Yashica Electro 35 GSN – Sample Photos and Problems

Before I go into a lengthy description, let me say I’m beginning to like my Yashico Electro 35 GSN more and more.  It’s taken a while.  In my opinion, the Electro camera normally needs a repair or two and a bit of understanding to take good photos.  But I think it can be worth it.

This is a photo of friends on my back porch lit only by candlelight.  Handheld, ASA 400 print film, wide open aperture (3 seconds approximately).

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Friends by Candlelight

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Friends by Candlelight

If you’re interested in night photography as I am, you might also want to read my Yashica Electro Night Photography blog post.

Before I go much further let me relate a brief story.  Last week I took a walk in Chicago around 10 PM taking photos with my Yashica Electro 35 GSN.  I developed the photos and liked them a lot.  Yesterday evening I wanted to take another evening walk with another camera.  And then I realized something.

The only 35mm film camera I had capable of night photography was the Yashica Electro.  I could have taken some 90’s point and shoot cameras that can do night work.  But the Yashica Electro from 1970 is just a much better night camera in my opinion. 

Yashica Electro 35 GSN Prices

That’s what you really want to know, correct?

Today is August 18, 2011 and I just checked eBay for completed listings for the Yashica Electro 35 GSN.  This is what I learned.

  1. $9.00 was the lowest for a beat up camera, quality unknown.
  2. $270 was the highest sold price for a pristine complete camera set.  As good as the day it was purchased 35-40 years ago.
  3. $40’s.  I’d say the bulk of cameras were in the forties (U.S. dollars).

So how did I get one camera for less than $10 and another camera for $30 plus shipping on Craigslist.  Actually both cameras came from Craigslist.  The $10 camera was in a bundle of 4 cameras from Denver Craigslist.  The seller tossed it in with the rest.  The $30 Electro came from near Baltimore, the seller said he had re-done the foam seals (well he did, but not terribly well).

If you purchase on eBay, check the seller’s ratings and his/her description.  If the camera has been tested (why don’t eBay vendors sell “tested cameras” more) from a reputable seller, it’s worth more money.  Ordering an Electro GSN from Craigslist in a distant city seems like a poor idea.

My next Yashica Electro 35 purchase?  If I purchase another, it will be a camera I can check out first in my own hands.  There’s a lot of things to check out on a Yashica Electro before purchase.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN Technical Details

You can find Yashica Electro 35 GSN write-ups all over the Internet.  I first saw a description at Photoethnography, and certainly value what Ken Rockwell and Yashica Guy have to say about the camera.  Their explanations are more thorough, my technical details are more for a novice.  Here’s my novice analysis.

Summary:  The Yashica Electro 35 GSN is a Japanese rangefinder from the early 1970’s.  Heavy, inexpensive to purchase, some people believe it has excellent “glass”.  It is aperture preferred when automatic.  Set the aperture, it determines the shutter speed.  What is so remarkable about the Electro is that it can take photos in very low light with up to a 30 second shutter exposure.

Quirky Technical Details:  The shutter has a very long “throw”.  You keep pushing the shutter button until it actually takes a photo.  Very different than other shutter buttons I have used.  The battery is quirky, more on that later.  Seals will probably need to be replaced.

Provenance or History

Again, no histories on my two Electros.

I have the Denver and Baltimore cameras.  The Denver Yashica Electro GSN was a “throw in” on 3-4 cameras.  Perhaps the fall of 2010.  The light meter works a bit erratically and I think it needs new foam seals.  So I haven’t shot a photo with it yet.

The Baltimore Electro also came from a long distance Craigslist purchase.  Most likely fall of 2010.  The seller said he had replaced the crumbling seals.  He did but it was an amateurish job.  The light meter does seem to work.

I think one advantage of garage sales is that you can talk to someone about who owned a camera.  Knowing the history of the camera makes it more enjoyable for me.

My Repairs for the Yashica Electro 35 GSN

Let’s talk about the Yashica Electro from Baltimore’s Craigslist.

I received this camera early in my collecting phase.  I barely knew what I was doing initially.  Now I check out cameras much better than I did initially.

Over time I learned what this camera needed.

  1. Camera seals.  As many of you know, the foam inside a camera used to prevent light leakage degrades and crumbles over time.  In this Craigslist Yashica Electro, the seller did replace the seals.  I did notice that it didn’t close easily and in some cases the plastic foam used for sealing wasn’t cut well to fit certain locations.  It wasn’t a great repair job.  I wondered, will it hold?
  2. Batteries.  The original battery for the Yashica Electro was a mercury battery.  They don’t make them anymore.  If you want your Electro’s light meter to work, then you need to make your own or visit Yashica Guy for his Yashica Guy Pro Adapter for your camera.  I purchased my adapter from Yashica Guy and it works just fine.

After purchasing batteries for this camera I was able to check out its shutter speeds.  Remember, it’s aperture priority:  set the aperture, the camera sets the shutter speed.  And this only works with the correct batteries and/or adapter.  The shutter speeds were fine.

So the seller did the light seals and I purchased the Yashica Guy Pro Adapter for the light meter.

My first 24 exposures with the Yashica Electro 35 GSN

My first 24 exposures with the Baltimore Electro 35 weren’t very good.  I think many of the photos were taken when it was bright and it overexposed the photos.  If I had to guess, I’d say that it was photographer error or a 40 year old light meter.

I suspect many of the photos were taken at wide apertures, which was an old habit of mine.  Now I thoughtfully decide on the aperture of each photograph before I take it.

Here’s an overexposed photo from my first roll.  A kitchen in daylight caused this overexposure.

Yashica Electro GSN, Overexosure in a Kitchen by daylight

Yashica Electro GSN, Overexosure in a Kitchen by daylight

This second photo hints at the capability of the Yashica Electro.  It’s not exciting as photos go but it’s taken at dusk on a Chicago street.  Seems like the Yashica Electro likes taking photographs in low light.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Northwest Highway in Chicago, IL, at Dusk

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Northwest Highway in Chicago, IL, at Dusk

An Evening Stroll with my Yashica Electro 35 GSN

A few weeks ago, I was at home after sunset thinking about taking a summer evening walk near Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL.  Naturally, I thought about taking along a 35mm film camera.

Then I remembered I had never given my Yashica Electro 35 GSN a chance to do what it does well:  night photography.

So you can read another blog post about Yashica Electro night photography and learn from my mistakes and successes.  The basketball courts were empty at 10 PM this summer night.  By the way, it was pretty dark when I took this picture, much darker than it appears.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL - Empty Basketball Courts

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL – Empty Basketball Courts

Do I like the Yashica Electro 35 GSN?

Some friends you don’t like immediately.  You need to get to know them, their strengths and weaknesses.  For me, the Yashica Electro has been like that.

But we’re becoming better and better friends.

If taking photos in low light, I think I’ll be reaching for my Yashica Electro 35 GSN more often.

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