This is the first in a series of posts about cameras I have known, loved and lost. I plan to look back at why I loved them (“Romantic Reverie”) and then why I ultimately sold or donated them (“In The Harsh Light”).
First up, the Yashica Electro 35GTN.
The Yashica Electro 35 GTN was hands down one of the, if not the, most handsome camera I have ever owned. The classic chrome versions are very elegant also, but for me, in black they were even more beautiful.
From the top looking down, all those magical numbers and dials – which three years ago would have had me utterly baffled and immensely intimidated – just added to the allure and mystique of the Electro.
It felt like a proper, old school camera, with a real heft, solid build, and that large 45mm f/1.7 hunk of glass at the front.
Even better, it took amongst my favourite photographs I’ve taken with any film camera, and the rendering and colours produced by the “Color-Yashinon” lens still delight me.
I chose the Electro 35GTN as my companion for a “one month one camera” project last summer and shot 10 consecutive rolls with it – vastly more than I’ve managed consecutively in any camera since – yielding many gems.
In The Harsh Light
Yes it was undeniable handsome and made wonderful pictures, but that’s not enough.
In practice the Electro was bulky, heavy and clumsy to carry around and use…
The aperture priority mode is fine – and I would prefer this to the shutter priority of many rangefinders of this era – though the lack of info on the shutter speed the camera is choosing can be frustrating.
Added to this, the over and under exposure warning lights were helpful to a point, but unfortunately the camera only lets you know if you’re under or over, not if exposure is ok. If you are within the acceptable exposure limits of the camera, it will of course take the photograph, but you have no visual indication.
What I ended up doing was setting the aperture fully open or fully stopped down, half pressing the shutter button to see the under or exposure light come on, then whilst keeping it half pressed, moving the aperture ring up or down until the light went out, which would mean I was confident I would get an acceptable exposure.
This did work, and the camera exposes very well, but I did find it a bit awkward (which the camera’s overall weight and bulk didn’t alleviate) and long winded. It seems to me an obvious oversight to not have included a simple green “OK” light to show you the exposure was within the limits of the camera, in additional to the yellow and red under/over lights.
Also, the rangefinder wasn’t great, for me. I was able to remove the glass and clean it, which made a significant difference, but I still struggled to focus much of the time. Compared to an SLR, I found it tricky to focus, and it quickly tired my eyes. I couldn’t shoot more than a roll of film without needing to rest my eyes.
These fairly major downsides, meant that for me the Electro 35GTN began gathering dust on my shelf, in preference to cameras that were ultimately easier and more enjoyable to use.
The images the Electro 35s are capable of are quite wonderful, and the colours and textures I love.
But, as I’ve found time and time again, for the kind of photographer I am, and for the reasons I photograph, the experience of using a camera is more important than the end results.
On the final outcome I’d likely give the Electro a 9/10. But for enjoyment of use it’d struggle to score about 5 or 6.
So, sadly, it had to go.