I’m not fully loaded with all the best gear in town like it seems some photo bloggers, Instagrammers, and what-have-yous. I don’t have all the Leicas, Hasselblads, and so on. But I’ve always come from the belief that it’s the person’s vision and skill that matters. Besides, not everyone can afford all the high-end gear. People like me do make the best out of our resources and sometimes get a little experimental with how to stretch our budgets.
Luckily, here in the Middle Kingdom, one of the big apps (or maybe the only app) for second-hand items called ‘Xianyu’ (translates as ‘leisure fish’) is great for finding good deals for cameras and lenses. I downloaded the app upon a recommendation from some friends and one day, I thought why not get a cheap compact camera and see if this app is worth keeping.
The first couple of purchases I made were of the Yashica J2 and J. These are known as ‘Ninja Star’ outside Asia. They were priced at ¥50/each, which is less than US $10. For that money, if they arrived defective, I wouldn’t feel too bad.
I consider the Yashica J and J2 to be the poor man’s T series. Both cameras are made in the 80s and boy oh boy, they are clunky. The automatic film transport makes a lot of noise, and it just reminds me how the 80s were – big, loud, chunky, and funky. Aside from that, they are just basic, mostly plastic, point and shoot cameras. The difference between the two is that the Yashica J2’s flash is automatic compared to the J. With the J, there is more control over the flash.
When I got them, I had to clean the gunk left by the stickers previously on the camera. I put in two AA batteries and voila! Both powered like they was brand new.
I bought and shot both of these cameras pre-covid. I first took the Yashica J2 on a trip to Kunming, Yunnan Province in China and brought two cheap rolls, a Fuji C200 and a Kodak Color Plus 200. It was a good size to travel with given I was traveling with an eight-month-old kid. After this trip, I was amazed with the scans from the lab. The camera and film captured the colors of the city.
I decided to take the Yashica J to somewhere just in my city of Shenzhen. I got an expired roll of Agfa Vista 200 and shot stuff during a night event I attended. The scans came out giving me a late 90s vibe which takes me back to my high school years.
The Yashica J and J2 delivered great images both at day and night. The photos are sharp with great colours and despite the clunkiness, the cameras are still easy to shoot, especially for people who are handling their kids! I’d say they do deserve the other name – they are quite the ninja!