Yashica YE & YF

The last of the Leica Copies

Contents

(Scroll down or click on Links)

Setting the Scene
Nicca History
Yashica YE
Yashica YF
Serial Numbers & Production

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

Lenses

Standard 5 cm f/2.8 Yashikor & f/1.8 Yashinon Lenses
5 cm f/2 Yashikor
Accessory Lenses

Setting the Scene

After Yashica acquired the struggling Nicca Camera Co. Ltd. in May 1958, its first task was to get its first 35 mm camera, the Yashica 35 fixed lens rangefinder, out the door. With both “Yashima Opt. Ind. Co., Ltd. and “Yashica Co., Ltd”. found on cameras, this was clearly released before the maker name change on cameras which started appearing on affected models in September 1958. Who, when and how this camera developed is not clear to me. However, the production of the existing Nicca branded interchangeable lens Leica copies continued until near the end of 1958 for one model and into 1959 for the other before Yashica re-released them as the YE and YF respectively. Although having nothing to do with the design and development, strictly speaking, Yashica was also the responsible manufacturer for the last of the Nicca branded cameras. In fact, some sources claim that the Nicca III-L was not released until June 1958 (a brochure, probably produced before release, has no Yashica branding at all, an ad is likely Nicca produced with a simple “Yashica” in one corner).

(Back to top)

Nicca History

The company's origins date to 1940 when it was founded by former employees of the company that became Canon. Its cameras were Leica copies, initially named “Nippon” and then from 1947, “Nicca”. Versions of various models were branded for their importers and sold mainly as “Tower” (Sears, Roebuck & Co.) but also as “Peerless” (possibly only Nicca Type 3 based) and “Snider” (the last unique to Australia, possibly only Nicca Type 5 based).

The first models were based on the earlier, smaller bodied Leica III with front mounted slow speed shutter dial, later models starting with the Type 5 and 5-L (lever wind) on the slightly larger 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 Type 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), and the Nicca branded f/2.8 50mm lens on the late 33 model, standard and accessory lenses listed in brochures were Nikkors, making the cameras very attractive options. The bodies themselves are well regarded as Leica copies.

After several Type 3 variations (3, 3A, 3B and 3S), the early bodies culminated in the Type 4 with the shutter speed increased to 1/1000. The new body Type 5 and 5-L continued with the higher speed and also added the Leica M3 idea of a trapdoor in the back to aid with film loading. However, the design is side-hinged and different in detail to both the Leica M3 and Nicca III-L and its Yashica YF sibling.

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

The final Leica IIIf look-alike model was the Type 33 released in early 1958. Although similar to the Type 3-F with lever wind, this featured a flash sync of 1/60 set on the top speed dial for the first time, instead of the earlier 1/25 set on the front dial and a cosmetic change with the top plate of the larger body no longer continuing down to 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 Nicca's advertising, IIIL in Yashica's ad snippet 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 projected and parallax corrected frame lines. From the brochure and owner comments, I understand that the viewfinder only has frame lines for a 50 mm lens whereas the YF also has them for 105 mm (not 100% certain about the Nicca). The film advance is no longer on the top plate but operates through a slot on the side and the camera back now contains a large flap to assist with film loading. This is top-hinged and far more similar to the Leica M3 than the earlier side-hinged Nicca Type 5 models. 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.

The III-L was also sold by Sears as a “Tower” model.

We know from ads and brochures that during the rest of 1958, Yashica continued to market and sell the Nicca 33 and III-L but we don't know the fate of the Nikkor lensed Type 3-F, the lever version of which was only introduced in 1957, or maybe even early 1958, or whether or not the Type 33 was intended by Nicca to replace it (possibly), or supplement it.

(Back to top)

Yashica YE

The Yashica YE is very similar to the Type 33. The differences are that the high shouldered top plate (because of the lever wind on both models) reverts to the previous Leica IIIf-like design with top plate extending to the lens mount, a reduction of the flash sync speed from 1/60 to 1/30 and a change from the Nicca branded f/2.8 50 mm lens to a similar spec Yashikor. Some have wondered wether it is the same lens 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. 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.

