When it comes to fixed lens rangefinders, these cameras were what got me into photography with my very first camera, the Hi-Matic 7s. But these cameras are usually fixed on having f/2.8 or f/1.8 lenses due to the shutters available. Yashica decided to go bigger and often faster with their Lynx line of cameras. So when I had the chance to get my hands on the fixed lens rangefinder with the fastest lens available among these cameras (there are no others with an f/1.4 lens according to all of us in the Alliance), I had to take it out for review. But when it comes to cameras, the Lynx 14 only has the f/1.4 lens going for it. Thanks to Mike Bitaxi for loaning the camera out for review.
Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
Lens: Fixed, Yashica Yashinon-DX 1:1.4 f=45mm
Year of Manufacture: 1965-1975 (?)
When it comes to corporate history, Yashica’s bread-and-butter is the fixed lens rangefinder. Sure they played around with Leica copies with the YF. But their first camera would be a fixed lens rangefinder in 1958 with the Yashica 35. Right at the beginning of when fixed lens rangefinders were coming into fashion. Two years later Yashica made a point to building a mid-range and high-end camera. The mid-range models would become the iconic Minister line. However, Yashica didn’t stop there. Their high-end model would be the Lynx. The first model, the Lynx 1000, came out in 1960. The ‘1000’ in the model name denoted the top shutter speed of 1/1000″, an insane speed for a leaf shutter, all thanks to the Copal SVL shutter, and speed often only seen on SLR cameras. The original model used a traditional selenium meter and a Yashinon 45mm f/1.8 lens. An interesting aside was that Yashica used the Lynx chassis to build a pair of budget model rangefinders the Yashica J (1960) and Yashica Campus (1962) which only had a 45mm f/2.8 lens and shutter with a top speed of 1/500″. An updated version the Lynx 5000 came out in 1962 which used a CdS cell to drive the meter the only difference between the 1000 and 5000 as the 5000 used both the same lens and shutter. But Yashica didn’t stop there, three years later they decided to bring a bigger lens to the Lynx line. The Lynx 14 came out in 1965 and featured a Yashinon-DX 45mm f/1.4 lens, the fastest lens out of all fixed lens rangefinders. And none that have come out since matched the optic specs of the Lynx-14. The sacrifice came in the top shutter speed; Copal did not have a shutter large enough to match the 1/1000″ top speed and instead went with a typical 1/500″ top speed. Yashica released two updated Lynx models in 1968, the Lynx 14e and 5000e, which did away with the mechanical match needle in favour of electronic guts and illuminated over/under indicators. Production of the Lynx line ended according to my best guess sometime in the mid-1970s.
As soon as you take one look at the Lynx 14, it’s the lens that will draw you in. The big f/1.4 element takes up most of the faceplate of the camera. As a result, the 14 is a big camera, I mean this is one camera that you cannot easily tuck in your pocket and even in a camera bag, it takes up a great deal of space. Other than that, the Lynx 14 is no different from other contemporary rangefinders. Exposure controls are mounted on the lens, a match needle mounted on the camera’s top plate and also visible from the viewfinder. The one interesting control is located next to the lens itself if you didn’t know you’d think the button was a lens release. But it turns on the meter to take a reading, then you can set your exposure, release it and the meter turns off. The viewfinder is bright along with the large rangefinder patch and frame lines to help with composition.
You want a strap with this camera, the lens is big and heavy and hangs off of you like a brick. Despite everything, the camera is a bit frustrating to operate in any quick manner. First off, let’s get the first thing I find annoying on any camera, the film advance. The stroke needed on the Lynx 14 is pretty close to a full 360 degrees. Okay so I might be exaggerating here, but stroke on the Lynx makes the stroke on the Hi-Matic 7s, and Nikon F seems like a short throw. I also find it a little annoying to use the button to manually activate the meter, having a separate button is nice as it does save on battery power. Still, you could make it connected to a more traditional half-push on the shutter release. And while these are annoyances, overall you do have a bright viewfinder excellent frame lines to help with composing images and a rangefinder patch that makes focusing easy. And the lens does have a good plastic leaver to help with focusing.
While the camera body is decent, and there are certainly better camera bodies out there, the lens is where the Lynx 14 shines. Honestly if you had to choose between a Lynx 5000 and a 14, take the 14. The Yashion-DX delivers quality optics and images. Sharp at any aperture but delivers the good stuff between f/5.6 and f/11. The 45mm focal length is perfect for the fixed lens rangefinders, that sweet spot between the 35mm and 50mm. And while I don’t normally shoot most lenses below f/2, the Lynx 14 will help with low-light easily and if you want that narrow depth of field. And while the Yashinon optics are not always including in the list of quality sharp optics, the lens on the Lynx is a solid performer.
The Lynx 14 would not be the first fixed lens rangefinder I’d reach for if I had one in my toolkit. Despite having an amazing lens on the front of it, I could only describe the camera overall as decent. These cameras also have a few points that make them a little difficult to operate in the modern era. There is a question of the camera’s reliability which is why Yashica released the 14e in 1968. Second is that the camera’s meter does rely on a mercury cell and I’m not sure how well the older meter will maintain accuracy with a new cell installed. Thankfully you can easily service the camera yourself, but you might need a donor camera for spare parts. What I find most surprising is that the camera carries a premium on the used market, with most on eBay running at 170$ or higher, some even getting into the 200 to 400 dollar mark. If you are looking for a Lynx, I recommend going for the later electronic model and balancing out your need, do you want fast glass or fast shutter? Because the Lynx 5000e can be had for a song these days. But you do get a better lens in my humble opinion on the Lynx 14.
Don’t just take my word on the Lynx 14, you can check out the reviews by other awesome camera reviewers!
Mike Eckman Dot Com – Yashica Lynx 14 Review
35mmc – Yashica Lynx 14: A Great Lens with a Good Camera stuck on the Back.
Down the Road – Yashica Lynx 14e Review
Photoethnography.com Classic Camera DB – Yashica Lynx 14
Cameraquest – Yashica Lynx 14