YashicaMat, 15 March 2011


Since I don’t want to leave y’all on that rather depressing note from my previous post, here’s another photo from an entirely different camera (more on that in a moment)!

YashicaMat CHI Acros100 DailyNewsBldg01B

Photo Information:

Location: Chicago, Illinois; West Loop
Camera: YashicaMat EM [1]
Lens: Yashica Yashinon 80mm f/3.5
Film: Fuji Neopan Acros 100 (120)

Yes, I’ve already photographed and written about this building before, so I won’t bore you with the details this time around. In case you’ve forgotten, though, this is the Daily News Building [2] in Chicago’s West Loop. As for any other information about the building itself, check my other post on the subject.

As for the camera, you can see that below.


Unlike the Kodak Duaflex IV camera (about which I’ve written before), this camera is a true twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera. While some TLRs use two slightly different designs for the viewing and taking lenses, this one uses two identical lenses in the upper and lower positions. [3] Both lenses are mounted in a housing that slides in and out of the camera body, providing the focusing mechanism; the large knob on the side of the camera controls the mechanism. The upper (viewing) lens projects its image onto an angled mirror that then projects that image onto a ground glass screen in the upper viewfinder; the lower (taking) lens projects its image into the exposure chamber (and onto the film) once the shutter is opened.

In contrast to some of the other cameras I’ve used, this one is quite well-designed. It is basically a Japanese knock-off of a high-end German design, [4] but it isn’t a poor quality one by any stretch of the imagination – though it is less expensive. On a personal note, this is the first medium format camera I learned how to use, and it got me interested in exploring film formats and cameras beyond the 35mm format. Of course, by that point, many of the more interesting medium format films had been discontinued already – and of course, now I don’t do much in the way of acquiring more cameras just to play with them. Finances and such, you know. Still, I occasionally get a chance to pick up some film (it’s surprisingly cheap, and the chemicals to process black and white film are also not terribly expensive), and when I do, I like breaking out this camera both for its nostalgic appeal, and for its relative lack of bulk – unlike the medium format SLRs I use, this camera is an all-in-one package, so apart from the camera body itself, I don’t have to carry any other accessories, like other lenses or film magazines – both of which take up quite a bit of space.



[1]: Both the company name and the camera name are “Yashica,” so I didn’t include the manufacturer’s name here…needless redundancy and all that. Also, the “EM” variant originally had a non-coupled selenium light meter attached in front of the WLF (that’s “Waist-Level Finder,” in case you didn’t know that), but I removed it because the selenium cell had long ago lost its photosensitivity (selenium cells have a tendency to do that over time, even when not exposed to light). The white strip of paper you can see in front of the WLF is there to keep light from getting into the viewfinder – the light meter housing originally served this purpose; I have since used a Sharpie to blacken this strip, so that it is less noticeable.

[2]: In case you’re wondering why the photograph doesn’t exhibit any optical distortions, no the camera does not have any “movements” or shift functions that would account for this…I made the adjustment in post-processing. And before you take issue with that, I should point out that film enlargers also typically have such shift functions built into them, allowing one to perform the same sort of adjustments in a darkroom. So there.

[3]: Brief history of the Twin-Lens Reflex camera: the earliest TLRs were large format ones in the late 19C that were originally introduced as a means of streamlining the process of capturing a photo by eliminating the need to replace a ground-glass focusing screen with a photographic plate; having two matched lenses meant that one lens could serve as the focusing aid while the other lens could project the image onto the photographic plate. Arguably the most well-known models were the Rolleiflex designs of the early 20C, which popularized the concept, and spawned a slew of mass-market imitators later on.

[4]: The aforementioned Rolleiflex design from the previous note; the Yashica designs were definitely more “faithful” to the original Rolleiflex design, and from a distance, one could be forgiven for mistaking one for the other. This sort of thing was actually common practice amongst Japanese camera manufacturers in the early to mid 20C; Canon and Nikon (originally Nippon Kogaku), for example, both got their start in the camera business by “copying” contemporary Leica and Contax designs (respectively), both of which were high-end German designs. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that Japanese camera manufacturers started developing their own designs independent of any outside influence, particularly with the rise of the 35mm system cameras – like the Nikon F and Canon F-1, for example.


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