Yashica Electro 35

Lens (Color) Yashinon DX 45 mm f/1.7, 6 elements in 5 groups. 55 mm filter thread.
Shutter Electronically controlled Copal Elec leaf shutter; stepless shutter speeds from more than two minutes to 1/500 + B. Self timer.
Light meter CdS-cell beside VF. Aperture preferred AE, no manual mode. Film speed ASA 25 to 1000.
Focusing Coupled rangefinder with superimposed RF image. Focusing range 2.6'/0.8 m to infinity.
Viewfinder Inversed Galielean type with mirrored brigtframe and automatic parallax compensation. Warning lights for overexposure and slow shutter speed.
Flash Cold shoe (later models had a hot shoe). PC socket. Flash sync at all speeds.
Film transport Hinged back, wind lever and rewind crank.
Dimensions ca. 142/90/80 mm (including lens Objektiv)
Battery PX 32 mercury (5.6 V). Can be replaced with 6V alkaline cell and mechanical adapter.

[German version]

The Yashica Electro is one of the very few compact, semi-automatic rangefinder cameras with aperture priority AE. The only others I know of are the Olympus XA, the Agfa Selectronic S, the Voigtländer VF101 / Zeiss Ikon Contessa S310 and the Russian Siluet Electro.

Aperture priority AE with shutter speed preselect is the more sensible kind of automation, because the control over the depth of field remains with the photographer.

This is definitely an advantage, but the Yashica goes out of its way to defeat the purpose, in that it lacks a display of the automatically chosen shutter speed (or the user-chosen aperture for that matter) in the viewfinder. As a confirmation there only are two warning lights for slow speeds (slower than 1/30s) and overexposure. That could be sufficient, weren't the warning lights a bit imprecise.

But what really matters is that almost all pictures I took with this camera were correctly exposed (slide film!), also in situations where I would have imagined needing some more complex and sophisticated metering method. Manual correction is possible only by adjusting the film sensitivity dial, because an exposure correction dial or an AE lock aren't incorporated.

To state it clearly: this camera, as excentric as it may be (see below), is one of the best picture takers in my collection and absolutely top of the bill!

Available shutter speeds range from 1/500 to virtually unlimited, the Yashica is the camera to take for night shots in available light. I can lay claim to exposure times up to two minutes. I've shot perfectly exposed slides with the Electro in a murky, unilluminated residence (forgot my tripod - pressed my camera against a wall - used self-timer for multiple seconds exposure). This camera and a small table tripod are an unbeatable team indoors where flash is not allowed (ever tried photographing in a French museum?) or when you don't want to stand out (bar, concert). Also for the so-called "lomography" this camera might be well suited, perhaps somewhat bulky...

Another thing: the light meter stays active as long as the shutter is open. When somebody suddenly turns on the light, the camera reacts. When this feature was introduced for SLRs it was a big fuss, but then the Electro already existed for around 20 years ...

The warning lights for overexposure and slow speeds aren't just visible in the viewfinder, but also on the top plate. So also interpretable from a tripod, without laying your spine in a knot.

The viewfinder is large and bright, automatically adjusts for parallax correction as you focus (rare!) and has a diamond-shaped rangefinder patch. Easy to use, but the RF patch could be bigger, and it's a good idea to clean the whole arrangement from time to time. Also, the lens lacks a focussing lever, and you tend to confuse the aperture and focus rings (at least when you constantly use different cameras like me...).

Size and weight: I like big and heavy cameras, but if you don't, you'll have your difficulties with the Yashica. Not that it's bigger than a contemporary SLR, but it isn't much smaller either. Somewhat lighter perhaps. Advantage: you have a sense of mass (which I enjoy).

No manual mode. Because you can control the depth of field this usually isn't a big problem, but when your priority is shutter speed in some situation (like when photographing moving targets), you're in trouble (Workaround: turn the aperture till the overexposure light just comes on, then turn back a tad = exposure time will be around 1/500. Same thing works for underexposure light and 1/30).

Contrary to many other cameras in this class, the Yashica doesn't have a flash system based on guide numbers; you have to do the calculations yourself. The advantage: outdoor fill flash is a breeze - just set the aperture one stop smaller than necessary for correct flash exposure, the camera sets the correct speed for ambient light conditions and the flash will be underweighted by one stop in the final exposure. Flash synchronisation is of course possible at all speeds.

Big hiccup: the Yashica has a construction mistake! There's a small rubber placeholder in the shutter entrails (the so-called pad) which is of critical importance, that tends to desintegrate with time. It's possible to fix this, if for instance you glue a piece of linoleum, shoe sole rubber or something similar in place, but you'll need to take apart almost the entire camera. This quirk led me to my first successful repair adventure, but I culd have done without. If you reckon your camera is in need of this repair, check if you can hear a soft "clunk" when picking up the thumb lever when winding on - that's a good sign.

Model variants: here I recommend Yashica-Guy's website (link see below). This much for now: ancestors were the Lynx (without automatics but with lenses up to f/1.4). The original Electro was succeeded by the "G" with gold contacts, recognizable by the G next to the Yashica logo that can be seen on the pictures. The came the GS and the GSN with the respective (black paint) sister models GT and GTN. These models had an illuminated exposure counter instead of a battery check light, which is very practical but not really important.

Small detour for collectors and experts: what defeats me is the width of the film sensitivity scale that you can set. My first generation Electro spans 10 to 400 ASA, the G from 25 to 1000. According to the information on the Web, that can't be true, because the 1000 ASA appeared first on the GSN, and all previous cameras stopped at 500... Then the CC only reaches to 400, which seems like an odd regression ... when my broke FC reaches to 800 ... or what?

After the Electro in its various G-guises came the MC, FC, and CC. The CC got very good press because of its 35mm f/1.8 lens, but I'm not familiar with it. I did own the FC, only my unit refused to show any signs of life, and I couldn't find the error (though I expect the CdS cell to have died). I'm not sure if I can recommend it. All these cameras don't share a lot of their construction with the "real Electro" and are smaller and lighter. All have aperture preselect and those little lights, I think.

Accessories: there's a close-up adapter with integrated "spectacles" to correct the viewfinder and rangefinder. The close-focus distance becomes 45 cm, but the trouble seems too large. When I want to get that close I'll choose an SLR, which will also give me the security of knowing that my focus is correct and that my composition will come out the way I envisioned. But if you're interested nonetheless, the thing is called "Yashica Auto-Up" and occasionally shows up on eBay.

For the rest there are accessory lenses for wideangle and tele, which shorten the focal length to around 38mm and lengthen it to around 59mm respectively. The downside is you need to focus first, then take the reading from the lens barrel, and then correct the distance according to a table printed on the barrel of the accessory lens. That's incredibly kludgy and kills all the fun, which is why I sold my lenses over to another happy Electro fan.

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Last modified July 30, 2011