Yashica Electro 35 GS Review

To see images shot with this camera, click the category link at right.

This Japanese 35mm rangefinder camera was once one of the most popular cameras in America. From the introduction of the first Electro 35 in 1966 through the fourth-generation Electro 35 GSN and GTN produced ’til 1977, they sold about eight million of these cameras.

My Electro 35 GS is of the third-generation, introduced in 1970. This camera was passed down to me from my wife’s parents, who took very good care of it. I would guess that they bought it new in the 1970’s and never took it anywhere without it being in it’s case. It’s in very good condition.

Besides just being a nice looking camera, the beauty of this camera in my eyes is the f/1.7 45mm lens.  The lens produces very sharp photos without much softness at the edges.  Great for low-light shooting. There’s a PC socket on the left side for a flash (the flash shoe is not a hot shoe), but I doubt I’ll ever put a flash on it.  I’ve gotten some lens flare in some images, but I think there was a lot of light hitting the lens in those instances.  I’m not sure if a lens-hood was made for this camera.  I could certainly find a hood to fit it, but I don’t want to detract from it’s charming retro good looks.

The Electro 35 is nicely designed, easy to handle and shoot. It’s always in auto-exposure, aperture-priority mode. You set the aperture and the light meter sets the appropriate shutter speed.  If the shutter speed it selects is slower than 1/30 second, a yellow ‘slow’ indicator lights on the top of the camera, and a yellow arrow pointing left (indicating that you should turn the aperture dial left to a larger aperture) appears in the viewfinder, just above the framelines.  If the aperture you choose results in overexposure at the maximum 1/500 second shutter speed, then a red ‘over’ indicator lights on top of the camera, and a red arrow pointing right (indicating that you should turn the aperture selector right) appears in the viewfinder.  When the ‘slow’ indicator lights, it will still take a picture at a speed lower than 1/30 sec (it will go longer than a minute at small apertures), but it’s just warning you that you should have the camera on a tripod.

Some stats:

  • Made 1970-1973
  • Made in Japan (though some were assembled in Hong Kong) by Yashica, before they merged with Kyocera
  • Lens: Color-Yashinon DX 45mm f/1.7, made in Japan by Yashica (same lens as the earlier models that don’t say ‘color’, but this was just when color film was becoming popular, so they added that to the lens)
  • Minimum focus 2.8 feet
  • Coupled rangefinder with bright yellow diamond-shaped split image in center of viewfinder
  • Parallax-correcting viewfinder framelines (framelines move as you adjust focus to compensate for offset of lens and viewfinder)
  • Copal Electric leaf shutter, speeds of 1/500 to about a minute
  • ASA range 25-1,000
  • Battery: A32PX / A164 Alkaline 6V 350mAh (this is the battery I’m using, though others may work, and this is not the original spec, which was a Mercury TR 164 / HM-4N 5.6 Volt battery)
  • Self-timer
  • Battery check button on back lights up the frame counter to indicate battery has power, so it serves dual purpose of also being a frame counter light
  • Carrying it around guarantees you’ll look like a true retro hipster

I like shooting in aperture priority mode on my DSLR, so working with this auto-exposure Electro 35 feels natural to me. I wish it would tell you what shutter speed it was choosing, but these two warning lights are the only indication you get. When I’m actually shooting it, I usually don’t really miss knowing what shutter speed it’s choosing, though.  The light meter seems to do a very good job.  I realized recently that if I want to over-ride the meter, I could simply turn the ISO setting to a different film speed to over- or under-expose from the meter reading.  That could come in handy since there’s no exposure lock (meaning you can’t hold the shutter release button part-way down to lock the exposure, then recompose the image to shoot as you can with some cameras).

The battery was dead when I got the camera, so it sat on a shelf for a couple years before I decided to actually shoot it. It was designed to use now-unavailable mercury batteries, but modern alkaline replacements are available. I bought an A32PX/164 battery from microbattery.com for $8, which will probably last years if I keep the lens cap on the camera when not using it.