Note: 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 have not been able to find any verifiable sources to support the claims, so for me, it remains an unknown. It could perhaps be mistaken communication translating the English “YE” model name back to Japanese. However, “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, these cameras were likely made in December 1958 in preparation for the 1959 release so a 1959 launch as the “Yashica E” seems extremely unlikely.

(Back to top)

Yashica YF

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, on the right, is different in appearance but basically the same camera, now with Yashinon f/1.8 5 cm lens (note, on late lenses with the last of the serial numbers beginning with “597” and all the lenses beginning with “5910”, the name changed to “Super-Yashinon” - see Yashica YF serial numbers below and also the two Japanese YF “Fair-Way”ads which feature the later name):

(Detail from larger web images)

Whereas the Nicca III-L had a unique, spartan, appearance, the Yashica appeared to be to be channelling the Leica M3 look and the alloy frame on the front is a divisive 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 to the frame counter and removing the film speed reminder dial from the back but nothing significant. 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.

In Japan, the camera was advertised as the “Yashica 35 Fair-Way” (see also Lenses 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! It is again proudly displayed in a 1961 Sears catalogue (by then, it must have been old stock but interestingly, Sears mentions that an accessory finder for both 35mm and 135mm lenses is included, Nicca had one but I have never seen a Yashica branded item).

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on ad for larger view)

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) whilst most blog sites generally refer to the 105 mm as “100 mm”, not that it makes any practical difference.

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. 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.

(Back to top)

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.

(Back to top)

Yashica YE

Based on 54 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 12893x, so the first month looks like less than 1,000. The next number sequence is 19000x to 19084x. 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 10,857 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
93x
19
000x 084x
29
110x 244x
39
274x 396x
49
417x 542x
59
561x 659x
69
753x 992x
1959
992x
Total
10,857

 

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. 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 81276x. They count up from there but then start again from presumably zero when changing to the “91” prefix (earliest “91” lens found is 91020x). 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.

(Back to top)

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 (31 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 054x
48
107x 289x
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. 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. On the other hand, I have not found one ad or brochure where they 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 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 27 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 is only one June number for which the sequence number is 039x so the count seems to have begun again. July sequence numbers start from 162x and rise to 217x. 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 and 597265x (July, sequence numbers 25xx and 265x) which herald a name change from “Yashinon” to “Super-Yashinon” - there are no changes to the lens' cosmetic appearance. These are followed by 597301x before the prefix numbers 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.

(Back to top)

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 10,860 YEs and 6,000 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 and at least acknowledges that the serial numbers are “not continuous” but 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).

(Back to top)

Lenses

Standard 5 cm f/2.8 Yashikor & f/1.8 Yashinon Lenses

The standard “normal” lens for the Yashica YE is the 5 cm f/2.8 Yashikor. 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 in Serial Numbers & Production above) and those 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 but three have also been found with the third type 5 cm “normal” lens further below.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't believe that the f/2.8 Yashikor is a rework of the Nicca branded item on the 33. The Yashikor and Yashinon/Super-Yashinon 5 cm lenses share the same cosmetic appearance (the Yashinon has an infinity lock whilst the Yashikor doesn't) and probably originate from the same place, f/2.8 Yashikor shown below:

At first glance, their appearance seems quite unique but both 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 designer looking at the 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.

The Yashica lenses could have originated from Tomioka but I am not aware of any confirmed Tomioka LTM lenses. As an independent lens maker, it didn't claim to have even started SLR lens production until 1960, 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. 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? I can only guess. I certainly don't subscribe to the oft repeated claim that “Tomioka was Yashica's exclusive lens maker”. In The Zunow Connection, we can see how Yashica used Zunow for its first cine lenses. We are also about to see that another maker was used for 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. In summary, the standard lenses are unknown, they may be Tomioka sourced, or they may not.

