Yashica 35

The first of the 35 mm cameras

Contents

Arrival
The Camera

Shutter
Lenses
Target Markets

Serial Numbers
Production & Trim Variations

Trim Changes

Following Models

Yashica YK
Yashica YL
The Next Generation

Arrival

The Yashica 35 was Yashima's first 35 mm camera and the second camera after its Yashica 8 movie camera to tread a different path to its bread and butter 6x6 TLR models which had so far been the source of the company's growth and success. The writing was on the wall for TLRs and Yashima could see that the future looked different.

How this camera was developed is not clear to me. It is often linked to the acquisition of Nicca (May 1958). The Yashica rangefinder camera website Yashica Guy, comments that it “ is the first of the Rangefinder models to have been produced in the integrated Yashica Works”. In one sense, that is likely to be correct but in another, it gives a false impression that Nicca was somehow involved. From serial numbers, it looks like the first production examples rolled off the assembly line in April 1958 already which fits with the April 1958 release claimed by Japanese magazine “Camera Collectors' News” of July 1987 and other sources. In other words, Yashima was already making this camera before the arrangement with Nicca came into effect.

Although lacking innovation in comparison to some contemporary models, most commentators regard the Yashica 35 as a well designed, quality camera. To me, it seems like the mature product of a camera maker familiar with 35 mm fixed lens rangefinder cameras so it is quite remarkable for a first up effort, particularly in light of Yashica Guy's claim that the General Manager of the “reorganised company”, Mr Agucho, had a vision of a rangefinder camera “which the masses could afford”.

Clearly, the design, testing and tooling for such a model will have taken some time to execute and its gestation must have occurred well back in 1957, if not earlier. If Yashica had any sort of outside assistance or partnership in the development, it would unlikely have been struggling Nicca as its models had little in common with a rangefinder camera with fixed lens and in-lens leaf shutter.

(Back to top)

The Camera

The Yashica 35 is a solidly constructed, substantial, mostly glass and metal full manual camera without exposure meter. Like several other Japanese rangefinders from the period, the handsome overall look of the camera is borrowed from the pre-War German Contax II, or from the Nikon S, take your pick. The Nikon S was a visual copy (and more) of the Contax II in any case. With lever film wind, re-wind knob with folding crank and hinged back, the Yashica 35 is already modern but still uses the sliding latch on the side for opening the back which was common in the 1950s. Very early f/1.9 version pictured with matching lens hood, below it, a relatively late example:

Given Yashima's established focus on quality at the lowest prices (profit through volume) and the vision of this camera as being for the “masses”, Yashima could have been forgiven for some cost cutting with this first model but there is little evidence of that. The coupled rangefinder has a long base and uses superior prisms instead of mirrors. The combined viewfinder/rangefinder window is not parallax corrected but does have a bright frame, already an improvement over most of the more expensive Leica copies available. Frame counting is in a window and resets automatically, not even something carried across into Yashica's first SLRs. The top plate also has a window for setting the DIN/ASA film speed reminder.

(Back to top)

Shutter

The between the lens leaf shutter has a full range of speeds from B to 1/500, in most instances using the old speed progression (e.g. 1/25 and 1/50), and also a self-timer. Three examples have been found with the new progression (e.g. 1/30 and 1/60). One is the last f/1.9 version in my database (the SV example from December 1960 immediately below) which makes sense, the other two are f/2.8 versions from much earlier, December 1958 and January 1959. With its TLRs, Yashica seemed to start the transition from the old progression in 1958 but there were still some stragglers in early 1961.

As far as I can make out from references and also photos showing the name on the side of the lens barrel, the between lens leaf shutter is a Copal MXV on all examples of both variants. With front element block removed, this is the shutter cover plate of an early example still with “Yasinon” f/1.9 lens (see further below):

(Detail from larger web image)

However, photos of a tear down of an early f/2.8 example clearly show a Copal SV cover plate. This type of cover plate is also found on the very last Yashica 35 with f/1.9 lens in my database. The example is owned by contributor Chris Whelan:

(Images courtesy of Chris Whelan)

With the shutter open on Bulb, the aperture with 10 curved blades is visible which is typical of the Copal MXV and earlier shutters used on Yashica's TLRs. The SV shutters used on Yashica TLRs typically have 5 blades but I'm certain that is not a design absolute, just an optional variation offered by Copal. The two shutters, when configured the same, really are very similar, operate the same way and seem to share parts - see Lenses & Shutters.

