It was love at first sight when I laid eyes on this beauty. The solid metal body, sleek lines, huge focusing screen and unique dual-lens look made me swoon. Give it a try, this medium-format camera could just be your blast from the past too!
I first met the Yashica Mat Twin-Lens Reflex camera some four years ago. I was waiting for a photo outing to start, when the leader whipped out the most gorgeous vintage camera I had ever seen. He asked who would like to give it a try, and I jumped at the chance while everyone hesitated looking at an unfamiliar-looking camera with two lenses.
So began my love affair with the Yashica Mat 124, which I got to borrow for a week or so. The G model – the last TLR that Yashica made – was very popular among photographers. It had a 16-year run and was discontinued in 1986. I have to say that I love cameras which are older than me!
The Yashica Mat 124G, and the Mat 124 – its almost identical version – have an 80mm taking lens (roughly equivalent to a 50mm frame of view on 35mm cameras) with a maximum aperture of f/3.5. The viewing lens has a bigger aperture of f/2.8 to allow for easier focusing via the brighter ground-glass screen. Both cameras have built-in exposure meters, which are known for failing, though they provide accurate exposures with the right battery (if still working). It is however hard to find one with a working meter now, or one that won’t die soon after you buy it.
The main (and probably only) difference between the two models is that the meter contacts of the G model are gold-plated and the trim color is black (G) vs silver (non-G). Most photographers prefer the G model, but if you can keep a secret — it really isn’t any better AND is often sold at very high prices compared with the much older but equally capable non-G and Yashica Mat models. So think carefully which one you want to buy (:
The TLR uses both 120mm and 220mm film, the latter being almost impossible to find now, and film of ISO speed 25-400. It shoots square photos, and weighs about 1kg. That might sound heavy after the plastic cameras you’ve been using, but really, the solid weight just feels so right in your hands! Its taking lens can take photos from f/3.5 to f/32, and shutter speeds range from 1 second to 1/500. There is also a bulb mode so you can shoot in low light. :)
If you have not used a TLR before, you might find focusing to be very hard at first. It uses a waist-level finder, meaning you look down to focus – and it’s hard to shoot photos above the chest. The image in the viewfinder is also reversed from left to right so you’ll be at a loss which direction to turn to focus. However, the huge focusing screen (as compared with the usual teeny ones) is such a joy to look at! Also, to make detailed adjustments, there is a magnifying loupe that you can look through.
If you love to take portraits, the TLR works great! Cos you’re looking down, you don’t need to face the subject (for stealth shooting, or not so, since it’s a big camera), the focusing screen wont black out like an SLR when you squeeze the trigger, and the shutter is so soft you can barely hear it!
A disadvantage of the camera would be the dual lenses – because there are two, you look through one and take through the other, there is parallax error (i.e. you might cut some stuff out), especially when shooting nearby objects.
The perks of this camera would be that there are close-up and wide-angle attachments available should you want to do macro or include more stuff in your photo. However, it’s hard to find a good one for cheap. I’ve still been unable to find a mint one and have settled for another TLR instead, which I love and satisfies my needs. I may do a review on that soon, so stay tuned!