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Shooting Nature with the Yashica Mat 124G

by Darren Spohn, 1997


Getting Started Without Spending Big Bucks

If you are reading this, you already know photography is an expensive hobby. We spend thousands of dollars on the equipment we need for capturing the light at that decisive moment. But you can get started at this nature photography habit without selling your car. Most people start with a simple 35mm rig, then build a few lenses and accessories around whichever system they have chosen. See "What Camera Should I Buy?" on this forum for more information.

So how do you get started on the cheap? Check out the photo.net classifieds or other web sites. One good source of information, which I discovered through photo.net, is the Medium Format Digest. Reading the postings of people who used Yashica Mat 124G cameras prompted me to add this to my short list of necessary equipment.

I wanted a larger original than my Canon EOS system gave me, but could not afford to lay out several thousand dollars for a Bronica, Hassleblad, Pentax or Rollei. When I found an excellent Yashica Mat at Adolph Gasser's in San Francisco a few months ago I decided to take the plunge. One roll of Ektachrome 100SW later I was hooked. But this was just a test roll shot in a local park, to make sure the shutter speeds and apertures were working. The true test would come two weeks later on a trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

In the Field

Still being uncomfortable spending the money for slide film for such an old camera, I brought the EOS along to shoot Ektachrome and loaded the Yashica Mat with Kodak Ektar 25. My son and I spent a long weekend near Kennedy Meadow, taking scenic photos along Highway 108, where it parallels Deadman Creek, and up to Sonora Pass. Looking down at the ground glass, and interpreting a reversed image, helped me concentrate more on composition than I did when peering through the tiny viewfinder of my Elan II. The Yashica Mat does not have a bright viewfinder image, especially when compared with a Rollei TLR, but I found that by flipping up the magnifier I could easily compose and focus even in low light.

I shot one entire roll using some rocks in the foreground to test the corner sharpness, with water rushing over rocks in the middle and upper portions of the image for visual impact. When I went to the lab a few days later I was pleased to see the rocks in the lower corners were indeed sharp. And the complete lack of grain and added tonal scale made 35mm enlargements look, well, grainy and dull.

The next test came on a trip to the Bristlecone Pine National Forest, just north of Death Valley in California's White Mountains, and Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada. I carried both systems again, but this time brought slide film for the Yashica Mat and Kodak Royal Gold 25 for the Canon. The slides were a mixture of Fujichrome Velvia, and Agfachrome RSX 50, 100 and 200. A friend who shoots fashion photography sent me six rolls of the Agfachrome to test. You gotta love being someone else's guinea pig.

I followed my usual procedure on this trip, dragging my son around all afternoon, searching for interesting scenes and checking my compass to make sure the morning light would shine on the particular tree I spied. When my alarm went off at 4 a.m., I crawled out of my sleeping into the cold morning, left my son sleeping in his tent and drove back to the target tree to wait for sunrise. Because I hadn't bought a light meter, I used to Elan II to meter the light, mounted the Yashica Mat on my tripod and shot a few frames at first light, then mounted the Elan II and shot a few more frames, just in case. I waited a bit for stronger light, but another tree started casting a shadow on my tree of choice, so I moved in closer and took some close-up shots on the twisted tree trunk. These came out especially well.

By the way, the Yashica Mat 124G does have a light meter. However, I have found the meter in the Canon EOS Elan II is extremely accurate, and the meter in my Yashica Mat reads two stops slower than the Elan II meter. Using the Elan II as a light meter is tedious unless I have both cameras loaded with the same speed film, but it does work very well when I keep my mind on what I'm doing. That is not always easy with an 11-year-old along asking me to check the framing in his Konica point and shoot all the time.

It Ain't the Toys, It's How You Play with Them

After a few days in the Bristlecone Pine Forest, we headed east across Nevada to Great Basin National Park. (Tip: get there in the fall after the aspens have changed color. I plan to go back.) Four days in Great Basin yielded excellent shots with both systems, but a few with the Yashica turned out just as I had envisioned.

