Yashica T4
Yashica T4

Which camera can handle the hard knocks of life in rural Africa?

What's the best point-and-shoot film camera? I entering the Peace Corps in a few months and know that I will be in rural Africa. I need a small camera that will have a long battery life, will be durable enough to withstand life on the continent, and will take high-quality pictures. I usually use Nikon digital cameras and at a loss as to which point-and-shoot to choose. Katie Chico, California

Yashica T4

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Regular readers of this column know that I have strong opinions on this subject. No, not digital versus film—I’ve largely caved on that subject—but on the very best sub-$500 compact point-and-shoot camera made in recent years, regardless of recording format. And the winner is… the Yashica T4 Super. It’s just a wonderful little film camera: compact, easy to use, and capable of astoundingly high-quality pictures due to its Zeiss 35mm f/3.5 lens. In the “Super” iteration, the camera came in sort of champagne silver, versus black, and had a handy alternative viewfinder that allowed the camera to be held very low and the image framed by looking down at the camera. It also had some extra seals to improve water-resistance.

Yashica T4 Yashica T4

One problem: Yashica ceased to make this camera three or four years ago. But no worries! Due to the miracle of eBay, this camera remains a hot seller and a highly desired item (no doubt, helped by my steady one-man campaign). Originally it sold for around $160, but today a camera in fine condition sells for $200 or more. Even at that, it’s worth it.

Now, you apparently have figured out that film is the way to go, even when you already own Nikon digital cameras. Why? One word: Batteries. All digicams of course need their juice, and they’re power hogs to boot. While it may be possible to pack a solar charger, a camera such as the T4 has the advantage of, 1) not requiring a lot of power, so long as the flash isn’t being used, and 2) using common 123A-size batteries that can be purchased in advance and stored for long periods of time. Chances are one battery will last for your trip. Two surely will.

So there you go. A good camera on your trip to do good.

For a phalanx of view-hungry gadgetry, check out Outside Online’s all-new Cameras Buying Guide.