Whether these two examples fitted with Copal SV shutters are repair items, part of a larger implementation of the SV shutter or something else, I really have no idea, but if pressed, I would say it's a supply issue and substituting like with like as far as the shutter and camera maker are concerned.

(Back to top)

Lenses

Two versions of the Yashica 35 were offered, one with an f/1.9 4.5 cm Yashinon lens and the other with an f/2.8 4.5 cm Yashinon lens. In other respects, the two models were identical. Both lenses are relatively sophisticated designs for the time, the f/1.9 is 6 elements in 4 groups and the f/2.8 is 5 elements in 4 groups:

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on page for larger version)

That page is taken from this brochure, there are also similar details in a slightly later brochure in which Yashica tells us that both lenses include elements with glass containing lanthanum, a so-called “rare earth”. Lanthanum is often erroneously thought to be radioactive, well it is but at negligible levels, the lenses that do give off measurable radiation and turn yellow contain thorium. Yashica explains that the lens designs and coatings are focused on obtaining optimum results with colour film noting particular concerns about correcting chromatic aberrations and reducing vignetting (light fall-off towards image edges) given the limited exposure latitude of the emulsions of the day.

On the headings, both lenses are called “Yashinon”, however, the name on the front of both lenses is “Yasinon”. There is more here including cine lens examples. Clearly, Yashima had a change of mind. With one exception, the only f/2.8 “Yasinon” examples I have seen are in brochures. Paradoxically, the one exception is a very late example which comes from an unusual period of production - more detail further below. However, production versions of the f/1.9 “Yasinon” lens are comparatively common. The majority, but not all, of found examples fitted to the cameras made in the first two months (April and May 1958) are branded “Yasinon” and the odd one or two continue to appear on cameras made up to and including May 1959. All the “Yasinon” f/1.9 lenses have 5 digit serial numbers and the “Yashinon” lenses are 6 digit except the very first one which is 5 digit but higher than all the “Yasinon” types (2228x). The production “Yashinon” f/2.8 lenses start with 5 digits and progress to 6 digits towards the end. The found “Yasinon” f/2.8 lens has the lowest serial number of any f/2.8 lens including the early brochure above. My f/1.9 “Yasinon” from May 1958:

Here it is shown next to my late example (both cameras featured further above, the eagle eyed will note a number of trim differences - these are detailed further below, mostly using these two cameras as examples):

With Zunow cine lens examples and the 13.5 cm LTM telephoto for the YE & YF almost certainly being made by Kyoei Optical Co., Ltd., the idea of Tomioka being the “exclusive” lens maker for Yashica is somewhat discredited. So who made these lenses? I think that Tomioka has to be the front runner. Whereas with the other lens formats, there was no history of prior examples, similar focal length and aperture “Tominor” lenses (renamed “Tominon” on some later variants) are found on Royal rangefinder cameras made by Royal Camera Company from 1955 onward. The lens construction of the 45 mm f/1.9 and f/2.8 lenses is not known to me but the earliest model featured an unusually complex 50 mm f/2 lens with 7 elements in 5 groups, or, an f/2.8 lens with 5 elements.

There may be other Tomioka made examples as well. Camera-wiki.org claims that the 5 element “Riken Ricoh” 45 mm f/2.8 lens of the 1957 Ricoh 500 rangefinder camera was made by Tomioka as was the similar spec “Ricomat” of the 1958 second version. There are other suggestions that Tomioka may also have been responsible for the “Canter” and “Biokor” lenses on Beauty cameras including a pair of 45 mm f/1.9 and f/2.8 lenses for 35 mm rangefinder cameras.

Focusing Distance Scales

With lens barrels that pretty much look identical to each other, you would expect the focusing distance scales to be the same too, but no. Right from the beginning, whether “Yasinon” or “Yashinon”, Yashima made or Yashica made, the f/1.9 lenses are marked either “M” or “ft” for metres and feet respectively.