My son decided to accompany me on one early morning shoot the second day in Great Basin. We hiked up to Teresa Lake before sunrise, and waited. Snow-covered Wheeler Peak reflected in the almost calm water, ruffled only by a slight breeze. I shot a few 28mm frames with the Canon so I could get the reflection and the peak on the negative, then switched to the Yashica Mat. The 80mm lens couldn't get the whole scene in the viewfinder, so I moved a little closer, focused on rocks under the water and stopped down to f/32 to get the reflection sharp. These are some of the best shots of the trip. Sometimes having limited equipment forces you to look for different perspectives. Limitation or advantage? Depends on your attitude.

Upon returning to California Monday afternoon, weather prevented us from our planned backpacking excursion into the Ansel Adams Wilderness south of Yosemite National Park. (We were not prepared for snow in July.), so we headed back to the Bristlecone Pine National Forest. The snow in the Sierras turned to rain 30 miles across the Owens Valley in the White Mountains. We grabbed what little sun there was to try and capture the wet bristlecone pines, but there wasn't enough light to get many images. On Thursday the clouds broke, and we got some excellent shots with beautiful, fluffy clouds in the sky. Again, I shot both systems on almost every scene.

Because Bay 1 filters are hard to find these days, I held a circular polarizer over the Yashica Mat's taking lens, making sure to orient it the same way as the polarizer over the Canon lens, so my light reading would be similar. How did this work? Quite well. The only difficulty came from trying to remember to calculate the differences between the film speeds in the Canon and the Yashica Mat, and the three frames I blew when I metered with the polarizer on the Canon and forgot to put the polarizer over the Yashica Mat. That's why I have a used light meter on the way. Oh well, at least it wasn't 4x5 film.

Comparisons and Conclusions

How do the images compare? The Yashica Mat seems to be as sharp and contrasty as the Canon 50/1.8 prime lens, and noticeably sharper than the Tamron 28-200 zoom my wife insisted I buy. These aren't scientific measurements (I'll leave that to Bob, if he ever wants to do some), but impressions gained from comparing slides through an 8x loupe. The larger original image size is a decided advantage when enlarging, but the Canon is much more versatile with its excellent range of interchangeable lenses.

Looking over the images after returning home, I concluded the image quality in medium format is definitely better than 35mm. And in some instances not being able to change lenses made me think more about how to shoot a scene, and I got better photos than I would have with interchangeable lenses. In other instances, putting a wider or longer lens on the Canon allowed me to change the perspective to a more pleasing composition.

This is all part of the process of learning to shoot landscapes, and gives me more motivation to buy a medium format or large format system with interchangeable lenses, give the Canon and the Tamron to my wife and let my son have the Yashica Mat. First, though, I'm getting a good, used light meter. The Yashica Mat gave me some very good slides in both locations, including some beautiful evening images of Wheeler Peak above Stella Lake in Great Basin. Close ups of the bristlecone pines show much more detail in the larger format. But the best image of the trip came out of the Canon, using that cheap zoom at its 28mm setting. It's one I shot the first day, of a lone bristlecone pine against some red clouds at first light, with the snow-covered Sierra Nevadas in the background.

The Yashica Mat hasn't been perfect. I started having problems with it during the trip.About every other roll the camera would not advance past the first frame until I double exposed that frame, the it would behave. Gasser's has the camera in their shop as I write this, repairing it under their 90-day used equipment warranty. I'll update this article after they return the camera.

Overall, though, this is a good entry-level medium format setup. With a little research and patience, you can find an excellent Yashica Mat 124G for $150 to $300, a light meter for $50 or so (unless you want to go ahead a get a new one), and a used tripod for $50. Total investment, for me, is about $400 including the camera, light meter and tripod. This will get me by until I can start building a better system. It's cheap, the image quality is very good, and the weight is low.

Yashica Mat 124G Basic Specs

  • Twin-Lens Reflex camera
  • 6x6 cm square format
  • 80mm f/3.5 taking lens
  • Flash synch at all speeds
  • Film Advance via Winding Crank
  • Uses Bay 1 filters
  • Accepts 120 or 220 film

[] | [ Q&A Forum ]


Article created 1997

Readers' Comments


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Eric V. Nelson , November 06, 1997; 01:52 P.M.

