44 Models

The 44 era spanned the period from 1958 to 1965.

The same caveats apply as for the 66 models, especially regarding serial numbers.

I don't have any specific 44 series brochures but a number of the early 1960s TLR range brochures also cover the 44A and/or 44LM and are downloadable as PDFs from the Brochures page. (There is one very early Yashica 44 brochure printed in the USA available for download as a PDF from the net. The site is very slow and I am not sure how reliable it is but Googling for “yashica 44 brochure” should bring it up in the first page or two of results - it will be obvious.)

Models

(Scroll down or click on links.)

Yashica 44
Yashica 44A
Yashica 44LM
Yashica Auto 44

Red Windows

The Yashica 44A uses a red window for fully manual film advance. The Yashica 44 and Yashica 44LM have semi-automatic film advance and use the red window only to align frame number one. Why not simply use the “Start” mark as with 120 film? All three bodies have start marks cast in (the 44A presumably because it uses the same carcass as the 44) but they are not painted red like on the 66 brethren. I am not familiar enough with 127 film to understand the issues but presumably, the start mark on the films of the day didn't suit these cameras. But with some films, perhaps Japanese Fujifilm, there was apparently no problem.

A number of Yashica 44LMs have turned up on Japanese sites with no red windows (plus two also from other sites). They have the start mark triangles painted red indicating that they are active. A Japanese language user manual also shows a back without the window (see the Yashica 44LM section for more information). The fourteen cameras in my database fit into the first third of the production run, by serial numbers, into the first 12 months. It seems reasonable to assume that these cameras were only available in the domestic Japanese market.

Below are typical examples of the grey export versions of the Yashica 44 (early version without accessory shoe and feet focusing scale), Yashica 44A (mid-production) and Yashica 44LM (late production without the two screws in the back) with back view and closed red window detail:

Note that the 44A uses the differently aligned and differently spaced, side row of frame numbers on 127 film for 12 frames of 4 cm x 4 cm. The 44 and 44LM use the first frame only of the centre row of numbers which is actually spaced for 8 frames of 4 cm x 6.5 cm but of course that doesn't matter because subsequent frames are counted automatically. In other words, frame 2 etc wont appear correctly in the window - just in case you were wondering.

Also note how the back of the 44LM sits inside the body. Even though there is no similarity from the front like there is with the Yashica 44, this, the strap posts, the angular leatherette inserts in the sides, missing spool knobs and even the DoF scale continue to mimic Baby Rollei design cues.

Film Path

Unlike the 66 models, film is loaded into the top chamber so that it travels flat down past the exposure chamber before turning 90 degrees towards the lower film chamber. This reduces possible problems with film flatness at the time of exposure.

Trim

The 44 and 44A use the same basic body structure and although the 44LM is heavily revised, they all share many attributes. The hood is one item. Except for the last examples in my database, the 44s all had a leatherette centre panel and no logo, the early 44As had the same hoods but with hood logos. The last 44s, late 44As and all 44LMs had an enamelled centre panel instead of leatherette. With the change to the enamelled centre panel came a change to the rear hood blind:

Early Rose Brown 44A on left with leatherette centre panel still, 44LM on right.

The locking levers and knobs on all models are similar to the 66 Yashica A type but with a fifth "leg" for support:

Early Rose Brown 44A on left, mid-series grey 44A in the middle and late 44LM on the right. The 44 and 44A are the same and the 44LM is similar but subtly different with the raised centre spreading out to near the rim and two concentric black rings. “Made in Japan” does not appear on some examples. It is not something that I have tracked but in general, it doesn't appear to be on early 44s and I would say probably not on most except for very late ones. It also doesn't appear on early 44As or 44LMs. The “Made in Japan” on the centre example is engraved (I'm not sure of the actual technique) and painted black whereas on the very late 44LM on the right , as well as late 44A examples, it appears to be simply stamped.

Colours

Some websites, particularly sellers, will say that “the grey model was the most popular”. Maybe, but that implies choice. Certainly, grey examples are by far the most numerous. This was the pattern of production according to my database:

Yashica 44

Probable release date
Jun 1958
Probable end date
Sep 1960

Lens
Filter Mounts
Frame Counter
Shutter
Make/Type
Sync
S/Timer
Speeds
Yashikor
Bay 1
Hybrid
Copal SV
M/X
Yes
B,1-1/500





(First four images courtesy of Tom Heckhaus, last image courtesy of Göran Årelind)

The Camera

From the left are first Silver Gray (note the “skinny” focusing knob, different strap holders and no accessory shoe), later Silver Gray (leatherette missing from front, front mounted removable accessory shoe), Lavender, Golden Brown and unadvertised Black examples (the last three with rear mounted fixed accessory shoes, see below for colour details). Missing here, but discussed and shown further down is the final type with enamel instead of leatherette on the centre panel and blue narrow “Y” hood logo. Below is a rare Burgundy example.

(Image courtesy of Leigh Harris)

Released in 1958 in response to the grey “Baby Rollei” (see “Yashica 44 Series” for the full story). Yashica 44s are fitted with 60 mm f/3.5 Yashikor lenses and Copal SV shutters. Unlike the crank wind 66 models, the crank wind is not coupled to the shutter and also when loading film, the film has to be first advanced to the number 1 frame position using the red window on the back. Then the counter reset button has to be operated (by 1957, the counter reset button had disappeared from the 66 models). After that, a half rotation of the crank advances the film and the number in the counter window.

