Yashica 635, The Complete Package

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by Dan Deary, Oct 5, 2014.

  1. When I was 18 or so when the photo bug first hit me, I would peruse all the back pages for the ads in the Photo mags and wish for the day I could afford all those goodies. My father had a Sears Tower TLR and I was most familiar with TLR procedures so my attention often went to the TLR ads. The Yashica impressed me because the prices were more reasonable and most write-ups considered the Yashicas to be good quality for the price. The Yashica 635 stood out because it took 120 film and the cheaper 35mm film. Wow! Two cameras in one package! Some ads also featured the wide angle and telephoto auxiliary lenses. At age 18, around 1968, that was my dream outfit. I figured with the dual formats with auxiliary lenses, it was all I would ever want or hope for. For a lot of reasons, that dream never materialized until several years ago.
    In an antique store in Georgia, I came across this Yashica 635 with 35mm kit and the two auxiliary lenses, all complete with leather cases and instruction manual. Remembering my initial fascination with this outfit, I couldn’t resist and plunked down $80 –Heck, I was on vacation( I tend to pay more for cameras on vacation--you too?) After checking some auction sites, recently, it seems $80 was a bargain.
  2. "635' cont'
  3. "635" cont'
  4. Here is some historical data on the “635.” There were many variations of the Yashica TLR line, but the “635” started its run in 1958 and ended in 1971(It’s sister camera “D” was produced simultaneously.) In the last few years of production the “635” and the “D” had the 4 element Yashinon lenses. My version has the 3 element f 3.5 80mm Yashikor lens and, based on the serial number, it was made in 1967. The price in 1969 was $90, the same as the 124 Mat. The “635” included the 35mm adaptor kit as standard. (I read one version of the Rolleicord also came with a 35mm kit.) There is not much historical data on the auxiliary wide and telephoto lenses. The versions I have are “Yashinon” and are a 2nd generation model. I could not establish at this time what the cost was in 1969 but I suspect they were about $30 to $50 each. Many aftermarket auxiliary lenses were made, too.
    My initial impression of the “635” is that it appears well made and well designed for its dual purpose. While never having used a Rolleikin 35mm adaptor on any Rollei, I suspect the “635” is far easier to change formats. I believe with the Rolleikin that small screws had to be swapped out for longer ones (Please correct me if I am wrong.)
    The shutter has a Copal-MXV with manual cocking with no double exposure prevention. Shutter speeds range from 1 sec to 1/500 sec. It also has a self timer, but to engage it, you must be sure the flash sync is set on “X” or you could damage the shutter. The camera functions exactly like the Yashica D except when using the 35 kit. My camera was in excellent condition with smooth focusing and all shutter speeds appeared accurate.
    In reading about the “635,” most users regard the Yashica 3 element lens to be very good, just a little soft on the edges especially when using large apertures. There are not a lot of opinions on the 35mm performance. As far as the auxiliary lenses are concerned the overwhelming opinion is negative, except perhaps the use of the Telephoto for “soft” portraiture.” So with that information, I decided to test both 120 and 35mm formats along with the two auxiliary lenses.
    I was fortunate that I have the original “635” manual which detailed how to change the format to 35mm and load the film. I suspect most camera users could have figured out how to do this without the manual. Interestingly enough, the main manual never mentions the use of auxiliary lenses. I managed to find a separate manual for the auxiliary lenses with very skimpy information. It states “no compensation in exposure is necessary.” It goes on to say “Apertures of f/5.6 to f/11 are recommended to prevent vignetting.” The conversion with the Telephoto is 112.8 mm, close to a 50% increase in focal length. Conversion for the Wide Angle is 58.4mm, a focal length reduction of 25% and a picture area increase of 75%. On the cover of this manual, it shows the auxiliary lens attached to a “635”. Does that mean the auxiliary lenses were designed specifically for the Yashikor lens? Does the performance improve or deteriorate with a Yashinon lens?
    The “635” loads 120 film like most TLRs by lining up arrows on the film backing with the camera arrows. Controls for using 120 film are all on the right side. Knob film advance is initiated by pushing the film release button. It is simple and very reliable whereas the 124 Mat has some history of problems with the crank advance.
