design of the lens, but whatever I did, from the front, I could only count the 6 reflections of three groups plus the fainter reflection of a pair indicating a Tessar. From the rear, I clearly got the 8 reflections of 4 groups plus the fainter reflection of a pair indicating a Xenotar type. I assume that the rear reflections are correct and that the missing two reflections from the front view were hiding behind other ones. I had similar viewing problems with a Pentamatic II f/1.7 58 mm lens (6 elements in 4 groups) but not with a Yashica 35 f/1.9 lens, another Xenotar design like the Yashikor.

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Standard YF 5 cm f/1.8 Yashinon & Super-Yashinon Lenses

I have only seen the YF advertised with either the 5cm f/1.8 “Yashinon”, or renamed “Super-Yashinon” version - see the two Japanese “Fair-Way” ads, the changeover point is detailed in Serial Numbers & Production above (last of the serial numbers beginning with “597” and all the lenses beginning with “5910” are “Super-Yashinon”) but my database is roughly half and half. Those two are what most YF examples are found with, but not all. A couple have been found with the Yashikor f/2.8, which may or may not be original fitments (unlikely) but three have also been found with the third type 5 cm “normal” lens further below.

The Japanese ad or flyer further below describes the “Super-Yashinon” as having 6 elements in 5 groups (to me, that suggests Ultron type but I'm no lens expert). I have no idea whether this is the same as the “Yashinon” and/or whether there were any other changes. Both lenses have 9 straight aperture blades. Appearance-wise they certainly appear identical and the feeling that they are the same lens appears to be Mikio Awano's conclusion as well. However, the one element of his article that I disagree with is that he seems to be suggesting that the “Super-Yashinon” is the original and the second lens merely dropped the “Super”. My database makes it very clear that the lowest numbers belong to the “Yashinon” and also that generally, the earliest YF examples have lenses with the lowest serial numbers (i.e. “Yashinons”), as would be expected. In my opinion, the change is related to Pentamatic SLR marketing (released early 1960) where the two normal lenses with automatic diaphragms were named “Auto Yashinon” and all the pre-set manual types (similar in operation to LTM lenses) were named “Super Yashinon”. There is a strong family resemblance to the two YE Yashikors but the two f/1.8 lenses feature an infinity lock, see image below:

(Detail from larger web image)

An odd thing is that the f/1.9 lens is mostly found with scales in feet, marked “Feet”, except for one early “Yashinon” (serial number 595111x) and one “Super-Yashinon” (serial number 5910568x) in my database with “Meter” scales. The YF was advertised in at least Japan, USA and Singapore but most of the examples in my database are from Japan - so why only two metric lens examples?

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5 cm f/2 Yashikor

This is another “normal” lens but fairly rare and unknown. I have seen three fitted to Yashica YF examples, one for sale by itself, one on another body and the example in the article below. It has what looks like an infinity lock but is just a focus-assist lever. The first image shows the 5 cm f/2 Yashikor fitted to a YF (knob missing from lever on photo left) and the other two images are different views of another lens:

(Detail from larger web images)

Mikio Awano's May 1985 Japanese “Camera Collectors’ News” photos below compare the f/2 Yashikor on the left to the Super-Yashinon in the middle and Yashinon on the right:

The ribbing on the focus ring is different to the family look of the other four 5 cm lenses and the two telephotos found. The overall look of the lens is somewhat similar to both the Nicca branded item on the Type 33 and the Fujinon f/2.8 & f/2 that some claim the Nicca is related to. However, the actual design detailing is quite different to each other on all three brands of lenses and I think that any connection is illusional. The Fujinon f/2.8 has 10 straight aperture blades, the Nicca has 9 curved blades, the Yashikor f/2.8 has 9 curved blades for the first type and 6 straight blades for the second type and the Yashikor f/2 has 10 unusual blades - instead of straight or curved, they change from very slightly convex to very slightly concave along their length:

(Detail from larger web image)

In comparison, both the Yashinon and Super-Yashinon f/1.8 have 9 straight blades.

The focusing scales on all found examples are metric marked “mtr.”, i.e. slightly different again to the other normal lenses.

