Yamato model list

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Yamato model list

I go through my camera shelves, trying to keep an order of what I pick, looking at the simple to review one-off models. I am at the post-war viewfinder/rangefinder models, so I picked up a shy camera from the corner, a Tower. But instead of finishing a page quickly and easily, I got more than I bid to.

It is a Yamato, short for Yamato Koki Kogyo, or as they called themselves in English, Yamato Camera Industry Co. LTD. An esoteric camera maker that was active from the 1930s to the mid-1960s and then vanished.

My database lists 440 post-war Japanese camera makers, and I am sure there were more. As mentioned in my other pages, the half-a-million GI contingent in Japan had deep pockets and worked hard to collect souvenirs to bring home. Cameras were an ideal match; they were small, relatively cheap, and advanced. As with many booming post-war industries, camera-making was just a glorified cottage industry.

While there is much information about the German photographic industry, tracing back Japanese camera models is challenging, if not impossible. Information is available about the majors, whether the ones that survived till the late 1990s, such as Topcon and Miranda, Ricoh and Kowa and so on, or the giants that endured into the digital era.

There are several reasons for the information drought. The Kanji names can be transliterated in several versions, all correct. Further, the Japanese industry used similar terms repeatedly, such as the Japanese term for optical, precision, or Japan, followed by a different suffix, which would confuse a foreign language speaker. Moreover, similar-sounding names, such as the Kinka models, are unclear as to whether they were made by Yamato or Yamamoto.

As it happened, I found eight Yamato cameras on my shelves. Add the Tower and perhaps some other rebrands, and there will be a minyan.

So, not to offend the Tower, I was looking at Yamato’s history. As I expected, little is found. There is Yamato galore, a manga character, a battleship, and modern security cameras, which all stem from the Yamato period. There is hardly anything about the post-war Yamato cameras; they are mentioned on the fly, and the essence appears to be copied and pasted.

From what I can see, Yamato was a prolific camera maker, offering a long list of models. However, almost all models carry multiple names, so the output should be heavily discounted. Further, some models, such as the Dan, Kinka, and Bonny, are attributed to other manufacturers. There are as many opinions as articles about it.

Like most manufacturers in Japan and Germany, Yamato rebranded their products to other distributors, mainly in the US. Trying to trace it back from the distributors is futile, as the distributors built their own brands and then reused them with products from other manufacturers. Mansfield sold a Yamato camera under Skylark, with two following Skylark models made by Royal.

Yamato’s first cameras were introduced in 1933 with the Kinka models. As stated above, it is unclear if Yamato or Yamamoto made them. A 1946 Yamato Bonny model appears to be made by Yamasaki and is listed on my database under Omiya, apparently a distributor. A series of Dan cameras came on stage in 1947, again attributed to another manufacturer named Hagi or Hagimoto. It is hinted that Hagimoto was taken over by Yamato, which seems correct as Dan models kept showing under Yamato, as well as sold under Yamato’s Minon name. The Minon models were earlier mentioned as made by Shin Nipon, another obscure manufacturer.

I think my note above about the origin of Japanese camera makers is well supported.

Yamato had introduced three Laica-inspired cameras in 1951: the Super Dan 35, The Pax Golden View and The Pax I. They looked like miniature Leica, almost toy-like. By then, Yamato’s VP of marketing called off all stops and threw a long list of cameras into the market; most were variations of the same melody under a host of random names. The naming galore could have been for different distributors, of which I have no further record. The late Yamato cameras branded under other distributors’ names are marked with a stylized “Y”.

The early Yamato models used the Bolta format, whereas later, all were 35mm. Most were compact monoblock, with a few klapp and a TLR thrown in.

The last models under Yamato’s name were three identical models, the Palmat Automatic and her siblings, and the company went silent then. Nonetheless, few post-war Japanese camera makers survived as long; most vanished earlier,  in the late 1950s.

See the table below for the names and short descriptions. The cameras were a mix of compact, relatively simple viewfinders and rangefinders, with later models featuring light meters. It seems that the Pax models were sold in North America, as most Yamato cameras offered on eBay are of this name. Further, there is no connection between Yamamoto and the Pax of Carl Braun or the Pax Jr of Metropolitan Industries.

I have gone through eight Yamato cameras. Neither in working order. All have one or more stiff dials and only a few have a working shutter. This is an embarrassment, which probably had contributed the the company’s early demise. The rate of dead cameras of that era is about a third, and most can be brought back to life in short order. It is a challenging affair, so all are set aside for a deeper look into the faults. For the collector, these are typical cameras of the era, and are cheaply available, although some models are elusive. The early models can fetch a nice penny once they are offered. If found a working unit, get it.

