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.
- 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)
- 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.