Yashica YE & YF

The first and last Leica Copies

Contents

(Scroll down or click on Links)

Setting the Scene
Nicca
Yashica's Strategy

Price Comparisons

Yashica YE

Operation
“Yashica E”, Fact or Fiction & Other Marketing Tidbits

Yashica YF
Serial Numbers & Production

Yashica YE Serial Numbers
YE Yashikor f/2.8 5 cm Lens Serial Numbers
Yashica YF Serial Numbers
YF Yashinon/Super-Yashinon f/1.8 5 cm Lens Serial Numbers
Why this Information Probably Looks Different to What You Have Read Elsewhere

Lenses

Two Standard YE 5 cm f/2.8 Yashikor Lenses

My Comparison of the “81” and “91” Series 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 Yashima (Yashica from 1 September 1958) acquired the struggling Nicca Camera Co. Ltd. in May 1958 (November 1958 according to booklet “Yashica A New Horizon” but it contains some obvious mistakes), it had already released its first 35 mm camera, the Yashica 35, 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 certainly had no role in the model's development. On the other hand, Nicca's contribution to development of the Pentamatic SLR is surprisingly acknowledged in a 1960 Japanese Pentamatic brochure.

Note, some 35 mm fans have suggested that the “Yashica” name derives from the amalgam of “Yashi” from Yashima and “ca” from Nicca. That totally ignores the company's brand history up to this point and the establishment of New York subsidiary, “Yashica Inc.” in 1957 - see the first link above.

After the Nicca acquisition, sale of the new Nicca III-L model seemed to continue into 1959 before Yashica re-released the Nicca 3-F/Type 33 and III-L as the YE and later in the year, the YF respectively. Most Japanese sites claim that the YE was released in March 1959 but Japanese authority and contributor to Sugiyama's book, Mikio Awano, says January 1959 (reference to his article is in Lenses). How much Nicca III-L 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 mostly prepared before release, has no Yashica branding at all, an ad has a simple “Yashica” in one corner, but note, both already feature Yashica's head office address. Below left is the back panel of the four panel brochure, and on the right, most of the ad (further down the page is probably a slightly later ad with the Nicca III-L and Yashica YE together):

(Detail from larger web images)

The address on the brochure, highlighted in red, shown larger:

It translates as “Nicca Camera Co., Ltd. 1-8 Nihonbashi Muromachi Chuo-ku, Tokyo”, as does the last two lines of the ad. That is the address given as the Yashica Head Office in a circa 1960 brochure about the factory and in other 1960 brochures, it is also the address for Yashica Service Division. It appears as the Yashima Optical Industries Co., Ltd. address in a 1957 flyer for the new Yashica-Mat and Yashicaflex AS (new model) as well as in an earlier “Yashicaflex” brochure likely to be from 1955 advertising the models A (A-II), C and S. Minus the precise “1-8” location, the address is also listed as the company's head office in a 28 page booklet published 15 December 1956 (all accessible from the Brochures page).

The ad with the III-L and YE together, referred to above, gives the address as “Yashica Nicca Camera Co., Ltd. Tokyo. 1-8 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Tokyo”. With the acquisition, Nicca became the wholly owned subsidiary, Taiho Optical Co., so the continued use of the “Nicca” name, either by itself, or later in conjunction with “Yashica”, is unusual and not something I completely understand yet. However, it may be noteworthy that “Nicca Camera Co., Ltd.” was used for the III-L by itself and “Yashica Nicca Camera Co., Ltd.” was used for the III-L and YE together and when it was only the YE and/or the YF, it was “Yashica Co., Ltd.” as it was for all other Yashica models. Perhaps the Nicca name was kept alive for legal reasons like servicing and warranty support, or perhaps even because of the Sears relationship with the Tower models. Or maybe simply because there was a lot of existing stock and it was engraved “Nicca Camera Co., Ltd.”

Nicca's address was elsewhere in Tokyo (see Nicca Story) but at the time, its distributor, Hinomaruya (also distributor of Melcon cameras and Nikkor LTM lenses), was located nearby at 4-3 Nihonbashi Muromachi Chuo-ku, Tokyo (Camera-wiki.org) and you would have to wonder whether Hinomaruya had a role in the acquisition.

So back to the point, all III-L sales do seem to have occurred under Yashica ownership. However, as far as I can make out, both Nicca and Sears Tower branded III-L examples are still all engraved with “Nicca Camera Co., Ltd.” on the back of the top plate so Yashica was not interested in claiming ownership until the launch of its YF derivative. This is understandable if there was a lot of stock on hand, but also from a marketing perspective, the Yashica brand was associated with value for money which the coming YF was designed to deliver (see Yashica's Strategy below). If it put its name on the Nicca as the maker and continued to charge a high price to cover the Nikkor and some of the subsequently deleted niceties, the YF may have looked like cut-price bargain basement item rather than good value.

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 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 but this user Type 33 user manual might offer a clue. Front cover:

Back cover, note the 33. 7. 1M. on the right:

(Detail from larger web images)

Contributor Chris Whelan has suggested that is possibly the printing date using the Japanese Showa era year and I agree with him, it is certainly in a format we have seen before. In western culture, the date would be 1958, July, i.e. after the Nicca acquisition (if it was May rather than November). If it is the printing date, I assume, that there were a number of printings, most earlier under Nicca ownership.

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 introduce 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 certainly 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.

(Back to top)

Nicca

Nicca's origins are from before World War II and linked to Canon's ancestry. It was one of the early makers of Leica copy 35 mm cameras and was an important, if not very big, player in the rise of the post-War Japanese photographic industry. For a potted history of Japanese Leica copies, and the story of Nicca and its cameras which culminated in the Yashica YE and YF, click on the link or camera.

Nicca

(Image courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Back to top)

Yashica's Strategy

Whether Nicca was an opportunistic acquisition for growth and/or 35 mm prestige, a way of gaining access to Nicca's focal plane shutter technology or Yashica thought that it could simply do better, or maybe even all those things, Yashica did do everything it knew how to make the LTM models a success. Like with its TLRs, Yashica sought to offer good quality at affordable prices but unfortunately, the low numbers and short production runs suggest that it was already futile from the beginning.

The Nicca 3-F/Type 33 and YE bodies were basically the same and to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever claimed a reduction of quality under Yashica ownership. The included Type 33 and YE lenses are similar spec, maybe are related (more below) but both are certainly not from a big name maker like the previous Nikkors. The Type 33 was advertised at ¥28,000 but Yashica initially advertised the YE at ¥23,800 (in small print, ¥22,750 plus case ¥1,050). To make those sort of savings, presumably Yashica used its substantial production expertise and resources to refine YE production techniques and/or equipment.

