First Impressions

I recently inherited a Yashica-Mat EM, one of the cameras used by my granddad in his days as a photographer. The first time I shot the Yashica was about a month ago. I took the exposed roll in to get developed, and returned three days later to pick up the developed results. I looked at the negatives on the light box, and though the results weren’t anything spectacular, they were a good sense of things to come. On my way out of the store, I passed by the film development supplies. It brought back a lot of memories. I was on the yearbook staff in my junior year of high school, and I spent a lot of time in the dark room developing black and white film and prints. Seeing the chemicals on the shelf in the store showed me that processing hasn’t changed at all since those yearbook days. I picked up a plastic basket and stuffed it with D-76, fixer, Photo-flo, a plastic adjustable reel, a canister, and two plastic bottles. My spare bathroom was about to become a dark room.

This was my second outing with the Yashica-Mat EM,  The first time out, I used the built-in light meter of my Nikon D200 to approximate exposure. It got me close, but it didn’t really prove to be a very good exposure tool. This time, I managed to dig out the Sekonic meter I used back in the day when I worked in film. It uses both a spot and incident attachments. And while the spot is fairly wide, I chose to use it so I could meter both the subject and the sky and set the right exposure make for a good subject without the sky blowing out.

So now that I had an exposed roll of film, it was time to develop. I mixed the D-76 and fixer and poured them into the plastic bottles. With a test roll, I practiced loading the film into the reel in the dark. All set. Well, except for one minor detail. When I removed the lid from the canister, I found that the reel is about one-eighth of an inch too large. Good thing this was discovered before the reel was loaded! It was Sunday night and I wasn’t about to wait for a trip to the camera store on Monday to do finish this. I searched around the kitchen and found that a 32oz. yogurt container can also double as a film canister (make sure to finish off the yogurt and wash it out first). The container is far from light-tight, but a ceramic vase works just fine. I had my dark room!

In the dark bathroom, I load the film into the reel, place it into the yogurt container, pour in the D-76, gently lower it into the vase, and then place a book on top. I sneak out of the bathroom and set the timer on the microwave. I’m supposed to agitate the film during this time, but the chance of exposure and spill is too risky. I return about 10 minutes later, retrieve the yogurt container from the vase and pour the D-76 into a cup while trying not to spill any since I can’t see a thing. I rinse the reel with water, and repeat the earlier step, only with fixer this time. When returning ten minutes later, I flip on the light switch and dig the reel out. The stretched-out roll reveals success!

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This was a valuable lesson. I made another trip to the camera store this weekend to buy a new canister. This time everything fits!

2 comments so far

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  1. Great story! I too started in photography many years ago (like 1976). My Mom got me a brand new Pentax K1000 and the rest was history. I picked up a Yashica Mat EM on eBay a few days ago….it just came in the mail today. Everything seems to work ok with the exception of the light meter, the little green needle never moves. I’m considering having it fixed but not any time soon. I own 3 Sekonic light meters, any one of which will meter way better than the built-in light meter if it were working. Got 4 rolls of ILFORD film (two 100-ISO B&W, two 400-ISO B&W), can’t wait to spool her up and take a few test shots.

  2. Thanks Dred. My light meter’s out too, but I doubt I’ll ever fix it. Nice shots on your site. I look forward to more from the Yashica. Happy shooting!