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Its hard to know what accessories were launched when. The user manuals only have limited references, mainly to flashguns and filters, although the first Yashicaflex A series manuals (end 1954) also displayed lens hoods and self-timers, but the earlier manuals don't make it clear whether these items are Yashica branded or not. So far, the evidence suggests that the earlier items were generic but it is hard to know for sure.
Accessories for the Yashica TLRs have to be placed into context. The first camera was produced by a tiny start-up manufacturer in 1953 for resale by an unrelated marketing company. By the time the Yashica D appeared on the market in 1958, some 23 other models had made appearances, not to mention a lot of trim and feature changes through a continuous improvement approach. There hardly seemed time, or resources, to develop and market an accessory range. Then the TLR market began to crumble, costs became an issue and the focus turned to 35 mm.
Re-branding of a single product for sale by many different companies was common practice in Japan in the 1950s and 60s. Accessory auxiliary lenses were likely to have been sourced from lens maker and Yashica associate, later subsidiary, Tomioka. I have not found evidence of Tomioka making filters, although they could well have, so that remains an unknown.
The flash handles appear to be a unique Yashica design but the evidence is that certainly some of the earlier exposure meters and possibly all of them, were sourced from other manufacturers and this also applies to self-timers. However, as Yashica grew with its 35 mm business in the 1960s and 1970s and considering its fame for introducing electronics into these cameras, it seems highly probable that more accessories were produced in-house. However, this is purely conjecture on my part.
Although there is little hard evidence, my impression of what turns up on auction sites, what I have found generally on the net and what Yashica has mentioned in its documentation is that there were probably no Yashica branded accessories before 1955 and possibly 1956 and that the first items available would probably have been lens hoods and/or the first of the “Yashica” branded self-timers. The earliest lens hood that I have seen with branding is in a December 1956 Japanese brochure and it is the only accessory identified. It is a Bay 1 type with typical leather pouch and has the oval logo which first appeared on the 1955 Yashicaflex C and is displayed next to an ad for that model. It is still the only accessory in a similar 1957 brochure. Neither brochure shows push-on lens hoods for the advertised models with plain filter mounts. I suspect that Yashica became interested in accessories as it diversified into the movie and 35 mm camera areas. However, a word of warning; the difference between “never seen” and “confirmed sighting” is precisely a single instance. I had not see any lens hoods for Yashica 44As before I found a pair of “new old stock” items on eBay (one shown further down).
A Bay 1 one mount is a Bay 1 mount? Apparently not, or at least not as far as tolerances are concerned. Bay 1 (also known as B30 or 30 mm bayonet) is the smallest size Franke & Heidecke bayonet design for fitting auxiliary items to Rolleicord and Rolleiflex lens mounts (there are also Rollei bayonets size 2 and 3 for their larger glassware). The Rollei bayonet mounts use an internal bayonet for filters and auxiliary lenses and an external bayonet for lens hoods etc.
I have not heard of problems with the internal Yashica bayonet and as far as I am aware, all Bay 1 accessories from any maker should fit. It should be noted however, mixing and matching folding metal lens caps between different makes can be troublesome. On the other hand, the external Yashica bayonets may be a fraction over-size in diameter. Further below you will note that there are difficulties fitting the Minolta Autopole to Yashicas. There are also forum posts with people having problems fitting Rollei lens hoods and items from some other brands. The size variation is not great, just enough to make it difficult, or even impossible without modification.
Accessories such as auxiliary lenses and lens hoods were supplied in a leather case. For 66 models, there are both brown and black cases and there may be grey cases for coloured hoods (I have only seen one or two coloured hoods and never a case). Black accessory cases presumably are from the period that black camera ever ready cases came into being, somewhere around 1967. There are also two styles of black; similar to the brown but in shiny black and a textured black with subtly “modernised” cut to the flap on the lens hood case, I'm guessing from the late Yashica Mat-124G period.
All 44 accessories cases I have seen are grey. As these match the first and more common grey ever-ready cases, it is possible that brown accessories cases exist to match the later 44A and 44LM brown ever-ready cases, however, so far I have found no evidence.
The filter cases that I have seen are circular clear plastic with “Yashica” across the lid (one shown with yellow filter below).
For the 66 cameras with Bay 1 filter mounts, Yashica offered both a wide angle and telephoto kit comprising an auxiliary viewing lens and taking lens. The earliest type, already branded “Yashinon”, didn't have the silver band and the taking lens body tapered in a a cone shape for both wide angle and telephoto types. These are fairly rare. They have brown elliptical leather cases with the auxiliary taking lens and viewing lens sitting next to each other instead of the last stacked cylindrical style below. The second type of case was brown stacked cylindrical.
(Images courtesy of Göran Årelind)
Wide angle set fitted to a Yashica Mat-124G:
(Image courtesy of Sandu Baciu)
According to an earlier user manual featuring a Yashica 635 with narrow “Y” hood logo (1959 to 1965), the telephoto auxiliary lens increases focal length by 50% to 112.8 mm, or 1.5 times magnification and the wide angle auxiliary lens decreases focal length by 25% to 58.4 mm, or .75 times magnification. (In the manual’s terms; “The picture area is increased by about 75%.”)
There is also a later, more detailed manual featuring the Yashica Mat 124G. It provides the following additional important advice:
- Use of apertures from f/5.6 to f/11 is recommended and that vignetting may occur at f/16 or f/22.
- With the telephoto lens, the actual distance is 2 times the camera distance scale reading. Infinity is still infinity.
- With the wide angle lens, the actual distance is 1/2 the camera distance scale reading. Infinity is still infinity.
Having said all that, the reputation of these lenses is not great (I wonder if they have been used in accordance with the recommendations?) but then that is probably true of most, if not all, auxiliary lenses. No doubt the best results are obtained with “zooming with your feet” but if you are after a particular look, perhaps portrait use, then I am sure that these lenses in the right hands and with regard to their limitations, can be made to perform quite adequately.
In my database are a Yashica 44 and 44LM pictured with grey lens sets with light grey lens caps. The marking “44” is clear but branding is not visible. The lens cases are similar to the first Yashica brown elliptical 66 type. However, they are almost certainly generic 4x4 auxiliary lenses made by Sun Optical Co., Ltd.
According to a Yashica brochure, most probably from 1959 (see the period 1957-1965 further down), close-up lenses were available in both “slip-on” and “bayonet” fittings. I have never seen the slip-on type, or other reference to them, and assume that they are extremely rare.
With the bayonet type, there are two kits, each with auxiliary viewing lens and taking lens. They are referred to as “No. 1” and “No. 2”, the second one being stronger. The user manual that I have is for Bay 1 fittings and indicates that they are suitable for both 66 and 44 Cameras. The manual has a wide “Y” logo which suggests post 1965. The focus distance table is from the manual.
For 6x6 Camera
from 65 to 40 cms.
from 45 to 35 cms.
For 4x4 Camera
from 57 to 43 cms.
from 42 to 35 cms.
