Yashica T5/Kyocera T-Proof Camera Review

It‘s a Point-and-Shoot TLR*!

15 min read by Dmitri.
Published on . Updated on .
Yashica T5’s TLR* finder/Super Scope.

Yashica T5, a.k.a Yashica T4 Super D, a.k.a Kyocera T-Proof is a Japanese point-and-shoot film camera with a unique TLR* scope and a well-regarded lens.

The camera is housed in a plastic body, which may not make it appear valuable. But these Yashicas certainly sell as such: a mint-condition T5 can easily set you back $700+ in 2023.

In this review, I’ll cover specs, usability, the lens, and the usefulness of the TLR-like scope on this camera. I’ll also share a few tips for getting better images with this plasticky but fun premium¹ point-and-shoot.

¹ — A point-and-shoot camera with a high-quality lens, modern features, outstanding camera design, high price and availability.

And it just so happens that I’ve had the pleasure of using this camera and making up my mind about all its faults and features more thoroughly than most equipment reviewed on this website.

According to my Film Log, I’ve run ten rolls through it during the past month — some of which were exposed in the rain up on the mountains. Believe me: I’ve put this camera through a lot, and it survived just fine.

During the same month, I briefly owned and tested the Yashica T4 — a camera with a similar lens and fewer features — which I will also be comparing to the T5 in this review.

But first, let’s talk about the TLR* scope — a feature I’ve not seen on any other point-and-shoot camera:

Yashica T5’s Super Scope (TLR* mode).

A pedantic collector would object to the small window at the top of Yashica T5’s plastic body being called a true TLR feature. And so, for those concerned, I put a star next to all the “TLR” mentions in this article. If this confuses you, disambiguation is in the next paragraph.

Super Scope’s user experience is nearly identical to that of a true TLR camera (like Bolsey C). The image is mirrored left-to-right; the lens that captures the image is separate from the image-taking glass and uses a reflex mirror. The only difference is the lack of a focusing screen; of course, that would be counter-productive for an autofocus camera. As T5 does not use a focusing screen, the scope should technically be called a “brilliant finder.”

This technicality does not take away the scope’s usefulness. Without it, I would not be able to take the extreme low-angle shots you’ll see all over this article and the “over-the-hedge” images (taken by flipping the camera upside-down, facing away from the scene, and holding it directly above your head).

A page from the Yashica T4 Super manual about the TLR-like finder (Super Scope). Found at https://bit.ly/yashica-t5-manual

The TLR* finder is also very bright. For the most part, I found it unnecessary to shade it from the sun or reflections, though in some cases, cupping my left hand around the scope helped.

Super Scope is small, and you can only see through it well if you hold it about 1-3 feet from the eye; there are no parallax markings — nevertheless, I was still able to use it OK.

Some will call Super Scope a gimmick, but as I’ve mentioned above and shall prove below, I found definitive uses and creative opportunities with this feature even a true TLR cannot replicate (i.e., instant focus for action shots).

Kyocera — the company that owns Yashica and its licensing rights to Zeiss lenses — named this feature N.A. Scope on its Kyocera-branded cameras and Super Scope on its Yashica-branded models. Whatever the name is, they are identical yet still very unique to this point-and-shoot design.

Note: Yashica T5, Yashica T4 Super D, and Kyocera T-Proof are all the same camera with slight branding differences. The only difference between Yashica T4 Super and T4 Super D cameras is the date stamp (data back) feature. This type of confusion in marketing was common in the late 20th century as the camera manufacturers consolidated.

Kyocera T-Proof (Yashica T5) with Kodak Ektar.

Yashica T5 specs.

Yashica T5’s Carl Zeiss Tessar T* 35mm 𝒇3.5 lens can close down to 𝒇15.5, and its shutter can fire between 1 and 1/700th of a second. It has a built-in dual-SPD metering system that can automatically compensate for backlit scenes. The camera accepts 35mm films with DX-coded ISO speeds of 50-3200 and defaults to ISO 100. It has a multi-point IR autofocus mechanism with focus-lock with the closest distance of .35m/1’1¾”.

Its flash is active between .35m-3m with ISO 100 films and .35m-6m with ISO 400 films. It recharges in 3.5s (according to the manual) but can take up to 10 seconds with a depleting CR123 battery. A new battery should last about 20 rolls of film.

T5 is on the bulkier side, especially when compared against some of the smallest 35mm film cameras; it measures 118×64×42mm and weighs 200g/7oz. The T4 Super variant (the one without the date back) is 2mm slimmer and 10g lighter.

Kyocera T-Proof (Yashica T5) with Agfa Vista 200.
Kyocera T-Proof (Yashica T5) with Agfa Vista 200.

Yashica T5 weatherproofing.

Yashica T5 is weatherproof; however, it is not waterproof. This means it can be freely used in the rain or snow but the manufacturer strongly advises against significant water pressure, including washing under tap water and especially submerging to any depth.

