Yashica Samurai X4.0 – failure to launch

I don’t really like reviewing cameras that haven’t worked but I recently acquired a Yashica Samurai X4 which had a a sticky shutter. The actual other mechanics of the camera worked (bar flash) so these are my musing on this unique camera half frame SLR despite not actually successfully taking a shot on it

Yashica Samurai X4.0
Yashica Samurai X4.0 half frame AF SLR from late 1980’s

I came across it in the local BHF charity shop for £15 and it seemed to work (even came with a working battery) but it was only when I tried to run a roll through did I realise there was an issue.

The Samurai is a slice of late 80’s styling. Kyocera whom had taken over the Yashica name decided to launch a series of half frame AF SLR which was a pretty radical concept for the time and even more so by the fact the decided to style it like a the camcorders that were becoming popular. You’ll either love or hate the styling but it actually fits the hand pretty well abet quite alien to a stills shooter.

Yashica/Kyocera Samurai 4.0 Specs

  • Lens: 25-100mm 1:3.8-1:4.8
  • Focus:  AF phase difference
  • Exposure : Auto
  • Metering: TTL spot
  • Battery: 6V  2CR5 lithium
  • Shutter: 3sec to 1/300
  • EV (100) :   3-18
  • Filter-Thread:  52mm
  • Production : 1988 on

The X4 was the second samurai and was sold under both Kyocera and Yashica brandings. It is pretty similar to the spec of the the original X3.0 although features a  X4 (get it) non interchangeable lens. Unlike earlier half frame cameras the camera shoots in landscape mode rather than portrait when held in the default position.

Half frame camera had their hay day in the 60s and 70s although olympus was still producing PEN series cameras into the 80s. The samurai series are one of the first film so called bridge cameras – non interchangeable zoom lens AF SLRs. All these early bridge cameras were pretty radically styled but others like Olympus’s IS series took full frames shots.

Rear controls of a Yashica Samurai X4.0
Rear controls of a Yashica Samurai X4.0

The camera has little in the way of user controls beyond the shutter button and the zoom in and out switch. Beyond that you have just the same sort of controls you’d find on a mid-range AF compact of the day. So you have usual timer, multi shot modes and 4 scene settings but that’s it. There is no real way of controlling exposure, which raises the question what does this camera offer over an early 90s compact like the Pentax Espio AF Zoom ? Very little to be honest. It is nice to check you’re in focus SLR ways but compacts like the espio were pretty accurate and offered more shooting modes. No EV compensation and no way of controlling the aperture or shutter.

You do get a date stamp option and as well as the built in flash it has a hot shoe intended for a dedicated unit. As most compacts of the time a half depress of shutter locks focus and exposure.

Its a shame really. The viewfinder is certainly handy with focus and flash ready LED and halframe AF SLR should have been special but the fact that it is so automated makes it a big disappointment. If it had an aperture or shutter priority mode it would be fine but so little user control is a major disappointment (as much as the fact mines was knackered). It’s not much smaller than a conventional AF SLR and at least you can change the lens. If half frame and SLR is crucial the Olympus PEN F series makes much more sense although manual focus and also not cheap.

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