Camera Reviews

Yashica-D

Yashica-D

The Yashica-D was my first twin-lens reflex camera. I had lusted after TLRs for many years, but I always rebuffed them for their high prices. The Rolleicords and Rolleiflexes are the most respected members of the genre and go for big bucks 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 stayed in production longer 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 offer no onboard metering.

The Yashica-D was a screaming bargain among used TLRs when I bought this one in 2013. I paid about $50 for it, shipped, and that was a typical price. Now good ones start at $75 and go up to about $200. That’s still a good price when you look at what a Rollei TLR costs.

Yashica made the Yashica-D for a whopping 16 years starting in 1957. Of the meterless knob-advance Yashica TLRs, the Yashica-D is the best specified. It 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. Those later Yashica-Ds are sought after by collectors. Fortunately, the Yashikors are no slouches.

Yashica-D

When I held this 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.

The Yashica-D is a real pleasure in your hands. Not only do all the knobs move smoothly and precisely, but there’s also a sensually pleasing heft to them. It delighted me to find that focusing the camera moves the entire lens assembly in and out. You have to cock the shutter manually, but the lever slides like it’s on silk with a tiny, sure click at the end. 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.

But before any of that, you have to load film. This is awkward at best in any TLR as the form factor doesn’t lend itself to easy handling. 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.

When you open the hood, the viewing box erects on its own. 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. Either way, be prepared: the viewfinder image is reversed. This takes time to get used to. You can also press the Y logo in the lid until it swings entirely out of the way, and use the lid as a sports viewfinder.

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. Then cock the shutter, frame your subject, press the shutter button, and wind on to the next frame.

By the way, I also own and have reviewed the Yashica-12 (here), which is much like the Yashica-D but offers a light meter and a crank winder. Other medium-format gems in my collection include the Certo Super Sport Dolly (here), the Kodak Monitor Anastigmat Special (here), the Agfa Isolette III (here), the Ansco Standard Speedex (here), the Ansco B2 Speedex (here), and the Voigtländer Bessa (here). You can check out all of my camera reviews here.

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.

Jet

We also stopped by Iron’s Cemetery, which is hidden from view along US 40 west of Plainfield. Check out that delicious bokeh.

Iron's Cemetery

The roll’s 12 shots went by too fast. So I went to the fridge for a roll of now-discontinued Kodak Ektachrome E100G slide film and kept shooting. My D beautifully rendered the evening sunlight as it fell across my car’s tail.

Matrix Hindquarter

I’ve put several rolls of E100G through this camera. This film just loves the D’s Yashinon lens.

Crown Hill National Cemetery

I sometimes get out my Yashica-D just to enjoy it. I own few cameras that bring me such pleasure. One evening after work I shot an entire roll of E100G on the flowers in my front yard.

Yellow and purple lilies *EXPLORED*

The father of a dear friend gave me another Yashica-D, one he had used for many years. It was in like-new condition and it was older, so I sold my first Yashica-D and kept his.

Yashica-D

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 earlier D has that wide-Y logo, so it’s from after 1965.

To start, I shot some Kodak Ektar 100 in it. I took it to Crown Hill Cemetery, home of one of the nation’s largest military cemeteries.

Charles H. Ackerman

This Yashica-D came with a Spiratone close-up lens kit. It did nice work on the narcissus in my front yard.

Spring flowers from my garden

Along the way I bought a Yashica-12, which features not only the Yashinon lenses and crank wind, but also an onboard light meter. The meter makes the 12 a little nicer to shoot than the D. But I still get my Yashica-D out once in a while because I enjoy its simplicity. I shot Kosmo Foto 100 on one outing.

Black Dog Books

I shot Kodak Gold 200 while my wife and our granddaughter were planting flowers in pots out front.

Grandma and Granddaughter

To see the rest of the photos I took with my two Yashica-Ds, check out my 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 keep mine within arm’s reach. 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 could keep only one TLR, it would be the Yashica-D.

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Photographs

San Diego’s Mission Bay on Kodak Ektar 100

In early June my company sent me to a resort island in San Diego’s Mission Bay for our annual customer conference. It had been easily 25 years since I last visited that city, and I was excited to finally return.

I knew I wanted to shoot a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 there to capture the California colors. But which camera? I wanted SLR control, but had only so much room in my bag. That led me to my compact SLRs. I’ve been itching to shoot my Pentax ME SE again. But when I remembered the delightful 40mm f/2 lens I have for my Olympus OM cameras, and that it focuses down to 10 inches, I loaded that Ektar into my Olympus OM-2n instead.

I made all of these images over the first two days of my stay. The conference was at a resort called Paradise Point, which sprawled across about half of the island. Here’s the beach and the bay, with some of the resort’s cabins in the background.

Paradise Point Resort

I’m sure that if you’re from California, none of this looks terribly exotic to you. But to this lifelong Hoosier, visiting California is always like stepping into some far-off foreign land.

