Yashica EZ F521 isn't a digital Holga, but it's close

CNET Asia's Leonard Goh tries out the Yashica EZ F521 to see how it stacks up to the Holga.

Leonard Goh
3 min read

Yashica EZ F521 and Holga
The Yashica EZ F521 (left) and my Holga. Leonard Goh/CNET Asia

I have a penchant for toy cameras, and it all started with the Lomo L-CA. I've since sold the Russian shooter, but I've held on to the Holga as a camera I really enjoy using despite its quirks--light leaks, soft images, plastic lens, and total lack of control. But that's what I like about such low-tech snappers.

Previously I wrote a Crave blog about the Yashica EZ F521, which from its toy-like facade, could very well be a digital twin to the Holga. After trying out the camera for a weekend, I have to say that the Yashica is close, but definitely not quaint enough to be a Holga.

The exterior

EZ F521 exterior
The EZ F521 is actually quite small. Also, notice the reddish tinge on the lens. Leonard Goh/CNET Asia

The EZ F521 may look big in pictures, but in reality it's quite small. Compared with a regular Holga, the Yashica is a petite half size. Weight-wise, it's light enough that you'll forget it's even in your tote bag.

The lens barrel can be rotated between two focal lengths: normal and macro. In normal mode, subjects that are 5 feet or more away will appear sharp, while macro mode allows you to snap about a half a foot to 1.3 feet away from the shooter.

Interestingly, the lens has a reddish tinge to it. I checked with the shop that loaned us the camera and the owner wasn't quite sure why it's like that. But this effect didn't surface in any of my shots.

There's a nice optical viewfinder on the Yashica, but this doesn't give a good representation of what you are taking. Still, it's a nice retro implementation.

Be warned about the flash because it's really bright. Subjects near the camera appeared washed-out, but that's the fun of using a toy-like camera.

Let's shoot
Taking pictures with the EZ F521 is as simple as point and shoot. In fact, there isn't even a half-press mechanism on the shutter for prefocusing. Just frame and snap. There are some options to tweak, such as white balance (the automatic mode is atrocious, adjust it manually if you can), resolution, metering, and more.

Yashica's picture quality
It's rare that I dislike sharp pictures, but the Yashica's picture quality is really different from the Holga's. Leonard Goh/CNET Asia

One thing that sets the Yashica apart from the Holga is the picture quality. Depending on what camp you're in, you'll either love the sharp pictures or hate them (photos from Holgas are usually soft). For me, it's a mixture of both. The colors are sufficiently correct and there is a nice grainy texture to the photos. If the subject or you move when the shutter is pressed, the picture will appear curved and skewed. We checked online, and users say it could be that the sensor scans the scene from the top and hence causes the weird effect.

Curved line in picture
Notice the curved line in the picture. I took this shot while walking along a straight path. Leonard Goh/CNET Asia

There are several filters that you can employ when shooting. Alternatively, you can apply them in playback mode and the camera will save a copy of it so the original is retained. I like the Contrast filter most as it really boosts the colors of my shots.

Contrast filter
The Contrast filter is really interesting, and can make a mundane scene look more appealing. Leonard Goh/CNET Asia
Contrast filter applied
Another shot with the Contrast filter applied. Leonard Goh/CNET Asia

Now for the boring specifications
The EZ F521 is technically a 5-megapixel camera, but there is an option to interpolate it to 12 megapixels. The lens is fixed at 42.5mm, which is hardly wide-angle, but that's part of the Yashica's charms. There is no optical zoom, only digital. That's not a problem if you treat this shooter as a toy snapper. The 2.4-inch LCD has a resolution low enough to compete with digicams a decade ago. ISO sensitivity is set by the camera. For video recording, resolution maxes out at 640x480 pixels. The EZ F521 supports SD/SDHC cards up to 8GB capacity.

I still want it!
Despite its massive flaws compared with typical digicams, I've had a really enjoyable experience with this Yashica. In some ways, it reminds me of shooting with my Holga even if the Yashica's pictures are a tad too sharp.

If you'd like to try your hand at a toy-like cameras, check out the Yashica EZ F521. It's available for $158.49 on thirtysix, Japan Exposures, or other online retailers. Or you can check with your local photo store.

(Source: Crave Asia)