Note that the translucent lens cover will not prevent water from reaching the lens (by design), but it’s still useful to keep the droplets off the glass as they will interfere with the image.

Another advantage to T5’s weatherproofing is the ability to shoot it in dusty or sandy environments without damaging the electronics. But you will need to wipe it with a damp cloth after the fact to prevent the debris from entering into the film or battery compartments — which are not weatherproofed.

Being a motorized point-and-shoot built in the 1990s, its drives are noisy, but thankfully, weatherproofing dampens some of the sounds, making the T5 a quieter camera than it would’ve been otherwise.

The downside to the weatherproofing is a tight-fitting film door (you’ll need to press hard to click it closed) and a very tough-to-open battery door.

Yashica T5 build quality.

Yashica T5 is a practical camera by design. Its shell is made of plastic; it’s not particularly slim or pocket-fitting. Many copies that you’ll find online (including mine) have noticeable scratch marks, which I would argue are the result of their previous owner’s inability to part with the camera.

But despite the lack of fancy titanium, brass, or even aluminum enclosure, the T5 is a sturdy, well-built camera that is very easy to use — and it can handle a lot. I took mine on a grimy, rained-on camping trip that would’ve destroyed another camera of this age in minutes. Throughout the entire 3-day trek, it performed flawlessly.

So what you’re paying for with this design isn’t an impeccable appearance or the jeweller’s finish and materials. Instead, you’re getting a fun, dependable point-and-shoot that can last through any weather: a reliable travel companion.

Kyocera T-Proof (Yashica T5) with CineStill 800T.

Yashica T5 in use.

T5 is easy to use, sturdy, and more versatile than a typical point-and-shoot. Of course, it is not a perfect camera, as such a thing may not even exist; you’ll find all the faults and features I discovered during my extensive, rugged experience with it described below.

Loading film is no different from any other point-and-shoot (just insert the roll and ensure the film tip aligns with the green maker). Because the film door has a rubber o-ring, closing it takes extra effort as it fits very tightly.

This camera’s main two controls are the power/lens cover toggle and the shutter button. The large toggle button, which you can see on the front of the camera, is very intuitive. It slides the translucent cover from the lens and gives it a way to extend via a small internal motor. Once you’re ready to put the camera back into your pocket, the toggle can be slid back, which will first retract the lens and then slip the cover over automatically. This smooth action isn’t a given; even the relatively pricey Fujifilm Tiara will have you slide a thin lid until it hits the lens, then wait a second until you can proceed with closing the camera.

In the rain, I found that the power toggle stiffens slightly, whereas the rest of the controls worked normally.

The shutter button is very nice. It’s soft enough to avoid some camera shake, and it makes it very easy to feel the difference between the focus/exposure lock half-press and the final shutter action.

Kyocera T-Proof (Yashica T5) with Agfa Vista 200. I used focus locking to keep the moss sharp and the foggy forest blurry.

The only issue I have with the controls is the position of the lens: holding T5 with one hand is a little awkward as there’s little space for the middle finger and the thumb to hold on to. It would’ve been more comfortable if the lens was closer to the opposite side of the camera, leaving more space for the right hand to grasp. Nevertheless, the rubber grip that you can see on the front of the camera is very helpful in keeping the camera from slipping away.

The viewfinder on T5 is mediocre. It’s bright, but there isn’t a great eye relief, so you may miss small parts of the frame if you’re wearing glasses. The parallax markings and the focus/exposure area lines are drawn in black, which is enough for most scenes but are hard to see in subdued light. To be fair, this is a common design on most 1990s point-and-shoots.

Super Scope finder gives even less information than the regular viewfinder: just the thin black crosshairs for you to see where the camera will approximately focus. Though it’s perfectly usable with the glasses on.

T5 supports focus and exposure locking. If you want to focus/expose for something that’s not in the center of the frame, you can point your camera’s crosshairs on it, half-press and hold the shutter button, then recompose and take your shot by squeezing the button down fully.

T5 will also automatically compensate backlit scenes by adjusting its exposure settings or setting off the flash. Together with focus and exposure lock, this feature solves most of the issues occurring in difficult lighting.

When you half-press the shutter button and the camera successfully finds focus, a green bulb next to the finder will light up. It will continue staying lit if you keep your finger on the button in that position. This is very helpful for focus locking; however, you won’t see the light if you’re using Super Scope, which adds to the challenge of using the TLR* mode on this camera. The green bulb will flash if the camera can’t find the focus.

An orange bulb next to the finder (again, not visible while using Super Scope) will light up if the camera is going to discharge flash for your shot or as an indicator of low light. It will blink while the flash is charging and prevent you from taking pictures at that time if the flash is enabled. However, it will not prevent you from shooting low-light scenes.

