Yashica LM: A Milestone in TLR Camera Evolution with Integrated Light Meter

Last Updated on January 4, 2024

The Yashica LM series, a direct successor to the Yashicaflex S, emerged as a prominent line in the camera market with an array of improved features and design tweaks. Specifically, “LM” stands for “Light Meter,” highlighting a significant advancement in exposure technology integrated into cameras such as the Yashica 44 LM and the Yashica Mat LM.

Yashica LM

Each model under the LM series, while sharing the commonality of the integrated light meter, boasted its unique technology and specifications in this aspect, reflecting the diverse needs and preferences of photographers at the time. Its period of production, which marked a transformative era in photography, along with the unique attributes of each model, make the Yashica LM series an interesting and detailed study in the evolution of Yashica’s twin-lens reflex cameras.

The innovation of incorporating a light meter directly into the camera body not only represented a leap in photographic technology but also exemplified Yashica’s commitment to enhancing user experience and image quality. As such, the Yashica LM series holds a special place in the history of photography, symbolizing a period of transition, innovation, and sophistication in camera design and functionality.

Yashica LM Specs

Canon AE-1 35mm Film
The iconic 35mm camera stays as relevant as ever, boasting its AE (Automatic Exposure) system and focal plane shutter.
Year of ReleaseNovember 1956
Camera TypeTLR (Twin Lens Reflex)
Film Type120 film
Shutter TypeCopal MX
Shutter SpeedsBulb to 1/500th of a second
Aperture Rangef/3.5 to f/22
Focusing RangeApproximately 3 feet to infinity
Film Speed Reminder9 flag film speed reminders, later 10 flag DIN, and then combined DIN/ASA scales
Production Period1956 to approximately 1958, with sales until 1960
Lens OptionsYashikor, Heliotar and Yashinon in some models
Light MeterEV (Exposure Value) system with scale ranging from f/45 to f/0
Film CounterFully automatic reset after 106xxx serial number

Basic Properties of the Yashica LM Camera

The camera features a ground glass screen for framing shots with an optional magnifier for precision focusing. Like many Yashica TLRs with selenium light meters, this one is located beneath the nameplate. The Yashica LM has two lenses: the viewing lens and the taking lens. It offers variable aperture settings from f/3.5 to f/22 and shutter speeds ranging from bulb to 1/500th of a second.

It includes a lever for advancing film and a shutter release button, as well as a timer for delayed shooting and an MX synchronization setting for using the timer. The camera is equipped with DIN and ASA scales for film sensitivity reference, and the frame counter indicates the current frame number. The light meter has a scale from 0 to 10 and requires manual transfer of settings to the camera. The camera’s build is robust and durable, featuring an ASA dial to set film speed next to the focusing wheel.

Features from Yashicaflex S

  • New Light Meter Sensor: The Yashica LM replaced the Yashicaflex S with an improved light meter sensor and a more compact readout housing, enhancing user convenience.
  • Lens Improvements: There were updates to the lens system, though it’s unclear whether these constituted true enhancements or were merely a rebranding to “Yashinon.”
  • Shutter and Accessory Enhancements: It introduced a shutter equipped with an M/X synchronization switch and an added accessory shoe, expanding photographic possibilities.

Production and Design

  • Overlap with Yashicaflex S: There was a brief period during which both the Yashica LM and the Yashicaflex S were produced, with the latter continuing until at least 1957.
  • Exposure Meter Obscurity: The exposure meter’s details are less documented, lacking visible external branding and detailed information about its functionality.
  • Nameplate and Exposure Flap: The camera features a simple exposure flap for the nameplate, which is either up for use or closed, with no dual range setting.
  • Aperture Scale Incorporation: An f/stop aperture scale under the meter needle replaced the light value scale seen in the Yashicaflex S, aligning with more standardized photography settings.

Unusual and Notable Features

  • Extensive Meter Reading Scale: The side-mounted meter reading scale is unusually extensive, suggesting a broad range of exposure settings available to the photographer.
  • Exposure Calculator Similarity: Similar to the Yashicaflex AS-II, it featured an exposure calculator atop the meter cell housing for determining aperture and shutter speed settings.
  • Early Market Presence: Available as early as November 1956, the Yashica-Mat was advertised prominently throughout 1957, indicating its solidified market position.

Variations and Discrepancies

vtg 1956 Yashica LM advertisement in a magazine
1956 Yashica LM advertisement in a magazine
  • Rare Lens and Shutter Variants: Some instances of the Yashica LM feature Heliotar lenses and advanced Copal MX shutters, as noted in collector guides.
  • Lens Branding Discrepancies: Various sources note differences in lens branding and features, with early manuals showcasing “Yashikor” lenses.
  • Marketing and Design Sharing: Reuse of images between Yashica C and LM user manuals indicates a shared design and marketing strategy.

Manufacturing and Serial Numbers

  • Production Timeline and End: Manufacturing likely ceased in the second half of 1958, but the Yashica LM continued to feature in advertisements into the early 1960s.
  • Serial Number Insights: Early models feature serial numbers inside the body near the feed spool, with distinct 9 flag film speed reminders.
  • Design Evolution: Changes across serial numbers reflect ongoing improvements in the accessory shoe, film speed reminder flags, and the focusing hood.

Quality and Design Issues

  • Covering Degradation: A significant number of models in the database show issues with their covering, hinting at either a design flaw or a tendency for these parts to degrade over time.
  • Standard Alloy Lens Caps: Despite the covering issues, all cameras were originally supplied with hinged alloy lens caps, maintaining a standard of quality.
  • Focus Scale Predominance: The focus scales are predominantly in feet, suggesting a primary export market and aligning with Yashica’s broader strategy during this period.

Price

  • Currently, the Yashica LM in the second-hand market can range from $100 to $300 USD depending on the condition and the accessories it may come with.

You might also be interested in reading: Yashica MAT 124G Review.

Yashica LM Photos

Final words

The Yashica LM stands as a testament to the era’s technological capabilities and design trends. While it maintained core features from its predecessor, it also introduced several improvements that catered to the evolving needs of photographers. Its detailed history and the nuances in its design and functionality continue to intrigue camera enthusiasts and collectors alike.

Yashica LM User Manual

  • Yashica LM user guide here.

Author: Jorge Ferrufino

Written by Jorge Ferrufino

I am a fashion photographer and an analog photography enthusiast since the beginning of my career (15 years ago). I have had the opportunity and honor of showcasing my work in various galleries and publications around the world.


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