Yashica TL Super

Yashica TL Super



I saw this and had to have it, didn’t think I should, didn’t think I could, and did. Came from a collection of an elderly man who really really liked Yashica and Canon cameras. Did I need another SLR? No, man – I already had my classic K1000! But…a classic Yashica with a f1.7 lens for $32? What am I, made of stone? Specs on the lens: 6 elements in 5 groups; fully automatic diaphram; angle of view 46°; minimum aperture f/16; minimum focus 0.5m(!); filter size 52mm; weight 230 grams. Yum. And me with an available-light habit.

I actually knew virtually nothing about it before it arrived, and in addition this one seems to have very little internet-available information handy (you all know by now I like to do my research). The info that I could come up with indicated that this series of early SLR is even more underrated than the respected Autoreflex Konica SLRs, which I had eschewed largely because I [used to] think they’re a bit on the ugly side except for the very early ones of this very vintage (I’m thinking specifically of the handsome and worthy T).

So let me tell you what I know now: this is an absolutely fabulous camera from the golden age of manual cameras. Fully manual operation but with CdS + match needle meter, activated by switch. Mirror lockup, hotshoe, PC sync (flash syncs on 1/60), shutter 1-1/1000 plus B, ASA/DIN selector accepts ASA 25-800. Heavy metal, like the K1000. Fine fit & finish. Well designed with nice attention to detail – even the viewfinder window glass is coated! It’s unbelievable. Not to mention the nice glass, Auto Yashinon 1.7 with Pentax universal screw mount (M42). Only stops down to f16 but that appears to be common with faster glass, can’t be fast and slow I suppose. Even has infrared offset registration mark. (Definitely helpful if you like shooting infrared film as I do.) In fact the ONLY problem (now fixed, see below) I see is the perennial gummy light seal issue endemic to Japanese cameras of the late 60s-70s. And if you insist I complain I would say the wind stroke could be shorter. But that’s it.

I did figure out that the Auto in Auto Yashinon is a switch-enabled feature on the lens that allows the aperture to stay wide open until the shutter clicks, a standard (read: default) feature on all modern lenses. Setting from ‘auto’ to ‘manual’ amounts to an aperture preview feature. My Super-Takumar 135mm has the same feature with an a-m switch under the lens barrel, and works just the same on this truly Super Yashica.

Extra note: I should mention that I enjoy this camera so much that it has become one of my go-to cameras, always at the ready and loaded with Plus-X or Tri-X. Just for fun I compared it with another favorite, the K1000: the TL-Super is slightly longer in body and just slightly heavier, though certainly noticeably heavier with the 1:1.7 Yashinon lens which is all-metal construction as opposed to the plastic 1:2.0 SMC-A Pentax (I never noticed it was plastic, go figure!). Both great cameras, both outstanding lenses.

Extra extra note: I’ve acquired a second ‘parts’ body and see that there was an earlier version of the TL-Super with a bottom-mounted switch for opening the film door, not unlike the swinging switch on the Cosina Hi-Lite and Argus/Cosina STL 1000 (as opposed to the newer and more familiar rewind-knob lift). Everything else appears to be the same however.


The camera as I said came to me in unbelievable shape, but the light seals were on the way out. Replacing light seals is a tedious, dirty, painstaking job, make no mistake. Get out the Q-Tips, toothpicks, dental picks, 97% isopropryl alcohol, paper towels, and Kimwipes. Scrape, moisten, rub, carefully make it all go away, noting exactly where it all went, a section at a time so you can replace it all lovingly with strips of mousepad carefully cut with an X-acto knife and strips of black felt salvaged from used film canisters (thank you Bay Custom Lab!). I did replace all the light seals, on the film door, in the mating groove of the body (this is the first place you’ll usually see the problem) AND the dissolving bumper where the mirror flips up. If you cut the mouse pad strips a little wide and stretch them they’ll fit in the grooves without any adhesive. For the felt I either use Pliobond or a Duro-type all-purpose cement from Radio Shack. Now I should be set for a couple more decades of shooting on this one.

Tips & Tricks

The screw mount is the same as the old Pentax screw mount (M42), which means you have a world of excellent used lenses to draw from, like Takumar, Rikenon, and Carl Zeiss Jena, among many others. Cheap and plentiful, who could ask for more?

This camera uses the SR44 1.5V type battery, in fact the manual boasts that it is the first camera ever to accept this now-common battery. It’s the same one I throw in my K1000. The advantage here is the meter ‘on’ switch, which the K1000 lacks. In fact, according to the manual you’re supposed to turn the meter on to read the exposure, then turn it off again to compose and shoot. Turning on the meter disables the ‘auto’ of the lens so you get aperture preview while metering which makes it a little tough to see to focus sometimes.

I mentioned the wind lever, which has a long stroke that for me tends to catch on the shoulder strap when I’m in a hurry. Now that I have the manual I have a tip for this one – you can use multiple short strokes rather than a long single stroke, it will stop automatically when the shutter is properly tensioned. I find it goes much faster to pump it a few times quickly than do the long stroke and risk catching the lever on the shoulder strap.

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