By Sony Kusumo
I got this camera from my best friend whose father in law has just passed away in 2009. This camera was his father in law’s collection, and when he passed away, my friend gave it to me as he knows that I will make the good use of it. But not until 2012 as I caught the site of Yashica Guy.
To be honest, I got this camera as “not working, but in perfect condition”. It has a super clean lens, super clean battery chamber, perfect film chamber, but could not be fired and no one knew which battery to use. I left it as a decoration until Yashica Guy gave me lots of information, including battery specification, and service manual. So off I went with some adjustment, and it now works like new.
But enough about history.
The Yashica Electro 35 GSN is not a small camera. It’s quite big and a bit heavy (750g without film and battery). Somehow, it’s a bit more heavier than some consumer grade SLR cameras like Fujica MPF 105 X (660g with 50mm f/1.9 lens) or even comparable with more professional SLR cameras like Canon AE-1 (760g with 50mm f/1.8 lens), but the weight gives additional stability to shooting.
The camera’s bright lens (45mm f/1.7) gives more depth to the pictures, although the maximum shutter speed is only 1/500 sec. The Yashica GSN is an automatic camera, a technology breakthrough at it’s time (1966, when the original model of the Yashica Electro 35 was introduced to the market) where consumer cameras were often equipped with a meter that was not coupled with shooting mechanism.
It is an aperture priority (Av on Canon cameras, for instance) camera to be exact, with the shutter speed calculated between aperture setting, film speed, and lighting condition. A CdS sensor coupled to the ISO setting dial captures the ambient lighting and sets the speed accordingly. There’s two light indicator that can be visible from top of the camera and from inside of the viewfinder that gives you warning if the aperture chosen is above the shutter speed range (RED) or if the aperture chosen is under the shooting range (ORANGE).
The red indication informs the user that the camera has reach its maximum shutter speed capability, while the orange light warns user to hold the camera steady, because the shutter speed on this condition can be varied from 1/30 seconds up to 30 seconds.
Long exposure can be performed easily by attaching a shutter release cable and mounting the camera on tripod or anything sturdy. The result is quite amazing as the lens quality is superb.
The 45mm Color Yashinon was compensated to accept colour film, so fringing or colour issues are reduced. Although 45mm somehow is not wide enough for cityscape or landscape shooting, we can always shoot some part of the city with it.
And 45mm is very nice for shooting portraits and street photography. One interesting point is that the lens is sharp and has a quite good resolution, making it an all-round camera for almost every situation. You can easily shoot group pictures with nice results, in colour or monochrome. Added with flash sync capability to compensate highlights/backlights, you can make a good pictures anytime, anywhere.
That doesn’t mean the GSN has no flaws. As it’s fully automatic, it means no manual control, and being an older camera, it has no compensation setting button, so that you have to rely on the camera setting for daily use.
On some certain condition, we can make use of the ISO setting button. This button is coupled to the CdS sensor in front of the camera, so increasing the ISO will increase the sensor opening, thus increase the light intensity in the meter. It will then increase the shutter speed, or similar to add values to the exposure compensation button. It could be easy to say that one stop of ISO increase is equal to reduce one stop to the exposure value.
Another thing is that it has the CdS sensor placed on the top right corner of the camera. That means, if you use the filter, you have to calculate the filter factor manually, and put it as compensation to the camera. Compensation means that you, again, change the ISO/ASA dial accordingly, which is OK, but remember to return the ISO/ASA setting to the proper setting after using the filter.
The Yashica Electro 35 GSN is a decent camera with an amazingly bright lens. The lens was constructed properly and there is no fogging in my example even after years of storage in tropical conditions (people of old times here in Indonesia used to put cameras in the wardrobe, and being a humid tropical country, imagine how harsh that environment tis to the lens). The lens is clear, front and rear, and it still gives very nice reproduction, even with extreme lighting.
The Electro 35 GSN is not a high-end camera. In fact you can find it quite cheap on the secondhand market. A good thing about it is that the electronics are quite reliable, even on a highly used one, and the shutter still works well (except when the camera has gone through severe oxidation, where the lens and electronics have been affected).
A word about the battery, however. The Electro 35 series always require a battery to work perfectly. Without it, the shutter mechanism will trigger at a speed of 1/500 sec, and will never work in Bulb Mode (ah yes, Bulb mode is another special things I like about the GSN).
The battery required is the PX32, a mercury battery with working voltage of 5.6 volts. Some sites on the internet says that it would take 6-volt batteries (ie. 4LR44, or 4 x LR 44 in series, giving 6 volts output), but my recommendation is to use one CR 123 (3 volts) plus 1 LR 44 (1.5 volts). Why? Because the electronic circuit inside has its own regulator, so voltage drops will be compensated. The batteries will last faster than 6 volt batteries because the electronic circuit will sense that the battery has been exhausted as it drops the voltage, but the electronic circuit will last longer as the tension is lower (one set of CR 123 plus LR 44 will last for about 10 rolls of 36 exposure each).
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