Yashica T4 used by Terry Richardson
First, let’s get any confusion out of the way. The T4 “D” just means “data back”. The “Super” and T5 just have the additional waist level viewfinder. (Super Scope) Otherwise, all have the same lens, and will produce identical images. The T3, which I will touch on below, has a slightly different lens. (f/2.8 vs f/3.5)
There is actually a history behind the T’s. First was the Yashica T, then Yashica T2, then Yashica T3, and finally the T4/T5. They all sported superb Zeiss lenses, with only the T3 having the f/2.8. Autofocus and flash got incrementally better as the camera evolved. But you can coax as great an image out of a T as you can a T4. While the Yashica T4 will win no beauty contests, the previous models were uglier than sin.
Terry Richardson Close Focus
The T4 comes with a 35mm f/3.5 Tessar Zeiss lens that’s well beyond ‘good’. In fact, it’s ‘great’! This is one of those observations that are very obvious with just viewing any image that comes out of the camera. If even a tenth of today’s digital compacts (or even other film compacts) even came close, I probably wouldn’t write this article. However, of all requests I get, questions about the T4 is far and away the most.
The Yashica T4 Camera
The waist level viewfinder is called the Super Scope, and is only available on the T4 Super, also called the T5, and the T3. While some street shooters love this feature, for me it fits in that category of “Whatever”. Personally, I’ve never used it. It IS plastic. And this is one of the reasons I prefer the Contax T2, which has a very similar T* Zeiss lens. And other reasons. In the used market, they are very close in price. I’ve seen used T4’s going for as high as $400+! Thank you, Terry Richardson. While it is a great camera, for a plastic wonder, it’s still overpriced.
That said, it is well built, and weatherproof. It’s really heavier than it appears. We filmies occupy a niche of either avid hobbyists/purists, or really creative artists. In an era when 6 million images a day are uploaded to Facebook, (and that’s an old statistic), one must remember that this IS a 35mm plastic camera. But we’re a film community, and as such, we love film. And Andreas Gursky still shoots large format film. ( highest paid image sold by photographic artist) So films’ death knell just may be highly exaggerated.
The shutter speed is from 1 to 1/700th of a second. The T5 is sealed better, having gaskets in both film and battery doors. I like the 35mm focal length. Although it has 3 autofocus points, I find half depressing the shutter button, focusing and recomposing still works best. I love the flash. But it more overpowers, (my preference), than fills. To turn the flash ‘off’ you have to hit this little button 3 times. Kind of stupid, but it is a compact camera that was originally meant for the ‘prosumer’. Considering it’s age, it’s fairly modern, DX coding and all. If you’re use to pushing and pulling,…uhh, sorry. Unless you’re a DIY hacker. And it focuses VERY close. (see Terry’s pic above) The Yashica T4 also comes in a zoom model. I included the manual for it below. But just know,…the performance of that zoom lens is nowhere near the standard T4. Which is why they’re cheaper. Not bad. Just not anything special.
Honestly, due to Terry, and its cult status, if someone asked, I’d probably advise the faster lens Olympus Epic Stylus/MJUII.
However, I personally use a Contax T2,…..better made, metal, and costs just a little more. Although I recently came to realize the Contax T3 is far and away the best of the bunch. But the Yashica T4 camera can handle any situation, and the images are as spectacular as any 35mm camera out there.
Contax T2 – Titanium Jewel
Small, (pocketable), weatherproof, simple, awesome lens, and the lens retracts into the body, making it great for street or hiking. (or partying) And if you can stand the previous models aesthetic funkiness, it’s cheap. (AF incrementally worse) If it was your first film camera, I’d say go for it. The images will blow you away! The Yashica has more micro contrast than the Contax T2, but also more vignetting.
When the image just has to be made quickly, or you want a “get the image quick” camera, this is just the ticket. I have no complaints, and in fact, great zeal for the Yashica T4 camera. Take it out, ride it hard, inadvertently drop it, rain on it,….and you’re probably still good to go with this little gem.
In essence, this is a highly recommended camera. Yes, the Contax T3 is better,…but at 2 to 3 times the price! One thing I will say; these cameras seem to go up in price every month. So, unless you expect another 2004 film camera market crash, if you want one,…the sooner the better.