35mm, Yashica T2

Yashica T2 V Olympus XA2

Yashica T2 loaded with AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 400 film.

I’ve been forcing myself to give both the 50p Camera (Olympus XA2), and b/w film a rest.  Instead, the little time that I’ve had for photography, I’ve been using my Yashica T2 AF compact camera, loaded with cheap C41 colour film.  Although I love b/w, the reality is that I have plenty of Poundland film in the fridge / freezer, that I bought a few years ago, for a quid each.  Nice 36 exposure 200, and a few 24 x 400 AgfaPhoto Visa Plus.  I can get C41 processed by a good local photolab for £2.50.  This makes the film/process cost cheaper than any b/w film, at 9p per exposure on the 36 shot films.  In addition, it seems a positive thing to embrace different gear and media on occasion.

The above photo was exposed onto the faster Poundland that was circulating a year or two ago, the AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 400.  I like it so much, I’m going to use up my last few cassettes of it next.

Using the Yashica T2 V Olympus XA2

I have been using the Olympus XA2 (c.1982) for a few years now, for opportunistic, snapshot, street, etc.  How does the Yashica T2 (c.1986) compare? They are very different 1980s 35mm film compact cameras.

Portability.  The XA2 wins hands down.  It is so small, it’ll fit in most pockets.  As my XA2 is so battered anyway, I don’t care too much if it rattles against other debris in the pocket such as coins, even keys.  The clamshell lens cover protects well.  The Yash T2 is very pretty, but actually quite bulky.  I don’t want it bashed, it’s so good condition, so I have to hang it around my neck with it’s wallet on.

Focus.  The XA2 uses a simple 3 zone focus.  You have three fixed focuses to manually select from.  The default is pretty cool for street.  It’s a fast, silent, simple system.  The T2 on the other hand uses an early (1986) Auto-focus system.  It’s slow and clumsy compared with modern auto focus, and pretty crap at a moving subject.  However, when it hits, it’s sharp compared to the zone focus XA2.  Better than the XA2 on still or very slow subjects.  The XA2 wins for quick snapshots at moving subjects.  The T2 makes nice portraits, aided by it’s Carl Zeiss T* Tessar lens.

Street Stealth.  No competition.  The XA2 wins.  I’ve heard the Yashica T series being hailed as stealth street cameras.  Bollocks they are.  They are actually pretty bulky for a compact 35mm.  The AF slows you down.  The biggest problem for stealth however, is the loud film motor drive.  It’s part of the nostalgic attraction of it, but for stealth, it’s like a loud hailer shouting “look at me, I’m taking photos of you!”.  The T2 is NOT a stealth street camera.  The XA2 is.  The XA2 is tiny, and in experienced hands, the 3 zone focus is fast and silent.  In my opinion, a far better street camera than any SLR.  I even once took a candid of two photographers, one a pro, a metre away.  The pro heard the shutter, but looked all around.  The XA2 was out of sight.  Quite funny really.

Quality.  I’m not a huge fan of image technical perfection, but this is where the T2 does finally win over the XA2.  The hipster rated Carl Zeiss lens, and AF makes for better Q.  The scanned negatives are sharper.  The XA2 does, if it hits perfect optimum focus, still make some sharp clear photos, but a lot of the time you are playing in the focus zone out of optimum.

Happiness.  I’m a big fan of what fun a camera brings.  I’ve maybe thrashed and done so much with the XA2, that I need to put it down for a few months, in order to appreciate it again.  For now, I really am getting happiness from the Yashica T2.  I feel that despite it’s failings as a fast stealth camera,  I’m smiling when I take a snapshot.

Either camera, I believe this is what 35mm film was meant to be.  Miniature, portable, point & shoot.  George Eastman’s vision come true.  This is what I use 35mm film for.  How about you?

Cameras and equipment, Monochrome, Rants and discussions

Is that a medium format camera in your pocket, or are you pleased to meet me?

Street scene at Norwich, using a folding camera and expired film. Agfa Isolette I. 1954 medium format folding camera. Ilford FP4 Plus film. Expired 2001. Developed in ID11

What can I rave about today?  How about my medium format pocket camera?  Yes, that’s correct, medium format that fits in your (large) pocket.  I bought an Agfa Isolette I at a car boot sale last Autumn.  It was in pretty good condition, clean, and cost me around eight quid.  Photo below:

My Agfa Isolette I. Taken using a Sony A200 DSLR

A folding camera made in Germany circa 1954, the Isolette I was the economy model in the Isolette range, with  a plain jane Agfa Agnar f/4.5 lens, and a max shutter speed of 200.  After purchasing it I read online, to expect the old bellows to leak light.  Although there are instructions and even a template online, for making new bellows, it looked too craft-like for my ten thumbs.  Neither could I justify paying for them.  I tried a film in the camera anyway, but on processing the film, I made a goof and didn’t add enough developer solution to the tank.  Sure enough the result was awful, but I wasn’t sure how much was down to my developing goof, and how much was down to light leaks on the camera.  I lost interest in it, and reverted to using the Lubitel for my medium format work.  Later purchase of the Bronica pushed the Isolette further to the back of the camera cupboard, near to the box cameras.

My Agfa Isolette when folded. Fits nicely into a coat or jacket pocket.

But it’s such a pretty and clean camera, so I kept pulling it out again.  Then around a month ago, I decided to try another film in it – only to develop it better this time.  Ok, I plumped for a very expired old roll of Ilford FP4+ that was probably ready for the bin anyway.  I used up the 12 6 x 6 square exposures on the roll of 120 film.  After processing the film – no visible light leak damage.  It works.

Now I see the benefits to a camera like this.  Ok, the lens isn’t Carl Zeiss and the body isn’t Hasselblad – but it fits in a coat pocket, and it takes reasonable (better than a Chinese plastic toy camera) medium format photographs.  Not only that, but every time that I unfold it, I get a kick.  Even folded, it feels good in the hand – like a stylish flask.  It certainly solicits attention from the general public, but in a positive way, not in an annoyed way.  People with low technical knowledge, of all ages, recognise it as vintage.  Something from another age.  It’s the bellows that do it for them.

My Isolette as I said, is very clean, and very mechanically sound.  A press of a button, and I need to catch the bellows cover as it launches out horizontally, else wise the lens pops out almost violently.  Focusing is purely manual, without a range finder, although the camera does sport a conventional viewfinder.  Max shutter speed is a very slow 200, while aperture opens f32 to f4.5.  Shutter needs to be cocked prior to being fired, just like the Lubitel.

It’s replaced the Lubitel as my back up medium format camera to the Bronica.  The Lube TLR is a good back up, but it’s flattened by the sheer style and potability of this folder.  It’s as near to 35mm portability as medium format photography can get.  It means that I can take it places discreetly, where I don’t want to take a big chunky serious looking Bronica.

The top photo of the young man watching a couple was taken using very expired film, outside of the Forum in Norwich.  I call it the watcher.  Pleasant young man with an African accent.  He asked me about my camera.  It can start a conversation and even solicit voluntary models.