Daniel Pietzsch

New camera: the Yashica FR1

Last year, I acquired a few new cameras. One of them was a Yashica FR1 (or FRI, as it’s often written as) with a selection of lenses. It was a random opportunity. And I took it. Here are some first images taken with the 24mm lens I bought with it.

Self-portrait in a mirror, holding the Yashica FR1 to my eye. A pronounced all-white strip is on the right quarter of the image.
That's actually no light leak: it's simply the last shot of the roll.

Ever since my Nikon FE stopped working a while back, I was keen to get a SLR camera again. I actually wanted another Nikon – preferably a FM – so I could keep using the two lenses I have for the system. But since the Yashica came with lenses, I figured this could be my SLR for now.

The lenses I acquired with it are:

  • A 24mm ƒ/2.8,
  • a 28mm ƒ/2.8,
  • a 50mm ƒ/1.7,
  • a 135mm ƒ/2.8,
  • and a 70-210mm ƒ/4-5.6.

That’s pretty much every focal length I do not have for my Leica.

Zoe inside our campervan on the ladder that connects to the overhead bed.
24mm is great for the tight interior of the camper.

I find it practical to have a SLR as a secondary camera system, because both the cameras and lenses are (usually) significantly cheaper than for the Leica M system. And that makes it much more reasonable to try a different focal length or take the camera to places I deem unsafe for my Leica – like a swimming pool or the beach for example.

Zoe sitting at the beach, smiling and looking down into her glass of fruit with a spoon in her hand.
Getting close with a wide lens at the beach – a place I wouldn't take the Leica. Simply too much sand and water involved, plus I need to be able to leave the camera abandoned without constant worry.

I only shot a single roll with the Yashica this summer, but I very much enjoyed the experience – in particular the much wider field of view of that 24mm lens (normally I shoot with a 35mm focal length on my Leica). The camera allowed me to take photos I couldn’t or wouldn’t take with the Leica. Either because it’s simply a different focal length, the subject is too close – an SLR allows you to focus much closer – or it’s a location I don’t feel comfortable bringing my precious rangefinder.

Zoe inside a swimming pool, looking into an installed bucket play thingy.
Another place I don't feel comfortable taking my most expensive camera to.

The very wide angle is great when used in narrow spaces like our camper for example. And it also makes it much easier to include myself in the frame.

Holding my beer, saying cheers to Nicole at our camping table.
A cheeky afternoon beer. Super wide-angle for maximum being-in-the-moment photography.
Nicole and Zoe reading a book together inside the camper in the evening.

As is apparent from these sample images, though, I still need to fix the light leaks this camera has. I did shoot a test roll without any such issues when I got the camera, but the one roll I shot during summer – from which these sample images are taken – did have a significant amount of light streaks on its negatives. Fair enough, considering the camera was much more outside, not seldom in direct sunlight.

Our camper parked near a lake. We have our table and chairs next to it. It's sunny.
Zoe knee-deep in a lake, looking back at the camera.
A pretty extreme case of light leakage.
Bare feet in a clear lake.

Another problem my model has, is that the frame counter does not work; leaving you wondering how many images you’ve already taken with it.

A book in my lap.

Despite these minor annoyances, I’m happy I bought this camera. While this Yashica does feel a little cheaper than my old Nikon FE – i.e. lighter, more plastic-y, and less smooth in operation – it really does the job and was a pleasure to take pictures with. And the images from that 24mm lens look great to me, too.

Zoe in bathrobe in front of our oven, looking at the pizza that's baking inside.
Almost Pizza time.
Zoe in the bathroom, photographed via a reflection in the mirror, that also contains the camera itself and my two hands.
Much easier to include oneself with a lens this wide.

While my Leica M4-2 and a 35mm lens will certainly keep being my main setup, this Yashica SLR is a great way to occasionally spice up my images with a different field of view and have a different shooting experience.