In an ad for the Nicca III-L with Yashica branding in the corner already, it was listed at ¥53,500 with f/2 Nikkor lens. The YF was released at ¥35,000 with Yashinon f/1.8 lens (¥33,500 plus case ¥1,500). In real world use, it would be hard to say which lens is the better performer but certainly, the Nikkor featured a sizeable price premium for the name. Some of the minor changes from the III-L to the YF no doubt also shaved some costs.

By September 1960, a Pentamatic II brochure still listed the YE at the release price of ¥22,750 plus ¥1,050 case (the combined price was omitted) but the YF with the f/1.8 Super-Yashinon was now down to ¥28,200 plus ¥1,300 case (also a price drop) . It seems that the YF was entering fire sale territory, in Japan at least.

(Back to top)

Price Comparisons

Nicca's arch-rival was Leotax. In 1958, it released the Leotax TV2 Merit which with Topcor-S f/2 5 cm lens was ¥42,500. This model was very similarly specified to the Nicca 3-F lever wind with f/2 Nikkor except that the Leotax also offered a self-timer. I don't have a 3-F price unfortunately but, because of its lens, it would have been significantly more than both the Type 33 and YE, probably near the Merit. In 1960, Leotax released the S2 Elite which is hard to tell apart from its predecessor. Fitted with a Leonon-S f/2 cm lens, its advertised price was ¥26,000, plus ¥1,400 case, which was in the YE ball park given the larger aperture lens fitted and self-timer. That large drop reflects both the price competition in a dying segment and the difference between using lenses from top tier manufacturers and utilising 2nd tier suppliers. In an odd twist, the Leonon-S lens featured in the S2 brochure will make an appearance below in the guise of the little known 5 cm f/2 Yashikor.

Both Yashica and Canon were leaders in mass production techniques. The Canon P rangefinder was a more refined version of a similar concept to the YF. In comparison, the Canon P price in April 1959 was ¥39,500 with f/2.8 50 mm lens and ¥49,500 with f/1.8 lens.

(Back to top)

Yashica YE
aka Yashica 35 YE, Yashica 35 E type

Shutter Speeds
Slow Speeds 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15
High Speeds B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500
X Sync 1/30
Dimensions & Weight
Dimensions 138 x 72 x 32 mm (LxHxD)
Body 471 grams
Body + Lens 650 grams

(Dimensions and weight as measured late body and lens. Dimensions do not include strap lugs, low speed shutter dial or film advance lever but does include lens mount which is approximately 2mm.)

At least two Japanese blog sites quote the effective rangefinder baseline as 57 mm, the viewfinder coverage as 85% and the viewfinder magnification as 0.5 times. The physical baseline length of the rangefinder fitted to the new bodied Nicca models based on the Leica IIIf is understood to be 38 mm, same as the IIIf. With a typical magnification of 1.5, the effective baseline length is 38 mm x 1.5 = 57 mm.

Like its more recent Nicca ancestors, the YE echoes its Leica IIIc-IIIf inspiration. Within a millimetre or two, it shares the same body length and depth. It's approximately 40 to 60 grams heavier (depending on Leica reference), at least partly due to the lever wind modifications, and seems to be about 4 mm taller. Although it has higher shoulders than its Nicca 3-F knob wind ancestor, contributor Chris Whelan has measured the overall height to be the same. Generally, the Japanese die cast copies are a little bigger than the German original because the Japanese weren't quite as advanced with casting techniques at that point - Leica was large and very well resourced.

(For the record, early Leicas have a body length of 133 mm and height of 65 mm and the die-cast IIIc and IIIf are 136 mm by 68 mm. For comparison's sake, Chris has weighed his knob wind Nicca 3-F to be 445 grams, so a little heavier than the Leica IIIf but 26 grams lighter than the YE, or presumably a Nicca 3-F with lever wind).

Regardless of the dimensions, the Nicca designers managed to keep the proportions and design consistent with something that Leica itself may have evolved. Yashica's minor fiddling with trim and adoption, or maybe even design, of the vaguely Canon look lens barrel style (f/1.8 Canon and Yashinon examples further below) makes for one of the more attractive Leica copies, although it is a pity that it was never offered, as far as I can tell, with the more accomplished Yashinon/Super Yashinon f/1.8 lens commonly found on the YF:

(Note: Top and bottom images feature different bodies.)

Dismissive commentators often refer to the YE as a “relabelled” or “rebadged” Nicca Type 33 (see here for Nicca model descriptions):

(Detail from larger web images)

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, itself basically a 5-L minus the 1/1000 shutter speed and rear film loading flap, the headline Type 33 changes being the dropping of the Nikkor standard lens options, a new visually simplified top plate with the lens mount extensions chopped off and an increase in X flash sync speed. The YE takes the 3-F lever wind body and its Leica IIIc/IIIf-like top plate, uses the “modern” shutter speeds progression from the Type 33 but sticks with the 3-F's 1/25 X flash sync upped slightly to 1/30 as a result of the change in speed progression, however, both the Type 33 and YE drop the 1 sec and Time settings on the slow speed shutter dials of earlier models (I actually think that the Type 33's 1/60 X flash sync was a budget measure - see below). The YE 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). As a further point of difference, it also adopts the slow speed shutter dial design from the Nicca III-L, including putting the red 1/30 lock position at the end of the speed progression like the Leica IIIg instead of the middle like the new body Nicca Type 5, 5-L, 3-F, lever wind 3-F and Type 33 which all copied the Leica IIIc and IIIf.

The 3-F featured an f/2 Nikkor lens (an f/1.4 was also available), the Type 33 an f/2.8 Nicca and the YE an f/2.8 Yashikor of different appearance and maybe different manufacture. The lenses are the major point of marketing difference between the three models, i.e. the difference is mostly in the packaging, not so much in the bodies. In my mind, the correct way to look at the lineage is to consider 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. The 5-L is the well endowed grandparent.

Incidentally, the Leica IIIc-IIIg and M series top plates extend to the sides of the lens mounts for a very good reason - it makes the shutter cage removal from the body shell simpler without having to lift the leatherette around the top half of the mount. The Nicca Type 33, III-L and and Yashica YF gave up this advantage, although as can be seen further below, Yashica did originally toy with the idea of restoring it in some form for the YF.

Most see the YE flash X sync speed reduction as a feature downgrade but it is more likely that the Type 33 introduced the higher speed as a consequence of cost cutting. Synchronised Nicca models up to this point had been able to sync FP bulbs at any speeds but X sync speeds were initially 1/20 and then 1/25 (i.e. also the speed separating the fast from slow speeds). According to a Japanese brochure, whilst X sync for the Type 33 was increased to 1/60, M and FP sync were limited to the slow speeds only, i.e. below 1/30 (a form of open flash as I understand it from the 3-F user manual). It seems that the sync speed changes were probably linked. X sync was easy (contacts tripped when both curtains were fully open) but this was not a good plan for customers at a time when electronic flash was inefficient, large with separate power packs and out of reach of most amateurs. The Yashica YE (confirmed by a Japanese brochure), along with the Nicca III-L and Yashica YF, restored proper FP sync with X sync set at the new shutter progression separation speed of 1/30.