The fact that neither the cosmetic detailing, apart from being black and chrome, nor aperture design match the other Yashica branded normal lenses makes it look like this lens has been sourced in a hurry and/or from elsewhere again. I'm quite surprised by this find. Production volumes of both Leica copy cameras were low and to have a portfolio of three to five 5 cm lenses (depends on how you categorise them but an argument can be made for four different types) with apertures so close (1 stop from f/2.8 to f/2 but only 1/3 stop from f/2 to f/1.8) at the expense of some of the other missing focal lengths and bigger apertures seems crazy but no doubt made sense to Yashica at the time. As three have been found fitted to YF examples and zero to YEs, presumably, it was a lower cost option for the YF, something that seems to be suggested by Mikio Awano too. The YF was probably suffering from both the advent of the SLR and extreme price competition from the struggling and going under Leica copy makers. The literal Google translation of Mikio Awano's description of the lens is “cheesy”. The lens retaining/beauty ring on the front with its big square slots and the fake infinity lock are maybe part of the reason (focus assist levers/finger holds were often necessary with fixed lens rangefinders because of narrow focus rings and placement next to the body but not on these types of LTM lenses).

The serial numbers are quite different to the other lenses. Observed numbers are 11100x, 11103x, 11104x, 111148, 11117x and 11120x, all close and low suggesting a small number produced.

Mikio Awano thinks that the lens looks like a similar spec Leonon lens found on late Leotax models (not the Topcor lens made by Tokyo Kogaku, later Topcon, which is also similar, nor the Fujinon also sometimes fitted but more dissimilar). This was the second of my two major disagreements with him. What I originally said was that there is a vague similarity of look but no more than a number of other lenses with that look also. What bothered me though was that the unusual Yashikor f/2 aperture blade shape was also found on the Leonon lenses and both featured 10 blades. I kept looking and then I found a different Leonon which is identical in every visible way to the Yashikor including the aperture blades, except for name of course. I have now found 7 or 8 similar examples. So Mikio Awano was correct.

I have since discovered an even more rare Leonon which in layout and proportions seems to match the Topcor but has different continuous ribbing instead of the usual scalloped style.

In summary, the last supplied f/2 Topcor type has 10 straight aperture blades and is named “Topcor-S”. There is the just mentioned very rare “Leonon-S” that looks like the Topcor except for the ribbing (aperture unknown). There is a relatively common plain “Leonon” (no “-S”) that features the same 10 unusual aperture blades as the Yashikor f/2 and in appearance is sort of half way between the Topcor and Yashikor. Finally, there is the Yashikor doppelganger that features the 10 unusual aperture blades of the Yashikor and plain Leonon but is called “Leonon-S” like the very rare type.

There seem to be links between all these lenses but whether that is due to Topcor involvement or Leotax maker Shōwa Kōgaku (probably Leotax by now) calling the shots is unclear. Early Leotax cameras were fitted with “Letana Anastigmat” f/3.5 5 cm collapsible lenses that are said to have been produced by Shōwa Kōgaku itself but I doubt that any lens making capability remained at this stage. As well as Topcor and Fujinon lenses being supplied as standard, an “Inspected Card” found with a camera confirms that the particular “Leotax T” is fitted with a “Hexanon 50 mm f1.9” lens which was made by Konishiroku (later, Konica). The date on the card is “32.6.24”, presumably Showa 32, June 24, or for Aussies, 24 June 1957. Whilst not commonly known, a blog post also mentions the Hexanon f/1.9 lens being fitted to a camera. So as well as possible involvement by any one of the three regular lens suppliers, there is still the possibility that as sales dropped and price competition squeezed, Leotax went looking elsewhere for a cheaper alternative, much as Yashica had done.

Below is the Yashikor-like Leonon-S lens mounted on a Canon VL2 camera:

(Leonon images courtesy of www.photo.net member aleceiffel)

Below for comparison is one of the Yashikor f/2 photos from above, clearly they originate from the same maker:

(Detail from larger web image)

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Who Made the Standard f/2.8 & f/1.8 5 cm Lenses?

Just because two lenses use similar styling doesn't mean the origins are are the same. In fact there was not a lot of originality with lens designs. For a start, for prime lenses, lens makers chose from an industry wide, but limited, portfolio of proven optical designs to select their preferred construction for a particular price/performance solution. However, there were other constraints too e.g., different designs work better for different maximum apertures so the choice was further narrowed. It is almost inevitable that generally, the optical solution of one company for a particular lens type was likely to be similar to the solutions of other companies operating in that price/performance segment.

The optical design dictated the placement of controls such as focusing and aperture rings. Accepted ergonomics of the day dictated other common aspects of the design. And then there is “fashion”. Up to the mid-50s, lenses were mostly chrome, in the period we are considering, lenses were black and chrome. Then the “zebra” style made an appearance before lenses became uniformly black. The choice in the tactile interface of the focus and aperture rings was either continuous ribbing (as in the Yashica examples) or scalloped, in which case there was a further choice of ribbing in the hollows, or on the high bits.

