Having worked on a Yashica Mat 124G and learnt that earlier models where allegedly better made, I was keen to find a cheap original Yashica Mat to compare and play with.
This one came up on eBay for a reasonable £70 and so I took the plunge.
Upon arrival, it was evident that the camera had received front impact damage which had dented the lens cover, skewed the shutter release mechanism and tilted the lens board – quite a common fault if you drop a TLR.
Fortunately there was no damage to the lenses and so I decided to pull it part and start the repair.
The lenses are similar to the later 124G. Viewing lens is a Yashinon triplet 80mm f/2.8 and taking lens is a Yashinon 80mm f/3.5 Tessar clone. However the coatings differ from the 124G in that they exhibit a more prominent purple/blue tint.
The lenses were disassembled and cleaned. Only some light fungus was evident inside the rear elements and polish marks were minimal.
Going by the lack of wear on the film rails and pressure plate, I reckon this camera was damaged very early in its life and has probably sat on a shelf unused for 30 years or more.
The Yashica Mat was introduced in 1957 and was the first Yashica to have a combined winding and auto shutter cocking mechanism, copying Rolleiflex.
This one dates to 1970 since it has the f/2.8 viewing lens and textured nameplate.
Unlike the “all black” Mat 124G, many of the dials, trim and release knobs are chrome.
Compared to my 124G, the winding mechanism feels a little more refined, smoother and quieter in operation. The handle is also better made. Clearly Yashica wanted to impress with the first Mat model while later models inevitably suffered from cheaper parts and worn tooling.
Unfortunately the winding mechanism on this one wouldn’t reverse. So I had to pull it apart – it turned out to be nothing more than old hard grease and lack of use.
Build quality is not bad with less plastic parts than the 124G. Although there’s a lot of cheap pressed steel parts which are subject to wear if the camera has seen high mileage – especially the focus mechanism (lens board rattle)!
Upon cleaning and lubricating, I also noticed different components in the winding mechanism (than the 124G) with some being made of higher quality material e.g. brass vs steel.
The Yashica Mat is meter-less TLR with a slightly dimmer WLF than the 124G, although this may attributed to the old matte screen.
In order to facilitate a proper repair, I removed the lens board, straightened all the components and re-greased the cams. The left side cam showed some off axis wear (due to impact). I then re-shimmed the lens board mount to ensure the lens flange to film plane was parallel.
I used small M3 brass washer for shims and adjusted their thickness using 1200 grit wet/dry paper. Even after straightening, I needed 0.4mm, 0.3mm and 0.15mm shims on 3/4 corners. This brought the lens flange to film plane flatness to within a 0.07mm tolerance when measured diagonally, vertically and horizontally.
The Copal MXV shutter was also sticking on slow speeds and required a clean and lubricate. One thing I did notice about the Copal when compared to a Compur is that they need a little more lubrication especially in and around the cock/release mechanism, although this may be attributed to wear.
Once properly oiled, adjusted and left overnight the Copal shutter worked almost flawlessly from 1s to 1/500s.
Both lenses were re-assembled and collimated (as per previous methods).
The lens cover was knocked back into shape and refitted along with a new hand-cut front leatherette trim. The exterior was then given a good clean and all light seals replaced.
I quite like the look and feel of this Yashica Mat and have decided to order a new Deep Jade (dark green) leather trim from CameraLeathers.com. This goes against my better judgement for restoration, but at the end of the day it ain’t no highly collectable German camera and so a little pimping won’t hurt on this occasion.
June 2015 Update:
The Jade Green camera leather trim arrived and so did an older (early 1960’s) Yashica Mat that had a less worn/bent focus mechanism. Although its hood, self timer and crank assembly were all broken.
So I decided to take the best parts from each camera and build a new one.
I used the shutter, body shell, lens board, focus mechanism and lenses from the older Mat and the self timer, crank assembly, hood, back and shutter from the newer Mat. I had to forgo the f/2.8 viewing lens for a f/3.2, since the older lens board was in much better condition.
Interesting to note that the older Mat uses slotted screws and the newer philips screws. There’s even less plastic on the older version with solid aluminium knobs and dials.
Anyhow after ~4 hours of assembly, I had a fully working Yashica Mat that operates like new. The focus is very smooth, crank quiet and the shutter perfect.
I then covered the camera in its new leather trim. This fitted well, however with hindsight I would not use a untextured leather trim again as any undulation (screw head or plate join) shows through as a bump. I guess thats why the manufacturer opts for a heavy-textured trim.
Overall, I’m pleased with the results and the green leather adds an almost understated look.