Before I launch into why I think the nearly unanimous criticism of the recently announced Yashica Y35 is jumping the gun a bit, let me make one thing clear: I’m not a customer of this product. The current technology doesn’t appeal to me, the materials don’t appeal to me and I’m not in the market to invest in a new digital camera. But all that aside, I can still look beyond the frustrated masses and see why the Yashica Y35 is a more significant announcement than it’s getting credit for.
At this point in time, the Yashica Y35 has decimated its Kickstarter goals and is over 900% funded. No doubt over the next month it will reach considerably more people and generate considerably more backer revenue. This funding was accomplished despite most news outlets and blogs quickly proclaiming it a “gimmick”, a “disappointment” and a “piece of junk”.
Sidenote: Wow, really? I hadn’t realized that Yashica had already sent out so many review copies to garner that type of well-researched outrage!
Here’s the thing: yes, it has a small sensor. Yes, it is made of plastic. Yes, the digiFilm component is just a way to activate a picture filter and the winder isn’t actually winding anything on. But what you’re not hearing about is that this is more than likely just a first step. Not a revolution, not a game-changer, but still a product that tries to incorporate something unique and that has gained enough traction to already earn itself a seat at the table.
NEW IDEAS (EVEN FRIVOLOUS ONES) ALWAYS FACE INITIAL CRITICISM
Great products can come from small, seemingly meaningless origins. When digital photography was in its infancy I remember hearing countless film photographers dumping on the fact that 1 megapixel couldn’t hold a candle to the quality of film, and that only being able to hold a small number of shots on a memory card that was hundreds of dollars was ridiculous.
Let’s take it back a step further and recall that memory cards weren’t even invented when some digital cameras came to market. How about carrying a storage device on a shoulder strap and connecting it via cable to your camera? Or taking separate Red, Green and Blue channel photos in order to assemble them into a color photo later? Sounds like a gimmick and a pain, right? There was outrage, there was contempt and there were die-hard film shooters who vowed never to fall for the trickery of digital photography. They didn't have the foresight to look to the future, and wrote digital cameras off as gimmicks.
And now they own tons of digital camera equipment.
And why is that? Because even though they didn’t buy into the “gimmick” of digital cameras at first, over time technology was allowed to evolve and prosper. Film photographers were eventually forced to stop and notice that digital was no longer a gimmick. It was eye-opening, and it all came about from early digital products that didn’t seem to stand a chance.
It’s clear that the Yashica Y35 isn’t going to win over the hearts and minds of everyone. But the Kickstarters rapid success, new stretch goals and announcements that the Y35 is already going to be enhanced over its initial offering two days ago (f/2.0 instead of f/2.8 max aperture) is a sign that there are a team of engineers and thinkers who are trying to make something different.
Even though the Y35 won’t change the world, it’s a start for a company that has a small idea and has found enough support to put it into action. The fact that they went the crowdfunding route in the first place is proof that they knew they had a concept, but they needed to see if others would be interested in allowing them to take this first experiment to the market. If you're upset that the sensor is only the size of the iPhone 5, take a moment to realize that they could probably only afford the iPhone 5 sensor to begin with. Now that stronger financial support exists, these restrictions may be lifted for future iterations.
So despite the outrage from die-hard photographers, a new product with features that might seem frivolous is indeed being produced. Instead of mulling over its initial weaknesses, why don’t we try to see the bigger picture and talk about how these features (winding, digiFilm cartridges, etc.) could possibly be modified in future versions to actually have more use and impact on a larger sensor version of this camera?
THE FUTURE OF YASHICA DIGITAL RANGEFINDERS
Given the surge in investment capital, let's take a step forward and see what the Y70, Y100 or Y200 might offer for two of the Y35 features that are getting the most flack:
In the future...
- digiFilm cartridges have been R&D'ed far beyond their initial use. These cartridges now feature on-board memory that can store your preferences for Contrast, Shadow and Highlight details. You can tweak individual looks for each digiFilm cartridge that you own via software on your computer and transfer those preferences to each cartridge. If a friend hands you a new Y100, your customizable digiFilm preferences that you use on your Y70 will carry over to that new camera with no additional setup needed. Just pop the cartridge in and your desired look can carry over to any hardware in the Yashica lineup.
- The winder mechanism has undergone an exciting evolution from the initial Y35. It now serves a huge purpose in later models. With each turn of the crank, a magnet / conductive wire assembly produces a small electronic charge that is attached to the battery compartment (now lithium-ion). This effectively transfers a small amount of charge to your battery with each photo. After each winder movement, a small amount of your camera's battery is being recharged. It won't recharge the entire battery, but it will certainly keep you out shooting long enough before needing to head home for a full charge.
- Keep this going in the comments below. How can these features be taken further? What new hardware or software can Yashica develop to change the game? Use your imagination. Be a positive thinker. Have fun.
I know it’s a stretch, and I really don’t have the answers myself at this point as to how these ideas could be truly implemented, but I’m an optimist. Additionally, I don’t claim to have all the answers or the ability to see the future, but I’ve seen new technology spring up when I least expected it. In 2006 a touch screen phone was unheard of. In 2007 I owned one. Get it?
THE DOOR IS NOW WIDE OPEN FOR YASHICA TO INNOVATE
Like it or not, Yashica is going to have well over $1 to $2 million USD in the bank, even after these little plastic Y35 units are shipped out. Given that support and financing, Yashica may now have the capability to build the next version of the camera(s) they really want to. They'll be able to source larger sensors, utilize beefier construction materials and integrate more advanced features. Maybe this first iteration is just testing the waters, and now the team at Yashica can grow to create better cameras in the future.
With a little bit of love and a little bit of support (and a lot of backer money), some dreamer at Yashica can possibly come up with an innovation in a future design that might actually prove useful or even change how we shoot digital photography.
If nothing else, I hope you agree that big ideas can come from seemingly vacuous first steps. But who are we to write Yashica off right out of the gate? Why are we declaring that Yashica, after years of dormancy, must sprint into the digital market instead of crawl and get their footing? Who knows...maybe the next design of this camera will feature groundbreaking features that won’t be considered so frivolous, after all. Maybe the next Yashica Kickstarter will convince all of us to back it 1000%+ beyond its goal.
And it could have all started with this little plastic Yashica Y35 that everyone loves to hate so much...