Yashica A: The Loveable Entry Level Camera To TLR Medium Format

Yashica ASo you’ve found yourself with a Yashica A in your hands, or you’re looking to buy one?

That’s awesome!

Yashica A was my first foray into medium format and TLR photography. Shooting these old cameras can be a whole lot of fun and damn are the results sharp!

But they aren’t without their challenges.

Loading the film and knowing how to use them can be a little overwhelming in the beginning, I know it was for me at least.

…and that’s why I’m writing this post to give a Yashica A review to help you get set up with everything you need to know.

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And exactly how to use it to get the best results possible.

Yashica A

A Brief History Of The Yashica A

The Yashica A was released roughly around 1956 alongside the Yashica C and Yashica LM. At a price back then of $29.95 which in today’s money accounting for inflation is around $250.

It was initially launched with twin Yashimar lenses before being reviewed and changed to twin Yashikor 80mm f/3.5 lenses.

With a leaf shutter the camera is able to sync at all shutter speeds.

If you’re tring to track down a Yashica A camera manual you can head over to Butkus and get one online for free there.

***You should NEVER pay for old film camera manuals. Don’t get tricked into buying them, they are nearly always supplied for free through one resource or another.***

Yashica A Side
Film Advance And Focusing Ring Featured

Camera Value

The value of a Yashica A can vary widely like most cameras.

If your Yashica A is beat-up and worn away with a few scuffs here and there, but the shutter still fires and it can take photos, you’re looking at around $60.

Remember it is a very affordable camera, but that doesn’t mean it’s poor quality. 

Most of them sit at around the $80 – $150 mark for your average condition camera.

But there’s a catch…

If you have one that is in pristine condition then you can expect to get a couple hundred dollars for it, probably upwards of $300.

Not bad for a 60-year-old camera!

Yashica A Side
Hot Shoe And Film Roll Release Knobs Featured

What Film Does The Yashica A Take?

The Yashica takes 120 film.

This comes in all your favorite varieties like 35mm. From Portra 800 to T-Max it’s all there.

With the 6×6 format of the Yashica you should be getting about 12 photos per roll of film.

Using The Yashica – A

HOW TO USE The Yashica A

Once you get past loading 120 film, the Yashica A is a relatively straightforward camera to use.

There’s no batteries so you don’t need to worry about finding any rare 1.35V mercury battery solutions.

Just load the film, have a stab at the camera settings, focus and shoot.

Yashica A Diagram
Yashica A Diagram

How To Open And Load Film

Turn the Yashica onto its back and twist the mechanism on the base counterclockwise or towards the ‘O’.

This will raise a metal shaft and release a locking mechanism allow the back cavity to open.

When it is ready to open it should look something like this…

Notice how it has extended away from the body of the camera?

Next, depending on who last used the camera you may still have a film spindle in there or you may need to head to a local camera shop and pick one up.

Make sure you go to a film camera store! 

Even better, go to a friend that shoots 120 film.

Most conventional camera stores will not stock 120 film spindles.

If you find you have a spindle at the base of the camera then follow these instructions to install film:

1. Pull The Knob At The Base

This will release the spindle

2. Remove The Spindle

Check to make sure it isn’t damaged.

3. Pull The Other Knob

It can be a little tricky to fit the spindle in. Just give it a little wiggle about or turn the film advance and it should take.

4. Looks Like This?

Then you’ve got the first part done of installing new film.

Now to load the film.

Take the 120 film out of the packaging and remove the bit of tape that prevents it from unraveling. It doesn’t matter if you tear it a little bit like I have.

First, you want to take note of a little tapered tab at the end of the roll, we use this to insert into the upper spindle.

120 Film Tab
Insert This Tab In The Upper Spindle

Place your roll of film in the lower spindle place that we have just removed in the previous steps.

Inserting 120 film

Place the tab on the roll of film in the opening of the upper spindle and slowly twist the film advance knob to tighten up the slack on the roll.

Once you have it tight, close the back and keep an eye through the little red window as you keep turning the film advance knob.

Rolling On 120 Film
Tighten The Film Until You Know It’s Taken Hold

As the film continues to spool on the once empty spindle, it will move closer and closer to the initial position ready to shoot.

It always feels like more turns than necessary to get there.

But you will start to see some arrows appear that point downward (on Kodak 120 film anyway).

Arrow Appearing On 120 Film
Arrow Appearing

Once you see the arrows, keep turning but do it much more slowly now as you are getting close to the starting position.

When you see Kodak printed on the back within a half to quarter turn you are finished.

When you see the ‘1’ center it in the middle of the little red window and you’re ready to start shooting.

Ready For The First Photo
Ready For The First Photo

Don’t Make This Mistake When Loading Film

It is absolutely critical to ensure that when you load the film you are in subdued light.

The 120 format rolls of film have very little in the way of protecting light from exposing parts of the film.

It’s happened a few times to me from being overly careless.

No joke.

So find some shade when loading it up.

Also, make sure to get 120 film.

Get Your Subject In Focus 100% Of The Time

View Through Yashica A Viewfinder
View Through Yashica A Viewfinder
Focusing Glass Down
Focusing Glass Down

The Yashica A comes with a very handy little focusing assistant.

A flip down focusing glass allows you to review your subject under magnification to inspect the focus.

You will find this an absolute blessing when you are out trying to get things in focus.

I use mine all the time and the results are always spot on.

