Friday, January 11, 2008

New Camera: Yashica Mat

One of the highlights of the trip was our stop in Zaragoza, where we stayed with Paula's maternal uncle. While we were there we also spent time with her paternal uncle Vicente and his wife Ana. He very kindly gave me his old Yashica Mat 124g as a gift. I immediately put it to use. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced the film that I went through with them! I am pretty sure its in one of the many bags we took on the trip, and as soon as I find it I will post the images. All the colour images in the postings from this trip are with the Yashica Mat. Its a great camera that is very similer to the Rolleiflex it was derived from. According to the specifications, the viewing angle (80mm) is only slightly narrower than the Rollei (75mm) but for some reason the Yashica field of view seems to be significantly narrower in practice. It seems to be better suited for portraits than wide landscapes, although, like the Rollei it is very versatile. I discovered an interesting problem with the Yashica: it has an in-built meter, but the battery it was designed for is a mercury cell, which is now unavailable in most Western countries for environmental reasons. Apparently there is a Dutch fellow who specialises in overcoming this problem with an adapter. I have contacted him to ask for one of his contraptions to see if I can resuscitate the meter on mine.

I put the Yashica Mat and Rolleiflex head to head. The two images below were taken at the same place, an old cistern supplying water to one of the farms in Esporlas. You can clearly see the wider field of view in the Rollei (can 5mm difference in angle make all this difference? I'm a little surprised to see such a big difference) I may have been a few feet further back with the Rollei, but if so not very far at all.

Yashica Mat 124G, Kodak Portra 160 VC
(80mm lens)

Rolleiflex Automat 3.5 Tessar
(75mm lens)

Both cameras provide great images. I did did find that in some cases the narrower field of view in the Yashica was better suited to some shots. Although the Yashica is 5 decades newer than my Rollei, it is remarkable to see that there was practically not much difference in performance or design. The biggest visible difference in the images is due to the fact that the much newer Yashica has a coated lens which greatly reduces flaring. Having said this one of the reasons I love the Rollei is the 'antique' feel to the images because of the uncoated lens. One great feature is that Yashica made such a good copy of the Rollei that I can use the same filters and lens hood that I already own for the Rollei, saving me weeks of tolling trough e-bay and having to lug more kit around. Of course the newer Yashica has a number of plastic parts and is slightly less 'solid' feeling that the pre-war Rollei, but compared to plasticky modern digital SLRs, it still feels very much like a 'real' piece of machinery and I'm sure that in practice it will last many years. The Yashica screen is brighter and it has a built in meter, although it will take some effort to get it to work due to the mercury battery issue I mentioned previously. It is also a testament to the Rollei that it was built to last and that the basic TLR design pioneered by Rollei in the early part of the last century fundamentally lasted unchanged until the end of that century. Even today I believe that the TLR format is superior to the SLR in certain aspects, although I concede that it is less versatile and not suited to modern commercial photography.

Yashica Mat 124G, Kodak Portra 160 VC

I ended up taking most of my shots on this trip with the Yashica, as its new and novel, and its a lot of fun to use. Above is a view from the top of the mountain walk that Simon (my brother in law) took me near Esporlas, the village where he lives.


Blogger Unknown said...

The collectors love Rollei but the 'Mats are excellent -- if you just look at the pictures instead of the noise on the 'net. I've got a pair of them that I'd put up against any Rollei up before the E or F.

4:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People should read this.

7:55 pm  

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