Is it possible to love a camera too much? Because I’m totally head over heels with my Yashica-D, a twin-lens reflex camera for 120 film. And now I own a second one.
This one comes from the father of my friend Alice, who last year gave me all the cameras he’s ever owned. It’s pristine. It came in a leather case, which looked pristine but wasn’t. As I removed the camera from it, all of the stitching disintegrated and it fell apart.
Yashica made these cameras for a whopping 16 years starting in 1957. They all used a Copal MXV leaf shutter, which operates from 1 to 1/500 second. Until sometime in 1970, the taking and viewing lenses were both 80mm f/3.5 Yashikors of triplet design. The Yashinon lenses that Yashica used in the D starting in 1970 were four-element, three-group Tessar designs to be sure. Fortunately, the Yashikors are no slouches.
According to this site which lists the history of Yashica TLRs, this D was made sometime between 1963 and 1965. It came with a plastic lens cap; earlier models had a metal cap. And it has the “cowboy” Y logo on the hood; later models had a plainer, wider Y logo. My other D has that wide-Y logo, so it’s from after 1965.
When you open the hood the viewing box erects on its own, a nice touch. When you press the Y logo in the lid, a magnifying glass pops out. Is it just my middle-aged eyes, or is this glass necessary for accurate focus? It is for me, anyway. I’m glad it’s there.
Loading film into any TLR is awkward at best as the form factor doesn’t lend itself to easy handling when the back is open. But in the D’s case, after you hook the film backing end into the takeup spool you wind until the big arrow on the film backing paper lines up with a red triangle on the body. Then you close the back and wind until the film stops. From there, as you take photos and wind the camera stops at the next frame for you. It’s so much nicer than using the infernal red windows you’ll find on so many other medium-format cameras. A frame counter is on the side of the camera next to the winding knob.
TLRs with a winding crank seem to be more sought after than these knob winders — indeed, I sought after one myself, and learned the charms of crank winding. But the winding knob is large enough to grip easily and it works smoothly. Tip: you have to press the button in the center of the knob first, or the film won’t wind.
The Yashica-D is all manual. You set exposure by reading the light yourself, or with the help of an external light meter. The two dials on the camera face set aperture and shutter speed. A window on top of the viewing lens shows what is dialed in. And before you can take a photograph, you have to cock the shutter. The lever is by the taking lens.
I spooled some Kodak Ektar into this D and went out to shoot. I spent a little time in Crown Hill Cemetery, home of one of the nation’s largest military cemeteries.
I also took the D on a walk around my neighborhood. I love shooting things up close with these Yashica TLRs.
But it does fine landscapes, as well. The big focusing knob has delightful heft — not so much that it’s a chore to turn, but just enough that you can easily focus precisely with no fiddling.
This goose is a decoration in one of my neighbors’ yards.
I shot this test roll last autumn. It took me three months to write about this camera because the lab botched the scans initially. I sent the negatives back for a rescan, at which time the lab discovered that their scanner was malfunctioning. After they got it repaired they sent me fresh scans back. This is a long view down one of the streets in my neighborhood.
Alice’s dad often bought accessory lenses for his cameras. He sent me a Spiratone closeup lens set for this Yashica-D. I love doing very close work and was eager to try it.
I made a few photos with it, but all of them suffered from wicked parallax error. (Edit: Yeah, I know now, I mounted the lenses wrong. Taking on viewing and viewing on taking. D’oh! I’ll try again with another roll of film soon.) This photo suffered least. The lens is perhaps a little soft. I’m sure that with practice I could consistently adjust properly for parallax and be quite happy with this closeup lens.
To see more photos from both of my Yashica-Ds, check out my Yashica-D gallery.
The Yashica-D just feels great in the hands. You wouldn’t think so; this is, after all, a large brick of metal. Yet its weight and size feel just fabulous as you carry it around. And then everything about it feels and sounds precise and luxurious, from winding to cocking the shutter to pressing the button. The Yashica-D is a sensual joy, roll after roll.
It’s why I’ve kept my first one within arm’s reach since I got it. There are just times when I feel like a little medium-format fun and the D is always a marvelous choice. I’ve been known to shoot a roll of 120 in twenty minutes in my D! Moreover, Ds go for far less on the used market than the better-known Yashica-Mat 124-G with its crank winder and integrated meter. While I very much enjoy the crank-wound, metered Yashica-12 I own, I think that if I were forced to sell all but one of my TLRs, I’d keep this Yashica-D.