Late Examples

Production is thought to have ceased around the middle of 1959 when both the Yashica 44A and 44LM appeared. However there is a bunch of six cameras with serial numbers 650xxx and 69xxxx (only four with actual body numbers, the others are interpolated to fit into this group by lens numbers and trim). Reference to my Serial Numbers page implies that series production did cease around July 1959 but then these were produced between, or in, May and September 1960. Whilst that may seem a bit ludicrous, the six do have the later blue hood logos that didn't come until later to the Yashica 44A and 44LM, both August 1959 by serial numbers, and the 44LM style focusing hood which didn't come to the 44A until February 1960. The six also are the only Yashica 44 examples with dual scale focusing knobs, something which wasn't introduced to the other two models until a fair way into their production runs, again February 1960 according to serial numbers. There is a seventh camera without body serial number. It has earlier trim still but the dual scale knob so could be from between February and May 1960. Its lens numbers put it between this group and the end of the earlier series.

Below and further down in one of the group photos is a Silver Gray version, not in the database:

(Image courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)

This is what the later cameras look like but unfortunately, this is not one, it is a parts special. Both of its lens numbers are 343xxx. The matching body number is likely to be a 5 digit number from early 1958 production. The skinny first type focusing knob with scale in feet and “Yashima Opt. Ind. Co., Ltd.” between the lenses are in character with that period. The later type strap holders with rear set accessory shoe (there should be none) are replacements as well as the hood. However, as there are no Silver Gray (light grey) Yashica 44A or 44LM examples, the hood is almost certainly from a 1960 44 model.

Colours

An ad from a 1958 edition of Japanese monthly magazine Asahi Camera and two 1958 Yashica brochures trumpet the availability of seven colour combinations in “Symphonic Color”:

(Image courtesy of Leigh Harris)

Thanks to Tom Heckhaus, the colours have been translated below. There is an article in a “Vintage Viewfinder” publication “did'ja ever wonder” column from some years ago which confirms the translations (but calls “Rose Brown” instead “Rosy Brown”) and suggests that the range of colours was offered by Yashica following market research that showed that the grey of the Baby Rollei appealed to women in particular. The table lists the translated names with my interpretation of metalwork and leatherette descriptions commonly found on the web in the other two columns:

No.
Camera Colour
Metalwork Colour
Leatherette Colour
1
Charcoal Gray dark grey light grey
2
Silver Gray grey light grey
3
Pastel Blue blue light grey
4
Lavender lavender light grey
5
Golden Brown light brown dark cream
6
Rose Brown rose light grey
7
Burgundy dark brown warm grey


There is also an additional eighth, unadvertised colour (perhaps because it was not available in Japan):

8
black black light grey


I have to admit that I struggle with identifying the colours correctly. The colour balance and tonality of many of the low resolution JPEGs found on the web leaves something to be desired and there is not enough image data left to make adjustments. I find it hard to separate the two greys but it is clear enough on this Japanese website http://orioweb.net/camera/Yashica44-2/Yashica44-2.html and also further below. There are 6 black cameras in my database, mainly from Europe. One is owned by contributor, Göran Årelind (see above). Five are close in number and in the last third of the 44 model database however there is a single black one in the middle of the database and it is only the third camera found in other than grey. A seventh example is shown below in “Somebody's Collection”. Five have focusing scales in metres and the sixth is dual scale, therefore these could be European export versions. The one in “Somebody's Collection” (US based) has a focusing scale in feet (clear in a different photo).

(Image courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)

According to the translation of the Yashica colours, this is a Lavender Yashica 44. Tom Heckhaus has always known it as “dusty rose” based on a magazine article. Here it is again next to what I believe is a Rose Brown Yashica 44A (I have photos of Yashica 44s in a similar colour and also see below):

(Image courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)

Note, by its lens serial numbers and strap holders, the camera on the left would be expected to have a removable accessory shoe but there is no provision in the side of the nameplate - the nameplate and serial number appear to be from a later camera which would have had a rear mounted shoe. Both examples are fitted with lens caps that belong to grey examples.

The leatherette colour is perhaps the hardest to confirm. With aging and reflections off the metalwork plus surroundings, the difference between light grey and what I thought might be cream is marginal in most photos. In regard to the leatherette colour on Burgundy cameras, Leigh advises that “it is definitely not beige, but a 'warm grey' is the best way I can describe it, and the difference is really only noticeable when the cameras are side by side” (with the grey cameras). Leigh's Burgundy Yashica 44 is above and he also has a Burgundy AIII and several grey cameras to compare (see also Coloured 66 Cameras). I have since seen Leigh's cameras and agree with his assessment of the colour difference but to me, “warm grey” could just as easily be called “light beige” or “light grey brown”.

Two thirds of Yashica 44 cameras in my database are grey with light grey leatherette covering and mid grey metalwork, i.e. Silver Gray. Nearly the first half of my database is Silver Gray before the first “coloured” camera; Lavender (4 out of 137 examples). Other colours gradually appear; Rose Brown (1), black (6), Burgundy (4), Golden Brown (4) and Pastel Blue (1). These are all interspersed with the two grey colours in the second half of the database.

Somebody's Collection

Tom Heckhaus has sent me photos of somebody else's collection taken in the pre-digital days of 1999. None of the 44 cameras are in my database (unless by accident - the collection was broken up and some of the 66 models have appeared on auction sites and were already in my database). The photos themselves look pretty good and accurate for colour but after scanning and display on all sorts of monitors, most probably not calibrated, don't expect miracles. The cameras themselves are a fraction over-exposed and both the light grey camera (top left in the first photo) and dark grey camera (bottom right in the second photo) look too blue on my calibrated monitor. Note that the light grey camera in the top photo has the later focusing hood of the last of the Yashica 44s but as noted in Late Examples above, it is a parts special and is perhaps the earliest of the cameras displayed.

