Hey there, I’m a long-time 35mmc lurker, and, now, first time poster. A couple of weeks ago, at the tail end of a bottle of Jameson, I ham-fisted an email to Hamish offering my services, in a way that he could have, quite reasonably, ignored.
Yet, here we are. Despite the fact that my intro included the sentence ‘My writing style is relatively dense, occasionally excoriating’. So apologies in advance, my unknown, yet well loved, fellow image nerds.
I’ll start my (possibly hysterically brief) tenure as contributor on this site with a baby review of a camera that I absolutely adore, despite all the naysaying and (admittedly fair) negative spec saying.
It has been reviewed, ably, once before on the site, by Alex Redman here, but he strikes me as a grown up, and my discussions of cameras will assuredly eschew all semblance of adulthood, specs, and spectrality (or hauntology, if you’re a Derridean by nature, but consider the Lacanian gaze a subject a bit too prosaic).
I’ll set aside technology, the GASian, and, really, anything that anyone who actually knows a single fuxk about photography will find practically interesting.
Well, that was already exhausting. Thanks for still being here.
The camera in question at the mo’ is the, frankly spellbinding, Yashica T3 Super D. A wonderful piece of kit that gets nearly no attention, and is still borderline ‘reasonably’ priced, in an era of everyone and their dog (Bishon Frise, natch) throwing money at ‘vintage’ 35mm cameras.
I’m sure this annoys plenty of you as well, but, honestly, the next time I see a mju-ii on offer for 430$ I’ll lose my bloody mind. My phone takes better pictures. Hell, I think my iPad Pro takes better pictures. Yes, I’m aware that each costs about as much as an M3 with a decent vintage 50mm f/2.8, but they also do other things, while the mju-ii takes acceptable, albeit cold, images, and nothing else, so I simply cannot counsel myself to those prices.
I don’t begrudge the current costs of a T2 or a T3, though they do make me giggle a little bit. Anyone who pays 2k+ for a T3, in lieu of a G2 kit replete with 28, 45, and 90, is a bit of a simp to my mind. If you need a P&S just scoop the G2 and a 35 Electro GSN, which can likely be purchased with the errant coins and slut’s wool in your pants pocket.
Not to be uncouth, but if you feel the need to contest my simpish characterization, I’m going to assume you’re one of those people, those who let a Jenner sister’s exhortations encourage you to drop 1 months NYC rent, or 5 months Cincinnati rent, on a perfectly capable camera that in no way dictates that level of financial commitment. I love the T2, but, sometimes, the road less travelled turns out to be a shortcut.
Back to the Yashica T3. The YT3 is still incredibly under-appreciated. Largely because most people are drawn to the T4/T4 Super D/T5 (nomenclature dependent on where you live). Personally, I’ve experienced the T4/etc at length. And there’s two primary reasons why I’ve thrown it over in favour of its earlier sibling.
The first is a quasi-moral stand, given who the most famous promulgator of the camera is. I have no interest in even the vaguest of passing associations there. But, second, and more importantly, there’s a couple of more pragmatic reasons that I prefer the T3.
Unlike the rest of the various Yashica T* series P&S cameras, which boast Zeiss Tessar 35mm f/3.5 lenses, the T3 has a Tessar 35mm f/2.8. Already a not insignificant improvement.
But, even more than that, there are two ‘secrets’ about the T3 that dramatically tip the scales for me. First, something that I literally learned from Mssr. Redman’s review (and forgive me if every time I type his surname I literally hear Time 4 Sum Aksion playing polyphonically, somewhere deep in my head). He referenced an anomaly with this camera that actually positions it as a street shooting wunderkind; the fact that when you take a photo, if you hold down the shutter button when you shoot, then continue to hold it down, it makes almost no sound. I’ve used this ‘feature’ to great effect, literally taking photos of people on the streets of three or four continents from less than a metre away, with them being none the wiser. In a slightly overwrought urban situation, put the camera as absurdly close to the action as you dare, depress, then continue to hold until you achieve a safe distance. When you let go of the shutter button, the camera will make a small, cursory, robotic sound, to indicate that it has advanced to the next frame. Your subject being, if done correctly, none the wiser.
