Unless you’re used to shooting with a waist-level viewfinder, the Yashica MAT 124g is going to take a roll or two to adjust to, for sure.
Left is right, right is left, down is up… you get the idea.
I’ve been shooting a Hasselblad for a few years now, and I actually prefer the waist-level finder over the prism finder so I was quick to get right out and shoot with this tiny tank.
Now, I should say, that of all the formats of film I’ve shot, by far 6×6 medium format is my favorite.
The Yashica MAT 124g is in fact a 6×6 camera, and to me, that screams out “shoot portraits with me.”
I firmly believe that’s what this camera does best, too (although it’s a very solid performer across the board).
That said, I set out to shoot a 120 roll with one that came into the shop recently, and I wanted to shoot everything but portraits with it.
Well, because I know it can shine in that facet, I wanted to see what it could do outside of that comfort zone.
Before we get to the photos, however, let’s go all photo-geek on this classic TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) camera.
Here’s a quick rundown of the specs:
•Viewing lens – 80mm f/2.8 Tessar
•Taking lens – 80mm f/3.5 Yashinon Tessar
•F-stop range – f/3.5 – f/32
•Shutter Speed range – 1 second – 1/500th & bulb
•Shots per roll – 120 = 12 shots, 220 = 24 shots
Ok, there’s the nuts-and-bolts of tech-specs, now let’s get to the meat of this camera.
The film isn’t any harder to load than my Hasselblad, and I actually found it a bit easier than the
Pentax 6×7. A simple twist of knob on the bottom of the camera opens the back and the film loads in nicely, no freaky wrist bend or finger dance required. Just as long as you line up the start arrow with the correct line you’re ready to go. Just close the back, lock it in with the same knob used to open it and get out there and shoot.
Aperture and shutter speed is controlled with two thumb knobs and both turn smoothly and easily, adjusting both setting with relative ease.
The focus pull on the throw wheel is silky smooth and if you’re coming from an SLR, you’ll notice right away that this machine is way more sensitive, particularly at closer distances. You’ll catch on to that before to long, though, do worry about it.
The viewfinder is bright enough in most conditions, but at times it could get a little dicey to nail that tack-sharp focus. There are places to buy replacement ground glass focus screens and I honestly think that is not a bad idea in this case. Nonetheless, the factory screen is adequate 99% of the time.
The shutter button has a lock so make sure to rotate it out of the lock position before getting that shot. And, another tip, after you advance the film to the next frame, be sure to put the crank handle back in the slot. The camera won’t fire if it’s out of position. I learned this the hard way the first time I had this camera out.
It has a built in light meter, but this is often an issue with these bodies. Simply put, they don’t work. The body we got into the shop was in excellent condition and the meter functioned wonderfully. It’s something you’re going to want to check before purchasing one. A functioning meter greatly effects the value of the camera.
More specifically, one with a functioning meter can go from $250-$400. One without one can be had for less than $100.
Gummy adjustment knobs are also an issue with cameras that sat for extended periods of time, as is dirt and grime build up throughout the camera.
These are very tricky to clean properly. I recommend either getting it professionally done or really do some studying up on how to do it correctly.
That said, a nice thing about this camera is the fact it’s a definite conversation starter.
Several people stopped me as I shot at the local city park to ask about the camera. I was more than happy to explain. In fact, I think the TLR style can actually break the ice some if you’re looking to do street photography portraits with this camera. For this reason alone, I highly recommend it for that purpose, despite the fact it is anything but stealth.
In fact, I recommend it for about every purpose.
The lens is sharp from corner to corner at every aperture setting and simply put — this camera is just plain-old an awesome experience to shoot.
If you’re looking to break into medium format photography, then I highly recommend this over the Mamiya RB67 or Pentax 6X7, and it’s cheaper than both.
They do make a 124 version of this camera, minus the “G” designation, and it’s virtually the same camera.
If you can find either one — snatch them up and enjoy every second, every shot taken with this tiny tank.