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There are times when I’m out shooting that I get stopped and asked about what kind of camera(s) am I using. I attribute this to the fact that I still shoot almost exclusively medium and large format film cameras for my personal and fine art work. So, I decided to give you all a peek into what type of gear it is that I use and a little insight as to why I still shoot film.

First up is my Yashica Mat-124G Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) medium format camera.

The Mat-124G was the last TLR camera made by the Japanese manufacturer, Yashica and was the follow up to the Mat-124 model. The ‘G’ designation for the fact that the latest model came with gold plated contacts. It uses medium format roll film and can take both 120 and 220 lengths, utilizing a sliding pressure plate to keep the film in proper placement along the film path. You get 12 exposures with 120 film and 24 exposures with 220 film and the camera counter automatically adjusts depending on the position of the pressure plate. A window directly above the winding crank will show either 12IM or 24IM to let you know what you have loaded in case you forget. This is accomplished by a spring loaded pin that is pressed down by the pressure plate when it is in the proper position for 120 film. This means that it will show 24IM when the back of the camera is open, no matter what is the position of the pressure plate. This is also the same mechanism that allows the counter to go to 24 when 220 is loaded. Image size on the film is 2 1/4″ by 2 1/4″, or 6x6cm, which is more than four times larger than the negative taken with a 35mm camera.

The top photo shows the Yashica Mat-124G set up to take a photo of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The bottom photos shows the reversed image on the focusing screen.

The lens is a Yashinon 80mm f/3.5, four element Tessar type, and the viewing lens is a f/2.8 version of the same type. The taking lens is mounted in a Copal SV leaf shutter with speeds from 1/500 second to Bulb, ‘X’ and ‘M’ flash syncs available at all speeds. The lenses use the Bayonet I mount for both filters and accessories. While the lens is fixed focal length and cannot be interchanged for other length lenses, there are both wide angle and telephoto adapters that use the Bay I mount and allow you the choice of three different focal lengths.

Metering is done with a needle matching system with the needles viewed through a window on the top front of the camera. Film speeds from 25ASA to 400ASA can be dialed in, and if you are using a faster film, some slight mathematics will be required to determine the proper f/stop and shutter speed. The meter was designed to take mercury batteries, which are toxic and no longer available. However, Wein zinc-air replacement batteries are available and I find the meter in my Yashica to be extremely accurate. I get batteries for my Yashica and my Gossen light meter from Vintage Batteries. There is a switch that activates the meter when the waist level viewfinder is opened, and which shuts off the meter to save on battery power when the finder is closed. Just know that the zinc-air batteries will continue to drain as long as the air ports are open. If you plan on not needing them for a while, it is best to replace the tape over the tiny vent holes to keep the battery from further depletion. Just remember to take the tape off an hour before you need the batteries to work properly.

The 3x focusing loupe is shown flipped into place for fine focusing.

Film loading is pretty straight forward, as it is with most TLR cameras. Film advance is with a crank on the right side of the camera, with the film counter window located just above and forward of the crank. Focusing is done with a large knob on the left side of the camera, which also has a reminder window that you can set to what type of film that you have loaded. There is also a selection that reads ‘Empty’ for you to choose as well. A depth of field indicator is located on the focusing knob, which is extremely useful when shooting wide open, or at close distances from the subject. The focusing screen is of a Fresnel type, and has a 3x loupe that you can pop out for critical focusing. If you have never shot with a medium format camera with a waist level finder, it may take a roll or two of film to get used to as the image is reversed (left and right). While a TLR was not exactly designed for fast action sports shooting, the waist level finder does have a sports finder feature. There is no parallax indicator in the viewfinder for close in shooting, so you need to keep in mind that you are viewing the scene through a lens approximately 1 3/4″ above the taking lens. Advancing the film also cocks the shutter, which is tripped by depressing a small button on the lower right front of the camera. This is also where you would attach the cable release and the shutter lock lever is located around the shutter release button. While there is no multiple exposure feature available with the Mat-124G, there is a delay timer that will allow you to get into the shot. The delay is obviously mechanical in nature and can vary slightly from camera to camera. On my camera it comes in at nine seconds.

The sports finder feature of the Yashica Mat-124G is seen in the above photo.

Overall, the Yashica Mat-124G is a well built medium format camera and capable of taking some amazing images as you can see below. It is an excellent camera for those of you interested in getting into the world of medium format photography. You can see some of my more favorite shots that I’ve taken with my Mat-124G below.

Yosemite Winter Storm – Tunnel View No.2 – Medium Format

For those of you familiar with Flickr, the shot above has been at the top of my stream for ‘Interestingness’ almost since the day that I posted it. It was taken at the famous Tunnel View on California Highway 41 in Yosemite National Park during a break in a winter storm this past February. This is the same location that Ansel Adams made his famous ‘Clearing Winter Storm’ photograph at.

The Moon and Fog Above The City

Taken from the Marin Headlands during blue hour with a full moon, this shot is one of the most favored shot of the Golden Gate Bridge that I have taken. It was taken about an hour after sundown and is long exposure on Kodak Ektachrome 100 Vivid Saturation. I was bracketing like crazy and did not take down exposure times for the individual shots. I was using f/16 and this is probably in the 30 to 40 second range. I did crop it from the original square image for composition.

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts

One of the most recognizable landmarks in San Francisco is the Palace of Fine Arts. It was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and has just recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. This is a 30 second exposure at f/22 on Kodak E100VS film.

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