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. Further below, you will read that there are two very different f/2.8 5 cm Yashikors even though they look very similar to each other. The later lenses with a “91” serial number prefix have 6 straight aperture blades for a hexagonal aperture and there is almost certainly no connection. However, the earlier “81” lenses have a similar 9 bladed aperture to the Nicca and both feature a slightly unusual progressively wider spacing of aperture positions. The bezels and front and rear appearance are also similar and then there is the single screw in the flange face (only found on one late Nicca lens so far but all the “81” Yashikors) so it may be possible but remains an unknown (photos and discussion here).

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. Below are Nicca 3-S (representative of earlier designs), Nicca Type 33 (the Nicca 3-F case is similar), Yashica YE (both half-case and detachable cover are different to Nicca types) and Yashica YF cases (the YF uses the YE style half-case and similar top half cover too, including the chrome trim on top, except the tubular nose is replaced by something akin to that of the 3-F/Type 33):

(Details from larger web images)

All the branding on the YE 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 further below, but even then, there is nothing to link the YE to Nicca, unlike the later YF with “Nicca” on the front). Presumably an early brochure from near the release (the lenses featured on the cover have very low serial numbers):

(Scanned brochure courtesy of Chris Whelan)

Click on cover for 2 page PDF

Japanese ads note that it came with a 48 page “luxurious” “How to Use E Type” booklet, perhaps somewhat in the style of the earlier Yashicaflex etc Photography Books (“E Type” explained below). I am sure it would be interesting reading but so far I have only seen the cover of one in a boxed set.

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.

(Back to top)

Operation

Note, the YF is different regarding both the viewfinder and shutter speed setting, see Yashica YF below and film loading is easier too because of the flap in the back.

Operating a screw mount Leica or Leica copy, like the YE, is pretty much the same as operating any 35 mm camera. Except for three things. The best bet is to download the Nicca 3-F manual from OrphanCameras.com and adapt as necessary. However, these are the things that are different with Leica type cameras in general:

Shutter

There is the main, or high speed shutter dial on the top plate and a slow speed dial on the front. Before adjusting speeds, cock the shutter. If using Bulb or the high speeds marked on the top dial, make sure that the front slow speed dial is set to “30”. Then lift the main dial and turn to the desired speed - the dial should drop and click into place. When the shutter is released, the main shutter dial will spin so keep fingers clear.

If using one of the slow speeds, cock the shutter first, then set the main dial on top to “30-X”. Next, select the desired speed.

It is not uncommon for any of the screw mount Leicas and copies to have operating high speeds but non-functioning slow speeds. This seems to be mainly a lubrication issue, particularly if unused for a while, and the way to fix it is a CLA (clean, lubrication and adjust) by a competent technician. They are relatively straightforward cameras to work on. Leica specialists can easily do the work but often don't like to because of the lack of spare parts, a problem for all the copies.

Loading Film

The film leader needs to be trimmed in accordance with the diagram on the inside of the base plate. Failure to do so can result in jamming and/or tearing. To secure the film leader to the take-up spool, the spool must be pulled out, then with the film taut, the film cannister and spool inserted at the same time.

Why the film has to be trimmed and a way around that for easier loading is explained by the Leica Repair Club.

It is easy to lose the removable spools and sometimes a camera will arrive without one. Leicas themselves used at least two main types, one with spring for the IIIg and M cameras , the other without for the earlier models. The sizes are different to Nicca versions. Other Leica copies have their own spool idiosyncracies. There are quite a few net discussions about what works and what doesn't and how to adapt and modify other types.

Also, Leica and nearly all Leica copy makers, including Nicca and Yashica, offered reloadable film cassettes. However, the experience of most users is that modern film cassettes work equally as well.

Viewfinder/Rangefinder

Like the Leicas that were the inspiration, the YE has two separate windows at the back of the top plate. Use the right viewfinder window with the rectangular view to frame the image and use the left rangefinder window to align the double image as the lens focus ring is turned. The viewfinder is not parallax corrected so this has to be allowed for at closer distances. The use of lenses shorter or longer than the “normal” 5 cm/50 mm requires the use of an accessory finder to see the same field of view as the lens. For practical rangefinder focusing accuracy reasons, the maximum usable focal length is usually 135 mm but shorter is more comfortable (longer Leitz lenses used the Visoflex SLR-like reflex housing).

(Back to top)

“Yashica E”, Fact or Fiction & Other Marketing Tidbits

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. The earliest camera found is 128004 (Japanese brochure), probably the 4th camera made (very likely pre-production but no longer prototype). It is marked “YE” already so I can't imagine a YE engraved “E” being released, in case anyone is hoping to find one. The earliest production cameras found are 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 (as noted earlier, January according to Mikio Awano, March claimed by quite a few Japanese sites) so a 1959 launch as the “Yashica E” seems extremely unlikely, actually, completely improbable.

On the other hand, it is almost absolutely certain that the confusion surrounding the model's launch name actually arises from Yashica's domestic marketing program. All the evidence points to the camera being released and initially marketed as either the “Yashica YE” or “Yashica 35 YE” and then for most of its life, being marketed in Japan as the “Yashica 35 E type” along with “Yashica 35 K type” and “Yashica 35 L type” (Yashica YK and YL).

One of the earliest appearances of the YE is in an ad for the “ヤシカ YE” (“Yashica YE”) together with the Nicca III-L which Yashica was still selling before releasing the YF. The featured lens has serial number 812006, the earliest found so far and the same as the main lens featured in the “Yashica 35 YE” brochure a little way up the page which to me looks like something that may have been produced near the model's release. The brochure page below features the “Yashica YE” (note, the Japanese text calls it the “ヤシカ 35 YE”) and also the “Yashica 35 YL” (only the YE is shown on this page, the YL is on the Yashica 35 page, also linked here). The early “91” series lens already and presence of the YL released in April 1959 indicate that this one is from a little later:

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on brochure page for larger view)

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 “Yashica 35 YF Nicca” (as we shall see, in Japan, the YF was marketed as the “Yashica 35 Fair-Way”, regardless of what's on the box or manual and briefly in the USA as “Yashica 35YF” before simply “Yashica YF”):

(Detail from larger web images)

I am yet to see the Japanese YE manual in more than very low resolution detail, but as mentioned earlier, Japanese ads note that it came with a 48 page “How to Use E Type” booklet.

Depending on source, the YE is claimed to have been launched in either January or March 1959; here is a page from a brochure from after the YK and YL releases (YK in August 1959) but from probably before the YF launch:

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on brochure page for larger view)

As also in the brochures below, the Japanese characters after the model letter translate to “type”. The “Yashica 35 E type” (engraved “YE” on the top plate) is joined by the “Yashica 35 L type” and “Yashica 35 K type” (marked “YL” and “YK” respectively).

The following advertising of accessories for several other models is taken from the YF “Yashica 35 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”.

This 1960 six panel Japanese Pentamatic brochure features a panel each for the YE and YF, the YF uses its Japanese name, “Yashica 35 Fair-Way” and the YE is called “Yashica 35 E type”:

(Click on panels for full PDF brochure)

Camera production seemed to begin and end in 1959. By the second half of 1960, sales must have been really struggling. Both the YE and YF are still featured on one panel in this September 1960 version of a six panel Japanese brochure for the Pentamatic II SLR (a February 1961 version of the brochure replaces the YE and YF with a Yashica slide projector so definitely gone by then). The YF is still offered with the f/1.8 5 cm Super-Yashinon (rather than the budget f/2 Yashikor discussed below) and features a sizeable price drop, the price difference between the YE and YF hardly accounting for their different lenses let alone features:

(Click on panels for full PDF brochure)

Clearly, the YE is still the “Yashica 35 E type” at pretty much the end of its marketing life. Personally, I think that the myth that the YE was released as the Yashica E and then changed to YE is completely busted. But on the other hand, the Japanese market seemed to know it as the “E type”. At least some of the time, but probably most of the time. I think that someone in Japan has found a brochure or two with the “Yashica 35 E type” name, made some incorrect assumptions without considering other models appearing as timeline markers and jumped to the wrong conclusion.

So apart from confusion, what was the idea that Yashica was trying to convey? With the release of the YK and YL, it seems that the domestic marketing was focusing heavily on “Yashica 35” as a theme rather than just individual models, probably trying to convince Japanese consumers that Yashica was now a 35 mm company as well as the TLR company. In that context, why drop the “Y” ? I don't know. Then why call the YF “Yashica 35 Fair-Way” instead of “Yashica 35 F type”? Who understands marketing?

(Back to top)

Yashica YF
aka Yashica 35YF, Yashica 35 Fairway

Shutter Speeds
Slow Speeds 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15
High Speeds B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000
X Sync 1/30

 

The YF is different in appearance to the Nicca III-L but is basically the same camera without the Nikkor lens options (f/2 or f/1.4) and with a few small things deleted and some added. The YF was commonly supplied with a “Yashinon” f/1.8 5 cm lens, later called “Super-Yashinon” (see Standard YF 5 cm f/1.8 Yashinon & Super-Yashinon Lenses below) but sometimes is also found with a virtually unknown f/2 5 cm Yashikor which may have only been offered in Japan:

(Detail from larger web image)

I have only seen the YF advertised with either the Yashinon (see US ads & brochure below), or renamed Super-Yashinon version (see the two Japanese “Fair-Way” ads, one below, the other in Accessory Lenses). The changeover point is detailed in Serial Numbers & Production below (about halfway through production). I have also found three YFs with the Yashikor f/2.8, which may or may not be original fitments. I thought less likely than likely but a Japanese blogger thinks that enough have been found to suggest that some were sold that way in Japan as a lower cost option. One of the three has the highest Yashikor f/2.8 lens number in my database and another's number is only slightly less, so given that there seems to have been little or no production overlap between the YE and YF (see Serial Numbers & Production below), that seems plausible at least.

Clearly, the Yashica YF was released after the YE. Below is part of a larger Japanese Yashica ad featuring the Yashica YE together with the Nicca III-L still with its Nikkor lens:

(Detail from larger web image)

Whereas the Nicca III-L had a unique spartan appearance, the Yashica appeared to be channelling the Leica M3 look more vigorously and for some, the alloy viewfinder frame on the front is an unnecessary and easily damaged 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. Oddly, whilst the YF shared the III-L's high shutter speeds, including the 1/30 X sync and 1/1000 sec top speed, the slow speeds dropped the “T” Time setting. The main shutter dial is different and does offer some operational benefits, see below. However, it is now recessed into the side of the rangefinder housing and ergonomically, its accessibility does sometimes draw adverse comment. On the plus side, the viewfinder added 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.

Some people read too much into the “dual names”. When Yashica bought the company, it was also buying the Nicca heritage and reputation. The YF looked different to the Nicca III-L and most Leica copies. From a marketing viewpoint, that “Nicca” name on the front was important to sell a camera that that could otherwise just be seen as a frolic by the “popular priced” TLR maker. Yashica owned the Nicca brand, it made sense to leverage it. Interestingly, there is evidence (including a sighting by contributor Chris Whelan) that the 45 mm YF lens hood has “Yashica” marked on one side and “Nicca” on the other.

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

(Images courtesy of Chris Whelan)

As noted above, the main shutter dial is an advancement over previous practice. YE, on left representing earlier Niccas and most screw mount Leicas and Leica copies, YF on right:

(Right image courtesy of Chris Whelan)

Late body type Niccas, but not the Type 33 nor Yashica YE, have a secondary shutter index mark at about the 7 o'clock position if the YE mark is considered to be at 9 o'clock. The second mark allows setting the speed with an uncocked shutter (the user manuals don't seem to recommend that though). The YF shutter dial goes one step further. There is an inner shaft surrounded by an outer dial which still has to be lifted to change speeds. However, the speed set is the speed set, cocked or uncocked. Both the inner and outer parts still spin when the shutter is fired but they stay locked to each other in the same position. It is an improvement but Leica with the M3 and others had already figured out how to combine the shutter speeds on one dial and not spin it when the shutter is released.

As previously noted, 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., (quotes as featured in the ad) advertised it as the “Yashica YF-Nicca” in the 29 September 1959 edition of The Free Singapore Press. Early USA advertising featured the “Yashica 35YF”:

(Details from larger web images)

The dates and publications are unknown but are earlier than the ad below, they both feature the “Yashica” in an oval corporate logo (only visible in the left ad) whilst the one below uses the new narrow “Y” in a circle.

The USA ad below in the January 1960 Modern Photography magazine, drops the “35” from the banner name but both “Yashica 35YF” and “Yashica YF” appear in the text block. None of the three ads make any reference to Nicca at all and in fact, the “Nicca” on the front of the camera is covered up in the second two (same photo) and in the first one, it is missing completely.

