Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Talk To Me Lynx!

Yashica Lynx-14e, Kodak Ultramax-400

The Yashica Lynx 14 is iconic. It's the Vietnam war camera. Johnson was in the Whitehouse, and Pearson was in Ottawa. Everybody's favourite uncle owned one, and took all the summer holiday family pictures with one. There have been a lot of Yashica Rangefinder cameras showing up in the classifieds and in yard sales, since digital came along to make everybody think that film is a thing of the past.

But not all Yashica Rangefinders were created equal. The Lynx-14 came out before the once famous Japanese company "progressed" into their convoluted attempts at automation of shutter speeds. Suddenly, it was thought that nailing the exposure with an electric eye, automatically, might be a good thing, and I can't argue - yes it's a great idea. Unfortunately, it became Yashica's demise, as they were concentrating so much on putting transistors and wires into their cameras, the mechanical and optical quality for which they were once the supreme Ninjas began to suffer badly. The Lynx-14 came along before all that.

The one that I recently picked up after a long wait for the Salvation Army Thrift Store to drop it's price from $89 to a much closer to market value of $39 is actually a "14e" model. The "e" means they added the first hint of the electronics that would become their downfall - it was an electric eye, with an integrated circuit, no less, that powered a three-light viewfinder system to tell you if you were too hot, too cold, or just right, with your exposure. It created a very ugly looking vestige on the front plate of an otherwise very pretty camera, but fortunately, this is the only thing that changed. Coincidently, by the time Yashica added the "e" to the Lynx-14, the world had changed a lot more - Nixon was in the White House and Trudeau was in Ottawa, but Vietnam was still raging on. This camera would look right at home in the TV series Mad Men, right along with the gold cigarette lighters, Rolex watches and Stetson Fedoras.

But look at the photos that it makes! That enormous f1.4 lens, with it's built-in Copal shutter must be right up there with the all time world's best! I was amazed to see the scans that came out of my humble Epson V500 with this roll of film. In fact, as I was guessing every exposure, because I haven't bothered looking for replacement batteries for the "e" part of the camera, and also left my phone camera with it's light-meter app at home, I thought this roll was going to be a complete disaster. Not so! Either I'm getting very good at estimating, or it is like the experts say about the new films - they are very forgiving, and you can be four stops off either way and still get a good exposure. Case in point - for this shot I had been shooting outdoors using 1/250 sec at f8, and completely forgot to change my exposure after moving indoors. I boosted the exposure in the scanner's software by a couple of stop values (Newbies - this used to be called "pushing" when prints were done in the darkroom) -

Andrew - always good for a "thumbs-up"!

So - I'll stop now. It's a Yashica with a fantastic lens, it's got a rangefinder, which for you newbies is like a second viewfinder that helps you get perfect focus very quickly by aligning a split-image into one, it's amazingly well crafted, a true classic, it takes the best pictures of any camera that I own, and it only cost me $39. Now - enjoy the pictures:

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