Yamato Pal Jr/Pax Jr Review : One foot in the 50’s and another the 60’s

I got this little gem a couple of years ago and have recently picked it up again.This scale focus 35mm relatively compact camera looks strikingly like Haking’s  Halina Super 35X and one can guess who influenced who. But how does this early 60’s compact measure up ?

Yamato Pal Jr
Yamato Pal Jr 35mm Japanese camera from 1960

It is dinky when you compare to the likes of 1960 rivals cameras like the Fujica 35 Automagic or 35 Auto-M but is more dated in styling looking clearly like a 50’s camera. It was made by Yamato Kōki Kōgyō, one of several Japanese manufacturers who confusingly used the Yamato name. This company vanished within years of the Pal Jr being made.

Worth noting a Box Camera was also called Pal Jr was made in the US by Metropolitan Industries in the 1930’s.

'Atta Girl
Kingsmoor 2013. Yamato Pal Jr with Agfaphoto Vista Plus 400

Yamato Pal Jr Specs

  • Lens: Anastigmat 45mm 1:3.5
  • Focus:  Scale
  • Metering:  None
  • Aperture : f/3.5-16
  • Shutter: 1/25-1/300 + B*
  • EV (100) :   ~8.5- ~16.3 ¹
  • Filter-Thread:  none

* 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 & 1/300      ¹ approx  as non standard shutter speed

So what you get is a scale focus compact with Manual non metered exposure. You set exposure by shutter and aperture rings around the lens. The camera shows its 50’s roots with shutter speeds based around 1/100 (funnily goes 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and then leaps to 1/300 1½ stops faster than 1/100). The camera is self cocking but you have to set the film count to zero. The whole back detaches again a 50’s feature. A handy film speed reminder sits up top and there is a cable release thread point. The camera has  PC sync and a cold shoe for flash.

Moffat Post Office
Moffat Post Office, 2014. Yamato Pal Jr with Kodak Ektar (100 ISO)

The problem for this camera was not only was it dated stylistically but within a short space of time technologically.  Even by the late 50’s coupled metering was starting to appear with things like the Fujica 35 Automagic and was derigeur for Japanese compacts by the mid 60’s.  But let us leave that aside as it doesn’t really matter to the vintage camera collector.

Using this week's delivery
Selfie sho, 2013. Yamato Pal Jr with Agfaphoto Vista Plus 400 taken at f/3.5 with 1/50

Nice camera in use. Couple of practical issues however. The 1½ stops change between 1/100 and 1/300 is a a wee bit of a pain. Another issue is that mines doesn’t really like films longer than 24 exp and starts to tear and jump. I’ve had the same with later BelOMO Vilia & Siluet Elektro and the same solution works for all. If you gently every so often wind off the tension on the film canister side by turning the rewind knob the other way. The action of the individual rings on mines are smooth and both feet and metres are given but unlike the Super 35X there is no Depth of Field Scale.

Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle, 2014. Yamato Pal Jr with Kodak Ektar (100 ISO). Note soft at distance

And oddly shot wise it is like the Halina. Mines has a Luminor Anastigmat lens but others had other lens labels like Yamaron or Color Luna. The anastigmat lens has the same foibles as it does with the Halina. Better at near distances than long and the edge of the film plan tends to blur but not as bad as the do with the Halina. The lens is a bit soft too even at narrower apertures (scarily think the Super 35X might be just sharper). That said at even f/3.5 shots are useable as you can see from my mirror selfie.

Painting III
2013. Yamato Pal Jr with Agfaphoto Vista Plus 400 taken at f/4 with 1/50sec

Quirky small shooter from 1960 but really is from a few years earlier. Not the sharpest camera you’ll ever hold nor the worst. If retro styling manual shooting fun is your game, might be worth a look.

Why Buy ?

  • Compact
  • Retro styling

Why not ?

  • Not the best lens
  • Odd shutter speeds

What I Paid & current eBay Pricing

  • Paid £5 + £2.50 P&P camera only
  • Only 2 listed as selling under Pax Jr 99p & £4.99 with cases

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6 thoughts on “Yamato Pal Jr/Pax Jr Review : One foot in the 50’s and another the 60’s”

  1. Hey
    I just picked up one of these ( Pal Jnr) from ebay for £4.99 and it’s in excellent condition, I have just got back into Film as I used to do all my own Developing and Printing way back in the day when I had a Darkroom. I have found a few articles on the net about this camera but there is not much else. The first photo you posted looks pretty stunning and the colors look nice a vivid, I have just bought a load of film ( Black and White) and will be trying mine out over the coming months.
    Thanks for posting this up

    regards

    Chris

  2. I have one of these. My father bought in in 1961 and took hundreds of transparencies with it. The pictures are clear and colourful. Used it myself for a while but got bored with the torn sprockets failing to wind on the film

    1. Mines suffered from tearing of sprockets too esp on 36exp rolls. Lovely camera but realised had spent 2 years gathering dust so sold just a couple of weeks ago

  3. Hi, Alan.

    I’ve latched on to you post whilst searching for some info about this camera.