The viewfinder is big and bright, and the bright yellow framelines are very visible. As an eyeglass-wearer, I appreciate a large viewfinder that lets me see the whole image easily, and this viewfinder lets me see plenty of the image outside the framelines with glasses on. The split-image rangefinder is a diamond-shaped bright yellow area at the center of the frame, and is easy to see and focus in most light. The viewfinder has parallax-correction, so as you focus closer, the framelines move down and to the right to compensate for the offset between the lens and viewfinder.

Focus is smooth, and the general feel of the camera is good quality, but not exceptional. It’s fairly light-weight compared to a similar-sized SLR, but doesn’t feel cheaply made.  It seems to have struck a nice balance right in the middle of being lightweight but not too light.  The light weight is nice for carrying around – if the lens were a little shorter in length, I’d carry this camera everywhere.

And then there’s the name – Electro 35.  How could you not love that name?  It so perfectly fits the look of this camera.

Electro 35 User’s Manual


52 Comments on “Yashica Electro 35 GS Review”

  1. I love this camera myself a lot after acquiring one lately. A perfect poor man’s Leica if I may say so. How the streets of India will appear through it remains to be seen in the near future.

  2. Safura Ubaid says:

    I own a Yashica Electro 35GS…the same one….my father’s camera! But I am unable to use it coz of the mercury battery unavailability! 😦 What is the alternative? Where can i get batteries for my Electro 35? Pls help

    • Rick Schuster says:

      I bought my battery at http://www.microbattery.com and it’s called A32PX BP-1
      You can get it elsewhere too, I’m sure. Just search for “A32PX battery”. It cost $9.90 with shipping. I think it will last a long time.

      Enjoy using the camera!

    • KlaxMaster says:

      Or, you can just but a four “AA” holder from radio shack. thats 6V as opposed to the 5.6 It runs just fine. the camera is supposed to run off of 5.6V +/- 10% (which means between 5.04V to 6.11V) lets face it. Four “AA” will last longer, and are a lot cheaper than the old merc battery. plus you dont have to wait a week every time.

      • Rick Schuster says:

        Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, four AA batteries won’t fit in this camera. The A32PX battery is a bit larger in diameter than a single AA, and maybe about the same length. Perhaps you could make a single AA work. But the A32PX that I bought has been in the camera about three years now and is still good, so that’s not a bad deal.

    • JQ says:

      you can also buy a 6V battery but you need to either buy or make a battery adapter.

  3. i got an adapter+battery-in one from this guy who is a mine of information on yashica’s:

    http://www.yashica-guy.com/document/battery.html

    I have really enjoyed my camera!

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Good tip. Thanks. I’ll see how long my A32PX lasts. If it doesn’t last too long, it would be worth buying the adapter to use cheaper batteries. Thanks.

  4. Safura Ubaid says:

    Thanks Rick…Hope i can find it in India or get it shipped here…
    Also….I would be using this camera for the first time after my dad….any special suggestion? would need your advise on how to preserve the camera….and be safe with clicks….

    I have grown up watching my father click with this camera….and have seen some awesome results….I am photographer myself but would need your tips and recommendations 🙂 would be great….since m inspired seeing ur pics! Which film should i use? Thanks for all the help…

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Safura,
      It’s a pretty easy camera to use. I’d just use any 35mm film you can get — color or black and white. I’d use something around 100 or 200 speed if you’ll be mostly shooting outdoors, and 400 if you’ll be shooting mostly indoors. I’d open the camera and see if the back side of the lens is clean — if not, blow off any dust and give it a wipe with a soft lens cloth before you load the film. When you load up the film, just be sure to set the ASA dial on top of the camera to match the film speed you put in it. Practice focusing using the split image in the center of the viewfinder — it can take a little time to get quick at it if you’re new to using a rangefinder camera. If you’re not familiar with Aperture settings and how they affect exposure and depth-of-field, do some reading online to understand that, then get out and shoot. Have fun!

