The Yashica Electro 35 is a magnificently amazing camera only if you know how to work your way around it. Its cheap, has a amazing glass and is intensely sexy (specially the black version GTN).
When you pick up the Electro, you can actually feel its weight, the metal body pulls you down and it feels like a brick. Quite heavy but then when you take off its leather covers, you realize that it beats any camera you might have seen before because its just so beautiful. The Electro’s all metal chrome body (GSN) and the black matte body (GTN, this one is more rare to find) look better than any Canon or Nikon which you might ever hold. It has a character, a emotive reaction which is not matched by any other camera. This is the feeling of True Love.
It comes with a fixed lens 45mm f1.7 (to f16) Yashinon lens. Its quite fast and works like a normal lens on any SLR. At 1.7 its a little soft but it really makes a impression at 2.8 churning out crystal clear images. Because its a rangefinder, it works on a parallax focusing system, where you need to match the image inside the viewfinder to focus on a object / subject. This is a little bit of a issue when you’re working in low light because you loose sight of the image in the viewfinder and it ends up focusing someplace else. There are ways to get around it, like you could use the distance marks on the lens, focusing at a distance from 3ft to 80ft or use a hack where the viewfinder is taped with a black tinted paper to help you focus. But the best would be that you learn and guess the distance when shooting. This issue is not there when shooting in daylight, usually you can push the camera to f8 and almost everything will be in focus.
Electro uses a Mercury battery which is no more in production. But there is a alternative. You could spring load 4 LR44 batteries to do the work or instead if you’re in India, buy old stock of batteries (yes, we still have them and they work!!!) which cost about 5$ a piece. That will turn on the meter which basically tells you only if your picture is OK, Under or Over. There is no pure manual mode, all work is done in Av or aperture priority. There are of course ways to hack this too, by setting your ISO over or under to get the kind of tones you like.
The camera performs great in a crowd or in street photography because of its design. It uses a copal leaf shutter which makes no sound at all so there will be no “kacheek” when you’re shooting in public. Also there are no moving mirrors so you don’t loose a moment to the mirror movement like in a SLR. The viewfinder is on one side of the camera so you can have one eye in the camera and another on the lookout so you end up having a greater field of view than a usual SLR. All in all, the design is better than a SLR any day, just it needs a auto focus to make life simpler.
The shutter speed maxes out to 1/500 at normal settings and at about 30 seconds in B mode. This is sometimes a issue. For example, if you’re shooting in low light, in a SLR, you know that your shutter speed is coming to (for example) 2". Now you brace yourself and stand steady for two seconds. But here the shutter speed could be 5" but you’d never know, all you’d see is the Red arrow pointing to underexpose, meaning the camera is going to make a long exposure. And you could be standing, waiting for the shutter to close for a long time. This sometimes is a issue because your subject might move, you might move, the world might move and all that. So in low light, you have to carry a tripod, there is no way out. The flash (if you use one) automatically syncs at all speeds, even at 1/500. So you’d have no issues with flash photography.
Price wise the camera was expensive when it got released but its not in the same range as a Bessa or a Leica. But if you were to pick up an Electro now, you can get one starting from $10 to a mint piece for $30 (I got mine for $30 each). What more could you want!
The final picture quality is great, specially when you consider that it uses a lower center weighted metering. So the tones are great, even in a backlit image, it works perfectly. But you need to remember that there is no Exposure Lock so if you more the camera, the metering changes according to it. This needs to be kept in mind specially when shooting in a little tricky lighting situations.
So concluding :
Pro’s > Great color reproduction, sharp lens, amazing body, flash sync at any speed, almost no shutter noise, smooth functioning and easy to maintain.
Con’s > Heavy, no shutter speed information, hard to focus in low light, max ISO film only 1000, max shutter speed only 1/500, older pieces are prone to light leaks (you’d need to maintain them by putting in new light seals)
AND Tips >> Never cock the shutter unless you are sure you want to shoot. You cock the shutter and the metering turns on, if you don’t shoot, the Electro will go crazy metering everything and eat through your battery like a chubby kid goes trough a big mac. So remember no shutter cock unless you’re sure to shoot.