The Yamato-made cameras can be grouped per the following:

Group leader
Dan Various models, unsure if all made by Yamato
Minon Top square viewer Viewfinder 1949 Minon 35 C
Pax I More Three windows Rangefinder 1951 Super Dan 35, Pax Golden View
Pax Ruby More Two windows, one small Rangefinder 1955 Sunscope; Ricsor, Konair Rubi, Rippa, Rex, Pal
Pax M2 More Two windows, one round Rangefinder 1956
Pax M3 Two windows, same size Rangefinder 1957 Mansfield Skymaster, Alpina 35, TAC, Lycon M3
Pax M4 More Three windows Rangefinder 1957 Magnon 35; TAC Delux, Atlas Deluxe, Pal M4, Magnon M4.
Atlas 35 More Onw small window Viewfinder 1959 Rex M4, Pal M4, Magnon, Emitax Emicon, Sears Tower 55
Atlas 35 II Two windows, one wide Rangefinder 1959
Pax Junior One large window Viewfinder 1960 Barclay, Hilka, Pal Junior, Simflex 35, Starlite
Palmat Automatic One window and meter lens Viewfinder 1961 Emitax Automatic, Mini Electronic 35 Automatic


Yamato family models list

Alpina M35 1958ViewfinderTAC, Pax M3
Atlas 35 1959ViewfinderTower 55, Emitax Emicon
Atlas 35 II 1959Rangefinder
Atlas Deluxe 1959Rangefinder
Barclay 1960ViewfinderPax Jr.
Bonny Six 1946Klapp
Dan 16 1947Miniature
Dan 35 I 1948Viewfinder
Dan 35 II 1948Viewfinder
Dan 35 III 1949Viewfinder
Dan 35 IV 1949Viewfinder
Dan 35 M 1949Viewfinder
Emitax Automatic 1961ViewfinderPalmat Automatic
Emitax Emicon 1960ViewfinderAtlas 35
Hilka 1960ViewfinderPax Jr. , Barclay, Simflex
Kinka Hand 1933Klapp
Kinka Lucky 1935Viewfinder
Konair Ruby 1955RangefinderRippa, Sunscope; Rex; Ricsor
Lycon M3 1957RangefinderPax M3
Magnon M3 1957RangefinderPax M4
Microscope 1960Niche
Mini Electronic 35 Automatic 1961Viewfinder
Minon 35 1949ViewfinderDAN 35
Minon 35 C 1949Viewfinder
Minon Six I 1950Klapp
Minon Six II 1950Klapp
Minon Six III 1952Klapp
Pal 1955RangefinderPax Ruby, TAC Rubi
Pal Automatic 1960ViewfinderEmitax Automatic, Palmat; Mansfield Skylark
Pal Junior 1960ViewfinderPax Junior, Hilka, Sears Tower 55B, Barclay, Hilka Simflex
Pal M4 1957RangefinderRex M4
Palmat Automatic 1961ViewfinderEmitax Automatic, Skylark, Palmat Automatic EE, Emitax Automatic, Mini Electronic 35 Automatic.
Pax Golden View 1952Leica type RF
Pax I 1952Leica type RFPax 35
Pax Junior 1960ViewfinderPal Junior
Pax M2 1956Rangefinder
Pax M3 1957RangefinderSkymaster
Pax M4 1958RangefinderMagnon 35; TAC Delux, Atlas Deluxe, Pal M4
Pax Ruby 1955RangefinderSunscope; Rex; Ricsor, Konair Rubi, Rippa
Pax Sunscope 1958RangefinderRex; Ricsor, Konair Rubi, Rippa, pax Rubi
Rex 1956RangefinderSunscope; Ricsor, Konair Rubi, Rippa, Pax Rubi
Rex 4 RangefinderTAC Deluxe, Atlas Delux, Pax M4, Pal
Rippa 1960RangefinderSunscope;; Ricsor, Konair Rubi, Pax Rubi, Rex
Rippaflex 1955TLR
Riscor 1958RangefinderSunscope; Rippa; Konair Rubi, Pax Rubi, Rex
Simflex 35 1960ViewfinderPal Jr., Hilka, Sears Tower 55B
Skymaster 1957RangefinderPax M3
Starlite 1960ViewfinderMansfield; Skylark
Super Dan 35 1951Leica type RFPax I
TAC Deluxe 1958RangefinderPax M4, Pal M4, Atlas Deluxe, Rex M4
Wagen Six Minon Six

Daniel Schnider
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Classic manual film cameras
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