After having a lot of fun with my charity shop EOS500 and then retrofitting 35mm film into an old Kodak Brownie I decided it was time to buy myself a ‘proper’ film camera, a medium format camera that took 120 film. I decided to take the plunge and sell my backup SLR (Canon 6D) and replace it with a plastic and metal box from the 1970’s or 1980’s and a high-end Epson flatbed scanner with which to scan my negatives.
The little black box:
I’ve always hankered after a medium format TLR (twin lens reflex) that I could look down into and shoot from the hip and decided to look for one as ‘new’ as I could find. What I ended up with is this absolutely mint condition Yashica Mat 124G, made between 1970 and 1986 and I think it is a thing of beauty. This little box is in such good condition that I’m guessing that it must come from the 1980’s as opposed to the 1970’s. It was up for sale at £200 but because the battery terminal had some corrosion I got it for a bit less. I read that the light-meters weren’t very accurate on these anyway so it wasn’t really an issue if I couldn’t use it. I downloaded a free light-meter app for my phone and touch wood it hasn’t let me down once.
The camera took a little bit of getting used to at first, you look down into it from above and through a bit of glass and the world is presented to you back to front. What you’re seeing is through the top lens and that is fixed at F2.8 to help enable accurate focusing. For delicate fine-tuning there is a little magnifying glass that flips down to aid the user get focus just right. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of looking down through that piece of glass and seeing the world appear in an odd and almost popped-out 3D fashion.
For someone who’s only really used to using (D)SLR’s for his photography it’s really quite an experience to use this camera. When composing a shot it really is hard to get used to moving the camera the opposite way to which your brain is telling you to and taking pictures in a hurry is not really an option, especially when you have to factor in the tricky and time-consuming manual focusing and having to take a light-meter reading before pressing the shutter. In anything other than bright light it’s wise to use a tripod and take your time framing the shot. To add to the confusion, the viewing lens is a little higher than the taking lens so that also has to be taken into consideration. When the camera is loaded up with the medium format 120 film you only get 12 shots so you need to make sure you’re really sure about it before pushing in the awkwardly long shutter button. Because of all of the factors involved taking a photograph becomes an event and that is what photography should be about, to me at least.
Anyway, on to some of the pictures from the few rolls I’ve used and processed so far:
The best thing about using this camera is that it gets a lot of attention. People have stopped me in the street to comment on how nice it is and on one occasion an elderly gentleman even pulled over in his car to talk about it. I’ve never had anything like that happen to me whilst using a Canon.
Thanks for looking,