I'm always amazed by those that think that you have to spend a mint to get medium format equipment and that you need an interchangeable lens system. My Yashicamat 124g has been a faithful companion. Its lighter than any 35 system and unless you are doing a lot of telephoto work will do most anything. For 500 bucks you can by a Rolliflex TLR with some of the finest lenses ever made. You do have to adapt to the funny looks from your companions when you drag out one of these old boxes.

Steve Bingham , March 30, 1998; 05:18 P.M.

Darron,

Years ago I bought a brand new 124G for $100 because nobody wanted them and they were being dumped. It's never had a roll of film through it! One of these I am goint to put it up against my Pentax 67 just for kicks. I suspect it will do quite well. There was an outstanding photographer in San Diego who swore that his Yashica lens was sharper than his Rollie. His work was outstanding so I have always wondered.

And it is soooo light! Maybe a trip into time would be well taken.

Steve

Phil Lang , May 09, 1998; 09:10 P.M.

I spent $400 for a mint condition Yashica Mat 124-g. But I havent seen a sharp print yet after about 12 rolls of various films. I suspect that old oil has sublimated to glass elements from the intra-element shutter mechanism. In the next few weeks I intend to take the lens apart and clean the internal elements. I'll let you know if this makes any difference. Another possibility is that improper lens storage allowed water absorption resulting in a permanently soft lens.

Grigoire Vandenschrick , June 18, 1998; 10:04 A.M.

I really enjoyed to read this page. Another people who's coming to middle format. I've bought two years ago now an old rollei with tessar, and the results are much better than those of my nikon F801s The more simple the camera is, the more you use your mind for taking picture! Greg

bob wahl , June 24, 1998; 12:42 A.M.

I have enjoyed my Mat for years with no problems. If you can find a Yashica 635, it is an interesting camera. I have one complete with all adapters needed to take both 120 and 35mm - interesting piece of equipment - 35mm has an effective 80mm lens - great for portrait work on 35.

jim calhoun , July 17, 1998; 07:27 P.M.

I agree with Bob Wahl that the Yashica 635 is an interesting camera. I owned one from about 1975 until 1995, when it was stolen from my car. My experience in switching from 35mm was similar to stories I have heard from others: 1) The single focal length (and other features) forced me to think more about my shots, and 2) Tonal possibilities opened up enormously. I'm currently looking to replace the 635 with a 124G...

Peter Denters , October 04, 1998; 08:50 A.M.

About 10 years ago I bought a Rolleiflex 3,5F. After 8 years I sold it but soon began to miss it. Being a little short of money I decided to buy a Yashica mat 124 G instead. It costed about 175$ (a good condition Rolleiflex would do about $750). After having shot my first film (colour negative) I was really amazed by the superiour quality of the Yashica compared to my former Rolleiflex. Pictures were fare more sharper and brilliant. The Yashica 124g of course has more advantages: the possibility to use 220 film and a CDS exposure meter. For the camara itself I must say the Rolleiflex looks far more sophisticated. I would like a Rolleiflex to look at but will use the Yashica to photograph.

Brian Turner , December 03, 1998; 05:00 P.M.

I am very pleased with my 124g that I bought several months ago.The only problem I can see is the glare that you get when you are shooting in just the slightest bit of sunlight. Rollei lens shades fit great, so try to find a used one to correct this. The lens is VERY sharp! I have found that for impressive results, try using AgfaPan 400 with rodinal developer.

Darron Spohn , December 22, 1998; 03:31 P.M.

After getting some e-mails from readers, I decided to post this follow up. First, Gasser's fixed the 124G with no questions. Then, while on vacation in June 1998 the shutter cocking mechanism quit working. A few weeks later, while on vacation in the Bristlecone Pine National Forest, the shutter cocking machanism on my Yashica M quit working. International Camera Technicians in Mountain View, CA (http://www.aplatform.com/~ict/) fixed both for a little under $200. They said the shutter cocking/wind mechanism is a weak point on the Yashica Mats, but otherwise the cameras are excellent.

I gave my original 124G to my son for Christmas in 1997, after buying a Mamiya C330 system for myself. Six months later I sold the Mamiya system to pay for four Nikkor enlarging lenses. After looking over the slides I had shot with the Mamiya and comparing them with the Yashica images I concluded the Yashica Mats have better optical systems than the Mamiyas. This is not to disparage the Mamiya C330 (and C220) TLR system, but rather to praise the Yashica Mats.