The Yashica Mat-124G brochure further down the page varies these distances:
from 61 to 44 cms.
from 45 to 36 cms.
Were the distances revised from experience or the distances different in different versions? There is a physical difference between early and late versions - see below.
An important point to note is that the viewing lens, the larger of the two, because of the built-in parallax correction, has a red mark to indicate correct orientation. The chrome lens below has a small red circle and the following black lenses have a red dot (visible in the third photo). The viewing lenses must be mounted so these marks end up on top, otherwise the parallax correction will be in the wrong direction. This is not mentioned in the manual (single page leaflet) that I have. Thanks to Göran Årelind for that advice.
Below is an earlier No. 2 kit with all black taking lens but viewing lens with a chrome bezel (same style as in the Yashica Mat-124 brochure below). On the very earliest type, the taking lens bezel is also chrome.
(Images courtesy of Göran Årelind)
Note that the taking lens has a Bay 1 receptacle on the front so that the viewing lens is mounted to it for storage. Of course, the receptacle also accepts Bay 1 filters.
The two all black No. 1 and No. 2 kits below are the most recent type. The viewing lens is of a slightly different construction and deeper than the earlier ones.
(Images courtesy of Göran Årelind)
Referred to as “lens hoods” in both the very early Yashicaflex A “directions” and the latest Yashica Mat-124G “instruction booklet”, for much of the in between time, they were referred to as “sunshades” or “lens shades”.
These come in push-on and Bay 1 fittings and for 66 models are available in both brown and black cases, first in shiny black and then in a textured finish. “Yashica” appears in an oval, in heavy serif block letters or in plain letters corresponding to the camera trim at the time the hoods were produced. The later plain text ones are usually in the black cases. The only hoods I have seen for 44 series models are in grey cases and have “Yashica” in an oval.
It appears that 66 Bay 1 lens hoods intended for the Yashica D were available in colours to match the metalwork, i.e. black, grey and brown. A Japanese website has a photo of the three of them together, all with the oval logos. They are extremely rare. I have seen one other grey that claims to be for a Yashica D. Until recently, the only 44 ones I have seen are grey, however there does appear to be an original black version with the Yashica oval and the correct 44 bayonet orientation found with a black Yashica 44 - it certainly looks black in good lighting. Its case is grey, matching the camera case. It does beg the question of whether other colours were available to match the camera colours? A couple of hoods appear to be dark grey but I can't be sure.
Yashica A and all other Yashica 66 cameras with the basic plain filter mounts use 32 mm hoods. Cameras with plain filter mounts but with a panel around the lenses somewhat like Bay 1 models, have larger 36 mm diameter mounts. These are the Yashicaflex A2 and A (new model) and the Yashica B. The Yashica 44A has a smaller 28.5 mm mount.
Bay 1 hoods are square shaped, push-on hoods are generally circular but the example in the Yashicaflex A user manual is square shaped. Whether the hoods in the early manuals were Yashica branded, or not, is unknown.
Bay 1 66 Series Example
Only the script (on both hood and case), colour (from brown to black) and then texture of the case (smooth black to textured black) including a subtle change to the cut of the fold over flap on the case varied over the hood's lifetime. This is the third, or, last style of both hood and case.
Bay 1 44 Series Example
Although it looks darker in the left photograph, the colour of this hood matches the Silver Gray Yashica 44. The 44 hood below is a similar colour, Göran assures me that it is lighter than Charcoal Grey. Different lighting can have a major effect on perceived tones as well as colour.
Bay 1 - 66 & 44 Series Comparison
The 66 Bay 1 hood below is the second type and probably would have come in a brown case. The first, or earliest, type had the Yashica oval similar to the 44 hood below.
Although Bay 1, the Yashica 44 and Yashica 44LM have their own hoods. Bay 1 has inside and outside mounts but both original Yashica 66 and 44 hoods use the outside mounts (some accessory hoods use the inside mounts which then cause problems with filters). Pictured below is a black 66 Bay 1 hood and a grey 44 Bay 1 hood:
(Images courtesy of Göran Årelind)
The following measurements are also courtesy of Göran Årelind. The inner diameter of the circular mount is 37 mm on both. The outer diameter is 44 mm on the 66 model and 42 mm on the grey 44. The rim thickness is approximately 3.3 mm and 2.2 mm respectively. The gap between lens filter mounts is 4 mm on 66 cameras and 2.5mm on 44 cameras and therefore the larger physical size of the 66 hood mount is what stops it being used on 44 cameras. In practice, the 44 hood will fit 66 cameras but I am not sure if there are any vignetting problems.
The 66 hood measures 55 mm diagonally across, corner to corner, and 44 mm side to side. The 44 hood measurements are 52.5 mm and 43 mm respectively. Whilst these measurements may suggest a problem, the smaller size could be offset by being less deep; 18 mm for the 66 hood and 16 mm for the 44 hood.
Note that the Bay 1 tabs on the 44 cameras are rotated 180 degrees from the 66 cameras but this has no practical consequences.
Push-on Example (Yashica 44A type)
Below are examples of Yashica branded Bay 1 and 32 mm (Yashicaflex A series and earlier and Yashica A and Rookie) and 28.5 mm (Yashica 44A) push-on filters. Presumably, Yashica push-on filters were available for 36 mm as well but I have seen no examples. The Yashica E uses standard 52 mm screw in filters which cover the selenium cell as well. I have seen no suggestions of when branded filters first became available.
The Bay 1 filters use the inside mount so that lens hoods using the outside mount can be used simultaneously. There are three rim variations; silver with black retainer similar in appearance to the yellow and orange push-on filters below, all silver finished and the last ones (certainly from the 1970s on) are finished in black. I thought that the all silver ones may have been first but they appear in some manuals and brochures together with the all black version and the script on the silver example I have matches the black whilst some of the silver with black retainer have an earlier style and in any case, these date at least from the Yashica 44A (1959).
The following two filters are push-on types; the yellow on the left is 32 mm and the orange on the right is 28.5mm for a Yashica 44A.