Paradise Point Resort

This is the room I stayed in. It was large and comfortable. My room opened into a parking lot rather than onto the beach, but it didn’t really matter as most of my time was spoken for — I was on the clock!

Paradise Point Resort

Around the resort itself, everywhere you looked the scenes were intensely cheerful.

Paradise Point Resort
Paradise Point Resort

The ducks were brazen, walking right up to you looking for a handout.

Paradise Point Resort
Paradise Point Resort

I was surprised to find a couple of El Camino Real bells in the resort. They must have been recreations. The El Camino Real is a road built to connect the 20 Spanish missions built between 1683 and 1835. The road’s southern end is in San Diego. In the early 20th century, bells like these were placed along the route as wayfinding markers. But the Mission San Diego de Alcalá is far inland of Mission Bay. Why the heck are these bells here?

Paradise Point Resort

I experienced a great deal of plant life there that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before, certainly never in Indiana. I couldn’t identify any of it by sight. Later I’ll share images from this roll that look at various flowers close up. But these two trees caught my notice, the first because of its purple flowers and the second because of its shape.

Paradise Point Resort
Paradise Point Resort

Naturally, Mission Bay offers plenty of opportunity to get out onto the water.

Paradise Point Resort
Paradise Point Resort

The company’s conference was a huge success. I had a terrific time meeting many of my co-workers for the first time, and meeting many of our customers and talking with them about their work.

Paradise Point Resort

But I also very much enjoyed being in San Diego again. Maybe I won’t wait a quarter century to visit again.

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Lacy Building

The Lacy building
Argus Argoflex Forty
Kodak Ektar 100
2019

This is my second-favorite building on Monument Circle, the Lacy Building. Circle Tower with its Art Deco touches is my favorite, but for some reason I’ve photographed the Lacy Building more.

Last time I shared a photo of it, I was surprised and happy when an old college chum left a comment saying that the Lacy family are his relation, and their firm is still headquartered here.

When you’re in college, your buddies are just your buddies and you don’t think much about where they might come from. I didn’t, anyway.

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Film Photography, Preservation

single frame: The Lacy building

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Film Photography

Same scene, different cameras and films

Sometimes I shoot the same things more than once with different cameras and films because I know the composition works. Recently I shot a scene with my Argus Argoflex Forty on Kodak Ektar 100, a few days after I shot it with my Olympus OM-1 and 50mm f/1.8 F.Zuiko lens on Kodak ColorPlus. Here are the two photos.

On the Circle
Copper roof redux

It’s remarkable to me how different these two photographs look even though they’re of the same thing.

First I see how the Argoflex Forty’s 75mm lens (for 620 film) is longer than the 50mm lens (for 35mm film) on the OM-1, which creates the effect of the copper-roofed Columbia Club building appearing to be different distances away.

The 1×1 and 3×2 aspect ratios also give different impressions of the scene.

The day I went out with the Argoflex Forty the sun was fully out, while the sun was behind a cloud at the moment I made the photo with the OM-1. This certainly influenced the way these lenses and films rendered the scene’s colors.

But those lenses and films have their own characteristics regardless of the light. I find ColorPlus to yield far warmer earth tones than Ektar under any circumstances.

I have no conclusions to draw. I just find this interesting.

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Camera Reviews

Argus Argoflex Forty

With waist-level ground-glass viewfinders and coupled high-quality viewing and taking lenses that focus in concert, real twin-lens reflex (TLR) cameras are fine and capable instruments. Some of them, like the legendary Rolleiflex, became luxury items in their day. They still are.

In the 1950s, to try to capture the TLR cachet some camera manufacturers made cameras that looked like TLRs with waist-level viewfinders and separate viewing and taking lenses. But these were glorified box cameras, usually with fixed focus, fixed exposure, and simple brilliant viewfinders.

Rising above the crowd among these pseudo-TLRs is the 1950-54 Argus Argoflex Forty, as it boasts a 75mm f/4.5-22 Coated Varex Anastigmat lens that focuses down to 3.5 feet, and a nine-blade leaf shutter that operates at 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and 1/150 sec. and bulb.

Argus Argoflex Forty

The viewing lens isn’t coupled to the taking lens, however. The viewfinder always shows everything in focus. You have to guess the distance to your subject and twist the focus ring to that number of feet.

Argus Argoflex Forty

At least the brilliant viewfinder is bright and crisp. If you’ve ever shot a real TLR you’ll find this viewfinder to be small, but except for adapting to it reversing the scene left to right I never had any trouble framing my subjects with it.

Argus Argoflex Forty

You’ll find this camera in three slight variants: one called the Argus 40 and one with no name printed on the body at all. Some of these cameras have black plastic winding knobs instead of the metal one on mine. Otherwise, these cameras are identical, with bodies of Bakelite with a metal back, trimmed in aluminum.

Argus Argoflex Forty

You’ll find a few different Argus pseudo-TLRs that share this body. The most common is the Argoflex Seventy-Five and the later restyled but functionally identical Argus 75. Both have a fixed-focus, fixed-exposure meniscus lens. The similar Argus Super Seventy-Five offers a focusable 65mm f/8-f/16 lens.

