Yashica  –  Vintage Camera Brand

Yashica Brand Overview

Yashica logo

Founded: 1945 — Nagano, Empire of Japan
(modern day Japan)
Currently: Yashica

Yashica Brand History

Yashica was a Japanese brand founded as Yashima Seiki Seisakusho (Yashima Precision Works) in Nagano Prefecture. Established in May of 1945 as a military subcontractor, the company manufactured munition fuses for the Japanese Empire for just a few months before the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the Second World War to an abrupt end. Without a war effort to support, the company began producing electrical components and eventually went public as Yashima Seiki K.K. (Yashima Precision Works Co., Ltd.) by the end of 1949.

In 1953, the company decided to head in a new direction, changed its name to Yashima Kogaku Seiki K.K. (Yashima Precision Optical Instruments Co., Ltd.), and branched out into the camera industry with the Pigeonflex, a twin lens reflex camera. The company continued to produce TLRs over the next few years, including some bearing the name “Yashicaflex,” “Yashica” being a contraction of “Yashima” and “Camera.” In 1958, the company finally changed its name to Yashica Co., Ltd.. Yashica soon expanded to 35mm cameras with the aptly named Yashica 35 (not to be confused with the Electro 35) and into the subminiature market with the Yashica Y16. In 1959, Yashica acquired Nicca—a struggling brand specializing in high-end 35mm rangefinders—and immediately rebranded two of their models for sale as the Yashica YE (the Nicca 33) and the Yashica YF (Nicca IIIL).

Yashica flourished in the 1960s, releasing notable cameras such as the Pentamatic, Rapide, the Electro Half, the aforementioned Electro 35, and even manufacturing an instant camera on behalf of Polaroid: the Polaroid 120. In 1973, Yashica entered into a business partnership with the famed German optical company Carl Zeiss and soon began manufacturing high quality 35mm SLRs under the Zeiss’s Contax brand starting with the Contax RTS. Accompanying these new Contax SLRs were a wide range of exceptional Zeiss-designed lenses which could also be used on new Yashica-branded SLRs like the FX-3.

Kyocera acquired Yashica in 1983 and began using the existing partnership with Zeiss to produce the wildly successful T* series line of compact 35mm cameras (which includes the popular Yashica T4) while continuing to manufacture the existing lines of Yashica and Contax rangefinders and SLRs. As digital cameras became more and more popular, Kyocera produced a series of uninspiring compact digital cameras under the Yashica name before abandoning it and pulling out of the camera market entirely in 2005. Three years later, Kyocera sold the Yashica brand to Hong Kong-based firm MF Jebsen which is now using it to market digital cameras.

Interested in starting or growing your own collection of Yashica cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.

McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, WI, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), p 701-707.

“Yashica Cameras Return from Grave,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/2008/02/yashica-cameras/

“Yashica,” Camerapedia, http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Yashica

Vintage Camera Lab