CAMERAS > YASHICA
This company's history begins at Nagano, Japan, in 1949, with the foundation of the Yashima Seiki Company, with an initial investment of 566 dollars. With 8 employees, it started by manufacturing components for electronic watches. Later, they also entered into making camera parts, and by June 1953 their first camera was unveiled, the Yashimaflex, a 12-on-120 TLR camera. Also in 1953 the company was refounded as Yashima Optical Industry, Ltd.
In 1957 a subsidiary was created at New York, in charge of coordinating Yashica's market in the US. That same year the first of the successful series of Yashica Mat TLRs was introduced. The company kept growing, and by 1958 it had 1,982 employees. By the end of 1958, the company changed name again, becoming Yashica after the acquisition of another camera maker, Nicca Camera, providing the framework for the expansion of the company's 35mm camera portfolio. By the early 60s, another company was aquired, this time a small sized business named Zunow, in that time known for making small runs of reflex cameras with really advanced features, as well as powerful lenses designs.
In December, 1965, another of the comapny's big hits was introduced, the first 35mm camera with electronic control, the Electro 35, a small rangefinder out of which five million units were sold. Thanks to that growing, by August 1968 Yashica bought its main competitor, the lens maker Tomioka, als one of the biggest in Japan by then. That year the Yashica mat 124 was also introduced.
In 1973 a partnership with Carl Zeiss started, aimed at producing a new series of professional 35mm cameras and interchangeable lenses, with electronically controlled shutter, wearing the Contax brand. Lenses and cameras from this serie, with C/Y bayonet mount and designed by F. Alexander Porsche, are highly appreciated due to the high quality they provide. The Contax RTS, first shown at photokina 1974, was a big success. And a few models were also later introduced, all using 35mm film and taking Zeiss T* lenses, such as FX and FR.
In October, 1983, Yashica was bought by Kyocera, initially with few changes at least apparently. Since then, cameras were made by Kyocera (Kyoto Ceramics), which also developed new Contax cameras. In 1985, the company was into competition mainly with Minolta, that had just presented an autofocus camera technically advanced and good priced. Yashica would also introduce their autofocus series of cameras, although they could not compete against Minotla, not in price neither in marketing. As a consequence, Kyocera was gradually repositioning the brand as an inexpensive "point and shoot" camera, moving production from Japan to Hong Kong and stopping production of high-end cameras.
In 2005, Kyocera ceased production of photo cameras, Contax, Yashica and others, both film and digital. In 2008 the name rights were sold to Hong Kong's MF Jebsen group, through its subsidiary JNC Datum Tech, selling a certain number of digital cameras, recorders, digital photo frames or mobile phones.