The Yashica TLR’s seem to be a quite popular topic for discussion these days, and I have received a number of e-mails regarding them. As entry-level medium format cameras, they are still considered among the best and, according to some people, are better values than some of the early Rollei TLRs. While I don’e quite agree that the Yashicas are in the same league as Rollei (nor would anyone else who as handled both), their reputation as good entry-level medium format cameras is well deserved.
The secret to the success of the Yashicas is their reasonable quality, decent lenses, and relatively inexpensive prices. Consider that you can find a Yashica D for $125 or less and that the Yashica A can be had for $50 or less, and it’s easy to understand why people give them serious consideration if budgets are a concern. However, when you take into account that both the 3 and 4 element lens designs found on the Yashicas are of very reasonable quality, their prices look more and more like bargains.
My thanks to Robert M., who pointed me to a few very good sources on the web for these cameras. I’ve tried to condense that information and put it all in one place to make life easier. This FAQ is a work in progress and I welcome any information on these cameras you might have. Please send me an e-mail or submit site feedback.
Filters used: To the best of my knowledge, all Yashica models take Bay I filters. Bay I to 49mm adaptor rings are available.
Tri-Lausar & Yashimar: Early 3-element designs, neither of which seem to have very good reputations. Cameras with these lenses are probably best avoided.
Yashikor: A 3 element design, this lens is coated and offers reasonable performance. Best used stopped down to f8 or smaller. Considering that the cameras with this lens are generally available for under $100 (with some like the Yashica A as low as $25-50), it’s a good bargain for general use.
Yashinon (aka Luxamor): A 4 element design, said to be of Tessar formula. Offers very good performance, which some feel is on par with the Rollei Tessars and Xenars. While of good quality, I’m not convinced it matches the Rollei’s lenses – one Yashicamat 124G I used had very questionable sharpness in the corners (even stopped down). I probably got a bad example, but I have heard a few others complain that the corners can be a little soft. Flare can also be a problem, so shading the lens during exposure or using a lens hood is advisable. That being said, it’s still a good lens and offers improved performance over the Yashikor.
Other lenses: Unknown. Please send me an e-mail or submit site feedback if you have any information (number of elements, models used with the lens, etc).
NOTE: Certain of the early models (A,C,D,635, and a few others) do NOT have cable release sockets. They require an adaptor to take a cable release – the same as those required for early Nikon and Leica caneras (sometimes called a “Leica nipple”).
Yashica A: The most inexpensive of all the Yashica TLR cameras, it comes with the 3 element Yashikor lens and a shutter with speeds from 1/25 sec to 1/300 plus B and X sync. Film advance is manual using the red-window system, and the shutter must be cocked before each exposure. Because of the manual film advance and limited shutter speeds, this camera is not particularly valuable and can be had for $50 or less – making it a great bargain for inexpensive entry into medium format.
Yashica B: Yashikor lens. Very similar overall to the Yashica A, but with levers on either side of the lens to adjust shutter and aperature.
Yashica C: Shutter speeds expanded to 1 second through 1/300, and it also offers semi-automatic film advance – to advance the film, you press a button on the advance knob and then advance the film. The camera will automatically advance to the next frame. The lens is Yashikor, and offers XM sync.
Yashica D: An improvement of the Model C. The shutter has speeds from 1 sec to 1/500, plus B, timer, and MX sync. As with the A, B, and C, the shutter must be cocked manually before each exposure. Later models offer the better Yashinon lens.
Yashica E: A somewhat rare autoexposure-only model based on the D, this model is best avoided as reliability of the metering system is highly suspect and there is absolutely no manual control available. The shutter speed is fixed at 1/60 sec. It also features a built-in flash. Best used only as a conversation piece or a paperweight (sorry…).
Yashica LM: An early model in the Yashica series, the LM was the first to offer a built-in meter. The lens used is the better Yashinon, and it has full MXV sync on the Copal shutter. Aperture, shutter, and wind crank are very similar in style to Rolleiflex cameras, with a shutter range of B-1/250 sec and an aperture of f3.5-22. Just as a final note, this camera takes 120 film only. [My thanks to Bob McAfee for providing this information!]
Yashica 635: The 635 is one of the more interesting models in the Yashica line. Featuring the 3 element Yashikor, this camera was designed as a dual format camera. It takes both 120 film for 6×6 but also 35mm in 20 or 36 exposures. Like the D, film advance is semi-automatic and offers the same range of shutter speeds, flash sync, and self timer. The only difficulty with this model is finding a camera with complete 35mm conversion kit. Like the D, later models can be found with the Yashinon lens.
Yashicamat: With the 4 element Yashinon lens (desingated Luxamor on early models), this camera is one to look for. Aside from the better lens, the camera also automatically cocks the shutter when the film is advanced, just like a Rolleiflex. The Copal shutter offers speeds from 1 sec to 1/500 plus B and MX flash sync. In all around value, the Yashicamat is probably the best in the line as it offers all the significant upgrades in lens and body, except for 220 capability (which most photographers rarely use) and a built-in meter.
Yashicamat-LM: Essentially, the LM is a regular Yashicamat, but with an added uncoupled exposure meter sensitive from ISO 6 to 400. By today’s standards, this is not a great ISO range for the meter, but in its day it was top technology and still covers the majority of film speeds commonly used (ISO 100 and 400).
Yashicamat-EM: Pretty much the same as the LM, but with a different meter configuration.
Yashica 24: The first of the modern Yashica TLRs, it offers a meter coupled to the aperature and shutter dials, giving the user a match needle metering system. The drawback – it uses 220 film only and is hard to find. But, if you shoot 220 and can find one, the price is often very reasonable.
Yashica 12: Offered a year after the 24, the 12 is the same camera except it uses 120 film. A great value as it doesn’t grab the same price as the 124 models, but it is a hard model to find.
Yashicamat 124: The Yashicamat 124 adds switchable 120/220 capability to the Yashica 12. Otherwise, this camera is the same as the Yashica 12. This camera provides one of the most inexpensive medium format cameras to give 220 capability, and with the built-in meter is an excellent all-in-one TLR at reasonable cost (although prices are starting to get a little inflated for this model).
Yashicamat 124-G: The last Yashica TLR produced, the only change from the previous 124 was to gold-plate the meter contacts. While a good camera, prices have become grossly inflated recently. I recently saw a Yashicamat 124-G new in box sell for over $400, which was severely overpriced considering you can find a Rolleiflex 3.5E with meter and Planar lens in the same price range. If you find one for $250 or less, the 124-G is a good buy, but the moment the price goes over this mark a Rollei or older Mamiya would likely be better options.
Other Models: There are a few models for which I have no information. They are the Yashicaflex and Yashica LM. Yashica also made a series of TLRs using 127 film. They are the “44” cameras, and I do not include them here as I don’t have very much information on them and 127 film is no longer available.