On Living with a Samurai, Part 2

When last we left our Yashica Samurai Z, it was out for a bit of a test to see just what this slightly odd piece of 1980s technology was capable of, in the hands of Your Humble Filmosaur. Well, after considerable delay (mostly due to the 74 exposures I managed on the roll, but also some issues with the processing) the results are in.

The biggest issue with getting decent photos out of the Samurai seems to me to be that the sheer number of exposures available promotes – at least in me – a considerable amount of impatience, which in turns tends to lead to rather haphazard shooting. I was so focused on finishing the roll that by the time I got to around 60 or so on the counter I was just blasting away at anything.

Yashica Samurai Z, Kodak Gold 400
Yashica Samurai Z, Kodak Gold 400

This was made worse by the fact that I was experimenting with the double-exposure function, so I probably ended up clicking the shutter a hundred times in the course of the roll. Using the double-exposure randomly  – taking the first exposure then waiting a while before taking the second, with no specific connection between the subjects – occasionally results in something interesting, but more often than not doesn’t really amount to much. Choosing two related subjects and applying one over the other makes for a better hit ratio, but obviously requires some planning.

Yashica Samurai Z, Kodak Gold 400
Yashica Samurai Z, Kodak Gold 400

The shot below mimics one in the Yashica user’s manual.

Yashica Samurai Z, Kodak Gold 400
Yashica Samurai Z, Kodak Gold 400

The one-handed operation and full automation makes is pretty easy to shoot on the fly; you really don’t even need the viewfinder with the lens set wide. Color rendition is fairly accurate and exposure control seems consistent. Sharpness is frankly lacking under close examination, but this really can’t be considered a surprise given the half-frame format. A little post-processing (all of the shots here have been tweaked a bit for sharpness) does improve things, but you always have to keep the small size of the negative in mind.

Yashica Samurai Z, Kodak Gold 400
Yashica Samurai Z, Kodak Gold 400

Still, you can get some decent images out of the Samurai (as ever, it’s the poor craftsman who blames his tools), and if you know you’re going to be shooting a lot of frames and you don’t need to blow up the photos too far, it’s a good and flexible choice if you insist on shooting film. Regardless of how impressive they were twenty years ago, however, the advanced features do seem rather diminished when you consider that digital can replicate them pretty easily in most cases. It’s a fun camera to use, and a capable one, but not without its limitations.


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