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Since the first time I laid eyes on a Yashica T4, it became my favorite camera. Back in 2010 I was spending a lot of time at house and techno clubs in Detroit, and I was using a Walgreens loyalty point-and-shoot film camera to document everyone busting a move. This is where I get a little long-winded. Deal with it.
The Walgreens camera was great. The camera itself was $20 and came pre-loaded with a roll of basic film. The deal was that you'd shoot your film, bring it back to Walgreens to be developed, and they'd load your camera back up with film - FOR LIFE. This was the era when one-hour photo was a service available at every Walgreens, and if you asked for a CD only with no prints, processing plus scans cost only $5.99.
I quickly developed rapport with the guys who worked the tech counter at my Walgreens and soon discovered that if I asked nicely, they'd just hand me a new roll of film with my camera instead of loading it for me. I'd take the roll home, put it in a different camera, shoot it, and then bring it back with my loyalty camera for processing and a new roll of film. Eventually I bought a second loyalty camera just so I could have a few rolls of free film in rotation. It was AMAZING.
At the time, Detroit also had a movie industry tax incentive, and at one of the rooftop parties I attended I met a Hostel 3 (lol @ the fact that someone made a third Hostel movie) crew member named Justin who took interest in my camera. He pulled a Yashica T4 out of his pocket and then used his phone to show me some photos of nude women that he had taken with that camera. It sounds like the weirdest and most unwanted interaction to have at a party but I LOVED the quality of his art and started looking for a T4 of my own on eBay. Luckily for me, Justin had multiple T4 cameras and very graciously gifted me one. I'm eternally grateful!
Discontinued in 2002, the Yashica T4 is a cult classic, predominantly due to its use by famed photographer Terry Richardson. This point-and-shoot is well-built, a little heavy, but it has a stellar 35mm f/3.5 Zeiss T* four-element Tessar lens and it's weatherproof (not waterproof though!). Richardson shoots with two at a time to allow the film in one camera to advance while he shoots a frame with the second camera and then switches back, but most hobbyists don't need (and probably can't afford) two.
Mine is the T4 Super which means it has a Super scope which works kind of like a periscope and allows you to shoot from the hip while looking down into the camera. I bought Jason a regular T4 without Super scope as a gift because I found it for only $2! He loves it and when the opportunity presented itself at an estate sale, he bought himself a T4 Super (with the scope), so now we have three total. Since the T4 was discontinued and is well sought-after, these cameras usually come with a hefty price tag but I can assure you, it's an investment you will love forever and if you find one for less than $300 you should snatch it up immediately. If it's less than $100 don't worry if it's broken either, because they have insane resale value.
The T4 is marketed as Yashica and as Kyocera so it may have either or both logos on the front, and comes in a regular and Super version. These cameras may also be light grey or black so don't let that throw you for a loop - just look for T4 on the front. The T3 and T5 are also comparable if you ever come across them at a thrift store or at a good price online but they're much more rare to find.
After Walgreens stopped processing film in-store, I switched to using Kodak Portra 160 at Justin's recommendation. It's a little pricier than the standard Kodak Gold film available in drug stores, but I promise it's worth it. Portra film has excellent tonality, especially on skin, which makes it perfect for portraits. I prefer the 160 speed to the 400 but both are great and what you purchase really depends on where you plan on shooting. Since I mostly shoot in daylight I can use slower film.
I occasionally use expired film from an estate sale in my T4 as well, so the rest of this blog post is a mix of different types of film. Technically I could still use my loyalty camera to get free film from Walgreens since it has a lifetime guarantee, but I don't trust the lab they outsource to and have switched to The Darkroom instead.
My Yashica is trusty enough that I use it for all of my test rolls. If I get a big batch of film from an estate sale or thrift store, I shoot one roll from each type to make sure the rest of the batch is worthwhile. I typically go to the Garfield Park Conservatory because the lighting is consistent and the subject matter is always beautiful.