For the last few weeks I’ve deliberately posted things on this blog to entice you to buy my new book, Square Photographs.
I really hope you buy the book. It’s lovely. There’s no substitute for seeing photographs printed. That’s what a photograph is: an image you can hold in your hands. What I show you on this blog is good and interesting but because they’re not tangible, they are not what are classically defined as photographs.
I’ll stop with the naked marketing now. If you don’t, it’s ok, we can still be blogging friends!
One challenge with the Yashica-D is remembering to wind to the next frame after you press the shutter button. There’s nothing that prevents you from making two, three, ten, or a hundred images on the same bit of film. All you have to do is not wind, and then cock the shutter and press the button.
I forgot to wind after making one image, and so ended up making two. What a waste of film. But it’s not often I share my abject failures, so here you go.
My new book, Square Photographs, is available now!
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.
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.
We also stopped by Iron’s Cemetery, which is hidden from view along US 40 west of Plainfield. Check out that delicious bokeh.
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.
I’ve put several rolls of E100G through this camera. This film just loves the D’s Yashinon lens.
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.
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.
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.
This Yashica-D came with a Spiratone close-up lens kit. It did nice work on the narcissus in my front yard.
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.
I shot Kodak Gold 200 while my wife and our granddaughter were planting flowers in pots out front.
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.
My new book, Square Photographs, is available now!
Inexpensive films aren’t as inexpensive as they used to be. Not that long ago, several films could be had for under $3 a roll. Sadly, those days are over. But plenty of films cost less than $10 per roll, several cost less than $5 per roll, and one or two get close to that magic $3 per roll.
I use these five relatively inexpensive films all the time and recommend them!
Kosmo Foto Mono
This classic ISO 100 film offers rich blacks with managed contrast and fine grain. It’s similar to Foma’s Fomapan 100, which is also sold as Arista EDU 100 and Lomography Earl Grey 100. When you buy Mono you support a small business run by a pillar of the film community. Available from most online film retailers (and at the Kosmo Foto site itself) in 35mm and 120.
Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
This might be the ultimate cheap and cheerful film. I’ve shot way more Fujicolor 200 than any other film — when you test as many old cameras as I have, you need an inexpensive film that performs well and consistently. It has a classic look with well-saturated color and fine grain. This film has great exposure latitude; it’s hard to over- or under-expose it. I often shoot it at ISO 100 on purpose because it brings out extra color richness. Available from online film retailers as well as many drug and big-box stores, in 35mm only.
Foma Fomapan 200
Fomapan 200 is my go-to inexpensive black-and-white film. (I like shooting at ISO 200!) It’s also sold as Arista EDU 200. It offers managed grain, good tonal range, and moderate contrast. Some say that this is best shot at about ISO 125. I’ve found that to be true when I develop it myself, but when I send it out to a lab I always get great results at box speed. The labs must have some magic that I lack! Available at most online film retailers in 35mm and 120.
Kodak UltraMax 400
For some, this is the ultimate cheap color film. I still reach for Fujicolor 200 first, but I’ve never been disappointed by UltraMax 400’s warmth, managed grain, and bold color. It also offers tremendous exposure latitude, making it very hard to misexpose a shot. I like UltraMax 400 slightly more than Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, which costs about the same. I find this film to be especially long-lived — several rolls of the UltraMax 400 I’ve shot were ten years expired, and most of it behaved like new. Available at online film retailers and sometimes in drug stores, in 35mm only.
Ultrafine eXtreme 100
The Ultrafine eXtreme films are the least expensive black-and-white films I know of. Its ISO 100 version is a classic-grained film offering great definition and sharpness with fairly high contrast. Available at Photo Warehouse in 35mm and 120. Stock is limited as of this writing; keep checking their site for availability.
Other inexpensive options
I didn’t include any lower-priced ISO 400 black-and-white films here because I’ve not shot any of them (yet). But based on the performance of the Foma Fomapan and Ultrafine eXtreme films I have shot, I feel good recommending their ISO 400 offerings.
You can sometimes find a good bargain on Kodak Gold 200 (example images here) and Kodak ColorPlus (example images here). Gold offers well-saturated color and fine grain. ColorPlus is a real throwback, offering a classic Kodak look from years gone by. Some say it’s the old Kodak VR200 film formula from the 1990s.
I haven’t owned many cars in my time but until these two I never missed one when it was gone.
