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How I Resurrected A 50-Year Old Film Camera, And Discovered Its Beauty

I repair things. As I am also actively doing photography, I have repaired some cameras in the past years – but a friend recently brought me a beautiful, and somewhat unique vintage film camera, which I wondered about.

Yashica Electro 35 was the world’s first fully automatic camera, which was announced in 1968, and it was like something from the future. Some of its features :

– fully automatic shutter speed selection, depending on film sensitivity (ISO), aperture, and light metering (!), which nowadays we call “Aperture priority mode”;

– under/over-exposition notifier lights on the camera, and in the viewfinder (based on light metering…);

– rangefinder, coupled to focus ring on the lens;

– the metering began working with half-pressed shutter button (as the autofocus on nowadays cameras!);

– full electronic control;

– 45mm/f1.7 optics (common in those days);

– self-timer.

This particular camera came from the early ’70s. This is the GS version of Electro 35, capable to light metering up to ISO1600. When I got the camera, it had the following issues :

– rangefinder badly aligned, and not moving;

– the electric system not working.

The repair wasn’t so hard, I had to re-solder some wires on the battery bay, and lubricate the lever moved by focus ring under the rangefinder. Then a draft alignment of the rangefinder was taking some hours (owner said that he will do the fine tune). The goal was not to fully restore the device to a new state, but only to get it to work.

Which was strange for the first time, was that the mechanics were perfect, but the wiring and soldering were not that we see on nowadays Japanese products. But I won’t say it’s bad, as it survived almost 50 years!

After this, I put the parts together to take some photographs of this perfectly designed classic camera. Looks it can work for another 50 years…

More info: flickr.com

99% complete

The lamps on the top

Everything made from shiny metal

The film counter and the light meter (the mask closes as you lower the ISO…)

Film counter, ISO dial and light meter

Wiring for the light meter and the lamps

The rangefinder

From above, opened

Mechanics at the bottom

Look through the rangefinder (the yellow circle is the focus area)