My latest find: a pristine copy of Yachica’s final, and perhaps most popular TLR: the Yashica Mat-124G medium format camera which shoots a 6×6 frame on 120 or 220 film. From what I gather it is pretty much the same as the Mat-124, except it has gold contacts, thus the “G”. Where? In the battery compartment insofar as I can tell. Supposedly there is better flocking in the film chamber as well.
I saw this little gem recently posted locally online for only $25, along with a Polaroid Colorburst IV. They were just listed as “old cameras”, no details other than a few blurry photos. Both had cases.
The case for the Polaroid was in pretty bad shape, and frankly I’m not particularly a fan of collecting Colorburst cameras. The Polaroid itself had a small amount of rust – and some absolutely ancient batteries which had somehow never leaked out. This one will head out the door quickly via the “sell” pile.
The Yashica Mat-124G was a complete wild card. While at this point I have dozens of SLRs and DLSRs and a handful of rangefinders, Polaroids, and folders, I’ve never before had a TLR. For the price I expected a beat up camera which I might be able to display high up on my top shelf. It would be a bonus if the thing worked at all.
The way I saw it, the Polaroid was basically a freebie – the Yashica alone was worth the price of admission. The Yashica was still in its original case, which had a small amount of visible crud on it in the online photos. I met with the seller, who indicated that she was selling a bunch of old items for her dad, and that this camera was supposed to be for a display shelf he never got around to setting up. She didn’t seem to know much about either camera, and was shocked when I started opening it up, inspecting the shutter etc.
I found that everything seemed to be there, and appeared to work, so I went ahead and purchased the bundle of two cameras.
Later at home I was able to fully clean and inspect the 124G. The crud on the case quickly came off with some cleaning wipes and elbow grease. The original 625 mercury battery was still in the battery compartment; I had to remove that and scrape out a tiny bit of leaked battery stuff. I already had some adapters which allow me to use standard LR44/SR44 batteries in a 625 slot. The 124G only uses the battery for the built in light meter, which based on reviews often doesnt work – or has significant drift in calibration. After all its 30 to 40 years old! After I put the new battery in the meter fired right up, and through a series of tests in different lighting seemed to nicely match the exposures recommended by my Sekonic L-208, which I use with my Konica Pearl 1.
The Yashica case and lens caps did a great job of protecting this camera. There was some goo where it looks like someone taped the flash sync switch in the X setting – probably because if you leave that switch in the (now useless) M setting and use the self timer, you run the risk of breaking the self timer. The little clip which allows the sports finder window to stay open had clearly been bent by a prior owner. A slow careful tweak with needle nose pliers and the sports finder works great again.
After a full cleaning the camera itself is a beauty, with very few signs of any wear. The meter is quick and snappy, the seals all look intact, and the shutter timing *seems* to work on the full range from B to 1/500. At least the speeds audibly vary, and B stays open properly.
I’ve loaded my first load of film in the camera and should hopefully be able to post the results back here soon.
For a camera I envisioned sitting on a shelf, I’m really looking forward to giving this one a spin, and possibly adding it to my selection of active cameras.
- It’s a film camera
- Medium format 6cm x 6cm negative size yields potential depth of field and detail unachievable in any 35mm camera, film or digital. But must be used right…!
- Did I mention gorgeous negatives?
- Using filters over the photo lens, especially ND filters, has no effect on viewfinder
- Viewfinder is not obscured while taking photos
- shutter is near silent, picture taking is fairly discreet other than the fact that you’re holding a big box on your chest
- It’s a film camera
- Lens is not interchangeable
- OEM and 3rd party branded wide angle and telephone adapters are available which would attach to the front using the bay-1 mount. These are no longer produced and are fairly expensive on the used market. I’ve had bad experiences with lens adapters in the past so won’t likely seek out any test units.
- Its lighter than the Rolli, but its still quite heavy, and can be a minor attention getter: when I use it in public someone just about always stops and comments
- Not sure if this is common, but mine seems to occasionally not wind reliably with film in it. Not sure if something is slipping inside, perhaps I didn’t get the film winding done correctly. I suspect I’ll have some double exposures when I get my first rolls of film back. Update: yes, I have a bunch of double exposures. There is likely a worn gear inside, so now I must pay attention to the frame counter as sometimes it takes multiple tries to wind to the next frame. To avoid double exposures I hold the lens cap tight when triggering the extra exposures needed to reset the winding mechanism. Far from ideal.
- 120 film is still available, but options are becomming somewhat limited. 220 film seems to be discontinued, but there is still stock of in date film available at fairly high prices.
- Yashica MAT-124G
- Film TLR, 6×6 Medium format 120 (12 frames) or 220 film (24 frames)
- Built in light meter
- Bay 1 mount for filter, hood, tele and wide lens adapters.
- The serial number on both body and lens are consistent with a manufacturing date of 1971, making this one of the first/oldest of this model
- This model was made from approx 1970-1986
- At time of purchase, color film costs about $7/roll in packs of 5, black and white costs somewhat less. Developing a single roll by mail order costs about $11 not including shipping. Total cost per frame somewhere around $1.25-$1.50
- Acquired: February 2017, approx $20, local sale
- Spring 2017 – in testing, active use
- Manufacturer: Yashica
- Country of Origin: Japan
- Made in: Japan
- Introduced: 1970
- Camera Type: TLR film camera
- Format: 120 roll film
- Battery: mercury 645 type
- Dimensions (cm):
- Weight: 1108g (with film, no case)
- Strap: Yashica plastic strap with molded logo, clips
- Case: Black Yashica leather everready case
- Suggested Flashes:
- Manual on Butkus.org
- Pixelogist review
- Frugal Photographer Review
- Camerpedia info
- Sample photos and mini review
- Yashica Serial Numbers – mine come out as 1971
- Ivor Matanle’s article on Yashica TLRs (from Amateur Photographer, 28 May 2005)
- Yashica Twin Lens Reflex Guide