Finally, lenses from different companies can look very much the same because the customer company, in this case Yashica, decrees it. Can we say with any certainty that the two very different Yashikor f/2.8s and Yashinon/Super-Yashinon f/1.8 are from the same company even though they very closely share the same cosmetic look?

I mention all this because there seems to be a strong tendency to jump on any similarity and claim kinship when closer inspection might reveal very significant differences. Some examples are the suggestions that the f/2.8 Nicca is a rebadged Fujinon and the widespread belief amongst bloggers that the Kyoei 13.5 cm Super-Acall lens further below is a rebadged Komura lens.

On first acquaintance, the family appearance of the Yashikor f/2.8 and Yashinon/Super-Yashinon lenses seems quite unique but they have an uncanny resemblance to versions of the Canon f/2.8 and f/1.8 50 mm lenses with similar ribbing, the main difference being that the colours of the narrow aperture ring and filter mount are reversed. There is almost certainly no connection other than the lower-tier lens designer looking at the top-tier Canon barrel for inspiration. The same probably applies to the design of an Honor lens found on some Zuiho Optical Company Honor Leica copies which bears a superficial resemblance to both the Yashica and Canon lenses, albeit it is f/1.9 and may have some design links to an earlier Hexanon lens which also shares the “look”. I only say that because Camerapedia mentions Tomioka as a possible candidate for the Honor lens and I'm not sure that someone hasn't said that simply because of the look of the Yashikor and Yashinon - the old chicken and the egg riddle.

Of course, the faithful would say, “I don't know what you are banging on about, Tomioka was Yashica's exclusive lens maker.” I don't subscribe to that view. In Yashica 8, 8S, 8T & 8T-2, we can see how Yashica used Zunow for its first cine lenses and a later series too. In Pentamatic Accessory Lenses, there is evidence that Yashica used the company later known as Tokina for at least the longer focal length T-mount Pentamatic/M42 lenses (second series, or “black nose” Pentamatic lenses). We are also about to see that another maker was used for at least one of the YE/YF telephoto lenses. Undoubtedly in the long term, Tomioka was Yashica's go-to lens company but like any business, Yashica used whatever resources it needed and were available at the time.

Some, or all, of the standard lenses could have originated from Tomioka but I am not aware of any confirmed Tomioka made LTM lenses. As an independent lens maker, it didn't claim to have even started SLR lens production until 1960 (presumably for the Pentamatic), quite late in the scheme of things and seemingly happy making TLR, folder and fixed lens 35 mm rangefinder/viewfinder lenses. I think that the YE and YF lenses were only ever going to be low volume pending the SLR release but Yashica wanted the expensive Nikkors gone (it continued to sell at least the Nicca III-L until the YE and YF were released). Would there have been value in commissioning new glass or would it have made sense to use an existing design (optical, not necessarily barrel) with development costs already amortised?

Having said that, I'll put a counter view. There was about 10 months between Yashica acquiring Nicca and the release of the YE and maybe 6 months or more from that to the YF. That would have been plenty of time for Tomioka to develop a pair of fairly standard design lenses, assuming that Yashica had already decided to develop the YE and YF, by no means certain.

But then again, Tomioka was also busy creating its first SLR lenses for the Pentamatic in development at the same time. Leaving out the Yashinon/Super-Yashinon name change, there are actually four distinct 5 cm designs. Given their differences, it seems possible that two or even three companies may have contributed a design. One of these could well have been Tomioka.

It's also hard to have a discussion about the YE and YF lenses without considering the Yashica 35 fixed lens rangefinder which was released a little earlier. Its two available configurations were a 5 elements in 4 groups f/2.8 4.5 cm Yashinon and a 6 elements in 4 groups f/1.9 4.5 cm Yashinon. It is much more likely that these were Tomioka sourced as similar focal length and aperture lenses named “Tominor” (and later, “Tominon”) are found on the Royal Camera Company rangefinders released as early as 1955. Perhaps relevantly, or simply coincidentally, one of the options for the first model was a 50 mm f/2.8 lens with 5 elements. The Royal lenses are the first known confirmation of Tomioka producing more complex lenses other than triplets and Tessars, although the first YE Yashikor is claimed by Mikio Awano to be a Tessar type anyway, well within Tomioka's optical capabilities.

Who actually made the 5 cm lenses is a complex question made more difficult by the existence of several different versions. Without more information, I think it's best to be aware of all the possibilities without trying to pick a winner.

