Yashica Lynx 1000: A brilliant rangefinder can be had for a song

Yashica Lynx 1000
The Yashica Lynx 1000 is a very nice early-1960s Japanese rangefinder with a fast 45mm f/1.8 lens and best-in-class 1/1000s top shutter speed. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The Yashica Lynx 1000 offers excellent optics and easy handling in a well-built package for a bargain-basement price.

This may well be the only 1960s Japanese rangefinder I keep in my Permanent Collection as I seek to divest myself of most of the cameras I’ve collected. Previously it was going to be the Petri 7, but I think I might like the Yashica just a little bit better — and it doesn’t have a screwed-up aperture like the Petri.

The Yashica Lynx series was ahead of its time in one way or another for most of its run, eventually producing the Lynx 14 with its massive f/1.4 lens and paving the way for the successful and long-lived Electro 35 series, but the Lynx 1000 was the first.

The camera

The Lynx 1000 was introduced in 1960 along with the Yashica Minister, the company’s first cameras with onboard selenium light meters. The Lynx 1000 was joined by the Lynx 5000 and Lynx 14 in 1964, and 1965 was the 1000 model’s final year of production.

The fastest shutter speed, which gave the camera its numeric designation, was a blistering 1/1000 second. The Copal SV leaf shutter blew away most all competition. Shutter speeds through 1 second, as well as bulb mode, round out the selection.

The in-lens design, with the shutter between the front and rear lens groups, allowed the blazing shutter to M-sync a medium-peak flash bulb at any speed. X-sync for electronic flash is at a respectable 1/60 second or slower. A PC-type flash sync socket is position to the right of the lens on the front of the camera, and a cold accessory shoe sits on the top of the camera.

The coated, color-corrected 6-element Yashinon lens sports a good normal focal length of 45 millimeters, opens up to a maximum aperture of f/1.8, and has a 46mm filter thread.

The shutter speed selector ring, at the front of the lens barrel, has a type of friction coupling to the aperture ring behind it. You can select an aperture without moving the shutter speed ring, but adjusting the speed will adjust the aperture as well.

There are detents that gently stop the shutter speed selector at each marked speed, but the aperture ring turns smoothly, making the aperture setting infinitely variable. The minimum aperture is another place where the Lynx 1000 outshines much of the competition — stopping all the way down to f/22.

Lynx viewfinder
In the viewfinder, the brightline framing guides move to correct for parallax error, and the light meter needle is (barely) visible in the top center. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The film speed selector for the fully-coupled light meter is integrated into the aperture ring, and adjusted by means of lever on the right side of the lens barrel. Film speeds from ASA 10 through ASA 800 are available.

Focus, shutter speed and aperture all align with a red diamond on the lens barrel, which has depth-of-field markings surrounding it. On the bottom of the aperture ring, a tiny lever activates an 8-second self-timer.

The focus ring, at the back of the lens assembly, has a lever on the lower left that makes it easy to adjust with one finger. It is coupled to the rangefinder, and all the settings are coupled to the light meter.

In the viewfinder, a bright rangefinder patch is surrounded by brightline framing guides which, as you adjust focus closer to the camera, move down and to the right to compensate for parallax error. In the top center the light meter needle is visible in a dark box, with a centered white spot to indicate correct exposure. The needle moves to either side of the spot, indicating over- (to the right) or under-exposure.

Yashica Lynx ASA-DIN chart
A handy ASA-DIN film speed conversion chart is affixed inside the back door of the Yashica Lynx 1000. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The physical meter needle reflected in the viewfinder is also visible in a labeled (over/under) readout in the center of the top cover, next to the accessory shoe. To the left is the rewind knob with its flip-out crank and a film plane indicator mark.

Near the right-hand side of the top cover, the shutter release button is threaded for a standard cable release. The film advance lever sits atop a frame counter that counts up, but has to be reset manually when changing film. The edge is knurled slightly and can be turned with a fingertip.

To open the back cover and load film, a small button on the left-hand end of the bottom plate must be moved sideways in a small arc, and then depressed, to release the latch. Once open, the camera is straightforward to load. Note the ASA-DIN conversion table conveniently located on the inside of the film door.

Also on the bottom cover are a standard 1/4-20 threaded tripod socket, and a take-up spool release button, which locks in to allow rewinding. There are strap lugs on either end of the top cover.

Yashica Lynx top
Yashica Lynx 1000 top view. Most controls are on the lens barrel, and the selenium exposure meter’s readout is on the top cover. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Using the Lynx

The Lynx 1000 is heavy for its size, but not objectionably so. It feels very solidly built and the heft lends an air of quality to it. It’s not as large as the Konica Auto S2, but is more comparable in size and heft to the Petri 7.

The overall control layout is very good. The key controls — aperture, shutter speed, and focus — are all on the lens barrel, and the shutter release button and film advance are well placed and easy to operate. The film advance rotates about 180 degrees, and moves quickly and easily. Both the tension and the travel distance on the shutter release button are moderate and smooth.