  5. Rick Schuster says:

    Oh, one more thing — if you’re not sure if the camera is working, open the back and 1) turn the aperture ring on the lens, and look at the back side of the lens — you should see the aperture blades opening and closing as you turn the ring. 2) cock the camera with the lever, and fire to make sure the shutter is opening and closing. Looking through from the back it’s easy to see if you can see light through the lens for an instant. Point the camera toward light and the shutter should be fairly quick, move to a darker area and the shutter should stay open longer. Another good test is to stay in the same light and fire it with the aperture set very large, like f:1.7, and the shutter should go fast; stay in the same light and set the aperture very small, like f:16, and the shutter should stay open longer. If this is all working, the camera probably will work great.

  6. Sierra says:

    I have an Electro 35 GSN. What is the difference if any? And my main question is what do I do in order to have a very shallow depth of field in my pictures shot with it? I want my subject to be strongly in focus.

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Sierra. Thanks for reading. I think the only difference is that the GSN has a hot-shoe for the flash, whereas my GS just has a “cold-shoe” for the flash — meaning that on mine it’s simply a clip to hold the flash unit, but the flash had to be hooked up with a wire. On yours the shoe holds the flash and will electronically fire it. Otherwise I think they’re pretty much identical cameras. Setting the aperture at it’s widest setting (1.7) will give you the shortest depth of field, so what you focus on will be sharp, but things closer and farther will be blurred. You’ll find the short depth-of-field most evident when you’re focusing on something fairly close to you.

  7. Bayu says:

    hi, Rick. thanks for this awesome notes on Yashica Electro GS. now I got clearer explanations about this camera compared to the latter model (GSN).
    Rick, I’m planning to buy the GSN model in my local trading forum (Indonesia). there’s a guy offer it for 50 $ and it’s still in good conditions. one thing still make me curious is there isn’t ‘made in hong kong’ letter printed on the bottom side of the camera. so, it’s an ‘original’ Yashica GSN camera or maybe there’re fake product in the market as well?
    thank you, Rick.

  8. Rick Schuster says:

    Hi Bayu.
    I don’t know if all of the GSN models were made (or maybe just assembled) in Hong Kong. My GS was made in Japan, and I see some info online about the GSN models being made in Hong Kong, but maybe some of them were still made in Japan.
    Thanks for reading my blog.

  9. Bayu says:

    oh, I see. okay, thanks for replying, Rick. I really appreciate it.
    and thanks for sharing all the things about analogue photography. yayyy.. 🙂

  10. cicadashell says:

    Hi Rick! Hope alls well with you! Writing to you after a long time. I finally got hold of PX32 (6V) and even an adapter. However…the green light still doesn’t come on in the exposure centre. I tried checking the camera by opening the back cover and aperture blades seem to be working…and even shutter as you had suggested. You think there could be a possibility of only battery indicator not working? Pls help. Thanks a lot!

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi! I don’t know what the problem could be. Check to make sure the battery is put in the right direction — the end with the bump should go in first, with the flat end by the battery cover. I don’t think you need an adapter with the PX32. Turn the ASA dial on top of the camera to a low number, set the aperture to 16, get in a relatively dark room, and push the shutter button part-way down to see if the orange ‘slow’ light comes on on top of the camera and in the viewfinder (you can also try the opposite — set the ASA to a high number and the aperture to 1.7, and go outside in bright light, and the red ‘over’ light should come on when you push the shutter button part way). If the lights still aren’t working, I guess I’d try just putting a roll of film in it and shooting at various apertures, and get the roll developed to see if it works. Good luck. Let me know if it works.

