After months of teasing, the Yashica Kickstarter Campaign has finally landed. And what a massive (though not entirely unexpected) disappointment it is. The Hong Kong based firm that owns the Yashica brand name these days has proffered a laughably disingenuous proposed product that offers nothing meaningful to the world of photography and will undoubtedly leave all photo geeks who back it wishing they hadn’t.
Oh, but let’s not be so sour. Let’s take a level-headed view of what we’re looking at here.
The brand says they’re producing an unprecedented camera. In their words; “Coupled with the masterpiece design of the first electronic controlled shutter camera in the world, the YASHICA Electro 35, featuring with the Unprecedented digiFilm system, YASHICA Y35 camera brings in an extraordinary photography experience.”
What they’re actually proposing they produce (if they get funded) is a cheap digital camera with a tiny imaging sensor and basic lens, hamstrung by odd proprietary image style software modules and a basic shutter capable of five speeds. Sample images made by the camera (ostensibly shown on the Kickstarter page) look bad. The product mockup looks bad. The DigiFilm™ looks bad. The price (approximately $200 MSRP) looks bad.
But what bothers me most about this project is the irreverent appropriation of identity, and what I see as a complete lack of respect for the people to whom this brand is attempting to sell their product.
Do not be fooled. This is not the famed (and now defunct) Japanese optical powerhouse Yashica producing a new camera. This is a cheaply made, plastic shell with rudimentary imaging tech running on two AA batteries made in Hong Kong (or China, who knows). And yet the Yashica name and Japanese heritage is bandied about with a flippancy that has long been the modus operandi of brand licensing companies whose hands are so pre-occupied with prizing the money out of their desired customers’ wallets that they fail to take the pulses of those customers.
Equally troubling, the Kickstarter campaign is universally and intentionally vague. The promotional video we’re shown is just about the most vacuous clip I’ve seen, showing nearly nothing of actual interest and, with its lilting music and disaffected protagonist, smacks more of an unsettling psychological thriller than a camera commercial. The Japanese voiceover at the end is just another play at invoking the heritage of those world-class makers from the last half of the 20th century. It misses the mark.
Even the campaign text is obtuse, which is undoubtedly a product of imperfect English translation. I don’t fault them for this in any way. But it’s important when selling a product to be clear and concise, provide pertinent information accurately. Equally annoying is that every shot of the product they’re telling you to pay for is made with shallow depth-of-field. We can’t see the product Yashica.
And what’s with that wind lever? Is that an On/Off switch, or just a cheap ratcheting mechanism to make us feel like we’re shooting a good camera as opposed to whatever this is?
The new machine’s DigiFilm™, on which the gimmick of the entire machine seems to hang, is as phony as the camera itself. For shooters like me, who remember Minolta’s Creative Expansion Card System, this is nothing to be excited about. These small, insertable modules (which look surprisingly similar to the failed APS film canisters of yesteryear) come loaded with software that capture images in certain styles. There’s a high ISO version, which apparently creates fake grain. There’s a black and white DigiFilm™, which is unsurprisingly for making black and white shots – exciting. And my favorite, the 120 medium format module, which crops your shot into a square format, because that’s medium format, alright. This square format is also proudly marketed as “fit for Instagram” which long ago dropped their square-only format.
These insertable software packs will cost you more money. Minolta tried this back in the day. And even though their system was actually useful, allowing shooters to only buy high end features they knew they would use while avoiding those they wouldn’t, it still failed. This is because people don’t like to buy extra things to unlock features in a product they’ve already bought.
And let’s not miss the fact that these “film packs” are nothing more than filters that your phone, VSCO, and any number of other free software can replicate already.
It’s not my intention to splash cold water on the creators of this machine. Indeed, as the Kickstarter campaign is, at the time of this writing, more than 60% funded [Update – totally funded in less than 24 hours] I doubt they’ll miss their goal. And if the camera materializes and people love shooting it, that’s fantastic. But I can’t imagine anyone reading our site will be excited about this camera, and some of my qualms just had to spill out.
This proposed product is a big disappointment for people who loved the Yashica of old. It’s also a cash grab hoping to capitalize on the current popularity of film shooting, while offering nothing genuine or meaningful to the community of people from whom the makers hope to make money. It offers none of the convenience of digital cameras and none of the quality of film cameras. It’s a product that, to me, makes no sense at all.