Yashicamat 124G

5 Frames of Chicago’s Union Station with a Yashica Mat 124G and Kodak Ektar 100

A few years ago my brother and his family moved to south western Michigan. It’s quite a distance from Utah where we were raised, but we try to visit when we’re able. They live in between many metro areas so there’s several airports nearby, but none that are particularly close. We recently were delighted to find some discounted airfare to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and just a week or so before our kids’ spring break. It seemed perfect!

My brother lives within a couple hours of Chicago so we knew we’d need a way to get from the airport to his area. We began to look at our options and settled on taking the subway to Union Station in downtown Chicago, where we’d catch an Amtrak train. While researching our trip I learned that Union Station is a beautiful old building with many intricate details and gorgeous lighting. I thought I would have time to take some photos, however, our train left too quickly once we reached the station. Luckily on our return a week later I had more than enough time to explore the building and find the compositions that inspired me.

Pillars and detail
Beautiful carved columns – Taken with a Yashicamat 124G and Kodak Ektar
Statue in the ceiling
A statue perched high above the main hall – Taken with a Yashicamat 124G and Kodak Ektar

My tool of choice was the Yashicamat 124G, a 6×6 medium format TLR built from the 1970s to the 1980s. I had purchased a model from eBay the year before but unfortunately it had stopped working. Luckily a photographer friend had one that he was willing to lend me for this trip.

For the film I used Kodak Ektar 100, one of my absolute favorite film stocks. For reasons unknown to me, Ektar seems to have a bit of a mixed reputation in the film community, with some treating it as the red-headed-stepchild of the Kodak family. As for myself, I love the rich colors and seemingly non-existent grain. Of course it’s not great for portraits, but for landscapes and architecture it makes the most beautiful photographs.

Ceiling Detail
Ceiling Detail – Taken with a Yashicamat 124G and Kodak Ektar

I loaded up the Yashicamat, put it on a tripod, and attached a shutter release cable. I don’t have a dedicated light meter so I just use an app that I have on my phone. However, I quickly discovered that my friend’s model had a working light meter! I compared it to the readings from my phone and found it to be accurate, so I eventually quit using the phone app and just metered from the camera itself. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed learning to use the matchstick needle to balance the exposure.

Carrying an old TLR into a public setting like Union Station was bound to garner some attention. I enjoyed the comments from curious passersby and even struck up a conversation with one gentleman who ended up recommending a great composition idea!

Archway – Taken with a Yashicamat 124G and Kodak Ektar

Overall I’m quite pleased with how well these shots turned out. The lighting is absolutely gorgeous and creates a golden glow around the edges of the ceiling. The American flag hanging at one end was very picturesque, but I also found many more compositions around the main hall. The columns, statues, and ceiling tiles have such great color and texture, and the shadows created from the natural light are also very pleasing.

As a comparison I also took a few shots on my digital mirrorless Fujifilm XT-3. They’re nice as well but the colors from the Ektar really make it no contest in my mind.

Main Hall
Main Hall – Taken with a Yashicamat 124G and Kodak Ektar

Thanks for reading!

You can find me on Instagram and Grainery


Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-free Experience

There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:

Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you'll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).
Subscribe here.

Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.

About The Author

23 thoughts on “5 Frames of Chicago’s Union Station with a Yashica Mat 124G and Kodak Ektar 100”

  1. Daniel Castelli

    Dear Lance,
    Your post has to rank up with some of the best architectural photos I’ve seen on this blog. The 124G and the Ektar film really delivered finely detailed and richly saturated color. I’m glad you had the time to make these photos and then share them with us.

    My family & I took a sleeper train from the Hartford/Springfield area to Chicago about 25 years ago. I have one B&W shot from Union Station in a portfolio of travel pics. It pales in comparison to your work.

    1. Daniel thank you so much! Your compliments are really boosting my self esteem! I would love to take a trip on a sleeper car someday. The California Zephyr runs through Salt Lake a couple times a day, heading to either the West Coast or Chicago. Either way there’s got to be some spectacular views!

  2. I imagine you’d definitely need to use a tripod to get these images with 100 speed film indoors. What kind of shutter speeds were needed? I love the contrast and the rich warm tones of these images. Both things Ektar 100 is known for. I’m glad you were able to use your tripod, without security admonishing you.

    1. Haha yeah security didn’t give me any trouble, although I did feel a little self conscious. One time I was standing in the way of where a line was about to form for a departure, and that’s the only time they asked me to move.

      As far as the shutter speeds, yes they were pretty slow. If I remember correctly, they were mostly around 1/15th of a second, with maybe a photo or two at 1/8th. I was definitely glad to have my tripod, even if it did mean carting it around through airports, trains, and the subway!

  3. Marco Andrés

    These images are to say the least, exquisite. They make me feel as if I could reach out and touch the stone and bask in the light. The closeup images are so evocative and even stronger than the long, final view. The images show great care, thought, respect, empathy and affinity for the subject. An intimate portrait of Chicago’s Union Station.

    1. Oh my, your comments are very moving. Thank you so much! That’s exactly what I was hoping to capture! I really have a thing for photographing buildings, and hoped to capture the light and texture of this grand old building. I’m so glad that you appreciated them!

    1. Thank you so much Scott! That’s one of the reasons I like Ektar so much, it’s very clean and has beautiful tones.

  4. Indeed, the compositions, subject matter, film and the camera work wonderfully together. You should get your Mat fixed, or buy another, and give us some more great photos. I suspect Utah has some good things to capture too.

    1. Thanks so much! I would definitely love to do that. The Yashicamat is a fantastic camera, especially for the price. I did manage to put a few rolls through it before it broke, and I absolutely loved the images that it took. I’m definitely in the market for another one, or possibly another similar TLR. Just need to convince my wife that it’s a necessity hahaha.

  5. Beautiful photos capturing the grandeur of the gilded Chicago in the apex of industrial age! I love the color palette, rich tonality and fine details from the Yashica Ektar combination.

    1. Thanks! I agree with you on all counts. I feel like this camera/film combo really captured the light and colors perfectly.

  6. The lenses on those things are so sharp you could cut your fingers on them. Lovely photos and great to see some shots from that beautiful Yashica lens. I’ve always thought that they’re right up there with the Planar on the Rolleiflex.

    1. I have to agree with you that it’s an excellent lens and very sharp. And for much cheaper than a Rollei as well.

  7. Hi Lance!

    These are some magnificent shots! Old train stations in the US like this one have some of the most striking architecture I’ve ever seen. You captured the majesty so well with the Yashica and Ektar combo, especially how tall these stations are.

    I look at Yashicas on ebay a lot, this post did NOT help my GAS and medium format itch XD!

    1. Haha believe me it’s not helping my GAS either! I really enjoyed my Yashicamat when it functioned and I have yet to replace it. I’m continually searching for something to replace it! Thanks for your kind comments, I’m glad that you liked the photos!

      1. Great Stuff Lance, I too love Ektar and don’t understand some of the dislike it has, I do have to disagree slightly with one comment you made though, it’s absolutely great for portraits I’ve used it extensively and got some amazing shots. Keep up the good work

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top