In my little camera bag No. 3: Yashica Electro 35 GSN

Yashica Electro 35 GSN
A front view of the Yashica Electro 35 GSN, the latest addition to my little camera bag. (Daniel J. Schneider)

This week’s installment is a tiny bit late, but it’s for a good reason! Today I added a new camera to my bag: The Yashica Electro 35 GSN rangefinder camera.

It’s not new to me, but it’s coming off the shelf for the first time. Why? Because of the battery — a 5.6V (you guessed it) mercury battery. Not even replaceable with a Wein zinc-air battery.

But today a battery adapter arrived in the mail from Yashica Guy. It’s basically just a terminal extender with a big of plastic tubing that fits over a 4LR44 6V alkaline battery. The extender fixes the issues of the shorter height of the 4LR44, and the tubing fills the rest of the missing diameter.

Following Yashica Guy J.M. Wolff’s instructions, the adapter slipped right into place and the camera came to life for the first time! It fits perfectly and doesn’t rattle at all.

Quick rundown

I’ll write up the Electro 35 in full later, but here’s a few quick details.

It’s a rangefinder camera, called a “poor-man’s Leica” by some, with a 45mm f/1.7 lens that’s set up with 6 elements in 5 groups like most SLR lenses. It maintains a leaf shutter, though. The aperture has five blades and operates quite smoothly.

Yashica sold millions of Electro 35s in the 1960s and 1970s. The GSN model was made from 1973-1977, and the designation indicates three things — it has a chrome finish (black was also available), ASA settings in the range of 25-1,000 (earlier models went from 12-500), and it has a hot shoe (it used to be cold).

The Electro 35 has only three shutter settings — bulb, auto and flash. The auto-exposure system sets the shutter from 1/500 sec. to 30 sec., though the longest setting is limited by the aperture. At f/1.7 it won’t go longer than 3 seconds, for example.

The omission of any manual shutter settings means the aperture and ASA range are the only options you have to manually adjust the exposure, and mean that without a working battery, the camera is mostly useless.

Final notes

This week there is one more tiny addition to the bag. I sometimes take notes, though not terribly often, about my settings as I make frames. I also make efforts to get names and other cutline information sometimes, depending on what I’m shooting.

Sadly, the Domke F-5XB doesn’t quite have enough room anywhere for a standard reporter’s notebook. I tried wedging in a small Moleskine-knockoff notebook (about 6×4″) but it was a tight fit and made it hard to get the cameras in and out. Kind of defeated the purpose of a camera bag.

So I invested in a very small Moleskine notebook — a black, ruled pocket-sized Volant (sold in sets of two). I like it so far as it fits in the shallow front pocket (which is closed by the front flap), though I was hoping for a ruled pocket reporter notebook and might try one of those next.

Meanwhile, I’ve still got the EE-Matic Deluxe in the bag for the last couple days of #BelieveinFilm’s Redscale month before Xpro Month starts on March 1. I’ll write more about that next week.

So I’m off to start making pictures with the Yashica Electro 35 GSN. I’ll certainly share the full story and example photographs eventually.

Yashica Guy battery adapter
The Yashica Guy battery adapter for the Electro 35, which arrived with a handy instruction sheet and a quick-start guide for the camera itself. (Daniel J. Schneider)