In early August I wandered around the Alameda Antiques Fair in search of a new-to-me medium format camera. I like my Holgas just fine but I was ready for an upgrade. Most of what I found at the fair was old Brownies, which I really didn’t want because they either took odd-size film (the Brownie I have takes 620–which is really 120 film respooled onto a smaller spool) or they had bellows. I didn’t want to have to mess around trying to find special film, or respooling 120 film to fit the 620 Brownies, nor did I want to have to deal with old bellows that may have had cracks and light leaks.
I finally came upon a vendor who had several Twin Lens Reflex cameras (as well as the old Brownies with bellows and some old 35mm film gear). I told him I was looking for something I could use right off the lot and he handed me a Yashica Mat-124G. While it was one of the least expensive TLRs he had, it was just a bit over what I had planned to spend on a camera. But it felt right. Not overly heavy, the controls were fairly easy to read and use and, well, it wasn’t that far out of my budget.
I’ve run four rolls through it now and I absolutely LOVE it! I’ve taken pretty thorough notes on each frame because I wanted to see how well the on board meter works. So far it seems to be pretty spot-on. At the worst it underexposes by 1/3 to 1/2 step but,as a friend pointed out, that could be inaccuracy in the shutter too. But I have enough experience with film that the times I’ve relied on my instinct and overrode the on board meter, my instinct was right. Even my two rolls of slide film have come out beautifully (if you’ve shot chrome, you know it’ll either be spectacularly beautiful or it will break your heart).
At any rate, I’ve been bitten by the film bug again. I’ve shot almost exclusively with the Yashica for the past month. (I did use the DSLR for a recent night shoot at the Sutro Baths but am planning to return later this month when there’s a full moon and for that shoot I will have the Yashica). I’m looking at Web sites to see what kinds of goodies I can get for the Yashica and now I’m really jonesing for a medium format SLR. Film has a certain soul that I’ve never quite found in digital photography. And shooting film makes me slow way down and spend time composing my shot and thinking about exposure. Especially with medium format, since there are only twelve shots to a roll of film. Not a whole lot of room for screwing around, there.
Ah yes, composing the shot. HaHaHa! The hardest thing I’m getting used to with the Yashica is that the viewfinder is laterally reversed, meaning if I want to get something in the frame that’s off to my left, I have to turn the camera to my right. It’s very confusing! I was trying to get this shot of the cranes at the Port of Oakland while I was on the ferry and people must have thought I was dancing to the song playing on my iPhone or that I had a really bad itch because I was twisting and turning this way and that, trying to get those stupid cranes in the frame! I have not had much of a problem with parallax error, thanks to the viewfinder grid on the camera. I’ve only got one shot of my friends where I cut off their feet. The other thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to move the camera slightly when I press the shutter. It’s not a huge problem if I’m shooting in bright daylight at high shutter speeds but I need to get my grip under control or do longer exposures on a tripod with a remote shutter release.
So maybe you’ll see me boogieing around San Francisco with this beast. And if you come out shooting with me, my apologies in advance for taking so long to set up my shots!