Cameras of Yesteryear: Yashica Dental Eye

What a funny name for a camera? Well, not really. In fact, its name says it all: the camera was primarily targeted to dentists but also to pathologists, forensics etc. who needed to do photo documentation of their work, patients and so on. More specifically, macro photographic documentation. A very peculiar, niche camera.  Being a specialistic camera, so it was its price-comparable or higher than a Contax SLR. There were three generations of this camera; the first one with a 55 mm lens, the other two with a 100 mm lens. The camera features a fixed macro lens with a built-in ring flash and capable of reproduction ratios between 1/10 and 1/1 (2/1 with additional diopter lens). The focusing ring doesn't tell you the distance, only the reproduction ratio. Almost everything is automatic, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as it turned out from my first tests: you can only select whether you activate the flash or use ambient light only (you can also set flash under/overexposure by 1 stop). But there is no flash TTL metering. Instead, it has a simple yet brilliant solution-the flash output remains constant while the aperture gets smaller as the reproduction ratio gets higher. Two problems are solved this way (may be even three, considering the high reflectance of teeth): the photos are always correctly exposed, regardless of shooting distance, and the compensation of the diminishing depth of field. Genial, isn't it?
Yashica Dental Eye II
I acquired this camera from Ebay for a very low sum (compared to the very cheapest pocket digicams), hoping to get it to use for macro work-not for me, but for a very special person, very fond of macro photography.  I must admit, I had no expectations at all regarding optical quality, but considering  the sell price...well, I could live with it. Nonetheless, this camera became very fashionable among lomographers, due to its ring flash (but lomographers cannot be defined as picky regarding lens quality...). Oh, how happy I was to be proven wrong: the lens' performance is simply outstanding-comparable to a Zeiss glass in terms of sharpness; however, the lens yields quite a  »hard« image, typical of most macro lenses. One of the amazing features of this camera is certainly its focusing screen-even though the lens is »only« f/4, I have never seen such a bright screen, not even in a Rollei. Even a half-blind person would be ableto focus, I am pretty sure. Simply put, you can get (almost) all you need for macro work in one piece on equipment, with no extra gear. And fortunately, the camera comes also with a synchro socket, for those who need and additional flash (e.g. for background illumination). For those (like me) who don't mind (or even prefer) to shoot on film, I can only say: go for it. It will cost you only a fraction of a macro lens (new or even used one) and it will deliver outstanding results and amaze you with ots ease of use and simplicity. Provided you find one.
Not only for macro, the camera is useful also for other closeup shots.
This shot probably best shows lens' clinical sharpness (pun intended).

A macro handheld shot. A tripod would help in having sharpness in the right spot. All shots made on Kodak Ektar.


  1. I just got one of these on eBay for $40.00 with the 100mm macro. What an camera!I wish I had one of these when I was doing medical photography.

    1. yes, this camera used to cost a lot money when it was a "fresh" product
      I see, you got one for even less money than I did (but I still got it for a little sum, don't even remember how much)

  2. Anonymous7/1/14 21:35

    This camera is a well-kept (ignored, that is) secret! I've got two DE3's, and find them amazing for nature photography, also cat photography! In particular, I like the 'metallic' topography look of leaves (esp. when you fire two flash elements). I shot a lot of kodachrome on this in the later 2010s. I went so far as to get the supplemental 'super-duper add-on lens', but haven't used it except to test since the magnification is so high already...
    The pictures of teeth and so forth in the instruction manual is a little weird and creepy!
    Have a few photos here:
    http://rjl.us/photo/alaska1.htm The first 3 on that page, 2nd on bottom, and:
    http://rjl.us/photo/alaska3.htm (#5&6), more around the same website, etc.

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