photography

Yashica Electro 35 GSN Review

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Following up on my previous post about the Yashica Electro 35 GSN that I purchased, I’ve now had enough time to use the camera and write a full review.

The “Poor Man’s Leica”

The Yashica Electro 35 is a camera with a long history and many iterations. First developed in the 1960’s, it saw improvements across numerous successive models and has endured with a “classic” rangefinder look. It even made a cameo in one of the Spiderman movies!

The GSN is the final, and arguably most popular, iteration of the camera. It was the last one in the line and has the highest ISO range as well as a convenient hot shoe.

The Electro 35 has also garnered a quiet reputation as the “poor man’s Leica”, as a serviceable rangefinder camera that takes higher-than-average quality photos on a beer budget. I found this to be true, but more on that in a moment.

Build Quality and Feel

I lamented in my previous post about my run in with the original Electro that was beyond repair, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise since I found a GSN and ultimately it’s a better camera.

What you immediately notice when you pick up the Yashica Electro 35 GSN is that it isn’t small. This isn’t a dainty camera, and it’s basically on par with my Canon Ftb in size, although it’s definitely lighter. It’s a combination of metal and plastic, and hardly feels cheap, although strangely the fixed 45mm lens has a little play or “wobble” inside the chassis and that is a known “feature” of the camera?

Picture Quality

The Electro 35 GSN really excels in a number of areas. I took these photos in a nearby park to run a test roll (Fujifilm C200) through it. It was a bright but consistently overcast day, so the light was mostly even.

Not the most exciting photos, I know. But they illustrate some of this camera’s strengths.

Sharpness

That Yashinon 45mm f1.7 lens is PIN SHARP. I had seen some impressive photos online, but to have all my photos come out this sharp when I had never actually used a rangefinder before (you line up a yellow “patch” to align a double-image) was impressive. It still doesn’t steal the crown from my Canon FD 50mm 1.4, but it’s more than adequate. When the lens is wide open you can get some decent, gentle, bokeh.

Exposure

The Electro nailed correct exposure on every frame of my test roll. Every. SINGLE. FRAME.

Keep in mind I had this CLA’d, but for a camera using late 60’s/early 70’s technology, it’s pretty impressive how accurate the things light meter is. It’s a simple system of red & yellow lights with corresponding arrows that appear in the large and bright viewfinder. Red is “overexposed” and Yellow is “underexposed” and you simply crank the aperture until the arrows disappear. This is an aperture priority camera, so it takes care of figuring out shutter speed for you.

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Ease of Use

Loading and unloading film is easy and pretty much identical to any standard film SLR. As I mentioned above, the Electro 35 is aperture priority so it takes a lot of guesswork out. You focus where you want, half-press your shutter to activate the meter, dial in your aperture and fire. A big reason I wanted one of these was to get away from my fully manual SLR’s. When I’m being a try-hard and want to tinker I have those available. When I don’t want to think, I grab a point & shoot or my Instax. This is a nice “bridge” camera that is a bit more flexible without killing all spontaneity by having to adjust for the entire triangle.

Drawbacks

Not without its faults, I’d warn everyone that any Electro 35 you find, GSN or otherwise, will probably be broken in some way. It has a number of parts that wear out including the “pad of death” which is a foam pad that renders the camera essentially useless when it goes. It also requires an adapter or jury-rigging for a battery. That said, it takes a pretty standard alkaline, which is better than mercury. I’d also say it doesn’t provide the level of control that an SLR does, so don’t think it will.

This camera wants to take good pictures.

It was designed as a mass market consumer camera, so I don’t expect I’ll be doing as much off-the-wall creative photography with it. But again, that’s not why I bought it. I wanted something that took consistent, high-quality film photos that had better sharpness, and nicer bokeh than a Point & Shoot.

Finally, and this is a TINY quibble, but it was engineered for right-handed people, and the non-centered viewfinder threw a southpaw like me off a bit. But I’ll get used to it.

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Conclusion

If you’re in the market to add a classic rangefinder to your camera collection, you could do much worse than the Yashica Electro 35 GSN. They’re plentiful and can be found in excellent cosmetic condition for $40 USD or less, which means you could get one gussied up with a CLA and still be under $100 to buy a roll of film and maybe a milkshake.

It’s not a conversation piece like a Leica, but it’s pretty enough that I got a few compliments from local photogs in the park that day, and the thing is a budget work horse. Overall I’d recommend it, and I look forward to getting more comfortable with mine and seeing what I can do with it.

 

photography

Yashica Electro 35 GSN

Happy New Year! I hope your 2020 is off to a great start.

I recently added a new member to the camera collection. I stumbled across this Yashica Electro 35 GSN at a thrift shop and purchased it for a very fair price (< $35) considering its condition.

I’m excited to add this classic rangefinder to my arsenal.