    I bagged a Pal Jr, with case, off ebay the other day for £15, inc. postage. I was amused by what appeared to be an exceptionally large v/f, but I was also taken by its cosmetic condition as depicted in the posted images. On both accounts, I was not to be disappointed. The body is virtually in mint condition save for a tiny ding to the top left side front of the top panel; the focusing is still silky smooth, as is film wind on, and the shutter speeds appear, on inspection, to be around about correct. Strangely, neither shutter nor aperture settings are click stopped. I am assuming that this is a later production run as the lens s/n is six digits; I notice that yours was five.

    I was surprised that you made scant mention of the truly excellent optical quality of the v/f. It is large, almost to Leica M3 standard, crystal clear and sharp. Mine exhibits no fungus or haze. It feels really tiny in the hand, and I’ve got somewhat small hands.

    Referencing the Halina 35x Super, it is not in the same league regarding build quality. The Halina is what one could expect from “Empire Made” i.e. Hong Kong, back then. The Pal is to a build standard presaging what was to come from Japan, and which ultimately killed off the mighty European, especially German, camera manufacturing business. The differences are readily seen even in photos where the top panel pressing is to a higher standard than that of the 35X Super.

    I don’t expect miracles from its three element lens and I would guess this to be on a par with the 35X that I owned in the mid-sixties.

    It was interesting picking up your point about the problematic wind on, around frame 24 or so, and you seem not the only affected by this.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Irony is Terry had you been looking a few weeks before you could have bought my Pal for a fraction of that ! (eBay is a fickle mistress what she gives you extra on some 90’s AF plastic she takes from true vintage numbers).

      I agree the Pal is better engineered than the Halina 35x Super but have to be honest I found the super worked better for me – the Pal suffered a bit more esp on distance shots. However my gut feeling is the 35x Super is a much updated lens set up from the older 35x

      The Pal was nice for near shooting and certainly gave a retro feel to shots but I’ve had to to let some stuff go recently and this lost out othe 35x super, a Voigtländer and a retinette

  4. Hi, Alan.

    Irony, indeed. These purchases are invariably “off the cuff” whilst idly browsing ebay; it fits in with my love of old film cameras, although now I don’t use film anywhere as much as I once did when doing my own D&P as a hobbyist photographer. I still do develop the odd b&w film and then scan, but it is all digital nowadays, for convenience, as I no longer have my darkroom.

    Being curious from reading your post, I spotted an Halina 35X Super yesterday for a BIN of £17.99 and free P&P, but open to offers. It comes with its case, and judging by the pics, both look to have little signs of use. I made an offer and which was accepted. So soon, I shall be able to directly compare this to the Pal.

    Regarding the long distance performance of the Pal’s lens, I can’t see any reason why this should really have been so, except where quality control in setting the infinity focus point was a bit lax. Front cell focusing lenses are fairly easy to adjust, and so this is one thing I shall check out with my Pal/Super. As your lens performed well in near field applications I suspect that this could have been the case, although not necessarily so. The early Leica f2/50mm Summicron in screw mount performs best in the near to mid-distances, with far field suffering in comparison. So this is not a lens one would pick for landscape, for example, but would have been ideal for street photography, or group shots. I am able to see the drop-off in IQ using it on my Sony A7, and as the adapter allows focusing slightly beyond the infinity setting, I know it can’t be a focusing issue. Regarding what you do on you blog, this is slightly off piste, but you may have found it of interest, if nothing else.

    Your comments about ebay deals are spot on. Sometimes one can bag an absolute bargain, at others prices do seem to bear no relation to what the item is really worth, but this varies from buyer to buyer. I’ve experienced both scenarios, as many others will have, too.

    My latest acquisition to a small collection of “top end” APS cameras cost me just £1.39 the other day. Not yet arrived but the pics show it to be in exceptional condition. Searching the internet later I discovered that this Canon Ixus III cost a few pennies shy of £180(!) when it was released in 2002.

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