Yashica FX-3

Yashica FX3

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Right… as you may know I have been (ahem) *trying* to keep it simple, but once I bought into the Adaptall-2 system it became easier to justify an SLR with a lens mount that was outside my M42-Pentax K-Konica trinity. So since I got a Contax/Yashica adapter with one of my Adaptall-2 lenses, here we are. Suddenly a new camera is an instant kit!

Yashica FX3 Zoom

When Yashica recieved the right to produce Zeiss-branded lenses and Contax-branded cameras (1973?), they also began producing alongside the Contax SLRs a lower-priced, scaled down line of Yashica-branded SLRs with the same bayonet mount. What this means to you is that the cheapest path to Zeiss glass for Contax SLRs is through a late-model Yashica. The first series was the excellent FR (not unlike the concurrent Contax RTS), the FR-1 and FR-2, and on the other side the no-frills FX series: FX, FX-2, FX-3. The FX-3, our subject here, marked a change from the heavy metal-bodied mechanical SLR with a cloth focal plane shutter to a lighter weight model with a mechanical metal focal plane shutter. Later came the FX-7, the FX-103 and 107, and the Super series with a different body grip and higher speeds (in the FX-3 Super 2000). For details on all the model variations see CE DeGroot’s page here.

As for this particular sample, t’was a hand-me-down from my good friend Bill, who by then had acquired a nicer one with a kit of ML lenses, and no longer needed the beater he got for free. Especially once he had a two-body kit with a Yashica FR, which I got to play with and it is indeed a cool and very solid camera.

What I like about the FX-3: the easy mechanical focal plane shutter, which seems very similar to one in the Nikon FM2 — quick and virtually vibration-free despite the lack of camera mass. And in that vein, I discovered that like the earlier Konica Autoreflexes, this little guy has mirror lockup during self-timer action, in case you need that extra degree of sharpness with scenics when you’ve got it on a tripod. And when you don’t you’ll find it’s very comfortable to hold, it’s a great size and weight and feels very well-balanced in the hands. Nice lens, nearly a pancake lens, short and with a fairly short turning radius. Focuses down to .5m. In fact the whole thing reminds me a lot of the Autoreflex TC in size and weight, but without the AE and nice meter of the TC. Which brings us to what I don’t like, the basically useless meter. Requires not one, but two batteries, just to power a little + o – LED readout in the viewfinder. I far prefer a match needle to that, and after seeing the nice LCD readout in the FR I was pretty underwhelmed. Sunny-16 is better to me than a over-under LED.

Now, the lens thing. You could certainly get an inexpensive Yashica SLR body and then invest in the nice Zeiss T* lenses, no question. First let me tell you that I actually did once borrow a Contax SLR and excitedly shot a roll with the f1.4 Planar. May the gearfetish hordes strike me down, but I was singularly unimpressed. It was not only NOT noticeably better than the good glass I already own in other mounts, but the out-of-focus areas were positively ugly at wider apertures. I think I may actually have said ‘blech’ when I saw some of the samples. I’ll keep my SMC Pentax, my Hexanons, and yes my Volna, thank you. Besides, I love my other Yashica glass, they do make damn good lenses! Pick up a $15 GSN and shoot it next to your Nikon, you’ll see what I mean. SO to come full circle, I’d say that even though this is a great way to get into the Yashica-made Zeiss lenses, IMO you’d be just as well to stick with the Yashica ML series. ML is for multicoated, it was a cut above the single-coated DSB series. Not to mention that most camera lenses are based on Zeiss designs anyway….


Needed new light seals. Luckily Bill had already used this as a light seal replacement guinea pig and I didn’t have to do it for a change. Now, the outer skin of the fake leather has peeled off, revealing a kind of charming soft fuzzy covering. I peeled the last scraps off myself, thinking I would like it that way but though comfortable it was a little more slippery than I expected. This cheesy covering cracks and peels on all the later FX and Contax SLRs from what I understand. SO if you want to do it right I suggest you head over to http://www.cameraleather.com or http://www.aki-asahi.com and get a kit for it. I got an aki-asahi kit from one of the seller’s ebay auctions at a bargain price, shipped quickly from Japan and I did the whole job including removing the old covering in about 15 minutes. Sweet!

Yashica FX3 Recovered

The other thing was the wobbly wind lever with the missing leatherette circle. The reverse-threaded screw that holds down the plastic wind lever wouldn’t stay tight. I tried gluing it in place with a little Pliobond on the threads, thought it would provide more traction than the usual dot of clear nail polish, but it didn’t keep. So then I put a small piece of the old sticky covering in with the screw threads to take up some of the slack. Time will tell.

Tips & Tricks

I mentioned the MLU already, the only other thing of note is that the meter is battery-activated by pressing the button by the eyepiece with your thumb. Saves battery but like I said, I hate + o – LED meters, I find them completely useless compared to either full-readout meters or my favorite, believe it or not, the trusty match needle. You know, I prefer analog watches too… no surprise there eh?

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