  5. First the 120 film performance without auxiliary lenses.
  6. Example 2
  7. Example 3
  8. Example 4
  9. With auxiliary lenses.
  10. Park Scene 2
  11. Park Scene 3
  12. Despite following the instructions to the letter for the auxiliary lenses, shooting mostly at f/8, I did get significant vignetting. I can only guess that if I shot at f/22, it would have been a lot worse. The other thing I noticed was the small “notch” in the lower right corner of the photo. Every frame had this and I quickly discovered the culprit was the 35mm film release knob in its normal position protrudes just before the film plane on the upper left side of the camera. This is easily remedied by pulling out the knob and twisting it in the “out” position, which to me is counterintuitive. This is not always evident in a lot of photos but every negative clearly shows a clear notch. For full frame aficionados this is a bit disquieting. No mention of this is in the manual. Personally I am kicking myself for not having observed this when I loaded the film.
  13. Without the benefit of blowing up the negative in an enlarger the photos appear sharp in the center even with the auxiliary lenses. There was some more fuzziness with the Wide Angle toward the edges. Using the auxiliary lenses was notable in that the taking lenses are quite heavy. Attaching them was easy—too easy in fact. In my examples there was some “slop” in the bayonet mount and while they never fell off the camera, I was constantly in fear that a simple bump could make it crash to the ground. The viewing lens attachment, being smaller and lighter, were much more secure.
    Now for the 35mm adaptor.
  14. 35mm kit
  15. The change to 35mm was fairly simple with 6 separate pieces that made loading the film a piece of cake. The first thing that one realizes is that all 35mm controls are now on the left side of the camera. This is contrary to all my TLR experiences. Advancing the film is by a knob and you must press a film release button to do this. I knew beforehand that all images would be vertical with typical camera orientation. The normal 80mm lens is now a slight telephoto, good for portraits --not so good for landscapes. Now you say just hold the camera on its side at right angles to the subject and compose landscapes. TLR users know the image is reversed so holding the camera in this way makes the image upside down! I have kept an old Popular Photography article from the early 70’s, written by Norman Rothschild called “The guide to the twin-lens reflex.” In it he wrote very favorably about the “635.” Here is what he said about using 35mm for landscapes:
    “…you can turn the camera on its side for horizontals. The image will be upside down. With a little practice this should not disturb you too much (emphasis is mine). To control the vertical movement of the image, simply rotate the camera on an imaginary axis formed by the eye and the center of the focusing screen. To make the image parallel to the edges of the picture frame, rock the camera body up and down on an imaginary axis formed by the lens and subject.”​
    Bear in mind the image within the 35mm frame lines on the fresnel viewing screen is very small. Using the magnifier helps but I found Mr Rothschid’s description almost impossible to accomplish especially when handholding the camera. I have little experience with view cameras and an upside down 4 X 5 image at does not normally intimidate me. However this tiny upside down 35mm image did intimidate me and I wonder if other TLR users have really ever tried this. My answer to Mr. Rothschild is: “Yes it does disturb me very much!
    My solution was to use a tripod, but that proved difficult too, as the “635” along with many TLR’s do not lend themselves to the Hex quick release plate I had on my good Bogen. I had to settle for my old Welt Safe-Lock as long as I oriented the legs in such a way so as to not tip over. Even then I still had difficulties because of the tripods limitations (Note to self: Get a good ball head.) For hand holding the camera, the best way is to pre-focus and then with the 35mm mask installed, to use the Sportsfinder Believe me it will make life a lot simpler.
  16. When I first got interested in darkroom photography, when I was 9 in 1967, I used a different Yashica camera with 120 film. (I never knew about an adapter for it.)
    But not long after that, I mostly went to 35mm. I inherited a few cameras from my grandfather, and also started using my dad's Canon rangefinder. I started spooling film from bulk rolls.(Freestyle for about $5/100 foot roll.)
    The 80mm lens is about right for 120, but short telephoto for 35mm.
    Auxiliary lenses are, in general, known to be lower quality than the camera lens. With 35mm film, though, you shouldn't have so much vignetting as with 120.
    Personally, my favorite lens for 35mm photography is 35mm, not the "normal" 50mm.
  17. Sportsfinder in use.
  18. 35mm frame attachment
  19. My theory about the Yashikor lens despite its being a 3 element lens is that the central portion of the 120 format (also the 35mm portion) will be reasonably sharp perhaps through all apertures. Therefore, in my evolving reasoning, it seems plausible that the auxiliary lenses will be sharp also with 35mm film. That is essentially my test. This means the Wide Angle auxiliary at 58mm is now my normal lens, the 80mm camera lens is a short telephoto, and the Telephoto Auxiliary is the maximum telephoto at 112mm. I kept my exposures within the recommended f stops of f/5.6 to f/11. The images were scanned on a 2450 Epson Perfection flatbed which admittedly not the best for 35mm. The film was Ilford HP4+ developed in HC110 dilution B at 9 min.
