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Yashica Electro 35 Series


There are some people overpaying for this camera when they don't even know if everything works right.  I'm going to help you with what to look for in a used Electro 35. 

We're also going to look at the general features of the camera.




My (former) Electro 35G.  Looks great here, but at the time, it was in the early stages of the infamous
"POD" malfunction.


In This Article:


Background

Specs

Repair Issues

Price & Value

Choice of Film

Light Seals

Dealing With The Battery

Conclusion





Background


This is a rangefinder camera made in Japan during the 1960's and 70's.   The first Electro 35 came out in 1966.  The "G" series appeared around 1968.  

These cameras are aperture-priority auto.  They have no manual mode, but you can make the shutter speed be 1/500th by taking out the battery.  Then, on a sunny day, you could just use f/11 with some 400 film (or f/8 with some 200 film) and it would be about right.  Or, with the battery installed, you could set it to "flash" mode and have 1/30th of a second for lower-light conditions.  

Mostly, though, you'll want to use the Electro 35 the way it was intended:  as an aperture-priority camera. 


Some Specs


Aperture:  f/1.7 to f/16
Battery (original): PX32
Battery (replacement):  PX28 / PX28A / 4LR44 / L544 / A544
Film Advance:  Manual
Film Rewind:  Manual
Filter Size:  55mm
Flash:  cold shoe w/ PC connector (35 G) / hot shoe (35 GS / GSN)
Flash Sync:  Flash mode is 1/30th sec.
Focus:  Manual
ISO / ASA Range:  12-500, manually set
Lens:  Yashinon 45mm f/1.7
Manual Exposure Modes:  Not really
Metering / Exposure:  CdS / Aperture-Priority
Made In:  Japan
Self-Timer:  Yes
Shutter:  Leaf-type, controlled by an electromagnet
Shutter Speeds:  30" to 1/500th stepless (continuous range);  also Bulb
Viewfinder:  Coupled rangefinder
Year Introduced:  1966 (Electro 35) / 1968 (35 G) / 1970 (35 GS) / 1973 (35 GSN)


Repair Issues


These are still around in yard sales and flea markets.  I wouldn't pay a whole lot for one, considering that when you buy it there could be some repair issues.  Number one is the light seals.  Almost all of them have this problem, and you're going to need to buy the materials to replace them.   Foam is cheap and yarn is cheap, but a couple trips to the store because you forgot something... that adds up.  

You'll also need to make a battery adapter if you want to be able to use a modern PX28 or 4LR44.  There is a pitfall to doing this, and I've never seen it mentioned on any other websites.  We'll get to that later.

Third, watch out for the deteriorated rubber pad problem-- the so-called "Pad of Death" (POD).  You can see the pad by taking the  top of the camera off (special tools needed), but to replace it properly requires full disassembly of the camera.   After I took apart and fixed a Trip 35 that was already supposed to have been overhauled, my enthusiasm for camera repair has sort of dwindled. 

Fourth, a lot of these have a stuck shutter.  It can be un-stuck, but you need special tools and some repair skill.

Fifth, even if the shutter works, the light meter could be way off or not working.  This could be a "pad of death" problem, or maybe not.

Finally, the rangefinder itself can be off a bit, so that your focus will be incorrect.  Mine doesn't match up when the lens is set to infinity;  that doesn't seem good, but it doesn't necessarily mean anything.   If there is any focus discrepancy, you'll really start to notice it if you're using the wider apertures (f/5.6 and down) at close distances.  This camera can do f/1.7, which is impressive compared to the "point and shoot" cameras that came out later.  At that aperture, your focus had better be right.   If the rangefinder is off, you'll know it for sure when you get those pictures back.

Unless you know the previous owner already did so, expect to have to shoot a test roll just to check the metering and rangefinder calibration.  Take some close-up shots at f/1.7 or f/2, using a tape measure to check the distance.  Make sure a couple of your shots are scenery at infinity, though, perhaps shot at 1/500th according to the Sunny 16 rule (take the battery out).   Pick the narrowest aperture you can for those.  That way if your rangefinder is way off, at least the roll won't be a total waste.  You'll get to see the nice sharpness of this lens.



Camera has Bulb setting, which comes in handy on July 4th.
The 35G has a flash cold-shoe.  GS and GSN have hot shoe.
Self-timer lever is on the lens barrel.


Price & Value


Some people are now selling iffy ones for more than they're worth.  Lately there's been a glut of sellers offering ones they haven't even tested, priced at three or four times what they should be.    They're asking thirty, forty, fifty bucks... and you could end up with a Yashica doorstop.  When uninformed sellers and uninformed buyers get together, that doesn't set the value of an item.  I've seen people asking over $100 for untested Electro 35's.  If you don't know that it works, the value is more like $10.

