Everything You Need to Know About the Yashica Y35 DigiFilm Camera Kickstarter and Why It’s Absolutely Terrible

Opinion

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.

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Merlin Marquardt
    October 10, 2017 at 10:30 am

    Wow! A pretty scathing review! Seems not unreasonable not knowing any more about it.

  • Reply
    Craig Conway
    October 10, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Any ad that starts with a chick smoking a cigarette … You know it’s going to be a sucky product. And replacing an SD card with a pseudo film canister ? Ridiculous.

  • Reply
    Craig Conway
    October 10, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Same sensor size as iPhone 5, LOL.

  • Reply
    Wilson Laidlaw
    October 10, 2017 at 11:25 am

    A kiddies camera at an adult price. What an end for the respected Yashica name.

  • Reply
    Zachary James
    October 10, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Blech, I knew something was up when they were leveraging the Lynx and Electro 35 – I don’t feel those cameras are particularly well loved these days (well at least not as much as the T’s and Mats)

  • Reply
    the6millionpman
    October 10, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Agree this looks like a ridiculous gimmick, looks like it will be cheaply made, poorly produced and an end product that has no real market. “Do you like film? Do you know nothing about it however? Look this is digital but film …….also it’s got a name that once was related to film, but now isn’t really. Fund me!”
    No thank you.

    • Reply
      James Tocchio
      October 10, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      We seem to be in the minority on this one. Fully funded within four hours – more than doubled its funding goal in seven hours…

      • Reply
        the6millionpman
        October 10, 2017 at 3:19 pm

        That’s the whole point surely though? Nobody who actually cares about film photography will be interested and we’re surely not the market for it anyway, it’s aimed at a mass market of people with a small knowledge of the brand name who don’t really care if it’s remotely related to what it actually once stood for. If it was just a point and shoot digital camera with a middling ground of specs and features I could wish it well and be done with it, but that whole “digifilm” gimmick is really bugging me.

  • Reply
    Neilson
    October 10, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    I learned my lesson after doing the whole Lomography thing and some of those cameras had redeeming qualities! This looks like an attempt to capitalize on film camera nostalgia without having actual film. I’m going to stay away from this one.

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    October 10, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I’m appalled by the stupidity of humans who are gullible enough to help fund this! A cheap, plastic point and shoot, probably fixed focus (ok, with a glass lens! Probably a meniscus!), a fake wind lever, styled like a fixed lens rangefinder … but in the end it’s just crap!

    Buy a 25$ toy camera, at least the results will be honest!

    Use digital if you have to, use film to enjoy photography, but don’t buy this crap!

    • Reply
      Chris Cushing
      October 10, 2017 at 5:46 pm

      I won’t knock a meniscus lens too much- I rather like the Kodak Pony. Of course, with 5 shutter speeds, a meniscus lens, and rudimentary controls, the feature set looks a little too similar between the Pony and this new “Yashica.”

      Of course, the Yashica has a fake film winding lever, and the Pony has to get by with a mere knob for advancing actual film…

      • Reply
        Frank Lehnen
        October 11, 2017 at 4:41 am

        No offense meant to the meniscus lens! But in this case the total camera is so much crap that any lens won’t save it.

      • Reply
        baltimorebuspeople
        October 11, 2017 at 8:35 am

        Do you mean “Brownie?” The Pony I have has a triplet lens.

  • Reply
    Huss Hardan
    October 10, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    Finally “Yashica” has made a digital FF camera.

    Except in this case it means Fake Film.

    I wouldn’t be concerned about the funding goals being reached. This will be bought as a cool toy, and after one use be tossed into the back of a closet when the user realizes his iphone is much better.

  • Reply
    yashicachris
    October 10, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    I’ve seen worse things get passed off as nouveau film over the past 10 years then this. Let’s be real, look at the ridiculous pricing of the TL70 that “looks” like a vintage TLR but produces credit card sized images of questionable quality. And now the SLR670S with new Polaroid film at over $500. You want to look like you’re using a TLR then get a Yashica EM and shoot some high resolution film through outstanding optics. Who knows, maybe this camera and “software” will be at least on par with Instax, Polaroid and whatever else is out there at the moment that falls well short of serious amateur equipment.

    I agree, most smartphones do in fact produce outstanding images when used properly but there will always be a place for pro level DSLRs, entry-level mirrorless cameras, bridge cameras and everything in between too.