Poor Man’s Leica

I’ve seen the words “poor man’s Leica” more than a few times while researching this camera. I wanted a budget rangefinder, and had narrowed my search to either a Canonet Giii QL17 or some form of the Yashica Electro 35. Both garnered favorable reviews and create beautiful images despite their individual quirks & flaws.

Not My First Electro 35

In fact, I found an ORIGINAL Electro 35 (there are numerous iterations) last year at an estate sale in pristine cosmetic condition. I was extremely excited and bought it, only to discover it was marginally functional and beyond my capability to repair. Sadly, I sold it for parts or hopefully to someone more savvy than myself to resurrect.

After that disappointing venture, I was happy to run across this GSN which by most measures is the superior model. It has a hot shoe and higher max ISO rating among other things. Plus its prior owner had included a snap-on lens cap, the original hot shoe cover, and a nifty Vivitar UV filter.

While not pristine this GSN is still in excellent cosmetic condition for its age, and the fixed lens is flawless. Looks can be deceiving however, and it suffered from a common issue called the “Pad of Death” that eventually afflicts nearly every Yashica Electro. Luckily the Electro 35 is mostly mechanical with some old school electronics and is repairable.

Fixer Upper

After a night of research on YouTube, I resigned myself to the fact that it needed a CLA. I wasn’t willing to sell ANOTHER Electro 35, and I obtained this one for such a bargain that fixing this common problem was still within my budget. Plus, when you’re dealing with vintage equipment, cosmetics count. Internals can be replaced/repaired but sometimes body restoration is impractical. This particular GSN is still pretty at over five decades old.

I sent the camera to Mark David Horn who specializes in Yashica repairs (great guy!) and he performed a full CLA overhaul, plus sent me a battery adapter which is a bonus since the old mercury battery these took is no longer legally available (yet another endearing quality).

His work was excellent, and the camera returned flawless, looking and working like it was built yesterday.

Ready to Rangefind

I’m pumped to get out and start using my shiny “new” Yashica. The pics I’ve seen online from other Electro 35’s online are pin sharp with a pleasant bokeh effect at open apertures. Also, I wanted a film camera that has more control than a point&shoot but is a bit “quicker” than my SLR’s. I hope the Electro fits that bill and I plan to post a review once I’ve run a few rolls through it.

Thanks for reading!

announcement, article

2019 Blog Round-Up and Top Posts

cowboys riding horses

It’s been another great year in the weird little corner of the internet known as Suburban Syntax.

We got a fresh look and face lift just in time for Halloween. We started talking a little more about film photography along with our primary subject of writing. And last, but certainly not least, we got a LOT of brand new readers and followers! That might mean YOU!

First off, thank you to everyone who drops by and reads these posts, discusses them in the comments, and shares them around. “Suburban Syntax” isn’t something I do for financial gain (does anyone make money blogging these days?) so it’s seeing regular faces drop by and discuss posts that really keeps me coming back and updating it on the semi-regular. You rock, and I hope you stick around.

Adding Photography

Aftering purchasing and inheriting some film cameras this year, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the interest my posts about film photography have garnered. It’s definitely a niche art form at this point, which is re-growing after bottoming out in the early 2K’s. I’m by no means a great photographer, but it’s an extremely fun hobby to dabble in, and I’m happy to have cross-over with film photo readers – many of whom I’ve begun following to learn more about the craft and cool vintage equipment.

Top Posts

It’s always fun to run the numbers and see which posts were everyone’s favorites.

For 2019, here’s what everyone was reading

Kodak Gold 200 Film Discontinued?

My film folks were in effect. Maybe it was the click-bait-y ? I threw in the title, or the promise of an adventure through local Walgreen’s pharmacies, but this post BLEW UP. It was the best performer by far, ever when it posted a little later in the year.

How to Draft Short Stories

Hot on Kodak’s heels was this short guide on how to draft short stories. This one even got re-posted around the interwebs in a couple places, which was flattering. It’s nice to think that other people might take my advice when it comes to penning short fiction.

Thoughts on Self-Publishing in 2019

In 3rd place was my speculation/opinions on the changing landscape of self-publishing. Authors prefer you call it “Indie” now, but I am stubborn. Scouring a few articles from industry-types that are much more qualified than I am, it seems like a few of my predictions were correct, and things are definitely trending in a certain way. I’m very curious to see what the new decade brings in terms of author’s being able to get traction for their work through the self-publishing route.

What’s Ahead in 2020?

To close this out, I’d like to give a quick teaser on a few of the things I plan to focus on for the blog in 2020.

  • GUEST POSTS – I love guest posts (and guest posting!) so I am hoping to get some other writers in here to voice their opinions on writing and/or photography
  • NEWS POSTS – I make it a point to create “evergreen” content, but it seems like people enjoy the occasional timely “news” post too. I plan to tackle some of those with my own editorial spin on them
  • PHOTOS & REVIEWS – I’m going to continue expanding the photo-related postings where I can, but I’ve been VERY lax about book reviews. I’d like to get back in the saddle of reviewing books, and perhaps cameras and film too.