On the other hand, the f/2.8 lenses on the early Yashima made examples are mainly in feet marked “ft”. There is one metric one marked “Meter”. Then when the maker name changed to Yashica, all bar three in my database are now metric, still marked “Meter”, but the three feet scaled exceptions have changed to “feet”.

Dual scale focusing scales, marked “m” (white) and “ft” (yellow), started in November 1959 for the f/1.9 version and early 1960 for the f/2.8 (March by my database but I have no January or February cameras) but the odd single scale camera turns up right to the very end including the very last one in the database (another “ft” from Japan).

(Back to top)

Target Markets

It's difficult to draw any real conclusions about export patterns, but it may just be that I don't have enough examples, or probably more accurately, a disproportionate number of my examples are from Japanese websites. Even both my very early and late f/1.9 examples have distance scales in feet marked “ft” but were bought from Japan.

Unfortunately, there is little in the way of advertising/marketing to help apart from the early Japanese brochures. For the domestic market, these refer to a 180 page book with “Yashica 35” in English on the cover which is described as a complete photography guide, much like the Yashicaflex Photography type books supplied with Japanese market TLRs. Although the only ad from outside of Japan that I have found is in The Singapore Free Press newspaper of 27 January 1960 for the f/1.9 model, there was clearly a wider export program. A YouTube video reviewer featuring a Yashica 35, probably from Australia, tells us that the camera belonged to his mother from before her marriage to his photographer father. It is boxed, cased and includes the original English language user manual. From time to time, other Yashica 35 examples do turn up for sale here and I can't honestly say that I have spent much time looking on eBay in the US or elsewhere.

(Back to top)

Serial Numbers

Originally, I wasn't going to address Yashica 35 serial numbers because these, more than any other model, stretch credulity to the limit. However, there are several sources for the release date and change of maker name from Yashima to Yashica and I am pretty confident about the end date. These put hard markers on the timeline and as the next section will demonstrate, there are far more trim variations than might be imagined. Cameras with the same trim obviously fit in a similar area on the timeline and the evolution of the model becomes self-evident. I can reasonably confidently say that there is no apparent conflict between the serial numbers, as I understand them, and the camera's evolutionary development.

As with most Yashima/Yashica models from September 1957 onward and all models from late 1958 onward, Yashica 35 body serial numbers include a date code prefix (TLR-like in this case) followed by a 4 digit sequence number which counts monthly production from 1 to 9,999 (as for the TLRs but for some models counts production from beginning to end). Particularly in the beginning, Yashima chopped and changed its year code between the western calendar, Japanese Showa years and a combination of the two (see Serial Numbers).

There is a big problem though and that is the “59xxxx” and “510xxxx” numbers that seem to fit in between numbers starting with “48” and “411”, 1959 August and 1959 November. The “5” could come from Showa 35 making it 1960 but there are two problems with that, the trim on the cameras doesn't match a late 1960 date and the Yashica YL has exactly the same problem but its production seems to stop in early 1960 already, both by serial numbers and a claim by Alan R. Corey about a 1993 Yashica/Kyocera marketing department document. I have highlighted the problem serial numbers in grey and at the moment, have no explanation why they fit there except by magic. Yashica couldn't have been devious enough to drop the “9” from “59” (1959), could it?

Note that only the months with found serial numbers are featured and the “Trim Milestones” column is not a complete list or full explanation:

Serial No. Year
Code
Deciphered Month
Code
Month Trim Milestones
Showa
Year
84xxxx
8
1958
4
April New film wind & rewind
334xxxx
33
33
1958
4
April  
335xxxx
33
33
1958
5
May  
585xxxx
58
1958
5
May Reminder now ASA/DIN
587xxxx
58
1958
7
July  
588xxxx
58
1958
8
August  
589xxxx
58
1958
9
September Maker name change
389xxxx
38
33
1958
9
September Frame counter change
3810xxxx
38
33
1958
10
October  
3811xxxx
38
33
1958
11
November  
3812xxxx
38
33
1958
12
December  
391xxxx
39
34
1959
1
January  
392xxxx
39
34
1959
2
February  
43xxxx
4
34
1959
3
March  
44xxxx
4
34
1959
4
April  
45xxxx
4
34
1959
5
May Screws deleted from mount
47xxxx
4
34
1959
7
July “Made in Japan” on back
48xxxx
4
34
1959
8
August New focus assist lever
59xxxx
5
1959
9
September
510xxxx
5
1959
10
October
411xxxx
4
34
1959
11
November  
412xxxx
4
34
1959
12
December  
63xxxx
6
1960
3
March “Made in Japan” on top plate
67xxxx
6
1960
7
July  
68xxxx
6
1960
8
August  
F 611xxxx
6
1960
11
November  
F 612xxxx
6
1960
12
December  

