Cameras, Photography

Yashica Lynx 14e

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For years, my short list of must-have cameras has included either the 1965 Yashica Lynx 14 or its integrated-circuit-driven younger brother, the 1968 Lynx 14e. I own lots of 1960s rangefinders, but none of them have these cameras’ enormous namesake f/1.4 lens, which is fabled for its sharpness as well as its low-light capability.

These cameras go for way bigger bucks than I like to spend, so I patiently scanned the auctions for several years looking for a bargain. I usually have good luck buying that way, but not this time. I ended up with both a 14 and a 14e with stuck shutters, weak light meters, and various other minor ills. I tried to repair them myself to no avail.

Yashica Lynx 14e

Recently I made a swap with reader Derek Wong: he’d make my two Lynx 14s into one working one, and repair another of my cameras, in exchange for me sending him a bunch of cameras I won’t shoot again and have run out of room to store. It was a great trade. Not only did Derek get the 14e working, but he replaced the light seals and gave it a solid clean, lube, and adjustment. When I got it back, it looked and felt like new.

The enormous 14e weighs a whopping two pounds and stands taller and wider than my Nikon F2 SLR. It feels extremely well built, and all of its controls work smoothly but lack that silky feel you get with pro equipment. The front-heavy 14e is dominated by its 45mm f/1.4 Yashinon-DX lens, of seven elements in five groups. Its Copal SVE leaf shutter operates from 1 to 1/500 sec. I thought I’d wish for 1/1000 sec, but even shooting indoors I never needed it.

Yashica Lynx 14e

The 14e’s light meter is powered by two odd-duck PX640 mercury batteries. Fortunately, Amazon sells alkaline cells of the same size, and they work well enough. The meter’s CdS cell is on the camera body next to the Yashica logo, so if you shoot with filters you need to adjust exposure manually to compensate. The 14e takes 58mm filters and accessories. I gather that this lens is prone to flare, and that a lens hood is recommended. I don’t have a 58mm hood lying around, so I threw caution to the wind and shot without one.

I’ve shot my Nikon F2 almost exclusively all year, which helped the Lynx 14e seem not unduly large or heavy. But it truly is both. And I wasn’t crazy about having all of the camera’s controls on the lens barrel. I kept twisting the aperture ring when I meant to focus. But because aperture is stepless along its f/1.4-f/16 range, I couldn’t just click it back to where I had it. I always had to reset exposure from scratch. I’m sure that after a few more rolls I’d get the hang of it.

But I’m likely never to get used to the button on the camera’s face, curiously labeled “Switch,” that activates the light meter. My fingers always fumbled to find it, and it’s hard to hold in while you adjust aperture and shutter speed. While you do that, the words OVER and UNDER appear in the viewfinder. When they disappear, you have a good exposure. I checked my 14e against my iPhone’s light-meter app and found that my 14e was underexposing by one stop, so I compensated by setting the camera’s ISO one stop lower.

To me, some cameras feel like they need to shoot color film, and others black and white. Do you experience this? This one felt like black and white. I had but one roll in the fridge, some Kodak T-Max 400, so I loaded it. What a great choice it turned out to be. Just look at what this camera can do.

Toy truck

The Lynx 14e was born to take photographs inside in available light. It just killed every time. My only quibble: its viewfinder adjusts automatically for parallax, but I found that my close-up shots were not as centered in the frame as I composed them. I cropped them back to right in Photoshop.

Prince Albert in a can

The Lynx 14e did all right outside, too, but to look their best all of those shots needed a little hit from Photoshop’s Auto Contrast command and sometimes even some tweaking with the Adjust Lighting commands.

Elephant ears

Once adjusted, clarity, detail, and tonality turned out good on every shot.

Windmill

On this shot of my deck, I want to reach out and feel the grain in the planks, it’s so good. Some of the direct-sunlight areas are blown out, though. The next time I shoot the 14e, I’ll set ISO a shade higher so I underexpose slightly. Maybe that will help.

Deck

But I’ve just got to show you more indoor shots, like the next two from Stockton Mill, an 1850s grist mill in northeastern Indiana. The light play is just outstanding.

No Smoking

This wagon was made in my hometown, South Bend, as it says on a part of its back panel that didn’t make it into the photo. I shot it because the light on the barrels was good.

Barrels in a wagon

This lens does have a flaw: barrel distortion. You can really see it in this shot, but it’s evident in some of the others, too.

Entryway

But as long as you’re not shooting something with obvious, edge-to-edge horizontal lines, you might not notice the effect. Here’s a shot of the Houck Iron Bridge in Delphi. The barrel distortion is barely noticeable.