I miss the interchangeable lenses on the Mamiya, but love the light weight, portability and sharpness of the Yashica Mats. I bought another 124G recently, and plan to get a third, and let my son have the Yashica M as a backup camera. This time, though, I'll have the cocking/wind mechanisms rebuilt before I go on vacation.

charles stewart , March 03, 1999; 09:41 P.M.

I found this discussion interesting. Obviously people are discovering the joys of medium format, and I second a lot of the comments as to the great value of the Yashicamat. The most expensive 35mm. system in the world simply cannot rival the results obtainable from a larger negative. Where I have to take issue with the comments is in the matter or comparison to Rollei. The four-element Tessar-type Yashinons, while good, cannot rival the performance of the Planars found on the better Rolleis; the difference is very marked in black and white enlargements. I have used both. On the other hand, there were "budget" Rolleis, in the form of Rolleicords and Rolleiflex "T's", which were not much better than Yashica optically, though they were perhaps a little better mechanically. Forget the meter in the Yashica; use a good handheld meter instead. I have also had trouble with Yashica on the first frame as described above, but with a *new* camera. For all that, I still think of Yashicamats as great value. Mine is on loan to a friend; so he can enjoy the pleasures of making beautiful, long-scale black and white enlargements.

grigoire vandenschrick , May 14, 1999; 07:56 A.M.

I found again this page searching sites about medium format, and found a comment of... me, Jees!

So, now I sold my old rolleiflex MX II with tessar 75 3.5, and bought a new rolleiflex 3.5G, with planar. I don't see so much differences in b&w prints, and didn't try it with color, so I cannot say if there is a big difference between these lens, but there is a big difference between the bodies. The 3.5f has a bigger focus knob, and it is far more easy to make the point; moreover, the interchangeable screen is far more bright. the depth-of-field indicator is a technical marvel, and there is a selenium cells in it. the two roll-knobs cannot been pull out when back is closed, and it's good. The waist level viewer is more sofisticated, and can also been removed, so it's easier to clean the mirror.

The speed are in a modern way, no more 1/25, 1/50, 1/100.

I love this camera, no others can do the job it does, even my new Leica R8, wich is beautiful, but the 24x36 is darn too small for large sharp prints.

So, my girlfriend is now using the yashica 635, and has pin sharp negs with it. It depends the amount of money you can put in, but buying a rollei or a yashica, you always have a medium format camera, with a superb lens, all mechanical, and that's the most important thing.

have a nice shot

Greg

Paul Desrosiers , September 11, 1999; 07:52 P.M.

Back in 1968(My God, that long ago!!) I was the yearbook photographer for my High school. We had a Yashica Mat as one of our cameras and, it was great! It was easy to use and had the 2 1/4 square format for excellent enlargements. When I graduated, I went to a White Front store(no longer around) and bought this camera for $100.oo bucks. I fretted over the purchase at the time (a hundred bucks for a camera!)but, since then, I have never regretted the purchase. My pictures always came out clean and sharp. It beats shelling out thousands of bucks for a 2 1/4 SLR! clubphoto3@hotmail.com

Andreas David Galeati , November 26, 1999; 12:26 P.M.

I have used the Yashica Mat 124G and the 635 for many years. I agree that the 124G, especially when using 220, can get caught up with the first frame. When this happens, I just fire another shot with a tight steel lens cap so not to over expose my first picture. I find the 635 to be more fun to use and a sharper camera. It has the cocking lever seperate from the film advance lever, this helps save a photo if the self timer does not go off, plus, you can do funcky double exposure shots with home made filters. The 635 has the Yashikor, much like the awesome Yashica 44 127 film camera frequently used by photography departments of major Universities during the late 60' and early 70's. The 124G uses the famous Yashinon. I did a series of test using Fugi Astia 100 and found the Yashikor to be measurably sharper than the Yashinon. All photos were shot at f5.6 and f16. I noticed better image quality at the corners and sharper contrast, all during my later evening photos. In regards to balck and white film, my hunch is that the image quality seems sharper but I am not convinced, given that Agfa 25 is so amazingly crisp. Yes, I do have the Yahsica 35mm adapter, and it really is a cute toy but you are so confined to photographing single person portraits due to the lens structure and camera setup. The Yashica Mat 124G is a fine camera and would please any advanced amatuer and die hard professional in more ways than one. If anyone can locate a fully functioning 124G and 635, go with the 635, you can save your self a lot of trouble and it also is a better camera.