(Image courtesy of Göran Årelind)
The odd thing about this particular style of filter is the “Yashica” and other text that appears as a permanent feature. The text is not visible from directly ahead, but even at slight angles, it is and it is definitely not a removable film or similar. Here are two of my similar style Bay 1 types with the same text and the same Y2 yellow in its case with the text not visible:
An all silver rimmed red Bay 1 filter (without text):
And a later black UV example:
(Image courtesy of Göran Årelind)
This is the information sheet that came with the yellow and orange push-on filters above (note that it specifically refers to B&W filters and advises that Yashica filters for colour film are available separately):
(Document image courtesy of Göran Årelind)
(Click on information sheet for larger view)
There are versions for both 44 and 66 cameras that look identical except for size. They screw into the tripod socket, provide a grip for the left hand and have an accessory shoe on top for mounting a flashgun. Below the accessory shoe, they have “Yashica-44” or “Yashica-66” badges respectively. They are both from a similar period. The first reference I have seen to them is in a Yashica brochure from about 1959. They also appear in the 1962 Montgomery Ward catalogue and the 66 version was still referred to in the Yashica Mat-124 (released 1968) user manual. Note that crank wind 66 models until the Yashica 24 and the first of the Yashica 44s did not have accessory shoes fitted and is probably the reason that the handles were developed. Here is a handle attached to a rare “Golden Brown” Yashica 44:
(Image courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)
The Yashicaflex A (A-I and A-II) and AS (AS-I and AS-II) user manuals (1954) refer to using an accessory self-timer in the cable release socket (see immediately below this section). The earlier Pigeonflex, Yashima Flex and Yashica Flex B and more upmarket models had built in self-timers as part of their shutter mechanisms and of the later models, only the Yashica Rookie, Yashica A, Yashica 44A and Yashica E missed out. So far I have identified five separate types of accessory self-timer either used in Yashica documentation and/or Yashica branded. The one depicted in the Yashicaflex A and AS user manuals is the first type (left image, note that the aperture and shutter speed scales on the early black trim camera are upside down as it has a Y.S.K. shutter doctored to look like a Copal):
Right image is of a very similar “Walz” branded self-timer.
Whether the user manual example is a Yashica branded, or a generic item, is unknown. Almost certainly, this first self-timer was not made by Yashica as the evidence is that the second type, although Yashica branded, was also available under many different brand names. It could be related to an early model made by accessory maker Kobayashi Seiki Seisakusho (Kobayashi Precision Works) under the “Kopil” brand name (Camera-wiki.org), although the example in the user manual has more rounded shoulders and the bar with the red indicator has a taper compared to the Kopil straight bar. Note that the example in the user manual appears to have the release on the left side (hidden) and that whilst most photos of the Kopil show a right side release, there are versions with a left side release.
There were also very similar models offered under the “Riken” (now Ricoh) and “Walz” brand names and it is possible that there were others. It is also possible that either one, or both, of the Riken and Walz models was also made by Kobayashi Seiki Seisakusho, the Riken particularly having a striking similarity to the squared off Kopil with both having offset retaining screws in the back and the Walz looking almost identical to the example in the Yashicaflex user manuals. All four appear to have near identical stems and the slightly different in appearance to each other Kopil (some examples only) and Walz type (including the Yashica user manual example) appear to share the centre nut and concave knobs of the timer bar (the Riken is the odd one out in this respect). However, apart from aspects of appearances, any connection between any of the models remains unproven.
The example in the user manual is fitted with a long stem to suit the cable release socket on the early Yashicaflex A series cameras but it can be used with any Yashica TLR camera as well as most other types of camera with a socket in the shutter, in the shutter release button or with a removable collar around the shutter button (Leica type, adaptor needed). In the Yashicaflex A and AS user manuals, the self-timer is shown in the set position with the bar with the knobs (for leverage) and red circular indicator at 90⁰ to the body whereas most photos of this type of self-timer show the bar in the released position in line with the body (Walz examples shown):
Japanese company responsible for the Wagoflex and Walz TLRs and many accessories, it is still not clear how much, if any, manufacturing was undertaken in-house or whether Walz was mainly a marketing company. The patent number on the back of the self-timer in the photos is 366274. That number also appears on the instruction sheets of many Kopil self-timers.
There are also similar Walz examples with squared of bodies and offset back retaining screws like the early Kopil type and later examples with dials that have design elements reminiscent of both the Yashica branded item below and some Kopil variants. The example here and the examples in the early Yashicaflex user manuals are virtually identical in terms of appearance.
Kopil is the most common Japanese brand of 1950s clockwork self-timer found on the internet today. The first model appears to be a copy of the German Auotknips Model IV (as are the Riken and Walz models). The Kopil Model 2 (identified as “Mod. 2” on the side) has a setting dial reminiscent of the models shown and described below. It is not exactly the same as any of them although the general layout is very similar to the third one described below with the release button on the curved top. The body castings have similar dimensions but are different. The plastic cases for the Model 2 are clearly a development of the first type and are very similar to the cases for the second type of Yashica self-timer (shown in the photos below) and its various clones. There is also a type that looks identical to the Model 2 identified as “Mod. SLR” on the side and another with “Mod. DTE” which has a similar body to these two but seems to have a hybrid dial/bar with red flag arrangement. Then there is another which seems to have the earliest body but rotary dial instead of bar - perhaps this preceded the Model 2.
The first three of the four Yashica branded types have a large combined winding and setting dial on the front and the “Yashica” name in a Serif style. It is found with both a longer stem, like the user manual example, and also with short stems. It has more rounded lettering and is pictured below (with long stem), including fitted to a Yashicaflex AS-II. The other two have the more cramped style of lettering first found on 1958 cameras. One has “Yashica” inside the dial with time marked from 5 to 20 seconds without a separate window and a release button on the top or end face which has quite rounded shoulders, somewhat similar to the Kopil Model 2. The third one, of similar style but clearly different body with different small knobs/switches, one of which may be the release, has the name below the dial and has “Movie” in place of “Yashica” inside the dial. It was supplied with a grey plastic pouch, with “Yashica” embossed, in a style similar to those used for many flashguns and other accessories in the 1960s. I have only seen the last two with short stems. Whilst all three Yashica branded examples plus the early type in the user manuals are of similar size and share some similar characteristics, there are no features which suggest that they are related to each other.
The fourth Yashica branded type is not physically dissimilar in shape to an early Kopil type with dial but it was specifically branded and marketed for the Yashica Ataron Electro sub-miniature (Minox type) camera released in 1970. It has a different connector than the universal type and was updated with new textured black finish and more modern dial graphics to match the Ataron Electro livery and supplied in a matching black cardboard box.
Below is the model I believe is the first Yashica branded type and perhaps the only Yashica type with a stem suitable for the early Yashicaflex A series cable release cameras:
There is an included adaptor for using with other cameras without cable release socket. There is no branding or Yashica reference in the instructions with only “Leica and similar” cameras referred to in connection with the adaptor. This is a strong hint that the self-timer is a generic item bought in by Yashima/Yashica and re-branded.
(Click on image for larger view)
Below is a photo of the same type without any identifying marks:
(Image courtesy of Göran Årelind)
I have also found thirteen identical types with the brand names “Accura”, “Arrow”, “Miida”, “Pyramid”, “Suehiro”, “Ultima” and “UN” (complete with a world logo) marked on the back and “Commet”, “Escot”, “Etsumi”, “Juplen”, “Kinegon_T” and “Telesar” on the side. According to Camera-wiki.org, the “Accura” brand was used by an unknown distributer for a large range of mainly Japanese made accessories. One of the Accura examples, the Escot and the Telesar have similar plastic boxes to the Yashica except there is no brand name, although “Self Timer” and “Made in Japan” are identical, and the bottom halves are green instead of red. The Escot has identical instructions to the Yashica, however, the Accura instructions are more comprehensive and actually make reference to the “Accura” brand. The Etsumi has the same case except the bottom half is cream. These cases seem shorter than the Yashica item above to match the shorter stems. Both the Juplen and Kinegon_T have long stems like the Yashica, appear to have identical instructions to the Yashica example above and have the same case except the bottom half is green and like the Accura and others, there is no brand marked on the Kinegon_T lid but there is on the Juplen lid. The Suehiro was supplied in a leather pouch.
