Meet the Camera: Yashica Samurai Z

This is a surprise new entry in the line-up. I was recently handed this camera by my father, who purchased it new on a trip to Asia way back when. It needed a new battery, but other than that everything seems to work just fine. The test roll is in there now, so I’ll find out soon enough what kind of pictures it takes. It may take a little longer than usual, however, as this is a half-frame camera. Seems a little silly that such a large camera takes such tiny photos, but it does.

The first thing you have no doubt noticed (you’re an observant one, aren’t you?) is that it looks more like a 90s-era camcorder than a film camera. Once you get past the oddball look of the thing, however, it’s a pretty standard 35mm camera underneath. It’s an autofocus SLR with a fixed 25-75mm (that’s a 35-105mm 35mm equivalent) f/4.0-5.6 zoom lens that takes standard 43mm filters. Operation feels rather agricultural compared with modern digital cameras; the zoom is loud, the autofocus is loud, the shutter is loud, and you can feel their actuation through the whole camera (though to be fair this may be due in part to the way it fits in the hand). It can be easily operated with one hand.

Controls for the zoom and shutter are placed as they would be on a camcorder. Film loading is on the bottom, with the film feeding upward. The on-off mechanism is a bit peculiar: the pop-up flash acts as the power switch – up for on, down for off. The user can control the flash actuation on the back panel LCD, along with a host of other functions. Some of these are truly unique and offer lots of possibilities for taking unique photographs. Frames can be exposed multiple times, including an automated mode that takes five shots in a quarter-second on a single frame. Time exposures can be automated up to 24 hours. The high-speed motor drive allows continuous shooting at 4.5 frames per second. Several flash modes are available, as is exposure compensation. This is an extraordinary feature set for a camera built in the late 1980s.

It’s a funky camera. Very non-traditional, simple to use but full-featured. I’m more of a manual control sort of a guy (OK, fine, control freak), but this is a very good camera to just screw around with. Blast away – it’s half-frame, so you’re able to get lots of pictures on a single roll of film. Want to play around with unusual effects (I’m looking at you, Lomography…)? The camera does all the work for you. Really, what’s not to like?

The City

Easter brought Your Humble Filmosaur to Gotham, which meant taking some pictures while walking the few blocks back to Grand Central. Along for the ride was the Rollei 35, which is quickly becoming my go-to film camera. It is so small and easy to carry that it fits almost anywhere, is unobtrusive and easy to use. Street photography is simple: zone focus and dial in baseline exposure settings and go. Making a quick adjustment or two on the fly is easy enough. I really don’t get how some seem to find the Rollei an unergonomic camera to use; recognizing that everyone has their preferences, but just because the dials are on the front and the advance on the left took all of about half a roll of film to adapt to.

I was shooting the last few frames of a roll of Portra 400VC before switching over to Tri-X. Since I’ve just gotten the camera I want to run several types of film through as tests. The Portra did very well, and I suspect the new emulsion (simply Portra 400) will be even better. I was extremely happy with the Tri-X results as well. I’ve got Ektar 100 in there now; we’ll see how that does in a week or so.

Anyway, on to the photos. There are a lot of people that make interesting photo subjects. Most of them seem to ignore you, assuming you’re just some silly tourist. Either that or they’re just self-absorbed, or they don’t care.

It’s not just the people. People come and go, but the place remains. Do the people make the place or the place the people? Who knows. But the place deserves its due.

Well, there you have it. The City looks better in black and white, I think. Hides the dirt, if nothing else.