Matt Oulman , July 02, 2000; 04:22 A.M.

I am an addicted old TLR fan, with a Rolleicord V, a Yashica A, Yashicamat and a rather rare Minoltacord. I have used 35mm my entire life until about 2 years ago when I purchased the "A" for less than $100. I was impressed with the quality of even the "low-end" "A", but that may have just been the increased neg. size. But when I saw the results from the "Mat" and the Rollei I was astounded with the sharpness and overall clarity as compared to any 35 I had ever used. The Roleicord is no better than the "Mat" is optical quality, but seems to be of a higher mechanical quality. I have always preferred a truly "manual" camera, and use a hand-held spot meter for all my exposures. This is one of the main attractions of the old TLR's - They are cheap, high quality manual beasts that operate like dinosaurs, but deliver like pros. For me, the real bonus is that not relying on an internal meter, these cameras are easily maintained and/or repaired by anyone with some time and concentration. Repair and parts manuals are readily available, as are old and broken "parts-cameras" that can be cannibalized.

I cannot envision a time when I would not have one of these guys in my bag.

Matthew Ferguson , January 11, 2001; 09:36 P.M.

I was in my local camera shop a few days ago and noticed a Yoshica Mat-124 for $185, it seemed a little pricey for a 30+ year old camera in a format that I have never used before. However, I have heard a lot about this particular style of camera so I decided to put it on hold and surf the web for a little more info. I found this page and ased upon what mostly consits of excellent reviews I think I am going to take the dive into medium format with this Yoshica Mat 124. I am going back into the shop this weekend to buy it! I cant wait to test it out. I will be sure and let you know what I think! Thanks an awful lot!

-Matt

Mike Marks , February 25, 2001; 09:46 P.M.

My first camera was a Yashica A. In 1972, after the shutter on the "A" broke, I stepped up to a Mat 124G. I became disillusioned with the 124G after enlarging to 20 X 24 a shot of aspen trees (ala uncle Ansel). The shot was made with a heavy tripod on solid ground in a windless environment at 1/2 at f 22. Everything was in focus... but edge sharpness was lacking. The shutter on the Mat 124G broke in 1974 and it has been collecting dust ever since. I stopped using a TLR for two decades and recently picked up the format again. I love it! It's a portable view camera minus swings/tilts (and, as my good friend Roger Winkler points out, I can stare at my navel to boot). Today I'm a devoted Rolliflex man (75mm 3.5 Tessar). I haven't done an apple to apple comparison with a Mat 124 G, but I think the lens is sharper. In any case, the lens cap is way cooler.

Reginald Watts , March 06, 2001; 01:59 P.M.

I have been using a Yashica MAT 124G for about a year and a half and I love it. It is an inexpensive,light weight medium format camera. I enjoy being able to pull it out and get a quick picture. The set lens makes you think about composing the picture. A down side is that the camera will only take up to ASA 400 film. The up side is that this camera takes both 120 (12 exposure) and 220 (24 exposure) film without any special attachments. With a hand held light meter (recommended) you can experiment with faster film. The square pictures also give you the flexibility to take a less than perfect shot and use only the part of the picture that you want. The enlargements are so much better than 35mm that you may never want to go back to smaller film. (Don't dump the 35mm kit because you don't have the flexability of multiple lenses you have with the Minolta, Nikon, Canon, or Pentax.) The funky looking camera is also just plain fun to use. I find it to be a great backpacking camera. It is also great for a walk in the park (Yoesmite National Park). The larger negitive also gives you a noticeably sharper pictire than you can get with a 35mm.

I took mine to Tombstone, Arizona on a weekend that they had the gunfight in the streets and all the people thought the camera was neater than cracked ice. I went to Boot Hill and shot some of the headstones using B&W film. The pictures look like something out of the past. I wandered out into the desert and got some great low angle shots of some of the plants. And I can't begin to describe the colors that I got from the rising sun with Fuji color film.

