Mystery Camera: The Yashica EZ-F521

Good morning you beautiful awesome hardcore, war-torn camera geeks! We haven’t had one of these β€œmystery cameras” in a while so today I present you with another Mystery Camera for your Flashback Friday and the camera we have today is the Yashica EZ-F521. Now what is a Yashica EZ-F521?! πŸ˜ŽπŸ˜πŸ˜ŽπŸ“ΈπŸ‘πŸ»

INTRODUCTION

The Yashica EZ-F521 is a five megapixel point and shoot digital camera introduced in 2009. While it bears the “Yashica” brand name, this is NOT the Yashica of yore. This camera was manufactured in China apparently by a company in Hong Kong that had bought the rights to use the Yashica name after Kyocera closed out the Contax/Yashica brand in 2005.

SPECS

The Yashica EZ-F521 was sold as a 5mp digital camera although some I’ve read people saying the camera is closer to 3 or 4 megapixels. There is a 12mp interpolated resolution mode within its menu. The sensor is said to be a 1/2.5 inch sensor.

The lens is a 42.5mm fixed plastic lens. The aperture appears to be either f/2.8 or f/3.2 and nothing else. There is no way to focus the camera other than the infinity/macro setting which is done by twisting the lens to either one of those positions. Shutter speed range is unknown. I found something on the web that says 1/2 sec to 1/2000th but I’ve read others saying they never hit 1/1000th on this camera.

In any event you really don’t have much control over this as the camera chooses the shutter speed as well as the aperture. The ISO appears to be fixed at ISO 100. There is a low resolution 640/480 VGA video mode which can be shot at 30/15fps.

There is also a hidden RAW mode which can be accessed through a sequence of buttons and dials. I forgot what it is now, but I will update this article later to include it. But don’t get too excited though. RAW on a camera like this is overkill. Just sayin’! πŸ™‚

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who prefer a more “dynamic” experience, here it is! πŸ™‚

PERSONAL IMPRESSIONS AND THOUGHTS ON THE YASHICA EZ F521

This camera caused a bit of a buzz on internet photo forums back in 2009 and as a former lurker in those forums, I caught the bug too!

Now despite the horribly limiting specs, with this camera I must admit I was very shallow lol and I was probably most attracted by that eye-catching orange/reddish coating on the fixed lens which in hindsight looks like something from a security camera. I admit, I’m a sucker for a pretty face. Well, in this case, maybe not a pretty face but a strange and interesting face!

I bought the camera back in 2009 or 2010 from a cool guy named Dirk at a site called JapanExposures and yes it came all the way from Japan. I think I paid less than $100 for it.

In hindsight, I really wonder what attracted so many people to this camera back in 2009. I mean, the specs are really uninspiring, the camera body and lens are plastic and there’s not much in the way of control (at least outwardly).

It was probably, in addition to that luscious orange tinted lens, it was probably due to the fact that someone dubbed it the “Digital Holga” that gave the camera its appeal. I’ve seen some great work by Holga film camera users though I myself had never really been a huge Holga/Lomography fan. I mean, soft fuzzy images, vignetting, blurry images can be “artistic” but it’s generally not my thing.

That said, I get it. I know what the appeal of Holga is to people. It offers an alternate reality for people who tire of perfectly sharp, perfectly exposed images. It is a different kind of photographic art. Now even if you’re not a Holga/Lomography fan but you shoot film then you have more in common with the Holga crowd than you might think.

Why do you continue to shoot film with all its inherent grain, its limiting ISO range, its susceptibility to dust, scratches when you have digital cameras today that can blow up sharp images to the size of the side of a large building? It’s because you want something different from the razor sharp images you get from these digital cameras. You want film grain, grit, and imperfections to give your images some personality, etc, etc. Get it now?

When I first got the camera, I thought it was the coolest thing! It was light, plasticky, but at the same time small and pretty cute! No I wasn’t disappointed because I already knew what it was supposed to be. I did not have any expectations of it being a high quality camera and true to form, it was/is not.

This camera is considered to be a toy camera. What is a toy camera? According to Wikipedia: “Within the field of photography, a toy camera is a simple, inexpensive film camera. Despite the name, they are in fact always fully functional and capable of taking photographs, though with optical abberations due to the limitations of the simple lenses.”