(Back to top)

5 cm f/2 Yashikor

This is another “normal” lens but fairly rare. I have seen three fitted to Yashica YF examples and one for sale by itself. It has what looks like an infinity lock but may just be a lever - I can't see anything for it to engage with in any of the photos. The first image shows the 5 cm f/2 Yashikor fitted to a YF (“infinity lock” knob missing from lever) and the other two images are different views of another lens:

(Detail from larger web images)

The ribbing on the focus ring is different to the family look of the other two 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 6 straight blades and the Yashikor f/2 has 10 unusual blades - instead of straight, they change from slightly convex to slightly concave along their length. In comparison, the Yashinon f/1.8 has 9 straight blades.

The fact that neither the cosmetic detailing, apart from being black and chrome, nor aperture design match the other two Yashica branded normal lenses makes it look like this lens has been sourced 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 5 cm lenses 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 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.

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

(Back to top)

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 seen no evidence of a Yashica branded LTM/M39 wide angle lens, although this does not mean that one does not exist. However, there are two telephotos confirmed.

10 cm f/2.8 Super-Yashinon

The only lens I have found advertised in a brochure, or ad, is the 10 cm Super-Yashinon f/2.8 (called 100 mm in the ad), see bottom left:

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on ad for larger view)

This lens makes sense because it closely matches the 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).

13.5 cm f/3.5 Super Yashinon

The other Super Yashinons are hyphenated, this one is not. Although not advertised in any of the ads or brochures that I have seen, the 13.5 cm lens seems to be slightly better known. It shares the black and chrome design ethos and ribbing of the focus and aperture rings with the 105 mm, but in other respects, its proportions are quite different.

As a result of extensive searches, I can fairly 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.” in place of the infinity symbol on both lenses (the otherwise similar Super-Acall feet only scaled version uses the infinity symbol).

Kyoei also make 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, but like the feet only marked version of the Super-Acall, the aperture ring spins in the opposite direction to the Super Yashinon and its Super-Acall cousin.

The cosmetic and design detailing of all versions of these lenses makes it clear that they are almost identical siblings from the same family. There are other brand names used too, “Force” being one.

(Note: There are quite a few blogs that suggest that Kyoei marketed lenses made by the better known Komura. That's unlikely to be true, certainly not in regard to the 13.5 cm lens. I have a downloaded Kyoei brochure which is a very complete lens catalogue and claims that Kyoei made its own, as also a few reliable sources seem to confirm. The corresponding Komura lens is certainly very similar in overall appearance but close scrutiny reveals that every bit of detailing and machining is different as is the lens cam design for the rangefinder coupling. On the other hand, there is a 35 mm f/3.5 W.Acall lens that does indeed look very much like the Komura version, perhaps identical, but the W.Acall in the catalogue looks different with a more conventional aperture ring, so perhaps it is updated. There is said to be a link between the later versions and Petri/Kuribayashi whose lenses are mainly named “Orikkor”. So the 35 mm lenses may be connected but who actually made what for whom? Several sources claim that Kyoei made Petri's non-normal length M42 lenses, the normal lens(es) being sourced from elsewhere, so does that mean Kyoei may have made Komura's earlier 35 mm?)

If Kyoei made the 13.5 cm Super Yashinon, is it possible that the company made the other lenses? Yes, but unfortunately that is not supported by any evidence. The 13.5 cm Super-Acall Super Yashinon look-alike is displayed in the Kyoei brochure but no 50 mm standard lenses (which makes sense of the claim regarding Petri above) and no 10 cm 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 photo above.

Serial numbers for the 13.5 cm Super Yashinon take on a new format. Observed numbers are 135901x, 135903x and 135933x. Again, the small sample size suggests low production. The “135” prefix clearly indicates focal length in millimetres and is a precursor for Yashica's coming system of using focal length, aperture and the combination of the two for its interchangeable lens numbering schema whilst serial numbers were displayed on the front of lenses (new numbering system when M42 lens numbers moved underneath). Whether the full prefix is “135” or “1359” is not absolutely certain but for some reason, seems to be “1359”.

(Back to top)