I’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.
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.
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.
We also stopped by Iron’s Cemetery, which is hidden from view along US 40 west of Plainfield. Check out that delicious bokeh.
This photo isn’t compositionally interesting, but I like the silvery tips on the branches and the great detail this Yashikor lens delivered.
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.
It also beautifully captured the evening light and shadow across my shed.
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.
Here’s a little more of that delicious bokeh, this time in color.
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.
To see the rest of the photos I took with my Yashica-D, check out my gallery.
Do you like old cameras?
Then check out my entire collection!