Yashica Samurai Z! What sounds like an Anime Mecha Warrior or a special combo on Streetfighter II is one of the oddest SLR bridge Cameras ever built. But in fact, it’s actually a good one!
So, where to begin? Yes, it is indeed a strange camera and NO, it is NOT a video camera. This is a single handheld, full automatic, half frame SLR fed with standard 35mm film material. It resembles a visual device from those 80s Sci-Fi action flicks. In fact, one of those could have been featured on Robocop. It has been built around 1989 / 1990, when camcorders recieved a certain hype. This is why Yashica/Kyocera decided to release cameras resembling camcorders.
There have been a few models before: The Samurai X.3 and the Samurai X.4 but the Z has received a certain facelift. It is smaller, lighter, and easier to operate single handed only. Some say that it is the best wersion of the Samurais not because of the lens (in that way the X.4 would be your choice) but because of it’s handling and overall features. So here are the hard facts:
*25mm-75mm,1:4-5.6 motorized Lens
*Integrated light meter
*exposure times from 4 seconds to 1/500 (controlled by the light meter)
*72 shots on a 35mm standard film (as it is a half frame)
*Automatic DX coding that reads from ISO 25 up to 3200
*Manual exposure compensation: +/- 2 f-stops
*continous mode that shoots up to 4.5 Frames per second
*built in flash
*hot shoe (but you need a special adopter to use it – that I do not own)
Its predecessors and the following model Z2 lack of some of these features.
But it ain’t all about the facts, it’s about what it does and how it get things done. As the film is not set in horizontal but vertical, it is meant to shoot half frame landscapes by default. I do not know any other half frames that do this (except the other Samurais). Furthermore, the counting is from bottom to top. So, if you plan to shoot little stories in 2 frames on one print, you have to do the “after” shot before the “before” shot to have it in a “natural” looking sequence. If you turn it 90 degrees to take pictures in portrait mode, the direction is: first the right frame, then the left frame. Tricky, but you’ll get used to it.
But what good is talking? Look at this:
You get the point.
But the lens is pretty sharp — not the best I have, but also not the least. The handling is as easy as possible: Turn on the camera by flipping up the flash, grab it with your right hand and everything else comes naturally. Oh, you are left handed? No problem — there is a left hand operated Version of the Samurai Z!
It is a bit sad to have no full control on every option of this machine, but sometimes you just have to let go.
And there is one more thing, that you could do with it. If you are able to get your hands on a 35mm movie projector and have a few bucks spare for experiments (I read about it several times but have not dared to try it by myself — so this is at your own risk!): Load the Z with slide film, set it to continous mode and shoot a little movie sequence (about 16 seconds). Load the next slide film, shoot it and so on. Process the films and tell your lab not to cut it, as you will need it complete. Merge the single strips of film to one long strip (you will need some professional tools for that). Then load it into a reel of the projector and get it going! Yes indeed, this is the format of old movies. Crazy!
I like it somehow, and as these are not really demanded, you can get them for really few money (I got mine for $16 from eBay). You will have to look for it a bit, as these are not as common as the other Samurais, but in my opinion, it will be worth it if you can grab a full working one. Also you will surely need a 2CR5 battery, as none of them would have lasted 20 years, so watch out for that too. All in all, I like this camera: half frame is a nice format to tell micro stories and the Samurai Z is in my opinion the Top Notch in this sector!