Many auction sellers have no idea if the shutter speeds work or the metering is accurate.  Many don't even know if the shutter operates at all.   They say "looks great cosmetically, but not tested"... and then they want as much for the camera as if it were completely refurbished.  Thirty or forty dollars is still too much if there's a chance the metering is wrong, the shutter is stuck, or the "POD" needs replacement.  The whole point of buying this camera is to use it.   The whole point of choosing this camera over others is that it's not an expensive camera. 

I'll say this again.  It doesn't matter how clean the camera looks.  The internals could be bad.  The meter could be bad.   There could be little bits of deteriorated POD all through the mechanism.   Or, the shutter could work at 1/500 but not at other speeds.  An untested Electro 35 is a potential space-wasting headache that you never get around to fixing, because it's time consuming and tedious.   This is a brilliant camera, but only when it works.

Just wait it out, and along will come a seller with a more realistic understanding of prices.  It just takes some patience.

I paid five dollars for mine, and it had some issues.   It did not make the characteristic "thump" sound, which meant that the "Pad of Death" was already going bad.  If you pay much more, be sure the meter works, there's no fungus, and it doesn't have any major problems (stuck shutter, etc).   Make sure it has the right "clunk" when the film lever is advanced.  If there's no clunk, or it happens later in the lever movement, there's a good chance it has a problem... and the camera isn't worth more than ten dollars the way it is.   The repair by a skilled person is going to cost some money.



The 45mm Yashinon lens is not quite a Summicron, but it's pretty good.
This was f/8, I'm pretty sure.  There is slight vignetting.


Choice of Film


The top ISO on the Electro 35G is only ISO 500, but for the 1960's that was pretty fast.   The later models went up to ISO 1000, which is nice to have.  Kodak BW400CN can be rated at 1000 and developed as 1000 to 1600 for great results (don't forget it's a C41 film).  You could also do the same with Ilford HP5 400. 

If it's going to be cloudy or evening, I would shoot 400 color negative film in the Electro 35G (see this article), or 800 if you have a GS / GSN.

If you're using 400+ film in daylight and you want to take advantage of the bokeh at wide apertures, it would normally put the shutter speed way out of range.  In fact, even 100 film would be out of range in full sun when you're down at the lowest f-numbers.  A neutral-density (ND) filter lets you take shallow DOF shots at 1/500th and slower.  

I'd probably use a 2-stop ND filter (also called ND 0.6), although with 400 film you might want 3 stops (ND 0.9), maybe even 4.  If you got a later Yashica that goes up to ISO 1000, load it with 800 film and put a 4- or 5-stop ND filter on it for the daytime, then remove the filter for evening shots.   Don't forget to change the ASA setting for the filter!   The meter doesn't see through the filter.



If you're doing a lot of daylight shooting, use 100 film.  That will allow use of the wider apertures, up to a certain point (beyond which you'll need an ND filter).   I highly recommend Kodak Ektar 100 (pick up a 5-pack here) or perhaps some Velvia slide film (5-pack here).

This camera can support the slower ISO's, as well.  There's no reason you couldn't use Velvia 50 (you can buy a 5-pack here).  On a full-sunny day that enables you to get down to f/4 without using an ND filter.  Bokeh time!

The filter diameter is 55mm, by the way.  If you use a filter that darkens the exposure, make sure you know how much.  It doesn't meter through the lens.  When I use a Cokin Varicolor, that's three stops.  Using 400 film, I set the ISO down to 64 for the Varicolor filter.  ISO 50 would be three full stops down from 400;  ISO 64 is just slightly underexposed to give rich color.  Don't forget to turn the ISO setting back to normal when you take the filter off!  You can imagine how easy it would be to forget. 

I don't have any slides handy from this camera, but when it's working, the light meter is plenty good enough to handle it, unlike some of the cheap point-and-shoots that came out in the early 2000's.  Just make sure the "POD" problem isn't happening, or your metering could be off.


Light Seals


I did the whole thing with black yarn and foam, as recommended by Matt's Classic Cameras.  I took one of those cheap foam paintbrush things (97 cents for a 4-pack) and cut a strip out of it.  I used Loctite Crafter's Adhesive, which is a kind of acrylic.  It's supposed to dry for 24 hours, but I was out using the camera after about 16 hours.

The foam worked well for the hinge light seal, which is the most important one.  Just make sure you don't cut the foam too thick, because overly thick seals could deform the door when you try to close it.  That's hard to fix, if not impossible.

You have to be careful with the yarn.  The top horizontal channel has a section where you need to leave a space.  I just put one continuous strip of yarn in there, and it covered the film counter reset.  Not good.  I did take a whole roll of film with it, but it was hard to open the back.  I also had to go back and cut the yarn and remove a section for that little reset switch (it's hard to see). 