Most of the the branded items have “Made in Japan”, or in one case just “Japan”, marked on the back but at least one of the unbranded examples has nothing. The only way that any of these physically differ from the “Yashica” item is in stem length. There are also what I presume to be four later types with identical bodies except that aperture window is inside the dial and three have a black dial knob grip which may be plastic. One of the three with black dial grips is in packaging which says “Kalt Corporation”. Another of these has a black body but otherwise it is the same. It has the same instructions as the “Yashica” shown above except for a modified paragraph 4. There are another three with the same body castings and identical release switches but without the top cover plate and each with different dial arrangements. Two have the brand name of a US importer and distributer; one is “Bower” (short stem) and the other “Kalimar” (long stem). The case construction appears to be the same as the others. The top of the Bower case (bottom half, green) is not visible but the Kalimar case (bottom half red) is heavily branded and unlike the others, there is no “Made in Japan”, although “Japan” appears on the bottom of the self-timer. The Kalimar instructions are also heavily branded and different to the others. The third one is branded “Alpex” which may be a brand name used by US distributer Allied Impex Corporation, later to become well known for the Soligor brand. This one has a branded case and although unlike the others in that it has a solid yellow lid, the case design and construction is the same.
Although “Yashica” branded models are quite rare, collectively the type depicted in the two photos is very common and much more so when other variations are added. However, the actual manufacturer of this type, assuming that they are basically the same (extremely likely), remains a mystery. It is tempting to believe that Kopil may have been responsible but so far the only tenuous link is the plastic case.
(Click on image for larger view)
This page is from the Yashicaflex A user manual for models A-I and A-II released in late 1954. It is not clear if any of these items are Yashica branded. I have not seen any Yashica branded square shaped push-on hoods or flashguns of the type depicted come up for sale. There were Yashica branded self-timers which screwed into the cable release sockets of the Yashicaflex A series but these seem to be from later (see “Self-timers” in “Dedicated Yashica TLR Accessories” above). I doubt that at least the one depicted in the manual and the first of four known branded types were manufactured by Yashica and possibly none were.
Looking at sales brochures, user manuals and now my copies of the flashgun, I believe that the “C” cell powered flashgun is almost certainly a Minicam Synchron Junior unit manufactured by Minicam Research Corporation of Japan (see “Minicam” in “Accessories Non-Yashica” below). Close up detail of the bracket clamp and reflector mount in the Yashicaflex AS manual confirm these to be identical to the Minicam unit.
(Document image courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)
The image below is an extract from the combined “Yashicaflex Directions for Use Models A & C”. The cover on one example has a pen and ink notation, “Purchased Feb 1957 Okinawa”. The Directions cover a number of models including the Yashicaflex Model S, later versions of the A series cameras noted above and the Yashicaflex C released in 1955.
(Document image courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)
The first camera has a “pocket” bulb flashgun with folding reflector mounted horizontally to the accessory shoe. It is similar in style to an early Ricoh or Walz model (Walz was a Japanese camera and accessories maker or distributer in the 1950s - Camera-wiki.org) but there is no way of identifying the actual brand.
The flash fitted to the Yashicaflex C on the right appears to have a fixed reflector. The build, including bracket, seems to be substantial. This one also appears in a Japanese language Yashicaflex A-II user manual (unfortunately, rather low resolution):
(Detail from larger web image)
No other accessories are depicted except showing the fitting of a cable release for long exposures. For the Yashicaflex C, the manual states “Fitting Accessories Available.” This could be the Bay 1 lens hood and pouch first clearly identified in a December 1956 Japanese brochure, see “Overview” above.
The early Yashica LM (with counter reset button) user manual shows the same type of “C” cell powered flashgun with non-folding reflector as for “1954” above (the user manual for the slightly later one without the reset button doesn't use a model and the flashgun is as described for the Yashica A below).
From the same period (same model in the same outfit plus the cameras were both released in 1956), the Yashica C user manual for the first version with reset button instead shows a dish shaped reflector attached to a straight bracket affixed to the camera's tripod mount (i.e., no riser) with a coiled cord running back to a power pack on a shoulder strap, clearly an early electronic flash unit.
(Document image courtesy of Göran Årelind)
For the first time, both camera's manuals refer to “electronic flash”. The Yashica A manual, which maybe from the same period as the slightly later LM version, has both a photo of the camera by itself with a bulb flash attached, similar to but not the same as that in the first photo above, and a line drawing of the woman with the electronic flash and power pack. Both the line drawing and the same flashgun reappear in the Yashica Auto user manual of 1959.
Yashica-Mat user manuals mention flash use but as far as I am aware, only the very earliest with “Yashicamat” on the cover actually displays a photo of a flash attached. This, the bulb flashgun attached to the Yashica LM (later manual), Yashica A and Auto is a little different and bigger than that I have identified as the Minicam Synchron Junior in earlier user manuals and it is, almost without doubt, the Minicam Synchron Master which uses “D” cells. There is no indication of branding on any of these items.
Except for the Yashica E user manual, the above instances are the last time that an electronic flash was depicted in a photo or illustration until around 1970, although they continued to be mentioned in the text of some manuals but not all. In 1956, portable units were probably new and exciting but the reality was that they were cumbersome and expensive and limited to specialised professional use. Performance was probably pretty uninspiring as well. As they became more compact and less expensive and therefore more suitable for amateur use, they became more common for 35 mm cameras but the light output of these units was still a long way behind flash bulbs. The light from the small rectangular reflectors designed for 35 mm may not have been as even, certainly not as soft, as from the larger, circular reflectors.
On the other hand, falling popularity of TLRs and therefore pricing sensitivity was probably also a significant factor. In contrast, the integrated “potato masher” Heiland/ Honeywell/ Rollei (Rollei from 1967) Strobonars had first appeared in commonly recognisable form as early as 1958 (contrary to some net commentary, Rollei initially adopted Honeywell technology via US Rollei importer Honeywell, not the other way around and Rollei also continued into the early 1960s with bulb flash units). Strobonars began appearing in US Pentax user manuals (Heiland/ Honeywell, not Asahi) from around 1960.
Both Yashica C & LM user manuals refer to the availability of “sunshades” and “complete range of filters and supplementary lenses” to fit the Bay 1 mount. No particular branding is mentioned, only to see your camera dealer for assistance. The Yashica A user manual indicates that the same range of accessories is available for the 32 mm push-on mount.
The first Yashica D and 635 manuals (models introduced in 1958) show a bulb flashgun with folding reflector mounted horizontally to the accessory shoe.
