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!
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12 thoughts on “Yashica J and J2 (Ninja Star) Mini-Review – Back to the 80s – By Meifei Tang”
Well the cameras might be cheap, but the photos hardly show it. I like the three semi-symmetrical shots in particular, although the one with the steps looks like it could have been a bit sharper (movement?)
A good demonstration that it is less what camera you point than what you point it at and where you choose to stand that matters…
Thank you! I did notice some were not as sharp, especially since I’m usually walking or on a bicycle when taking photos for most of the daytime photos I posted.
Prices for this camera on Ebay right now (United States) range from $30 for non-working parts cameras to over $100 for mint versions from Japan.
I have a Ninja Star (in blue) that I totally enjoying shooting with. As you note, it’s a simple camera, but it’s perfect for carrying in a handlebar bag on my bike. I just need to grab the camera, open the lens cover, and shoot. The results are consistently great–on par with my Yashica T3, but perhaps even better because I spent almost nothing to buy the Ninja Star!
Very nice article. I like the first picture with the red gate. 4th picture where the wall has the cross-like openings – what is their purpose? Decorative?
I think the crosses were more decorative. I just stumbled to find it on a walk to an appointment so didn’t have much time to explore.
I think that clear protective plastic shield can come off – interesting camera design without it, plus you will see better.
I love my J2, the lens is actually very good. Thanks for sharing your photos and thanks for reminding me to get it out and use it!
Yashica used this 32mm 4-element lens in several cameras over the years, and it really is a nice lens.
The Yashica J. in the picture is acually the “J. Motor”. A fixed focus version with a portrait setting that can be used by sliding that slider-knob thing under the lens. I guess that makes it a two-zone zone focus camera.
There is also a “regular” J. autofocus version that lets you disable auto-flash by pushing down a spring loaded knob that rises when the flash is charging. I think on the J2 there is no way to disable the flash.
The daylight images here are really bold and striking — credit for those to the eye behind the camera. The flash ones look like — well, small-camera direct flash, but no fancy T-something (I sold mine) would have done any better.
So I think this shows what you intended: you can’t always get what you want but you can sometimes get more than you paid for.
Hey Meifei, it’s nice to see a compatriot writing here on 35mmc.
Though I shoot with Leica (also purchased from Xianyu!), I agree it’s not the gear that matters but the person behind and the scene in front of it. Those photos shot at night do have 90s vibe especially China’s Karaoke from that era where we used to go with our parents right? Haha, looking forward to seeing your future posts!
Yuze, Thank you! Will try my best to post more. I am happy to find a compatriot in here! The night photos are so 90s KTV places indeed.