Yashica 635 Film Camera Review by Tom Box

Yashica 635 TLR Film Camera Review by Tom Box on Shoot It With Film
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Yashica 635 TLR Film Camera Review by Tom Box on Shoot It With Film

Written by Tom Box

Prior to owning my Yashica 635, my only experience with a Twin Lens Reflex camera was picking one up in the local camera shop, scoffing at the flipped viewfinder image, and putting it back down again.

All of my medium format shooting beforehand was on folding rangefinders such as the Super Ikonta and a brief, shameful affair with a Pentacon Six.

What eventually lured me to purchase a TLR was the lens on the Yashica 635; a Yashikor 80mm f/3.5.

I’d become enamored with the ‘look’ of the lens whilst browsing Flickr, with it’s slightly soft edges and swirly bokeh, and decided to blow a few quid and give TLR shooting a chance. After all, there’s no camera quite like a TLR. Their iconic design is undoubtedly appealing.

Find the Yashica 635 at KEH Camera or on eBay.

Yashica 635 TLR Film Camera Review by Tom Box on Shoot It With Film

First Impressions of the Yashica 635

When I first took the Yashica 635 out for a shoot, I utterly detested it. It was bulky and unwieldy. The focus screen was dim and flared in the sun, and the flipped viewfinder image was impossible to get level.

I spent each photo opportunity dodging flare, struggling to focus, worrying about parallax error, oscillating this ridiculous cuboid trying to get my framing level, and cursing having ever paid for the thing.

Yashica 635 TLR Film Camera Review by Tom Box on Shoot It With Film

The upside of this test roll was the photos. When I got home and developed the film, the character I wanted to see was all there, swirly background and subtle vignettes all over.

I think it was the lovely results that made me tentatively allow the Yashica 635 a second outing. So I loaded another roll and gave the big lump a second chance.

And I still hated it.

However, on this second attempt, I loaded the camera with the best film ever made: Ilford XP2 (find on Amazon). The lens’ character worked so well in black and white I decided it was worth the learning curve. Or perhaps I should say liking curve.

Yashica 635 TLR Film Camera Review by Tom Box on Shoot It With Film

Getting Accustomed to the 635

The Yashica 635 accompanied me on two more adventures soon after that, and, with each photo I took, I warmed to the camera a little bit more.

I learned to rely more on the magnifying eyepiece for focusing, rather than the waist level finder, blocking out any stray light that might flare on the focus screen. I steadily got accustomed to the flipped image viewfinder, learning that a gentle sideways tilt allows you to level out vertical lines with relative ease.

I started to appreciate the boxy shape and how it can rest in your left palm while your right hand works the focus.

Shooting film and metering by estimate has always slowed down my process, but this TLR has put the brakes on even more. It’s the most purposeful and methodical shooting experience I’ve had so far. And it often results in a full roll of keepers.

A dozen rolls in and I barely even notice the backwards viewfinder. Framing and leveling are now as simple as with a Pentaprism.

And the waist level finder affords me a new perspective on a scene, helping to find shots I otherwise wouldn’t have considered. The shape and weight of the camera actually assist in keeping me steady, resulting in sharper photos than I’ve ever got with a folder.

Yashica 635 TLR Film Camera Review by Tom Box on Shoot It With Film

The Yashikor 80mm f/3.5 Lens

I’m constantly impressed with how the Yashikor 80mm f/3.5 lens renders. It has those little imperfections that really complement film, and I just can’t resist a lens with swirly bokeh.

Compared to the technically superior Yashinon found on the Yashica Mat line, there’s no contest for me. To my eyes, the Yashinon renders flat and lifeless images, and judging by my scans, I actually think the center sharpness on the Yashikor is superior.

Yashica 635 TLR Film Camera Review by Tom Box on Shoot It With Film

Multi-Format and Double Exposure Capabilities

With an adapter, the Yashica 635 is capable of shooting 35mm. I do not own the adapters to use 35mm film in it, and the focus screen in my particular copy was replaced with a plain ground glass, sans 35mm frame lines, which would make shooting 35mm almost impossible.

But the capabilities are there.

Another benefit of the Yashica 635 or other non-Mat models is that double exposures are possible.

Yashica 635 TLR Film Camera Review by Tom Box on Shoot It With Film

Final Thoughts

TLRs are undoubtedly beautiful, impressive, iconic cameras, and after a relatively short and painless adjustment period, they’re also a total joy to use.