The Houck Iron Bridge

I almost gave up on my broken Lynx 14 and 14e. I’m so glad I took Derek up on his repair offer! The Lynx 14e’s usability challenges are worth grappling with again just to get to know this wonderful lens better. I just ordered a bunch more black-and-white film, and I’m sure some of it will make its way into my Lynx 14e.


Do you like old cameras? Then check out my entire collection!

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35 thoughts on “Yashica Lynx 14e

  1. Very nice illustrations of the extraordinary capabilities of that big Yashinon lens. I was discouraged from using the camera because of its size and weight as well as a dim rf spot in mine, but I keep thinking that I should have tried harder whenever I look at the resolution of those images.

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    • I forgot to mention the dim rangefinder patch in mine, too. But with a little squinting and patience it was still usable, so I pressed on. I put another roll of b/w in it and took it along on a trip to Auburn to see the Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs on display in the museum up there. That film’s at the processor’s now.

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  2. bodegabayf2 says:

    Bringing an old camera back to life is one thing. Coaxing great images from it is another, and you’ve done both! Rather than sitting dusty on a shelf or suffering an even more undignified death, this old gal has been rescued and now resides in the hands of a very capable photographer.

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  3. Looks like your copy looks better than mine.

    “my 14e was underexposing by one stop, so I compensated by setting the camera’s ISO one stop lower.” “next time I shoot the 14e, I’ll set ISO a shade higher so I underexpose slightly. Maybe that will help.” Wait a minute :D

    Yeah, my biggest disappointment was also the somewhat dim range finder patch, but hey I guess its something to get used to. Not everything is as bright as my leica range finder patch, but then I don’t have a 1.4 lens for it either.

    I am glad you like it , hope to the the RC soon.

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    • Yeah, I need to underexpose by just a shade, not by one full stop!! Maybe 1/3 of a stop, or 1/4.

      The RC test roll is done; off to the processor with it soon.

      And thanks for resuscitating this camera!

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  4. Christopher Smith says:

    Drool! Drool! I got to get one of these. That 1.4 lens is a dream you realy have produced some wonderfull photos with it.
    All I can muster is my Yashica Electro GTN with a 1.7 lens.

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  5. Wes C says:

    Hey Jim, I really enjoyed reading your take on the Lynx 14e! I don’t own this model, but I do have a soft spot for the Yashica Lynx series cameras. My first 35mm was a Lynx 5000 that was purchased with allowance money from a high school buddy about 35 years ago. Even back then I knew that it was a great-performing camera as I was consistently getting better results than my friends who were using much more expensive and modern slr’s. I think it’s pretty common that the vintage Lynx’s are needing service to operate properly, so it’s nice that you were able to get your’s repaired. I recently revisited the Lynx 5000 and got excellent results; it is an enjoyable camera to use and it is one that I will use again.

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    • Thanks Wes! I used to have a 5000 in which someone left a corroded battery. I decided not to mess with it, and I gave it away. Maybe I should have messed with it instead!

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  6. Charlie R. Clark says:

    GREETINGS Jim! Great article on the Yashica Lynx 14 – what a GREAT Camera! Mine was the third camera I bought new just after high school. First was some Kodak rangefinder camera that I didn’t like. Second was a Yashica J-5 SLR with no-nave 135mm (I think!) and 35 mm lenses; I enjoyed using the J-5! THEN while in college (I worked at Whirlpool making washing machines during the summer!) I bought a Lynx 14 – that was the old days a very fast lens and Tri-X film and I could shoot anywhere! I bulk loaded 35mm film and built a darkroom in my parents basement and took lots of photos of my girlfriend and for the college yearbook. I really enjoyed that camera, it was jewel back in the old days! After college and teaching high school for a year, I got drafted into the army and funny thing – the company with the contract to produce our basic training yearbook used Lynx 14’s to take all the activity pictures! Unlike lots of stuff from the old days, I still have my Lynx 14 hanging on the wall in the basement. Looks in good shape but needs repair!! Thanks A Lot for the memories – HAVE A GREAT DAY!
    Charlie Clark cclark14cc@aol.com

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    • Charlie, thanks for writing and for sharing your enthusiasm for this wonderful machine! You’re making me want to dust mine off and shoot it again. Just look at what that lens can do!!

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  7. Pingback: Yashica Lynx-14 (1965) – mike eckman dot com

  8. kevi says:

    Great post on a great machine! Love the way you showed off the lens with the indoor shots, and the photos in the mill. I’ve pulled the trigger and purchased a fine-looking specimen from ebay, so looking forward to adding a fixed rangefinder to my collection of SLRs.

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  9. Julio says:

    Very nice blog, Wonderful pictures. I am currently starting a restoration job in this exactly model. Yashica has been a underlooked brand but always deliveries what claims.

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