Yashica t5

Yashica T5 Review – The Path to Enlightenment

I suppose it is a little odd to write a ‘part 1’ after a ‘part 2’? But that’s just the way it’s happened … The second part of this story can be found here – Ricoh GR1 – The Path to Enlightenment

Before I get started its worth pointing out that the Yashica T5 is the same camera as the T4 super. Mine is a Yashica T5 …
My experience with the Yashica T5 was destined to be a positive one I think. When I bought the camera from the my local ‘London Camera Exchange’. I was actually hunting for lenses that render their subjects in a unique way, I have a Sony NEX5n in another life and like mounting random glass to it (many of the photos of camera’s on this blog are taken with the nex in fact)… Basically, the Yashica T5 was well off my radar!


It’s price tag was quite high too, not for a T5, but higher than I was willing to spend. I didn’t even pick it up. For some reason though, when I went home that afternoon I couldn’t get it out of my head. I was aware of the camera, aware of its cult following and aware of the lens that seemed to be famed for its quality (or a least qualities). I had a look at a few photos on Flickr, and decided I’d pop back and see if I could get a deal on it.

Yashica T5

My experiences as a child shooting with an ultra basic point and shoot (the Nikon RF10) have never left me, many times over the years I have thought to resurrect that camera but had never gotten round to it. Maybe there was a nagging feeling that the quality wouldn’t be up to scratch, or maybe I had always been distracted by some other pursuit (like collecting obscure lenses). One way or another it hadn’t happened. The Yashica T5 seemed to tick some boxes I didn’t think I was looking to tick at the time. Similar form factor to the Nikon, same basic function as the nikon but, and this felt like it was key, with a higher quality lens.

Yashica T5

I returned to the shop and asked the manager if he would do me a deal on it. I spend quite a lot of time (and some money) in that shop and once in a while they are nicer to me than they maybe should be. £35 was the ‘Special Hamish price’… I practically tore his arm off. It was actually mint until I got my hands on it. About a week into ownership it slipped off the top of Connie’s pram and clattered around on the Tarmac pavement a few times. It survived with just a few scratches though.

Yashica T5

So what’s all the fuss about? Why the cult following? Well it seems this chap Terry Richardson has had something to do with it, he uses one, or more likely a few of them… Quite a lot. Much of his work has a “snapshot” aesthetic about it. He choose this Yashica presumably for a combination of true snapshot camera and high quality lens. The lens also produces fairly contrasty results with often a noticeable vignette which is also fits well with the style. His use of this camera is well documented, and the style very trendy… I suppose it is where fine art meets lomo. All this combines to make a very popular highly sought after point & shoot camera!

Well worth a look – Terry Richardson’s Dairy

So what of my experience of the camera? I think it took me three rolls of film to be hooked on the style of shooting. The first roll I just snapped away, not expecting anything, I just had some fun with it. A few of the results really surprised me. I couldn’t believe the detail in this shot, it was the first photo I looked at, I remember thinking this must be why people rave about this little camera.

Taken With yashica t5 and xp2

A couple of other photos surprised me, this one, shot with the flash switch off in next to zero light. It just came out, I’m still not sure how.

Taken With yashica t5 and xp2

And this, I might be biased, but I love it – we made a jigsaw out of it for her great gran for her birthday.

Taken With yashica t5 and xp2

This had also been a turning point for me and my relationship with XP2. It just made this sort of photography so easy!
I enjoying the experience after one film, and that convinced by the camera I decided it would be my camera for Christmas Day … This was quite the departure from last year when I had hunked the blad round to the in-laws …
I loaded the Yashica T5 with a roll of fuji superior 800. A film that I’ve not always had success with but felt I wanted the extra speed. I still wasn’t up to trusting that I could get away without using the flash. Many of the shots aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing, flash and high speed fuji can make for a slightly ugly look in my opinion. Still the moments were captured and I wasn’t dismayed.

Christmas 2012

Some I particularly like in fact, these really summed up Connie’s reaction to her second Christmas.

Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas Day out of the way and I had a week or so off work. I got through a couple or three more rolls of XP2 in no time … And this was were the magic happened. We went to Worcester’s new(ish) library – The Hive. I was instantly blown away by the architecture, the shapes and angles just make you want to take photos! Unassuming 1990’s point and shoot camera in hand I felt completely uninhibited. Pretty much any other camera and I would have felt a little uncomfortable snapping photos in a library. Not this one, I felt completely comfortable taking photos! And then I got the results … This shot still remains the photo of the year or me, she just lay on floor!

I really like the yellow square

The rest of the shots I took around the Hive that day just came out … Maybe a little underexposed, but I couldn’t have been happier with them.

Inside the Hive

Inside the Hive

Inside the Hive

I’m not entirely sure if it is just me, or just my Yashica T5? But taking photos in lower light, it seemed to underexpose before it used too slow a shutter speed… I might be wrong, so don’t quote me on it. But looking at those previous shots which are clearly under, but clearly sharp my conclusion seems somewhat logical?