I literally bet my life on this once, riding the Metrolink from Hollywood to Long Beach. Directly in front of me on the train was an obvious member of 2NGC (the Naughty Nasty Gangsta Crips), a Northside Long Beach gang that reps LA but wears Yankees paraphernalia. Perhaps in a less than subliminal invitation to step up. Any which way, a handsome young dude with a Yankees jersey took his Yankees cap off to adjust it, revealing a tattoo reading ‘LA’ running nearly from nape of the neck to the crest of the widow’s peak. I agonized for what felt like weeks (probably 20 seconds), then zone sighted the shot through the N.A. Scope and fired. Must have held that shutter button down for 25 minutes until he got off the train. Which would have been worth it, except I caught a flight to Italy the next day, and the Milanese airport security insisted that their Xray machines wouldn’t damage film. A poignant reminder of the very ephemerality of endeavouring to stop time solely through the grace of a lightly coated strip of transparent plastic. Giveth. Taketh away. ‘Twas ever thus.
Back in the real world, the second reason for my allegiance to the YT3, is something I learned accidentally while doing the deep-dive internet search on anything that ‘I want to buy but know I don’t need’ that we all do, hoping for positive rationalization.
It turns out that the T3SD’s DX coding only manifests in even numbers. So a roll of Portra 160 will be read by the camera as 100ISO, and immediately presents a pseudo-lomographic opportunity to manipulate overexposed blowouts.
I use this sparingly, depending on locale. In Southern California, Southeast Asia, or Miami, I shoot nothing else. Leaning into the crystalline light the same way that a tall woman absolutely should wear towering Loubs, if for no other reason than because she can. In other places I shoot regular film, and take my usual chances that my photos will be trash. As we all know, equipment can’t save us from our artistic blind spots. And, in my heart of hearts, I know that my instinctive mise-en-scène suffers from blistering disabilities.
Still, it’s a fascinating opportunity. Far from a weakness, I see it as a giant strength in this camera. If you’re on this site you already are likely well versed in the ways that Zeiss lenses interpret colour. So you’re not looking for this camera to provide the diffident realism of low-ISO Fuji, or a Canon 5D (yes, I’m looking to engender endless frustrated dissents in the comments. Get at me).
Yeah. It seems huge. Like a brick. But so what?
And I’m saying this as someone who only wears clothes designed by Hedi Slimane, so my jeans are typically so skinny that I can’t wedge my house keys into them.
Always carrying a camera is a commitment to something bigger. A latent preservationist cultural instinct that compels you to forego ease in the interest of Not. Missing. The. Bloody. Shot. This ish ain’t easy. And, honestly, it shouldn’t be. When HCB talked about literally walking the streets from dawn til dusk, do you think that he would have been waylaid by an extra 11.5mm in width (the differential between the T3 and the T4)?
So, whether or not it nestles into your pocket so snugly as to be forgotten, is, not only beside the point, it’s literally anathema to the point.
Here, that’s good. This thing isn’t tiny. Though it’s not as unwieldy as some people seem determined to suggest. Still, it’s not a Contax T3, and it’s not a Ricoh GR1s. It’s more like the Sony Sports Walkman to someone else’s early stage iPod.
I’m not indifferent to the argument that bigger is better. And, if only for wildly nostalgic reasons, I choose now not to question the wisdom of my high school sweetheart.
Another thing I said to Hamish in my (once again, whiskey addled) initial salvo was: ‘I’m not about the GAS. To me, a camera is a key, but each user chooses which lock they try to use it on. The esoteric thrills me. The ephemeral does not’.
I stand by this. The YT3SD isn’t the coolest P&S you can find. Not by a long shot. The Klasse is sleeker. The Contax’ are cleaner. The Ricohs are, well, fuxking useless, if we’re honest. Eventually, at least. God, tho they do take magnificent images when they choose to. The Ricoh GRs remind me of Clarkson on Top Gear acknowledging, with unending adulation, the faults of Alfa Romeo. ‘Alfa builds a car to be as good as a car can be….briefly’. Yup.
The YT3SD is not pretty; it’s not tiny; it won’t have the ‘in-the-know’ byrd at the bar gushing over the fact that G-Dragon or Chris Hemsworth has been espousing it (depending on your continent). But it will take pictures that continuously outperform nearly everything on the market, at any price.
And, fundamentally, if you’re using it right, it’ll remind you why we’re all still using a theoretically antiquated analogue technology in the first place.
Very much looking forward to comments; corruscatory or corrosive. Thanks for humouring me.