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.
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.