THE YASHICA MAT 124-G AND THE ZEN OF MEDIUM FORMAT PHOTOGRAPHY


With equal measures of both excitement and trepidation, I had my first roll of 120 film developed from the Yashica. Given previous (and, yes, admittedly self-inflicted) problems with old film cameras I was preparing myself for a let down.

But the end result was anything but and I'm now coming to terms with the fact that I have another distraction in my life that will eat up time and money: medium format photography.

A Gamble that Paid Off

First things first, the camera works. Sounds straightforward enough but there is always an element of risk and you do hear stories of purchases over the web gone wrong, with unwitting victims paying over the odds for a dud. I'd been biding my time with this purchase and considered myself to have done a lot of research on prices, conditions, and the mechanics but even then you're still putting a lot of trust in the seller.

My patience and research has seemingly been rewarded. I tested as many different apertures and shutter speeds as possible and from the photos it is apparent that there are no problems. Everything appears to be working as it should which is a huge relief and confirms that it will not be destined to collect dust as an expensive model.

The only fault I have discovered is the light meter, which is hopeless. It flickers into life when you open the viewing screen but routinely suggests that everything is massively underexposed when it clearly is not. I am going to see if a new battery will bring it back to life but in the meantime I have been metering with my Fuji X100S and dialing in the settings, which has worked without any problems.

Verdict on the Prints

​Honestly, the quality of the photos is better than I had imagined. The amount of detail and the clarity is better than anything I have ever shot before. There's a crispness to each image that makes it really come alive. Holding the physical photo in your hand just adds to that feeling.

I thought that the square format would take some getting used to but not the case. There is a tangible difference between composing in a square format and cropping square digitally; the latter now feels very artificial.

Ilford Delta 400 was my film of choice and I need to give it a mention too. Kodak Tri-X has always been, in my opinion, the definitive black and white film: contrasty, with that distinctive grain. I didn't think that another film would come along and knock it off its pedestal but the Ilford has done just that.

There is not quite as much contrast but the detail and dynamic range is excellent. And the grain is extremely fine - certainly not as visible as the Tri-X. For subjects where you need dramatic contrast, i.e. shooting shadows in bright daylight, then I would choose Tri-X. But for portraits and landscapes and almost anything else, Ilford is likely going to be my go-to.

Slow Down, Think More, Shoot Less

I could not have asked for a better result from this purchase. The camera is working as it should be (light meter aside) and the photos it produces are winning me over. A part of me was wondering whether I would struggle to see the difference between shooting 120 and 35mm film but to my eyes the distinction is clear. And it's not just about the quality of the images but the actual process involved in achieving those images.

Film photography encourages the shooter to slow down and think more about the basics: exposure, composition, focus. Shooting a TLR takes that to a whole new zen-like level of concentration and patience - not just because you only have 12 exposures per roll but operationally too. As I mentioned in my previous post, shooting film makes you instantly more connected to the art of producing photographs; medium format takes that intimacy one step further still.

What I am most relieved about, however, is that I do not have to undertake any cleaning or repairs! Unlike the Olympus, I have no intention of carrying out any DIY and it's already loaded with a roll of Kodak Portra ready for the next shoot.

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© 2018 Stephen Wallace Photography

 

Corporate headshots, lifestyle portraits, and personal branding photography across South London, Central London and Surrey.

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