Thanks again to everyone who is my audience. I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season, and I look forward to an entering an exciting new decade with you in the  coming weeks!

-BLD

photography

Point And Shoot Film Camera Hype

Contax T2 35mm film camera

I was discussing film cameras with a photography friend this weekend, and the conversation of Point n’ Shoot cameras came up. While I love Point & Shoot Cameras, I think there is some serious hype going on that should be avoided, or that film photographers (especially new ones) need to be aware of.

The Hype Bubble

I won’t go into the details of Kendall Jenner’s Contax T2 and her effect on film photography, but I’ll start this post with a nod to it.

I harbor no resentment. In fact, I think it’s great when more people get into film because demand keeps production going and anything that keeps film alive is OK in my book.

My problem isn’t even with the prices of PnS cameras skyrocketing either. Because the Contax T2 is in fact, an excellent camera. My issue is with the overall value of the tool versus what people are now willing to pay for it.

A Camera By Any Other Name

Contax’s and Olympus MJU’s are excellent cameras. No doubt.

However, I came across a Youtube “influencer” yesterday who was using a Contax G-series in a video for FILM BEGINNERS. That is a problem in my mind.

I think beginners shouldn’t be given the impression that they need a $900 camera from the early 1990’s, or that those are the only option. It seems more and more people are grabbing them as status symbols. And that’s fine, if that is all you are looking for.

For someone who is just starting out with 35mm film and wants the simplicity of a Point and Shoot (though I’d argue an SLR like a Pentax or Minolta will teach you more) there are so many inexpensive alternatives that will produce nearly-as-good photos as something like a Contax. They might not look as cool, but they will work.

Mechanical Animals

I still firmly believe mechanical is the way to go with old cameras. They are sturdy and can be repaired in many cases.

Point and Shoot Cameras are often electronic, and if something malfunctions on them, you’ll have a hell of a time trying to find parts and a repair/service shop. This makes investing in an high-priced PnS camera a risky proposition.

The other thing to consider is that Point and Shoots are by their nature limited. Their convenience comes with trade offs. You can stuff them in your pocket, but they’ll never give you the control and flexibility of an SLR or even a rangefinder. Often that’s fine, but I think there is a kind of intangible “value cap” on what they are capable of. I personally go digital when it comes to PnS. I stick with SLR and Rangefinder for film.

If you want to get into film photography, $1000 could buy you multiple SLR’s, lenses, a rangefinder, and a couple of decent point and shoots. Plus lots of film!

It is What It is

This post may sound a bit rant-ish, and perhaps it is, but I’m not complaining for the sake of it. I feel the same way about beginners being exposed to Leica’s on the internet as teh defacto rangefinder.

To round things out, Here’s a quick list of questions to mull over before you purchase ANY camera:

  • What functions do I need it to perform?
  • Can it be easily repaired?
  • Is it within my budget?
  • Are there comparable cameras that provide the same quality at a lower cost?
  • Do a lot of people on Youtube and Instagram hype this camera up?

Those questions along with twenty minutes of research should set up anyone looking for a 35mm Point and Shoot Camera for success. Honestly, there are probably quite a few well-loved ones waiting at your local thrift store for $15 right now.

 

photography

Kodak Increases Film Prices in 2020

 kodak colorplus 200 film

Time to hoard some Kodak film!

If you read the film photography news or follow the film photography socials, you might have seen the big announcement that Kodak Alaris is raising prices on all film beginning January 1st, 2020.

The Bad News

While I’m no alarmist, and don’t mind a paying a little more, the word “significant” in a press release is somewhat concerning when talking about a price jump. Especially since this is for all of their film stocks.

I was curious and looked back at my last purchase of ColorPlus 200 in 2018. I paid roughly $17 for five rolls, and one year later they are averaging $35 for that same number. If Kodak really is discontinuing Gold 200, then I’m glad I snagged a bunch of it at Walgreen’s clearance, because Kodak ColorPlus 200 might become the cheapest consumer option at an increased price point. Fuji C200 (which is a great summer landscape stock!) has crept up too.

Since I want to get back into Black & White, and maybe even developing at home someday, I grabbed a pack of Kodak Tri-X 400 as well before it goes up. If the price increases truly are significant in 2020 I may start looking into Ilford HP5 since I’ve heard really good things about it.

The Good News

In the long run, it’s positive to see demand is high and film photography is “back”. This announcement, along with the increasing prices of film cameras, are a bummer on the wallet. However, I’d rather have film be more expensive than not available at all.

Kodak also stated that their supplier should show results of capacity increase by late 2020 and 2021. I’m hoping that means prices will settle back down in the long-term and it will result in a healthier, competitive market for film. Only time will tell…