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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And this, I might be biased, but I love it – we made a jigsaw out of it for her great gran for her birthday.
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.
Some I particularly like in fact, these really summed up Connie’s reaction to her second Christmas.
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!
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.
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!
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