View Through Yashica A Focusing Glass
View Through Yashica A Focusing Glass

It was a bit of a grey overcast day, but you get the picture 😉 (pun intended).

But What About Exposure Settings?

Getting correct exposure settings on your Yashica A can be tricky since there is no light meter. There are two things you can do (well, three actually).

  1. Guess the settings – film (depending on the kind you use) has fairly good exposure latitude. So even if you overexpose or underexpose by a stop, or even two, your photos will still come out. During the middle of the day with ISO 400 film, it’s common to shoot on f11 with 1/125s settings.
  2. Buy a lightmeter – this is obviously the preferred option as it will give you exact exposure settings everytime. It can also be a cumbersome method and slow you down a lot.
  3. Take a camera with an equivalent lense to gauge the light. Sometimes I’ll take a 50mm lens on my 35mm format camera and read the light meter settings from this, then transpose those onto the Yashica A. If it works, why not?

Setting The Aperture

Yashica A Aperture
Yashica A Aperture

The aperture is easy to set on the left side of the lens. A small sliding lever can be moved from f3.5 to f22.

It’s firm enough that it won’t move anywhere if you start jumping around or running after your subject, but not so much so that it becomes a pain to move.

Shutter Speed Settings

Yashica A Shutter Settings
Shutter Settings

The Yashica A offers shutter speeds of up to 1/300s and can go down to Bulb.

Shutter speed is controlled by turning the ring in the direction to get your desired number to line up the marker.

Use This Trick To Get Sharper Shots

To get a clear and sharp image and prevent any shaking or tilting, it helps to have a neck strap on and pull the camera down or away from you.

This will pull the strap tight and help to prevent any little wobbles or motion as you hit the shutter release button.

It also really helps to frame your image.

Film Counter

If you’re new to TLR cameras then you’ve probably been wondering:

How do I know how many shots I’ve taken?”

With TLR cameras, the exposure count is printed on the back of the roll of film.

As you take photos and advance the film, you will be able to see numbers appear on the reverse of the film. These mark the number of photos you have taken.

As long as you start on #1.

…And The Best Part?

The photos speak for themselves…

Yashica A Porta 800
Yashica A Porta 800
Yashica A Porta 800
Yashica A Porta 800
Yashica A Porta 800
Yashica A Porta 800
Yashica A Porta 800
Yashica A Porta 800
Yashica A Porta 800
Yashica A Porta 800
Yashica A Kodak T-Max 400
Yashica A Kodak T-Max 400
Yashica A Kodak T-Max 400
Yashica A Kodak T-Max 400

Not only does the Yashica A take some amazingly sharp shots, it’s a fantastic talking point when out shooting on the streets.

During the photos I captured on the streets of New York and Melbourne (featured above), a few people stopped me on the street to ask about what kind of camera it was and shared their excitement.

Where Can I Get The Cheapest Yashica A?

There’s plenty of places that will have the Yashica A for sale. Start by browsing Craigslist or your local online classifieds. If you don’t know what you should be looking for it might pay to take a friend with you to review it.

There’s not too much that can go wrong with these cameras, but you should still give them the due diligence they deserve.

eBay is another great option and my preferred avenue for buying my 35mm SLR cameras and photography equipment.

You’re not going to have any luck on Amazon, steer clear of there.

So What’s The Real Story?

Yashica A TLR medium format cameras offer an almost unbeatable value for money proposal.

For those looking to get started in 6×6 medium format photography the Yashica A TLR is:

  • Easily affordable,
  • High quality
  • But most of all, awesome fun!

If you’re on a budget and want to get into 6×6 then this is the camera for you. Head on over to eBay and pick one up.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Yashica A review!

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5 thoughts on “Yashica A: The Loveable Entry Level Camera To TLR Medium Format

  1. Hi,
    Very informative and easy to learn and follow along while reading.
    After many years of “sort of” looking for a tlr I found one for $50 I’ve shot and developed about 5 rolls now and I wonder what took me so long, I just love it and carry it everywhere!
    Great article thank you.

  2. I just picked up a Yashica-A for $5 and it’s damn near mint –
    there’s the beginning of 1 or 2 cracks in the leatherette, 1 by the shutter release and 1 by the flash synch terminal but they are very minor and that’s the extent of it’s wear. It’s the original model A with the Yashimar lenses. I even got the original case but the case is broken in 1 spot (where there are 3 snaps on the underside, possibly repairable though).
    I had no idea what this camera was when I found it but I had a hunch it was something nice!
    Great article, James, I learned a fair bit about this camera from this article and 1 other article about the camera’s history.
    I’ll probably be reselling the one I picked up but I may just go buy some film and shoot a roll or two, before it goes.

  3. This cameras are very good portrait cameras.

    Place your subject in the middle and crop the picture later if you use a print service.

    Yashica use a special shutter release similar to old Leica cameras.

    The camera is a very compact 6x6cm (2 1/4 x 2 1/4) camera.

    Keep the little cardboard box and put the film back into it for light protection.

    If you store your camera make sure your shutter is not hooked.

  4. Just picked up a Yashica A for almost nothing. It has a 80mm 3.5 Yashimar lens, does that make it the first version from 1956? Serial 3792662. It looks to be in immaculate condition. Thanks to your description I hope to be able to load film and shoot. Haven’t bought film yet. Having a Leica remote that fits the Yashica is a wonderful asset, just had to remove the little chrome ring on the shutter release. maybe on my tripod with a remote all things become possible.
    Thank You

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