So about a year ago, I picked up a 1975 Yashica Electro 35 GX off of eBay for $19. I had picked up Konica Auto S3 a week before that but it was delivered DOA, so I decided on this little guy instead. The idea was to have a tiny film camera that could always be on me to grab images I'd otherwise take with my phone. It truly worked out quite well!
The Yashica Electro 35 GX
The Yashica Electro 35 GX came out in 1975 as the last of the "Electro's" for Yashica. It was designed as an aperture-priority only camera which featured a super-quiet leaf shutter and a coupled rangefinder. It's by no means a Leica, nor was it marketed as such, but it was a very well built pocket camera with a kick ass lens. I am quite impressed with how the lens performed, but will get into that in a bit.
The Yashica Electro 35 GX had a roughly 5 year run from from 1975-1980. My copy is the all black version which I think has a really slick look. It's a fixed lens body - but the lens is perfectly coupled to the rangefinder with parallax correction.
If you want to grab the manual, check it out on Buckus.org.
- Type: Rangefinder
- Shutter Speed: 30 seconds - 1/500
- Weight: 580 grams (1.27 pounds)
- Dimensions: 4.8" X 2.98" X 2.5" / 123 X 75.7 X 64mm
- Film: 35mm - caveat - only up to ISO 800
- Shutter Type: Copal
- Focus: Coupled rangefinder / built-in parallax comp
- Metering: Aperture priority / electronic exposure
- Lens: 40mm
- Aperture: f/1.7-16
- Lens Elements: 6
- Focus: 80cm - infinity
- Filter: 52mm
- Field of View: 56º
- Battery: PX640A alkaline
From what I have read online, these cameras are tough to come by - especially in black. When I saw it on eBay for just $19, I assumed it was a beater but worth the gamble. Result? Not a beater.
Yashica Electro 35 GX Performance
For what it is, the Yashica Electro 35 GX performs pretty well. It's little and can feel awkward in the hand, especially if you have been walking around with a beast like the Pentax 67 all day. It's tiny, but not obnoxiously so. It's smaller than its brother, the Yashica Electro 35 GSN but slightly larger than its direct competitors like the Olympus Trip 35, Konica S3, Rollei 35 and the market saturated Canon Canonet series. But mind you, this is a tiny damned camera!
Again, the Yashica Electro 35 GX does feel small bringing it up to your eye. The rangefinder patch is good size and pretty easy to see - nicely coupled to the lens. Focus is smooth on the barrel and it's nice to note that the parallax correction is a great feature in this price point. The barrel is small, especially if you are used to focusing with with Zeiss or Leica glass. Though the shutter is 30"-1/500 - there are no stops. So the range of speeds it automatically picks from (AP only, remember) is huge.
The camera has built in ATL metering and the finder lets you know if you need to adjust the f-stop up or down with little lights. Oh, and your film ISO is selected on the bottom of the lens. As I was shooting Portra 400 - I set the ISO to 200, my prefered metering.
I also like that the barrel has "conditions" to choose from for your f-stop. It is designed to give you the best exposure in all conditions. So the markings give you "ball park" stops:
- Sun symbol - Outdoors / bright sun / 16-11-8
- Cloud symbol - Outdoors / overcast or shade / 5.6-4-2.8
- Window symbol - Indoors / night / 2-1.7
I actually found that pretty handy showing my kids how the camera worked - nice and easy quick tool for those just learning.
When taking the shot, press the shutter half way for exposure check, all the way to release.
- No indicator lamp, fire away.
- Red arrow, you're going to over/underexpose - turn the aperture ring in the direction of the arrow to fix
- Yellow arrow, you may get camera shake (means it'll fire at < 1/30)
These lamps are not only in the finder, but also on top of the body in case you are just range focusing. Handy!
The body is pretty solid, all metal, but super light. The shutter release feels a little on the flimsy side. It's not a satisfying "clunk" when you release, but kind of a thin plasticy quick click. You almost have to listen for it as the physical feedback isn't much.
It was built to use those old discontinued Mercury batteries (PX640's) but I use it with a pair of PX640A alkalines with no issue. You can also Google the hack to use a pair of LR44's with foil.
Again, that lens on the Yashica Electro 35 GX is super nice. It's supposed to be quite excellent in low light, though I really didn't test anything with that other than a few indoor shots. Contrast isn't bad, isn't great. Below you can see a handful of (not overly interesting) images taken over the year, and you can decide on the quality for yourself.
I think the Yashica Electro 35 GX is a solid little performer. It's small yet durable, and not without its quirks - but overall gets the job done. I was really skeptical what the images would look like when they came back from the lab - but I have to say, not at all disappointed.
If not this, I highly recommend getting a nice little fixed lens film camera to toss in your car and always have with you. It's a real joy to be driving down the road, popping out of the car with the little cam to catch something, and then tossing it back in and forgetting about it. With a $20 fixed lens, you aren't overly worried about it.
All images from this single roll of Kodak Portra 400 were developed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab.