Hi I’m Paul Rice, a photographer and camera collector from Ontario Canada. What a thrill to be a part of the Travelling Yashica project. When I first read about it on 35mmc I immediately signed up for it and had to wait about a year for it to work its way around the world to me. In that time I read every article posted by the previous participants and as well as articles and reviews on the Yashica T5.
Frankly I had prepared myself to be less than impressed with the little point & shoot and when it arrived in the mail from Bangalore India, it appeared to be everything that I had expected. It was plastic, rather cheap feeling, the viewfinder is small and since it is automatic I felt that the final outcome of the photos was mostly out of my control. Like all the previous users, I also found that the shutter was somewhat of a hair trigger and the notion of a half press position seemed mostly theoretical. Yes I’ve heard and read of the legendary glass installed in it and I’ve seen the ridiculous prices people pay on ebay for them but that didn’t leave me in awe – it left me wondering if those people were simply nuts! It’s a plastic point and shoot after all, how good could it be? No I wasn’t excited about the camera but I was excited about the project.
I’m not a street shooter (too chicken to approach strangers) and I’m not a landscape shooter (I like to sleep in the morning). My work is mainly wedding and engagement photography and portraiture in the photography business that my wife and I run. I set out to see if I could bend the camera to my use, or more correctly, bend my own thinking to get the camera to do what I wanted it to do. I loaded a roll of TMax 400 into it as soon as it arrived and took the camera to work with me where I managed to get a few shots in the shop. That very weekend my wife and I were also booked to shoot a small outdoor wedding and I thought “What a great opportunity to test out the Yashica with some candid reportage style wedding shots.” I packed our gear and off we went to the wedding – and half way through it I realized the Yashica was sitting safely at home on the dining room table. Sooo, no wedding reportage photos!
The next day we were to leave on a two week, 3000 km trip, driving from our home in southwestern Ontario, Canada, west to Edmonton Alberta to visit our daughter. For those who aren’t familiar with the trip from Ontario to Alberta, the best way to drive is leave the car at home and fly. The second best way is to cut across the top of the United States, as it’s much faster than driving through Canada since we’d have to drive around the Great Lakes. This involves crossing or touching the states of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota before crossing the border back into Canada in Saskatchewan and finishing the trip on our side. The camera rode in the door map pocket of the car where it saw limited use at refueling stops as the twelve hour days of driving put me in Plow through this and get there mode. Technically this would be the second visit to Edmonton for the Yashica.
In Edmonton I took it for a few walks around town and finished off the roll of TMax. I really wanted to try some Portra 400 in it and push for more portraits so I bent the rules a bit and loaded a second roll of my favourite colour film and fired through it. Portraits, or rather the time for them didn’t seem to happen with the colour roll.
I sent the film to Indie Film Lab (www.indiefilmlab.com) in Montgomery, Alabama and waited for my scans and when they arrived I was quite honestly blown away. It’s true, that little piece of plastic does marvelous things with film. The clarity and contrast were superb but what surprised me the most was how it handled low light and backlit subjects. It’s like it understood my intent when taking the picture. I’m disappointed in the outcome of the colour roll – not in any way by the performance but the photographer and the mediocre shots I took with it. Also, other than a first cursory glance and taking an iPhone shot through it, I didn’t use the waist level Super Scope finder for any photos. It’s pretty small to say the least.
So now I understand all the hype about this little plastic wonder. Am I going to scour ebay until I find one and pay $250-300 for it? Nope. But if I happen to find one in the same way I’ve built most of my camera collection – in a charity shop for $5-10 – you can bet I’ll scoop it up. (Might even go $15)
Hamish, thank you for the opportunity to take part in this project, it’s been an eye opening experience and a real pleasure. I hope the Travelling Yashica keeps travelling for many years to come and others continue to experience it.