(Images courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)

Accessory Shoes & Other Trim

There were three different arrangements with accessory shoes. Approximately the first third of cameras in my database have no accessory shoe:

Notice also the “skinny” focusing knob and the strap holders with the vertical slot arrangement.

The middle third of Yashica 44s have front mounted accessory shoes which are removable, note slot highlighted in yellow and the later type of strap holders also found on the 44A:

(Images courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)

The last third of the Yashica 44s in my database have rear mounted accessory shoes similar to the Yashica 44A model:

(Image courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)

Golden Brown example. Note also the focusing knob which is wider with finer knurling. This first appeared on the examples with removable front accessory shoes above.

Trim Changes - By Serial Number

The first cameras in my database are in the serial number range 17xxx to 22xxx. They are all Silver Gray. These cameras have no accessory shoe or hood logo but the hood centre panel, as with nearly all Yashica 44s except for the very last few, is covered in leatherette. The focusing knob is more waisted than on later cameras, the knurled wheel is thinner and the knurling appears coarser. The focus scales are still only in feet. Strap holders on the first cameras have a unique vertical slot strap attachment arrangement. The company name between the lenses is “Yashima Opt. Ind. Co., Ltd.”

Camera 5850xxx with taking lens 347xxx is the start of a new series of cameras with 7 digit serial numbers. Only a few cameras later is the first example with metre focusing scale. This was for sale in Sweden and remains the only one until coloured cameras started arriving. Clearly, in the beginning, this model was export only. There was a trim change introduced between 5851xxx and 5866xxx. These cameras have the later type focusing knob and new strap holders with loop strap attachment arrangements that carry through to the Yashica 44A and removable accessory shoes. There may be 12 cameras with 5885xxx numbers. By 5885xxx, taking lens 419xxx, two Lavender, a Rose Brown and a black camera have appeared but most are still Silver Gray. Focusing scales in metres became more common, both with the ® mark (European export) and without it (domestic consumption). Somewhere between camera 5890xxx (the earliest Burgundy example) with taking lens number 425xxx and camera 3890xxx with taking lens 428xxx, the body serial numbers change from a 58 prefix to a 38 prefix. Similar changes occurred with Yashica As and Ds and other models at probably about the same time and are “explained” on the Serial Numbers page. Also, at about half way between these body serial numbers, the company name between the lenses changed to “Yashica Co., Ltd.”

Between 7 digit camera 3895xxx and new 8 digit camera 38101xxx (translated to mean between September and October 1958), on camera with lens number 372xxx, the strap holders changed to the third type. These were the same as the second type but with an integral accessory shoe mount at the rear of the camera on the focusing knob side. After 38115xxx (November 1958) is a new series of 7 digit numbers, starting with 3921xxx (February 1959). These run through to 3947xxxx with lenses in the 384xxx to 459xxx range. Then come seven cameras with lens numbers only recorded from 454xxx to 491xxx. Then there are two cameras, 3971xxx and 3972xxx, with lens numbers 602xxx and 604xxx.

The next camera has taking lens number 603xxx and viewing lens 604xxx which puts it on par or just after the other two and is the first example with dual scale focusing. There are no trim changes so it is a bit hard to relate this to the following group.

The next six cameras are the afore-mentioned examples with new six digit body serial numbers from 650xxx to 69xxxx (body numbers discernible on only four). Lens numbers are in the 492xxx to 554xxx range. They all have dual scale focusing and Yashica 44LM style focusing hoods. As far as I can tell, the first of the six 44s is Silver Gray, the others are Charcoal Gray.

Lens Caps & Ever-ready Cases

(See also Lens Caps, Cases & Boxes page.)

Lens caps are hinged cast alloy, similar to the 66 Bay 1 lens caps from the same period. I have found matching Silver Gray, Charcoal Gray, Lavender, Burgundy, Rose Brown and Golden Brown examples. Camera cases found are all grey except for two black; one found with a Lavender example and another with a grey camera. Whether these are original or dyed, I don't know.

(Back to Models)

Yashica 44A

Probable release date
Apr 1959
Probable end date
Jun 1965

Lens
Filter Mounts
Frame Counter
Shutter
Make/Type
Sync
S/Timer
Speeds
Yashikor
28.5 mm
Red Window
Copal
X
No
B,1/25-1/300





(Images courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)

The Camera

From the left are Rose Brown, Pastel Blue, Burgundy, black with earlier gold hood logo, black with later blue background hood logo and final type Charcoal Gray examples (in order of timeline appearance in the database).

The Burgundy (brown) 44A is very rare, only five found so far. Fits in the middle of the database, just before the black series of cameras. At least four are from Sweden and have focusing scales in metres, on the other, the scale is not visible.

Probably released in earlyish 1959, this was a simplified version of the Yashica 44. The crank wind was replaced by knob wind and fully manual film spacing by the red window as with the Yashica A and its budget forbearers. However, unlike those, the film travels top to bottom and the winding knob connects to the bottom spool via gears. The Copal shutter, X sync only, was from the Yashica A as well and although the Yashica 44 lenses were unchanged, the Bay 1 filter mounts were replaced by plain mounts. The two nameplates are both very similar and say “Yashica-44” on the front. The 44A nameplate has a series of 8 short, vertical bars under the name. These are sometimes referred to as “teeth”.

