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Gear Guy

Q:

What's the best point-and-shoot camera?

What do you think of the Yashica T4 Zoom camera? In the past, you often recommended the now-discontinued non-zoom Yashica T4 Super; the T4 Zoom is advertised as its replacement. What is your verdict on the T4 Zoom? Worthy successor to the T4 Super, or an imposter with a trendy zoom lens that has unfairly appropriated the respected T4 moniker? Jock Washington, DC

What do you think of the Yashica T4 Zoom camera? In the past, you often recommended the now-discontinued non-zoom Yashica T4 Super; the T4 Zoom is advertised as its replacement. What is your verdict on the T4 Zoom? Worthy successor to the T4 Super, or an imposter with a trendy zoom lens that has unfairly appropriated the respected T4 moniker? Jock Washington, DC

A: I like the late, lamented Yashica T4 Super so much that I now own two of them. Simply the best sub-$500 35-millimeter point-and-shoot of the past decade.

Now, as you note, Yashica has come out with a successor: the T4 Zoom ($199 street price). Like the T4 Super, the Zoom is a compact, nicely designed camera with a tough aluminum body. Alas, it seems to lack the Super's quirky-but-useful waist-level viewfinder, which you could use to aim the camera even if it was sitting on the ground. But the Zoom does have, like the Super, a Zeiss lens: all glass (most point-and-shoots have lenses that mix glass and plastic) and very sharp. Still, this is where I'm unhappy with Yashica. The lens has a pretty ratio—28 millimeters to 70 millimeters, or decent wide-angle to short telephoto—but incurs a penalty in the form of slightly smaller aperture openings (f/4 to f/5.8, depending on zoom extension). It's still faster than most point-and-shoot zooms, but not as fast as the f/3.5 fixed-focal-length lens on the Super. A minor point, perhaps, but it still renders the Zoom less effective when shooting in dim light.

Bottom line: No imposter, a worthy successor. But I'd rather Yashica had invested its lens-design money into giving its new model a fast f/2.8 lens. That would have made it best point-and-shoot for under $1,000. Instead, it's now more of a "me too" camera.

Click here for the Yashica website.

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