    • luke__666 says:

      Hi, the dead battery check button/light is a very common error. I’ve recently bought two GTs and both of them have this. I’ve done some metering and the result was: dead light bulb. But what’s important: metering and shutter works without problem – check, metering and shutter circuits are not connected together. So you can make proper photos even with this unimportant malfunction…

  11. Sunny Bharel, California says:

    Yashica Electro 35 G/GS/GSN (and in that order) were made through 60s-70s. There was the equivalent GT/GTN range as well in black plastic and no other differences.

    This is certainly one of the most popular rangefingers out there (barring the Leica, which is the ‘luxury’ range). A close match was the Canonet of its time, a beautiful rangefinder from Canon with a 50mm lens and opened up pretty much to the same f stop as the Yashica Electro 35 GS. However, the Canonets seems to have disappeared. In my search on eBay, I could barely find two.

    Be careful with the Electro 35. The ‘pad of death’ is an issue not too uncommon to these cameras. Dust in the viewfinder (which is already not a very bright viewfinder to begin with) and light seals may be other issues you come across. Dust can be sprayed away by opening the top half of the camera. Light seals are easily replaceable requiring little to no daftness of hand. Replacement seals can be found on ebay and cut to size at home for cheap.

    The Minolta H Matic would have been a close contender too, but the lens I’m told is just not as ‘stunning’ in results as the Yashica.

    If you are looking for a digital equivalent of this camera, you are best sorted with a Fuji X Pro 1 but then that is the price of almost 5 Nikon D3100 dSLRs. Not an investment for the faint hearted but a king’s ransom less than a Leica M9 (USD10,000 ballpark figure).

    I am sure in wake of the above figures, you will admire the frugal Yashica’s capabilities for examples can be had between USD50 to USD100 (depending on the condition or gift of the gab of the seller).

    The battery PX32 is no longer made, however Yashica guy (search online please as I do not provide links to keep my reviews and advice as unbiased as possible) can sort you out with a replacement shell and modern day equivalent batteries for under USD20.

    You will have oodles of fun with this fast bokeh-friendly lens, have a lot less weight and bulk to complain about over an SLR and sure enough the handsome camera will have people walking up to you to rig up conversations.

    You would not be too out of pocket to purchase a skylight filter (55mm) for the lens as that will do the optics good. A hood is not out of the question either as lens flares can ruin photographs on many an occasions.

    You will notice some cameras have ‘made in Hong Kong’ etchings on the bottom. Nothing too worrying. However, all lenses will say ‘made in Japan’ regardless.

    Good luck running films through this beauty.

  12. Sunny Bharel, California says:

    Trivia Update:

    For those in the know, you will have noticed that the latest Spiderman movie (2012) features the Yashica Eletro 35 in the hands of Peter Parker on numerous occasions, especially during the first half of the movie.

    Another feather in the cap!

  13. George Serumgard says:

    Hey Rick, Love the blog
    I bought one of these at a garage sale for $3. I just took it out of the closet and fired it up yesterday. Can’t wait to run some film through it. I found some 3volt lithium batterys (.99 each) at ABC electronics (near fulton brewery)that I’m going to use. I understand that it’s pretty tolerant voltage (read that it can use 5.5 to 6.5).

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hey George,
      Good to hear from you. Thanks for checking out my blog.
      Enjoy the Electro 35. I think you’ll like it.
      Rick

  14. Floyd Paul says:

    Great article,
    I have a problem with my Yash electro 35CC, everything is working except it seems the Aperture is stuck on about f11… Turning the aperture ring does nothing…
    Would this be a sticky aperture and I need to access through the film bay, or perhaps a somehow disconnected aperture ring with in the lens?

    Floyd

  15. Floyd Paul says:

    OK regarding my previous post, ive opened up the lens, and can see the Pin the controls the aperture is very hard to move, it has a tiny spring that cant return it to wide open, and seems extra hard to move when near f16..