  20. Cemetery Building 2 with 35mm film.
  21. Cemetery Building 3 with 35mm film.
  22. I used a 24 exposure roll of Ilford HP4+ and I could not get the last frame in without the frame overlapping because I ran out of film. In the future I would just expose for 23 frames. This is probably due to the camera needing a slightly longer leader. Otherwise spacing was perfect. One flaw with my camera was the fresnel viewing lens had a mottled look due to age and the thin red 35mm frame lines were hard to see especially in sunlight.
  23. The results in my limited test would say the auxiliary lenses work better with 35mm film—there is no vignetting. Both of them showed some loss of sharpness but for the average person, it may have been acceptable. I might give a slight edge to to the Telephoto. When I think about it, probably almost 90% of my 35mm shots with an SLR are horizontal so that to use this camera with 35mm film I would have to be dedicating myself to vertical portraits, something I seldom do. As for the auxiliary lenses because of the aforementioned difficulties, I don’t think I would ever use them again. Almost every TLR user zooms with their feet anyway. I will likely just use the “635” with 120 film only in the future as I expect most owners did.
    My fantasy about the dream outfit at age 18 was shattered completely but this test was fun. I hope you enjoyed it. I apologize for it being so long.
  24. Bravo.
    Nice report in every dimension.
  25. SCL


    Thanks for sharing. As an aside, if you decide to seriously use this camera, you might consider replacing the fresnel screen with a brighter/different one from John Oleson (I did this for two of my TLRs a couple of years ago and found them much easier to nail the focus).
  26. I suspect that people who have used the Rolleikin on their Rolleis, that the use of a pentaprism attachment would greatly improve the use of the 35mm format. I would certainly like to hear from those who may have tried this.
  27. Excellent write up, and pretty well matches my experiences with the 635 and 35mm adapter - I've never seen the auxiliary lenses and probably wouldn't use 'em anyway. I did manage to find the proper lens cap later, but haven't found a hood or filters for the taking lens.
    And the handling quirks are just as Daniel described. Surprisingly I've never had an inadvertent double exposure. Just dumb luck. I had more accidental double exposures with my Rolleiflex 2.8C, probably because I'd inadvertently brush the DE doodad. Personally I preferred the arrangement of most controls on the 635, particularly the focus knob. And while the sports finder setup is functional, it's a bit crude compared with the Rollei. Occasionally I have to adjust the tension on the little clamp that holds the hood in the sports finder position.
    MY 635 has the triplet and it's remarkably sharp, better at the corners and edges than some reports claimed. There's a bit of distortion at the very far edges - possibly astigmatism and coma - that I didn't see in the Rolleiflex, but it's not enough to worry about with most photos. In most photos I couldn't see any differences between the Yashica 635 and my Rollei 2.8C with S-K Xenotar unless I nitpicked the corners in large prints.
    The 35mm adapter is an interesting novelty but I've used it only a couple of times. As Daniel described, the vertical/portrait orientation is very limiting. And the tricks for horizontal holds are a pain in the neck.
    What I've found the 35mm adapter most useful for is to help newbies understand the "crop factor" in digital cameras. The 80mm lens doesn't change - it doesn't magically become a short telephoto instead of a normal lens. It just has a larger image circle than a typical 80mm lens designed for a 35mm camera. The information recorded on the 24x36 film is exactly the same as the information recorded on the 6x6cm square of 120 film inside that same 24x36 "crop". And if the camera-to-subject distance is the same, there is no change in DOF or anything else. I used to have a set of illustrations to accompany this stuff, but it was lost in a hard drive crash a few years ago. I need to redo it.
    As Daniel described, my 635's fresnel was also mottled. It's very soft plastic and had to be cleaned very gently. The mild solvent also removed the grid lines and 35mm frame lines. I need to redo that some day. I can still see - just barely - the traces of those lines.
    Interestingly, I found the Yashica 635 viewfinder much brighter than the stock Rolleiflex 2.8C. The Rollei was so murky at the corners it was impossible to use in most lighting. The 635 is bright enough to use for candid snapshots even in most indoor lighting. If I'd kept the Rollei I'd have sent it off for a brighter screen, but like an idjit I sold the darned thing. One of the few sales I regret.
