If this camera looks like a Yashica Electro 35, it’s because it is. Sort of. It shares the Electro 35 body but not its name and not all of its features. But it undeniably has Electro 35 bones. Built from 1975 to 1980, the Yashica MG-1 ended the Electro 35 era, which began in 1966.
The MG-1’s 45mm f/2.8 Yashinon lens, of four elements in three groups, is a little slower than the f/1.7 lens on all of the other Electro 35s. Also, while other Electro 35s automatically correct for parallax, the MG-1 doesn’t. And while later Electro 35s, namely the GSN and GTN, accept film of up to ASA 1000, the MG-1 holds to ASA 800. And unlike every other Electro 35, the MG-1’s shutter has no “bulb” setting for timed exposures.
But like the Electro 35, the MG-1’s CdS light meter, the little glass bubble above the lens, is coupled to an aperture-priority automatic exposure system. When you load film, set the camera to your film’s speed using the selector on the bottom of the lens barrel. Then to take a picture, first set the aperture by rotating the lens barrel’s outer ring. If you’re not great with the intricacies of f stops, just choose the symbol closest to your conditions: sunny, cloudy, or “window” (indoors and, I suppose, very overcast). Next, frame your shot and press the shutter button down part way. Here’s where things get clever. If a red arrow lights inside the viewfinder, or the Over light glows on the camera’s top plate, the MG-1 can’t find a shutter speed that won’t overexpose the photo; choose a smaller aperture and try again. If a yellow arrow lights inside the viewfinder or the Slow light glows on the camera’s top plate, the MG-1 had to choose a shutter speed so long that camera shake will be a problem; either mount the camera on a tripod choose a larger aperture so the MG-1 can choose a faster shutter speed. The red and yellow arrows even point in the direction you need to twist the aperture ring.
Focusing the MG-1 is simple and works like every other coupled rangefinder camera I own. While looking through the viewfinder, twist the lens barrel’s focus ring until the rangefinder’s ghost image lines up crisply with the viewfinder’s image. The viewfinder is large and bright, and contains two sets of framing marks, one for closeups and one for all other shots.
What sets the MG-1 and its Electro 35 brethren apart is its stepless shutter. It fires at any speed between 1/500 and 4 seconds. If 1/78 or 1/459 second gives the best exposure at the chosen aperture, that’s what the camera uses.
All this electronic trickery requires a banned PX32 mercury battery. You can use springs and cardboard to adapt other batteries or buy a same-size alkaline battery on Amazon. Or you can do like I did and order custom battery adapter from Yashica Guy, who is a devotee of all things Electro 35.
This, by the way, is a large and heavy camera and feels substantial in the hand. It’s about the same size and about the same weight as my Minolta Hi-Matic 7.
If you’re a Yashica fan, by the way, check out my reviews of the Yashica Electro 35 GSN, the Yashica Lynx 14e, the Yashica-D, and the Yashica-12. If you like big fixed-lens rangefinder cameras, check out my reviews of the Minolta Hi-Matic 7 and the Konica Auto S2. Or have a look at every camera I ever reviewed, here!
I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and took the MG-1 to explore New Augusta, Indiana, a former small town in what is now northwest Indianapolis. Funny story – the people who founded New Augusta had been living about two miles east, in a town called Augusta a mile or so to the east on the Michigan Road. I’ve written about Augusta before; an 1832 brick house and a log cabin still stand. When the railroad went in, residents left Augusta behind and built New Augusta on the railroad, hoping for better prosperity. Much of the town, including a small downtown, remains.
This is New Augusta’s Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, completed in 1880. You will notice that the top of the building is cut off. I knew I wasn’t going to get all of the tower in the photo; I couldn’t back up any farther. But when I framed the shot I saw less of the street and the roof’s peak was in the picture.
The same goes for the top left corner of the brick building in this photo. It’s a real pet peeve of mine when a viewfinder isn’t accurate. The brick building was once New Augusta’s post office and the red frame building was Wagle’s Grocery, by the way.
A lawyer and an accountant hang their shingle from the brick building today. Look at how much sharpness that lens delivers.
The whole point of New Augusta was to provide a stop for the train. Here’s the station, confusingly called Augusta. Trains don’t stop here anymore and the station is private property now.
I don’t live very far from New Augusta. These tracks run south from here to about a mile behind my house. Even though the main line looks well used, I hear train whistles only about once a month.
These are almost all of the photos that turned out on my 24-exposure roll of film. The rest turned out blank. It turns out that hearing a click upon pressing the shutter is not enough — you have to keep pressing until you hear two clicks. The first click enables the film to be advanced and the second actually fires the shutter. I didn’t figure that out until late in the roll.
I didn’t get on well with the MG-1 and so I never managed to shoot it again. That’s how it goes with old cameras sometimes.