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Yashica Electro 35 GSN

by M. Feuerbacher 2003

The design of the Yashica Electro GSN essentially goes back to the first Electro 35 rangefinder released in 1965 and was not changed until the end of the production of the GSN in 1987. Its size is comparable to that of the Konica Auto S2 and the elder Minolta Hi-Matic models 7S, 9, and 11. The camera looks attractive and seems very well built. It has a fast 1:1.7 45mm lens. There is a similar black finished model called Electro 35 GTN. For a brief history of the Yashica Electro 35 series see the article on the Electro 35; see also my comments on the Electro 35 GT.

Frequently quoted advantages of these cameras are the outstandingly sharp lens (see e.g. the commented sample picture of Karen Nakamura), the quiet copal shutter, which allows for free-hand exposure down to a 1/8 sec (or even below). All Yashica Electro rangefinders operate in a semi-automatic aperture priority mode (the user sets the aperture, the camera chooses the appropriate exposure time).

A disadvantage is that the exposure time is not shown in the viewfinder. The only information the camera provides is a yellow or red arrow (in the viewfinder) and light (on the top cover), which indicate overexposures (<1/500 sec) and times longer than 1/30 sec, respectively. Hence, you do not really have control over the exposure parameters. Furthermore, there is no exposure lock. The photographer can only take influence via the film-speed setting.

Nevertheless the exposure results are surprisingly good. The meter, located next to the viewfinder window, seems to be so well balanced that highly satisfying results are possible.

Then there is the battery problem - the Yashica Electro 35 rangefinders take PX 32 mercury batteries, which are no longer available today. You can help yourself using four 1.5 V LR44 silver cells (or a 6V 4LR44) and a handmade adapter (a rolled piece of a cardboard and crumpled aluminum foil will do) to fit these into the large battery compartment. The camera will properly work at any voltage between 4.6 and 6.5 V.

Accessories available for the Electro 35 cameras were a close-up adaptor and a set of conversion lenses. The Yashikor Aux Telephoto and Wide converters are screwed into the 55 mm front lens thread and change the focal length to ** or 38 mm respectively. Their use is, however, rather inconvenient since you have to transfer the distance-scale reading according to a table on the barrel of the converter lens. Focusing is done through the normal finder and framing through an extra "tele-wide finder" to be positioned in the accessory shoe. All in all a very impractical procedure (not even mentioning the bulky appearance of the camera with mounted aux lens).

The Yashica Electro cameras have, due to their age, a problem with the coupling of the primary and secondary shutter release mechanism. See my repair page.