The Yashica A is a TLR (twin lens reflex) camera produced during a 10-year run from 1959 to 1969. I recently bought myself one of these antique cameras, and am excited to share with you how they work, and how to have some fun with them!
This camera is physically quite different from most cameras people are used to seeing. As opposed to being a horizontal configuration, this device is actually taller than it is wide. Additionally, there are two lenses on its front (hence the name: Twin Lens Reflex). This is because one acts as your viewfinder while the other is the one that actually lets light onto your film when you click the shutter. (One nice thing is that the lens cap covers both the viewing lens and the picture taking lens, so you’ll see only black if you’ve left it on, a nice reminder!) With such an unusual appearance, you might get some curious head turns when you’re using a TLR out and about, it’s definitely a conversation starter!
One of the first things you’ll likely notice that’s unique/different about operating this style of camera is that you hold the camera to your chest and look down into the viewfinder from above, instead of bringing the camera to your face and looking out in front of you. This kind of viewfinder takes some getting used to, as things in the viewfinder are mirrored and therefore might feel like they’re moving backwards from what you're "telling" it to do based on your movements. So it’s a little counter intuitive for those of us used to more modern cameras, but you’ll get used to it quickly!
This camera uses 120mm medium-format film (like the Holga we talked about a few months ago). However, unlike the Holga, the images I took with the Yashica were very crisp, honestly surprisingly so. The manual film advance means you can do double exposures and other things that I do love about the Holga. However unlike the Holga the film advance is very solid and tight. Definitely good if you want to be precise when lining up your exposures. One more difference between the two is that the Yashica has a much wider range of aperture and shutter speed options, making this a real nice upgrade for people who want to take their medium-format film photography a bit more seriously.
To start you lift up the top to access the viewfinder, which is you’ll see on the floor of the little chamber created by the metal wings you’ve just lifted up. If you need a little help focusing, you can press on the "Y" on the front of the top hatch you lifted to pop out a magnifying glass! To return the magnifying glass to its place, simply push it back. Focus and film advance are controlled with knobs on the side of the camera body, while shutter speed is adjusted by twisting the wheel surrounding the lens. Lastly, aperture is set by moving the small onion-shaped pointer to the desired f/stop, indicated by the numbers on the black band to the right (when looking at the camera) of the lens. To click your picture, press the silver button at the bottom-left (again, when looking at the camera).
I go over all of these settings/functions, and how to load the camera with film, in the video below. BONUS: while adding the film I accidentally rolled past the first few exposures because I couldn’t see the tiny numbers through the video screen haha. So an unplanned lesson on an alternative way to achieve double exposures! Shoot your roll, roll it up, then re-load it into the camera and shoot it again! You’ll likely be very surprised by the results unless you’ve kept a very accurate log of your shots. But that’s part of the fun!
If you do get your hands on a TLR camera, I’d love to see what you shoot with it! Get in touch with me here, on Instagram, or on facebook and share some of your pics! Here are some I’ve taken with my Yashica A below: