at a German photo forum I'm a contributor to the question arose as to which Yashica (or Contax?) models were actually manufactured by Cosina.
According to my information, the Yashica FX-3 and its iterations were Cosina made, but I was hitherto unaware that the Contax S2/S2b might also be candidates (at least that's what some forum members claimed).
Does anybody of you have any reliable info on such a cooperation (as far as 'reliable' is a term that can be applied to the discreet and secretive world of Japanese optical manufacturers)?
I've never found any documentary evidence, that can be relied upon, proving that Cosina made the S2. However, I believe it is true because the mechanical internals of the S2 are near identical to the FX-3. Some parts are exactly the same. The S2 shutter is an uprated version of the FX-3 shutter (both from Copal) so is different and the S2 has more advance electronics. But the similarities are too convincing for me to believe otherwise.
I do not believe that the initial FX-3/FX-7 bodies were manufactured by Cosina but there is little doubt that later versions were. Any FX-3 Super 2000 with a serial number starting with '8' is definitely Cosina-made; indeed Cosina broke some of Yashica's rules on appearance as I have just acquired a silver FX-3 Super 2000 with a very late serial number. As you know, Yashica designated the FX-7 models as the silver versions of the black FX-3 types. I'm also pretty sure that the FX-7 Super was made by Cosina though I'm not sure of their serial numbers - the model is not very common.
When the silver FX-3 Super 2000 arrives later this week, I'll make a direct comparison with an earlier-numbered black (standard) version and also the Braun SR2000Y which is a FX-3 Super 2000 clone to see if one can spot any Cosina clues...
There's one thing of note that may or may not have some significance... Back in 1974 when Yashica started it's early belt tightening and initiated cost cutting measures to control the hemorrhaging bottom line, they announced they'd set up production facilities in Hong Kong. Once that factory space was ready, they transferred some of their existing lines to the new facilities, and soon after, entire models had their lifetime runs done there.
That's not to suggest that Cosina never participated in some way, but only that some model upgrades could have been shifted to Hong Kong at the same time they got hardware downgrades or got repurposed components from other models - where the newer models were of a lesser production quality on purpose, and not because they were made and assembled by a 3rd party partner who had 'different' quality standards.
From all the data I currently have correlated, the Electro 35 GSN/GTN cameras were the first 2 models to get their production moved at some point after their introduction in 1973. My guess is that in the earlier years, Yashica shipped existing parts there from Japan for assembly, then later they moved tooling and component manufacturing there for more and more of the major assembly parts (body casting, mirror box, top/bottom plates, etc.), and eventually 3rd party suppliers could have taken over for bigger pieces of each 'camera pie'. New designs for models wholly produced in Hong Kong would likely have the majority of their parts come from one or several 3rd party suppliers based in HK, or anywhere else... as long as the price was right, and what they produced could (hopefully) last as long as the warranty periods each product carried.
Cosina is based in Japan, but I assume they have some permanent presence outside of it, like in HK or Taiwan, or even China proper. If that's the case, then they may have started out as suppliers, and turned into the manufacturer for 100% of each model they previously produced parts for. Remember that they had to get some experience as a full-on manufacturer before someone like Voigtlander and Zeiss would take them seriously for any high-end partnerships later on. That kind of undertaking isn't one you jump into at the deep end of the pool when you're not even sure you can swim.
The two Yashicas are identical other than their colour schemes and, interestingly, the Kyocera logos. The Braun is a later clone but does show some structural differences - the mirror being an obvious one with its cut-away front corners. I would expect its electronics for the metering system to have been upgraded but apart from the aforementioned mirror, everything else looks identical. The Braun base-plate does not have the serial number and JAPAN stamped into it as with the two Yashica cameras but instead has BRAUN GERMANY stencilled on it. We know that the same model has appeared under different brands with the C/Y mount. I'm sure I saw a review a few years ago which stated that the SR2000 was manufactured in China by the Jiangxi Optical Instrument General Factory, licenced by Cosina, and marketed through Phenix in Taiwan.
It might be the contrast of the colors playing tricks on a pair of aging eyes, but I do see a couple of very slight differences. On the silver version the trigger guard on the shutter looks to be larger in diameter, and the top plate looks to have an elevated ring showing below the rewind crank's base. The Braun has some fairly obvious dimensional differences beyond the mirror and cosmetic ones, and one of them is the slightly larger size of the frame... which would mean a larger mirror box and top/bottom plates to match. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Braun was made by Cosina from their own tooling.
