One of my favorite things about being an avid film shooter is the unending plethora of old, really good cameras available- for often not much more than a song- that all impart their own unique character to the image. Decades and decades worth of camera manufacturing precede the last 15 years of commercially available digital cameras, each with their own lens constructing, quirks and perks that either limited them or made them special. There’s some real gems to be found. One of my favorite ways to do find new cameras is through Flickr. In fact, I do a lot of camera researching and Flickr is always part of the process, sometimes at the beginning and usually somewhere in the middle, when I need to see what images a certain camera is capable of producing. (I’m quite the nerd when it comes to this stuff.) It’s become a very exciting thing for me, when I get my hands on a “new” piece of gear that I can shoot - the results are far more unpredictable than in the digital realm, but unpredictable in a positive way - there’s usually a surprise lurking around the corner for how sharp an old rangefinder is going to be, or what kind of colors a certain lens is going to produce.
I say all this to say that I’m going to start shooting a new camera today, and I’m quietly beside myself with excitement. Yesterday, in a rush of frustration with my Rollei SL35 (which I believe may be suffering the dreaded Pad Of Death™) I began tinkering with a DOA Yashica Electro 35 GT I won on ebay a few months ago. I had prepared for its arrival by purchasing a battery conversion kit - the original battery isn’t produced anymore - and buying up some Kodak Ektar 100, only to find the camera not powering on. You can shoot with the camera with no battery, but it won’t meter, and since the shutter is electronically controlled, it will only shoot at 1/500 second. I sat it on the shelf at the studio, disappointed, but happy I could at least shoot the Rollei. Ha.
Long story short, another Yashica Electro found its way into the studio, a black & silver GSN model, and so I had the brilliant idea to switch battery door on the cameras just to make sure it wasn’t a contacts issue with the GT. The GT’s compartment door had been very oxidized when I first received it, and though I tried to clean it pretty thoroughly, I wasn’t convinced.
The GT’s metering is weird - it only tells you if the shutter will be slow or the shot will be over exposed, via two arrows visible in the viewfinder, and a set of SLOW and OVER led indicators on the top of the camera. It’s an aperture priority only camera, meaning you set the aperture and the camera electronically sets the shutter speed (in a range of 30 seconds to 1/500 second) to properly expose the film. I’ve actually only shot fully-automatic rangefinders so far, so this might take a little getting used to. Since the max shutter speed is so low, shooting wide open with even ISO100 film any time during a sunny day will probably result in overexposed shots, so I’ll have to be mindful of that. (Those limitations I was talking about.) The lens - a 45mm Yashinon DX ƒ1.7 - is pretty legendary for the images people have been able to produce with it, considering the cost. It’s super sharp, super contrasty, and has a pleasing-enough out of focus blur at wider apertures. Super excited to shoot through it.
Aside from the common occurence of failed electronics in these cameras, it’s a well built, sturdy, handsome piece of equipment. Feels like it was built yesterday, even though these were being produced in the early 1970s.