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Accessory Lenses

Yashica branded accessory LTM lenses are hard to find. By comparison, Nicca listed 4 wide angle and 4 telephoto Nikkor lenses in its Type 3-F user manual. So far, I have only found examples of two Yashica telephotos; a 10 cm f/2.8 and a 13.5 cm f/3.5. The author, Mikio Awano, of the YE & YF lens article in the May 1985 Japanese “Camera Collectors’ News”, says that an f/2.8 35 mm wide angle lens was advertised but he had never seen one. The 1961 Sears Catalogue mentions a 35 mm finder together with the 135 mm version. The yellow cornered US market brochure page above mentions two lenses; an f/2.8 35 mm wide angle and an f/2.8 100 mm telephoto. So there is a pretty fair chance that the 35 mm exists, albeit probably in small numbers, but it is proving incredibly elusive.

Since first writing about the two telephoto lenses below, the Mikio Awano article, which I only acquired recently, has confirmed for me that I am on the right track about the ancestry of the 13.5 cm telephoto lens. I had also felt that the two telephotos had not appeared until the YF arrived. Mikio Awano says that the 35 mm and 10 cm were advertised with the YF but magazines said the lenses were “scheduled” to be released, implying that they arrived afterwards. The only 13.5 cm lens advertising I have seen is on the accessories page of the only brochure that I have found featuring the YE and YF together (as well as the Yashica 35 and YK). The relevant page is here.

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10 cm f/2.8 Super-Yashinon

The 10 cm Super-Yashinon f/2.8 lens (called 100 mm in the ad) is featured in this Japanese market flyer or ad, see bottom left:

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on ad for larger view)

Note: Apart from the lens, there are no YF accessories mentioned, the “Special Accessories”, bottom right, are all for different models - YK, YL and YE; written as “K”, “L” and “Yashica E” “type”s as well as the Minister.

This lens matches the 100/105 mm viewfinder frame of the YF. Found example below:

(Detail from larger web image)

The earliest serial number is 8 digit, the rest are 7 digit. Observed numbers are 5910002x, 591011x, 591016x and 591036x. These suggest fairly low production but the sample size is small. The prefix number is either “591”, or more likely “5910” to match the Yashinon/Super-Yashinon f/1.8 5 cm lens (and is consistent with the coming Pentamatic lens where any lens date reference is more likely to be a date milestone than the month of production).

I have not been able to find any other information or photos of a similar lens by another maker. From the look of the ribbing, it's quite likely, almost certain in fact, that the appearance of the barrel was designed to match the Yashikor f/2.8 and Yashinon 5 cm standard lenses.

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13.5 cm f/3.5 Super Yashinon

The other LTM Super Yashinons are hyphenated, this one is not (could be to match the coming Pentamatic style). It shares the black and chrome design ethos and ribbing, albeit coarser, of the focus and aperture rings with the 10 cm (and most of the normal lenses) but in other respects, its proportions are quite different.

As a result of extensive searches, since confirmed by Mikio Awano's earlier article, I can confidently say that it is an exact match for the same spec “Super-Acall” lens made by Kyoei Optical Co., Ltd., except for the colour of the distance scales; orange meters and white feet on the Kyoei and white meters and yellow feet on the Yashinon. Left image is the 13.5 cm Super Yashinon, right image is the equivalent Kyoei Super-Acall:

(Detail from larger web images)

Note also the use of Kyoei's signature “INF.” (used by other lens makers at different times too) in place of the infinity symbol on both lenses (earlier examples from before the dual meter/feet focusing scales mostly use the infinity symbol). Another typical feature is the three screws at the base of the mount below the DoF scale; two in the chrome ribbed ring and one in the plain ring immediately above (a little in the shadows on the Yashinon). Except for the text, the front design is identical too and both use the same unusual star shaped 12 bladed aperture, Super Yashinon below left, earlier Super-Acall, with distance scale in feet still and aperture that spins in the opposite direction (explanation further below), below right:

(Left detail from larger web image)

The photos below are from Mikio Awano's “Camera Collectors’ News” article and show different views top to bottom of lenses left to right; 10 cm Super-Yashinon, 13.5 cm Super Yashinon, Yashinon 13.5 cm finder and 135 mm Super-Acall.

The photo below is a close-up view of the Yashinon finder from the above image:

This and the one in the brochure below are the only examples that I have seen but I can confirm that they are identical to the Kyoei version.

