Point & Shoot

A slightly unorthodox review of the Yashica T3 Super D – by Byron Hawes

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.

Costa Rica, Tambor, Sunrise

Los Angeles, LACMA, Jeff Koons sculpture, Hedi the Chow

Palm Springs, Kimpton Rowan Hotel, succulents and brise-soleil

The Camera

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.

Montréal, Vieux Port, street musician interacting with tiny fan

Palm Springs, impromptu portrait of the photographer Eunji Paula Kim, awash in a sea of white bougainvillea

Palm Springs, Saguaro Palm Springs Hotel, angles and atmosphere

I digress.

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.

Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Laurel Hardware bar sign

Los Angeles, West Hollywood, North Fairfax Basketball Court

New York, Iconic Magazines, the dancer Pierce Cady at a launch for Sneeze Magazine

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).

Costa Rica, San José, Bebedero cocktail bar

Costa Rica, Montezuma, Playa Grande

Los Angeles, DTLA, Supreme x Louis Vuitton skateboard trunk

Practicalities

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.

Los Angeles, DTLA, @baariksgallery in studio shooting for Powerhouse Supreme book

Los Angeles, Maxfield, Jean Nouvel Pavilion

Montréal, Vieux Port, photographer Cynthia Copper’s loft

Wrap Up

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.

Toronto, Private Residence, Louis Vuitton x Kanye West ‘Jaspers’, poolside

Montréal, Chinatown, Restaurant Orange Rouge

Palm Springs, Las Palmas, mid-century house and accompanying vehicle; views of Mount San Jacinto beyond

Very much looking forward to comments; corruscatory or corrosive. Thanks for humouring me.

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28 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Jon Lee
    May 17, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Wow, what a glorious piece of writing!
    Thank you! I had a blast reading this.
    My fav quote from the piece:
    “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.”

    Write more pls.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 18, 2019 at 2:46 am

      That’s very kind Jon. I appreciate the words.

      Will scribble something else soon…

  • Avatar
    Reply
    CJS
    May 17, 2019 at 10:51 am

    I have a T2 that came in a lot of trashcams I got for ridiculously little (a single digit number of dollars plus shipping), and it is marvelous. I also have a T, whatever the “1” was called, and possibly another T2 somewhere? A weakness on these is a plastic piece in the door latch that tends to break.
    The Laurel Hardware sign is, if I remember correctly, a door or two from the shortlived Lomography Gallery Store.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 18, 2019 at 2:48 am

      Okay, so that T2 ting inspires more than a little jealousy, not gonna lie.

      Forgot all about the Lomo spot on Santa Monica. Only went once. At the time I was living in Beijing, and there was a (similarly short-lived) one there to keep my Diana F+ addiction sated lol.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Edd
    May 17, 2019 at 11:01 am

    This made me laugh out loud in between nods of agreement. Nice one Byron. I love the T3 too and for similar reasons. The photographs on here show it off well. I like the street musician and toilet sign especially. Hope more whisky-powered words follow.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 18, 2019 at 2:49 am

      Appreciate you my guy.

      This week is Tanqueray at the hotel bar in Shanghai, but I expect they work roughly the same…

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Aivaras
    May 17, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Good writing and really really impressive set of pictures!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 18, 2019 at 2:49 am

      🙌🙌🙌

  • Avatar
    Reply
    BC
    May 17, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Hi Byron, thanks for an entertaining piece. Have you ever tried the Olympus Mju (not just seen it or heard about it)? I personally like the back that it looks less like a brick, especially in one’s torn-at-the-seams pocket (the Y will certainly do that, the Mju may not). I also like the clam-shell design of the Mju that protects its lens from dust, water and scratches.

    Now adding two sentence from your text may make sense:
    “But it will take pictures that continuously outperform nearly everything on the market, at any price.”
    […] “my discussions of cameras will assuredly eschew all semblance of adulthood, specs, and spectrality.”

