Last year I experienced some health issues that needed time and attention. In the middle of November I arrived for treatment in a small spa town in Northern Germany where I was to stay until Christmas. I had time on my hands in between the treatments and I was encouraged to go out. The Northern German autumn/winter, however, did not cooperate with this medical advice. It is possible to love the Northern German winter if you watch it unfold from, say, the Bahamas. Any observation point closer than that is not advised. Grey, cold, rain and misery will last until they run out of steam and are then replaced by fresh grey, cold, rain and misery, just more of it this time.
In the wet and cold I decided to search for a reasonably nice café and explore the small spa town. Having grown up in a small Northern German town myself I didn’t expect anything particularly exciting. I wasn’t disappointed. Yet the little town tried its best to create a Christmas mood with decoration and lights on its high street. The intention was to attract the locals and the occasional stranger such as myself to help its economy thrive. The retail sector of said economy consisted of the usual selection of supermarkets, a pharmacy, surprisingly many book stores (three) and, among other minor sensations, a thrift store run by a charity.
I entered it with curiosity but without any high hopes. Then, in a shelf with electrical appliances, I found a little blue camera bag with a “ROWI” label. It had a sticker stating that the store would charge € 3.50 for the bag and its content. I opened it to find a Yashica T4. This was exciting, as I vaguely remembered this was one of the pricier point and shoots. I never bought one of its kind before, not thinking of myself as a point and shoot person. I like to have a bit of influence on what the camera does. Not that I am particularly good at using this influence to anyone’s advantage, but a man can dream, can’t he?
Yet a camera is a camera and I’m inclined to want it anyway, so I inspected my find more closely. It was in really rather good shape and had a film of an unknown brand still in it. I slid the main switch and nothing happened. I decided to gamble as there was little at stake, went to the cash desk, paid € 3,50 and left. In the shop next door I bought the appropriate battery thereby tripling my expenditure. I inserted it – and the little camera happily hummed, revealed its f3.5 Tessar and flashed with excitement. Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay!
Since the pharmacy was on my way back, I also checked it out. This otherwise completely unremarkable store had 5 packs of 3 rolls each of Kodak Gold. Of course I bought them all. I clearly was on a roll – or rather 15 rolls.
When the Gods of photography decide to give, they give in full. Right next to where I stayed was an abandoned hotel that looks like a lost place but isn’t one. It sits right next to two busy hospitals and a railway station so it isn’t lost – although I bet the locals wish it was. It closed in 2014 and today it belongs to a hotel group. Whatever plans the group has with it, they didn’t yet materialize. Meanwhile the hotel has fallen into disrepair and is being vandalized.
I was handed a photo opportunity on a silver plate and to add a little atmosphere, the Gods of photography called the Gods of weather to ask if they could make an exception and actually provide some snow in winter – which they promptly did.
Having done my worst with the hotel I took the little Yashica out on a walk to take a few less depressing landscape shots.
All those good things were clearly a bit much. An overpriced hipster camera for next to nothing, an unsuspecting small town stripped of its entire stock of Kodak Gold, a photo opp that I failed to turn into award winning pictures – I felt I needed to pay back at least a little. So my Christmas donation to a charity of my choice was higher than usual. The rest I’ll just live with…
So, what is the little Yashica like? I found it a lovely, very light travel companion and I had lots of fun with that care free style of picture taking. It is very relaxing. Since there is next to nothing you can do about the outcome, you just frame and trust the thing to do its job properly, which it does most of the time. I had a few out of focus shots, that´s all. Don’t judge the Yashica by the shots in this piece – the scans here are low resolution from a pharmacy and don´t do the lens justice.
Is the T4 worth the money they are asking for it? I believe that there are much cheaper point and shoots out there that will do just as good a job as the little Yashica. Yet it made me see the light. I now think point and shoots are actually worthwhile. As much as I love shooting TLRs and the actuation of mechanical shutter dials and all the rest, unexpectedly I now recommend to add a nice point and shoot to your camera collection if you happen to stumble upon one. I really enjoy the experience and I hereby thank the Gods of photography for sending me this little gem.
Oh, and should any of the people whom I met in my time out there in that little town read this – thank you for everything you did for me and for the lovely company we had!
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