I found that this camera will show a subdued light warning a little early for my liking (it does so when the shutter needs to fire at about 1/60th of a second or slower). Because of T5’s excellent shutter button design and the vibration-free leaf shutter, I’m comfortable shooting it at 1/30th or even 1/15th of a second. If you understand exposure well (whether with a light meter or via the Sunny 16 rule), you can ignore the warning light in certain conditions.

If the above sounds foreign to you, just make sure the flash is on if you see a red bulb lighting up next to your finder — or use a tripod. The flash is on by default in low-light scenes, a behaviour this camera resets to whenever you turn it on. Thus, the default settings on T5 will work best for most situations.

Kyocera T-Proof (Yashica T5) with Lomochrome Purple.
Kyocera T-Proof (Yashica T5) with Agfa Vista 200 and the flash on.

You can change how your camera focuses and uses flash with the ⚡️ button on the top plate. There are five flash modes: auto flash (default), red-eye-reduction flash (which will flash continuously to prevent the glowing red eyes you may see in some portraits), always-on flash (which is great for fill-flash), no flash, and ∞ (which will disable flash and force the camera to focus on infinity). As you cycle through the flash modes, the LCD shows your settings next to the large always-on film frame counter display.

The flash itself uses variable power, which helps avoid massive over-exposures when taking photos up close.

There’s also a dedicated 10-second timer button I never found a use for but occasionally triggered accidentally. Whenever I notice that my camera begins a countdown, I quickly turn it off to avoid wasting film.

Lastly, once you get to the end of your roll, the camera will wind it back into the cassette. Unfortunately, it will not put the lens away, nor will it react to the power/lens toggle button until the film is fully rewound. If you turn your camera off as it winds the film back, it will put the lens away at the end of the rewind cycle.

Kyocera T-Proof (Yashica T5) with CineStill 800T.

Yashica T5 35mm Carl Zeiss Tessar 𝒇3.5 lens image quality.

Carl Zeiss brand enjoys a fantastic reputation when it comes to optics — even today. I would not be surprised that this and other cameras cost a premium just for bearing the name. And in most cases, it’s well worth the price.

Yashica T5’s lens renders excellent sharpness and contrast on photos at close and mid distances. It maintains that sharpness across the frame without vignetting and no noticeable aberrations on any of the films I’ve tried the camera with. It also appears to prevent flaring well, as I haven’t noticed much of it in any of my frames.

The aperture blades on Yashica T5 form a triangle; this doesn’t seem to diminish the quality of out-of-focus areas on this lens. Whenever the camera opens up the aperture to its widest, it renders smooth and even bokeh that doesn’t swirl and resembles that of Rollei 35 S, a camera that features a Zeiss Sonnar design.

I expected better sharpness from this lens at an infinity focus mark. My copy produced better micro-contrast at closer distances than when focusing on something at 20m or further. However, the loss of acuity is minimal and won’t be noticeable unless you scan at 30MP+ and zoom all the way in.

Another minor issue is the delay before exposure. This is very common on vintage autofocus cameras (although there are outstanding examples — like Minolta TC-1 — that manage to solve this problem). Essentially, the camera measures the distance to your target without moving the lens and only adjusts optical focus once you depress the shutter button; as a result, the shutter fires about a quarter to half a second later.

Nevertheless, the autofocus on Yashica T5 is excellent. Out of the ten rolls I shot with it so far, it missed just one frame.

Kyocera T-Proof (Yashica T5) with Kodak Ektar.

Yashica T4 vs. Yashica T5/T4 Super.

Yashica T4 (a.k.a. Kyocera Slim T) is nearly identical to Yashica T5/T4 Super in looks and specs. It’s slightly cheaper yet features the same Carl Zeiss Tessar T* 𝒇3.5 35mm lens, shutter, and autofocus system.

T4 does not have the Super Scope, it is not weather-sealed, and it has a smaller and more awkward power button. However, it’s a little smaller and lighter than T5.

I found T4 less “special” and less versatile than T5 due to its lack of the TLR* scope and weatherproofing. Also, since it has no seals, its motor is slightly louder than T5’s.

There are cheaper point-and-shoot cameras that can give you similar results as T4 (i.e., Mju I, Espio Mini, Big Mini BM-302), but none match the unique feature package of Yashica T5.

How much does Yashica T5 cost, and where to find one.

As of this writing, working Yashica T5/T4 Super/Kyocera T-Proof cameras sell for around $500-700, depending on condition.

I suggest you seek copies with confirmed working film transport as it’s the most common issue with this camera. Small scratches and paint scuffs don’t affect this camera’s performance, but cracks in plastic will render its weatherproofing inactive — watch out for that. The best way to guarantee a safe shopping experience is to buy from reputable sellers with good ratings.

❤ By the way: Please consider making your Yashica T5/T4 Super/Kyocera T-Proof camera purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!