    There seems to be some wear under the pin, and after examining the lens it seems that he barrel is slightly higher on the left side (when holding the camera normally and looking down at it) which could be the reason for the scraping and sticking…

    ANY idea how to straighten the lens barrel…. or any other suggestions?

    Floyd

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hey Floyd,
      I don’t have any experience getting inside one of these lenses, so I don’t have any advice for you. Sounds like it could be a pretty major problem if the lens barrel is bent. I don’t know what it would take to replace the entire lens on this camera, but that might be a possibility if you could find a cheap non-functioning Electro 35 with a good lens on it. Might not be worth it though, considering a good one could be bought fairly inexpensively. On the other hand, the challenge of fixing a camera is part of the fun. Good luck. Let me know if you get it working.

  16. Barbara says:

    Wow, just wanted to say thank you so much for the info on this camera. I have one that was my uncle’s and knew nothing about it. Yours has been the most informative article I have yet to find about it. Just saying thanks.

    Barbara 🙂

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Thanks, Barbara. I really appreciate the feedback. I hope you enjoy your Yashica as much as I’ve enjoyed mine.

      Rick

  17. Abigail says:

    I really want a Yashica Electro 35 camera for Christmas, but there are a few things I need to know. 1) Can it be connected to my PC or laptop? 2) Where do you recommend I can buy one that’s in ok conditions. I don’t mind it being used, I just need one that works well. Thanks!

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Sorry, no PC connection here 🙂 This is a film camera. Here’s how your PC connection does work though: You buy film, load it in the camera, shoot the roll of film, send it somewhere to be developed and scanned, get a CD back with your images on it (along with the film negatives), and pop the CD in your computer. There you go — a PC connection from camera to computer in just a few steps. As for where to buy one, that’s hard to say. You might luck out and find one for $3 at a rummage sale like a friend of mine recently did; ebay could be a good source if you find a reputable seller who can attest that it works (or if the price is right you can take a chance and hope it works); or a local thrift store might have one since they’re a pretty common camera. And if you get one that doesn’t work, there’s a chance it simply needs a fresh battery.

      • Abigail says:

        I got it! 🙂 But i’m not so sure on how to take a picture with it. I figured out that the flip thingy has to be pulled to take the picture and reloaded again if i want to take another picture. I also figured out how to open it and put the roll in. But I don’t know how to work the camera lens. It’s exactly the same as the one in the pictures, but I have no idea how to zoom in or out, or if its even possible. Thanks for the camera-to-computer tips!

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Abigail,
      I just added a link to the user’s manual to the post above (at the very bottom just below the last photo), so you should be able to learn all you need to know about how to use it. Doesn’t have a zoom lens, by the way.

  18. Andrea says:

    I really need help. Okay, I don’t know how to set the lens for certain things. If it’s sunny out, how should I set it? If it’s cloudy out, how would I set it? If i’m taking a picture indoors, how would I set it? Thanks!

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Andrea,
      Click the link right below my last photograph above to download the user manual. This will help explain how to use the red and yellow lights to determine if your exposure is correct. Make sure the dial on top of the camera is set to the speed of film you have in the camera. You can even use the little icons on the lens barrel (sun, cloud, window) as reminders for where to start out with your aperture setting.
      Print out that manual and study it, and you should get it figured out. If you don’t understand the relationship between film speed, shutter speed and aperture, look that up online, as understanding how that works makes using any camera like this easier.
      Good luck, and have fun!

  19. Faye says:

    Hi I just acquired an “yashica electo 35 ” I am trying to see if it works , bought battery but I can not figure out how to turn on camera. LOL. Help?

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Faye,
      There is no on/off switch, but there is a shutter lock. Turn the little dial on the outside of the shutter button so that the red line is not pointing toward the “L”. Then when you push the shutter button part way down you should see the lights on top and through the viewfinder light up.