From the Kyoei brochure, the specs for the lens are:

135 mm f/3.5
4 elements in 3 groups
Angle of view 18 degrees
Aperture f/3.5 to f/22
Focusing range 5 feet to infinity
Length 98 mm
Weight 449 grams

Kyoei also made a version branded “Honor” for the Honor Leica copy camera. The cosmetics of this one, including scales colours and the “INF.” for infinity, are identical to the Super-Acall, as is another rebranded version “Bittco Super Vemar”. I have seen many other names mentioned but there is considerable confusion between the Kyoei made lens and a similar one by Komura and I am not sure which group they belong to. There is also a plain “Acall” which looks cosmetically identical to the Super variety except for text and scales styles. From serial numbers, I assume that it is earlier.

The cosmetic and design detailing of all versions of these lenses makes it clear that they are basically identical siblings from the same family. However, one key difference between earlier and later lenses is the direction of spin of the aperture scale ring towards the largest opening - early lenses is to the right (with camera held by the photographer), later lenses, including the Yashinons and a later Honor lens, to the left.

The table below summarises the variations in the Kyoei made 13.5 cm lenses:

Name
Serial No.s
Aperture
Direction
Infinity
Focusing
Scale
Focal
Length
Acall
2370x
Right
Symbol
Feet or Meters
mm
Super-Acall
7103x-7170x
Right
Symbol
Feet or Meters
mm
Super-Acall
71978
Right
INF
Feet or Meters
mm
Super-Acall
9015x-9094x
Right
INF.
Dual
mm
Bittco Super Vemar
9100x-91695
Right
INF.
Dual
mm
Honor
9049x
Right
INF.
Dual
mm
Honor
9173x
Left
INF.
Dual
mm
Super-Acall
9119x-9209x
Left
INF.
Dual
mm
Super Yashinon
135901x-135933x
Left
INF.
Dual
cm

Note: The Honor and Bittco Super Vemar lenses are slightly out of order to make the table simpler.

It seems that the various brandings use the same series of serial numbers except for the Yashinons which use the focal length as a prefix for the first time in the same way as Yashica's accessory lenses for the forthcoming Pentamatic SLR will, also carrying over to M42 lenses for a number of years. Observed numbers are 135901x, 135903x and 135933x. Two other things to note about the Yashinons is that even though Yashica mostly described and advertised focal length in “mm”, it used “cm” on the front of all it's Yashica 35, YE, YF, Pentamatic and accessory lenses and secondly, all the lenses for the Yashica 35, YE, YF and accessory lens for those turn to the left for both an increase in aperture size and increase in focusing distance. The normal lens for the Pentamatic did too but the unusual and short-lived Pentamatic II 5.8 cm f/1.7 lens is the only exception with reversed direction for the aperture. So did Yashica choose the 13.5 cm lens after Kyoei had made the change earlier, or did Kyoei make the change to its Super-Acall and the Honor as well after meeting a Yashica contract prerequisite for the Yashinon version?

If Kyoei made the 13.5 cm Super Yashinon, is it possible that the company made the other Yashica lenses? Possible but very unlikely, that is not supported by any of the available evidence. The 13.5 cm Super-Acall Super Yashinon look-alike is displayed in the Kyoei brochure but there are no 50 mm-ish standard lenses (which makes sense of a claim by several sources that Kyoei made Petri/Kuribayashi's non-normal length M42 lenses, the normal lens/es being sourced from elsewhere) nor is there a 100 mm lens, although there is an f/2.8 105 mm telephoto - however, in addition to the slight length discrepancy, it looks like a very close cousin to the 13.5 cm version and nothing like the 10 cm Super-Yashinon in the brochure or photos above.

YE and Super-Acall with feet focusing scale.

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Accessories

Below is the accessories page from a brochure featuring both the YE and YF as well as the Yashica 35 and YK. It is the only time that I have seen the YE and YF together:

(Brochure scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

The YE/YF duo would hardly qualify as a camera system and Yashica didn't want you to think that way. Only one of the three advertised accessory lenses is presented as is the matching viewfinder. Whilst Kyoei offered a dedicated lens hood for its Super-Acall version, I haven't seen the same for the Super Yashinon. However, there is a 42 mm slip-on lens hood for the YE Yashikor and a 45 mm version listed for the YF Yashinon/Super-Yashinon. Really exciting were the reloadable 35 mm film casettes. Similar were offered by Leica and most Leica-copy makers - presumably they made bottom film loading easier.

Below is a snip from a larger brochure page for the YE showing a substantial folding reflector bulb flash side mounted via a plate attached to the tripod mount. Yashica's first flash, the shoe mounted Yashica-Lite may not have arrived yet but regardless, the flash in the picture looks suspiciously like the contemporary Nicca type, probably rebadged as the lens hoods have been.

(Brochure scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

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