On all the early cameras with colours other than Charcoal Gray and also all Charcoal Gray ones with pressure plate screws visible, the teeth are shiny, milled even with the nameplate surround. On late grey cameras without the screws, the teeth are recessed slightly and painted:

(Right image courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)

Oddly perhaps, the two pressure plate screws in the back are arranged in a vertical manner whereas on all other Yashica TLRs they are in a horizontal line. The reason is that the 44A has an offset red window which uses the 4 x 4 frame counting numbers on the edge of 127 film - see the “Red Windows” discussion at the top of the page. In other respects, the cameras are essentially the same, except for some minor trim changes and colour palette. The Sears catalogue from around 1959 lists the Yashica 44 at US$61.50 and the 44A at US$35.50, a considerable saving and it wasn't long before it was generally advertised at US$29.99.

Some websites have comments such as “many of the Yashica 44As have the letter A on the nameplate”. They do, on the top edge, not far from the serial number but still a gap more than serial number prefixes have.

Also the pattern of numbers is the same as other cameras of the period without prefixes. It has a full stop after it, unlike serial number prefixes and is also appreciably larger than the serial number characters. I used to believe that the “A” should be part of the serial number but I no longer do. Some people may say that “although the prefix style and numbering system is different to when Yashica introduced that across the board in about 1961, the Yashica 44A system is the first iteration of introducing a prefix.” That still remains a possibility. I have copies of two Yashica 44A “Certificate of Guarantee” documents completed by two separate US retailers. The one completed in December 1959 does not include the “A”, the other filled out in April 1961 (probably 1960 stock, prefixed numbers started at the beginning of 1961) does include the “A”. When the serial number prefix “FA” appears, the “A”s disappear.

There are also claims that some examples had an “A” on the front of the nameplate. McKeown (1992-1993 edition) shows a rendition of one such 44A. It has a gold logo which puts it at the beginning of the 44A series. I have yet to see one. It may also be the case that Yashica made early publicity material available and the nameplate was changed on production versions.

Note, the ® mark shown is a registered trade mark sign and not part of the serial number. There is more on the mark here.

Until dual scaled focusing knobs arrived more than half way through the database (about March 1960), except for the four Burgundy Yashica 44As from Sweden in the middle of this period and one Black camera towards the end of this period, all have scales marked in feet. German and UK sites often seem to have black 44As for sale so the Black example may be European as well. The ® mark seemed to appear on all Yashica 44A examples, including the five with metre focusing scales, until about February 1960 when the practice stopped with camera 620xxx. On a number of other models with the ® mark, at least some examples with metre focusing scales didn't have the mark, suggesting that these were for domestic consumption. On the evidence available, it seems that the 44A may not have been sold in Japan, at least in the period from its release in 1959 until early 1960. That would fit fit with Sugiyama's claim that the model was released in 1960 because in Japan, it probably was.

Colours

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a definitive colour palette description but below are the colours I have found in order of appearance in the database. I believe that they are a subset of the Yashica 44 colours with the least popular ones dropped and the Silver Grey dropped because of the litigation brought by Franke & Heidecke:

No.
Camera Colour
Metalwork Colour
Leatherette Colour
1
Rose Brown rose light grey
2
Pastel Blue blue light grey
3
Burgundy dark brown warm grey
4
black black light grey
5
Charcoal Gray dark grey light grey

The Yashica 44As have an extra colour variable. The end caps of the film winding knobs are black on black cameras and grey on grey cameras. Rose Brown cameras (earlier than black and grey examples) have grey caps but some look black. Maybe its just the effect of aging and/or the quality of photos. Burgundy cameras have grey caps. However, the earliest Pastel Blue cameras have blue caps but later ones have grey.

The pattern of colours found is reversed to the Yashica 44; the “coloured” cameras are the only ones in the first part of my database (28 Rose Brown, 13 Pastel Blue, 5 Black and 5 Burgundy). After the five Burgundy cameras, the next group are Black cameras only (49) and the last (most recent) are Charcoal Gray examples only (84).  My theory is that as the coloured Yashica 44s were introduced, they proved very popular as a differentiator at the height of the super slide boom and the coloured 44As were released to take advantage of this. As the boom died off, costs and hence variation, had to be reduced and perhaps serious photographers remaining in the 44 market had a more conservative demeanour. Why black before grey? Perhaps Yashica was still smarting from its court case on one hand and then finally trying to re-capture some of the popularity of its version of the “baby grey” as a last hurrah. The Charcoal Gray of the Yashica 44A and 44LM when finally released (at probably near the same time) was much darker than the Silver Gray that had caused problems with Franke & Heidecke. Coincidentally, around May 1963, the “Baby Rollei” changed from only being available in light grey to only being offered in black (RolleiClub). Whether there was any connection between the two events is anybody's guess.

There was one other variation with the Yashica 44. The Rose Brown, Pastel Blue and Burgundy cameras have a focusing knob with film reminders in three colours; red brown for the scale description, blue for the slow ASA/ DIN numbers and green for the high speed numbers (there is one exception where the blue and green are reversed – see later). Yashica 44s and Black and Charcoal Grey Yashica 44As used the same monochromatic style (actually, descriptions and high speed values in black reversed on silver and low speed values in a red brown).

