Rangefinder

Trying (And Failing) to Fix a Yashica Electro 35

So it goes. You push yourself a bit beyond the comfortable, but sometimes it’s a bit too far.

That was the case with my Yashica Electro 35 GS rangefinder, an eBay pickup that I thought would be a fun dip into the camera repair pool. I got it for a great price, not knowing what was wrong with it. But the idea of a fixer-upper appeals to me, after all the work I did repairing and upgrading my Macs and Newtons over the years.

So I bought a Yashica thinking it would be DIY project, like the old days.

Looking around online, there’s tons of resources available for these Electros: custom-made battery holders, step-by-steps for taking it apart, the Pad of Death replacements.

None of those resources, however, helped me with the basic problem: fear. Or at least nervousness.

You see, digging into one of these rangefinders feels like taking apart a mechanical watch. These are delicate instruments, with tiny screws and interlocking parts that are engineered within a millimeter of precision.

It’s different that opening up a PowerPC-era Mac and swapping out the RAM. With those, there was plenty of room to work in.

The problems with these older Yashicas, though, are often solved with a soldering gun and precision screwdrivers. The old batteries leak, the wires become corroded, the shutter doesn’t fire. All that information is out there.

Mine? It seemed to be an electrical issue, because the battery check light didn’t come on, even after a fresh battery. There was a bit of leakage from an old expired battery, but nothing too messy. I cleaned the battery compartment, cleaned the contacts, took the bottom plate off to make sure everything looked fine. Nothing.

Then I moved into the top plate, to see what the wiring situation looked like. Sure enough, there were two white wires, one connected to the battery compartment and another from who knows where, hanging loose. To get to the battery wire, I’d have to take a lot of the view finder apart. The other? Who knows.

Eventually, I got to feel like one wrong move and I’ve ruined the darned thing.

So after buying a specialty screwdriver, ordering the custom battery thingy, and taking a look inside, I can reasonably say I have no interest in pursuing this repair further. My comfort level only goes so far.

The good news is that the camera shutter still fires at 1/500, so with a bit of math and some 400 speed film, I can get a good exposure using the Sunny 16 Rule. I loaded a roll of Lomo 400 just for testing, to see what the limits are.

My limits? I think I just found them, thanks to this little Yashica.