The Yashica Electro 35 GSN is a coupled-rangefinder, leaf-shuttered 35mm camera with aperture-priority automatic exposure. The original Electro 35 was introduced in 1966. It has a “cold” accessory shoe and the meter accepted film speeds from 12 to 400 ASA. Light levels are measured using a cadmium sulphide (CdS) photoresistor and powered by a mercury battery. The film speed adjustment is not implemented electronically; instead a simple twin-bladed diaphragm closes in front of the light sensor as the film speed is reduced.
The light metering electronics works by accumulating the measured light level and only releasing the shutter when it has determined enough light has fallen on the film. This system allows the shutter speed to be completely step-less and to adapt to changing light levels. SLR’s would wait many years for a similar capability with off-the-film metering. The metering system can keep the shutter open for up to 30 seconds. Without a battery to power the meter, the shutter defaults to its top speed of 1/500 second.
The Amazing Electro 35 GSN – Yashica Gem
The Electro 35 G was introduced in 1968 with largely cosmetic changes. The range of usable film speeds was extended a little, up to 500 ASA. The lens was labelled a “Color Yashinon” to reassure the buying public that it was color corrected at a time when the use of color film was growing quickly. The Electro 35 GT was released in 1969 with a body painted black instead of the satin chrome finish.
The Electro 35 GS and GT were introduced in 1970 . They (and all later Electro 35’s) have all internal electrical contacts gold plated to prevent oxidation from impeding the flow of electricity around the circuits. (kind of cool, and forward thinking) The range of usable film speeds was doubled to range from 25 to 1000 ASA. Which was actually a big deal at the time.
GSN and GTN
The Electro 35 GSN (satin chrome) and GTN (black) were introduced in 1973. The major change for these cameras was the addition of a hot shoe while keeping the PC socket. Ahh, professionalism!
With proper care, an Electro 35 may still be used today. However, there are a number of issues that should be mentioned.
The often referred to “Pad of death” was one. Essentially, part of the internal mechanism involves a spring-loaded slider operating a set of switch points. As the film-advance lever is operated, this slider shoots up to its original position, hitting a small rubber pad at the top. Over time this rubber degenerates and prevents proper (internal) operation of the camera, in particular the metering circuits. While replaceable, the camera needs to be disassembled for this pad to be replaced.
The second concern was the battery. While small, efficient and light, the Electro 35 was designed to operate using a 5.6V mercury battery, but these have now been banned due to environmental concerns. However a 6V alkaline battery (PX28A or 4LR44) with a purchased adapter or connected to the battery terminals with a bit of aluminum foil work just as well, and do the job nicely. Amazingly, adapters and battery replacements are all over Ebay.
Weak Point: Seals
Like many older cameras, the original foam light seals around the film compartment will eventually break down and cause light leaks. The seals are fairly easy to replace. Again, a fairly common Ebay item, so no worries. But I’d still look for a mint example without said issue.
In The Amazing SpiderMan (2012), Peter Parker is shown using a Yashica Electro 35 in the first half of the film. And as everyone knows, there is no better recommendation than SpiderMan! 🙂
And then there is the flash. While Yashica made many flashes at the time, I felt the CS-20, an Auto Thyristor flash, was a perfect mate. Before TTL, but quite accurate and cheap.
But probably the best thing about this little beauty was the lens. Although non-interchangeable, (I hope you like 45mm), it is an extremely sharp and fast 45mm f/1.7. Considering the price of this camera in the used marketplace, (shhh…a secret), I have images that easily compare to any Zeiss lens compact. If you need to change lenses, or cannot live without TTL, skip it. Otherwise you’ll love it. Yashica Electro 35 GSN