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