  28. Daniel, First of all $80 for a 635 with the 35 mm kit is a steal. I got mine, without the kit, for 120 bucks, at least it was/is working condition. I have not seen, nor wanted to really look, results from 635 with 35mm kit mounted. What I find interesting about these three element lenses is that they produce this whirl wide open, kinda as if the universe would about to collapse. Off all my Yashica TLRs, the 635 is my favourite, sure I'm part Magpie, so I love shiny things. Anyways, nice post and some nice results.
  29. Great shots. I'll bet back in the day photographers who used the 35mm attachment and 35mm short ends (for thrift) gladly overcame the inconvenience. However, the wide angle attachment does give a normal view with 35mm. Thanks for posting.
  30. When I got my 635 one of the parts in the 35mm adapter kit was missing. I later found a complete 35mm adapter kit but by that time I was not as interested in using it. My Yashica TLR collection consists of an A, a 635 and a gray 44. The A is small and light and even with its three element lens can give you a very respectable 8X10 if you stop down a little. In High School and college I had a 124G. As I have written before, the 124G was not impressive mechanically. When the winding mechanism finally stopped working for the second time I got rid of it. The Minolta Autocord which replaced it was much better made but the Yashinon lens on the 124G was a gem. I sometimes shot portraits with it and enlarged to 8X10 from the center of the negative using a 50mm enlarging lens. The results were quite good. As film camera prices have dropped I have accumulated enough medium format SLRs to sink a ship so I do not use the TLRs nearly as often as I used to. When I was in school I loved getting the mounted 6X6 Ektachromes back from Kodak. If I could find a Yashica TLR made before the 124G and with a Yashinon I might be interested. I have a 135W back for my Mamiya ETR series SLRs but I have never succeeded in getting all of the exposures I should from a roll of film. I don't know if I am not using it correctly or if it isn't working properly. The image area with the 135W back is nominally 24X56mm. I recently had the revolving back adapter and 120 back for an RB67 Pro serviced but did not get to use it today. It has the non-metered chimney finder on it. I forgot that the image was reversed just like it was with the 124G. I have a prism finder for when I want to carry something really heavy and also the plain Waist Level finder. The finders are shared with a Pro S body. I am a little younder than Daniel. My picture taking started in 1971 when I was 14. I started out with a Konica Autoreflex T2 and did not have the Yashica until I was about 17. Whlle in High School I did have fun using the Koni-Omegas which were mostly for class pictures. Now I may be on medium format overload but I'm enjoying it.
  31. Excellent write up and lovely pictures in both formats. I wonder why you would say that your dream was shattered! Many 35mm cameras would also put one through rigorous exercising; the Exakta VX series were good examples of that kind. But they were also cherished Professional cameras! Thanks for the detailed post. sp.
  32. BTW, looks like Daniel used the same trick I discovered by accident: the old style Nikon F cable release will work on the Yashica 635 if you remove the threaded collar. I discovered that while tightening up the collar - got curious and found out it was a perfect fit.
    And we also seem to have the same, or similar, Safe-Lock tripod. Mine is the PT model, Pneumatic Tripod, with air cushioned legs like a light stand. The center column uses the pneumatic tube too. And the bright blue anodized aluminum legs are a hoot - it's the friendliest looking tripod I've ever seen, like a cliche from the "How to look like a shutterbug!" catalog, along with a khaki vest, naugahyde gadget bag and "girl-watcher" 500mm f/8 preset telephoto lens.
    It's a weird tripod but cost me only five bucks at a thrift shop. Mostly I use it for video and occasionally indoors. It's too bulky for toting and can't get low enough for macro. But it's remarkably stable and easy to set up and take down. Locks are at the top of the leg, and the legs are reverse-telescoping, like a Benbo or Uni-Loc, so debris from the ground doesn't get inside the sliding tubes. The main drawback is the tilt/pan head isn't quite level in the default position, so I have to tweak the leg height a bit to level it up. And the head doesn't use conventional 1/4" or 3/8" bolts for mounting to the legs, so there's no practical way to swap heads. But I like it pretty well as-is.
  33. Nothing against this one, and I might even have bought one, but if you really want 35mm film, there are plenty of low cost, high quality 35mm SLRs and rangefinders out there for very reasonable prices.

    I have a number of cameras which I try out, mostly, as with other readers here, for the fun of it, and using TLR with 35mm does sound fun. But probably only once. Also, the TLR is a lot bigger than most 35mm SLRs.
