Camera Reviews, Photography

Yashica-D

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Yashica-DI’ve lusted after medium-format twin-lens reflex cameras for many years, but I’ve always rebuffed them for their high prices. The Rolleicords and Rolleiflexes are the most respected members of the genre and go for hundreds of dollars on the used market. Lots of companies made TLRs in the Rollei idiom, but even the clones can be mighty expensive.

Nobody cloned Rollei TLRs as prolifically as Yashica, which produced them from 1953 to 1986. Collectors broadly group Yashica’s many TLRs by the film advance mechanism: knob or crank. The crank-advance Yashica TLRs, which tend to have been produced later and offer the best lenses and shutters, go for the most money on the used market. The crank-advance Yashica-Mat tends to be the most expensive today because it includes a coupled CdS light meter. Except for a model here and there that flirted with selenium light meters, other Yashica TLRs are meterless.

Of the meterless knob-advance Yashica TLRs, the Yashica-D is the best specified. Its Copal MXV leaf shutter operates from 1/500 to 1 second. Early Yashica-Ds featured three-element, f/3.5 80mm Yashikor viewing and taking lenses. Later Ds came with twin four-element Yashinon lenses, also f/3.5 at 80mm. Even though the Yashikor is a fine lens, collectors favor the Yashinon. That’s probably why I got quite a bargain on my Yashikor-equipped Yashica-D – about $50, shipped.

Yashica-D

When I held my Yashica-D in my hands for the first time, it felt incredibly right. I wanted to shoot with it right now. It was much as how the scent of a delicious meal can make you hungry, or the sight of a beautiful woman can make you …well, you know. I’ve never been so affected by a camera before. I heeded its call, moving it to the front of the line ahead of several other cameras awaiting their test rolls.

All-manual cameras like the Yashica-D slow you way down as you deliberately focus and set exposure. I’m so used to my auto-everything digital cameras that I sometimes forget to set exposure on my manual film cameras! On the least enjoyable of my manual cameras I even resent having to mess with it. But using the Yashica-D is such a pleasure that I looked forward to it, and enjoyed the process. Not only do all the knobs move smoothly and precisely, but there’s also a sensually pleasing heft to them. I was delighted to find that focusing the camera moves the entire lens assembly in and out, as the photos below show. You have to cock the shutter manually, but the lever slides like it’s on silk with a tiny, sure click at the end. Winding the film is even a pleasure, as the winder stops at each frame – there’s no infernal red window and no accidentally winding too far.

Yashica-D Yashica-D

To focus, look down into the viewfinder and twist the big knob on the right side until the image is sharp. You can pop a magnifying glass from the lid to help you, or you can pop the center of the lid out and use that square hole as a sports finder. To set aperture and shutter speed, turn the two small dials between the lenses until the values you want appear in the window atop the viewing lens.

It seemed right to shoot black-and-white film in this camera, so I loaded some Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros and took it along when my sons and I drove up to Terre Haute one cloudy afternoon. This jet has sat on the lawn of the Clay County Courthouse in Brazil, Indiana, for as long as I can remember.

Jet

We also stopped by Iron’s Cemetery, which is hidden from view along US 40 west of Plainfield. Check out that delicious bokeh.

Iron's Cemetery

This photo isn’t compositionally interesting, but I like the silvery tips on the branches and the great detail this Yashikor lens delivered.

Iron's Cemetery

The roll’s 12 shots went by too fast. So I went to the fridge for my last roll of now-discontinued Kodak E100G slide film and kept shooting. My D beautifully rendered the evening sunlight as it fell across my car’s tail.

Matrix Hindquarter

It also beautifully captured the evening light and shadow across my shed.

Barn

I used these two rolls to test Fotometer Pro, a 99-cent light-meter application I downloaded for my iPhone. It did a great job in lower light but, at least with this camera and this film, seemed to overexpose a tiny tad in bright sunlight. I also found that on all of my color shots, clicking automatic contrast correction in Photoshop really made them pop.

Deck Chairs

Here’s a little more of that delicious bokeh, this time in color.

Grape Hyacinth

I’m really going to miss E100G; I love the color it returns. I really need to buy more while stock is still available. My back yard is an embarrassing wreck, but E100G makes it look good.

Blooms on the Edge of the Deck

To see the rest of the photos I took with my Yashica-D, check out my gallery.

My Yashica-D has zoomed right up to the top of my favorite-camera list, with my Pentax ME, my Olympus XA, and my Canonet QL17 G-III. I’m confident that I will reach for it time and again.

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31 thoughts on “Yashica-D

  1. Jon campo says:

    Hi Jim,
    I really enjoy your blog. I too love these cameras and have several. You got a good deal! If you ever need service I can recommend Mark Hama who does great work. Enjoy your camera.
    Best regards, Jon

    Like

    • I’m very happy you enjoy my blog! I’m in love with my Yashica-D. It’s nice to know there’s someone up there who can keep it running.

      Like

  2. Those are wonderful TLRs, and glad that you are using one, Jim. As always, entertaining reading! I have a Yashica A, and a Rolleiflex. I use the Yashica more often.
    Mark

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  3. Very nice detail and colors. Glad to see it has made it to your A list. The Yashica D was the first TLR that I ever used when I borrowed one from my high schools photo club to take a picture inside a church. Strangely I was recently given the left-over cameras from that photo club and the Yashica D was there and still appears to be working.

