In the previous two reviews we've looked at a couple of what I consider to be the greatest cameras Olympus has ever made. The Pen F and Pen D are both lightweight, discrete, and matched with extraordinary lenses. These cameras are classics, and so it's going to shock you when I announce that the final camera in this review is the Yashica Samurai. The what? Exactly.
The Yashica Samurai is a futuristic looking half-frame camera which aesthetically is more similar to the Fujifilm GA645 than the other cameras in this review. It's best described as camcorderesque. The Samurai came in a couple of different models, and interestingly in either Yashica or Kyocera branding.
Where the Olympus half-frames are largely constructed of metal the Samurai is entirely plastic. And while plastic isn't the most robust material for construction the Samurai is in fact a durable camera. Once, in Kyoto Japan I happened into a thrift shop. Deep in a bin marked "junk" I found a Yashica Samurai X3.0 — the proprietor assured me there was no way the camera was functional and so we settled on a mere ¥500 ($4.00) for the price. He actually chuckled as we made the exchange. I went outside and popped a battery in and much to his surprise it fired right up.
The Yashica Samurai comes in a variety of models with different upgrades over the years. The X3.0 model has an integrated flash, 25-75mm lens, and automation of all exposure controls. It is in effect a half-frame point and shoot. The lens is threaded for a 49mm filter and will provide you with f3.5 at the wide end of things and f4.3 at the telephoto range.
The shutter speed of the X3.0 model maxes out at 1/500th of a second and will stay open for up to 2 seconds should the need a rise. The later model, the X4.0 has slightly slower speeds despite a number of other upgrades, and maxes out at 1/300th of a second while staying open to 3 seconds if the exposure calls for it.
A bevy of accessories were made for the Yashica Samurai. They range from the Yashica Samurai Action Grip to the external hot shoe adapter allowing the use of a more powerful on-camera flash or possibly wireless trigger.
The looks of the Yashica Samurai are nothing to write home about but they are in fact unique. As mentioned before it's best described as camcorderesque in it's look and handling. The Samurai works well in street settings because you can walk around with it at eye level and everyone assumes it's a video camera. One point of note about the handling of the Samurai is that it’s native orientation is actually landscape as you’d find in a typical SLR as opposed to the portrait orientation found in the Olympus Pen F and the Olympus Pen D.
Classic cameras are so different from those produced today in that they all have a personality or character of their own. The best camera for me will likely not be the best camera for you. But, if I had to give a recommendation I would say the Olympus Pen D is the one I am most likely to recommend to anyone looking at trying out a half-frame camera. It is an excellent combination of both quality and value.
If you’re on a budget or really love that point and shoot aesthetic then I would wholeheartedly recommend the Samurai. It’s quirky, but highly functional and can be had for pennies on the dollar if you look in the right place.
If absolute quality in a half-frame package is your goal than there is no other camera but the Pen F in my opinion. While more costly it is the ultimate marriage of optics, style, and quality that would easily make any camera user happy.