 

Note, the introduction of the “F” model prefix to the serial number is consistent with other models, including TLRs, of similar vintage. The problem is that the “Yashica 35” name didn't have any obvious letters to use, and just like with the Yashica 635, which first used “ST” and then “SX”, I think Yashica chose an arbitrary letter. There is almost certainly no separate “35-F” model, or variant, as some net commentators and sellers like to promote. The format is the same as the earlier “35-No. xxxxetc” numbers, i.e. model name “35”, dash “-” and serial number, regardless whether the serial number includes “No.”, or the prefix letter “F”, see earlier top plate views further below:

(Image courtesy of Chris Whelan)

Luckily, the Yashica YK helps to make it even more clear, these are its last 8 serial numbers in my database:

Serial No. Year
Code
Deciphered Month
Code
Month
Year
6607xx
6
1960
6
June
61028xx
6
1960
10
October
K 61110xx
6
1960
11
November
K 61204xx
6
1960
12
December
K 61208xx
6
1960
12
December
K 10113xx
1
1961
01
January
K 10134xx
1
1961
01
January
K 10206xx
1
1961
02
February

 

There is no model prefix letter for the October or earlier examples (see Yashica YK below for more examples). The addition of the “F” and “K” prefixes arrived at about the same time that TLRs first got their 2 digit model identifier for the first time (see Serial Numbers from 1957 to 1960, some as early as September 1960). On 1 January 1961, all TLRs started off with their new 7 digit serial numbers preceded by one or two letters, e.g. “D”, “LM” and “ST” and the fourth digit of the year (“1” of 1961) became the year code for the next 19 1/2 years or so. As obviously the YK did with “K 101xxxx”. If a Yashica 35 was made in January 1961, its serial number would be F 101xxxx.

(Back to top)

Production & Trim Variations

According to several sources and also serial numbers, production of both versions started in April 1958 - there are examples of April serial numbers found in both Japanese brochures and in the wild . The maker name on the back of the top plate was “YASHIMA OPT. IND. Co., LTD.” In September 1958, along with all affected models (e.g. Yashica-Mat, not all models featured the maker name), the maker name changed to “YASHICA Co., LTD.” (also visible in the top view image further below):

Many sources claim that production ended in 1960 and one source, Alan R. Corey, claims that a document given to him by Yashica/Kyocera marketing in 1993 shows that the Yashica 35 was made from April 1958 to March 1960 and that the other two rangefinder models without an exposure meter ended production at a similar time (YK in March 1960 and YL in January 1960). My serial number table above suggests that production of found Yashica 35 cameras stopped in December 1960 and that Corey, or Kyocera marketing, was also wrong about the Yashica YK.

Until nearing the end of production, all the cameras have trim consistent with their serial numbers, with perhaps the exception that f/1.9 “Yasinon” lenses continued to appear from time to time until mid 1959. Then, some late examples in my database have one or more trim items that are from an earlier period, e.g. the last two cameras have the first type focus assist finger grip. Other features on the cameras are appropriately up to date. Another couple have the last type top plate engraving “YASHICA CO., LTD. MADE IN JAPAN” but have also reverted to the pre-1959 “MADE IN JAPAN” on the base plate. The most extreme example is the only f/2.8 “Yasinon” lens found in the wild. This is mounted on a camera with March 1960 serial number featuring the second type of focus lever in all black which first appeared earlier the same month (the second lever first appeared with black knob on silver support in August 1959, still much later than expected for a “Yasinon” lens). It seems likely that Yashica was using up excess inventory of unused/spare parts.