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on ad for larger view)

As mentioned earlier, I suspect that the Nicca name was still there on the camera to give credibility to a camera made by a company better known for low priced TLRs. In respect to the last ad, contributor Chris Whelan points out that perhaps it featured a prototype and the “Nicca” decision was still to be finalised. The lens in all three ads is the same and 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 appear in upper case. Note in all three ads the Leica-like (except corrugated) silver lens mount trim missing on production versions. However, the last ad is from January 1960 and production had already likely ended in 1959. So whilst Chris seems to be 100% correct about the camera/s used in the ads, it is very unlikely that any decisions remained to be decided.

The same/similar camera appears in the US brochure below (also dated to 1960 courtesy of the Yashica M, aka Minister on another page) but here “Nicca” is clearly visible this time. Another possibility is that there was some sort of legal issue in the US with the Nicca name which still had to be sorted out, possibly involving Sears, Roebuck & Co. with its Tower branding of Nicca models e.g. with “Nicca Camera Co., Ltd.” still appearing on the back of the recent Tower III-L model. This seems to me to be the most likely reason but it is all conjecture and there may be a completely different explanation.

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 inner frame line as “100 mm”, not that it makes any practical difference. However, the bloggers do have some support from this Yashica US brochure page:

(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.

The 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.

(Back to top)

Serial Numbers & Production

So far, all Yashica 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 Serial Numbers

Based on 108 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, Mikio Awano says January, 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 (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 10,902 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 97x
1958
97x
19
000x 088x
29
110x 245x
39
258x 396x
49
402x 548x
59
561x 712x
69
753x 992x
1959
9,92x
Total
10,902

 

(Back to top)

YE Yashikor f/2.8 5 cm Lens Serial Numbers

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, but if they do, it won't be production but the year when the lenses were released. As noted further below, there are some very significant visible and claimed differences between lenses from the two series.

I think that the serial numbers did start with the “812” prefix to match the bodies but for whatever reason the “2” became apart of the sequence number instead and the “1” from the “12” of “812” became a largely irrelevant digit carried over to the “91” series. In any case, in practice, the prefix number is only the first two digits (the “81” and “91”) and the rest is a sequence number that started at 2000. The lens on the camera in the YE brochure above is 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 one when changing to the “91” prefix (earliest “91” lens found is 91003x) and reach 91919x. The sequence numbers for both series 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):

Serial No. Prefix
Sequence No.
Production
From
To
Number Made
81
2006 496x
296x
91
003x 919x
919x
Total
12,160

 

(Back to top)

Yashica YF Serial Numbers

YF numbers require a leap of faith but 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 (56 cameras) range from 4x0022 (US brochure) to 49618x. The earliest found camera is 47004x. 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 the month this time. 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 numbers and production totals, including the limited production months and one model following the other). 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
0022 071x
48
103x 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 but as noted, the other two US ads were almost certainly earlier. The earliest ad that I have found anywhere is in The Free Singapore Press newspaper of 29 September 1959. Apart from those dates, I have found nothing more specific.

(Back to top)

YF Yashinon/Super-Yashinon f/1.8 5 cm Lens Serial Numbers

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 (three 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”, “5910” and “5911”. 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 60 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 one 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 124x and rise to 241x where there is a change. 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). The final prefix number is 5911 and the sequence tops out at 679x.

If 679x represented the total of the lenses produced, it is sort of 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 (and perhaps starting at odd points) to counting the total? Although there were also some f/2 Yashikors used and perhaps even some of the f/2.8 Yashikors normally found on the YE, numbers of both were likely to be insignificantly small. If the count changed to an overall total, I would say that it happened with the changeover from the July 597 prefix to the October 5910 prefix where there is a gap of 1,742 between serial numbers 597301x and 5910475x, although of course that may be due to August and September production which so far remains unaccounted for:

Serial No. Prefix
Sequence No.
Name
From
To
595
017x 225x
Yashinon
596
021x 039x
597
124x 241x
597
25xx 301x
Super-
Yashinon
1,742 gap in sequence no.s
5910
475x 643x
5911
679x  

 

(Back to top)

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

The best and most comprehensive site still alive today that I am aware of for Nicca models, including the Yashica YE and YF, is Massimo Bertacchi's “Innovative Cameras” with the link to the Nicca page http://corsopolaris.net/supercameras/nicca/nicca.html. The author claims that both Yashicas were made from 1959 to 1960 and that Yashica made 4,000 YE cameras and 10,000 YF cameras. Similar claims appear elsewhere. Another useful Leica copy website was “Leica Copies” by Ian Norris (myweb.tiscali.co.uk/iannorris/home.htm - unfortunately the hosting service has shut down) which also mentions the same numbers as Bertacchi but as maximums in the ranges 3,000 to 4,000 YEs and 7,000 to 10,000 YFs. Coincidently, HPR in his authoritative book, “Leica Copies”, estimated YF production at between 7,000 and 10,000 (I don't know what his YE estimate is). Although not for the YE or YF, Norris does refer to HPR by name for production figures for some other models so it is possible HPR is the source for both websites. Norris also claims that both models were made from 1959 to 1960.

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, although I am certain that the first YE production was actually in December 1958. I don't disagree with the cameras still being for sale during most of 1960 (they both feature in 1960 Japanese brochures until at least September 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 indeed. Yes, but even so, they only represent just over a thousand cameras per month, barely ticking over for a typical Yashica production line (1,273 per month over 11 months based on their highest estimates or 1,555 per month based on my figures).

Secondly, in terms of total numbers, the websites claim that Yashica made up to 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 (e.g. there are 118 YEs in my database and 72 YFs). I don't know how production numbers were extrapolated from serial numbers but I think that my approximate 10,900 YEs and 6,200 YFs is closer to the mark, in fact very close. There is no evidence that any of these guys has seen the prefix/sequence number patterns and sought to decode them. For each of them, the Yashica cameras were a very small part of their overall endeavour.

Ian Norris' website also noted the beginning and end serial numbers which differed slightly from me by missing the first 12xxxx range for the YE but for the YF, he surprised me by going down to 450xxx (May) compared to my 47004x (July) for the earliest production cameras (two in the 40s). As the 4 digit sequence numbers clearly count up from zero, cameras 47004x are in the first day or two's (if they started late in the day) 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. The camera below is from a US brochure page discussed further above. Note the stylised Leica-like chrome lens mount trim missing on production cameras. It has a serial number so it is not a prototype, more likely pre-production to make sure everything is ready to go. The number is 4x0022 with the last “2” also somewhat suspect. The “x” is critical but unfortunately, just not readable. If pressed, I would say “x” is neither 5 nor 7, the digit seems to have a rounded top.

(Brochure scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

Whilst I don't know the month this pre-production example was made, I am fairly confident that full production cameras commenced somewhere between 470023 and 47004x, i.e. sometime in July between this camera and the first production camera I have data for. I have no idea of how the serial numbers in Ian Norris' website were obtained but if from photos, it is easy to misread low resolution digits.