Branding is not mentioned or discernible. Most other manuals in this period don't seem to have photos of flashguns until the Yashica 24 appeared (1965). One exception is the Yashica E manual from 1964 which actually shows an electronic flash attached, the “Yashica Quick-Lite Pro-40” (see the Swift & Bleakley Pty. Ltd. brochure under “Flashguns” below):
The user manual references to lens hoods, filters and auxiliary lenses in this period remained similar to the generic statements of the mid to late 1950s manuals. The Yashica E is again an exception with a black rimmed, “Yashica” branded, 52 mm screw-in filter shown.
This is an extract from a Yashica US brochure covering the full range of products and originating from about 1959 (Yashica 44 and Yashica 44A shown together). Included are accessories for both 44 and 66 TLRs:
The surprising inclusion is a close-up auxiliary lens set in slip-on fitting. However, as the brochure includes the full TLR range that seemed to be on sale as well as the 35 mm range, movie cameras and equipment and even a Yashica transistor radio, it is odd not to see filters mentioned, nor auxiliary wide angle and telephoto lens sets, nor flashguns, nor tripods which became common in subsequent brochures from 1962 on. It makes me wonder whether those things were available with Yashica branding yet. On another page, there is an exposure meter (see Exposure Meters).
The accessories page of a brochure from around 1964 by UK importer Photax lists more items but still leaves gaps, including auxiliary wide angle and telephoto lens sets, but as it covers TLRs only, its omission of items such as tripods, flash units and exposure meters is perhaps not so surprising:
(Brochure provided by Göran Årelind)
(Click on image for larger view)
Although using electronic flash is mentioned, the Yashica 24 manual has a photo of a flash bulb type unit with small, non-folding circular reflector integrated into a 1960's style TV screen shaped housing sitting on top of a “Yashica” branded flash handle (44 version shown further up the page). The flash handle was first advertised as early as 1959 (see catalogue above). The branding on the flashgun is “Yashica”. The manual also mentions that a “Yashica Flashcube Adapter is now available” (the Yashica Guy has photos of this quite unremarkable device which looks like a typical 35 mm accessory).
The Yashica 12 manual has the same gun mounted sideways directly to the accessory shoe (note that some examples of the Yashica 24 in the user manual do not have an accessory shoe - all that I have found, do). The availability of a bracket is mentioned.
The Yashica Mat-124 again has a bulb type flashgun, this time with a circular housing the same size as the non-folding reflector. It is mounted directly to the accessory shoe although, the bracket is again mentioned. I have found an accessories brochure on the net which has both the flashguns from the 24/12 and Mat-124 user manuals displayed (as well as the electronic flash Quick-Lite Pro-100 below). The first is named as the “AG Flash Gun” and the circular one is the “AG-D”. In case that there is any thought that these were special accessories, all 3 flashguns are displayed attached to 35 mm rangefinder cameras. However, the Yashica TLR brochure further below does show the three units plus the smaller “Yashica Quick-Lite Pro-50” electronic flashgun attached to TLRs.
The last Yashica D manual, with “66” on the cover, from around 1970 (the example camera has a black locking knob), has a photo of a pro style electronic flashgun with handle attached to a tripod mount bracket called the “Yashica Quick-Lite Pro-100”.
The user manual references to lens hoods, filters and auxiliary lenses remained similar to the generic statements of the mid to late 1950s manuals until the Yashica 12 of 1967 (I don't have access to all manuals and editions). This makes specific reference to “Yashica” filters Y2, O2 and UV for B&W photography and to an “EXCLUSIVE LENS HOOD (with leather case)” and shows a silver rimmed “Yashica” labelled filter being fitted. The Yashica Mat-124 manual has the same references and a picture of a silver rimmed filter and a square hood with “Yashica” in the oval logo (which on cameras, only appeared from about 1955 to 1958 - old photo?).
Göran Årelind has provided a copy of a Yashica TLR brochure for the Yashica Mat124, Yashica-Mat, Yashica 635, Yashica D and various accessories:
The accessories page is reproduced below:
Note that only the “Filters & ....” panel depicts dedicated TLR accessories.
Both the first user manual for the Yashica Mat-124G with “66” on the cover (similar to the Yashica Mat-124 and Yashica 24 and 12 manuals) and the first of the later style manuals with the photo of the camera on front, show the “Yashica Quick-Lite Pro-100” fitted.
Both manuals list available filters as UV, ND2, Y2, O2, R1, and G1 for B&W film and 1A, 80B, 81B, 82A and 85 for colour film. The first manual shows a single silver rimmed “Yashica” branded filter only whilst the second one shows both silver and black rimmed examples.
The square hood in both manuals has the heavy serif script style of cameras from 1958 until the release of the Yashica 24 in 1965.
Detail is from the second manual.
There is a Yashica brochure which shows the Yashica Mat-124G and the last versions of the Yashica-Mat, Yashica D and Yashica 635 together. Apart from the 635 35 mm kit, the only accessories shown are one of the wide/tele lens kits and one of the close-up lens kits (all black). The leather cases for these accessory items are black.
The later Yashica Mat-124G user manual, with Kyocera Corporation branding on the back cover, now only mentions UV, Y2 and O2 filters for B&W film without reference to colour. Three black rimmed filters are shown and the lens hood has “Yashica” in the modern sans serif style. The flash unit is the Contax RTF540 identified in the brochure below.
I have a copy of a 6 page brochure for the Yashica Mat-124G with Kyocera address on the back which puts it in the 1983 (year of Kyocera acquisition) to 1986 (end of production) period. I would say close to 1983 because I also have a downloaded version of the same brochure with more prominent Kyocera branding. Accessories shown in order are:
- A large “Contax” branded model RTF540 handle type pro flash unit mounted to the base of the camera (obviously borrowed from Yashica's “Contax” line of SLRs).
- Four small “Yashica” branded electronic flash units displayed in a group but seemingly more appropriately designed for 35mm cameras.
- Close-up lens sets Nos. 1 and 2 (similar to the black sets above).
- Cable release.
- Lens hood.
- Four Bay 1 filters with black rims: red, yellow and presumably UV and 1A (skylight).
(Click on pages for larger view)
Pages 5 and 6 shown. PDF version is here.
Noticeably absent are the wide angle and telephoto auxiliary lens sets. Perhaps these were discontinued already?
There are Yashica branded tripods, exposure meters and flashguns (covered in some detail above and including both bulb type and big numbers of electronic models from more recent times plus “Contax” branded units). Whether any models of these were specifically designed with the TLRs in mind, I do not know but the evidence suggests otherwise. By the time the 1960's rolled around, the focus was firmly on the 35 mm market but obviously, you could use whatever accessories you wanted, providing that they were suitable for the purpose.
This is the tripod page from a catalogue issued by Australian Yashica importer Swift & Bleakley Pty. Ltd. circa 1962:
(Click on page for larger view)
Tripod models ST-1, ST-3 and ST-5 from the late 1960s are shown in the Yashica Mat-124 et al brochure above. I was also surprised to see a 16 page Yashica tripod catalogue offered for sale. The period quoted was from the early to mid 1960s. I don't know what was in it but 16 pages allows for a wide range of models. This is an example of a rather nice one with advanced features. I think it is the MY-1 model depicted in the earlier Swift & Bleakley catalogue.
