Before I bought the Yashica Electro 35 GT, none of my cameras was really good in low light conditions. Which is quite bad if you live in Berlin, where the Winter days are short. And due to the cold, you are mostly indoors anyway. The Yashica Electro 35 series is famous for its fast 1:1.7 lens and the automatic electromechanical shutter which takes exposures up to 30 seconds, which makes this cameras perfect for shooting in the evening. The low depth of field of the of 1:1.7 combined with the ultra sharp lens and the precise rangefinder makes it also the perfect camera for portraits. I got it at a flea market for reasonable 38 € with a leather case. However, the camera has some downsides, which made me consider to buy one or not for more than half a year (I bought my other cameras usually on first sight). First, it needs batteries, and in this case (unlike my Pentax Auto 110 super) mercury batteries, which are for really good reasons not in production anymore. Second, it is a really big and heavy camera. It is as big if not bigger than most of the SLR of that times. Luckily, if found a solution for problem number one and just accepted problem number two.
About the camera: The Yashica Electro GT and her sister model, the silver Electro 35 GS are electro-mechanic rangefinder cameras produced by Yashica between 1970 and 1973. They are the third models of the Electro 35 family, “the world’s first commercially successful electronically controlled 35mm camera”, produced from 1965 till They can use a wider range of film then their predecessors (25 – 1000 ISO) and have gold-plated electric contacts, which makes them less vulnerable for electric problems caused by corrosion. The later GTN and GTS feature a hot shoe, so I would suggest to look for one of those later models. The camera has not only an electric light meter, but also an electric shutter, so you really need a battery to properly shoot with it. Without, the shutter speed is et to 1/500 s. To avoid accidental photos, the shutter release can be locked. The camera has a mechanical self timer, an accessory shoe, PC sync for flash, a tripod mount and a cable release socket. As you might have to change the film speed to compensate back light, it also has a little pouch on back to store the data sheet of your film.
Taking pictures: Load your film and set the film speed (25 – 1000 ISO) with the dial on the top plate. Then set your desired f-stop and focus with the bright rangefinder. The shutter speed is automatically set by the camera and constantly measured, so the camera closes the shutter in the moment she captured enough light. Although not fully manual, this gives you a better control over your pictures then the shutter priority of the Olympus Trip 35. Unlock the shutter and gently press the shutter release. If the subject is too bright for 1/500 s, the camera will warn you with red light on the top of the body and a little red arrow in the viewfinder to avoid over exposure, if the exposure time would exceed 1/30 s it shows a yellow light/arrow. To avoid shaking on long time exposures, you can use the self timer or a cable release and of course a tripod. Due to the fast lens, you can do indoor photos with 200 or 400 ISO film without flash, perfect to takes photos of babies, in museums, at weddings etc. In backlight situations, you have to “cheat” the camera by setting a lower film speed, such as 100 instead of 200 for example. Of course you can use a flash using a pc sync cable. The camera syncs with flashes at any film speed, the “flash” setting sets the speed to 1/30s. Depending on the f-stop, the camera can expose a picture up to 30 seconds if needed.
|Camera||Yashica Electro 35 GT|
|Year built||?, built from 1970 to 1973|
|Lens||Yashinon 1:1.7 / 45 mm|
|Shutter||Copal leaf shutter|
|Special features||fast lens, electromechanical shutter|
|Accessories||Case, battery adapter|
|Manufactured by||Yashica Co., Ltd., Okaya, Japan|
|Date of purchase||11.2012|
|Place of purchase||Flohmarkt am Mauerpark, Berlin|
Tips & Tricks: First of all, buying cheap can be expensive. Check the camera, best with a battery if it really works. The camera can suffer from the “Pad of death” syndrome, which can be detected by the sound the shutter makes: 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”. If you hear this, everything is fine. If not, the pad is broken but don’t worry: it can be repaired, but you should not buy an already broken camera. As described above, the camera needs a battery. unlike other old cameras, the mercury cameras can be replaced b modern alternatives without any problems in the metering. As the new batteries are far smaller, you have to build a little adapter out of tinfoil, cardboard etc. Or just buy one from the Yashica Guy to support his great work and passion for this cameras. I was surprised as I received not only the adapter, but the package also had a fresh battery and a one-sheet compact manual for my camera. As with most of my cameras, also the Yashica Electro 35 GT suffers from light leaks. To replace the old seals, I ordered a set of new ones at the “Kameradoktor” in Germany. (Yashica Guy, Kameradoktor…, yes you meet a lot of interesting guys with this camera)
Film purchase & processing: The camera can use any 35 mm film from 25 to 1000 ISO. I usually shoot with 200, max 400 ISO film as I like to play with shallow depth of field.
http://www.yashica-guy.com/ (The Yashica Guy: History, model variations, repair guides and the camera adapter) http://www.kenrockwell.com/yashica/electro-35.htm (Review of the Electro 35 GSN) http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/05/06/is-the-yashica-electro-the-best-deal-in-rangefinder-photography-by-ricky-opaterny/ (Another Review) http://www.kameradoktor.de/kamera-lichtdichtungen-spiegeldaempfer/yashicaelectro/ (New light seals for your Electro 35, scroll down for English version) http://www.butkus.org/chinon/yashica/yashica_electro_35_gt/yashica_electro_35_gt.htm (Manual) http://mattsclassiccameras.com/light_seals/index.html (How to replace the light seals) http://brianallengodfrey.blogspot.de/2010/08/8172010-yashica-electro-35-gsn-repair.html (How to repair the “Pad of Death”) http://www.flickr.com/groups/yashicaelectro/ (The Yashica Electro Flickr Group)
Update: I just replaced the light seals of my Yashica Electro 35 GT with the kit from the “Kameradoktor”. It was really easy, I took me around one hour for this, most of the time for scratching out the old light seals (or rather the leftovers of them). As suggested by the Kameradoktor, I used simple alcohol and flattened wood sticks for the cleaning. Here is a picture of the kit which I bought here for 13 €.