I bought this camera because I’ve admired the images fellow photoblogger Mike Connealy has gotten from his for years. He says that his Forty has reliably produced images for him as good as those from more sophisticated cameras. See his work here. When I came upon this Forty for a good price, I scooped it up.

This despite it taking out-of-production 620 film. You can occasionally find expired 620 film on eBay, and the Film Photography Project sells 120 film they’ve hand-respooled onto 620 spools (here). To save a few bucks you can spool 120 film onto a 620 spool in a dark bag. The Film Photography Project has instructions here.

But there’s no strict need for any of that with the Forty, as a 120 spool fits snugly but functionally in its supply end after you trim off the edges of the spool ends (instructions here). You need to use a 620 spool in the takeup end, however. My Forty came with one, and I just asked my lab to return that spool to me after processing.

The Argus Argoflex Forty is smaller and considerably lighter than a regular TLR, making it not too bad to carry in your hands on a photo walk. If you have a strap lying around, though, you can tie it on to the lugs and sling it around your neck or shoulder. That’s what I did.

By the way, if you like pseudo-TLRs see also my review of the Kodak Duaflex II here. Other good boxes I’ve reviewed include the Agfa Clack (here), the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye (here), the Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model D (here), and the Ansco B-2 Cadet (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I had some 620 Kodak Verichrome Pan, expired since June of 1980, chilling in the fridge. What a perfect film for this old camera! I spooled it in and took the camera out. As you can see, it makes square photos, 12 per roll.

Clock at Coxhall

I started with a quick trip to Coxhall Gardens, a park in Carmel. The Argoflex Forty was an easy companion, performing well in my hands. The shutter button was a little heavy to push.

Ampitheater

The big, bright viewfinder made it easy to frame my subjects. I did a reasonable job of holding the camera level, too. I did manage to cut off the top of this statue, unfortunately.

Statue

While I was running errands in Lebanon, I finished the roll around the square. As I wound the film, it started to bind up a little, becoming hard to turn. What I didn’t know is that the film wasn’t winding evenly onto the takeup spool. After I removed the film from the camera, light leaked a little onto several frames, the ones that peeked past the spool’s end. The effect was worst on this, the last image on the roll.

Umbrellas and light leak

Unfortunately, I didn’t notice this wonky winding until a couple days later. There wasn’t much to do at that point but send the film right in for processing. Fortunately, only the one above was significantly affected. I could have cropped it out of the other photos had I wanted to.

Down the alleyway to the courthouse

This shot of the courthouse down an alley was the last shot not affected by this leaking light. Notice what you’re not seeing here: the vignetting and corner softness common to box cameras. There’s good sharpness from corner to corner. Really, if I told you I took these with one of my real TLRs, like my Yashica-D, would you have been any the wiser?

I had a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 in 120 sitting here doing nothing so I cut the edges off its spool ends and loaded it into the Forty. It worked; the film wound with no trouble. Here’s the federal courthouse in Indianapolis.

Federal Courthouse

With its exposure latitude, Ektar has never failed me in any old box camera. It helps a lot that this particular box lets you set exposure. On this Downtown Indianapolis photowalk I first used the light meter on my phone, but it kept giving me readings consistent with Sunny 16 so I quit metering and just used that age-old rule to guess exposure myself.

Bank of Indianapolis

The Argoflex continued to be simple to use and to return images sharp from center to corners. The lens delivers medium contrast, which seems strange in this era of uber-contrasty digital images, but the look is pleasing.

Orange Truck

I finished the roll on a walk along Main Street in Zionsville. It’s my tradition to photograph the Black Dog Books sign. By the way, this time the film wound properly onto the takeup spool. I don’t know why it didn’t on the previous roll.

Black Dog Books

I did notice some flare or haze in shots where the sun wasn’t well behind me. But that’s not surprising for a camera of this era.

Red Jeep

To see more from this camera, check out my Argus Argoflex Forty gallery.

The Argus Argoflex Forty is a surprise and a delight. It’s easy to carry and use, and its lens returns images of pleasing contrast and tonality with good sharpness. It’s also more easily used than most 620 cameras given that it can take 120 film with the spool edges cut off. The Argoflex Forty is a keeper, a great little box for a day when I just want to shoot for fun.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Film Photography

One Nine Five

Some subjects draw me in every time I pass by with a camera. This scene on Main Street in Zionsville has become one of those subjects. I am sure I have at least one more photo from here, but I can’t find it now. Enjoy these five.

One Nine Five

Nikon Nikomat FTn, 50mm f/2 Nikkor H-C, Fujicolor 200, 2019

One Nine Five *EXPLORED*

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Kodak Tri-X 400, 2018

One Nine Five

Olympus Trip 35, Kodak Color Plus, 2019

Around Zionsville

Pentax Spotmatic F, 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar, Kodak Ektar 100, 2018

Around Zionsville

Pentax Spotmatic F, 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar, Kodak Ektar 100, 2018

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