(Back to top)

Trim Changes

Apart from the renaming of the lenses to “Yashinon” and the September 1958 maker name change, these were the trim changes from the start to end:

(Middle detail from larger web image)

(Images courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Left & right detail from larger web images)

(Right detail from larger web image)

(Left image courtesy of Chris Whelan, right detail from larger web image)

(Back to top)

Following Models

It seems that the Yashica 35 remained in production whilst the next 2 models were released, in fact for most of their lives as well. These are the YK and YL. “K” before “L”, right? Not according to Japanese “Camera Collectors' News” of July 1987 which claims that the YK went on sale in August 1959 and the YL was released in April 1959. Alan R. Corey's 1993 Yashica/Kyocera marketing document more or less agrees but pushes the YL forward to May. The serial number tables below suggest that production commenced in March for the YL and June for the YK so the claims are pretty much confirmed. Nevertheless, I'll treat the two models alphabetically.

(Back to top)

Yashica YK

The YK top plate is simply engraved “Yashica” with “YK” on the front window but the user manual calls it the “Yashica 35 YK”. It looks substantial and well made and very similar to the Yashica 35 except for a modified top plate with a slight step. However, it is most assuredly a budget model. The elegant long window on the front hides the fact that the rangefinder base has been shortened and the prisms replaced by mirrors, the film speed reminder is now a simple dial on the back and the automatic frame counter has been replaced by the simpler and very common manual reset type counter on top of the film wind lever:

(Images courtesy of Chris Whelan)

Compared to the Yashica 35, the YK seems to have the same lower part of the body and lens barrel design but the top plate is noticeably taller due to the higher placement of the viewfinder in the body. The reason for this is that on the 35, the rangefinder and viewfinder components are mounted separately to the upper body platform whereas on the YK, as also on the YL and following models, the rangefinder/viewfinder is a complete modular unit which is bolted on top of the platform. This no doubt simplified production.

(Image courtesy of Chris Whelan)

The specs and price clearly put it below the f/2.8 versions of the Yashica YL and earlier Yashica 35 which continued to remain available for most of the YK's life:

(Image and specs from circa 1959 US Brochure)

The Copal MXV shutter has been replaced by a simpler Copal type (“Copal” on the barrel, just visible, but the internal cover plate says “Copal SV”, this version of the SV is half empty under the cover).

(detail from larger web image)

Consequently, the self-timer is gone and shutter speeds reduced to B and 1/25 to 1/300 (like the budget Yashica A TLR).

Only the one lens was available, an f/2.8 4.5 cm. The well known website, www.collection-appareils.fr, suggests that the lens is 4 elements in 3 groups, i.e. probably a Tessar, which is still a solid choice and wouldn't surprise me, and this Japanese website, www.asahi-net.or.jp, and Japanese Wikipedia claim the same.

The following are the serial number schema of found examples. This is based on a relatively small sample of only 30 cameras so there are likely to be more months of production, although with the Yashica 35 and Yashica YL in production at the same time, there would have been competition for production line space on one hand and danger of over-production on the other with 3 similar f/2.8 cameras vying for consumers' attention.

Serial No. Year
Code
Deciphered Month
Code
Month
Showa
Year
46xxxx
4
34
1959
6
June
47xxxx
4
34
1959
7
July
48xxxx
4
34
1959
8
August
410xxxx
4
34
1959
10
October
411xxxx
4
34
1959
11
November
412xxxx
4
34
1959
12
December
61xxxx
6
1960
1
January
66xxxx
6
1960
6
June
610xxxx
6
1960
10
October
K 611xxxx
6
1960
11
November
K 612xxxx
6
1960
12
December
K 101xxxx
1
1961
01
January
K 102xxxx
1
1961
02
February

Note: The numbering system starting with January 1961 is the same as with TLRs which remained in place until 1980.

