This is a review of a popular 35mm rangefinder camera made by Yashica in the 1960s, the Yashica Minister D.
The pictures in this gallery can also be viewed full sized here
I purchased this camera from eBay uk, partly to increase the Yashica section of my camera collection but mostly because it was only £5 and no one else had placed any bids on it. When I received it I discovered that it’s a fairly clean and as far as I can tell almost fully working example of what was a popular camera series.
The only imperfection on the body I can find is a slight mark on the top plate by the ridge next to the film advance lever. All the controls on the camera seem to work properly and, what is a slightly unusual for a camera this age, the shutter fires at all speeds at what seems to be the correct timing.
The only part of the camera which I thought wasn’t working correctly was the self timer control because it seemed to be locked tight, but after a bit of research I found this is because the flash sync needs to be in the X position for the self timer to work. Also I can’t confirm that the exposure meter is working correctly because I don’t have a suitable battery, and it’s not possible to buy mercury cells any more. If I was being fussy I would say that the light seals need replacing, but that is a fully expected condition for a camera this age.
Yashica Minister D description.
The Yashica Minister series covered a number of models from the initial Minister to the Minister 700. The Minister D was the penultimate model, made about 1963 and was a reasonably well spec’ed version with an uncoupled exposure meter, a coupled rangefinder and a 45mm f/2.8 Yashinon lens. The handbook for the model is available at the excellent site run by Mike Butkus.
I would describe the Minister D as a normal sized camera. It’s not as small as an Olympus Trip or Pen, but it isn’t as big as a lot of SLR cameras available in the early 1960’s. I guess it’s the size advantage which drove people to buying rangefinders rather than reflex cameras, unless they wanted exchangeable lenses, because they are as quick to use as an slr and can give results equally as good. In fact it could be argued that a good rangefinder can be focused faster and with more accuracy than a reflex as long as the finder mechanism is correctly calibrated.
The exposure meter gives results in EV which are transferred to the exposure controls mounted round the lens barrel on this model. Being a light meter with a Cds cell means it requires a battery to operate and, as I said above and in common with a lot of cameras in the 1960s, this unit uses a mercury cell which is no longer available. In order to preserve battery life there is a switch just behind the light cell and next to the viewfinder which is used to enable the meter for a reading.
I find the aperture and shutter setting mechanism quite well designed. In common with other cameras which used an EV setting system, there is an exposure control ring which is calibrated in EV numbers which sets the exposure value. Then there is another ring which allows that exposure value to be shifted whilst maintaining the same actual exposure value. Although this is not unique, the Yashica implementation seems quite nicely done because the exposure shift can as be applied without any other levers or controls needing to be moved.
I think the control I would find most difficult to use is the ASA setting for the light meter, it’s just too small for me to see properly (old eyes I guess!). In contrast the rangefinder is one of the better ones I’ve seen being really quite clear in the viewfinder.
Another really neat aspect of the viewfinder is the parallax correction. There are framing lines in the viewfinder to allow the photographer to correctly compose the picture. These lines shift as the focus control is used to focus the scene, meaning any parallax error is automatically allowed for.
Yashica Minister D spec.
- Yashica Minister D 35mm rangefinder camera
- Built in Cds Lightmeter using PX-13b or 625 mercury cell
- ASA range 10 to 400
- Shutter speeds from 1sec to 1/500 +B
- Copal SVS shutter
- Aperture from f/2.8 to f/16
- Framing lines in viewfinder with parallax correction
- Focus range infinity to 0.8M
- Flash sync socket with X/M switch.
- 8 second self timer
- Shutter release with threaded connector for cable release
- Strap lugs
- Auto resetting frame counter
- 4″ x 2.5″ x 2.5″ in size (approx)
- Yashinon 45mm lens
- Serial No: T191773