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Yashica Auto-Yashinon 5.5cm f/1.8 Vintage Lens Review

John Riley reviews the vintage Yashica Auto-Yashinon 5.5cm f/1.8 lens, a manual focus 55mm f/1.8 prime lens from the 60s, how does it perform in the digital age? Find out here.


|  Yashica Auto-Yashinon 5.5cm f/1.8 in Vintage Lenses
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Yashinon 5,5cm F1,8 Front Oblique View

The first notable thing about this lens is the polished aluminium finish and an overall appearance that evokes the style of the late 1950s. Even the designation of the lens, referring to the focal length as 5.5cm as opposed to the more usual 55mm, is a throwback to even pre WWII production. After WWII most lenses have been described in mm. The Auto Yashinon was actually released in 1964 as the standard lens for the Yashica J-5 SLR and was very briefly reviewed in the October 1965 edition of Photography. So, 54 years later, let's have another look, this time using the Pentax K-1 36MP DSLR and Pentax Adapter K so the M42 screw fit lens can be fitted to the bayonet camera body.

Photography was just moderately impressed with the lens, so let's see if we agree when we apply it to the current digital world.


Yashica Auto-Yashinon 5.5cm f/1.8 Handling and Features

Auto-Yashinon 5.5cm f/1.8

The highly polished aluminium finish may look old fashioned, but looking beyond that we see a very well made lens. The engraving and general finish are all to a very high standard. Despite all the metal and glass, the weight is a modest 230g. There is a 52mm standard filter thread. Looking into the front element, the 6 bladed diaphragm can be clearly seen.

The metal focusing ring has a reasonably good grip. The focusing action is very smooth, with just the right amount of resistance. Focusing is down to 0.5m, or 1.7 feet. This is not quite as close as many similar lenses from the era, which might, in general, be expected to focus down to 0.45m, but the difference is not a deal-breaker. Immediately behind the focusing ring is a cut out that reveals a glossily printed distance scale, marked in both feet and metres. There is a depth of field scale provided.

An even smaller cutout shows the aperture value in use and behind this is the aperture ring. This is also extremely smooth, with light click stops that are, if anything, too light, making selecting the aperture by counting down the click stops more difficult.


Yashinon 5,5cm F1,8 On Pentax K1

The M42 screw thread was widely used by many manufacturers and has the advantage of being usable on almost all interchangeable lens cameras providing there is a suitable adapter available. The main disadvantage is that it is slower to change lenses and that faster lens designs (f/1.2) cannot easily be made. The Auto Yashinon has a plain 42mm thread mount, with no electronics of course. There is a pin that engages with a kicker plate in suitable cameras, providing a means to stop down the lens prior to the exposure being made. An auto/manual switch selects auto or manual diaphragm operation. In this example of the lens, the pin has been removed and the A/M switch disabled. This means that the diaphragm is set at whatever value is selected and no stop down is necessary. In terms of the Pentax K-1 DSLR, this means that Av mode can be used without any special action being needed. As focusing is more accurate if performed at open aperture, the procedure becomes focus, manually select aperture and then shoot. This will vary depending upon the camera used.

Optical construction is 6 elements in 4 groups, a fairly standard configuration for a standard lens of this era and capable of a high standard. It made sense to have a high-quality standard lens provided with a camera, whetting the appetite of the photographer for more lenses from the range. This would invariably be a 50mm or 55mm, sometimes maybe 58mm, and there are seemingly unlimited quantities of such lenses available now on the second-hand market. Potentially they make very useful portrait lenses on APS-C cameras, as well as being a perfect compact choice for full-frame users. Some may struggle with manual focus, but Live View with focusing aids of various kinds is probably the way forward. If an optical viewfinder is used it is worth remembering to adjust the dioptre setting so that the etched lines on the focusing screen are as sharp as possible. This makes focusing so much easier, as the system is set so that our eye focuses on the screen without fatigue or strain.
Yashinon 5,5cm F1,8 Rear Oblique View
 


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