There were several minor trim changes. Except for the first one, these were similar to the later Yashica 35 updates and occurred at a similar time:

(Image courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Back to top)

Yashica YL

Yashica hadn't abandoned more advanced specs and features with the release of the YK. Enter the unusual, and to my eyes at least, visually challenging, YL model. This has a completely new body and look which seems to echo elements of both the Nicca III-L and Yashica YF. This time, the top plate is engraved “Yashica 35” with “YL” on the front and as with the YK, the user manual calls it the “Yashica 35 YL”:

(Image courtesy of Chris Whelan)

It's the YF like stepped top plate with III-L like black viewfinder/rangefinder window insert that makes it stand out but there are other more interesting features. The bright line viewfinder is now usefully parallax correcting. The automatic frame counter makes a return and the film speed reminder moves to the top of the film wind lever. The top plate and viewfinder placement don't easily allow for a rewind knob/crank so Yashica added a pull-out crank to the bottom plate. This apparently works well but does add cost and complexity with an internal shaft and gears required:

(Detail from larger web image)

The extract from the US brochure below identifies two versions; the “Yashica YL2” and “Yashica YL1”, the former with f/2.8 lens and the latter with f/1.9 lens and Light Value (LV) scale marked on the front ring and a “coupling ring” (as described in the user manual) to enable moving the shutter and aperture together for any given LV. Although not strictly necessary, the LV scale is most useful when using an exposure meter that provides a reading in LV numbers.

(Images and specs from circa 1959 US Brochure)

Most wikis will tell you something similar to what is in the brochure and what I originally wrote:

There are two versions, one with f/1.9 lens 4.5 cm Yashinon lens mounted in a Copal SVL shutter and the other with an f/2.8 Yashinon lens mounted in a Copal MXV shutter. Both versions are fitted with a self-timer. Japanese Wikipedia claims that the f/1.9 version was released first and featured the same construction lens as on its Yashica 35 predecessor (6 elements in 4 groups) and that the f/2.8 wasn't released until 1960, also featuring the first f/2.8 lens construction of 5 elements in 4 groups.

It's actually a lot more complex - there are many lenses (well, 3 apertures at least and 4 in total), and Japanese Wikipedia is wrong, at least from the global perspective, the f/2.8 version appeared right at the beginning. Of course, Japanese Wikipedia may have only been considering the Japanese market where the release may have been different (the only found in Japan f/2.8 camera in the table below was built in November 1959). The following table lists actual cameras found by serial number and their lens types, two trim variations and country they were found in, if identifiable. Some of the other gaps are due to the information being added afterwards and the cameras could not be found again, and some are due to features not being visible, particularly the rangefinder window masks. I know that there were at least one or two cameras from the US but I can't identify them now:

Serial No. Year/
Month
Shutter
Button
Rangefinder
Window
Lens Lens No. Country
430209
1959/3
Black square
Diamond
f/1.8 type A
394179
(Manual)
43057x
1953/3
f/1.8 type A
39385x
Japan
44039x
1959/4
Black square
f/1.8 type A
39462x
Japan
45224x
1959/5
Black square
f/2.8
8634x
 
45229x
1959/5
f/1.8 type A
394611x
 
46192x
1959/6
Black square
f/1.9
125xxx
Poland
47141x
1959/7
Black square
Diamond
f/1.8 type A
394857x
 
47151x
1959/7
f/1.9
12561x
 
47612x
1959/7
Black square
Diamond
f/2.8
7833x
Australia
48073x
1959/8
f/1.8
 
48196x
1959/8
Black square
f/1.8 type A
394610x
 
48247x
1959/8
Black square
Diamond
f/2.8
7844x
Australia
48480x
1959/8
Black square
Circular
f/2.8
13972x
Sweden
49329x
1959/9
Black square
f/1.8 type A
39576x
Japan
59032x
1959/9
Black square
Diamond
f/1.8 type A
396605x
Japan
59032x
1959/9
f/2.8
9427x
 
59052x
1959/9
Black square
f/2.8
10088x
UK
59066x
1959/9
Black square
f/1.9
12543x
UK
4101xxx
1959/10
Black square
Diamond
f/1.9
12653x
Australia
410189x
1959/10
Black square
Diamond
f/2.8
11329x
 
410329x
1959/10
f/2.8
10972x
 
410571x
1959/10
Black square
f/2.8
13178x
Australia
410601x
1959/10
Black square
f/1.9
 
411030x
1959/11
Black square
Circular
f/1.9
12953x
UK
411073x
1959/11
Black square
Circular
f/2.8
13043x
UK
411197x
1959/11
Black square
Circular
f/2.8
13765x
Japan
411xxxx
1959/11
Black square
f/1.9
128104
Japan
412166x
1959/12
Chrome round
Diamond
f/1.8 type A
39704x
Japan
412194x
1959/12
Chrome round
Circular
f/1.8
595096x
 
