Gear Guy

Q:

What happened to the Yashica T4?

Oh Gear Guide, you have failed us! Over and over I have heard you espouse the quality of the Yashica, so I decided that the T4 was the camera for me. Unfortunately, after hours of searching, I find out that the T4 has not been made for years! Just recently, you suggested the camera but didn't mention that it would be impossible to find. With the T4 no longer on the market, what kind of camera would you suggest? Mike Newark, Ohio

A:I've made it clear for a year or so that the T4 is no longer made, so I assert my innocence if you feel misled. That isn't to say I don't think it the best point-and-shoot 35mm camera (under $500) around, as it clearly is. The T4 has a sharp f/3.5 Zeiss lens, weatherproof construction (in the Super iteration), and a unique waist-level viewfinder for aiming from ground level. It's also easy to use and has a very accurate metering system.

Why did it go away? Marketing, I'm sure. In a world full of cheap zoom lenses, the fixed-focal-length Zeiss on the T4 was an anachronism, albeit a noble one. I'm sure it was just too hard for the average camera sales clerk to explain to the average customer the advantages of the Zeiss lens, mainly its sharpness and low-light capability. People love zoom lenses, period. So Yashica's T4 reincarnation is the T4 Zoom ($200 street price; www.yashica.com), which has a 28-70mm Tessar lens, made by Zeiss. Still a pretty good lens, but I'm confident it's not as sharp as the original. And I know for a fact that its effective aperture of f/4-f/5.8 (depending on zoom position) is not nearly so good in low light as the older lens. It's still better than most point-and-shoots out there, though. Also, many loyal readers swear by the Olympus Stylus Epic Deluxe ($100; www.olympus.com), which has a 35mm f/2.8 lens, even faster than the old T4. But, my guess is that it's also not as sharp.

There's one more option: eBay. I know for a fact there are several T4 Supers up for bidding right now. They're selling well, too—for more than $200, testament to the esteem in which they're held. So give that a look. You might also look for a Nikon 35ti, a titanium-body point-and-shoot with a superb Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 lens. A very nice little camera. I have one of those, too, in addition to my beloved T4.

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