There is one minor niggle, lens numbers commence with “595” and rise to “5911” suggesting 1959, May to November. However, the 47xxxx cameras are generally fitted with the “595” lenses as are even some 49xxxx cameras. Lenses were made by a different company and nothing says that they had to be made at the same time. It may be even that camera production was planned to commence around May and was held back for some reason.

(Back to top)

Lenses

Note: As with all Yashica's early 35 mm cameras, whether fixed lens rangefinders, LTM models or Pentamatic SLRs, all the lenses are marked in “cm” but were advertised in “mm”. I have tried to go with what is marked on the lenses, unless specifically referring to an ad or brochure.

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, 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. More significantly, he wrote the Foreword to Sugiyama’s bible, “Collector’s Guide to Japanese Cameras” and is credited with the Nicca range and Yashica YE and YF entries, amongst others.)

We are in sync on the accessory telephoto lenses and pretty much so also on the standard “normal” lenses but in the process, 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 one thing and that's whether the “Yashinon” or “Super-Yashinon” name was used first with the YF f/1.8 lens, see further below.

Two Standard YE 5 cm f/2.8 Yashikor Lenses

“81” Serial Numbers
Elements/Groups
4/3
Aperture Blades
9 curved
F-Stop Range
f/2.8 - f/22
Angle of View
46 degrees
Dimensions
47x 37 mm
Weight
189 grams
Filter Size
40.5 mm
Slip-on Hood Size
42 mm

“91” Serial Numbers
Elements/Groups
5/4
Aperture Blades
6 straight
F-Stop Range
f/2.8 - f/22
Angle of View
46 degrees
Minimum Focus
90 cm
Dimensions
48 x 40 mm
Weight
178 grams
Filter Size
40.5 mm
Slip-on Hood Size
42 mm

(Specs collated from a number of sources plus my measurements; 1st “Dimension” is diameter of DoF ring, 2nd “Dimension” is minimum distance front of bezel to flange, weight as measured.)

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:

Some of the physical differences are already obvious in these photos. 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 YE Yashikor f/2.8 5 cm Lens Serial Numbers 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 eleven early examples in my database with scales visible plus Mikio Awano's comments). The others have metric distance scales marked “mtr” (fourteen examples). As mentioned earlier, I have seen no evidence suggesting export so the “ft” markings are certainly noteworthy. 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).”

These are the images that accompanied Mikio Awano's article:

At least one Japanese site thinks that perhaps the more sophisticated 5 element type may have been reserved for the YF but starting with YE number 29244x, they appear on all subsequent YE examples.

(Back to top)

My Comparison of the “81” and “91” Series Yashikor Lenses

Armed with the above information, I set out to confirm the differences. I have one “81” series lens (an early one with the “ft” scale) and two “91” series lenses (one with nice glass and dented filter ring, the other with a nice body but fungus infected - they are used interchangeably on the site). Always the “81” lens on the left, “91” on the right.

First up is the magenta vs amber coatings, notice too the dished front make up ring on the left lens and flat on the right:

9 curved aperture blades vs 6 straight blades:

Counting reflections. Take it from me, the left lens has the 6 reflections of 3 groups plus the fainter/smaller reflection of a cemented pair indicating a Tessar type (there are cleaning marks picking up reflections with the “81” lens, the full resolution image zoomed in clearly shows that the small 7th reflection is the one in the middle of the bottom triangle). Getting reflections to behave whilst trying to photograph two lenses is next to impossible, besides, when I get them to line up in the “91” lens from the front, two large reflections overwhelm the rest. So contrary to this photo, the “91” is not a Tessar:

Turned over, I wasn't worried about the “81” lens this time but as you can see, plenty of reflections with the “91” lens! There are 8 reflections of 4 groups plus the smaller/fainter reflection (not so small/faint this time) of a cemented pair (it is the whiter reflection right on the extreme left edge, it also appears in the photo above, top right) indicating a 5 element 4 group Xenotar type (the point light source I was using was a torch with 3 LED globes - noticeable in at least one of the larger reflections):

One apparent problem with the “91” lens is that the straight aperture blades impinge on the light path when wide open, a feature also of the Tomioka made Pentamatic Auto Yashinon f/1.8 5.5 cm lens criticised by a Japanese review panel in June 1960 (see Expert Critical Evaluation on Pentamatic page):

The spacing of the aperture scale markings are starkly different, progressively wider on the “81”, evenly spaced on the “91”. Both lenses set to infinity (OK, I messed up with the “81” but it's close), note that the “91” is taller with a wider ribbing area, surprisingly though, the “81” is slightly heavier (see specs tables above):

No knurling on the back of the “81” lens DoF scale, there on the “91”, notice also in the photo above and below, the lenses spin the same way but the internal brass helicoid threads are threaded opposite to each other:

Focusing difference - focused close, the “81” extends from in front of the focus ring, the “91” moves the whole lens away from the mount/DoF ring:

Finally, the different tails. The “81” has a screw in the rear flange and a slot along the inner brass barrel (visible but hard to see in this shot but can be seen in the rear reflections view a little further up). It also has a baffle and a different internal structure to the other lens:

See also Who Made the Standard Yashica f/2.8 & f/1.8 5 cm Lenses? These two lenses may share the “look” but they are completely different in just about every other way. Mikio Awano was correct.

(Back to top)

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

Yashinon & Super Yashinon
Elements/Groups
6/5
Aperture Blades
9 straight
F-Stop Range
f/1.8 - f/22
Angle of View
46 degrees
Minimum Focus
3.4 feet
Dimensions
50 x 41.5 mm
Weight
250 grams
Filter Size
43 mm
Slip-on Hood Size
45 mm

(Specs collated from a number of sources, weight and size subject to confirmation.)

The earlier lenses are called “Yashinon” and later lenses beginning with the last of the “597” prefix serial numbers and all the lenses with “5910” and “5911” prefix serial numbers are called “Super-Yashinon”, roughly half and half in my database. The Japanese ad or flyer further below describes the “Super-Yashinon” as having 6 elements in 5 groups. 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 and amber lens coatings. 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 definitely disagree with is that he seems to be suggesting that the “Super-Yashinon” is the original and the second lens merely dropped the “Super”. In the next section is a photo of three lenses with the Super Yashinon in the middle followed by the Yashinon on the right. The serial numbers are 59105380 and 5951809 respectively. Regardless that the first is an 8 digit number and the second 7 digits, he seems to have looked at the first left digits, say 591053, as being less than 595180. He probably didn't have the benefit of a big number of lenses to research - Serial Numbers & Production above makes it pretty clear that the f/1.8 lenses have serial number prefixes of “595”, “596”, “597”, “5910” and “5911” in that order followed by a 4 digit sequence number. By my reckoning, his Yashinon is from towards the beginning and the Super Yashinon is from the second half of production.

My database confirms that the earliest YF examples have lenses with the lowest serial numbers based on the prefix/sequence number schema (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 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:

(Detail from larger web image)

An odd thing is that the f/1.8 lens is mostly found with scales in feet, marked “Feet”, except for two early “Yashinon” examples (serial numbers 595111x and 595222x) 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 three metric lens examples?

(Back to top)

5 cm f/2 Yashikor

Elements/Groups
?
Aperture Blades
10 wavy
F-Stop Range
f/2 - f/16
Filter Size
?
Slip-on Hood Size
?

 

This is another “normal” lens but fairly rare and unknown and possibly only offered in Japan. I have seen three fitted to Japanese Yashica YF examples, one for sale by itself, one on a non-Yashica 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 strictly 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 both the Yashinon and Super-Yashinon f/1.8 have 9 straight blades. On the other hand, 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 the specs table, I have called the blades “wavy” but in the text I will continue to refer to them as “unusual”. They are certainly not unique though, 10 of the same shape blades are found on most/all versions of the rigid Leitz 50 mm f/2 Summicron, not that I am suggesting there is any connection between the two lenses! Quite possibly, other lenses also use the same shape 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 at least 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”. Presumably, that relates to its physical appearance/construction.

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 branded lens found on late Leotax models (Leotax cameras were commonly fitted with first Simlar and then Topcor lens made by Tokyo Kogaku, later called Topcon, with Fujinon lenses also sometimes appearing in the mid-1950s). 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 some 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 after all.

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, the two lenses originate from the same maker:

(Detail from larger web image)

I have since discovered an even more rare third type Leonon, also called “Leonon-S” which in layout and proportions seems to match the Topcor but has different continuous ribbing instead of the usual scalloped style.

In summary, as far as I can tell, the lenses fitted to late model Leotax models in chronological order are:

(Detail from larger web image)

(Detail from larger web image)

(Detail from larger web image)

(Detail from larger web image)

Although not visible in these photos, all the lenses are fitted with focus assist levers but not infinity locks.

It seems to me that the two later Leonons are different enough to not be typically Topcon made. 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 - whether any lens making capability remained is unknown. As well as Topcor lenses and earlier on also some Fujinon lenses being supplied as standard, there is also evidence of an Hexanon lens being supplied (an “Inspected Card” found with a camera confirms that the particular “Leotax T” was factory fitted with a “Hexanon 50 mm f1.9” lens which was made by Konishiroku, later Konica). However, there is nothing about the later Leonons that suggests production by a premium maker, more that they are built to a price which is almost certainly the reason for their appearance on the Leotaxes and the Leonon-S as the f/2 Yashikor on the YF.

Below is part of a brochure advertising the Yashikor-like “new” Leonon-S as the standard lens for the Leotax S2 Elite, which I understand was launched in 1960 and is very similar to the Leotax TV2 Merit except for lens choice. With the previous Leotax FV, TV2 Merit and T2L Elite, there had seemed to be a choice between the similar spec Topcor and the earlier Leonon lenses. The price comparison between the S2 Elite with Leonon-S and Merit from 1958 fitted with similar spec Topcor-S was ¥26,000 for the S2 and ¥42,500 for the Merit, the same downward trajectory that Nicca, then Yashica had pursued. Interestingly, the lens in the brochure has all the physical characteristics of the Leonon-S, including the distinctive bezel, but the front make up ring is typical of the plain Leonon and is complete with a crudely added and cramped “S” in white but missing the “Japan” commonly found on both Leonon-S lenses. It also has a typical plain Leonon serial number (23xxxx vs 34xxxx). Perhaps the plain Leonon developed into the Yashikor-like Leonon-S and this is a prototype?

(Brochure detail from larger web image)

(Back to top)

Who Made the Standard Yashica 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 bezels are reversed. On left, Canon 50 mm f/1.8 II released in February 1956, on right, Yashinon f/1.8 shown focused close (lens extended from DoF ring/flange).

(Detail from larger web images)

I'm not the first to mention that, however, 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” (but is all silver). 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. In fact, the detailing of both the aperture rings and infinity lock mounts of the Canon and Yashinon are quite different to the Honor and Hexanon lenses.

Of course, the faithful would say, “I don't know what you are banging on about, Tomioka was Yashica's exclusive lens maker.” On a page dedicated to “39 mm Screw Lenses”, Camera-wiki.org claims, “in the late 1950s, Tomioka was certainly the supplier of the Yashinon and Yashikor 5cm lenses offered by Yashica on the Yashica YE and YF.” Really, “certainly”? No source or evidence quoted. I don't subscribe to those views that Tomioka's involvement is an unassailable fact. 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). And there is the Leonon based Yashikor f/2 from above. 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 and most camera makers, 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 other 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. Yashica wanted the expensive Nikkors gone (it continued to sell the Nicca III-L complete with Nikkor until the YF was 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?

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.

Earlier on this page, having previously dismissed the idea that the f/2.8 Yashikor could be a reincarnation of the same spec Nicca in a new barrel, I have now conceded that there are some similarities between the Nicca and the earlier 9 curved aperture blade Yashikor with “81” serial numbers. Early Nicca top left pair, late Nicca tail top right and early Yashikor lower trio:

(Top 3 images, detail from larger web images)

If they are related, obviously the Yashikor uses a new barrel and you wouldn't expect them to look exactly the same. So ignore the appearance of the black bits of the barrel but note that the chrome bezel does look familiar. The front detailing of the lenses is also surprisingly similar. Then the 9 bladed circular aperture, the direction the aperture spins and the unequal aperture scale spacing all suggest that there could be shared genes. These images are not a good indicator but my “81” Yashikor and other images suggest that the bluey purple lens coating is similar on both. The tail ends are also quite similar, including the external baffle. Like the earlier Yashikor, the part in front of the focus ring extends/retracts when focusing (with the “91” Yashikor, it is the whole lens in front of the DoF ring/flange). Both have a rectangular slot in the side of the inner brass barrel. The Yashikor (bottom) has a single screw in the flange face which one latish example of the Nicca lens also has (I have captured lens numbers from 5 digit 825x to 6 digit 1011x, the one example found is 1001x). As a late addition, carry over to the Yashikor seems like a logical development, if that indeed happened.

There are some suggestions that it is a Tessar design, same as the “81” Yashikor, but that remains to be confirmed.

