I’ve now published seven blog posts showing images taken on a trip to the Isle of Mull using solely a Yashicamat 124G twin lens reflex camera, with it’s fixed 80mm lens, and solely using Ilford HP5+ rated at box speed and developed in HC-110.
So how well did that plan work out ?
The answer is fairly well, but with some significant issues.
I was entirely happy with only having one focal length available. At no time did I yearn for a wider lens or a longer lens. It seems that my “photographic eye” naturally adapts so that it finds compositions that suit the focal length I have available.
The relatively light weight of the kit was also a blessing. Whether I was walking or cycling, the weight of the camera was never an issue.
I was also happy to take all of the images using HP5+. When there was enough light, I was able to use one of the little set of Bay 1 filters I have – yellow, orange, green, and red – to bring out details in the clouds or increase the seperation in vegetation. Once or twice I shot without filters when I wanted to shoot at ISO400 without any filter compensation.
Now for the “issues” ….
I mentioned in the first post in the series that I’d packed a little Rollei B35 35mm camera just in case the Yashicamat failed on me. Turns out that plan is sound only if
a) The Rollei B35 didn’t also have problems.
b) I’d not noticed that the Yashicamat had problems before I got back home and developed the films, and
I didn’t use the Rollei until the last day, when for no particular reason I decided to shoot a few frames with it. Perhaps I was thinking that, since it was a bright day, it was an opportunity to get a few images with the Adox HR-50 that was loaded in that camera. However, I found that the camera wasn’t winding on very well, so there’s probably overlapping frames in that shot. No great loss and if necessary I could have cut out the portion already shot and reloaded the film.
The Yashicamat operated fine during the week, but problems became apparent when I developed the films. Out of the seven rolls of HP5+ I exposed, three had fewer than the expected 12 images. Even though I had carefully wound on until the marker line matched the green start mark in the camera, the camera did not wind on far enough before frame 1, so the first few frames would have been exposed on the backing paper and there was blank film at the end of the roll.
The second issue was a slight light leak along one side of the image; this wasn’t entirely a surprise because I knew the camera back wasn’t as tight as it should be. When not using a tripod, I use the bottom half of the leather case and don’t get light leaks. The shots with light leaks were all when I took the case off to screw in a tripod.
The light leaks aren’t a big issue – I was able to crop out the small affected area – and I can easily either put light new seals in or just tape the camera up like I do with a Holga. Incidentally the internet shows that some Yashicamat 124G owners swear that the camera does not have, and does not need, light seals, whereas others state that they have stripped out old seals and fitted new ones.
The third issue is haze in the taking lens, resulting in a lack of contrast, particularly when shooting into the sun. Most the images from Mull which I shared had been “treated” in Lightroom with the thoughtfully-titled “Dehaze” tool. But I would like to clean the lens if it’s possible. Again, internet advice varies from “no problem, clean it with alcohol” to “look for a new camera”.
Because of the film winding issue, I’m probably going to send the camera off for repair and maybe let a professional clean the taking lens as well.
When I think about it, almost every film camera I have suffers from some feature that’s not working. Sometimes it’s a fault that can be easily worked around – like a meter not being accurate. I’m totally comfortable with using an external meter. However, film winding issues and optical defects are more of a problem.
Whilst the use of film seems to have increased a lot over the last few years, the problem is that there are no new quality film cameras being made. So over time it becomes more and more likely that we film photographers will be battling with faulty cameras. C’est la vie.