Yes, I backed the “Yashica” Absolute MF-1… Am I proud? Well…

After the obvious scamy garbage that was the “Yashica” Digifilm thing, I hesitated. I knew the MF-1 would be little more than a disposable/single use camera and it was bad-mouthed and laughed at all over the internets, but, spurred on by DanK on Twitter, I went for it, plunked down ~$80 for two MF-1 cameras and two rolls of each of the three films they had on offer (Color, Black & White, and Special Edition Color (some kind of Kodak Color 400 stock, I think the same as Lomography Color 400; Orwo N74; and a Fuji color stock, probably the non-XTRA variant of Superia 400), and more to come on these, maybe).

I didn’t hope for much.

Now, before I continue, Yashica, the real, formerly-existing Yashica, put out a simple zone focus 35mm camera with the same MF-1 name and logo in 1979… It’s not the most common of cameras, and gets poor reviews, but don’t be confused. Perhaps this new MF-1 is sort of a 40 year anniversary homage?

Well… I expect “Yashica” knew about the Yashica MF-1, and probably had the logo in its file of trademarks, but I doubt they intended an homage as much as wanted to capitalize on their holdings, but then I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to things like this…

Surprisingly, there were few hiccoughs and my order arrived pretty much on time. Given the problems other film photography Kickstarters I’ve kickstartered have had (from Ferrania to the JollyLook to the Pixl-latr), the lack of issues was refreshing.

So. The “Yashica” MF-1. It’s pretty much a disposable camera with a rear door and the addition of a winder on the bottom. It certainly looks like a disposable with a door on the back and winder on the bottom and shoots like one too.

The winder is probably the weakest physical part, probably the point that will fail first. It’s fiddly in use and makes preloading the roll tedious. I don’t look forward to doing it again, but I probably will, one day.

At this point, let me digress a bit, and give a quick comparison to the Lomography Simple Use camera. Like the MF-1, the Simple Use is essentially an easily-reloadable single use camera. But the Lomography version prewinds far more easily and seems much more robust, though the soft touch finish on the “Yashica” feels a bit better in the hand.

Ok. To the pictures… I loaded a roll of the “Yashica”-labeled black & white film and shot away, and, well, they’re not pretty.

Case in point.

Once I finished the roll, I had a bit of a problem. Unlike other commercial black & white film, the “Yashica” box and label had no recommended development times. I didn’t bother to search the MassiveDevChart (and at time of writing, it has no entry for the “Yashica” film), and couldn’t find any information on the Kickstarter page or anywhere else.

So I went for a Rodinal stand, and a sloppy one at that. I just dumped a bit of Rodinal into a jug and added 1000ml of tapwater to it. It was 70 degrees F out of the tap, so I developed straight away, one hour with 4 inversions at the start and 4 inversions at 30 minutes, and… well, success, in the development anyway.

I shot it in a variety of situations, but most of the roll went down in a local park, on an early morning walk with my darling, adorable wife (not pictured).

I also shot at my wife’s cousin’s wedding reception, on a drive down to Grandbury and back, and while driving around Dallas one Saturday.

At first glance, small on the website or computer screen, they’re fine enough. Shoot, that selfy above is plenty sharp. But pretty much anything at distance is soft, the corners are soft, smeared, and the barrel distortion is evident even in some landscapes.

There were some light leaks on the beginning of the roll (the last few frames), probably caused by loading errors, so the camera is more or less light tight…

Talk about damned by faint praise.

Purpose
Price
Craftsmanship
Ease of Use

If you want that disposable aesthetic, by all means go pick up a proper disposable. You’ll get better results. Better yet, get a Lomography Simple Use. It’s easier to load, far more robust, and comes preloaded, and has (very slightly) better image quality than the “Yashica.”

If you want lo-fi, distorted, meh-ness, perhaps the objectively worst camera I’ve ever used, then look no further than the “Yashica” MF-1, and once again the new owners of the Yashica brand show that they have no respect whatsoever for the brand or its heritage. Sure, old, dead, real Yashica put its name on some garbage, but it made some great cameras too.

Overall, I give the new “Yashica” MF-1 a worst-money-I’ve-spent-recently-perhaps-ever 1.7 stars.

It’s so bad that I’m not even going to link to the “Yashica” again. If you want a reloadable disposable, please give Lomography $20. And if you just want a proper disposable, go by your local CVS or Walgreens or Duane Ready or whatever and pick up a FunSaver or a QuickSnap. Both will serve you far better than the MF-1, though they’re not easily reloadable.

I really wish I had better things to say about this thing. Alas. When the next “Yashica” product appears, I hope I have the strength to ignore it, though as a film devote, I have a near mandate to support the production of new film cameras… but should I really support things I know or suspect to be absolute garbage? Probably not, huh…

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