Face it: the camera you own is probably good enough as is.
We don't like to admit it, but the quality of our photos usually has much more to do with our enthusiasm than the technical limitations of our gear. As we develop our eye for composition and light, the sophistication of our cameras matter less and less. After all, the sensor in the newest iPhone camera is leagues more powerful than what photographed some of the most iconic National Geographic covers.
There's no better example than the controversial photographer Terry Richardson. Much of Terry's work in high profile print campaigns – seen everywhere from magazines to billboards – was shot with a humble Yashica T4, a fully automatic point and shoot film camera.
In this review, we'll be taking a look at the Yashica T4's younger brother (with an identical Zeiss f/3.5 lens), the Yashica T2.
I snagged one of these cult-classics from Amazon along with 5 rolls of Kodak Gold film. Shameful disclaimer: this camera has been my first experience with analog photography, so pretty much every step of this process thrilled me.
One week later, I had a clean, functional Yashica T2 in my hands.
Technical Specs of the Yashica T2
- Exposure control: Fully automatic
- Lens: Carl Zeiss T* 35mm f/3.5
- Shutter speeds: 1/8–1/500
- Flash: Built in
- Battery: 6V 2CR5
Shooting with the Yashica T2
I loaded in a roll of Kodak Gold 200 color negative film and stretched it across the film bay. Big red flag: you have to be very careful with this step, as Daniel Schneider found out in his Yashica T2 review. If your film isn't correctly loaded in to the film bay, your entire roll could be chewed up and destroyed. Keep the film as flat as possible, and make sure the edge lines up in the middle of the red line marked above the take-up spool. After that, I closed the back, pressed the shutter button, and I was good to go!
The Yashica T2 is easy, easy, easy. Autofocus is instant. The shutter button is smooth and responsive. The flash will fire if it needs to. With the Yashica T2, you literally don't think about anything other than what catches your eye. After you've blown through 24 frames of film on a typical 35mm roll, the Yashica T2 will automatically wind it back up for you.
I had so much fun walking through the streets of Harlem and Midtown, taking street photos more quickly and inconspicuously than ever before.
However, it's not all sunshine and roses.
With the Yashica T2, you're shooting completely blind. Is it in focus? Is it properly exposed? Is it properly lit? Who can say? It's a lot of trust to put in 30+ year old technology and hardware. Shooting was an absolute breeze, but needless to say, I didn't have high expectations for the scans.
Despite my suspicion, it turns out that the autofocus and metering were actually working fairly well the whole time. I got nicely exposed, nicely sharp images... for the most part. A solid 30% of my exposures were unsalvageable – either badly out of focus or exposed for the darkest values in the scene, rather than the subject. With those kinds of odds, this camera is better thought of as the back-up shooter in your bag. Personally, I wouldn't be comfortable trusting anything important to the Yashica T2's judgement.
But it's not all bad. With a little more practice, I think I could shoot even sharper photos with the Yashica T2. The autofocusing indicators (a flower indicating a close subject, and a mountain for a far one) were a decent guideline, but I could have been a bit more careful about pushing half-way down to focus before shooting.
Should you buy a Yashica T2 point and shoot automatic film camera?
Terry Richardson may have made the Yashica T-series work as a professional camera, but you should probably save yours for fun, behind-the-scenes snaps of your paid work.
Having no control over the exposure is thrilling. It keeps you rooted in the moment – hyper-focused on your composition and the atmosphere of your photograph. But it will always be a gamble, and you should never gamble on shots you can't afford to lose.
For those who prefer the artistry of having creative control over their exposures, the Yashica T2 point and shoot automatic film camera is better left alone. But to be enabled with such a freeing shooting style, you may end up creating some of your favorite photographs ever shot.
I know I did.
Digital strategist, writer, and image maker based in Manhattan working with clients in the tech and entertainment industry.