This can apply to the Yashica EZ F521 with the exception of “film camera” as it is not a film camera but a digital camera, and even that might be too high a description especially if you’re thinking of today’s digital cameras. It’s almost reminiscent of the early 2mp digicams or early cell phone cameras.

IMAGE QUALITY

The Yashica EZ F521 takes interesting images! “Interesting” is subjective and for me, what I liked about it is an interesting color palette, fun filters, and surprisingly sharp images. Take a look at my YouTube video to see sample images of some of the in camera effects.

Some people have complained that the plastic lens produced images “too sharp” to be Holga-esque but I say you can always take a sharp image and soften it, but you can’t really sharpen up an inherently soft image so I’m ok with its “sharp” images. Keep in mind that “sharp” for this camera is not Canon L lens sharp. It’s more like “I didn’t expect it to be sharp” sharp πŸ™‚

I will say that in general images appear sharper than what you would normally get from a plastic lens Holga or Lomography camera. I guess that’s what they mean by “too sharp” but again, the sharpness is fine for my purposes.

SAMPLE PICS

Here are a few sample pics from this camera over the years. I probably have a ton more but they’re pretty much gone as the one card I used on this camera became corrupted. I probably could invest in some software that might help me recover them but why bother? I’ll make new memories! Anyway, take a look:

ISSUES

My first and main issue with this camera is that it seems to eat up the three AAA batteries pretty fast. Make sure you have extras laying around.

Secondly, I’ve had two copies of this camera. One I bought brand new, and the other a couple of years ago, around 2017 or 2018. My first one bought around 2009-2010 lasted many years of sporadic usage. Towards the end, it developed a couple of problems. First, the locking mechanism for the battery compartment broke. And then, the SD card slot suddenly refused to hold the card in place. The battery compartment was remedied with tape but the SD card issue could not be remedied. I used the camera’s internal memory which gave me, I think, about ten shots. Though incredibly inconvenient, I used the camera like a film camera for a while until I found my other copy a couple years ago.

The one I am currently using is not without flaws. It seems to eat through batteries faster than my first copy. Every now and then, the LCD monitor shows lines like it’s going to conk out.

I’ve seen some of this before with the Contax N Digital so I’m not expecting this one to last much longer. To be fair though, the Contax N Digital costs a lot more than the Yashica EZ-F521 but reliability wise they seem on par with each other.

In the end, the Yashica EZ F521 should be seen in the same light as the Nishika N8000 and Nimslo 3D cameras in that it is a CRAP CAMERA, as I said about the 3D cameras πŸ™‚

Now don’t be offended if you love these cameras, I do too! I’m just making that statement based on their flimsy build quality. plastic lenses, and their low reliability rates. All these cameras have a high FUN factor which makes up for their negatives but it comes with the caveat of HANDLE WITH CARE.

PRICE & AVAILABILTY

This is a hard one simply because, as of this writing, there’s no copies of the Yashica EZ-F521 to be found. I checked eBay, I checked all over the web. None. And perhaps, there are really not many people looking for this camera but I could be wrong.

I can only base my price estimates based on the average of the two copies I bought. One was brand new in 2009-2010 for $89 USD and one for $40 used. So I’d say if you could find one, a fair price would probably be $40-50 tops.

To aid in your search for this camera, it was also sold and rebranded as the Takashi FX 521 and perhaps rebranded as something else too, but I’m not sure about that last part. I have seen pics of the Takashi so I’m sure about that one.

BOTTOM LINE

The Yashica EZ F521 is NOT a Camera Legend and probably never will be. Nevertheless, it was probably the last digital “toy camera” that had such a buzz around it and for the most part, it delivers on its “Digital Holga” images and fun factor.

It was/is a fun camera to use, not for serious work, but if you consider it an extra “artistic brush” in your camera arsenal you certainly can get interesting results out of it.

Above all, see this camera as a testament to the fact that you will never know what you see on Camera Legend because I love ALL cameras but…I only write about the ones I found interesting!

Wow, I didn’t expect this article to be this long! If you’re reading this till the end, I say THANK YOU! πŸ™‚

The Digital Harinezumi Guru (Final 2011 Special Edition)

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Here at Camera Legend, we don’t just love old, classic, and decrepit cameras, we love ALL cameras! Especially the strange, weird, and interesting. Today, we have one of the weirder ones. It’s a very small and strange thing in the shape of an old 110 film cartridge and it’s called a “Digital Harinezumi.”