There are some differences too. The first is that the inner brass barrel helicoid of the Yashikor is threaded right to the outer face but stops maybe 5 mm, or so, short on the Nicca so that the threads are still not visible at maximum extension. Photos of a dismantled Nicca lens suggests that the difference would have no construction or operational consequences and may have just been a manufacturing decision. The second is that the screw and slot are 180 degrees apart on the one Nicca example (i.e. opposite each other) but roughly 90/270 degrees apart on the Yashikor. The third is that whilst the lens bezel and front face are very similar designs, they seem to be different sizes. The Yashikor has a 40.5 mm filter thread, all the indications are that the Nicca uses a 34.5 mm filter thread, an odd size used by Nikon for some of its LTM lenses and probably making sense given that the accessory lenses offered were still likely to be Nikkors. That's something that would have been of little interest to Yashica.

If there is a connection, it might help explain why there are two similar spec'd and appearing Yashikors. Maybe an interim one inherited and substantially modified for the coming family “look” and the other more optically complex lens developed by, dare I say it, Tomioka, the extra glass cost somewhat offset by the simpler aperture design. By the way, the later “91” Yashikor has neither the slot nor the screw and the detailing around the rear element is significantly different. Also, a tear down shows the construction to be quite dissimilar to the Nicca.

Who actually made the 5 cm lenses is a very complex question made more difficult by the existence of several different versions and no real evidence apart from design similarities. We don't know who made the Nicca lens, certainly not Fuji Photo Film (discussed here) and unlikely Tomioka. It could have been any of the 2nd tier lens makers, or even Nicca itself, perhaps buying in the glass. It's possible that Yashica/Nicca or Tomioka could have been responsible for the new barrel on the early “81” Yashikor, if that's all it was. If Tomioka was responsible for the new “91” lens, then there is a fair chance it delivered the Yashinon/Super-Yashinon also. As well as the family look, the tails of the Yashinon/Super-Yashinon seem to use a very similar rear group mounting design to the “91” Yashikor and the amber lens coatings are also shared. Rear of “91” Yashikor on left, rear of Yashinon on right:

(Right detail from larger web image)

Without more information, I think it's best to be aware of all the likely possibilities without trying to pick a winner.

(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 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 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 reasonable 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 3.5 cm and 10 cm were advertised with the YF but magazines said the lenses were “scheduled” to be released, implying that they arrived afterwards. There are several 1960 Japanese brochures where the YE and YF appear together and these also usually feature the 13.5 cm lens. However, I haven't seen any advertising for the lens with just the YE, presumably those ads and brochures are earlier. Here is an accessories page featuring the 13.5 cm lens from a brochure which includes both the YE & YF. I have only seen the 10 cm lens advertised once and that is with the YF in the flyer or ad below.

I suspect that the 10 cm lens is the earlier released lens, notwithstanding the 13.5 cm appearing together with the YE and YF. The 10 cm lens uses a date code format for the serial number whereas the 13.5 cm uses the focal length as the prefix, a numbering system also used by the following Pentamatic accessory lenses.

(Back to top)

10 cm f/2.8 Super-Yashinon

Elements/Groups
?
Aperture Blades
9 straight
F-Stop Range
f/2.8 - f/22
Filter Size
?
Hood Type
Screw-on

 

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 left. Right image is the screw-on lens hood which was probably supplied with the lens (found with several of the lenses):

(Detail from larger web images)

The earliest observed serial number is 7 digit 591001x but oddly, the second earliest is the only 8 digit number, 5910002x, the rest are 7 digit 591011x, 591011x, 591016x, 591016x, 591016x, 591019x, 591920x 591036x, 591039x and 591054x. 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 also the early Pentamatic f/1.8 5.5 cm Auto Yashinon.

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. There is an even stronger family resemblance to the Pentamatic SLR lenses in development near the same time so Tomioka must be a leading candidate for the maker.

(Back to top)

13.5 cm f/3.5 Super Yashinon

Elements/Groups
4/3
Aperture Blades
12 curved
F-Stop Range
f/3.5 - f/22
Angle of View
18 degrees
Minimum Focus
5 feet
Length
98 mm
Weight
449 grams
Filter Size
46 mm
Hood Type
Screw-on

(Assembled from Kyoei brochure and sales of Kyoei Super-Acall 135 mm lenses.)

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 almost exact match for the same spec “Super-Acall” lens made by Kyoei Optical Co., Ltd. This features 4 elements in 3 groups which seems like a rather basic construction, however, it was a common configuration and Canon made a similar f/3.5 135 mm LTM lens from 1952 through to 1975 and that is quite well regarded. Note, I am not claiming that the Kyoei product would match the performance of the Canon, although people that have used it claim that it is pretty good except for contrast.

The only differences I can see between the Super Yashinon and Super-Acall is the branding text on the front and the colour of the distance scales; white meters and yellow feet on the Yashinon and orange meters and white feet on the Kyoei. 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). 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 one, the one in the brochure below and one other for sale are the only examples that I have seen so relatively rare these days but I can confirm that they are identical to the Kyoei version.

Presumably they exist but I am yet to see a Yashica branded lens hood. The Kyoei hoods are a screw-on type:

(Detail from larger web image)

Kyoei also made a version of the lens 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, the “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.

By the way, Sears, Roebuck and Co. offered Nikkor accessory lenses with its “Tower” branded Nicca cameras or, as budget alternatives, initially German Steinhill lenses then later, certainly in their 1959 catalogue, Kyoei “W. Acall” 35 mm and “Super-Acall” 105 mm and 135 mm lenses.

The cosmetic and design detailing of all versions of the Kyoei 135 mm 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
9092x-9209x
Left
INF.
Dual
mm
Super Yashinon
135900x-135950x
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 135900x, 135901x, 135903x, 135907x, 135933x and 135950x. 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 was it coincidence and Yashica chose 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) to meet 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 extremely 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.

My YE and early Super-Acall with feet focusing scale and opposite turning aperture scale.

(Back to top)

Accessories

Below is the accessories page from a brochure featuring both the YE and YF as well as the Yashica 35 and YK:

(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 either. Only one of the three accessory lenses is presented, as is its matching viewfinder. There are the obligatory reloadable 35 mm film cassettes. Similar were offered by Leica and most Leica-copy makers, including Nicca. Presumably they fitted better than disposable cassettes of the day but there seem to be no real problems with modern cassettes even though they are shorter. The brochure also includes a 45 mm slip-on clamp type lens hood for the YF Yashinon/Super-Yashinon (there is some evidence that the 45 mm has “Yashica” on one side and “Nicca” on the other) and a 42 mm version is listed for the YE Yashikor - these are similar to/same as late Nicca types. YE version below:

Detail from larger web image

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. It looks suspiciously like the contemporary Nicca BC-III type, probably rebadged.

(Brochure scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

Examples of Nicca accessories, including the BC-III flash unit, are on the Nicca page.

(Back to top)