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    • Thanks! I just love the detail and color I get from this camera. Love it! I haven’t felt this enthusiastic about a new-to-me old camera in a long time. How cool that you got that Yashica-D from your high-school days.

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  4. Very nice results; I especially like that last one of the flowers. I have similar feelings about the Yashicamat, and always feel I should be paying more attention to it. I suspect I would use it more if I had the close-up attachment which has parallax compensation as well as the close working capability.

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    • Thanks so much, Mike. The last one is my favorite too. The sun was setting and the light was really delicious. I just love the color the E100G delivered.

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  5. I’ve been bidding on these on and off for months. The Yashica D and the Mats (I like the crank, I guess) were what I was going for. For now, anyway, I’ll be content with my 1939 Ikoflex. But maybe my eye is wandering towards something in a Mamiya Cxx. Probably is.

    But congrats on your new old camera. These are great machines.

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    • I have a trick. Every day I look at the Film Cameras and Vintage Cameras categories on eBay and Shop Goodwill, and sort them by ending soonest. I have a short list of cameras I want to buy and I’m always looking for those. I get the best bargains this way, on nice cameras that somehow escaped notice.

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      • Jim,

        I also use http://www.zoomthelist.com to search Craigslist nationwide for a certain camera. This technique has served me well in searching Craigslist and acquiring cameras. ZoomTheList indexes Craigslist ads but it isn’t as “fresh” as just searching cities on Craigslist for certain cameras.

        Always fun reading your blog.

        Richard

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  6. Lone Primate says:

    That camera’s got an intriguing depth of field. If I didn’t know better, I’d absolutely swear that photo of the 1871 headstone was Matthew Brady’s work. If you could add a neutral density filter to it and take exposures a second or two long, you could totally fake that.

    …Well, assuming you could find guys marching in Civil War uniforms or horse carts running around Indiana. :)

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    • Thanks for the compliment! That photo is from a Civil War era graveyard — perhaps it’s not hard to capture the essence of a time when you’re in a place frozen in that time.

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  7. Wes C says:

    Enjoyed reading about your Yashica-D. The TLR’s are great for when you want to slow down the photo-taking process versus using a 35mm SLR. And I really like how the greens are rendered with the Ektachrome E100G. Very nice!

    I recognized the jet in your picture as being a North American F-86, so I did a little searching online to find that it is a F-86F Sabre, s/n 52-5434, manufactured in 1952 and placed on public display around 1975.

    Like

    • Wes, I agree: the E100G is a winner in this camera. I have four more rolls in the fridge waiting for the right day to spool them into this wonderful machine. And thanks for sleuthing the Clay County jet!

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  8. Mark Proulx says:

    Stumbled on this post this morning. I still have the Yaschica D I purchased in 1968. It’s a great camera! Thank you for the write-up!

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  9. Pamela Smith says:

    I have a Yashica-D with case and instruction book and even some flash bulbs. Can you give me an idea of the value. I’d like to sell it.

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    • I don’t know. But what I do know is that eBay is a pretty good way to find out. Go there, type Yashica-D into the search box and hit Enter, and then look for the “sold items” checkbox. You’ll find out what this camera has sold for recently, which will be as good a guide as any as to the camera’s value.

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  10. Bill Bussell says:

    I had my first Rolleicord in the 8th grade of school. It was stolen, but it was a better camera than the two Rolleicords I have now. My high school newspaper owned a Yachica Mat LM. That camera was my constant companion, and I made money with it selling pictures to The Indianapolis Star and News. So now I have several models of the Yachica Mat, but not the D. I always drooled over various Yachica models for sale at Zayres, and I suspect the D model was one of those. Great pictures you have been getting with that D! I think the jet aircraft is an F86 Sabre Jet. A number of engines for that Korean-era plane were built at Allison Plant 5. My dad began work at Allison two months before I was born, and I was fortunate to work for the descendent company. Developing 120 is child’s play for me, but I am surprised Indianapolis does not have a 120 color lab. Wow, times have changed. Cheers

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    • Yeah, the only processing you can get in Indy is 35mm color. Kind of a shame. If I were more entrepreneurial, I might open a shop and develop whatever is sent my way.

      Cracks me up that you could buy Yashica TLRs at Zayres!

      Hang tight: on Monday, I review a Yashica-12!

      Like

  11. Danny says:

    I just discovered my Yashica D camera a few weeks ago in an antique shop. And what a discovery it is! I just shot my first roll of film, and I’m pretty happy with the results. While I had to misfires and two double exposures, I’m very content. I do have a question. I’d like to start using this camera to take night time long exposures. How do I use the bulb function on this camera to achieve this? My camera does have the mechanical self-timer which does work, but I have not figured how to close the shutter once I depress the shutter button to take the picture.

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  12. Bill Bussell says:

    Use a cable release to hold the shutter open on bulb. Put a slight bend in the cable while holding it to prevent shake. This should apply to that model. But be warned! A fatal flaw involves the self-timer in some models. Study tnis next link until you understand it. Cheers.
    http://www.yashicatlr.com

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  13. Pingback: Yashica D [1958]

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