The Yashica range of TLRs are the obvious choice for a beginner entry model, plentiful and much cheaper than the Rollei equivalent. But there are many other options sharing the classic TLR design such as the Meopta Flexaret (find on eBay), Zeiss Ikoflex (find on eBay), and Minolta Autocord (find on eBay).

If you’ve never used a TLR and want to learn a totally new way of taking photos, have a browse on Flickr and choose a TLR based on the lens it carries. Sharp or characterful, there are options for every taste.

Using a twin lens reflex is an entirely distinct experience from shooting with an SLR or rangefinder, and it takes some persistence to grasp the shooting process, but once you’re there you’ll wonder why you didn’t try it sooner.

Yashica 635 TLR Film Camera Review by Tom Box on Shoot It With Film

Thank you so much, Tom! Tom is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out his other articles here. You can also check out Tom’s work on his website and Instagram.

Leave your questions about the Yashica 635 below in the comments, and you can pick one up for yourself at KEH Camera or on eBay!

You can also check out all of our film camera reviews here.

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Blog Comments

Some nice photos. XP2 is a good film but I would say that almost any true (not c41 process) film is sharper and more contrasty with greater range of midtones. My vote for best films of all time-
Verichrome Pan- sadly discontinued
Fuji Acros-
Kodak Tri-X Pro IS0 320
HP5Plus Ilford

After 40 years of SLR use, the 635 fries my brain trying to compose the shot, not just the flipped image, but the slightest deviation from vertical becomes obvious in the taken image.

I actually found one of these in my parents’ basement. Any film recommendations for someone who hasn’t used a film camera in 20 years? So cheap, but decent, and compatible? It seems to have the 35mm adaptor, leather case, manual, some sort of….flash device? And a light meter?? Do I need those last two to shoot pictures with this camera?

Hi Carro! With the adapter, Kodak Gold is a great and inexpensive film to start off with. Ilford HP5 is also a great option if you prefer b&w. 120 film will be more expensive, but Kodak Portra 400 or Ilford HP5 are both wonderful films and very forgiving when it comes to exposure.

The 635 does not have an internal meter, so you will need some kind of handheld light meter. As far as the flash, you would only need that in low light situations and possibly indoors, but most of the time, you won’t need a flash. Hope this helps!

Wow thanks for responding! This review was from 2018 after all.
It looks like the light meter and flash aren’t actually from Yashica but the case has accessory slots that some ancestor found the perfect fitting items for.
I like the color photographs in this review. It could be lighting but there’s something ‘vintage’ about them. Was that the Kodak Gold or Portra?
Thank you so much once again!

Sure thing! I don’t know exactly what film Tom used for these images, but it is mostly likely either Kodak Portra 160 or Kodak Portra 400. The b&w images are with Ilford XP2. Kodak Gold does not come in medium format, so you would have to use the 35mm adapter to try that film.

Thank you again! I’ll have to research the Portra 160 vs 400. I was thinking the inexpensive 35mm Kodak Gold to get the hang of the camera since it’s been so long and it’s different from the modern cameras I used in the 90’s, but then upgrading to medium because I feel like you just don’t use a vintage camera to take standard 35mm pictures. Maybe that opinion will change once I see the results but growing up solely with 35mm, using a vintage camera for anything *except* medium seems like just practice. I look forward to relearning this whole ‘film’ thing…first thing is to find a developer that can do medium format haha. Maybe someday I’ll be artistic enough to do b&w. I reckon you have to be much more in tune with light and shadows…and I…am not. My digital camera’s programming makes up for a lot of my failings lol

That is such a great idea to use the 35mm to get comfortable with the camera and practice a bit. Let us know how it goes!

I’ve shot FP4 and Portra 160 & 400 in my Yashica with stunning results. The film I’m dying to try though is Ilford’s PanF 50. It is sooo sharp and the tones so beautiful in 35mm that I can’t wait to see what it does in 120.

Nice review, indeed. As far as films go – Fomapan 400/120 – an astonishing film of pro-quality, and, as a bonus, at a consumer price.

Nice review and nice pics too, esp the colour multi-storey with the low block in front at the end.
XP2 though!…I can only assume you’ve never tried PanF?

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