Everything I've found on what was made in Hong Kong doesn't show any reference to any of the FX models - but - that data only represents the details for production up to 1993. It doesn't rule out the possibility that the later/silver version could have been made in Honk Kong after '93, although it certainly doesn't give any evidence that it was.
And biggles3 ... Of the 2 FX-3's I have, they are both Super 2000 versions, and both have the same red "K" Kyocera name plate. The serial numbers are wildly different, with a 941xxxx and a 121xxxx sequence, which might suggest something's different with their innards or origin.
Very interesting to know that one of your FX-3 S 2000s has a serial number starting with a 9 - that must be one of the last. I have 6 of these cameras and the serial numbers range from 110xxxx to 8402xxx but with the exception of the silver one, they all appear identical although I have never opened any of them.
It's probably utterly irrelevant, but my FX-3 Super 2000 says 'Japan 751xxxx' on the base plate and has the all-silver Kyocera name tag.
Since you, lumiworx, brought up the China angle--some sources claim, as you know, that later specimens of this camera were China-made (Phenix Optical?)--another layman's question: Would it have been mandatory to label China-made cameras accordingly as '[Made in] China' or is that no reliable clue either?
This would only apply to goods imported into the US, but the Tariff Act of 1930 (sec.1304a), says that any imported goods must have a permanent mark showing the country of origin that's legible and conspicuously visible on the outside of the primary item. There are always ways that one could find themselves with something that wasn't intended for export/import (i.e., 'grey market' electronics and cameras), but generally they would always be labeled. I imagine that other countries might have similar regulations - but - I won't assume that all do.
I think the only exception in the US might be "EP" labeled products bought in military 'PX' (Product Exchange) stores... and even then, labels may or may not have also included some kind of 'Made in...' mark, depending on their origin. Japanese cameras well into the 1980's that were purchased in US military base PX's in Japan would usually have a "MIJ" or "Made In Japan" labeling in addition to the "EP" engraving/plaque/stamping on the product exterior. They would have started out after WWII, until the mid-50's, to use "Made in Occupied Japan" instead. A Hasselblad bought in a Swedish US base's PX may have had no markings other than the "EP" on it.
I think it's generally accepted there are two versions of the Super 2000. I've previously separated the versions by their construction as I don't believe you can rely on serial number data when the same base plates, that carry the serial number, were used on so many different cameras and you can also never be sure the base plate hasn't been replaced (that's my opinion anyway). I had previously identified five construction differences between the two versions, three of which are visible and two you need to dismantle the camera to see. The differences are:
Different strap lugs Different label One has a leatherette patch applied to the grip while the other doesn't but has a moulded texture to the grip The top plate moulding is different internally The front plate moulding is different internally
The interesting thing is your camera here has a mix of the visible differences. The grip has the leatherette and it has the label I would expect to see but the strap lugs are the ones I would expect to see on cameras with the grey label and without the leatherette on the grip. So, either the strap lugs have been replaced or there was a gradual change from one design to the other. I, personally, don't think there was a gradual change and I think it's more likely the strap lugs were changed. That might also explain your serial number because the base plate may have also been changed at the same time.
Well, Peter, you got me looking. Turns out the camera in the photo is not the one with that serial number. It sits on top of my old computer with the clock lens installed, and has the flat sided strap lugs. So, I'm not sure what serial number of the above body is because it's been boxed up, and is buried in the stack somewhere.
I would still think any camera with an abnormally high serial has probably had the base plate changed. I've seen it before and I guess that any base plates left over after production ceased got used/sold as spare parts. They may have even continued making them if their was sufficient demand. I had a 139 recently with a serial number above any others I had seen but, as soon as I removed the base plate, I could see the camera didn't deserve such a high number so it must have been replaced. I try not to change base plates (or any part that carries the serial number) but, if I do, then I record the original serial number in some way. Sometimes I write it inside the base plate along with my name and date that I put in all cameras I work on. Maybe take the base plate off yours to see if there is anything inside. I've seen other repairer's names and dates inside cameras so you never know.