I know – the FR II and the F-1 are miles apart in features (and price). I purchased my first Yashica, a TL Electro-X in 1971 and used it faithfully through much of the 1970s. Being a young (and married) US Navy Sailor and money deprived, the TL suited me just fine – until I was transferred to Japan in 1977. If you were ever stationed in Yokosuka then you know what Building A33 means. It was the Navy Exchange camera and stereo heaven!!! Reps from all of the major camera manufacturers were present and demonstrated their latest gear to the now cash flush Sailors. Upstairs was a branch of Navy Federal Credit Union… if you couldn’t afford it, finance it! Pure bliss.
I’m so easily distracted.
So it was time for me to upgrade my trusty TL Electro-X, so naturally I looked at what Yashica had to offer. The FR was out but it didn’t do it for me and quite frankly, the Contax RTS didn’t either. So I waited and saved some money and started reading the Navy Exchange catalog every day (and night). The Canon F-1 looked promising but was expensive. The TL needed to hold me over as I was diverted to purchasing stereo equipment. Sansui pre and power amps, Teac reel to reel, Dual turntable and some killer Kenwood speakers. A small fortune so a camera upgrade would have to wait.
Now it’s the summer of 1978. My ship was inport (finally) long enough for Carol and I to spend some quality time together and to focus our attention on replacing the Yashica. Another visit to A33 and another visit with the Yashica rep. Now the FR II was the camera of the day (and he was still pushing the RTS too). No way. The friendly Canon rep was all too happy to take my money and hand me a bright new F-1 with 55mm f/ 1.4 lens and Canon 80-200mm zoom. The Yashica was sold off to a friend and that was it for Yashica (for the next couple of decades).
Oh happy day! July 1978 – my new Canon F-1 and Canon FD 80-200mm f/ 4 zoom lens.
Present day now and I’m finally an owner of a Yashica FR II.
I picked up this beauty recently because it looked to be in near perfect condition and I figured, why not. Well I gotta say that I’m impressed. Not impressed enough to regret my F-1 purchase back in 1978, but impressed.
The camera feels good in my hands – well balanced and the viewfinder is super bright. What a big difference over the Yashica TL Electro-X. The Contax/Yashica lens is crisp, clear and focusses easily (split-image). The meter is simple (this is a aperture priority camera) so you’re only messing with the f stops.
With the power winder attached it’s a tad on the heavy side but would be useful as a weapon (or anchor).
Simple lines and layout. The meter switch (upper right) is a bit awkward but the meter is accurate and that’s all that matters.
Uses all of the C/Y bayonet mount lenses which can be had for a song today. Here is a 135mm, f/ 2.8 lens that came with it in basically unused condition.
We have so many cameras in the queue right now I have no idea when we’ll get a chance to run a roll through it.
Verdict. I’ve waited nearly 40 years to shoot with it so I’m excited to see how it does out in the field. If you find a nice one for sale (mint condition) then give it a try. Stay away from the ones that look rough – these don’t hold up well with abuse. Prices are all over the place – you may be able to strike a nice deal with a seller who’s ready to part ways. Best of luck!
Studio Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S9900W