Better focussing than a Yashica Electro 35

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Abdul Tom, Aug 11, 2004.

  1. Abdul Tom

    Abdul Tom Guest


    Wanting to try a "proper"-ish camera a couple of years ago I bought a
    Yashica Electro 35 for GBP 30. I'd previously been using an XA2 but
    was frustrated with too many shots being out of focus due to the guess
    focus system (the XA2 does not have the coupled rangefinder).

    Lots of things about the Electro 35 are great, esp. the fast lens (I
    don't think I've ever used a flash with it). However, things that
    aren't great are the size, weight and most of all I find the
    focus-system very fiddly. It's hard to see the two images in the fuzzy
    blur in the middle of the lens, and often I need to search for a
    vertical edge to focus on. Low light focussing is particularly hard,
    annoying since low light photography is one of the camera's strengths.

    I recently bought a Minilux for a song, but aside from the fact that
    it broke after 11 shots I actually found it slower than using a fully
    manual camera (EV compensation in 0.5 sec with a flick of the ASA
    dial, no flash to have to switch off constantly)

    Short of going AF (Konica Hexar AF, Minilux, Contax G series etc.),
    can anyone recommend a cheap-ish rangefinder, preferably with some
    automation (ideally aperture priority) and a decent lens that has a
    better focus-system? Sadly I'm not in the economic bracket of a Hexar
    RF and am scared by the fully manual nature of the Voigtlanders.

    I was considering a Konica Auto S3. Any other suggestions?


    Abdul Tom, Aug 11, 2004
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  2. The Electro 35 was a very easy to focus camera. My guess is yours may
    need a little cleaning. Another possibility could be your limitations. A
    slight eye problem could make it difficult for you to use.

    Most SLR use a through the lens system. That has both good and bad
    points. You are likely to find a coarse prism center focus the easiest to
    focus as long as you are using a fast lens in reasonable light.

    You might also like an auto focus camera. Most of the time they do a
    great job.

    No mater what kind of focus you decide on, the final test should be a
    real try out of the specific camera you are interested in. No one else can
    really tell you what a camera is going to feel like or focus like in your
    Joseph Meehan, Aug 11, 2004
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  3. Abdul Tom

    Bandicoot Guest

    The Konica S3 does have a nice focusing system - similar to the Yashica but
    a slightly brighter viewfinder. It's another auto camera (shutter priority)
    but with manual ISO setting you have compensation available. It also has
    exposure ock with a half press of the shutter, which is useful.

    However, the S3's focusing isn't radically different from your Yashica, just
    a bit brighter. Since you say the focus spot you see is a bit fuzzy, I'd
    guess at one of two problems:

    1. You may be short or long sighted (I'm short sighted) and not seeing the
    image as well as you would otherwise. If this is so, you really want a
    camera where you can attach a corrective dioptre lens to the viewfinder.
    Not sure if you can do this on the Yashica, but I think probabky not, and I
    think not on the S3 as well.

    2. The viewfinder, and particularly the rangefinder prism, needs cleaning.
    Unless you know you have long or short sight, in whihc case check that out
    first, I think this is the more likely answer. The Yashica's focusing is
    normally pretty good, and if it looks fuzzy then I think a clean is in
    order - this can transfor these cameras. If you know what you're doing you
    can do it yourself, but personally I wouldn't. In the UK, Colchester camera
    repair has a good reputation for this sort of work.

    There are several other nice rangefinder cameras with fixed fast lenses,
    some with better, some with not so good viewfinders, so there's a lot you
    could look at. But none has what I'd call a 'fuzzy' RF patch, so I'd check
    out the above before deciding to ditch your Yashica - which, after all, does
    have a nice lens.