412325x
1959/12
Chrome round
f/1.8
595061x
Japan
61011x
1960/1
Chrome round
f/1.8 type A
396309x
 
61033x
1960/1
Chrome round
Circular
f/1.8
595115x
Japan
61080x
1960/1
Chrome round
Diamond
f/1.8 type A
396067x
 
61093x
1960/1
Chrome round
Circular
f/1.8
595001x
 

Note, to understand how the year codes work, refer to the Yashica 35 serial number table further above.

The table tells us a number of things. First about the serial numbers. Production starting in March 1959 and ending in January 1960 seems to be in line with a release date of April or May, depending on source, and the January end date claimed by Alan R. Corey. As with the Yashica 35, there are several cameras with serial numbers beginning with “5”. This seems to equate to 1959 but I can't explain how that works in terms of either Showa or the western calendar. It may be that Yashica has really tricked us by omitting the “9” of “59” for 1959. Although I have identified two trim changes in the table (there are also three versions of the focus assist lever, see further below for all trim variations), the way that there is a hard cut over from one type of shutter button to the other is consistent with my understanding of the serial numbers.

(Note: The first camera in the table is the camera in the English user manual for the f/1.9 version camera. The lens in the table is one of two different lenses identified in the manual so it may, or may not, match the camera in the table. The lens serial number and style of text is clear on the “Taking Flash Pictures Page”. The aperture of neither lens is visible but the other has a different text style and a serial number that might be 10000x. For the purposes of the table, I have assumed that the lens with most details visible is an f/1.8 type A, (my terminology) based on its serial number and style of text.)

It could well be that the f/2.8 and f/1.9 lenses are from the Yashica 35 but the existence of not just one but two versions of the f/1.8 lens is massively intriguing, to me at least because I'm not really familiar with this model. The only thing that I can say about these lenses is that the pair look like a match for the two different Lynx 1000 versions considered and physically examined in Claims of Zunow Sourced 35 mm Lenses. The type A text on the front looks like what Chris Whelan and I allege might be the earlier Zunow version. The underlined “o” in “No” and the “a”s and the font generally for “Japan” look much more typically Zunow than Yashica and again, the serial numbers are 6 or 7 digit and start with first digit “3”. Examples of the four YK lenses below:

(Detail from larger web images)

The advertised f/2.8 (left) lens and f/1.9 (right) lens.

(Detail from larger web images)

The unexpected and unusual f/1.8 type A (left) lens and unexpected but more typical f/1.8 (right) lens.

Some observations. The two f/1.8 and f/1.9 lenses all have a similar barrel with LV ring at the front. The f/2.8 lens has a similar barrel to the Yashica 35 and Yashica YK lenses. The letters on the f/2.8 lens look perhaps a little finer than the other three lenses but it is a similar font to the f/1.9 and f/1.8 lenses and looks very similar to the Yashica 35 and YK lenses. With the f/1.8 type A lens, note the unique underlined “o” in “No” and the different “a”s and the “J” in “Japan” and also, it is the only example with “YASHICA” all in capitals (the Lynx version of the lens doesn't capitalise the Yashica name). The image below makes the differences clearer but note, the lens has a filter fitted:

(Detail from larger web image)

The f/1.8 type A seems to be the large lens version fitted at the beginning but it is still there at the end as well. What is really surprising is that the f/1.9 lens is less common than the f/1.8 type A, let alone compared to the total of the two f/1.8 lenses, but two factors have to be kept in mind - this is a small sample size and it it is heavily skewed towards examples from Japan. Nevertheless, it is a major mystery as to why the existence of any f/1.8 lens for the model seems to be not well known. It is almost as big a mystery as to why there are three similar spec large aperture lenses found on a model which was made for less than 12 months. I originally did also say that it was a mystery why there were no ads for the f/1.8 lens but I have had to eat my hat on that one. Here are the relevant parts of two Japanese brochures the first featuring a number of models (full page is here):

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on brochure page for larger view)

(Scan courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Click on brochure page for larger view)

Without translation, it is clear the the lenses are f/1.8 in both documents. The reference to “Yashica 35 L” is kind of strange because I don't understand Yashica marketing's idea but it seems that the cameras that we know as, and are marked as, YE, YK and YL are sometimes advertised in Japan without the Y. Even the Japanese user manual for the YF (known as the Fair-Way in Japan) has “F” on the cover instead of “YF” (although it is there on the box). More here.

