Entrepreneurs operating under the Yashica brand just managed to raise over $1,000,000 on Kickstarter, for a $140.00 camera shooting “digiFilm” (that’s a trade mark). That’s eight times what they expected. It’s a success.
What’s so special about this camera?
It’s a very simple point and shoot digital camera with a tiny sensor and a fix focus lens (not a zoom, and pre-set to the hyperfocal), which looks like a compact camera of the seventies (Canon Canonet 27, Olympus Trip, Rollei 35, …) and is not technically different from the very basic entry level point and shoot digital cameras that were selling by the tens of millions twelve years ago.
It has no LCD display at the back to visualize the images, just an optical viewfinder. A fake wind lever needs to be activated to arm an inexistent spring loaded shutter.
Its unique selling proposition is that its jPEG files are processed in-camera to emulate 4 different types of film (B&W 400 ISO, 200 and 1600 ISO color film, and a square format); the settings of each “film” are stored in a cartridge that looks like a 35mm film canister. Supposing the camera is shooting “200 ISO color film emulation”, and the photographer wants to switch to Black and White or to 1600 ISO color settings, he/she has to open the back of the camera, remove the 200 ISO cartridge from the camera, and insert the B&W 400 ISO or the 1600 ISO cartridge. As far as I know, the cartridge is not storing any image (there’s an SD card in the camera). It’s just contains a ROM with a few instructions for the jPEG processing engine of the camera.
Nothing here that a smartphone and a few Instagram filters could not do. Fujifilm has been letting the users of its cameras chose the film emulation they wanted to apply to their images for years – photographers can pick the type of film (Fuji’s own Provia, Velvia, Astia and Acros as well as generic interpretations of “chrome” and “professional negative” film), by simply selecting the desired emulation in a menu, and without the gimmickry of cartridges that have to be purchased, inserted, removed, carried around and possibly lost.
Why such an outcry in the photography blogs?
In the grand scheme of things, the number of subscribers of the Y35 camera on Kickstarter (5,500) is a drop of water in the ocean: Instagram has 700 million users and the Japanese industry sold more than 20 million conventional digital cameras last year.
To a large extent, this Yashica is a fake. It’s an entry level digicam, maskerading as a film camera, and sold on a promise of simplicity it can not meet. It won’t be easier to use than a conventional digicam (you’ll still need a USB cable or a WiFi enabled SD card to upload your images to your PC, and from there to your favorite messaging or social networking app).
But its relative success (the catch is that it was purchased by people who have not seen, let alone tested it) is yet another indication that beyond the smartphones and the serious digital cameras – which both are predominantly operating in the abstract world of software – there is a demand for a simpler, more analog user experience.
Today, it’s the instant film cameras, and not toys like this Yashica digicam, which are the best answer to this quest for simplicity, authenticity, and unencumbered fun.
More about the Yashica Y35: https://www.slashgear.com/yashica-y35-digital-camera-is-a-toy-that-tries-hard-to-be-retro-11503506/