    I do have some folding cameras that use 120 film, though. Still no TLRs.
  34. Cool post with nice results, Daniel.
  35. Thanks for all of your positive responses.
    Les: I could be wrong but I believe the cable release adapter was originally called a "Leica Nipple" used on their screw mount cameras that was adopted by Nikon and others. Yashica in their manual calls it "over-lap type cable release." I actually have two Safe-Lock tripods. I have a PT-3 which must be similar to yours(except mine don't have blue legs. Damn) in my winter home in Florida. It weighs 6 lbs. The one pictured is a lightweight Zoom-Leg at 3 1/2 lbs. I agree they are underrated. In 1972, Consumers Report rated the PT-3 equal to the Tiltall.
  36. Ricoh also offered a TLR that offered 35mm capability. Somewhere in one my late 50's photo magazines there's an ad for it that uses twins (or likely double exposure of same girl) with the camera and the ad copy reads something like: guess which twin is shooting 35mm and the other line says something similar about 120. Same caveat as using the 635, but with the 35mm holder, the 75 to 80 mm lens makes a nice portrait focal length.
  37. Ricoh did offer a few TLRs that could be adapted with an auxiliary "Color Back". I learned about it in John Seaman's post http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00cQi4
    I ended up finding a Color Back on ebay, and have only been able to run one roll through it so far.
    Nice job Daniel, I was wondering what those test postings were leading up to.
  38. Very thorough and entertaining write up of the Yashica Daniel. I have never seen the extra lenses in use before, they look fine with that creative vignetting!
    As the others have said, a good triplet is often all you need, especially with the greater real estate from 120 film. I own wat to many TLR's, but alas, not one single Yashica. I did own a Yashicamat for a very short time, but sold it to a friend.
  39. Great post, Daniel, I appreciate the time and effort you've obviously put into it. Having always been somewhat sceptical about 35mm conversions for TLR cameras, your experiences justify my sentiments, and as for auxiliary lenses, well, you've sort of said it all in words and pictures. Many thanks.
  40. Just thinking, when the 635 is turned on its side it almost looks "uncameralike" to coin a new word. Might have possibilities for candid shots. Maybe adapt it to a surveyor's tripod and some people might not realize its a camera. Seriously, though, an enjoyable post.
  41. One of the most enjoyable posts I've read!
  42. Pretty soon people will think that cameras look like iPhones and iPods, and not recognize real cameras at all.
    But yes, have all the fun you can with all the cameras you can find.
  43. Great Write up! Be careful of what you wish for .. you might just get it! Nice presentation and while it was
    for the report, I though your results were quite nice.
  44. Congratulations, Daniel, on a well-presented and informative post. I'm quite a fan of Yashica TLRs too, having bought one just like you at the tender age of 18. It was a Yashicamat, with F3.5 Yashinon glass. Unfortunately in the mad rush of youth I later traded it in on something stupid, but much later on when I got serious about collecting, I managed to score a really early Yashicamat with F3.5 Lumaxar lenses.
    I acquired an early Yashica 635 outfit a couple of years ago, complete with even the original leather carry case plus the 35mm adaptor kit with its leather case too, which I wrote up in my Flickr Pages here:

    Unfortunately the otherwise comprehensive kit didn't include an IB, but as you can see from the photo I managed to download a scanned item from the Net. I did have plans to try the 635 out with 35mm film using the adaptor kit, but all the comments about it I could find were quite negative so I've never bothered. (PETE IN PERTH)
  45. I think you should try the 35mm adaptor, but just once.
    Well, I like to try everything just once, so that I know why I don't want to try more. But then again, I have enough bulk 35mm film, even if it isn't very good, and develop them myself. If you aren't doing that, then it probably isn't worth it.
    Looks to me that the wide-angle auxiliary lens works best with 35mm, too.
    But there are a lot of very good, and very affordable, 35mm cameras out there, waiting to be used. I didn't mean to be too discouraging earlier.
  46. Great write up and pics, Daniel!
    I have a 635 too (without the 35mm kit) and after the first few rolls, noticed a similar notch in the right side of my frames ... I was pretty sure that it was one of the aperture blades (lol) ... then one day, absent-mindedly fiddling with the camera, I realized that one of the knobs on the left side could be pulled out, and rotated to stay out - of course, it was the 35mm film release knob!!
    No more notches after that - and of course no more absent minded fiddling or that knob could go back in without me noticing!

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