Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Yashica Electro 35 GSN

One Nine Five

I’m supposed to like this camera, right? Everybody else seems to. I expected to — I committed to a 36-exposure roll of Tri-X in it. No 24-exposure bet-hedging for me, not this time. But then I didn’t find pleasure in using my Yashica Electro 35 GSN.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN

I liked it the last time I shot it. See my review here; see a sample photo from that shoot below. It is among my very favorite works ever. But that was a solid six years ago, and in that time I’ve discovered that I’m just happiest behind the eyepiece of a mechanical SLR. Using this classic (large, heavy) rangefinder camera seemed awkward to me.

Wall

Its size and heft weren’t the problem, as I happily shoot beasts like the Nikon F2 SLR. It was the controls. I fumbled with them through the roll and never reached that nirvana-like state of being one with this camera.

Flowers

My number one challenge was my inability to find the focusing ring on the lens barrel without removing the camera from my eye. A lever on that focusing ring would go a long way to making the Electro 35 more pleasant to use.

House

Obviously I got usable images from this Electro 35, all in focus and properly exposed. I shot most of this roll on a late-winter walk through downtown Zionsville.

Noble Order

Unfortunately, since I last shot this camera the light seals started to fail. Or maybe it’s just lens flare, but my gut says no, it’s those seals. Half the shots on the roll show leaked light along the top edge. You can see it pretty well as a light haziness at the top of this photo.

Buffet Everyday

Yet when you look past that, the 45mm f/1.7 Color-Yashinon lens returned good sharpness and detail. So it’s no wonder that this camera is so honored and costs so much on the used market. It’s too bad that it and I just didn’t bond on this outing.

Garage

I finished the roll in Fishers. Here’s the room in which I work. My workstation is right up front and the monitor on a pole is part of my brother’s standing workstation. It’s still great to work with my brother every day.

Office

Somebody taped this paper plate to a torchiere lamp last Halloween and it’s never gone away. It is right behind my head as I work, always watching.

Skull

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Yashica Electro 35 GSN gallery.

I own a handful of large 35mm rangefinder cameras: this one, a Minolta Hi-Matic 7, a Konica Auto S2, and a Yashica Lynx 14e. I do want to keep one of them, and I think it’s going to be my Lynx 14e for its sublime f/1.4 lens. But as for this Electro 35 — I already sold it.

Verdict: Goodbye

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31 thoughts on “Operation Thin the Herd: Yashica Electro 35 GSN

  1. Dan Cluley says:

    I haven’t ever tried one of these, but just from the description, I suspect my reaction would be similar. To me, the point of a rangefinder is to be fairly simple (says the fan of the Argus C-3 & C-44R… ) Once they reach a certain level of complexity, I’d just as soon gain the advantages of an SLR.

    Also its good to see that the Zionsville Pizzeria is doing their part to support the letter Z.

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    • If I shot this camera every day, I’m sure I’d learn it and become one with it. Heck, I’d probably find SLRs to be awkward then. But I’ve bonded to SLRs and am not going back. This lens does fine, fine work, though.

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  2. I tried one of these about 8 years ago and based on what I had read online, really wanted to like it. I had much the same reaction as you but with far less stellar photographic results.

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    • My original review of this camera was much more appreciative. But between then and now came The Year of the Nikon F2, which confirmed for me that the mechanical 35mm SLR is the way I’m bent. I’ve doubled down since then, and now the Electro 35 just seems needlessly clunky to me. Funny how that goes.

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  3. Jim,

    I too struggled with the Yaschia. I wanted to like it, but just found it uncomfortable enough not to add it to my collection. It was a cool looking camera and made all the right noises, but just couldn’t get it to fit into my “workflow”

    Also, you mentioned a while back that you would feature my Canon AE-1 review. Zulu Fox Photo Canon AE-1

    I haven’t seen it featured in your weekly round up yet. Just wondering if it was still going to make the rotation?

    Hope you are having a great week. I look forward to your blog posts every morning. Still amazes me how you do it, I struggle sometimes to get out one a week.

    Mike

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    • Mike, I’m very sorry I left you with the impression I’d feature your AE-1 review. My Saturday blog roundup is only for posts that were published within the last 7 days. Your AE-1 post is far older. However, if you write more camera reviews/experience reports, I’ll be happy to feature them the week you publish them!

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  4. I felt much the same way about my Yashica 14. It had a terrific lens and the parallax corrected viewfinder was great for close-up work. The size and weight were just too much. All that aside, you did get some sharp results and that shot of the garage has sublime tonality.

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    • I have a Yashica Lynx 14e and have shot it twice. Both times I was blown away by what its lens could do. It makes T-Max 400 absolutely sing. Because of that, my bar for keeping it is going to be lower than the bar for keeping this Electro. I just hope that my use of it clears even that bar.

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  5. Bill Bussell says:

    Many years ago, (early 70s) I worked for a newspaper group that gave this model away as gifts to long-time employees. Of course, the owner expected the recipients would take pictures for the newspapers. I wasn’t there long, thank goodness, but I did process and print many rolls of film from those cameras. You did get great results.

