On some days, a number of things click. I like to look at it as an intersection of related events. Yesterday was a day of intersection for me. As if it needed a title, by early evening I began to think of it as “Yashica Day”.
Five days before I had bought a Yashica Mat 124 TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) camera on eBay. Yesterday I was thinking about the pending arrival of that camera, and on a whim, I searched the local Craigslist for photo equipment. Browsing through the list, my eye was stopped by a listing with “Yashica” in the title.
It was a Yashica Electro 35 GSN. For $20 (!!!!!). I sometimes pay more than $20 for lunch. I knew a little bit about the Yashica rangefinders, but did some quick research to verify that I wanted to chase the advertised one down. I was attracted by the fact that it was a rangefinder and had a 45mm f/1.7 Yashinon lens with copal shutter. I called the owner about the camera, then jumped on the motorcycle for the 15 mile ride to Redlands.
Though the battery was dead, I was surprised by the excellent condition of the exterior of the camera. I tested a few mechanical functions such as the film winder, rangefinder, and shutter. It is a bit hard to tell about the shutter, since it makes no noise. I had to assume that what I felt through my finger was the shutter firing. I figured that there was an even chance that the camera was functional or some variation of functional. It was a risk I was willing to take, given the price. I figured that even if it needed to be sent to a repairman for a full CLA (Clean, Lubricate, Adjust), I’d end up with a nice working rangefinder for well under $200. The camera included Yashica branded black leather “Never Ready” case and Pro-50 DX flash unit. I expect that the flash unit will work on the TLR, but I haven’t researched that yet.
The original mercury battery is not available for sale anywhere. And it shouldn’t be, given the likely environmental harm. Back home, I cobbled together a battery/spring combination using a PX28A battery from Radio Shack and the instructions at Matt’s Classic Cameras for a guideline. I was surprised that Radio Shack actually had one of the five batteries that would work in the camera. My success rate with that chain store is only about 60% (to be fair, I’m frequently looking for oddball items).
I began testing the camera this morning, shooting a roll of Kodak color film shortly after sunrise. The only thing that make me uneasy is the shutter. With no sound and only the slightest vibration from the button when it is fully depressed. I’m not entirely sure when it fires. I took the roll into Costco for negative development. Once I pick it up, I’ll be better able to determine the working order of the camera.
Twin Lens Reflex
The Yashica Mat 124 appeared via UPS in the late afternoon. If Yashica Day could be thought of as a cake, the rangefinder would be the body of the cake and the TLR would be pure frosting.
The seller was Craig Seigel of CKEJ Cameras, located in Missouri (USA). Craig was able to give me a few historical details on the camera. When he worked in a camera shop in the 1970s, one of the shop’s customers, now 88 years old, was a professional photographer whose main income came from wedding photography. The Yashica Mat 124 was sold in an estate sale (though the photographer is still alive) along with Hasselblad and Linhof equipment.
The Mat 124 also included a (brown) leather Yashica never-ready case. I expect it to be slightly more convenient to use than the Electro 35 case, but in both instances, the cases will have to be removed whenever film is changed.
Due to a short in the battery compartment, the meter does not work. I’ll meter with one of the digital cameras or use the “Sunny 16” system for estimating exposure for a time, then look toward repairing or getting the battery connection repaired. A photo of the Mat 124’s viewfinder is shown here.
Mark Hama is generally acknowledged to be the best Yashica repairman in the USA. Like the Electro 35, there is plenty of information on the Web on simple repairs on the Mat 124. User and repair manuals can be easily found with a simple Web search.
Since I am waiting for 120 film to be delivered, it will be a few days before I can shoot the TLR. I will report on my results with both cameras in future posts.