It's an April fool gag that gets trotted out every year. "[Insert manufacturer] has released a left-handed camera!" Well, get ready to suspend your suspended disbelief – because the Yashica Samurai Z-L really was a left-handed camera.
Indeed, right on cue, Dutch retailer Kamera Express posted about a left-handed version of the Sony A7R V – the Sony A7L V (see what they did?). And in fairness, the guys behind the gag really committed to it, going so far as to create a pre-order page on the store as well as 3D-printing a left-handed camera and filming a YouTube video about it (below).
So, our hat is off to them for going the extra mile. However, the point is that that camera is an April fool – but the Yashica Samurai Z-L was a real, actual product that was released to market, sold in shops, and actually saw some degree of success.
Launched in November 1987, the Samurai was a half-frame film SLR – like cameras such as the original Olympus PEN-F, regarded by many as one of the best film cameras. These "crop film" cameras were essentially the equivalent of crop sensor cameras today, exposing to half a frame of 35mm film (instead of using the "full" frame) to double the number of shots per roll to 72 exposures.
Half-frame cameras, like modern APS-C and Micro Four Thirds cameras, were able to be housed in much smaller and more unorthodox bodies. So Yashica went all the way radical and designed the camera like a camcorder or Super 8 film camera – with a vertical body that is gripped one-handed like a pair of binoculars.
• See the actual best April Fools for photographers
The Samurai line was a huge success, going on to sell some 600,000 units in its lifetime, and in 1989 the Samurai Z and Z-L (for left-handers) was released. The southpaw version operates identically to its standard sibling, though all the controls are mirrored for left-handed operation.
This will almost certainly be the last lefty camera ever released, but it was most certainly the first.
"There are cameras with bellows that have a release on the left side of the lens, but this is the first camera that has been released with a clear statement that it is for left-handers," said Sakiko Ishio, a curator at the Japan Camera Museum, in Tokyo, which is home to both a Z and Z-L.
So there you go. The next time you tell someone that someone made a camera for southpaws, and someone tells you that's a tired old April fool, you can point out that the joke is on them – because it really exists.
If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in the Canon PowerShot Zoom – with a similar design, it's probably the closest thing to a left-handed camera. You can also check out a review of the non-fake Sony A7R V and the rather brilliant Olympus PEN-F. And if you love SLRs, check out the best 35mm film.