WHAT IS A DIGITAL HARINEZUMI?

What is a Digital Harinezumi you might ask? Well, first let’s start with “Harinezumi” which means “hedgehog” in Japanese. Thus with the Digital Harinezumi we have a Digital Hedgehog πŸ™‚

Ok before we go any further, just for the record, the camera we are looking at today is the “Digital Harinezumi Guru (Final 2011 Special Edition).” That’s the whole name of this camera!

The Digital Harinezumi Guru is a digital camera made by Superheadz of Tokyo, which is a branch of a company called Powershovel Ltd. of Japan. As far as I can tell, the “DH” series is now up to version 4. Please keep in mind I am only talking about the Guru, the “Final 2011 Special Edition.”

The company makes some unique and as they like to call it, “artistic” lo-fi cameras such as the Blackbird Fly, the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim clone cameras, and the Digital Harinezumi cameras among others. They are, to me, very much like a twin of the Lomography company and in a world ruled by the Big C’s, Big N’s, and Big S’s, I think we need companies like this to add some variety to life πŸ™‚

THE DIGITAL HARINEZUMI GURU AS A CAMERA

The Digital Harinezumi Guru (2011) has 3 megapixels (2048×1536 resolution) on a tiny sensor. It features a 35mm f/3 fixed lens. Closest focus is 3cm (about 0.098 ft) when used in Macro mode.

The camera has no manual controls whatsoever. There is no viewfinder. There is a plastic “frame window” that acts as your “viewfinder” but I find it pretty useless. The tiny LCD is about 1.5 inches, not very high resolution, but usable.

There are only two ISO selections, ISO 100 and ISO 800. The camera can record video that some say is reminiscent of 8mm video. It can record video at 30 fps, 8 fps, and 1 fps respectively.

There is also a host of selectable filters for your photos or videos, i.e., monochrome, vivid, “old” etc.Β There is a switch on the bottom that takes you from “normal” mode to macro mode.

The camera runs on one CR2 battery. In my use, the camera eats batteries pretty quickly especially when using the video mode and CR2 batteries can be expensive. Best solution is to have some rechargeable CR2’s on hand.

IMAGE QUALITY AND IMPRESSIONS

I’ve only had this thing for a few months, although I’ve been interested in Digital Harinezumi cameras for years. First of all, let me say that it seems for most people, the reaction to toy cameras is that either you “get it” or you “don’t get it.” There doesn’t seem to be much of a grey area.

To be clear, when I speak of toy cameras I’m talking about “serious” toy cameras like the Harinezumi is supposed to be. I’m not talking about V-Tech or Fisher Price cameras, although I have seen cool results from some of these cameras intended for children.

However, for me, with the Superheadz Digital Harinezumi, I get it and yet I don’t get it. Let me explain. I have used other toy cameras before. My favorite one was the Yashica EZ F521 which I reviewed in 2011. I loved that camera, despite of and maybe because of its low-fi images. But at last, its flimsy build led to a broken SD card slot.Β But I really liked the images.

The Digital Harinezumi? Hmm, not so much. The color images are frankly disappointing. The b&w images will wow me one day and let me down the next. It’s not consistent. To be fair, perhaps it’s meant to be that way. I mean, just like developing a roll of film and not knowing what you’re going to get is part of the thrill of film, I think it’s supposed to be part of the charm of this digital camera.

Degi Hari

The photo above is a good representation of what you can expect with the Digital Harinezumi Guru at ISO 800, indoors with typical house lighting. To me, very reminiscent of old Sony Ericsson or Nokia phones.

In color, indoor shots have way too much color noise. I expected the noise, but it’s worse than I thought it would be and it’s not the beautiful “film-like” digital type. At its worst, it closely resembles old phone cameras of the late 90s or early 2000s. You remember those old Nokia or Sony Ericsson phones don’t you?

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“Wheel Of Fortune” 2017. Digital Harinezumi Guru 2011 Final Edition, ISO 800.

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“December Dusk” 2016. Digital Harinezumi Guru, ISO 100. Much cleaner than ISO 800, but noise still present.

Degi Hari

“Autumn Leaves” 2016. Digital Harinezumi Guru, ISO 800. The lighting was dimmer than it looks here and the shots I got at ISO 100 were shaky. I switched to ISO 800 and here you can see an example of the exaggerated colors that these cameras can produce and I think, some people want. For me, it reminds me of a still frame from an old video camera.