Loading, unloading, and rewinding are mostly trouble-free, although the knob on the rewind crank handle is small, and the very-square end of the crank arm is easy to catch a fingernail on, derailing your progress. Not a deal-breaker, by any means.

Rain barrel
Rain barrel. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The viewfinder has a bit of a green tint to it, but it’s still fairly bright. The rangefinder patch in the center is small, but quite contrasty, making focusing easy even in fairly low light. The brightline guides are very bright and easy to see, and the automatic parallax correction is just brilliant.

The light meter readout is fairly dim in the viewfinder, but as the selenium cell in my Lynx is dead, I don’t particularly mind. I’m definitely not going to let that stop me from using this camera again, because it was a pleasure and, as you can see, it takes really nice pictures. The fact that it never needs batteries, even if the meter were working, is a definite plus in my book.

The semi-coupled shutter speed and aperture selection rings were bothersome at first, but once I got used to them I realized it’s quite easy to adjust the shutter speed with a couple of clicks, then turn the aperture ring back to where it started. As long as your light isn’t changing, you can set a pairing that works and then adjust the two in concert to prioritize depth-of-field over shutter speed, or vice versa.

The Lynx is fully manual, in case you hadn’t guessed by now. No automatic exposure modes at all. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Very few of its more popular competitors offer full manual exposure controls, and with light meter cells dying of old age and mercury batteries long-since obsolete, I think manual controls are critical for future-proofing.

DeLaney Round Barn
The historic DeLaney Round Barn in Aurora, Colo. (Daniel J. Schneider)

I think the lens is probably underrated by many who would seek to compare it to the larger aperture on the Lynx 14, which is very well-regarded. Not that the 45mm f/1.8 on the Lynx 1000 is run down by reviewers — in fact, it’s praised — but it doesn’t get the same press as some other cult rangefinders of the era. And I think it should.

With a maximum aperture of f/1.8, it’s wide enough for shooting indoors in a well-lit room with ASA 400 film, and the minimum f/22 aperture means you can get crazy deep depth-of-field when you need it. Distortion is very well controlled — I see the slightest bit of barrel distortion in just a couple of these shots, but it’s extremely restrained — and chromatic aberration is virtually nonexistent.

The Yashinon’s contrast and color rendition are excellent, and the tiny bit of vignetting present is well within the range of acceptability in my book. And sharp? I hope you can see in my examples that it’s easily on par with all the best Japanese rangefinders you’ll find recommended.

Pond reflection
A No Skating sign is important as small ponds freeze for long periods of time in a Denver winter, but are rarely safe to walk on. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The opening latch for the film door is fairly unique, but easy to operate. It seems quite secure thanks to its unusual design, as well.

The biggest complaint for me is the frame counter, which has to be reset to zero manually each time you load film. Since it counts up, though, you don’t have to worry about the length of roll you’ve loaded. And there’s nothing to stop you from ignoring it, and just shooting until the advance lever meets resistance. That’s what I do.

The focus adjustment on my Lynx 1000 is very stiff. I suspect old lubricants have begun to dry out, although exercising it a bit does seem to help for awhile. The stiffness does make it very good at fine focusing, however.

DeLaney Farm House reflection
Reflection in the window of the historic DeLaney Farm House. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Of course the 1/1000 second top shutter speed is a great asset under Colorado’s bright, harsh sun, and allows larger apertures in daylight than most similarly featured rangefinders of the era are capable of. In spite of its impressive specs, that Lynx 1000 is still very quiet, even if it’s not quite small enough to be considered stealthy.

I was colored against this camera when I first picked it up from the shelf, in part because Yashica’s Electro 35 was a bit of a disappointment to me, and in part because I like the Petri 7 so much, but I wound up really liking the Lynx.

In addition to all the great features, the Lynx can be had for very modest prices, even from eBay. To me, it represents an excellent value and I highly recommend giving one a try if you have the chance.

Here are some more test shots from a roll of Ilford FP4+ and a roll of expired Fuji Superia 200:

Walking path
This soft gravel path encircles Washington Park in Denver, providing a two-mile circuit for runners, walkers and joggers. No other modes of transportation are allowed. (Daniel J. Schneider)
DeLaney Round Barn
Entrance detail of the historic DeLaney Round Barn in Aurora, Colo. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Wash Park flowers
Detail of the flower garden in Denver’s Washington Park. (Daniel J. Schneider)
John Gully Homestead House
John Gully Homestead House in the DeLaney Farm Historic District in Aurora, Colo. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Washington Park pond
Washington Park has half a dozen bodies of water within its bounds, including small fish ponds like this one. (Daniel J. Schneider)
An outdoor lamp in the yard of the DeLaney Farm Historic District. (Daniel J. Schneider)
City Ditch bridge
A bridge over City Ditch in Washington Park, Denver. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Shed texture
Faded paint and wood grain texture on a loafing shed in Aurora, Colo. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Kitchen through the window
A historic kitchen on the DeLaney Farm in Aurora, Colo., seen through the window of the cottage. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Review Summary
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Yashica Lynx 1000 rangefinder camera
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