(Images courtesy of Richard Nixon)
This nice one is a later ST-1 with geared elevator column:
(Images courtesy of Leigh Harris)
The similar looking ST-3 used an ungeared centre column and the ST-5 missed out on the column altogether.
The exposure meter description below is from a Yashica US full range brochure originating from about 1959 (see the period 1957-1965 above):
(Detail from larger web image)
I only have a very low resolution image from the web but it displays the two tone green casing which seems to be a match for the flash unit further down. I believe that it is an earlier type than the ones below, all of which have “YEM-” product identifiers. The accessories page from the Yashica Mat-124, et al, brochure above shows the following meters together in a group (although the YEM-31 and 35 in the brochure are the later “Super” variants) so at some point in the late 1960s, a version of all of them must have been available at the same time. The basic version of the YEM-35 meter appears in a 1962 catalogue with flashguns - see further below.
Two views of YEM-15 clip-on meter with selenium cell:
(Images courtesy of Göran Årelind)
In his collection, Simon A. Spaans has identical clip-on meters with the names “Unittic”, “Fodor” (Netherlands importer of photographic equipment), “Plus Meter”, as well as “Yashica”
The handheld Yashica meter with selenium cell on the left below is the model YEM-31. Simon has a similar meter with the name “Unittic”. This is also commonly found with the name “Sunset Unittic Model 31”. The manufacturer is Showa Koden Co., Ltd. A copy of the manual is available from Orphan Cameras.
(Left image courtesy of Göran Årelind, right image courtesy of Simon A. Spaans)
The YEM-35 is a clip on CdS type but it can also be conveniently hand held. The foot slides into a metal clip in the leather case so that the case can be opened to use the meter without fear of the meter falling out. In operation, the meter is pointed at the subject and the meter is turned on to take the reading. Turning it off locks the reading. Note that the small “Y” logo in the middle of the dial (similar to the YEM-31 and 55) is missing on this particular example.
As noted earlier, both the YEM-31 and YEM-35 are also found with the suffix “Super”. These are updated versions.
The exposure meter below is a handheld CdS type, model YEM-55.
The history of bulb type and electronic flashguns is also extensively covered in “Accessories Found in Manuals etc” above, together with further examples. Initially, the items appearing in Yashica user manuals were unlikely to be Yashica made or branded. By the end of the 1950s, beginning of the 1960s, bulb flash units with folding reflectors began appearing with Yashica branding and the word “Lite” in the name and electronic flashguns adopted “Quick-Lite”.
Below are a number of views of a Yashica bulb flashgun which I believe is a Yashica Lite II:
(Images courtesy of Göran Årelind)
This flash has a test button but no pilot lamp. Possibly, the flash was suppled with a test lamp to be used instead of a flash bulb. According to Göran:
“This one has a 15 Volt battery, V74PX. The bulbs are normally the M2 or M3 size or you
can use a adaptor (I think Ba15) to Philips PF bulbs, or any other bulb with Ba15 socket.
In that aspect it's very clever - a "multiple" socket makes the choices of
bulbs rather wide. The following bulbs are printed on the exposure scale (back of the unit) "5 - M5", "6 - 26", "5B - M5B", "M2 - PF1" & "SM - SF".”
I have found at least four other bulb types with folding reflectors (plus at least two later ones with fixed reflectors, “AG Flash Gun” and “AG-D”- see “1965-1970” above). The folding reflector types have similar features but the bodies are quite different and each has their own pouch. The above type, probably the oldest of the five found but presumably, there is also a Yashica Lite I, was supplied with a dedicated “Yashica” branded, heavy leather pouch stitched similar to the TLR ever-ready cases and with a fold over flap with press stud fastener. The name on the front is in gold lettering in the heavy block style that Yashica adopted in the late 1950s. The leather is an unusual colour in that it does not match any known TLR ever-ready cases; it is a light, pinky sort of colour, and therefore the flash is unlikely to have been specifically intended for TLRs.
Several Yashica 44As have been found with a rather slim, altogether more svelte bodied unit with very rounded top, dark grey main body and a light grey panel on the back. The name is moulded into the back. These ones have both a test button and pilot light. These examples have similar style leather pouches to that described above but this time, the colour is grey and a perfect match for the two cameras' ever-ready cases. Although unlikely to have been intended as a dedicated Yashica 44 series accessory, it may have been designed with that model in mind.
I am not quite sure where the “Yashica-Lite BC-I” unit it fits in, although it may be the conventional companion to the “Yashica-Lite Dynamo-I” in the 1962 catalogue below. “BC” I assume stands for “battery-capacitor”. It is not quite as nicely built as the one pictured above and has an offset foot (which seems to be shared with the Dynamo-I) which twists around from the usual position on such flashguns to a side mount suitable for TLRs (image below shows the foot in the halfway position). It is also fitted with a clever bulb adaptor - when swung into the up position, the flashgun takes inexpensive AG-1 capless bulbs and when swung out of the way inside the unit, bayonet bulbs can be used.
The lower images show the flash fitted to a Yashica Minister D with the foot in the conventional position and with the foot swung to the side for fitting to a Yashica TLR. Its among the most TLR friendly folding flashguns I have come across.
The last type of folding reflector flashgun that I have seen has a dark grey body and light grey front panel on the front. It is a fatter, rectangular shape with a raised, orange plastic rimmed exposure calculator dial to make its use more ergonomic. However, the construction seems thinner and cheaper with a simpler, mainly plastic spring loaded foot and a thin, cheap plastic pouch similar to those supplied with hundreds of other flash units in the early 1960s.
Below are some flashguns from a catalogue issued by Australian Yashica importer Swift & Bleakley Pty. Ltd. circa 1962:
(Click on page for larger view)
The two “Yashica” branded electronic flashguns are interesting, more by omission from TLR user manuals than anything else. It would be almost 1970 before a Yashica branded electronic flashgun would finally displace bulb units in mainstream Yashica TLR user manuals (see above). Nevertheless, the “Yashica Quick-Lite Pro-40”, shown top left did make an appearance in the 1964 user manual for the amateur focused Yashica E, possibly because it already had a built-in bulb type and the only ad that I have seen for what may be the original “Yashica Quick-Lite” shows it attached to a Yashica 44A:
(Detail from larger web image)
In the early 1960s, Yashica used a moulded plastic figurine of a boy in a sailor outfit as part of its marketing strategy. I have seen this referred to as a US market initiative but in recent times, more seem to have come up for sale in South Africa than the US and there is the Japanese market version below and in user manuals (on this version, the name appears to be on a decal rather than moulded). Very little is known about the “sailor boy”. Occasionally they appear on auction sites. They are usually about 100 mm, or 4 inches, high. Both versions below are found with the inscriptions under the feet “Made in Japan” and “© 1962 Modern Plastics”. I have also seen references to larger versions as part of shop displays and there is a photo of two of the smaller ones next to one described as “20.5 cm tall”. The large one didn't have “Yashica” on his hat but another from a Japanese site has the decal in Japanese. These days they would probably be considered vaguely disturbing, particularly from the rear, but nevertheless, they seem to be collectible.
