After thinking about my favorite type of camera – small, single lens, 35-45mm range – I loaded a roll of Agfa Vista 400 and hit the streets for a just-starting-to-feel-like-spring afternoon in Ann Arbor.
From loading to dropping film off at the camera store took less than an hour. I had 24-ish chances to capture something walking around an unfamiliar neighborhood. And I had 40mm to express what I saw, with a rangefinder focusing mechanism to express it.
I also had a serious limitation: the bright, sunny afternoon was killer when the Canonet’s highest shutter speed was 1/500. That, combined with a 400 ISO film speed, meant having to pull the ISO down a bit, or else the camera refused to take a photo. Chalk it up to one big learning experience.
The point is, I took the Canonet for a spin, and blew through a 24 exposure roll of film. That old saying about potato chips, that you can’t eat just one? Same rule applied to that roll of Agfa Vista. It was easy to just keep visually snacking.
I always love how the Phoblographer takes glamor shots of their cameras, usually with a rugged wooden table or canvas camera bag as the backdrop. So this weekend I took a leather jacket and tried to do the same with a bunch of my cameras, including this little Canon rangefinder.
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.
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.