Being now aware of the Japanese brochures, considering the above table and thinking about advertising and where I look for cameras, I am leaning towards believing that the f/1.8 cameras were for the Japanese market and the f/1.9 version was for export, even though one of the f/1.9 examples in the table above was for sale in Japan.

In November or December 1959, the shutter button changed from the odd square black type back to a more conventional type (f/2.8 lens barrel on left camera compared to one of the large aperture types on the right):

(Detail from larger web images)

There are also some variations with the focus assist lever. Generally, it is the second Yashica 35 type (same as found on earlier Yashica YK examples) but the first two with f/2.8 lenses use the first type silver Yashica 35 finger grip (bottom right of first image below). I'm guessing that whilst these two are not the earliest cameras, it has something with to do with the f/2.8 YL sharing lens barrels with the Yashica 35 and YK. Then there are two earlyish cameras with f/1.8 type A lenses that have a silver ring at the front of the black cylindrical grip instead of being all black - the same style also appears in the US and Japanese brochure images. The rings seem to have a bigger diameter than the standard black variety and the alloy mount does not have chamfered/scalloped ends near the mounting screws like the common type, see third image and also Yashica 35 trim examples (note that the second example below seems to have the rangefinder window assembled back to front):

(First 2 images, detail from larger web images, third image courtesy of Chris Whelan)

Another variation first noticed by Chris Whelan is that while most of the YL examples, including those in the f/2.8 and f/1.9 user manuals, have a diamond shaped mask in the rangefinder window, later cameras often (but not always) have a circular mask.

(User manual scan & image courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Back to top)

The Next Generation

After the Yashica YK and YL came a whole slew of similar rangefinder models based on the YL body but with new flat top plate. The base plate rewind crank was there for the first new model released in 1960, the “35 M”, later renamed “Minister”, but disappeared with the Minister II restyle which followed the modernised Lynx 1000 design cues.

The mid-spec 35 M model featured a selenium cell exposure meter for the first time. It was called the “35 M” inside the user manual, “Model M” on the cover and “Yashica M” on the front of the camera, presumably because “M” follows “L” as in “YL”, however, there is a claim that Leica was unhappy about that. In any case, it was renamed “Minister”. Minister II (1962), III (1963), and then D (1964) and 700 (1964) with CdS meters followed. Surprisingly, there was also an “M-II” with the model engraved on the front of top plate, otherwise it looks like a Minister II and the M-II user manual uses Minister II photos inside. The top-spec Lynx 1000 model (1960), which added a 1/1,000 shutter and standard f/1.8 lens, was followed by the Lynx 5000 (1964) with CdS meter and the famous, expensive and heavy Lynx 14 (1965) with f/1.4 lens (shutter reduced to 1/500). The last two were later updated to the 5000E and 14E respectively (1968). The lower spec Campus model (1962) was very similar to the Minister II but without the meter and the slightly earlier Yashica J and its 35W twin (1961) were similar to the Campus but with lower spec shutter. The Yashica EE offered selenium cell based exposure automation in 1962 followed by the Minimatic-C and Minimatic-S in 1963. Finally in 1966, the all new Electro 35 ushered in the electronic revolution and rangefinder success.

Perhaps forerunners to the Yashica EE, or simply aimed at a different market segment, the quite different Flash-O-Set (1961) and its successor, Flash-O-Set II (1962), were the only non-rangefinder types. Both are fitted with fixed focus 3 element f/4 Yashinon lenses and feature the single speed shutter, built-in bulb flash and very basic selenium cell based exposure automation used later on the Yashica E TLR, more here.

Below are two popular models which exemplify this period, a Lynx 1000 with selenium cell meter from 1960 and a 1967 Minister D with CdS meter (released in 1964):

(Image courtesy of Chris Whelan)

(Back to top)