You did make sure not to glue the yarn along the whole length, right?


Dealing With the Battery


The 4LR44 / PX28 battery is available at most any department store or online.  The PX28 is too narrow and too short for the Electro 35's battery well, so you'll need to adapt it to fit.  You could buy a TR164A which fits better (no adapter needed), but that's harder to find locally (you can get one here). 

If you've just gotten an Electro 35, you may be wondering how exactly to make a battery adapter.   I bought some special battery adapters from a guy and then found out I wasted my money (argh!).  The positive contact is made by a rivet type of thing that has a rounded end.  The rounded end keeps it from making contact with the inside of the battery compartment cover.  You have to use aluminum foil to make it work, which kind of defeats the purpose of having to spend $8.95 for a pair of these adapters.   Time for Plan B.

I have seen many websites recommending a spring to hold the battery in place.  Please don't do this.  I'll tell you why.  Most of the older battery-powered devices have the ground tied to the metal chassis.  Assume that includes the case.  (If you ever want to know for sure with a particular device, get a multimeter and check continuity between the negative battery spring and the metal case.)

The inside of the Electro 35 battery channel looks like one continuous conductor all the way to the outside of the case, but if you look closely, you can see there's a thin disjunction, a separate layer, where the battery cover goes in.   Aha!  

I take that to mean the positive should not touch the sides of the channel.

By putting in a spring to hold the battery, you could cause a short to the chassis ground.  At best, the thin spring will slip right off the battery terminal and break contact.   At worst, you could damage the camera.  Shorted batteries deplete quickly and can overheat, leak, and in some cases, burst. 

You don't want an alkaline battery leak. 

I've read about people having weird problems with the Electro 35 metering.  I have a feeling it's because they were getting intermittent shorts to the chassis ground, which could mess up the potential difference required to run the camera properly.  Really:  don't use a spring.  (Just so you know, the "pad of death" problem can cause erratic metering, too.  My 35G was doing that occasionally.)

Now, let me tell you an easy way to fix the battery-fit problem.

Stop at the hardware store and get two 5/16" nuts and a bolt that's just long enough to fit both of them.  There should not be any part of the bolt protruding past the outer nut.  As a side note, I found out that these itty-bitty pieces of hardware can bring your local home improvement store to a standstill.  Their fancy system can't even accommodate someone bringing these to the cash register, unless they have something to scan with a bar code.  In the old days, hardware stores knew their parts, and if they didn't, they could figure out how to look it up.  Today, these fancy automated systems are so dumbed-down that everybody is helpless if they don't have a bar code.   That's kind of ridiculous.    It is a lot easier to shop at a place that sells nuts and bolts by the pound than to shop somewhere that needs a SKU or barcode for every 9-cent item.   The emerging "smart economy" has a whole raft of issues that don't make it look very smart.

Anyway, now you've got the parts to make an adapter, so let's proceed.  First, wrap the PX28 battery in paper (but not the ends) so it doesn't rattle around in the battery channel.  Use plain paper, not newspaper.  Don't use aluminum foil.   The positive end of the battery should be toward you, so you can see it when it's in the battery compartment.



Next, put both of those 5/16" nuts onto the short bolt and tighten them together.  Now, wrap the sides in electrical tape so only the ends are bare.  It should resemble the picture above.  The electrical tape will prevent the positive from shorting to the inside of the battery channel.  This bolt with the nuts is just the right length to hold a PX28 battery in place. 

Don't lose the battery compartment cap.  You will probably never find another cap unless you buy a junked Electro 35.   Well, maybe not "never", but don't lose it.  The cap appears to have been designed to separate the positive terminal from the chassis ground.  The positive connects with that thin layer I mentioned earlier.  This is a precision part that would be quite difficult to make.





Conclusion


The Yashica Electro 35 is a nice camera that doesn't cost too much.  The optics are above-average and yield sharp images if you focus properly.  With an f/1.7 lens, the Electro 35 is good for low-light situations. 

If you want to get into rangefinder photography, this is a good way to start.  There were so many of them manufactured that the odds of your finding a usable one are pretty good.  The odds of finding a non-usable one are also pretty good, so be choosy.

The Electro 35 has a solid heft to it, yet it's smooth and has character.  It has the manufacturing quality of that era, when things were made out of metal and had excellent fit and finish.  The only thing I don't like about the Electro 35 (beside the battery issue and the "POD") is that it lacks a true all-manual mode.  Maybe once you try it, though, you won't mind that a bit.

You can pick up a used Electro 35 through this link or the one shown below.  Get your stuff through any of these links, and it really helps me out.

      

I hope you enjoyed this article.   Thanks for visiting!




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