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Yashica 44, 44A, and 44LM Cameras

March 23, 2011

The whole world of 127 film cameras somehow managed to escape my attention until recently, and I have been surprised to learn how many different 127 cameras were once made. 127 used to be a popular format, and when the original '44' first came out it sold for more than the identical-except-size 120 film Yashica Twin Lens Reflex (TLR). Yashica then introduced the more basic and less expensive '44A' and the more elaborate 44LM ('LM' for the built-in light meter.) The 44A and 44LM are profiled here.

All three 44's have a red film-backing view window, but they are used differently. The 44A treats the window as a straightforward manual film advance aid. After an exposure, turn the advance knob until the next number shows up in the red window. With the 44 and 44LM on the other hand, once you line up the number '1' in the red window, the camera automatically advances the film. Apparently, the numbers printed on the film backing paper aren't in the right place for these cameras.

The 44A is a great little camera. Simple. Sturdy. Excellent optics. Stands only five inches high. On the minus side, it shares a common feature with many older cameras. Although it has a 'B' shutter speed (B stands for 'bulb', from old shutter release cables, and allows the shutter to be held open indefinitely — essential when using old emulsions), the shutter speed jumps straight from B to 1/25 second. With slow emulsions that's far too fast for any exposure except wide open on a bright summer day. It takes a little practice to get consistent short bulb exposures. Also, on the 44A the shutter speed only goes as high as 1/300. That's not an issue with handmade emulsions, but might be a limitation if you also shoot commercial film with the camera. The 44LM shoots B and 1 sec to 1/500. It's also a little bigger and heavier than the 44A.

The availability of commercial film is another plus with the 127 format. 620 and 828 films are no longer commercially made, but 127 film is sold under the Efke brand. I've never used it, but I understand it's very nice film. Not only is it nice to have options, the availabilty of new film means that it's not a problem finding spools and backing paper. The availability and pricing of these in 620 and 828 can be capricious.

The 44's take twelve 4x4 cm exposures on a roll of commercial film, but the next time I cut film for the camera, I'm going to try for 14 exposures. I think there's room on the spool. I'll post an update note here when I find out, one way or the other.

My favorite part of all TLR cameras is the through-the-top viewing. Just open the top and pop the magnifying glass. The image shows on the ground glass in the correct orientation (unlike the upside down image on a view camera's ground glass). Focusing is precise and foolproof.

There's no indication on the nameplates of the 44 and 44A to distinquish them, but the 44A has a line of little 'teeth' on the bottom of the nameplate that is missing on the 44.

The LM is easily distinquished, but a note of caution about shopping for the cameras on ebay. The listings sometimes just say 'Yashica 44'. You have to study the pictures carefully to see exactly what's being sold. Also, although gray was by far the most popular color, the cameras were made in a number of colors.

An aside: In researching this camera, I came across a wonderful website:, with a great section on equipment.

And, if you don't already know about, give it a visit. It's the go-to place for old camera manuals.

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