    Conclusion? … the infamous “Whatever”? ;o)
    Best,

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 18, 2019 at 8:17 am

      I’ve put a couple dozen rolls through various MJUs. Should probably clarify; in that, at 40$, I thought it was a workhorse, while at 400$ I think it’s clown shoes.

      To each their own. I know lots of talented photographers who swear by it, and get fantastic results. I find its colour separation a touch anaemic for my tastes, but maybe that’s just a result of some sort of latent Blade Runner neon lights fever dream thing I need to work out with my therapist, if I ever find a couch comfy enough to lie down on….

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Lilianna
    May 17, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    I adored the narrative and the images.
    I will say however, I do not find images shot with my MJU II to be cold.
    Of course mine was given to me some years ago, so that might color my reaction.
    That being said, I use my Minox 35gl far more.
    It is much quieter.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 18, 2019 at 8:21 am

      Thank youuuuu.

      My MJU indifference seems to be a minority opinion. Funny you brought up the Minox. I literally just pulled mine out of storage. Looking forward to getting going with it again. Been ages….

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nigel Geoffrey Haycock
    May 17, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    Well that was a blast, thanks for the unconventional review, a nice change from the common approach to camera articles (mine included). If you have more to share please do whether whiskey fueled or not.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 18, 2019 at 8:14 am

      Might could figure out something else to write. Thanks for the kind words/motivation.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    tristianos
    May 17, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    I’ve loved this camera ever since I looked at my first roll through mine. I didn’t know about the ISO DX reading only coming out in even numbers tho, but I’ve only just put my first roll of Portra 160 into it.

    I love its scope. I love its secret shutter trick (I’ve used it also, but not on gang members yet). I mostly love its lens and its portability too (I don’t think it’s too big at all; you need a good case is all and a usable wrist strap)

    Thanks for the (Slightly overly verbose and erudite 😉 ) review.

    Hit me up if you want to shoot Yashica T3s around Los Angeles

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 18, 2019 at 8:12 am

      Lmk how you find the 160 tings.

      I’m in LA about a third of the time. Live in Weho near Melrose/Fairfax. Always down to shoot. Get at me.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Sam
    May 18, 2019 at 8:56 am

    I like Derrida, and I like this review! Highly entertaining writing!!! Props to the underrated cameras like this one, thanks for sharing!!!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 18, 2019 at 8:58 am

      Good looks.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 19, 2019 at 9:18 am

      Thanks very much 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Mike McFaul
    May 18, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    Long time reader, first time commenter. You’re worth the extra minutes I am taking out of my day to write the following scribble … wonderful photos and brilliant writing. As our fellow image nerds have said, keep it up!

    Cheers! *clink*

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 18, 2019 at 12:36 pm

      Thanks mate. Appreciate it.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Tom Brayne
    May 18, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Doesn’t matter how you made them, this is a great series of images. Good eye, jaded or not! Writing style meshes with my sensibility, unfortunately Slimane jeans no longer mesh with my body. And just what do you think of Johnny Pigozzi?

    Now about that Jameson ………………..

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 19, 2019 at 9:18 am

      Thanks homie. I appreciate the kind words.

      I’m not an authority on Pigozzi, but I definitely fuxks with Pool Party.

      Off the Jamie for a second. Think last night I drained all of Shanghai’s Jamie reserves. Oops…

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Dan Stevenson
    May 19, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    Finally a photography review for the secret writer in all of us.

    I truly enjoyed this. Thank you.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Darius
    May 24, 2019 at 9:05 am

    thanks for the article , I like you’re writing, you made my day
    🙂

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Darius
      May 24, 2019 at 9:07 am

      i’m sorry I meant : *your writing

    • Avatar
      Reply
      byronhawes
      May 24, 2019 at 9:40 am

      I appreciate that. Cheers!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    gina
    June 29, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    this is the review that made me pull the trigger and snag one so… thanks.

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