By George Griffin
Over the last year I have dabbled in shooting medium format. First with a 6×9 box camera and then in October 2021 I shot a Holga for Holga Week.
I was enjoying shooting with these cameras but felt that I wanted something with a bit more control.
I looked at the medium format SLRs but decided I wanted something with more of a classic look and this meant a twin lens reflex (TLR). A Rolleiflex was out of my price range, so it came down to what is considered a Rolleiflex clone, the Yashicamat 124G.
The 124G was produced between 1970 and 1986 and was the last TLR made by Yashica.
The 124G is a 6×6 format TLR, which means that there are two lenses: the top one is the viewing lens and has a widest aperture of 2.8 and below this is the taking lens which goes as wide as 3.5. Both lens are 80mm, because of the configuration of the lens there can be some parallax error but you only really notice this when working close up.
The f2.8 viewing lens combined with the waist-level finder gives a very bright image in the viewfinder. The viewfinder also has a flip up +3 diopter for more accurate focusing.
Either side and between the two lenses are the two small wheels to adjust the shutter speed and the aperture. First time use of these can take some getting used to. The aperture goes from f3.5 to f32 and the shutter speed ranges from 1 second to 1/500 aswell as bulb.
The ISO (or ASA as it is marked on the camera) is from 25 to 400 and adjusted by another small wheel on the right side of the camera.
Information for shutter speed and aperture is displayed in a window just above the taking lens and is easy to see when you’re looking through the waist-level finder.
The 124G has a built-in coupled exposure meter with a match needle display. Once the ISO is set it’s just a matter of adjusting shutter speed and aperture to line the needle up with a notch and you have the perfect exposure.
The meter does need a battery for it to work and this can be problematic as it requires a 1.3v PX625 mercury battery which is now illegal, and using replacement batteries can throw the meter off. Currently my camera has a PX625A battery in it and the exposure seems to be accurate when compared with my Sekonic Twinmate L208. Only time will tell if the meter stays accurate.
The right side of the camera as you are holding it has the folding wind-on crank, which you pull out to advance the film and then a half turn back so the crank then sits back flush within the camera body. Also on this side of the camera are the exposure count which will be set to either 12 or 24 depending on what film you use.
The left side has the battery compartment, the two film-spool load/unload knobs and the focusing wheel. The focusing wheel has the distances on it from 1m (3.3ft) to infinity. Also built into the focusing wheel is a handy film type reminder. Turning the wheel moves the twin lens backwards and forwards. There is also the flash bracket which is close to the sync port on the front of the camera.
On the subject of flash the 124G has a leaf shutter lens, so the flash will sync with all shutter speeds.
I mentioned the exposure count shows either 12 or 24, this is because the 124G can take 120 or 220 film. The latter was introduced in 1965 and is twice the length of 120, giving 24 images instead of the normal 12. The way that this could be achieved was by removing the backing paper and adding only a leader and trailer. This also makes the film thinner so an adjustable pressure focus plate is needed within the camera; this is moved to either 24 or 12 depending which film you are shooting. As far as I’m aware 220 film was completely discontinued by 2015 but recently Shanghai film in China has reintroduced a 100 ISO B&W film and that this what the accompanying images are shot on.
So far I have to put three rolls of film through this camera, one roll of HP5+ and two rolls of the Shanghai GP3 220.
When looking to buy this camera I looked at a lot of reviews, and one thing people mentioned was a lot of plastic in its construction. This is true but it doesn’t bother me as I’m used to shooting with plastic fantastics from the 90s. Even with the plastic this camera still has a heft to it, weighing in at something like 1.1kg (2.3lbs).
Although there is plastic in this camera it still feels well built and something that will last. This example is at least 36 years old and looks new, no doubt a testament to the quality of the manufacturing.
But, like all TLRs it has its quirks.
The first is the two little wheels that adjust the aperture and the shutter speed – these can be difficult to find at times. Gradually muscle memory kicks in and your finger starts to find where they are. The second is a more general one when it comes to using TLRs – getting used to the image being reversed in the viewfinder.
I think this is a great camera for someone stepping up to medium format, once you become used to the controls it is a very easy camera to work with and the images it produces are top notch.