Build Battery Packs
Record Your Sounds
VNF Film and Filters
Super 8mm Links
Super 8 in PC Mag!
Kodak's S8mm Site
Ode to Regular 8mm
Cyber Film School
Stats & Translation
PROFILE - January 2004
You guessed it; this camera is an icon for its day. Not sure about all of you, but I recall a time in my formative years when I would dream about the toys advertised on the back pages of my Harvey comic books. The prizes for selling seeds door to door included transistor radios, walkie-talkies and tiny tv's. And all of them seemed to carry a militaristic styling cue of some kind. The Yashica Sound 50 XL Macro is no different. If this camera was army green, I am sure it would have been a top prize back then. It sure would be now to collectors! It seemed everything back in those days looked as if it belonged on the set of M*A*S*H. I wonder if anyone ever did do well selling those packets of seeds? But I digress.
The overly large circular dial for the film counter on the Yashica reminds me of the army-style transistor radios. Perhaps it was just our collective fascination over 8-tracks that dictated this oversize styling. No matter, the Yashica definitely carries these themes in its delivery. The concept of a folding grip was not new but Yashica implemented a swinging grip in a rather unique way. Offering the ability to swing left or right (pun intended), the grip gave a very solid hold of your equipment. This made for steadier images. I found the battery compartment to be almost over built. You see, you will need to unscrew that big ribbed dial directly below the lens to get to the batteries. Once in, you will have to cough up 6AA batteries to get the motor and light meter going. However, once in place you will have no worries about the security of the power source. Like the rest of this camera, it is built like a tank!
If you happen to have an old copy of Super 8 Filmaker magazine about, you may happen upon the ad for this camera when it debuted. Personally, I just love the ad. It tried to portray itself as a 16mm camera, possibly in a similar manner as the Canon Scoopic 16 or even the Canon DS8. To pull it off, I think Yashica needed to put a better lens on this camera to make a stronger case for the comparison. However, sticking with the f1.2 8-40mm macro lens was understandable. With a wide angle of 8mm, this focal length is generally too long for comfortable indoor use. I find there is a huge improvement in perspective at 7.5mm or, better, 7mm, and this shortcoming of offering an 8mm lens becomes readily apparent if you are used to those wider angles. The 40mm zoom is adequate and fairly respectable for a sound camera. Most cameras with an emphasis on sound rarely had anything longer than 40mm since it was not (and is still not) realistic to be that far away from your subject with single system sound. I believe the company preferred to use an older, existing lens design and simply concentrate on the design of a fancier camera body to go with the times. Remember, technology progressed much more slowly in the 1970's. In order to maintain interest, older designs were typically repackaged or reformatted.
The use of a 9V in the sound amplifier on the camera was both good and bad. While it eliminated the need for those hard to find 1.35-volt batteries, use of the 9-volt battery made the camera bulkier and heavier (don;t forget you already have to put 6 AA batteries in the grip. Though, in this camera, the extra bulk helped provide a resting point for your cheek. I guess the good news is that the need for the 9 volt battery is now moot since sound film is no longer available. However, before the final death blow to super 8 in the early 1980's, engineers would find a way for 6 volts (via 4-AA batteries) to drive all aspects of a super 8 sound camera’s operations.
This camera has a very nice feature of allowing you to reduce the light hitting the film with a selectable 2X or 4X neutral density filter. The 1/2X setting allows you to zoom focus on a spotlighted subject and the camera's light meter becomes over-sensitive. Some suggested uses for this setting include snow and mountain shots of people, shooting subjects on the ocean, and shooting subjects on stage. The macro lens in employed with a simple forward slide of the zoom ring. I like that. Of course, you cannot do optical dissolves very well if at all. Also, you cannot set the aperture manually. However, the "EE" lever near the eyecup allows you to lock an existing meter setting. This is almost as good as a manual aperture. Oh, the eyecup also has a very nice two-piece construstion that allows the viewing to be sealed off from light in case you happen to do some remote-controlled filming. The lens is a superfast f1.2 that should allow some pretty extreme low light shooting. Also, be sure to notice the film type is set on the control side, not on the usual film-door side. That barren side has only one feature: a rotating knob to open the film door. The camera power switch is interesting. It has both an intermittent run mode as well as a run-lock mode. A simple turn of the wheel allows you to set your preference. The camera is turned off by placing the swinging grip in the up-and-down position. If the grip is placed to either side, the camera is "on."
Here are few technical details of the camera:
The focus movement on my Yashica is nice and firm as is the zoom function. You will not have to worry about your camera going out of adjustment between takes, within reason of course. Also, it is interesting to note that an optional AUTOFOCUS attachment was available for a later version of this camera. As I have elided to, the grip on this camera is phenominal. Notice on the side of the camera there is what appears to be a ledge; this ledge is for supporting your thumb while you hold the camera. Unlike many other cameras that included folding shoulder pods to help you steady their intrinsically off-balance designs, this Yashica appears to have been designed first and foremost to be held securely. Until you stumble across one of these cameras, it is hard to explain. However, I promise, once you pick it up and hold it to your eye, you will not want to put it down. No other cameras in my collection come close to this with the sole exception of the Canon Scoopic MS16. If I had a Scoopic DS8, I am sure I would say the same thing.
I paid $40 for this camera from my buddy at a camera store. He had taken it in on trade and had destined it for ebay. I was fortunate enough to interrupt that process. It came with a great medium tan or brown vinyl case with lots of extras. I like that!
Of course, I have yet to shoot a roll with the Yashica since other cameras in my collection often fit the requirement better on any given occassion. Size and weight are an issue usually so I tend to opt for the more compact camera if I have a choice. Having said that, I should shoot a roll to test its ability to hold a super steady image with its excellent ergonomic grip. Overall, I love this camera. It has a great size and weight for serious film work. Though not necessarily the most compact for travel, it is very robust and will survive a few bumps and bruises when other cameras would simply expire.
Lastly, I will
be sure to update this page and give you the results when I finally
get around to using this great machine.
Happy Film Shooting!
Cheers, January 2004
Happy Film Shooting!