I always take a monopod with me just in case I need to stabilize the camera. It also lets me move from location to location faster than if I was using a tripod. This is a great camera to have if you don't want to pay an arm and a leg for equipment. Just be sure to have a hand held light meter when you shoot film.

William Garrett , April 13, 2001; 12:09 P.M.

I have learned that use of a battery other than an original Mercury cell will result in false meter readings. Suggest using a Mercury battery or handheld meter. By the way, there are still Mercury batteries available for $8.00 to $10.00 each in lots of 4 or 5.

S. Agplater , June 27, 2001; 07:58 A.M.

I had a nice opportunity as a teenager some 25+ years ago to use a variety of medium format TLR cameras. Our school had several Yashicas, Mamiyas and a Rollei or two and I believe I got to use each and every one of them, though I cannot recall which models they were. I took mostly black and white portraits with the cameras and there were some done with Yashica TLRs that to this day still surprise me with their quality.

After 25 years without a medium format in my life I took the plunge. I bought a Yashica Mat recently and am looking forward with great anticipation to doing more portrait work and trying my hand at landscapes too.

When I was shopping around for this camera I originally decided that a 124 or 124G might be the best choice for me because of the built-in meter. However, I soon learned that many of the meters are not in working order or need recalibration anyway. For me, the Mat is certainly a nice compromise and has the advantage over the A and D models, for example, of a crank film advance over the knob advance. However, I think that most amateurs would find the Yashica A and D models to be very suitable for entry into medium format photography

I don't think I lost anything significant in going with the Mat over the 124 or 124G. I will acquire a used meter down the road somewhere, but that shouldn't be a major obstacle. I don't even recall if I used a meter when I was shooting with the medium formats years ago. My memory is fuzzy, but I think only the Mamiyas had built-in meters and I didn't always carry my handheld meter with me. In any event, it is certainly possible to take very good pictures by learning how to "read" the light yourself, rather than relying on instant auto-everything cameras.

Chuck Penrose , October 13, 2001; 07:23 P.M.

As my luck continues to hold, my brother-inlaw handed me a free Yashica Mat 124 (in need of some work). I know little about the camera but after a quick trip to my local camera fix-it shop the shop owner convinced me to let him take a look at the camera. Light meter glass was damaged and shutter speeds were way off but after a week in the shop, a complete tune-up and meter repair, the camera checks out good. I wanted to reply to the mercury battery question(s) above. This camera shop replaced the Mercury battery with a Duracell 625A and set-up the light meter for the newer, higher voltage battery. I could use some points to "how to use" guides that may be on the web. All suggestions welcome. I'm new to this stuff.

Chris Sheppard , December 10, 2001; 02:32 P.M.

Just a quick note about Yashica in general. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being a Holga, 10 being a Hassy), I'd give the Yashica about an 8. Optics, optics, optics. You needn't plunk down $3000 for a Zeiss lens to get clear, saturated, contrasty photos. The Yashinon lenses are superb when shot f/5.6 and higher. I don't care what emulsion you run through, it comes out great every time. For about $300US you can get a Yashica that is in great shape. Some other points: 1. they are nealy dead-silent when shooting...just a small click when the shutter releases. 2. They are cool looking - people always want a closer look. 3. If you drop it, you lose $300 instead of $3000...and your wife doesn't make you sleep on the couch for a month when you buy a replacement :)

Glen Johnson , February 01, 2002; 10:53 P.M.

