The Yashica TL-E: A Basic Workhorse

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The Yashica TL-E is a no-frills basic workhorse SLR camera that will get the job done. Learn more about this great camera for beginners after the jump!

A friend of mine asked me to have a look at an old camera that belonged to his dad. He’s interested in studying photography and he was wondering if the camera would be good enough to learn on and whether it was still in working condition. I told him I’d be happy to have a look at it, so he showed up one day with a Yashica TL-E.

I recognized it as a member of the Yashica TL family, but I didn’t know the specifics, so I Googled it and found a manual for it. The TL-E uses a troublesome mercury battery, but only for the meter. The shutter is completely mechanical. That was good news. Unfortunately, when I did an eBay search to try to come up with an estimate for the value, I saw that someone was selling slow shutter speed regulators specifically for this camera which lead me to believe that this was a problem part. Sure enough, the shutter speeds from 1/60" to 1/500" were working fine, but the slower speeds from 1/30" down to 1/2" were getting stuck. I figured out that I could get them unstuck by shifting to a higher speed and, so I worked my way down to 1/2" by operating the shutter about 100 times on each speed and moving the shutter speed dial when I had to to get them unstuck.

Eventually, I got all the shutter speeds working fairly consistently with only an occasional hang-up. The shutter in the lens was a bit sticky, but I got that working with a couple of drops of naphtha. Once I had the shutter firing consistently at all speeds, I loaded it with some Kodak Gold 200 film and fired several test shots. I used the Sunny 16 rule and an exposure meter to figure out the correct exposure since I had not obtained the mercury batteries to get the built-in meter working.

Specifications

  • Kit Lens – Auto Yashinon-DX f/1.7 50mm. Close focus down to less than half a meter. This is a fast lens with a very close focusing distance. Very nice. I suspect that the lens is the best part of this kit.
  • Shutter Speeds – 1/500" – 1/2" plus “B”
  • Flash Sync – X at 1/60"
  • Exposure System – Built-in meter that shows over/under exposure. Film speeds from 12 ASA to 800 ASA.
  • Film Advance – Single-Stroke Lever
  • Hot Shoe plus PC Connector
  • Stopped Down Metering and Depth of Field Preview
  • Tripod Threads
  • Shutter Release Threads
  • Self-Timer
  • Strap Lugs

Shooting

The camera has a very sturdy feel. The focusing screen was a bit dark, but adequate. The 50mm kit lens is fast and focuses close. I took several indoor, hand-held, no-flash shots at 1/30". Many of them were too blurry, but they would have been fine if I had used a tripod and shutter release. Here are some results:

Positive, Negative, Interesting

Positive:

  • Great Lens
  • Completely mechanical operation. Don’t need batteries.
  • Wide selection of M42 lenses available.
  • Great ergonomics.
  • Single-Stroke Advance
  • Strap Lugs
  • Tripod Threads
  • Shutter Release Threads
  • Hot Shoe plus PC Connector

Negative:

  • Heavy
  • Mercury Batteries
  • Dim Viewfinder
  • Clunky Feel to Depth of Field Preview Switch
  • Slow shutter speeds susceptible to breakage

Interesting:

  • Yashica TL Lineage

Conclusion

This is a great beginner’s camera that comes with a great lens and a popular lens mount which means that you can find lots of other lenses at good prices. It’s a fun camera to use and cheap enough to replace that you won’t be heartbroken if you decide to be a bit wild with it and sustain some battle wounds.

written by gvelasco on 2012-05-24 in #reviews #lomography #camera-review #friend #m42 #yashica-tl-e #yashica #slr #yoshinon #test #user-review

3 Comments

  1. abbsterocity
    abbsterocity ·

    Sounds like my Yashica Lynx-5000. It also requires the now obsolete mercury battery for the CdS light meter but I found a replacement for it and it works! No more guess work!

    This is the one I got: www.batterymart.com/p-z-a625px-alkaline-button-cell-battery…

  2. gvelasco
    gvelasco ·

    Yes. Thanks for that link.

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