Monday, April 2, 2012

Yashica 44 LM and 127 film

Type: Twin-lens Reflex
Introduced: 1959
Lens: 4-element Tessar-type 60mm f/3.5 Yashinon
Shutter speeds: 1 second to 1/500
Film: Takes 12 exposures of 4x4 cm on 127 film. 

I have had this camera for about a year now, however I haven't done much with it until recently.  The lack of use was mostly because it uses 127 film, which is limited in selection and more expensive than most film.  When I sent my last batch of film off I had finally finished a roll of Kodak Portra 160 which I first put in the Yashica 44 LM last summer.  The results I got back got me to thinking that I should give this camera a more serious look.

Taken using Kodak Portra 160.  I got this film in a 100 foot bulk roll and reloaded it on the backing paper from a roll of Efke 127 film.

I didn't get all 12 exposures with this roll because I messed up on the film advancing.  It probably does help to read the manual when you are using a unfamiliar camera.  The film advances by a winder on the side which requires that you push a button first.  However if you hold the button down too long it will advance more than one exposure. When the film is loaded you advance it to where the first exposure is visible in the red window on back of the camera.  After that there is a film counter so no more looking at the red window. 

The LM in Yashica 44 LM stands for "light meter".  On mine there is an uncoupled selenium meter that still works and actually seems accurate.  Kinda amazing after 50 years.  I don't use it because the numbers are hard for me to see and using my hand held meter is just about as convenient. Still it is good to know it is there in case I got caught without my handheld.

The Yashica 44 LM is certainly one of those cameras that forces me to slow down.  Having to look down to compose an image and to mentally compensate for the image in the viewfinder being reversed does not make for quick shooting.  Although I imagine that if I did it all the time that it would come to seem more natural.  One nice thing about this camera is that it is smaller than most TLR's and fits in my hands nicely.  Still if it wasn't for that this camera appears to have the potential for some excellent results it wouldn't be worth the trouble to me.  Although it is a nice camera to look at so even without pictures I probably would enjoy having it around. If you would like to see the rest of the pictures they are in the Yashica 44 LM Gallery.

My solution to the 127 film problem involves some work.  I bought a 100 foot roll of bulk 46mm Kodak Portra for around $40.  I figure that is enough film to make 40 to 45 rolls depending on how error free my re-spooling goes. So that could work out to around a dollar per roll.  For my first try at this I cut a string the length required for the 127 roll and used that to guide the length to cut off the bulk roll.  I put a piece of tape on the backing paper to mark where the film should start and used that to tape the film to the paper.  After that if was just a matter of rolling up the film.  Of course I did all this in a dark room.  And while it sounds simple the addition of darkness does add a challenge.  I imagine something like this could be done in a changing bag also.  There is actually a fair amount of discussion on how to do this that you can find with a Google search.

I realize that for a lot of people this would be too much trouble.  Especially if you only rarely use 127.  I have several 127 cameras so the effort seems worth it to me.  I figure that for $40 I can potentially get a number of rolls of film that would have cost over $400 otherwise. 46mm Kodak Portra seems to show up on Ebay regularly.  It usually sells for between $30 to $45. 

Another option would be to buy or make a film slitter to cut 120 film down to 127 size.  Since there is still a lot of types of film made for 120 that would increase the options a lot. 

If you would like to read some more about the Yashica 44 LM here are some links that I thought had good information.

Lots of interesting stuff at this site. 
Yashica 44 LM by Karen Nakamura

Yashica 44LM

Yashica 44 Series


  1. The first film I ever shot was good old 127, in a Brownie Starmite II. I like the format. But rolling my own sounds positively dreadful! I have a roll of 127 in my fridge that I bought from B&H. I figure as long as B&H has 127 available, that's how I'll use my 127 cameras.

    1. It is not too bad once I did it a few times. I just made a roll in my changing bag and it only took a few minutes.