So you’re looking for a TLR. You’ve been googling around and have read both my reviews on the legendary Rolleiflex and the Rolleicord. You don’t have thousands to spend but you don’t want to scrimp on quality either.
Here is the solution just for you! The TLR for the masses. I present to you the ever popular Yashica Mat.
The above Yashica Mat is my 124g. They are so good and so affordable that I have 2. The one pictured above (124-G) comes with a light meter. Yashica has a broad range of TLR’s through it’s colourful history, today I’m reviewing the 124G model. You can also get a 124 (non-g) without the meter. I have also read that the older non-g’s were a little more reliable and slightly more solidly built. I have no reference for this. Both my g’s have been perfect!
The light meter is controlled via a small button size 1.3v Mercury battery no longer made. You will need to source a replacement from weincell or similar supplier. The light meter is disengaged while the waist level finder is popped down. Once open the meter needle flicks into position and metering can be acheived. The light meters aren’t known to be terribly accurate and I would always suggest you invest in a good hand held meter from Gossen or Sekonic.
The 124g comes with a 4 element Yashinon taking lens, many of Yashica TLR’s feature this lens and it’s one of the best. earlier Yashica’s had Yashikor or Lumaxar lenses. The Yashinon lens is comparable to the Zeiss Tessar or Scheider Xenar in quality. A detailed comparison of the two is shot here and Here by one of my Flickr Contacts.
The 124g is light in hand and easy to operate. It features two small wheels in between and either side of the lenses, these control Aperture in the left hand and Shutter speed in the right hand. the 124g features a crank wind and shutter cock like many of the later twin lens reflexes. One draw back here is that the crank wind is a quite noisy ratchet on the 124g as opposed to the silent Rolleiflex crank. Another caveat is related to the flash sync, Firing the yashica when set to the M position can cause damage to the shutter and it’s a good idea to keep the sync setting on X. If you send your Yashica Mat to a reputable repairer such as Mark Hama in the states, he will install a small screw to stop the lever from being accidentally switched, that being said i’ve never had a problem.
Loading is as easy as any other TLR and I have found my frame spacing very reliable. Small arrows help line up the film. The weight is comparable to the likes of the Rolleiflex or Rolleicord and much less than a Mamiya TLR. You can walk around all day with one of these on your shoulder and never notice it.
Some people have mentioned that shooting into bright sunny conditions may cause lens flare so have a cheap bayonet hood handy to curb it. the lenses both feature standard Bayonet I fittings the same as the Rolleiflex T or Rolleicord so you can use hoods and filters between the two.
The Yashica Mat 124g is very affordable and many of them come in around $200 aud in good used condition. They are a fantastic start for someone looking to delve into medium format photography or someone looking for a discreet street shooting get-up. Finders are not interchangeable however you can use 220 film via a sliding pressure plate in the back door.
Overall a fantastic TLR rivalling the quality of some of the bigger names out there. I use mine on a regular basis am always blown away with the quality I get from it. Stay tuned we may look at reviewing some other Yashica TLR’s in the near future.