  20. Jenny says:

    Hi Rick, hopes its all go well with you.
    I just bought a yashica and everything seemed fine until i realized that the unremovable lens that attached to the body is not open so i cannot take any pictures and i dont know how to fix it. the battery is on and everything are pretty awesome but this problem just ruined everthing. Pls help me. thank you 🙂

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Jenny,
      I don’t know if I’ll be able to help. Are you saying the shutter doesn’t open when you push down the shutter button?

  21. RED A. BAYONA says:

    hi, I just bought my oldie Yashica Electro 35 GSN, everything is working however when i focus on a subject the vertical alignment doesnt match perfectly, and when i looked through the viewfinder it is somewhat misaligned vertically. my question is, will this affect my photos?
    i have read that the rangefinder works horizontally and vertical mismatch doesnt really matter. how true is this? Please need some advise from you guys…

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Red,
      I would guess there’s a good chance that it’s fine, but you probably won’t know without some testing. Whatever caused the vertical alignment to get out of whack — maybe a hard bang to the camera sometime — may or may not have caused the horizontal alignment of the rangefinder to be off. I have a different camera with vertical alignment off, but the rangefinder still works fine. I’d first try focusing all the way to infinity and look at something vertical like a pole or building far in the distance to see if it’s aligned. Then maybe try a closer distance by measuring from the camera to something at a specific distance like 6 feet, and focus the camera and see if the distance marking on the lens barrel matches the measured distance. This is not an exact way of testing, but will give you a general idea if it seems to be correct. Then I would just shoot a roll of film and try it out. Use a few exposures on the roll of film to test the focus by shooting at f-1.7 for shortest depth of field, and focusing on an object where you’ll be able to easily see on the image if the correct area is in focus. Do this at several different distances and see how they turn out. Best of luck!

  22. joseph says:

    hi i have a small question , well i have a yashica electro 35 GSN from my father and i don’t know is it possible to get digital photos to be puted on computer from this camera or it is only filming camera produce photos on cards as i have seen my father doing thanks in advance

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Joseph,
      Yes, simply shoot the roll of film in the camera and take or send it to a developer to have the film developed and scanned. They’ll send back the developed film along with a CD containing scans of the images.

  23. manoj sharma says:

    i have just bought yasica electro 35 mm but whenever i half press the shutter button even in broad daylight it shows yellow light which means photos are under exposed though i have tried every thing but the exposer meter still shows the same i have tried aperture from 1.7 to all the way 16 but still it is the same

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hello Manoj,
      Assuming your film speed setting (ASA dial on top of the camera) is set correctly and your batteries are good, I don’t know what might cause this. Perhaps the light meter doesn’t work. Does the green light by the film wind lever come on when you push the battery check button? FYI – the yellow light doesn’t necessarily mean the photo will be underexposed, it simply means that the shutter speed is going to be slower than 1/30 sec to get a proper exposure. But you’re right that in daylight the yellow light shouldn’t come on even if you’re shooting really slow film. Oh here’s something I just thought of — make sure the dial on the front of the lens is set to “Auto”, not to flash or bulb setting. I see on mine that the yellow light always comes on if it’s set to the flash or bulb setting.

  24. Stephan Pot says:

    Great review and very insightful. I’ve just ordered a refurbished 35 GLN and I hardly can wait for it to arrive in my hands.

  25. shane says:

    hi..looks like one i just bought doesn’t work. battery is not lighting up anything. i have a portable lightmeter and i’m thinking if i knew the speed the shutter fires at ( it still fires manually without battery at what looks like 100-250 th of a sec ) then i could just adjust the aperature to suit and still be able to use it. might have to run a test roll thru it .

  26. shane says:

    hopefully i’ll have luck

  27. Paul M Bester says:

    Hi there. I own a GS 35 and it was purchased a long time ago. it came with a separate pouch with a tele and wide angle lens and a viewfinder that fits into the flash fitting. How do you set the distance for the tele lens. Apparently there is also two separate cases, one with filters and one for the camera with a shoulder tripod. Enlighten me please.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s