Yashica Mat 124 Cleaning : Taking Lens

A Great tutorial on how to clean the normal taking lens


Yashica Mat 124 Cleaning (1 of 4): Taking Lens

Yashica mat 124 with front taking lens removed

The next four posts will be on the cleaning I finished today on my Yashica Mat 124.  This was not a full CLA (clean-lube-adjust) mostly because I’m not confident I’d be able to get it working again if I got into the precision mechanisms on the camera.  Instead, I focused on fixing the major problems I mentioned in First Shoot Results: Yashicamat 124 Issues: an oil-fogged taking lens and a major light leak.

There are four parts to this series (I’ll link them up as I get them done):

  1. Cleaning the taking lens (this post).
  2. Cleaning the viewing lens, mirror, and screen.
  3. Light seal replacement on the door (to fix the light leak).
  4. Fixing the light meter (a.k.a. retrofitting a battery to work).

I am posting this information because I believe it can be helpful to the general public, both for fixing up old Yashica Mats (these techniques will likely work on a 124G also) and just to show that if I can fix up an old camera, you probably can too!

Of course, I need to give the standard disclaimer: attempting this procedure could easily damage your camera and/or lenses.  So know the risks going in, and if in doubt, take it to a professional!

* * * * *

I started by cleaning the taking lens mostly because it was the task I was most afraid of, and if I screwed up the main lens or shutter, there’s no point in putting time into the other stuff.  Cleaning the taking lens requires removing one or more of the lens elements using a spanner tool.  The spanner tool fits into these little notches on the lens:

detail of front of Yashicamat 124 taking lens

Of course, I don’t have a spanner tool.  And, they cost $20 or more (and I do not think a regular spanner can reach into the back of a 124, but correct me if I’m wrong!).  The other option was to take the $70 camera into a shop and pay more than the camera is worth, so it was time to figure something out.  I eventually settled on this odd tool:

DIY spanner tool

Yes, this is two blocks of wood, screwed together, with nails through the cube-like chunk.  I drilled holes in the wood to prevent the wood from cracking.  The idea was that the nail points would act like the spanner tips, and I could bend the nails to adjust it.  I hit a snag when I first applied the tool to the front lens element and it popped out of the notches, scratching my finish.  Yikes!

So, I backed off and regrouped, resigning myself to buying an actual spanner tool online.  But, after reading more (including this great thread at photo.net on cleaning the taking lens of a 124G), I realized that most people just jimmied something together to replace the spanner tool, and the lens really isn’t on there that tightly.  I also realized that my nail tips were way too blunt, so I sharpened them with a rotary tool:

Tip detail of DIY spanner tool

Then, placing the ‘tool’ (I loose the term loosely) into the notches, I was able to easily rotate the front element out.  It really does not take much force at all, which was a nice surprise for me.  I’ve heard you can do it with a screwdriver and a small hammer, but try to get a spanner before you try that!

Removing front element of Yashica mat 124 taking lens with DIY tool

Note the scotch tape over the lens to protect it in case I slipped.  The tape also makes it easy to rotate the lens out without using the tool once it is loosened.  Once removed, the blades of the shutter are revealed (the aperture is wide open and hidden):

Yashicamat 124 without front element (showing shutter)

Now, some people recommend cleaning the front of the rear element by forcing the shutter open on bulb with a locking shutter release.  Of course, I do not have one of those, and I did not want to run the risk of getting solvent on the shutter mechanism (which often wicks into the internals) so I decided to remove the rear element also.

I read online that it is possible to unscrew the rear element with your fingers (in gloves) so I tried that, but all I accomplished was smudging my lens with whatever lube was on the household gloves I used.  I DO NOT recommend that because it was quite hard to clean off.

Yashica mat 124 rear element with smudges from rubber gloves

Instead, I bent my homemade spanner into shape and got it out easily.  This is the back of the shutter:

Back of yashica mat 124 shutter

And these are the lens elements, front and back:

Front and rear elements of Yashicamat 124 taking lens

Front and rear elements of Yashicamat 124 taking lens (other side)

Note the paper towels that I laid down under my work area to keep everything clean and unscratched.

In my camera, pretty much all the oil residue (that was ruining my images) was on the front of the rear element.  I used rubbing alcohol, q-tips, and lens paper to remove it, but I’d recommend a better solvent if you can get it.  Definitely don’t use rubbing alcohol if it has anything in it besides alcohol and water!  And, avoid getting it in the camera body because the water in it can cause things to rust!

Then, I reassembled the lens elements.  Again, scotch tape came to my aid because it gave me good grip on the front element (screwing it in and finishing with the homemade spanner):

Using tape to replace front lens element

It also helped with the back element:

Tape stuck to the back element

Allowing me to lower it into place with pliers (I don’t want anything scratched in the light box!):

Lowering rear element into place

Sadly, it was too hard to screw it back in with the tape, so I used a pointy tool to push on the notches until it was screwed in, then tightened it (lightly!) with the spanner.

Screwing Yashicamat 124 rear element back into place

And, the end result?  A perfectly clean lens (well, there are a few specs of dust in it):

A view through a cleaned Yashicamat 124 lens

I’ll tell you, this fix had me very worried and it took me two weeks to start on it because I did not realize how easy it would be to remove the lens elements.  Don’t hesitate to try this on a cheap camera yourself if you can handle the risk of damage.  Just go slow, be careful, be careful again (one slip of a screwdriver can do damage!), but realize you don’t necessarily need to hire someone to clean your lens!

If you have any questions, let me know.  And next time, I’ll let you know how the viewing lens and screen cleaning went!

via Yashica Mat 124 Cleaning (1 of 4): Taking Lens « Used Camera Database Blog.


5 responses

  1. Thank you for this! I acquired a 124 off of ebay and it needed quite a bit of cleaning. This was a lot of help.

    1. Welcome. I am glad that you find it useful

    2. BTW, i am not the author of this article. It is from used camera database blog.

  2. Hi – Just picked up a Yashica Mat 124 in a leather case. Not in great condition but for $4.00, I can take a chance. I am an engineer by trade and am considered fairly bright. However, I can not figure out how the camera is removed from the case! I have tweaked and pushed but nothing seems to move – the case seems more fixed than stuck. Considering that someone (probably many years ago) put the camera in the case, I should be able to remove it. I don’t want to do any damage.

    I would really appreciate any help/suggestions/advice you might be kind enough to offer


    Al Brockman
    Buxton, ME

    1. Thats strange. Usually its fairly easy to remove the case. 1) Check out whether the bottom has a screwer. 2) check the two “ears” see whether the two safety lock is remove. the rest there are not much.

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