Trim Changes - By Serial Number

The first 44A in my database is Rose Brown. Typically at this point, this has the word “Japan” in the middle of the accessory shoe located at the rear of the camera (only the addition of the word is different to the later Yashica 44s). It still has the same typical Yashica 44 hood (except for the last four) with leatherette central panel and the rear of the hood blind has the three panel strengthening pressing. The only change is the addition of the narrow “Y” hood logo in gold. It has taking lens serial number 349xxx. The first with body serial number in my database is 3940xxx, some 5 cameras later, and the last in this series of seventy seven cameras is 3993xxx. Lens numbers are typically in the range 388xxx to 399xxx and 460xxx to 498xxx.

After the first Rose Brown example, there are another three followed by four Pastel Blue examples. The last of these, 3940xxx with taking lens 388xxx, is the last Pastel Blue camera with a blue end cap on the film winding knob. A group of nine Rose Brown cameras follows culminating in 3941xxx. Then there is an early group of five black cameras from 3942xxx to 3950xxx. Although other colours still have the film speed reminder scales in blue, green and red, this black group reverts to the monochromatic style of the Yashica 44 and later Yashica 44A examples. Strangely, two of the five have blue logos instead of gold even though blue logos don't appear until somewhat later. I'm not quite sure of what to make of that, although it is near the time that blue logos first appeared on the last of the Yashica 44s.

These are followed by eight Pastel Blue cameras, the first of which also has a blue logo. This is the last for what I calculate is another 3 months of production with gold logos. Camera 3952xxx, on the right below, is the third last Pastel Blue camera in my database. It is very unusual because as noted earlier, the blue and green film speed reminder scales are reversed.

(Image courtesy of Leigh Harris)

Then there is a final block of 15 Rose Brown cameras and 3953xxx is the last one. Following are four Burgundy examples with serial numbers 3960xxx to 3961xxx. The last three all have metre focusing scales and the first is unknown. These and one black one are the only ones that aren't feet or dual scale. The film speed reminder scales on these and the previous rose cameras are “normal” relative to the renegade blue example.

Camera 3970xxx is the start of the big second block of 49 black cameras. The only trim change is that the focusing knob scales revert to the earlier monochromatic style of the Yashica 44. At around 3982xxx, the gold hood logo changed to a blue background. The numbering series comes to an end with 3993xxx and a new series starts with 4100xxx and lens number 507xxx. The block of sixteen cameras ends with 4112xxx with lens 516xxx which is the black camera with a with metre scale focusing knob. There is one more black camera with taking lens number only, 527xxx. This is the first 44A with dual feet/ metre focusing scale.

With the change to dark grey livery, there is a change to six digit numbers. 620xxx to 622xxx revert to feet focusing scales but have the new hoods with the enamelled centre panel in place of leatherette and the single panel strengthening pressing of the rear of the hood blind. Also, the word “Japan” is dropped from the accessory shoe. 650xxx is the last in this series.

FA 1020xxx is the first of 71 cameras with the FA prefixed block of numbers which run out to FA 3111xxxx. As with other similar Yashica numbers, no second digit from the left is greater than “1”, or more correctly, the second and third digits from the left, together, are never more than “12”. The next camera, FA 1040xxx, introduces the small “X” next to the flash sync socket on the front. From FA 2090xxxx, the external pressure plate screws disappear from the back and the “teeth” lose their shine and are painted.

Surprisingly, there are no FA 401xxxx to FA 412xxxx numbers in my database meaning no examples from 1964, if I am correct. Production was slowing so perhaps not many cameras were made or production stopped to reduce inventory or maybe I have just been unlucky finding cameras. The last six Yashica 44As in the database are from FA 5020xxx to FA 5070xxx with taking lens numbers 295xxx to 338xxx and possibly 34xxxx.

Lens Caps & Ever-ready Cases

(See also Lens Caps, Cases & Boxes page.)

Lens caps are hard plastic push-on and match the colour of the metalwork of the cameras.

Cases are either grey or brown. Brown replaced grey in about 1961 at or near the time that serial numbers with the “FA” prefix were introduced so that the grey later cameras almost invariably have brown cases. Most catalogues of the time indicate that cases were sold as an extra for these models, but from the database pattern, it is unlikely that there was any choice regarding colour. The odd exception is explained by items being bought separately over the last 50 years including, e.g., buying a new case in 1962 for a 1960 camera.

The last three 44A cameras with cases, FA 5040xxx to FA 5060xxx, have a new case logo also found on late 44LM and early Yashica Mat-EM cases:

(Detail from larger web image)

(Back to Models)

Yashica 44LM

Probable release date
Jun 1959
Probable end date
Jul 1965

Lens
Filter Mounts
Frame Counter
Shutter
Make/Type
Sync
S/Timer
Speeds
Yashinon
Bay 1
Hybrid/
Counter
Copal SV
M/X
Yes
B,1-1/500





(First three images courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)

The Camera

From the left are Burgundy (control wheel centre trim has been replaced from Yashica 24, 12 or Mat-124), black, Charcoal Gray and Charcoal Gray with new hood logo examples (in order of timeline appearance in the database).

