No, this left-handed camera is NOT an April fool!

Yashica Samurai left-handed camera
(Image credit: Kyocera Yashica)

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

(Image credit: Kyocera Yashica)

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.

(Image credit: Kyocera Yashica)

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

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.