(Detail from larger web images)
The only reference I have seen in Yashica documentation is the figurine's use in various user manuals. In the 35 mm camera manuals, he is used to bring attention to “Remarks” comments for the Yashica Lynx-5000 and it seems that he appears once for decoration only in the Minister D manual. The only TLR context that I am aware of is to demonstrate depth of field in the 1964 Yashica E user manual:
Found on a Japanese auction site is a similar size moulded candle. Only a wick on top of his head and waxy appearance to his finish give the game away. This comes in a presentation box with a Christmas scene on the front and a Christmas message inside from “Yashica”. He also appears on a “Yashica Co., Ltd.” lens cleaning cloth with the wide “Y” logo which dates it to at least 1965. The evidence so far is that the figurines originated from 1962 but the marketing campaign remained in place for several years.
There is a postscript to the sailor boy. Again from Japan is basically the same figurine but with pointy shoes (no date or other inscription) and in place of the sailor's cap is a pointy cap in a style often associated with the nursery rhyme “Wee Willie Winkie”. His hands are raised and he is holding what appears to be a 35mm style camera with pop-up flash. Otherwise the head, expression and pants at half-mast are the same. A fully clothed variation with different camera in one hand, still with the same head and expression features, appears on a cloth clothing patch with the words, “YASHICA EXPO' 70 ELECTRO 35”. Here is another variation of the figurine found on a Japanese website:
Tom Heckhaus has sent me an image of a clothing patch. The origins of this are not remembered so we don't know whether it is a Yashica item or commissioned by someone else but it is the kind of thing that we could wear with pride! The camera model looks like a Yashica Mat-124G so its obviously no older than from 1970.
(Image courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)
For interest sake and for the benefit of users of Yashica TLRs, I have decided to display here the only non-Yashica items on the web-site.
Five of the six filters displayed below are Franke & Heidecke Rollei branded items, the black rimmed model on the left is the Yashica branded item also displayed above:
(Click on right hand image for larger view)
(Images courtesy of Göran Årelind)
Like the Yashica, all the Rollei branded filters shown are standard Bay 1, nominally 30 mm in diameter. The Yashica is marked “30 mm” but one of the Rollei filters is marked “28.5 mm”. Apparently, this appears on all earlier Rollei Bay 1 filters - I'm not sure what that is measuring although I have seen suggestions that it is somehow linked to the fact that early pre-War Rolleiflex Standards and Automats used 28.5 mm push-on accessories. Note that Rollei filters and lens accessories are also available in larger Bay 2 and 3 mounts which are not suitable for Yashica TLRs.
Below is an Actina branded 32 mm push-on filter holder made in Britain which can be used with or without the hood (the diameter of the actual glass filters is 28 mm):
(Image courtesy of Göran Årelind)
Below, also from Britain, is a “B.D.B.” branded 32 mm push-on filter holder which can only be used with the hood (the diameter of the actual glass filters is 31 mm):
(Image courtesy of Göran Årelind)
At some point, Actina and B.D.B were/ became linked.
Basic hoods without a filter holder function were the most common type and were offered by both accessory makers and the various TLR manufacturers. They are generally interchangeable, the main things to watch for are the diameter of push-on versions, whether Bay 1 hoods use the the inside or outside mounts (some current plastic eBay versions use the inside mount so that filters cannot be fitted) and whether the hood is suitable for 44 or 66 series cameras. As noted earlier, the Yashica external Bay 1 mount may be a fraction oversize and can be problematic for Rollei lens hoods particularly.
This is a polarising filter for Bay 1 equipped TLRs. It was made by Chiyoda Kogaku for their Minolta Autocord cameras but also fits the appropriate Yashica and Rollei models. The clever thing is that the top and bottom filters are geared together so that the effect of the filter can be seen in the viewfinder as angular adjustments are made. Also shown mounted on a rare and rather nice Yashica Auto.
(Images and information courtesy of Tom Heckhaus)
According to Tom Heckhaus:
“It’s difficult to put on but does work. You must carefully line up the bayonets then push forcibly until it sits on the taking and viewing lens then rotate the locking lever. Removing is difficult as well. Make sure the Yashica’s lens is focused at infinity, so you don’t force the focusing mount.”
The difficulty in fitting has been confirmed by another correspondent - it seems that Minolta and Yashica bayonets are very close in design but the outside bayonet is not exactly to the same spec.
Other interesting accessories for the Autocords were the self-explanatory “Minolta Autocord Panorama-Head” and the “Minolta Autocord Paradjuster” which was placed between the camera and tripod and used to adjust for parallax error when using close-up lenses. This last item was nicely made but clumsy in use and is unnecessary with the parallax correcting Yashica close-up sets.
The flashguns depicted in early Yashica manuals were almost certainly Minicam Synchron units made by Minicam Research Corporation (little doubt that the name was influenced by US photographic lighting specialist, Heiland Research Corp.). The address given in the brochure below is 81 Nakanecho, Meguro, Tokyo, Japan. The company is worth mentioning anyway as they seem to have been a significant supplier of flash lighting equipment in the 1950s. A seller on eBay claimed that he had bought a Synchron Junior flash of the type shown below together with a Nikon camera when stationed in Japan in 1952. Another seller advertised their's as being from 1953 so they were certainly available from the right period on.
Instructions & Brochures
There are several PDF brochures and manuals floating around the net. Two were available for download from Camera Oldies Workman's Photography but the site seems to be permanently down. You can contact me for copies. There is another from Orphan Cameras, just follow the links from the home page.
This last is a little risque and highly unusual for the 1950's, featuring a topless woman on the cover which would certainly have been at odds with Yashica's mainstream marketing approach. There is another, perhaps more common and I believe later, version with a butterfly with folded wings replacing the woman. They are almost identical in other respects but there are some very minor differences, e.g. the optional brackets have been revised. One of these two is often in kits of the type shown below. The Orphan Cameras example, whilst possibly more interesting to look at, is crucially missing the three panels with the actual user instructions (I know this from examples that have been for sale). The butterfly version is downloadable from this site:
There also appears to be an older document with what may be a picture of a Rolleicord with a Synchron Master flash and a Nikon with a Synchron Junior flash on the front cover. This has “1953 Catalog” on the front cover and appears with a number of kits.
The “Synchron” series was available in three models; the “Professional” and “Master” using “D” cells and the “Junior” using “C” cells. Some accessories were interchangeable but the Master was more professional than the Junior with, for example, a greater range of reflectors available, and “less plastic” (the only plastic I am aware of is the black band at the top of the cylindrical body of the Junior). The two prong connectors were also different with the Junior using round pins and the larger flash guns using flat pins versions. There was a range of brackets for securing the flashes to the tripod sockets of cameras including generic types, generic TLR types and specialised Rollei fittings (with integral tube clamp, probably only available in the larger size). Slave units were available for both the Junior and larger models as were various leads and connectors to suit different types of flash sockets in use at the time. Today, the Junior is the most commonly found model on auction sites etc. Accessories are very rare, although I have seen various leads turn up.
