This Old Camera: The Yashica Mat LM

So why a TLR? They look cool.

Started with my wanting to get my mitts on a Rolleiflex TLR. At first an f/2.8… Wait, how much? Ok, an f/3.5 then. That settles it. Wait, a Yashica f/3.5 for what now? So why an LM with an old tech selenium meter

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instead of the 124G (great review here) and it’s battery powered meter? Simple. Reality and cost. The reality is that I would use a handheld meter or Sunny 16 no matter which one I bought. Personal preference. As far as cost the LM’s go for a little over $100 and a 124G approaches $300. So a $120 LM from KEH.com along w/ a leather ever-ready case that cost peanuts,

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also from KEH but through ebay it is. (Oddly the case was not listed on the KEH.com website alongside the LM, but I hardly think the two being listed at the same time is a coincidence so it was a kit likely broken up after being bought. Curious.) Plus it has chrome shutter and aperture knobs rather than black ones.

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So an affordable shelf trophy that actually takes pictures. Great. But here is the thing. This camera was smaller and much lighter, quieter in use, and significantly easier to focus than I expected. Much more portable than the all manual Hasselbad 501c. Better than? No. Comparable results especially given the money saved? Definitely. And because this is so reasonably priced it does not have the same drop, lost, stolen concerns as the Hasselblad. And I love capable, affordable options.

Now even though it has one of the quietest shutters I have heard on any film format this camera does still draw a good bit of attention however. If not because of sound, why? Looks.

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Medium format cameras are fantastic for landscape and isolated portrait and environmental locations but, since my life does not allow much time for such, one of my favorite things to do is to use medium format cameras in everyday situations. Snapshot overkill. This is a very portable camera that is easy to have on you. As an example one day at the carwash I noticed my better half taking in some sun while we waited on the car:

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One day I crossed paths with a friend in a parking deck. As we were talking I noticed the light behind him and asked him to hold on for a moment and then this:

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Was doing a group photo for a male chorus I used to sing with and was able to quietly shoot a few frames while I was waiting:

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It has a focus magnifier.

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Sports finder which is useful for quick composition when using Sunny 16.

Focus screen grid to aid in composition.

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Easy to open and load.

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I love the aperture and shutter speed readout and adjacent knobs that are all easily viewed when focusing.

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Great lens.

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I also picked up a wide angle bay lens adpater for near nothing.

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Notes:

  • Loading film is fiddly. Youtube is your friend. I winged it at first and fed the film below a roller at first. Thankfully the camera was forgiving but watch the videos first.
  • Focusing is waist level simplicity.
  • Not sure what happened to one exposure, but I got a multiple exposure shot I really liked. Wish I knew how I did that.img283
  • Get the ever-ready case if you can. Protects, provides a neck strap, and looks the business.
  • Everything opens, closes, and moves with a sense of quality that belies its price. Thought I would buy this to see if I liked TLRs and upgrade to a Rollei later possibly, but I can not identify a single reason to do that now.

That was pretty much an all pros blog post. What would be the downsides? For a $120 medium format camera that is easy to use and takes great photos in the same format as my beloved Hasselblad I have none. There are a load of cameras that would cost much more money and not produce a better image.

Advice? To each their own, but if you want an honest to goodness medium format camera for little more than twice the spend of a plastic Holga this is your camera.

As per usual here is a link to an ongoing gallery and samples are below.

Happy shooting.

-ELW

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