Either way the Hive shots had me hooked! The feeling of success, perhaps not by everyone’s standards, but at least by my own was massive. And with a p&s camera! I think the oft quoted ideal that “A good photographer can achieve a good photo with any camera” appeals to me. Feeling that I was achieving good results with something that cost me £35 and was nothing more than a point and poke was, well, a good feeling. I have a Nikon D800 and a vast array of Nikon lenses, the photos it takes are of superb quality, resolution, dynamic range, etc, just unbelievable… And for work, I find the thing indispensable. For my hobby, I find it much less inspiring to use, there is less feeling of a challenge in achieving what I want to achieve, the results have no gravity to me. The same photo taken with a Yashica T5(or any other compact for that matter) just feel more satisfying! It was these latter rolls of XP2 taken with this camera that made me realise this!
I take photos with a camera like this with no thoughts of wishing I had something bigger, something with a different lens, larger sensor or whatever else. I don’t feel self conscious, in fact I don’t feel like a photographer. I just feel like someone with a camera taking a few photos… And I love that! £35 very well spent!

So aside from my overwhelmingly positive emotional response to the camera, objectively speaking, is it any good?

Well, as mentioned, the lens is sharp! I really love a lens that vignettes a touch, not obviously, but enough to draw you right in to the results without you realising it. This camera does vignette, and not that obviously all the time! To handle, it’s a little chunky and very rounded a bit like holding a massive bar of soap. I find my middle finger sits awkwardly where the lens is, I don’t think it ever appeared in a shot, but I often have to quickly move it put of the way as I feel the lens move against it.
It’s very quick off the mark too, at least it feels like it is… The half press requires the lightest of touch, anything more and the shutter fires. It feels eager … That perhaps doesn’t make sense, but use one and you will see what I mean. It’s not to say there isn’t a delay between the button press and the photo being taken. The delay is all down to the lens moving to attain focus though, which is pretty quick for a compact like this! I also don’t remember a single time when it missed focus. So what of this underexposure in low light? well I looked up the capability of the meter. 3.5ev – 17ev. Since experimenting with the Fuji Klasse W I have discovered what these limitations can mean, I wonder if something similar is happening here. The lower limit of the camera’s ability to meter is reached, it can’t select an slow enough shutter speed to expose correctly, so it underexposes. The maths doesn’t quite add up though, I’d have thought based on the spec of the camera and the iso of the film I was using the lower shutter speed it could select would be around 1/8th sec. My photos dont look like I have shot at speeds that slow… I’m not sure? I’m also not sure I care. Shots coming out slightly under but slightly sharper in lower light are arguably better than blurred but correctly exposed … maybe … One way or another I like what it does in slightly lower light situations.

Overall, I really like it as a camera, I has it’s foibles, but If you want a point and shoot that you can just point and shoot without thinking then it really is a great camera. It’s main issue is of course the cult status that keeps the price up. But if you can find one like I did, buy it! I’m so pleased I did, it was the first step toward me starting this blog and rediscovering my love for such a simplistic approach to photography!

There are some more shots taken by me with this camera here.
And part two of this story here.

Since writing this article, and so many people asking me about the camera on here and on twitter, I decided to send it on its travels. This camera became the Traveling Yashica

Thanks for reading



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35 thoughts on “Yashica T5 Review – The Path to Enlightenment”

  1. One of the shots of the year for me too – wonderful!

    A good write up of an interesting camera, one I’d never given any thought to. But now I’ll keep my eyes peeled for one.

    1. Cheers Rob! Good luck with the search … I am going to try and find an inexpensive alternative. The Ricoh FF90 is looking quite promising, and are significantly less expensive … if you can find one… More on that camera soon though 🙂

  2. I just had a quick look on ebay – you can never have too many cameras, right? – and was a little shocked to see just how high the prices are for these – that £35 was one hell of a bargain!

    1. That is a good shot!
      Have a read of this John: http://www.35mmc.com/31/05/2013/fuji-klasse-w-comments-on-exposure-and-focusing/
      The meter in the t5 operates down to ev3.5. If it works similarly to the Fuji because of the lower limit on the lightmeter it’s probably unable to select a shutter speed slower than maybe 1/8th with 400iso film. So a steady hand and a good bit of latitude in film leads to these suprisingly good results.
      Thanks for the comment anyway! I am still on the hunt for a 35mm lensed camera that I prefer more …

  3. Great write up on the T5. I am even more convinced on getting one now though the cult status of the camera has always put me off, didn’t want to end up just another follower. But the reaults of the canera does speak for itself. Although the photographer is the main protagonist of the creative process. If you ever tire of yours, please let me know, as finding one my end of the world in a reasonable price has proven near impossible.

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  5. I used to have a T5, but then like the drunk fool that I am, I fell asleep on a table with the camera next to me and when I woke up I left it there… Classic Mihai. That happened last summer, but 3 days ago I found one in Austria on ebay and won the bid at 140 Euro, the other one I got with the winning bid at 90 Euro. This time I’m way more excited for buying it, cause I know how seductive it is, just check my flickr and say it ain’t so: https://www.flickr.com/photos/21750139@N02/
    It should get here anyday now, I’m as pumped as a 17 year old girl loosing her virginity to Ryan Gosling.