I really loved that Toyota Matrix and I was sad when I had to let it go. It had become a beater worth maybe $500, and it needed a repair that cost twice that. When you own a beater, you think long and hard about every repair because the accumulating repair money would soon buy a better car. You learn to live with most broken things. But in this case, the broken thing made the car a safety risk. Goodbye, Matrix.
I wasn’t excited about the Ford Focus when I bought it. The price was right and it met a critical requirement of carrying me, the kids, and the dog. But then I found out that it handles like a sports car, cornering tight and flat. It had decent oomph for an economy car. I threw that car hard down twisty highways. I loved driving it. But it was getting up there in miles, and my son needed a car, so I sold it to him and bought a used VW Passat. The Passat is a surprisingly good car, perhaps the most reliable and competent vehicle I’ve ever owned. But it just isn’t fun like the Focus.
My son had the Focus for about a month when someone ran a stop sign and put an end to that poor little Ford. My son was uninjured. His stepdad found a great deal on a used 20-year-old Saturn with just 30,000 miles on it. Between the insurance payout and the price of the Saturn, my son came out $500 ahead. Not bad!
I live in a modern vinyl village. It’s not my cup of tea, but it made practical sense when Margaret and I got married and so here we are. We both hope to move on from here when the nest empties.
While we’re all on stay-at-home orders during the global pandemic, my photography is limited to my house and, when I take a walk, my neighborhood.
The houses all present well from the front, but they paid zero attention to what the sides and back look like. Windows, when they exist, are stuck wherever it made sense from the inside, without regard to how that would look on the outside. Our house has windows on the front and back, but the sides are huge, unbroken slabs of vinyl. Some houses have windows inserted in random places. The pictured house has this one window on this side, in the extreme lower left corner. It just looks weird.
I’m shooting through all the film I’ve stockpiled, and a roll of Kosmo Foto Mono was next in the queue. I spooled it into my Nikon N2000 as I hadn’t shot it in a long while. My 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens is still new to me, so I mounted it to give it another spin. I developed this Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal 1+50 and I was overall happy with the results.
But first, let’s look at some photos I wasn’t too happy with. Several shots were lighter on the edges than in the middle like the one below.
Shadow detail wasn’t great in a few photos as well, as in the photo below. Can you see the runner on the path? He was much more obvious in real life as I made the photograph.
There’s so much that goes into what a photograph looks like when you see it here. I almost always let the camera meter the scene; did my N2000 favor the highlights here? Is its meter still accurate? It was great the last time I used it. But that was more than a year ago and old cameras — this one is from about 1985 — do fail sometimes.
I used my CanoScan 9000F Mark II and its bundled ScanGear software to scan these negatives. Better scanner software or a better scanner might have resolved these images better.
I’m still new to developing my own film, but I’ve built enough skill at it to get consistent results. That doesn’t mean consistently perfect results; perhaps something about this developing session wasn’t ideal. The temperature of my developer was higher than ideal: 22.8° C rather than 20° C, thanks to ambient temperature. That led me to reduce development time from 9 minutes to 7 minutes 10 seconds, as calculated using the converter at the Massive Dev Chart Web site. Maybe that played a role.
Who knows. The rest of the roll looked really good to me.
At the time I made these photos Indiana was on stay-at-home orders thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. So I shot the whole roll around the house and on walks I made around my neighborhood. This is what I like to call la-de-da photography — images of anything that strikes my fancy. None of this will ever hang in a museum. But I had fun shooting the roll, and that’s what matters.
I like Kosmo Foto Mono. But when I’ve sent this film out to my usual labs for developing and scanning I sometimes thought the results were a touch too contrasty. My usual labs use D76 or one of its clones. Rodinal managed the contrast better. There’s a slight muddiness in some images, but a good range of tones overall.
It was strange to walk around the deserted streets of my subdivision, so I walked over to the nearby strip mall and it was similarly deserted. We walk over to this Mexican restaurant a lot, or at least we did before they closed thanks to the pandemic.
Ah, vinyl village life. Our neighbor owns this funky Jeep with its white fenders. This shows Kosmo Foto Mono’s signature deep blacks.
That 35-105mm zoom lens has a macro mode. I love macro work! On a rainy day I put some small things on the kitchen windowsill and photographed them with the lens wide open (f/3.5).
I was with Margaret when we bought this little bird sculpture, but I can’t remember where that was. The focus is a little soft.
There you have it: Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal 1+50. It’s a fine combination.