The Camera Chronicles: My Dad's Yashica / by Deen Schroeder

After shooting for less than 2 months, I was completely overwhelmed by GAS (gear Acquisition Syndrome). I was frantically researching new cameras every day and watching everything I could find on YouTube that related to film photography. Mild obsession was setting in and taking hold. This is the story about how I got my hands on my Dad's Yashica.

When I was a kid, my Dad had film cameras and would often take photos in and around the house. The memories aren’t very clear because I must have been 3 or 4 at the time but there definitely were cameras around the house and I was curious to find out if those cameras were still in the family.

I had been chatting to my Dad about the film cameras that I had bought and shared photos of the cameras and examples of my early film photographs. My Dad then sent me a couple of snaps of his old cameras and asked me if I would like any of them. My G.A.S. kicked in and I said, “Hell yeah!”

The only problem was that I live in Johannesburg and my Dad stays in Cape Town.

Luckily, I ended up in Cape Town a few weeks later for some Instagram work and spent time with my Dad catching up and talking about film photography. At my dad’s place, he rummaged through his cupboards and pulled out a box of old cameras and long expired film. I remember seeing the leather case of the Yashica and thinking that this camera must have seen so much in its time. I slowly took the camera out of the case and the worn-out leather gave way to a beautiful little Yashica Minister D. The chrome metal and black exterior of the camera looked to be in great condition considering its age and the fact that it had been hidden in a box for about 20 years. My Dad had bought this little rangefinder second hand in the late 60s for only R20.

The big question was, as it always is with film cameras, does it work?

The Yashica Minister D is a rangefinder. This tiny little camera also has a simplistic light metering system that seemed to work perfectly, a mechanical shutter priority type system and all of the manual controls are housed on the lens itself. The camera also has a leaf shutter system which makes for one stealthy little camera system.

I found a roll of expired Fuijifilm Superia in the camera box and decided to load it into the camera and start shooting. The roll stayed in the camera for a month or two and when the counter hit 36, I started rewinding the film, as one should, and as I opened the camera I was confronted with the most horrible sight for any film shooter. I opened the camera in daylight and saw the spool on one side of the camera and the entire roll of film on the take-up spool. The film had been exposed to light and there was no way of recovering any of the pictures I had taken during the previous months. Unfortunately, the film tore off the actual spool and I was completely unaware of that. Sigh…

This was a harsh but necessary lesson about film and one that I am glad that I have learned. Nothing is perfect and there are no guarantees;  hope for the worst and be surprised by anything better. I was disappointed but I realised that all the disappointment in the world would not bring those photos back. The only way to get over it was to load up another roll of film and make some new photos.

The results of my first roll were interesting, to say the least. The 50-year-old camera did have a few quirks that were only revealed by shooting with it. Major light leaks, problems with the film advance mechanism and the sticky shutter were not obvious until seeing those negatives for the first time.

I have decided not to fix up the camera and rather to use it as is for future little experiments with film. These are the results from my first roll on my Dad’s Yashica Minister D.