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  6. Andy Umbo says:

    I used to love my high-school sweethearts Minolta HiMatic 7 or 11 or whatever she had, for taking simple quality photos, but by the time I started working professionally, in 1970, the rangefinder era was way done. When it came to shooting 35mm, everything I touched was an SLR. You got used to actually “seeing” what was in and out of focus. Most important for composition, regardless of whether the frame was 92%, or 96%, or 100%; you just got used to composing to the “black” edge, instead of something like the line in a rangefinder (which in most cases was “fat” and not accurate, and you could see beyond, which for me was disturbing.

    Over the years I’ve lusted over getting a Leica M2, a early Nikon rangefinder, and even a new Voigtlander or Zeiss; but every-time I go into the store to try them, the rangefinder experience makes me very uncomfortable…too “loosey-goosey”.

    I’ve often wondered why the rangefinder people, since many cameras had switch in frame lines, wouldn’t make a frame that switched in with a very accurate hard line mask for lenses that was about 2 stops heavier density to the edge. You would see a very accurate frame, and you could make out what was beyond, for those that liked that feature of a rangefinder.

    Long gone era now….

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    • I actually don’t mind the rangefinder’s viewfinder experience. The framing lines work for me. It’s that the lens barrel has so much going on in terms of controls and the controls are hard to find with your hand when your eye is at the vf. My kingdom for a rangefinder with an SLR-like lens layout!

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  7. Really strange how many people have had similar experiences with the much revered Electro…

    I wrote a similar field report on mine back in 2015 – https://35hunter.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/the-lost-lovers-part-one/

    To this day it still gave me some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever made on film. But the bulkiness, heaviness and general awkwardness in use meant it was gathering dust.

    I’d love to see someone make/modify an adapter so the lens could be removed from a dead Electro and used with a digital mirrorless or DSLR, because in my experience that Yashinon 45/1.7 was near-magical…

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  8. SilverFox says:

    I have to add my similar experience, I kinda thought I liked mine and the images were good but I never felt like I wanted to shoot it again after my first few runs; it just lacked something and I’m not certain what. I still have one of the two but that is destined for sale as soon as I can get myself organised.

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  9. TBM3FAN says:

    Funny you should bring this up. I was going through a storage box of rangefinders looking for a Yashica Minister that needed it’s sticky aperture blades cleaned. I knew I had a GSN and black GT, Japan made, yet ran across three more Electro 35 cameras. I have no idea how that happened as I have been collecting or acquiring, depending on your viewpoint, since 1999. So I have three to get rid of. Interested? No, a Minolta X-570 would probably suit you better and create the temptation so critical.

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    • If those Electros all work, you could make good bank unloading them. I see working examples go for upwards of $100 all the time.

      Yeah, something like an X-570 would be more tempting. My wife has one, however; it was her film camera before she went digital.

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    • Mike Eckman says:

      Earlier Electros, especially the very first model (its the only one that doesn’t have a Gold “G” on the front) are prone to electrical failure. For the first time Electro buyer, I strongly recommend seeing out a GSN or a GTN. Those were the last Electros to be made and almost always work fine. They rare suffer from a bad Pad of Death, and I’ve never seen one with bad electronics.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for the info, Mike! Mine is a GSN. Doesn’t sound like it has the “pad of death” issue, but still does not appear to have working electronics. I have a great camera repair shop near me that has worked on several of my cameras but they won’t touch this one. Not sure what to do with it, really.

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  10. Mike Eckman says:

    The Yashica Electro seems to elicit some very bi-polar reactions by people. There are those out there that absolutely adore them (me) and others who just don’t get it. I’ve known many people who share your exact comments. A good friend of mine has several and he says he wants to like it, and keeps giving it a chance, but it just never clicks with him.

    And that’s ok. The best thing about this hobby is the HUGE assortment of cameras that are out there. The Yashica Electro is a special camera to me and I’m happy to hear you gave it one more try before getting rid of it! :)

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    • When I restarted collecting cameras in 2005, I thought I’d focus on rangefinders like this one. I’m sure if I had actually stuck to that, this Electro 35 would feel as normal and natural to me as my Pentax ME! But my aunt Maxine gave me her Minolta X-700 one day, and through it I discovered I am born to shoot SLR. And so it goes.

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      • Mike Eckman says:

        I often find myself more inclined to reach for an SLR too. Its hard not to when my shelf contains excellent models like the Olympus OM-2, Canon EF, several Minolta and Nikon SLRs, and many others all of which are easy to use, comfortable, and make excellent photos.

        One thing I’ve noticed though is that after repeated uses of SLRs, I get bored. They’re so nice and easy to use, theres nothing interesting about them. Thats when I like going back to rangefinders or something really quirky like a Bolsey B2 or something!

        The best thing about this hobby is how many great cameras we have to choose from. It doesn’t matter which one you pick, because they’re all the right choice! :)

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        • Great points. You know, when I either just need to get a photographic job done, or I need an afternoon of easy breezy shooting, there’s nothing like my humble Pentax ME and pretty much any K-mount lens I own. Or one of my Nikon bodies, like the F2 if I’m ambitious or my N2000 if I’m not.

          But there are other days where I want to enjoy a camera. I just put a roll through my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK and it was just a delight.

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  11. Wow, it’s refreshing to see I am not alone in my opinion of this camera, the cult following it has made it seem that everyone just adored the Electro. I too expected to fall in love and was left underwhelmed by it and I prefer to shoot rangefinders. It was just too big and clunky.

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