Synchron Master & Professional
These two models confuse me. The instructions refer to a “Professional LBC” unit (see “Operation” below for explanation of “LBC”) without providing much detail and also the availability of a “Professional model RSM” reflector for “any of the Synchron Master flash units”. As far as I can tell, Synchron Master kits come packaged as “Minicam Master Model Flash Equipment” and “Synchron Master Professional Flash Unit with Original LBC Circuit”.
My take from brochures and photos is that the Master is basically an up-sized Junior and that both were probably supplied without the LBC components. The “Professional” may be a separate model or it may be a Master supplied with the “Professional model RSM” reflector and LBC components as standard. Either way, any Master could be brought up to similar specs with the available optional accessories.
The examples of the “D” cell units in Yashica user manuals are fitted with the “Professional” reflector.
There is a version stamped “for Mamiya Press” with special attachment point. I suspect that it is also based on the “Professional” specs.
Yashicaflex AS-II & Synchron Junior
This photo is of a Minicam Synchron Junior, with TLR bracket, fitted to an early Yashicaflex AS-II (the eagle-eyed will note that the left photo uses a PC flash connector whilst the right exhibits an ASA type). Compared to the setup in the Yashicaflex A/ A-II user manual (further up the page), the synch cord is on the correct side. In the photo from the Yashica LM manual, it is on the opposite side. The handle actually has sockets on both sides and it doesn't matter which is used for camera synch and which is used for connecting remote slaves (up to 6).
Synchron Junior Universal Kit
This photo is of a Minicam Synchron Junior kit with universal type bracket fitted to a late Yashicaflex A-II. From experience, the above TLR type is almost essential to stop things flopping around.
Here are some more photos of the flash kit which appears to be reasonably complete, even with test bulb and “Minicam” labelled plastic bag (not shown). However, there are no instructions or other documentation (the downloadable version above was obtained separately). Although instructions are not mentioned in the box contents, the topless lady/ butterfly instructions/ brochure is often found with other kits.
(Click on right image for larger view)
The bottom of the box does provide a list of accessory brackets and leads available:
(Click on image for larger view)
The blue cover is most probably Minicam supplied as it also appears with at least one other kit. It is a folded plastic sleeve which when opened out, slips neatly over the reflector with one of three sides, or faces, to the front. There is a blue side, obviously for correcting the colour temperature of clear bulbs to match daylight colour film, a clear side to reduce danger from shattering bulbs and a translucent side to help diffuse the light.
Synchron Junior TLR Kit
Correspondent Jeff Hellige has kindly provided me with details of his Synchron Junior TLR kit. Jeff says:
“Unlike yours though, which has the highly polished reflector, mine has a satin reflector. It also came with the cords and the LBC capacitor and battery, though the box states it can use normal C-cell batteries. The LBC 22.5V battery is similar in size and shape to a modern 9V, while the capacitor is like a C-cell with a tab sticking off one end.”
(All four images courtesy of Jeff Hellige)
Packaging of Kits
I can't discern any differences between the actual flash units themselves but one (maybe the earliest) uses sync cords with the cords exiting straight out of the plugs instead of at 90 degrees and earlier TLR brackets are more angular and don't have a (visible) tripod socket. The one immediately above is the later one as is the example in the Yashicaflex AS user manual - that would date Jeff's TLR kit to around 1954 availability and my “New improved” kit to a similar time (the same TLR bracket is illustrated). The kits came in a number of different boxes both over time and for specific models:
- The earliest appears to be a simpler, squarer box without internal partitioning for storage. This has blue with red panels as opposed to the later boxes with blue and yellow panels. It sometimes at least comes with a document labelled “1953 Catalog” and this displays the first type TLR bracket.
- Similar box to that shown above for the universal kit except without the “New improved” label. It sometimes at least comes with the manual/ brochure with the butterfly on the cover but it is also found with the topless lady version which is likely to be earlier - it has the earlier TLR bracket.
- The universal kit box shown above with the “New improved” label. When found with a manual/ brochure, it is the butterfly version.
- The TLR kit box shown just above.
- Although the various camera specific connectors and baseplates could be bought as accessories, there were also packaged kits to suit certain models, e.g., Minolta-Semi (the one seen was the squarer, older box style).
The Synchron flash units are advertised with an “LBC Power Unit”, the LBC referring to “laminated battery and capacitor”. The battery/ capacitor (condenser) power source (commonly called BC units) for flashguns generally started to appear around 1950. For the Minicam models, this comprises a laminated 22.5 volt “C” cell or “D” cell and 500 uF or 700 uF capacitors respectively. These are not mentioned as part of the kit contents (rarely found and extremely unlikely to still work) and although included with Jeff Hellige's unit, there is the question of whether they were usually included or sold as an accessory item. The box is labelled with names where items are stored such as “Bulb” and there is also a spot for “Battery” but none for “Capacitor”. One of the instructions downloadable from the net explains that the “new” Synchron Junior flash can be converted to LBC type by removing the two normal 1.5 volt “C” cells and replacing with the LBC components. As well as Jeff's box, this is also the implication on the side of my box so perhaps the LBC items were optional accessories:
It's not clear from the instructions whether the flash could fire multiple slave units if using standard batteries only but the end of my box suggests not:
The Synchron units accommodated many types of flash bulbs. There was the bayonet socket in the centre of the reflector (also used for the test bulb) as well as the big socket at the top of the handle for bulbs with full ES size bases. Adaptors were available for this socket to use bulbs with smaller bases and although there are photos of Synchron units utilising these adaptors, they are not mentioned in literature that I have seen.
I have photos of a “Minicam Flashgun Junior”. The unit is of recognisably similar design but with more basic finishes and more primitive design features generally. The packaging is a brown cardboard box with simple label with no more than its name displayed. Although there is no mention of the “Synchron” name, there does appear to be connectors allowing the connection of slaves.
The company also made a number of early type electronic flash units with remote power packs one of which could be the type depicted in the Yashica C manual but there is no way to tell for sure. Minicam also made at least one type of small bulb flashgun with folding reflector (there were probably many more) but the one I have seen is not similar to any of the Yashica units. There is no evidence that there was link between the two companies other than Yashima using the Synchron units to illustrate flash use in its manuals.
The Minicam Research Corporation
Very little is known about the company. With the advent of compact consumer focused electronic flashguns, Minicam seemed to fade into obscurity. However, as far as I can tell, it seems to exist in the same Meguro area today as a low level exporter of photographic accessories and it seemed to be involved with flashguns into at least the 1990s. The Minicam logo on the box and brochure and other items above was filed for U.S. federal trademark registration by the Japanese company on 25 October 1972. The registration date is given as 28 September 1976 and the trademark expired on 8 July 1997. Between 1982 and 1992, the company filed for, and was granted, at least three US patents associated with flashguns.