Yamato Pal Jr

Yamato Pal Jr

lens: Yamanon
focal length: 45 mm
apertures:  f2.8 to f16
focus range:3 feet to infinity
lens fitting:  fixed
shutter:  proprietary leaf
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/300
flash: cold shoe, PC connector, one sync speed
film size: 35 mm

This camera was made by Yamato Kōki Kōgyō in the 1960s.  It is  a smallish 35mm viewfinder camera from Japan made in the early 1960s.  Yamato Kōki Kōgyō made a range of cameras, frequently for private labels.  This particular model, Pal Jr, was sold in the USA by Sears as a Tower 55B.

It is a well made camera made from die cast metal with the only plastic being in the lens/shutter assembly and then take-up spool.  The size and shape of this camera are much reminiscent of the Voigtlander Vito B but with angled ends rather than rounded.

The lens is a 35 mm Yamanon lens (either made by or specifically for Yamato).  The aperture range is somewhat restricted – f3.5 to f16 – but this is a very usable range.  The diaphragm has nine blades which gives a fairly circular aperture; more circular than most modern lenses offer.  If you are interested in bokeh, this should bode well.  This lens allows focussing from a bit less than three feet to infinity.  The lens has a bluish caste so is coated at least on the external surface.  The shutter is a leaf shutter in the lens and speeds are as a Prontor – 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/300 plus B.  The shutter bears no name – again either made by Yamato or specifically for them.  There is a single Happy Snapper setting – just less than f11 and twelve feet – both are marked in red on the lens barrel.

This camera is synchronised for flash – there is a PC socket on the underside of the shutter housing.  There is no indication as to whether this is M, F or X sync but given the age of the camera I am inclined to suggest it is F (for Fast flash bulbs).

Pal Jr, rear view
The top plate is fairly uncluttered.  There is a slight bulge for the viewfinder which is large enough (I can use it while wearing my spectacles).  The viewfinder has bright-lines plus secondary lines to avoid parallax errors for close subjects.  On the top of the viewfinder is an accessory shoe (a cold shoe in flash terms).  To the left is the rewind knob with a small fold-out crank.

To the right are the shutter release button (threaded for a standard cable release), the film advance lever and the rewind button.  In front of the rewind button is a window for the frame counter.  At the start of a film this is set to zero by a knurled ring around the rewind button.  The film advance lever moves through 180ᵒ for each frame.

To load a film, you turn a ring on the base plate from L to O and then the base and back come away as one piece.  Loading the film is as you would expect on a fully manual camera – insert the cassette in the chamber on the left, pull the film leader over the image gate and attach to the take-up spool.  There is a slight difference to normal here as the take-up spool turns clockwise (the film is would emulsion side outwards) so the leader is attached on the left of the spool rather than the right.

The base of the camera also features a standard (1/4 inch Whitworth) tripod boss.  This is right at one end of the camera and so is likely to be poor for both stability and level.

In use, this camera is pleasant to use.  It is small and light which means you can carry it around all day – more than I can say for some of my Zeiss Ikon or Voigtlander cameras. The shutter release falls under my right index finger and the film advance under my thumb.  The viewfinder is a bit too small but still usable.  One fault with the viewfinder that I have found is the metal surround of the viewfinder comes into contact with my spectacle lens and will result in the lens getting scratched – softer plastic/rubber is much nicer.  The settings on the shutter barrel are easy to access from above and are nice and clear.  Would be better if there were depth of field markings beside the focussing scale, but this is a cheapish camera and you cannot have everything.

I now have some test pictures from this camera.  In general I am well pleased.  There is a lot of vignetting on a couple of frames but not in general.  I clearly have had an issue focussing this camera, but many are in good focus so I cannot blame the camera!

Cathedral Close, Lincoln

North Tower, Lincoln Cathedral

Central Tower, Lincoln Cathedral – with vignetting.

Some roofs, Lincoln

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