I doubt that the 44A had been long on the market before the 44LM was released, probably in mid 1959 (see “Yashica 44 Series”). This is the best specified 44 (apart from its mythical sibling, the Auto 44). Although it used the same hood as the later examples of the Yashica 44A, i.e. enamelled centre panel etc, and the Copal SV shutter from the Yashica 44, many of the other parts, including the carcass, are different. This includes post-like strap attachments attached directly to integrally cast lugs on the side panels.  Lenses were upgraded to f/3.5 60 mm Yashinons with Bay 1 mounts, however, I believe that tests indicate that the lenses are triplets, not Tessars. Although film wind-on is by knob, it is basically the Yashica 44 crank system and has the advantage over crank of incorporating adjustable exposure scales for the uncoupled selenium cell exposure or light meter, hence the “LM”. Shutter speeds and aperture are set by control wheel as with e.g. the Yashica D and Yashica-Mat. Light baffles to reduce internal reflections and flare are rarely seen on Yashica Cameras but the 44LM introduces them to the 44 series. They are tiny and only fitted to the top and bottom - there is not much space in there. Bottom baffle visible on left side of image. See the images for the 44LM without red window below for the top baffles.

Note also the unpainted start marks compared to the camera below.

The price of this camera was similar to the original Yashica 44 but the “upgraded lenses”, control wheels and exposure meter made it much better value for money. It is not a pretty camera like the other two but to me at least, it is far more attractive in the flesh than photos suggest.

Twenty five cameras have been identified with either a feet or metre scaled knob of which eight cameras have a metre scale focusing knob. At least five of the eight are Japanese market only versions with no red window (see below).

Red Window and Missing Red Window

The red window on the Yashica 44LM is used for winding on the first frame, then the reset button is operated. From that point forward, the frame counter on the side of the camera keeps track of exposures. To advance to the next frame, the centre of the winding knob is depressed and the knob turned until it stops. The shutter is still cocked separately and there is no double exposure prevention.

This system is similar to the the pre-War Rolleiflex and Rolleicord models with film counters and the red window on the camera base. In 1954, the Yashica Flex S introduced a later Rolleicord based system for Yashica 66 models which used a pair of cast start marks in the back against which the start marks on 120 film were aligned. On the 66 models, the reset button was soon replaced by a spring loaded pin, or lever. After the film is set to the start mark, the reset is automatically performed when the back is closed, forcing the pin or lever back into the body. The 44s needed to retain the reset button as the back was already closed as the first number was reached in the red window.

As noted at the top of this page, some Yashica 44LMs have turned up without the red window. These also don't have a reset button, instead using the automatic system of the 66 cameras. They have been predominantly found on Japanese sites. All 44LMs have start marks cast in but usually, they are not painted red as in cameras where they are intended to be used (see image in previous section). Presumably, the reason for the red windows on the Yashica 44 and 44LM is that there was a problem of some sort with the corresponding start marks, or maybe lack of them, printed on 127 film at the time. Post-War 127 cameras were generally basic affairs, with manual film advance via red window and the first sophisticated 4x4 TLR was the Baby Rollei which didn't need to use start marks. Other Japanese 44 cameras such as the Primo-Jr/ Sawyer's Mk IV, Minolta Miniflex and various Tougodo models used the same red window start based system as Yashica.

I am guessing that Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd. (“Fujifilm”) may have come to the party with adapting its film to 44 TLR needs. As Fujifilm effectively enjoyed a monopoly position in the Japanese market at the the time, Yashica probably felt that there were opportunities to sell the Yashica 44LM in its home market as originally designed. Nothing needed to be added, except for some red paint for the cast start marks, it was simply a matter of deleting the windows. The replacement of the reset button was probably done because the technology was proven and the mechanism was unlikely to be any more complicated than the external button. The film counter would require a lead-in starting with “S” at the start point rather than simply “1” at the first frame position. In other words, even with a correctly marked film, it would not be possible to use the start marks in an example with the red window.

An interesting sidelight is that contributer Bill Pruitt's method for using cut 120 film in 44 series cameras does actually require aligning the cast start marks with the START mark on 120 film instead of using the red window - see here.

Of the fourteen 44LMs without red windows in my database, twelve are from Japanese sites, one is from the Netherlands and one is from the US. So far, they range from near the beginning to approximately a third of the way into the production run, by my calculation, May 1960. All are Charcoal Gray cameras amongst mainly Burgundy and Black cameras from before the time that production changed to Charcoal Gray cameras only. The earlier examples have metre focusing scales, later ones have dual scales. The ® mark is discussed elsewhere. In the period that the mark was in use, most Yashica 44LMs seem to have it including those with focusing scales in metres, except for all the examples without the red window. This is a very strong indicator that all would have been initially sold in Japan.

The earliest cameras have serial numbers 3960xxx and 3961xxx. The last example has serial number 650xxx and a dual scale focusing knob. It is the only one after production had changed to all grey cameras. There are also two later serial numbers but these have almost certainly have had their meters replaced. FL 1120xxx has early features and by lens numbers, is the earliest of the examples and FL 3070xxx seems to fit between 3980xxx and 3981xxx.

The camera below is the one sold on the Netherlands site. In a feat of international cooperation by the Yashica TLR community, I first identified the camera and it was bought by Swedish contributor, Göran Årelind, on behalf of US collector Tom Heckhaus!

(Images courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)

Note the red painted start marks and that there is no film counter reset button on the side as with other 44LMs with the red window. Tom has highlighted the reset switch lever in the back of the body with the yellow highlight circle. (Note also the top light baffles common to all 44LMs but not visible in the photo further up the page.)

Below is a page from a Japanese language user manual.

