Yashica-C - Medium Format TLR on a Budget

Yashica-C - Medium Format TLR on a Budget

Those who follow my work know that I've been into film in a pretty big way lately.  I've been excited about vintage cameras and I've got a small collection going.  The second film camera I bought (the Nikon F2 being my first) was the Yashica-C.  I wanted to try out some medium format film to see how it compared with all the 35mm I've shot.  While I was trying out something new for film media, I decided to try a style of camera that I've always been intrigued by - a twin lens reflex (TLR).

After watching KEH's site for a few weeks I found a bargain grade Yashica-C and snapped it up.  Yashica TLR cameras are what I think of as a poor man's Rollei.  I'd love to own a Rollei some day but the collector market has driven the prices way up there.  From what I've read about the Yashicas, I knew it would be a just fine starter TLR at a fraction of the price of a Rollei.  Apart from a dent in the film door, the little Yashica-C arrived in great shape.  The screen could be a little brighter perhaps and maybe I'll clean it up some day.  My first roll of film showed that it was light tight and functioned just fine.  

The Yashica-C debuted in the late fifties.  It has a 80mm f/3.5 lens with a shutter that goes from bulb to 1/300.  It has no built-in light meter so I used my Sekonic L-358 meter.  I'm fine with that, although it would be nice to have a spot meter some day.   A knob is used to advance the film and another knob is used to focus.  A flip-up magnifier in the waist level viewfinder can be used to fine tune focus.  The shutter is cocked separately from the film advance with a lever next to the taking lens.  Shutter speed and aperture are set with little levers on either side of the lens.

I really like having a separate lens to compose my frame.  When I'm shooting in daylight I almost always have a yellow filter on my lens for B&W film.  A TLR camera allows you to see the scene unfiltered - very cool.  I plan to do some long exposure work with an ND filter I picked up so the separate taking lens will be real handy for that.  With an SLR I have to take off the filter to compose and focus.  It can stay on all the time on a TLR.   Speaking of filters, I found a bayonet to 52mm filter adapter so I can attach the filters I have for my 35mm film gear to the Yashica.  Cool!

How does image quality of 120 film compare to 35mm?  All I can say is "wow."  There is certainly a higher degree of detail and less grain given the same film in each format.  I'm not sure the film scans I have done at my local camera shop really do it justice though.  Still there is definitely a difference and I really like the look of medium format shots.  It makes 35mm seem kind of muddled in detailed scenes.

There are a couple of caveats with the lens in the Yashica-C.  The Yashikor lens is not Yashica's highest quality lens (that would be the Yashinon.)  The Yashikor exhibits a bit of softness in the corners in my copy, albeit nothing that I've found to be particularly objectionable.  The lens is also prone to flare so a hood is recommended.  I sometimes like a bit of flare so again, this isn't a big problem for me.

One thing that I'm still getting used to is the square format of the Yashica.  It captures the image on a 6x6cm square of 120 film, yielding 12 shots per roll.  The good thing is that is a huge negative, full of wonderful detail!  However, I found the square format to be a little bit of a challenge compositionally.  It's not bad, just different from what I'm used to.  At least I don't have to think about whether to shoot horizontal or vertical compostions!

There are several Yashica TLR models and they are great bargains in medium format cameras.  If you're looking for something to dabble in that range of film a Yashica is a good way to go.

All shots taken on Ilford Delta 100 film in the Yashica-C.  Scanned images were adjusted in Lightroom for contrast and toning.