    1. Some nice shots in there for sure! I wonder who has your first one now … and more to the point, if they appreciate it!?

  6. Damn, the more I try to avoid this camera the more I’m attracted by it. This sunday I will go back at the flea market and I will try to buy that black devil…

  7. Well this thread is closing in on nine months dormant but I do have my own recent t4 encounter. I’m a newcomer to photography and the past few months have been about some shooting (not enough), reading, and an unfortunate but pleasure-able bout of g.a.s. In the process I come across the t4 entity. I read the hype, and saw the prices it was going for. Like most regular folk my thought was that it was too expensive to go after and therefore I wouldn’t be owning one in the near future. Or ever. One day while cruising Kijiji – I live in British Columbia, Canada – there it was for a paltry $75 Canadian dollars by a gentleman in Edmonton, Alberta, 400 miles from my northeastern British Columbua location. We quickly talked on the phone, and the weekend was at hand. It was simply a matter now of arranging to get funds to him as I had agreed by email to his asking price. So I thought. Early Sunday afternoon he sends me an email that begins with…” Bad news Zoran”…and proceeds to tell me a photographer out out Calgary in Alberta had called him and voila a deal was made. I was stunned but disappointed even more. Irritated too. He said if for some reason the deal fell thru he would call me back. I said sure but expected nothing to go wrong. How could it? This lucky dude was getting a bargain and knew it. There’s no way he was going to screw it up. Tuesday I get an email from the seller that opens like this…” Zoran, things have taken a twist and you are back in the running”. The seller is an older gentleman, not schooled with computers or the Internet. The buyer transferred money via email. The seller didn’t have a password, couldn’t access the funds, panicked, and contacted me. The deal really did belong to me, I was first in line, but I did feel a pang of guilt for jumping back in so eagerly. The camera come the other day, can’t wait to take it out. Things are -20c here presently, I am busy working, so conditions for shooting aren’t optimum. I told this story having done a fair bit of reading on the camera, and a common theme I found was one of two extremes. Either people get this camera dirt cheap at a flea market or some used goods sale…or they are being asked to pay thru the nose because of unjustified inflation due to cult status. In my case, this gentleman is a 78 year old former engineer from Germany who moved to Canada at age 40. He purchased the camera in 2000 for $351.50 Canadian dollars plus tax, totalling $378.73. His initial asking price of $75 was lowered to $60 after he accidentally chipped the battery compartment -minor. He also paid for the shipping, just over $10.00. He also said he had only shot 5-10 rolls with the camera. To me the camera price is completely fair, and all things considered, imo, RIGHT. It’s an example to me of how, in utopia, a camera deal for any older but venerable camera should go. The only reason the camera was priced reasonably was because this man is not an internet troll and therefore was unaware of the t4’s cult status.

  8. Great read, Hamish
    I’ve had cameras for years, starting off with a Zenth through to my last buy Canon EOS 1000D.However, I brought the T5 not long after it came out and loved using it for a couple years. Think at the time the price was about £145!! But like a lot of us who love to find something better, I moved on. Then came digital age and got my hands on a Pentax Optio 330rs, 3.2 meg, which was amazing to use, mainly because it was my first taste of digital.
    Yet only last week I was looking at selling some items on Ebay. Only to see the prices of the T4 & T5 an what they were selling for. So just this week I’ve gone an brought one roll of HP5 Plus and Agfa Vista plus 200.The roll of Agfa was only £1 from Poundland,so could be getting some more.
    This weekend I’ll be out there clicking away to see what I’ve been missing with me old T5.

    1. You will have to let me know how you get on! I love the fact that you found it was worth so much and decided to shoot it, not just sell it! Keep it – for those of us lucky enough to have not had to pay the fortune they now cost, they are that little bit more special I think!

  9. I can’t believe you bagged it for £35 bucks. I’ve got a Nikon AF which has been dropped one too many times, and I’m now looking for something new. I’m by no means a camera expert but I love shooting on 35mm on a simple, unobtrusive cameras – your site has been an amazing resource, so thanks for putting it together.

      1. Hi Hamish. I know it has been a few years since anyone has commented on this post, but I was wondering if you feel that the T5’s program mode favors open aperture over a slower shutter speed? That’s one of the reasons that I love my mju ii..it is sort of like a poor man’s aperture priority! I love and have learned so much from your website and appreciate any thoughts you have on this matter. Thanks!

  10. I’ve had my T5 for at least 17 years, and I couldn’t ask for more from a point and shoot camera, although you do have some control by tripping through the modes by pressing the tiny button. The auxiliary viewfinder on the top is a feature that you think you’ll never use, but is in fact very handy for taking candid shots. The camera is tough, too; it came to no harm after it fell down into a drop toilet at a Bulgarian monastery (you don’t want more details). The only trick that I would suggest is to put a DX sticker on your film cassettes to halve the film speed, to prevent the T5 from underexposing.

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