Colours

Again, no formal colour palette has been discovered but the following are the colours found. Again, I am assuming the three colours are a subset of the original seven plus one of the Yashica 44:

No.
Camera Colour
Metalwork Colour
Leatherette Colour
1
Burgundy dark brown warm grey
2
black black light grey
3
Charcoal Gray dark grey light grey

Of the 151 Yashica 44LM cameras in my database, the last 104 are Charcoal Gray. There are 11 Charcoal Gray (including the 9 without red windows) and 5 Burgundy cameras spread amongst the mainly black earlier cameras (the Burgundy cameras are all from the first couple of months of production).

Control Wheels

All the control wheels are silver but there are three distinct types of covers or inserts. The differences are subtle. The earlier ones that appear on all the brown and black cameras and early grey cameras up to serial number 651xxx reflect white in photos. The wheel inserts on most of the grey examples are the more domed appearing dull silver also found on 66 models. Late cameras from FL 5010xxx received the flatter shiny silver wheel inserts that appeared on 66 models in 1965. These have a reflection reminiscent of a spinning aeroplane propeller. Note that the inserts are glued on and quite a few 44LM examples have lost theirs from both sides. Underneath is shiny and in photos it is easy to mistake them for shiny control wheel trim. The give-away is the small hole in the centre of the wheel.

Labels

As well as glued on control wheel trim which is a little suspect, the Yashica 44LM has three glued on labels of which one or more are often missing. The most obvious is the red “Made in Japan” label on the focusing knob side. There are also labels for the M/X switch and self-timer. The only missing one that is annoying, and possibly dangerous, in use is the M/X label. However, the one that most detracts from appearance is the “Made in Japan” label but this happens so often, it maybe hard to avoid. Worries some, not others. For the record, mine is a nice looking camera but missing all three labels.

Trim Changes - By Serial Number

The first Yashica 44LM in my database is the camera in the user manual, 3930009 with taking lens 200022. The first production camera (in my database but it could actually be a couple of cameras later) has taking lens number 204xxx. It is Burgundy with a gold logo on the hood. The next two cameras are black followed by Charcoal Gray 3961xxx without the red window. Burgundy camera 3964xxx, two black cameras 3964xxx and Burgundy 3970xxx (taking lens 202xxx) follow. The lens numbers are all over the place with mixed series seeming to begin with 202xxx, 467xxx and 504xxx. The serial numbers rise to 3984xxx.

Then there are the three without red windows noted earlier with eight digit numbers, 39100xxx to 39101xxx followed by a “normal” type, also 39101xxx. The changeover to consistently blue hood logos occurred at the beginning of these. That is around October 1959 and the same as the first of the 66 models to change, the Yashica D but there are five earlier random black cameras with the blue logo and by date code would fall into the June to August period. This makes them unlikely to be original on one hand but that is an awful lot of concentrated “replacements”. There was a little bit of that with the 44A as well but not evident with 66 models. Perhaps the blue started appearing on these cameras for some reason and then was adopted more widely across all models?

There are four cameras in the new 7 digit series 4110xxx to 4111xxx followed by twenty four in the 6 digit series ranging from 610xxx to 660xxx. Between 620xxx and 630xxx, the focus distance scales changed to dual scale. There is a mix between those numbers including no red window example 621xxx. Camera 641xxx is the first of the continuous block of Charcoal Gray cameras. Camera 650xxx is the last with no red window and camera 660xxx is the first with the dull silver control wheels. Then there are seventeen nine digit serial numbers in the range 166090xxx to 166110xxx.

The final block of 79 cameras have an “FL” prefix and seven digits and range from FL 1020xxx to FL 6120xxx, again with no second digit from the left higher than “1” (no 2nd or third digit together higher than “12”). At around FL 2080xxx, the external pressure plate screws disappear from the back (there are a couple of exceptions with FL 2081xxx numbers). Thirteen of the last fourteen cameras with lens caps have plastic lens caps for the first time. FL 3070xxx is the first of these. Nine of the last twelve cameras starting with FL 5010xxx have the new shiny control wheels. Then three cameras noted below have the dull wheels again but these may involve a mix of parts. Cameras with serial number FL 5040xxx, two with FL 5070xxx and FL 5090129 plus one other are fitted with the wide “Y” hood logo. However, I suspect that FL 5090129 has a replacement from the spares parts bin, including the meter, and that this number is outside of the normal production range - see below.

Late Example

I have saved this camera, pictured below, till last because until recently, it was the only one of its kind found and even now I am still not absolutely sure whether it is completely authentic or not. The key feature that is different is the hood logo. Until this turned up, all other late examples in the 44 series cameras, including the 44LM examples, had the narrow “Y” on a blue background. This one has the wide version first seen on 66 series cameras at the end of 1965.

(This camera also appears at the beginning of the Yashica 44LM section.)

It has one of the Japanese Camera Industry Institute (JCII) oval gold “PASSED” quality stickers common on Japanese export cameras from the mid 1960s to late 1980s. The sticker has the number “53”. There is plenty of discussion on the net about these stickers but not too much referenced fact. One recurring claim about these numbers is that the first digit is the year of the decade and the second digit is the month of the year that an example of that batch of product was tested - a camera with that sticker might be made a long time afterwards. In this case, the sticker date would be March 1965 which is getting close to the new logo style first appearing and the very late serial number of the camera would place it at September 1965 production. The sticker on my sold Yashica-Mat had the number “88” which would make it August 1968 and consistent with what I had already guessed from its trim. The serial number places the Mat at May 1969. Understand though, I am just repeating net gossip about the stickers which happens to fit the circumstances and I personally think that the serial number is a better indicator.

