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My Two Camera Month Project - May 2021: Fomapan 400, Yashica 35 YL & Fujica 35 Automagic

Each month for a year I will use one pair of cameras, then next month switch to another pair. They are all fixed-lens compact cameras. I will use the same film stock in both cameras. Each month I will share my impressions from using the cameras, while showing the photographs I make.

Part #1: May 2021

Film type: Fomapan 400

The first one is my Yashica 35 YL

It's a 1959 rangefinder camera with a f/2,8 45 mm lens.

Then there is Fujica 35 Automagic.

The basics

The YL has a rangefinder, the Fujica doesn't. The YL is a straight-forward manual exposure camera with no light meter. 

The Fujica is more quirky, to say the least:

Focusing is done using a small tab on the front face of the lens. The front lens element moves in or out when this flimsy little thing is rotated. When I got the camera the ring holding the tab came off so I had to glue it back for the focusing to work. 

Well, so far it's been pretty straight forward.

As you can see I've added some scribbles with a marker to aid my exposure settings. This is where it starts to get quirky:

The aperture control is set to Auto or numbers 1 to 5 which equals stops 3,8; 5,6; 8; 11; 16. I don't know how the Auto mode works, supposedly it adapts to the flash settings. Which happens to be the other set of scribbles.

There are two shutter speeds: 1/40th and 1/200th of a second. I guess more in Auto mode? I don't want to waste film to see whether Auto works since I'm content with the manual controls.

To get to either of the two shutter speeds I turn the ring to place the little yellow television-looking thing on either side of the red arrow.

Now I can start exposing photographs. The boxy shape of the camera body may be off-putting visually, but it feels good to hold it. It feels stable but still light. The shutter release is smooth and the shutter rather quiet, going off with a little thump which reverberates inside the camera.

This camera is not entirely new to me. I exposed half a roll a year ago. The photos came out a bit soft but satisfactory. I looked for contrasts and exposed for that. Here are some examples from that recently developed first roll:

I think that the first experience with the camera was better than the recent one, this May. I don't feel any particular love for the Automagic. It's easy enough to expose photos as I want them, but there are other cameras (with lenses) that are more dear to me that have their own distinct characteristics (both as seen in the finished photographs and in usage).

The most successful photos from the Fuji May roll:

They are all straight from scanner with no editing.

In conclusion we can see that the Fujica lens renders a bit soft. And both light and focus gets worse when we get closer to the edges. But it's not catastrophic. It's still a sharp lens. The bokeh is nice - look at the background in the photo with the oil barrell.

Yashica 35 YL

This camera is a proper rangefinder camera which instills confidence. It's all metal and is easily handled. By far, it is the oddest duckling among the myriad of stylishly designed models that Yashica churned out in the late '50s and Sixties.

The basics

Functionally it's nowhere near strange. The shutter, aperture and focusing is controlled on the lens. There's no light metering included so those three controls are all there is - no ASA/ISO/DIN dial. The rewind crank is on the underside of the body, but that's not particularly unusual.

The one thing I have a problem with is that the winder can be used even if an exposure hasn't been made. It is therefore possible to miss exposures, just winding past them. I don't know if this is a technical problem with only my camera or if the model suffers from this issue. I overcome it by diverging from my usual routine of winding on directly after every exposure, to instead wind just before the exposure. It takes some thinking at first, but quickly becomes habit.

Another problem stemming from the winder setup is that the frame counter isn't coupled to the cogs feeding the film on. It seems to be coupled to the winder, period. I therefore first exposed 36 exposures (37, 38... 39...???) without the film winding. The film leader had slipped from the winding spool because of a loose screw which holds the curved metal sheet that pins the leader. Well. I can't remember any of the exposures I made so it's not a big loss...

This makes me come back to the rewind crank setup. In the light of my problems above, it appears to be designed in a way so that you can't know whether the film actually winds on or not... ...

I do love the focusing tab. It's very handy to use only one finger; the focus throw is rather short; the rangefinder patch is a bit pale but okay in most light situations.

The aperture and shutter control rings are ridged but too thin, making them a bit fiddly, but not annoyingly. They're okay. 

As you can tell my impressions of using the camera aren't all rose coloured. The shutter release, which is square shaped and plastic, actually does feel perfect. It has a soft approach and releases at the exact right depression. Its protrusion from the the top cover however, without a protecting edge, gives you another reason not to wind the lever (and thus tensioning the shutter) after each exposure but before it.

I haven't used the YL in years. Being rather wet behind the ears trying my hand at street photography and making candids of people in the streets of Gothenburg several years ago was my first and only experience of it. But using it during those days left a lasting impression making me never consider parting ways it.

Actually it is my second YL. The first one which I bought (for a pittance) didn't work. So I sold it for scraps. Several weeks later - lo and behold - another one was up for sale! They are not common cameras. On top of that, and me winning the bidding (a pittance, again), the seller lived in the same city, Malmö.

He didn't have a story about it. It was a sweltering (for Sweden) summer's day and we met in the street outside his house to make the exchange. He'd inherited it from someone. Too bad. He was a friendly middle aged guy. Tall and wiry, all black clad. I always try to pry stories about the cameras I buy if I get to meet the seller.

Some photos from this May, straight from the scanner:

Modern gardening.

My conclusion regarding the YL is that we have a sharp lens on this one. No discernible fall-off of focus or light closer to the edges as with the Fujica. I am very happy with how these photos turned out. The YL is a very competent picture maker. I am excited to try for instance orthochromatic film with it in future.

Yes we have cats.

Next month means you get to see the next pair of cameras! I can't wait!

Check out my Instagram and my Etsy camera shop!


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