Yashica T4

This is my favourite ‘point and shoot’ film camera. It’s a compact camera, even smaller than my phone; it has the following specifications:
Size – 116.5 x 63.5 x 37mm
Weight – 170g
Lens – Carl Zeiss Tessar 35mm f3.5 with 4 elements in 3 groups T* Multi coated
Focus – 3 point Infra red beam
Shutter range – 1s to 1/700th
ISO range – DX coded 5o ISO to 3200 ISO
Power supply – 1 CR123A battery

The Yashica T4 was meant for the casual photographer. It has a fixed lens so it doesn’t zoom and is made as easy to use as possible. It is also discreet, easily slipping into a handbag (or man bag) or pocket.

When the camera is powered up, having installed the battery and a 35mm film,

there is a green light which appears right in the middle of the screen once it is focussed. The photographer then simply squeezes the shutter button and takes the photo.

When I worked in photographic sales in a specialist shop in Sevenoaks, we used to have customers coming in complaining about blurry images. It wasn’t hard to establish that they had ‘stab shutter’ syndrome when using their cameras. I used to recommend the Yashica T4 camera; this worked well for them, being small and simple to use. The green light alerted them that it was time to squeeze the shutter – gently. After taking the shot, the film advanced automatically until they reached the end of the 12, 24, 36 etc allocation.

It also had the facility, by pressing a grey point on the bottom of the camera, to wind the film back before it was finished. It was important to make a note of how many frames had already been taken. You could put, say, a black and white film in a canister and then retrieve it, load up the camera and take more black and white images.
This neatly brings me to one of the disadvantages of the Yashica T4. It has a little catch which releases the film door. The makers set it up to make it hard to operate so no-one accidentally ruined a film, but they overdid it! It can be tricky to use for those with small fingers.
What do I like about the Yashica T4?

  • If you are left-handed it is very good for selfies!
  • It has an ‘on and off’ flash switch with a warning advising you when flash is needed (standard for its time).
  • A great Carl Zeiss lens.
  • The discreet size meant that, with a bit of judicious coughing and a fast film, you could take a picture in a venue where it might be frowned upon!

How does it compare to its competitors at the time, which were the compact Olympus cameras?

In the eighties Olympus made both the Olympus μ1 and the Olympus μ2. The difference between them was primarily the aperture of the lens and the size of the camera, with the μ2 being the smallest.  I preferred the Yashica T4 for four reasons…

  1. I really didn’t like the way the clamshell opened and shut, turning the camera on and off. It was clunky and awkward to use. We replaced the ball bearing in these cameras hundreds of times for many customers, often repeat customers too. This took about 20 minutes but wasn’t a major enough repair to warrant charging the customer, especially as it seemed to be a weak point of the equipment. Sometimes sand would get into this mechanism too, so be it a µ1 or a µ2, it was not for those who liked coastal photography!
  2. The Olympus had a Japanese lens. Although Japanese lenses are good, my personal view is that German optics are the best in the world, so I preferred the Yashica with its Carl Zeiss lens. I used it in addition to my Contax RTS2 SLR 35mm film camera.
  3. I didn’t like the ergonomics of the Olympus cameras or the very small viewfinders. The feel in the hand didn’t suit me.
  4. The batteries for the Olympus were far more expensive than the Yashica batteries. This is significant – if you use flash regularly you can get through a battery or 2 within a year.

My overall view is that, if they made a digital version of my T4, I would buy one tomorrow. They still have much to offer the black and white street photographer.

Colin’s quick test.

I loaded the Yashica with a roll of Fuji Velvia 100 transparency film and took the camera out and about with me for a few days, taking photographs in several locations and various subjects.
The camera is neat, compact and very easy to use. Focus is silent, with minimal sound from the shutter. Exposure is very accurate (the reason I used transparency film was to test the accuracy of the metering). The film advance is less than quiet, so as Mark  mentioned earlier do bear this in mind if you wish to take a discrete photograph.
Images are fairly sharp, note though that the focus spot is fixed in the centre of the frame. If your subject is off centre use the focus lock which involves lightly depressing the shutter release button but take care because the shutter button is very sensitive and can be triggered by quite a light touch.

Sample photographs

Words by Mark

Photographs and additional text by Colin

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