There is also a problem or two. The camera's serial number is FL 5090129, the third highest in my database. There are two cameras, serial numbers is FL 6111xxx and FL 6120xxx, which have the usual narrow “Y” on a blue background logo. However, both have the earlier back with the two screws visible so either the backs have been replaced or, the exposure meter (with serial number) has been replaced. All three cameras have the earlier dull silver control wheel trim rather than the shiny trim of other late examples and all seem to have lens serial numbers from an earlier series (they seem to match cameras from 1961). Cameras FL 6111xxx and FL 6120xxx are also problems because the serial numbers imply November and December 1966 production. Even the September 1965 of FL090129 is a bit later than I have anticipated. It is quite likely that all three cameras have new meters from the Yashica spares department.

A second camera with this logo turned up on a B&H Facebook page but unfortunately, no serial numbers were visible. Finally, a third and fourth camera have surfaced on eBay in 2013 and a fifth in 2014. Their body serial numbers are slightly lower at FL 5040xxx and FL 5070xxx for two but, as expected, they have the plastic lens caps of late models, the shiny control wheel trim and in addition, two have brown leather cases also featuring the new wide “Y” logo (the logo on the third case is not visible), see below. These are consistent in all their features. I am now completely satisfied that the logo and hood of the featured camera are authentic and more or less match the exposure meter and serial number and are most likely from 1965 but I still have concerns regarding whether the rest of the body is from the same period. I still think that the serial number is too high for normal production and it is perhaps likely that the camera has fallen on its head and had the hood and meter replaced.

Lens Caps & Ever-ready Cases

(See also Lens Caps, Cases & Boxes page.)

Lens caps, except for the last ten found in my database which are dark grey plastic (consistent with the change over on 66 models), are hinged cast alloy, the same as for the Yashica 44. I have found matching Burgundy, black and Charcoal Gray examples.

Camera cases are either grey or brown and similar to the Yashica 44A, brown replaced grey just before prefixed serial numbers were introduced, the first camera with a brown case being 650xxx, by which time all cameras found are grey. There is one brown case amongst the greys and two grey cases amongst the brown, all three likely to be the result of 50 years of mixing and matching - a pretty good result.

Nine of the last twelve ever ready cases received a new narrow “Y” logo. Instead of the old white on gold flat logo, the new logo is 3 dimensional with raised “Y” and circular border in shiny metal on recessed white background. The first camera with this case is a FL 4010xxx. Amongst those, there is one earlier rogue grey case. As noted above, two cameras with the new wide “Y” focusing hood logo have turned up with companion cases with the wide “Y” logo as well. Except for the lettering style, the two late logos are very similar:

(Detail from larger web images of Yashica 44LM cases)

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Yashica Auto 44

Probable release date
mid 1959
Probable end date
mid 1959

 

Lens
Filter Mounts
Frame Counter
Shutter
Make/Type
Sync
S/Timer
Speeds
Yashinon
Bay 1
Hybrid
Copal SV
M/X
Yes
B,1-1/500

 

A mythical camera yet Sugiyama has a photo and claims that it is less rare than the Yashica E which is relatively easy to find. Sugiyama dates it from 1959. Camera-wiki.org notes that it may be a variation of the 44LM available in some markets. Yet it is much more than that. The black and white photo shows a dark camera, likely all black to fit its serious intent. The panel surrounding the Bay 1 mounts is dark patterned (not black) and unusually has either white or silver text. Close inspection shows a typical Yashica 44LM appearance BUT with crank replacing the knob wind. Another difference with the 44LM is that the front focusing panel has leatherette inserts and this is designed differently to allow them to neatly fit in. The circular panel under the crank has film speed conversion scales similar to the Yashica Mat-LM. There is no lever to cock the shutter, so it must be cocked with the crank back-wind, as on the 66 models thus truly befitting its “Auto” title. It still has a film counter reset button (up higher, under the strap holder lug) so the film start is still most probably set by red window, unlike some of the Japanese market 44LMs.

Sugiyama's book contains the brief description, “Yashinon - f2.8, 60mm”. The photo seems to confirm that the viewing lens is f/2.8. However, Sugiyama always quotes the taking lens aperture. The aperture cannot be discerned on the taking lens, however, it is clearly special in that there is a lot more text than on other lenses including the Yashinons on the 44LM. The word “Yashica” is clearly visible (the only instance on a TLR lens that I am aware of) and I think that “Yashinon” is still there too.

I doubt that such significant changes were made late in the 44 series life when the end of the 127 format must have been obvious. Sugiyama claims 1959 so it would have to have been a parallel release with the 44LM, or earlier. The control wheels appear to be the first 44LM type but certainly not the third type. It is not possible to tell the colour of the focusing hood logo background from the photo - it looks dark so may be blue rather than gold.

This camera must have existed, at least in prototype form. According to a knowledgeable Australian collector, a rough one did come up on eBay in about 2003. This seems to be borne out by the Collectiblend price guide which refers to a sale on 28 February 2003. Noting the reasonably common rating given by Sugiyama (something I find hard to comprehend), I am guessing that this was a Japanese market only camera. I watch Japanese sites with fingers crossed but have yet to see one.

My own guess is that this was a prototype, or otherwise, a very short-lived precursor to the 44LM. As the Yashica 44 was already considered expensive for its features, the addition of f/2.8 lenses and auto shutter cocking may have been too much to bear. This was at a time when demand for 66 models was falling and the brief 127 super-slide bubble was fading. On the other hand, the large film winding knob on the 44LM, with perhaps more convenient exposure scales, may have been considered a more modern solution for a small camera - it had worked for the Baby Rollei.

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