Camera Reviews, Film Photography

Another Yashica-D

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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.

Yashica-D

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-D

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.

Yashica-D

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.

Charles H. Ackerman

I also took the D on a walk around my neighborhood. I love shooting things up close with these Yashica TLRs.

Fireplug

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.

Eastern Star Church

This goose is a decoration in one of my neighbors’ yards.

Duck

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.

Autumn Street

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.

Yashica-D

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.

Daisy

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.

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26 thoughts on “Another Yashica-D

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    You have the luck catching these twin-lenses…I used to collect Minolta Autocords, I used to have five at one time, and 15 years ago, sold them down to one, to people who were interested, now I wish I had them all back! Everytime I see a used Yashica, they’ve got it priced based on it’s weight in gold! These were excellent little cameras, but very, very inexpensive. Weird that they command so much money now. I actually remember back in the 80’s one of the NYC camera stores having Yashica 124’s, as new/old stock, in sealed boxes, for about 99 bucks! If I knew then what I know now…

    Still looking for a cheap “D” in good shape…

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    • I’ve been curious about the Autocords! But the price tags keep me away. I have a soft rule: no more than $50 for any camera. I’ve broken it only a couple times.

      99 bucks for a NOS 124!!! Holy wow. I kind of feel like now is the time to buy the late-90s semi-pro SLRs like the Nikon N90s and the Canon A2e. They are available for next to nothing. I keep thinking I should buy every working example I buy and sit on them, because they are surely to increase in value.

      I am considering selling my other D; a man needs but one. If you are interested, send me an email via my contact form (click About in the menu under the masthead; contact form is in there) and let me know what price “cheap” means to you. I prefer seeing it go to a good home over maximizing my return on it.

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      • Andy Umbo says:

        I’ll see what kind of pennies I can put together…

        The nice thing about the Minolta’s, is that for left handers like myself, they can be held in the palm of one hand, and everything else can be done with the other! The under lens focusing, altho delicate, was genius!

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  2. Great read Jim. If you want another hidden gem in the Yashica line-up with an exposure meter (super accurate too), is the EM. The Tomioka lenses that are in all the Yashica TLRs are of high quality – your D is no exception. Happy shooting.
    P.S. BTW, Paul Sokk’s complete Yashica site (you linked his short version) is http://www.yashicatlr.com

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      • The light meter on my EM from 1964 still works (most do) but is accurate enough for me to trust it without a second thought. I recently put it through its paces under some tough lighting and every exposure was good (notice I say good only because Fujicolor PRO400H has such a large exposure latitude and on more than a few shots bailed me out from being over or under by a stop).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I guess I’m the pooper at the party here. I have never warmed to TLR cameras. I had a really, really nice Rolleicord and only shot one roll with it before selling it. I prefer the SLR medium format cameras: Mamiya 645 or Hasselblad 500c/m. I guess that is why there are so many different kinds of cameras…a butt for every seat.

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  4. Nice work with the Yashica tlr. That cemetery shot is particularly nice; even though the colors are rather muted, the picture seems to have an almost-3D quality to it. The Yashica has a nice bright screen which gives a better sense than most tlr cameras of what the final image is going to look at. Trying to do close-ups with a tlr always seems like more trouble than it is worth. I have a paramender which I have used with my C330, but it is an awkward process.

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    • The day was overcast when I shot the grave marker. The goose shot was on another overcast day and its colors are muted as well. I wonder if that’s a characteristic of the Ektar. Also, I’m not convinced the rescanning still brought the best out of those negatives.

      I was excited about the possibility of closeups with the D and that Spiratone lens. I do like to do close work. I expect that if I keep trying, I’ll figure out how to frame a close shot so that the subject is where I want it to be on the negative.

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  5. James Thorpe says:

    Hey, Jim… is possible that you have the close up lenses reversed? I always thought the larger one with the parallax correction “red dot” went on the viewing lens. At least, that’s the way it is on my Rolleiflexes.

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    • That is entirely possible! This was my first experience with lenses like these and I made some assumptions about which to put on which lens. When I try again I will reverse them. Thanks!

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    • Frank, thank you for your kind donation! I was surprised the case stitching came apart too. I might be able to repair it though with new thread. All the stitching holes are intact and I should be able to lace it back together.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Jim:

    I have a Yashica D too and love it. I also have a set of close-up lense that work really well. So…

    If you used your close-up lenses as shown in the photo of the camera, for sure you’ve got them on backwards — which would be worse than useless and match the results you report (bad parallex error–which you effectively doubled with the lens–and soft results. You can be certain by picking up the viewing lens (the one with the long barrel and dot on top) by itself and looking through it while rotating it. The rotation will cause the image to shift. That’s the viewing lens. If you repeat this with the taking lens, you won’t see any image shift as none is needed in use.

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    • Gary, thank you for confirming that I did indeed have the close-up lenses on the wrong lenses on the camera. And earlier comment aroused my suspicion, and you have confirmed it. One of the great things about trying out these cameras and blogging about them is that I learn so much from people like you as I go. I’ll spool in another roll of film and try again, this time properly attaching these close up lenses!

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  7. Steve miller says:

    These always got high marks in the contemporary magazine reviews. I lusted after a 2 1/4 TLR; I never had the money and I was hooked on Minoltas. I’ve got a Rollicord from Dad’s collection on the shelf now, but think it needs some repair, as does the early Leica. Guess I really should find someone to look at them, but it’s so easy to use this phone’s camera… I’m only a Neanderthal when it comes to hand tools!

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