    Bandicoot, Aug 11, 2004
  4. Not only cleaning, but I have seen a number (not just Electro 35s) that
    are not aligned properly, usually do to shock damage over time. While they
    focus left and right, they may be out of alignment, up and down, which will
    make them look fuzzy.
    Joseph Meehan, Aug 11, 2004
  5. Abdul Tom

    Gordon Moat Guest

    I have a couple Yashica Electro GT rangefinders. Definitely they are a
    bit on the large and heavy side of "compact" rangefinders. I have
    refurbished both of mine, so I have no focus issues like you have, though
    unfortunately it is not really that simple to improve the focusing
    (basically returning it is as new operating condition).
    Okay, actually the biggest problem you will run into with all the 1970s
    era rangefinders is that they have likely gathered up enough internal
    dirt to make the rangefinder not at all bright. The only fix is to really
    just clean up the entire rangefinder mechanism. Cleaning might also move
    some adjustments, meaning a recalibration might be in order. If you are
    somewhat mechanically inclined, you can do this yourself with some simple
    and cheap tools. If you don't want to pull a camera apart, then you could
    try Mark Hama for the Yashica, or some other specialists for different
    Basically the same issues as the Yashica you already have, if the camera
    is not really clean, then the rangefinder will be a bit dim. All these
    cameras were made at a low price point, and are not sealed well against
    the elements. Without an internal cleaning and some adjustments, it would
    take some luck to find one clean enough to give a contrasty rangefinder
    Both the Electro GT rangefinders I have are also modified. What I did was
    added some internal foam to block all stray light within the viewfinder.
    The modifications involved removing the top of the camera, which also
    meant a readjustment of the rangefinder. The benefit was that the
    rangefinder spot is very contrasty, though obviously still not as good as
    a modern rangefinder, nor as a Leica.

    You could consider getting a Voigtländer. The Bessa-T and Bessa-R are
    available from a few places with a good discount currently. The light
    meter on the back is fairly easy to learn to use, and if you shoot
    negative film is not a problem to be a little off. Obviously, if you
    shoot transparency film (slides), then you would want to be more careful
    of the meter reading.

    Outside of that, more modern rangefinders with some exposure automation
    and real manual focusing are not cheap. The Leica M7, Hasselblad XPan,
    Konica Hexar RF, Bronica RF645, and Mamiya 7 II are the main choices.
    While the Contax G2 allows manual focus, it works more as an indicator
    through the autofocus system, and not with a rangefinder patch. If you
    are not familiar with the Bronica or Mamiya, those are medium format
    cameras, sometimes available at good used prices.

    Best of luck, and I hope you find something within your budget.

    Gordon Moat, Aug 11, 2004
  6. Abdul Tom

    Abdul Tom Guest

    Thanks so much for this info. What a useful set of responses. It
    really sounds like I need to clean the rangefinder and maybe realign
    it as well. I'll check the Yashica guy site and if it looks to much
    I'll seek the help of the professionals.

    However, now the purchase lust is upon me I fear it won't stop me
    buying a Hexar AF/G1/T2.
    Abdul Tom, Aug 13, 2004
  7. Abdul Tom

    Gordon Moat Guest

    Glad to be of help. If you really want to try a dismantle, I found a
    site with several images that might help a bit. The tear down is more
    extensive than what you might need, though I found the images helpful
    when working on mine. While not exactly the same Yashica, this one
    should be very similar to yours:

    The newer gear is nice. One thing to consider is that the Yashica 45 mm
    f1.7 is a really nice lens. It is almost a shame that the lens cannot be
    removed to mount on another camera. I have also worked with one of my
    Yashica GT rangefinders on location, with very nice results that both
    the client and I felt worthy of use.

    After looking at many different rangefinder systems, and even
    considering getting a newer used model Leica M4-2, I think I have
    finally found a direction. Currently, I am saving for a Hasselblad XPan.
    While I would hate to tempt you in that direction, it is another
    interesting consideration for the future. Unfortunately, even a used
    example in good condition is around $1000.

    Best of luck with the Yashica clean-up. If you would like details of my
    light block and additional foam placement, let me know. I added some
    foam to the inside of the top cover to block any stray light, and the
    rangefinder is much better than stock.

    Gordon Moat, Aug 13, 2004
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