The Yashica Mat 124G was the starting wedding photographer's camera of choice when it came out. If you were really careful about focusing and shutter speed (or if you were disciplined enough to use a tripod), you could get fairly decent 6 to 8 x enlargements. I bought one new from 47th Street Photo back when they were an honest business around 1976. I agree with Darren that it ain't the toys, but the way you play with them. However, my experience with the Yashica Mat 124G is that they were fairly variable from sample to sample. There were some that were really excellent. Others were maybe just a cut above the Seagulls of today. I have to say that my own opinion is that you would have to really be desparate to use one of these for nature photography. It was not that versatile. I sold mine several years ago for about what I had in it (maybe $150 with case and lens hood). I think that mine had full stop shutter speeds and half stop lens stops. It was not that easy to do critical focusing. When you added a closeup lens, the image degraded significantly. I think you would be better off buying a Canon or Nikon entry level body, a macro lens, and a Bogen 3221 tripod. I know this would cost more than a Yashica Mat 124G, but it is also more flexible, and it will grow with you for the future. You can add lenses as your budget allows. You can eventually upgrade the body if you feel the need. The Yashica Mat 124G falls into the same category as the Seagulls. If you are sure you have to have medium format, it is an inexpensive way into the game. You can do good work with it. FWIW, medium format is a lot more aggravating in many ways than 35mm. Developing isn't too much more aggravation, but as soon as you start trying to get decent scans, the cost goes up significantly. Enlargements are more trouble to obtain in rural areas too, unless you are doing your own work. If someone is just trying to start in nature photography, I would strongly suggest that they go with 35mm.

Philip Voystock Jr. , February 26, 2002; 12:36 A.M.

I've also enjoyed reading this page about the Yashica Mat 124g. Boy, does this bring back memories. I'd been interested in photography for years when I was younger, but didn't have the dollars for a decent camera. When I was a sophmore in high school, I received this Yashica as a gift and used it heavily through my college years. I had repeated problems with the shutter release. Got it fixed one or two times, then got frustrated with it. I had no photography experience and was on my own. Read some books, learned via trial and error, even ventured into developing my own negatives, although I had little knowledge of what to do. Ended up with great results, IMHO. After the shutter release failed for the Nth time, I put it away and I don't know what came of it. Wish I still had the camera.

Fast forward about fifteen years later, I have a 3.34 megapixel digital camera for a little over a year now. With the Net and a slew of good books, it's easier to learn the craft now. However, I'll be keeping my eye open for a good deal on a Yashica Mat 124g in good condition for a decent price. Digital is fun, but I can still remember what it felt like to have that twin reflex in my hands. Hard to forget.

David Wilson , November 20, 2003; 05:46 P.M.

I just got back today my first 120 negs from my Yashica Mat 124G(which I got for $75, from Ebay), and I must say that my jaw has not come up from the ground yet. I have never seen such beautiful detail in my pictures I do with these Fuji Provia transparencies. I was taking pictures of some rock formations, and its possible to see all the subtle variations in the the tone of the rock, as well as all the texture. I think my 35mm may have been just relegated to close-up and action purpose only, because the Yashica is superior for standard angle landscapes and such.

Fernando McSoto , July 24, 2004; 08:09 P.M.

I have been shooting with a Yashica Mat 124G for more than a year. I am very happy with the results and I will stay with it as long as digital is not capable of delivering similar quality (or similar quality at similar cost). My light meter has always been very accurate. I have many other medium format cameras including a 6x45 rangefinder, however I enjoy this camera so much that I tend to take it with me in many of my trips abroad and walks in the hills. For a medium format camera is very light and I have been able to avoid using a tripod in most occasions, which is something I can never avoid with my Pentax 6x7 SLR. If you are happy not having interchangeable lenses this is the best way to go into medium format. You will have to spend many hundreds of bucks in addition, to get something better than this.

I own the number 1 and number 2 close-up lenses. I also own the telephoto lenses. I decided not to buy the wide-angle lenses because of reports of vigneting. In any case, this camera is at its best without any add-ons. The only accessories I really really recomend to buy are the hood (excellent coating but as with any lens it is an improve), and two Bay 1 polarising filters. I bought two brand-new Heliopan Bay 1 polarising filters which have numbers around the external ring of the filter. I put one filter in the viewing lens to graduate the degree of polarisation I want and the other filter in the taking lens. Then I pass the number of the filter in the viewing lens to the filter in the taking lens to obtain the same degree of polarisation. These filters are very expensive but are very easy to use and a real need in many ocassions. Buy them because they will really improve your photography.

As for the mercury battery concerns you can still find them on the internet at www.px625.com and have them shipped from abroad to the European Union or the USA, where they are no longer manufactured. This is still the best solution for your Yashica's light meter. Alternatively you can get an adapter for your camera to work with modern batteries at www.rolleiclub.nl/batterijadapterUS.php It is good to have an adapter as a back-up anyway as sooner or later the stocks avaliable abroad will run out too. The last link I mentioned provides with other solutions available.