    Don’t fund it and when it comes out (if it does) don’t buy it. I’ve watched the videos introducing this new “Yashica” based on the heritage of the original Yashica – they are strange to say the least. The Yashica “brand” is now just a name – it could be used as the name of a new line of washing machines or coffee makers if the owners of the name choose to do so.

    As James has pointed out, they met their goal in short order and now have exceeded it probably beyond their wildest dreams. Let’s see what they produce before we throw it onto the trash heap.

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      October 11, 2017 at 4:46 am

      Been waiting for your comment, Chris as official Yashica expert! Too sad that great old brand names are thus thrown into the dirt. I’m just baffled that so many people can’t see that they are splurging real money for a cheap toy camera.

      The ad campaign made me hope…. but no way this is a valid choice. As you say, get the real thing and for the price difference you can buy a ot of film.

      • Reply
        Frank Lehnen
        October 11, 2017 at 4:57 am

        ….and anyways, we already have such a camera in our pockets: iPhone with Hipstamatic app!

  • Reply
    Jay
    October 11, 2017 at 9:21 am

    The review is spot on. Everything about it is bad. Not to mention no lcd screen on the back, so you cant see what you’ve shot. Without wifi, you’ll have to wait till you get back home to transfer the photos to your computer to look at it. If you’ve ever excitedly bought something and used it only once before putting it in the closet and later selling it at your garage sale for $5, or best offer, this camera is it. It truly stinks. Why would anyone purchase this when there are camera apps which do a better job.

  • Reply
    Sam Agnew
    October 11, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Well, I’m a card-carrying film photographer. What I mean by that is that I have multiple 35mm and medium format cameras as well as a 4×5 that I actually use in my actual photography and one DSLR from 2006 that I basically use to check flash setups and when someone wants an instant digital-use portrait. I process my own film and do my own scanning. Legit, I should hate this thing.

    I backed it.

    Yes, I had the same exact first thoughts. “Great, they captured everything pointless about film photography.” But just look at the reaction. Even if this thing bombs it is a seriously unique concept and, heck, I figure it ought to be a fun toy.

    • Reply
      James Tocchio
      October 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      As a product it’s a massive success. Good on them. Hopefully it serves as a gateway drug of sorts, and urges those who backed it to try a real film camera someday.

      • Reply
        yashicachris
        October 13, 2017 at 2:46 pm

        It appears to be going well for them. My only complaint is that they are misrepresenting the “Made in Japan” thing and Japanese heritage. Make no mistake, the current owner of the Yashica name is a Hong Kong based company that has absolutely no ties with the original failed brand Yashica. Kyocera only sold the name, nothing else. To a true Yashicaphile, Kyocera was the Dark Side that totally botched its ownership of Yashica and its technologies. I’m sure designers from Zunow, Nicca, and Tomioka just to name a few went packing after that.
        Having said that, I just “invested” in the Y35. It could be a fun camera at 14MP with a f2 lens.

    • Reply
      Yas
      October 12, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      I agree completely – as an individual who exclusively shoots film photography, I too laughed initially. I even read the various ‘features’ aloud to my partner and guffawed at the ridiculousness of it all.

      But as I read more about it, and the amount of backers grew, I (admittedly, very sheepishly!) decided to back it. It wasn’t that expensive, and should be a fun little thing to play around with when not in Serious Photography Mode™. I also did it so I can take a chill pill regarding film vs. digital – it’s very easy to feel sanctimonious surrounding film photography, and many people do feel superior; look at how it’s already been ripped to shreds by the film photography community!

      It’s obviously not being marketed to folks who very seriously pursue photography, film or digital, so no point in feeling all outraged. It’s a cute little bridge between the two, but certainly won’t be replacing my film or ‘real’ cameras any time soon.

      • Reply
        yashicachris
        October 16, 2017 at 9:48 pm

        Very well put YAS. What’s the harm in another camera in the marketplace? It may stimulate other “outside the box” thinking on how to combine digital and film. Hey wait… Fujifilm has a SQ10. I think the “Yashica” will be popular. As popular as all of the other fun cameras popping up everywhere from Kodak, Polaroid and others.

  • Reply
    Huss Hardan
    October 11, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Ya know…. if it feels good in the hand, has nice solid build, a nice wind on action I may hate it a little less..
    We’ll see..

    At least it has a VF. I don’t dig cameras w/o them.

