Yasuhara T-981: A rarity from "The world's smallest camera company"
By James Grahame
Shin Yasuhara unveiled his T-981 35mm rangefinder at the 1998 Photokina Exhibition in Cologne, Germany. His creation arrived at the dawn of the digital era and paid homage to classic Leica and Voigtlander devices from the 1950s. The company billed itself as the world's smallest camera manufacturer, yet they turned out 4,000 of these hand crafted devices over the course of six years.
The emergence of digital photography and the high cost of manufacturing photographic equipment in small quantities (along with reports of quality control issues) led to the company's demise in 2004. Since then, the T-981 (and its rare T02 followup) have earned a cult following. The T-981 features a 1:2.8/50mm multi-coated lens and will accept standard Leica screw-mount optics. LED Exposure assistance is offered in the simple viewfinder, which features Bright Line technology to assist framing. The feature set is workmanlike: standard hotshoe flash, self timer, cable release and a tripod thread.
Lomography.com was able to purchase 100 of these coveted devices and they're available for $600 from their online shop. One of these would make an interesting Christmas present for a die-hard film photographer, although I think the price is a tad high.