Thursday, March 4, 2010
Not long ago I acquired a Yashicaflex twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera. Yashica has a long history of making pretty fair TLRs but this is one of the first, dating from about 1955, and a fairly rare model. It is only my second TLR, and about 20 years younger than my first one. I decided it was time to invest in more up-to-date technology.
The lens of this camera is a coated 80mm f3.5 Yashimar, a three-element lens that serious collectors and photographers turn up their noses at. That's fine with me, especially if they leave room for me to sneak under their noses and buy a camera like this for about $30.
This was in pretty nice shape, fully functional and with its only cosmetic defect being a missing center cover to the focusing knob, which was easily replaced.
Peering inside the Yashimar, I could see some slightly worrisome bits of crud between the elements. Also, on testing, the shutter proved slow, barely getting up to 1/60 rather than its rated top speed of 1/200 sec. After 55 years, a bit of maintenance was in order.
This was one of the easiest cameras I've ever worked on. The front lens elements unscrew like a jar top, then there's a simple retaining ring, and you're into the Copal shutter, which is very simple and straightforward.
With lighter fuel, cotton swabs and some patience, I soon had the lens and shutter blades looking pristine. Shutter speeds never quite got back up where I wanted them, topping out at about 1/100. The original rated 1/200 was probably pretty aspirational anyway.
For my test roll of film, I carefully considered the time of year, the pictures I wanted to take, the lighting I was likely to encounter, and the artistic expression that I was going for. Then I chose a roll of Ilford FP4+ because it was the most time-expired film in my closet.
I carried the camera around for about a week. It was handy and easy to carry. The main ergonomic fault is that the shutter cocking lever is close to the release, and a couple of times my fingers interfered with it when tripping the shutter. Fortunately I realized that I had ruined the frame and immediately retook the pictures. After a while I started using a cable release even when hand holding this camera.
For the price, I was satisfied with the performance. The lens is contrasty and doesn't vignette. Viewed through a loupe, the negatives are maybe not quite as sharp as those taken with some of my better lenses. But to reiterate, it's a $30 camera and the 6x6cm negatives provide plenty of detail.