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Gear Guy

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

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 the Super 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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