Yashica Electro 35
The Yashica Electro 35 was one of the first old range-finder cameras I purchased. It is very big, heavy, and old fashioned, but make no mistake, it takes great photographs. This thing is amazing! In my opinion it is also one of the best looking of all the old 1960s and 1970s range-finders.
This is an aperture priority auto-exposure camera only. There is no manual mode. The battery powers both the meter and the shutter. Therefore without a battery and working electrics for the shutter, it is unusable. If the lights aren’t coming on it just won’t go. If the electronics aren’t working even the B setting is useless. The electronics are designed to hold the shutter open, without them working, the shutter just fires off at its fastest speed of 1/500 of a second. With many of these old cameras you can use them in manual mode. In which case if the meter has failed you can continue using them by taking an exposure reading with another camera, or hand-held light-meter, and then transfer it to your camera with the inoperative meter. With the Yashica Electro that isn’t possible except maybe at 1/500 of a second.
Many examples of this venerable old camera suffer from what is called the pad-of-death” problem which renders the shutter and exposure system useless. The “pad-of-death” refers to a small pad of rubber within the Electro’s innards which deteriorates over time, finally crumbling, and falling apart inside the camera. Fortunately this problem can be fixed, either by a technician, or a competent do-it-yourself home repair-person! I managed to fix mine on my own without too much trouble. If you have it repaired by a camera tech guy it will likely cost several times more than what you might pay for the camera. Millions of these Yashica Electro cameras were made over an eleven year period. So they are usually fairly cheap to buy!
The way to tell if the Yashica Electro you are looking at has the “pad-of-death” problem or not is as follows: wind the film advance lever on, let it go, then fire the shutter. Now as you slowly wind the film advance lever again you should hear a loud “clunk” before the lever has travelled even quarter of it’s full distance required to prime the shutter again. If you are hearing the loud ‘clunk” all is well. If the “clunk” is absent the shutter will still be primed but sadly the only speed available will be 1/500 of a second.
You can also tell if the exposure system is working correctly by setting the exposure ring to f16 in a darkened room. You will be amazed to find that the shutter will stay open for several minutes if the light level is very low before closing again on its own. With the shutter being electronic no sound is emitted from the camera at all during these long exposures until suddenly, as if by magic, preceded by just a slight buzzing sound at the last second, the shutter clicks shut!
For those tempted to have a go at repairing the “pad-of-death” problem themselves I have included the following instructions: You must remove the top plate to gain access to the position of the rubber pad which, if looking at the camera from the front, is located roughly beneath the small meter window to the left of the lens. Please refer to the enclosed picture. The top plate is removed by first taking out the three small screws, followed by the advance lever, and then the rewind knob. It is all quite straight forward provided you are careful not to loose any of the small parts, have plenty of light, and a brave stomach!
I made my pad from a bicycle inner tube which is a millimetre or two in thinkness. I glued it in place with a smear of contact adhesive. You could also use super glue. I fixed mine several years ago and it has worked great ever since.
One final thing about the pad-of-death problem is that the Yashica Electro is often listed on on-line auction sites as being in good working condition. Then when it arrives you discover that although the under and over lights are coming on the auto-exposure system isn’t working and the camera has the pad-of-death problem. You could ask the seller if long exposures are working correctly as outlined above prior to bidding, or factor in that you will likely have to do a repair job when placing your bid.
Provided the exposure system is operating correctly you will be amazed at just how well it actually does work. My pictures with the Yashica Electro 35 are always perfectly exposed. Wonderful!
There are two lights on top of the camera. When the shutter release button is partially pressed should no lights come on then the film will be correctly exposed and you can press the release button all the way down. However if the yellow light comes on it indicated that the speed will be below 1/30 of a second and you should either set a wider aperture so the yellow light goes out, or if a wider aperture is not available then you should use a tripod to avoid a blurred shot from camera shake. The lights can be seen from above the camera, even at waist level, as well as when looking through the view-finder.
If the red light appears it indicates the film will be over exposed because the electronic shutter cannot go above 1/500 of a second. In this case you must either select a smaller aperture; or use a neutral density filter if the light is too bright. I have not had to resort to a neutral density filter even when using ASA 400 film on a sunny day. However if you do have to shut out some of the light with a neutral density filter to get the red light to go out in bright snow conditions for example, you must also reset the ASA dial accordingly to a lower setting because the CdS cell would not be covered by the filter as it is instead behind a separate window on the front of the camera.
Not having the CdS cell in the lens barrel, as is the case with the Canonets, for example, would also cause similar metering concerns if using a polarising filter which would have to be compensated for by two stops on the ASA dial.
The lens on the Yashica Electro 35 is a 45mm, 6 element, Yashinon-DX f1.7. It is an outstanding lens. There is perhaps a hint of softness in the corners wide open but otherwise it is very sharp. The lens on my example is absolutely spotless without even a hint of fungus or dust. It is as it would have been the day it left the factory! Later versions of the Yashica Electro added the word “Colour” on the front of the lens before the word “Yashica.” The use of colour film was just starting to become more widespread by 1970 however my understanding is that the lens was otherwise unchanged.
The first Yashica Electro 35 came out in 1966 and continued to be sold until the late 1970s. Over this time there were a number of variants produced. The first models had an ASA range of 12 to 500. Later models after 1970 had an increased ASA range of 25 to 1,000 in order to take advantage of the faster films becoming available at that time. The only other change that was made to the basic camera was the addition of a hot-shoe after 1973 with the GSN model. There were several different models of the Yashica Electro, the GT and GTN that also came out in black enamel paint. These are more sort after and generally command higher prices.
Overall the Yashica Electro 35s are great cameras capable of producing excellent, sharp, well exposed photographs even in the hands of a complete novice. They are made from real metal; not plastic! The view-finder is big and the bright. The yellow bright-lines are easy to see. The centre range-finder spot on my Electro was hard to see so I have increased the contrast by placing a mark with a black marker pen on the outside front of the range-finder window – an old trick that works well if required on any of these old cameras. I had to clean the range-finder glass when I first got it from memory. There is automatic parallax correction but it isn’t as obvious as it is with some old range-finder cameras.
There is an 8 second self timer on the lens barrel. It also has a green battery check light on the back. I try to avoid using it as it is a waste of the battery. I am powering mine with a 6 volt 476A battery from Dick Smith Electronics. The original battery was, according to the manual, an Eveready E164. This was longer and fatter. I have wrapped a bit of tape around the 467A to stop it rattling around and have used a spring from the hardware store with a bit of foil on the end to take up the distance from using the short replacement battery. The original battery was 5.6v but the slight difference doesn’t seem to matter.
Specifications: Yashica Electro 35G
Viewfinder combined with rangefinder. Bright frame with parallax correction. Diamond shape rangefinder spot in centre of frame.
ASA 25 to 500 / Adjustment on top of camera body. Later models had an ASA range of 25 – 1,000.
Copal Leaf Shutter. Speeds range from approx. 60 seconds to 1/500 of a second plus B. Automatically sets aperture, self-cocking combined film/shutter wind, and x synchronization.
Electronic flash operation works at any speed up 1/500 of a second. There are no additional contacts on the hot-shoe. Automatic flash setting is determined by the flash unit depending on ASA of the film used.
Photographs taken with a Yashica Electro 35
More about the Yashica Electro 35
Yashica Guy with lots of great info on fixing your Yashica Electro 35. This is where I learnt how to fix the Yashica Electro 35 “pad-of-death”.
Flickr group dedicated to the Yashica Electro 35 series rangefinder cameras.