  • Reply
    Francis.R.
    October 15, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    To think you could use Zeiss lenses for Contax in Yashica mount. And even more how amazing is to see TLR Yashicas galleries on Flickr. They are super great and have almost like a kind of soul (I’d love to have one of those TLR) Certainly the idea of these cameras seems to have fun, time will tell if it helps to that Hong kong owner to use the opportunity of the exposure (it seems it has get popular support) and be able to produce something not only fun but really valuable of the name that it carries.

  • Reply
    Martin en France
    October 16, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    I think we are missing an important point here. Whilst I agree a lot with the basics, the far more interesting point is where this is leading…….the fact is that this is a 14 mega pixel camera that uses a 35mm cartridge that fits into place as your film camera takes. Nikon bought out many people who tried to make a 35mm film cartridge of this nature because…….here is where it gets potentially interesting…..a VERY similar design would allow any of us who shoot 35mm to choose and shoot our film cameras with film or with a cassette that houses digital….. Admittedly this Yashica is a half baked design…..but it could in fact be the start of something far bigger….I know an English company developed a cassette that fitted into any 35mm film camera and made it digital……but strangely they disappeared along with their design……and then rumours surfaced that a certain very large player in digital cameras had bought their design and patented it………

  • Reply
    Paul
    October 25, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    I shoot film, mainly medium format.
    I backed this! For this reason; the camera doesn’t make a good picture, the attention and engagement of the photographer does. This product should offer the convenience of digital without the shortcuts that allow me to click before thinking. -yes a bigger sensor, better lens etc will produce a technically better quality image,
    But not a better photograph. The World is already full of sharp, clean, perfectly executed images that are uninspiring. I want Y35 to demand my focus and drive me to make better images. I believe it will.

  • Reply
    baltimorebuspeople
    November 1, 2017 at 8:53 am

    What I find unfortunate:

    Yashica Y35 “Digifilm” Kickstarter Campaign:
    ~$100,000 funding goal.
    Doesn’t do anything substantive for film
    Goal met within a couple of days
    Now at 1000% funded with a couple weeks to go.

    Silberra Pan (rebadge) and Ortho (new emulsion!) Indiegogo campaign:
    ~$100,000 funding goal
    Extends reach of film and adds new film products to the market
    Made it to 5% funding in a couple of days
    Now at 12% funded with 3 weeks to go.

    • Reply
      James Tocchio
      November 1, 2017 at 9:01 am

      I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not sure I’m surprised. I’m not even sure I want new small-scale film-makers unless they’re doing something new or interesting. Do we need more mid-speed black-and-white film? Aren’t the offerings from Ilford, Kodak, Fuji, and the many already established boutique vendors enough? Obviously if this new Russian film makes people happy or interested, that’s great. I won’t discourage that. But I am a bit worried about fragmentation. The amount of people spending money on film isn’t large, and every roll of film bought from Silberra or other repackaged, rebadged small film makers takes away from Kodak T Max and Iford HP sales, and increases the likelihood that they say “to hell with it”. I think the only way a small film producer generates interest today is if they do something actually interesting, and another standard BW film just isn’t it, for me.

      • Reply
        baltimorebuspeople
        November 1, 2017 at 2:29 pm

        Understandable indeed. I felt the same about JCH400, particularly with the price premium. Unlike JCH, I do see some upside in Silberra: the expectation of newly created ortho emulsions, a slow speed alternative to Pan F, and another 100 speed 120 film while TMAX is still MIA.

      • Reply
        Scott
        November 20, 2017 at 2:21 pm

        Yeah, I’m sorry, but I’m deeply suspicious about all of these “new” film brands.
        The fact is that manufacturing photographic film requires extremely sophisticated machinery and a huge financial investment. Wikipedia lists only 17 film making companies in the whole world, and that includes Mitsubishi, which doesn’t really make film any more, several like Ferrania that are struggling to produce one product and companies in India and China that have no presence in the West. So all of these never-heard-of-it new film brands are, of necessity, re-branded something else.
        In some cases they literally take an existing film and relabel it, in a few they might be contracting with a film company to do a short run of something slightly different.
        But in all cases, if the contracted company is (say) Adox, or Tasma, then you’re getting a film that uses Adox or Tasma technology.

        If you can’t take a remarkable picture on FP-4 or Tri-X or Provia or Acros, then you’re barking up the wrong tree, and trying 3 rolls of Russian film won’t help.

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