(Ten days after I had posted this message www.px625.com has run out of stocks of mercury cells batteries. I am not aware of any other way to get the PX625 batteries. Bad luck!)

Mahmud Javid , August 25, 2006; 04:27 P.M.

I recently acquired a Yashica Mat 124 G for $25. It is in excellent condition but the meter does not work. I have used Fuji Superia 100, which is a consumer level film for distant portraiture, both handheld at 1/60 and indoor on a tripod with flash, and outside on a cloudy but bright day. The results were sharp and contrasty at f/5.6 and f/8. No flare at all, even though I don't have a hood. I just cannot understand a previous comment in which a user said he did not obtain a single sharp shot! There must be some problem with his technique or maybe the lens alignment. I also read a user review which stated that the results with medium format were no better than with high quality 35 mm lenses. I would disagree with this. I shot monochrome c 41 film Konica VX 400 rated at ISO 200, which is said to have very fine grain structure. I used my Nikkor ais 50mm f/1.2 lens, mounted on a F3 HP body. This lens by the way outperforms other 50mm Nikkors such as f/1.4, f/1.8 and f/1.2 Noct at most apertures as assessed by MTF curves. Enlargements to 10x12 inches after cropping were significantly grainier and less sharp with the 35mm than the Yashica Mat.

Mahmud Javid

Peyton Osborne , February 19, 2009; 11:28 A.M.

I had an original Yashicamat which fell out of its leather case and broke in1978. I later replaced it with a mint 124G. Wonderfully easy to use camera- great images. I sold it and bought a mamiya 645E which is also a great camera, but I now wish I had stayed with the Yashicamat. Easier to carry along and for really long or wide shots I use 35mm anyway.

Darin Wessel , September 07, 2009; 03:20 P.M.

I recently inherited what looks to be one of the first model Yashika-Mat twin lens reflex cameras (no meter and only 120 film). The top of the view finder has a symbol different from the later model's with the Y logo. It came with the original leather protective case, leather camera bag, two sets of Rondo Close Up Lenses (No. 1 and No. 2) (which I'm still figuring out how to use because the original instructions still in their boxes are in Japanese), B&W filters, and handle mounted flash.

It's one and only user traveled the world with it. After he died, it sat in a closet for close to 40 years without use. Despite that long sitting in a closet, the shutter has so far worked very well and my first role of test shots turned out stunningly. (Although, you generally have to get used to a belly perspective of composition.) I only had one problem where the film failed to advance and had to re-cock the shutter and double-expose. I have to say, it produces images rivaling my Sony A900 FF digital camera.

Helmut Pöckl , May 16, 2010; 07:04 A.M.

Some years ago I got myself a brandnew Rollei SL 66 with the famous Planar lens. The camera was getting too heavy for me in daily use and it was annoyingly loud to shoot photos in places like a church, ect.. So I decided to get another 6x6 for reasonable money. It was a Yashica Mat 124G.  In both cameras I did slides only. Mainly landscapes and portraits. After some rolls and putting through a slide projector onto a 1,80mx1,80m screen I could not see any difference in sharpness or colour. Showing the slides to some experts they too could tell no difference, not even under a 10x magnifying glass. So I sold the SL66. Some time later on the 124G, too. After a period of working 35mm slides through my Nikon and digital shooting with my Nikon 8800 I went back to 6x6. Again to a Yashica Mat124 G in as new condition . Paid € 120.-. After a few rolls I see the same quality as with my first 124G. Two things to be remarked: In the first place the old Mercury batteries are no longer available and I have to use the new equivalent, setting the ASA one stop down, i.e. 50 instead of 100 ASA as an example. Since I mainly do light metering with my Sixtomat Digital exposure meter it doesn't worry me too much.Secondly the dark sector between two exposures varies considerably. Between 4 to 10mm. It's bit of nuisance cutting the film. Was the same with the first 124G. Don't think I had it on the SL66.

So, to cut a long story short I found the Yashica a reasonably priced item which has not let me down yet. Mind you, I do some 10 rolls a year only. So perhaps a real pro would wear the Yashica down. Perhaps.

 


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