Yashica’s comeback – what is to be learned from this farce?

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.

The Yashica Y35 digital camera and its digiFilm canister (source: Kickstarter)

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 just contains a ROM with a few instructions for the jPEG processing engine of the camera.

The digiFilm cartridge – the cartridge does not store images, just instructions for the jPEG processing engine of the camera ((source: Kickstarter)

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.

With the exception of the Samsung Digimax 35 (on the left) and the Palm Treo (foreground), any of those old digicams is a more capable photography tool than the Yashica Y35.

To a large extent, this Yashica is a fake. It’s an entry level digicam, masquerading 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).

Another Kickstarter project – Lomo’s Instant Square Camera (Picture – source Kickstarter)

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.

Jules (French Bouledogue). Instax film. Holga camera with defective shutter.

More about the Yashica Y35: https://www.slashgear.com/yashica-y35-digital-camera-is-a-toy-that-tries-hard-to-be-retro-11503506/


3 thoughts on “Yashica’s comeback – what is to be learned from this farce?

  1. I’m guessing that you haven’t “invested” in the Y35. No reason for you to do so as you’re probably not the buyer they’re looking for. There are plenty of odd cameras out there that people plunk down some big bucks to own that aren’t much more complicated than the Y35. The TL70 comes to mind. A pretend classic TLR that shoots common Instax film (credit card sized film I might add with suspect image quality). I take that back, similar image quality as the Fujifilm Instax (fill in the blank______ model) that costs well under $100. No shortage of people buying the Fujifilm versions and of course the TL70 can be had in the neighborhood of $600 and up. Then there’s the “new” Polaroid cameras with “new” Polaroid films at crazy prices.
    So with nothing invested then let it play out. If it’s a hit great, if it’s a scam and utter failure oh well. What I don’t get is the piling on of one bad copycat “review” after another. Let’s wait to get our hands on it and give an honest informed review. Heck, even “Yashica” hasn’t produced sample images yet from the Y35. If you look closely at the promotional video and stills of the inside of the camera, the AA batteries simply fall (drop?) into place since there’s no metal connectors installed in their prototype.
    Full disclosure: I “invested” $4 today for fun. If it flies great. I probably won’t buy one when (and if) it hits the marketplace. I don’t need a camera like it but can appreciate the effort. I also own a Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 so I know what the limitations (and plusses) of Instax film are but still love the look (I purchased it brand new from B&H for well under $100 with film).

  2. Thank you for your comment. I guess that the intriguing video of the promotion campaign and the use of a well regarded name such as Yashica created a level of expectations that the product could not meet. The product description in Kickstarter was cryptic enough to force the journalists and bloggers to read it very carefully and think hard – and when they found out what the Y35 was about, they felt cheated.

  3. I can appreciate that. “Yashica” (the Hong Kong version) hasn’t produced anything of significance since Kyocera sold them the name so nothing earthshaking should have been expected.
    If it in fact produces interesting images, then the just under $200 price point will compete favorably with the other cameras I mentioned above.
    By the way, I enjoy your blog. You have some interesting articles.

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