The “hard” monochrome mode has a cool and strong b&w look that I like. It appears very dramatic, very dark and contrasty. At its best, it can be quite “film-like” but most of the time, I think it might be too dramatic, so much so that it appears obvious that you’re using a special effect of some kind. But when the camera (or photographer) gets it right, it’s quite a good attempt at copying grainy film.

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“Ghostbusters” 2017. Digital Harinezumi Guru, ISO 800, “Hard Monochrome” mode. I think this represents about the best “film-like” grit and grain you can get out of this camera.

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“Mirror Baby” 2017. Digital Harinezumi Guru, ISO 100, “Hard Monochrome” mode.

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A 100 percent crop of the previous image. Note the grain structure, pretty nice and somewhat “film-like” I think.

I will say I did like the way it records videos, especially at the 8 fps setting and perhaps I’ll try to upload some video for you.

As mentioned before, there is a cool macro mode that you access by sliding the switch on the bottom of the camera. The problem for me though is that you have to get in close, and I mean real close like right near the subject for the image to be in focus.

Degi Hari

“Skull” 2016. Digital Harinezumi Guru 2011 Final Edition. Macro mode, ISO 800.

BOTTOM LINE

Right now, the Digital Harinezumi is an enigma to me. It has a real cult following, so much so that some say it’s iconic. It might even be Camera Legend to some, though I’m not so sure about that. I’m going to reserve judgement until I have worked it a little more.

Degi Hari

“The Dark Cat” 2017. Digital Harinezumi Guru 2011 Final Edition, ISO 800.

Consider an extra tool in your arsenal of cameras and it could work. It’s certainly something unique and while it doesn’t always take the greatest photos or videos, it can take great photos in its own way and the camera does take those photos and videos with character. Whether that “character” is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder I guess.

WHY?
Why would you get a Digital Harinezumi? Well, for one thing, you get one if you’re a gearhead like me πŸ™‚

Secondly, I suspect most people who buy these cameras are looking for something different, indeed perhaps as an artistic tool.

Third, a lot of people would be interested in that lo-fi look which to me is really an attempt to recreate the look and feel of film. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you want the film look, shoot film.

Ok yes, I am a fair man, and in all fairness we know this is no longer the film era and not everyone has the time or the means to shoot film and have it processed.

A camera like the Digital Harinezumi can, to some extent, recreate the film look, but it’s not going to be consistently great like real film. Please understand the photos I have posted here, especially the b&w shots, represent my best attempts at capturing the elusive “film-like digital” look with this camera. However, it is not something achieved as easily as you can with other digital cameras, some of which I have reviewed on these pages. You’re going to have to work at it to achieve this with the Digital Harinezumi.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

As mentioned before, the Digital Harinezumi series is up to version 4 now and from what I can see, they’re asking $500 and up for these. Why anyone would pay that much for this kind of camera is beyond me.

The Digital Harinezumi Guru reviewed here can be had for $100 and under, if you can find one. If not, just try to find any of the older versions and I’m sure you’ll get similar results. These cameras are most abundant on eBay and Amazon.

These cameras can be a lot of fun, but take it from me and don’t spend too much on one. Get one on the cheap and then you can really enjoy it! πŸ™‚

***NEW CAMERA NOTIFICATION***

The HOT new Fuji GFX-50S Medium Format Digital system camera is coming to your store really soon. In your quest for greater and greater, you probably bought tons of stuff just like I. It gets to a point when it’s all too much. If you ever thought of getting rid of everything and just going for that one “Ultimate” system, this might be it!! Here’s a link with all the details on the camera and how you can put yourself on the waiting list to be among the first to receive this HOT new camera. If you do get one, I’d love to hear about it!!

THE FUJI GFX-50S System

Photo Of The Day: “The Dark Cat”

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Just taking test shots with a Digital Harinezumi Guru, a 3mp “toy camera” that has a cult following, but probably not well known by the mainstream.

I’ll have more on this camera soon. All I can say for now is I wasn’t liking this camera, but the monochrome mode is growing on me. However, all this digital b&w stuff is really an attempt to emulate film and for that I should probably be shooting real film, shouldn’t I? πŸ™‚