Yashica Electro 35 GSN

Classic Fixed Lens Rangefinders:

Yashica RF history: Yashica Lynx 1000 - 5000 - 14 - 14e; Electro 35 - G - GS/GT - GSN/GTN; Electro GL - GX - MG1

Yashica Electro 35 GSN

by Karen Nakamura

Overview and Personal Comments

The Yashica Electro 35 GSN is a coupled-rangefinder, leaf-shuttered 35mm camera with aperture-priority automatic exposure. It retailed in 1973 for ¥29,500. The exchange rate was approx ¥292/US$1in 1975 so that comes out to US$119. Taking inflation into account with the AIER calculator, that's $400 in 2002 dollars. By the end of the model run in 1980, the yen-dollar rate had plummeted to about ¥200/$ but inflation in the U.S. intervened which made it $175 in 1980 or $381 in 2002 dollars. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

The Electro 35 GSN was released in 1973 by Yashica. The serial number of my first body is #H6913xx and it has a "Made in Hong Kong" stamped on the bottom. The lens is a Color-Yashinon DX 1:1.7 f=45mm lens made in Japan. The lens on the camera really sparkles and is excellent in low-light.

I purchased my GSN in excellent condition on eBay for $175 in October of 2001. I then found one at an antique store in early January 2003 and compulsively bought it as a backup. If that wasn't bad enough, I bought a third one in late January 2003 as part of a lot with a Yashica Lynx and Electro GX that I wanted.

The Yashica GSN traces its lineage to the Yashica Lynx of 1960 (actually the Yashica 35 of 1958 is earlier, but the family resemblance is further). With the Electro 35 in 1968, the series added the new Copal-Electro shutter, which was electromagnetically controlled. The GSN is the last of the large bodied Electro series. There was a series of compact bodied Electros - the GL, GX, and ML1- but these were relatively short lived. Only the GSN enjoyed the tremendously long run of 17 years. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.




Interesting quirks

The Copal leaf shutter is entirely stepless from 1/500 to about 30 seconds. The camera is aperture-priority -- that is, you set the aperture from f/1.7 to f/16 and the camera will choose the shutter speed from 1/500 sec to 30 seconds automatically for you. It does not use through-the-lens (TTL) metering, the CdS cell is located to the right of the rangefinder, but it still does a great job. With negative film, I rarely have any imperfect exposures.

Because it's a leaf shutter (the shutter diaphragm is located inside the lens unit rather than at the rear of the camera), the Yashica has all the benefits of leaf shutters:

  • Very quiet. The Yashica gives only an inaudible "click." Much quieter than even a Leica M6 or M7 (I know, I own an M7). Because the shutter timer is electromechanical, there is no whirring during long (> 1 sec.) exposures. Just a near silent click as the diaphragm opens and then a second one when it closes.
  • Very stable. Diaphragm shutters have much less inertial mass than a focal plane shutter. And with leaf shutters, the inertial mass is centripetal, so it has no net effect on the entire camera body, thus transferring very little vibration to the camera. With a focal plane shutter, the intertial movement is unilinear and (think Newton's Law) it causes the camera to jerk slightly sideways (horizontal shutter) or vertically (vertical travel shutter).
  • Can flash sync at all speeds - even the maximum shutter speed of 1/500 sec. This is great for daylight sync photos.

If you're curious, the disadvantages of leaf shutters is:

  • The maximum shutter speed is usually 1/500 sec. Compare this to 1/1000 sec for horizontal travel shutters (e.g. Leica) and up to 1/8000 sec for vertical travel (all contemporary SLRs, etc.).
  • Diaphragm leaf shutters are complex and building one into each lens is prohibitively expensive. The shutter units are large. Thus, the only current interchangeable lens cameras with leaf shutters are medium and large format (Mamiyas, Hasselblads, etc.). The Voigtlander Bessamatics and Kodak Retina IIIC/Reflexes had interchangeable lenses, but the leaf shutter design limited the maximum aperture of the lenses.

But for fixed-lens rangefinders, leaf shutters are perfect.

The rangefinder on the GSN is not only fully coupled (i.e., focusing the rangefinder focuses the lens) but it also has built-in parallax compensation. The common problem with rangefinders is that they aren't fully What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get because of the small amount of parallax difference between the rangefinder window and the taking lens. With the Yashica, as you focus closer, the viewfinder gridlines actually move to compensate for the amount of parallax. This is important when taking headshots or pictures of found objects. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.


GSNs take one 5.6v PX32 mercury battery, unfortunately these have been discontinued as have their PX32A alkaline counterparts. Fortunately, you can use a 6v PX28A (aka 4LR44) alkaline battery which is readily available at any Walgreens or Radio Shack. The Yashicas can handle the slightly higher voltage without any difficulty. The smaller PX28As last about a year of heavy use in my experience. The GSNs have a built in battery check feature which is very handy.

To the right, you can see the size difference between the PX28 and PX32. The spring that makes up the difference can be bought at any hardware store. I wrap the PX28 in a small cardboard tube (cut from a cereal box) to make up the diameter difference, put the PX28 in the camera, then follow with the spring to make up the difference in length. The camera handles the slight difference in voltage. More details are at Matt Denton's page.

Please note that I have noticed some unscrupulous vendors on eBay and MercardoLibre are plagiarizing this page. If you notice this page on eBay under anything except my eBay ID (nasukaren), please notify me and I will have eBay cancel the plagiarizer's account. It's plain fraud as they are not selling the cameras pictured (obviously since it's my camera).


Yashica GSN Gallery

This photo was taken 2002.11 at a country auction in rural Minnesota with my original GSN (camera #1 above). The film used was Fuji Superia 200, not particularly noted for its fine grain. The camera was handheld and the aperture was f/2 or 2.8. As you can see, the GSN excels in handholdability and has very fine resolution even with the aperture close to wide open. The shutter speed must have been 1/30 or 1/15 as one of the figures exhibits motion blurring. Because there is no mirror, you can handhold the camera with much slower speeds than an SLR.

Color accuracy is good despite the ugly fluorescent lighting and the bokeh or out of focus highlights are creamy smooth. This is why I like this camera so much.


I enlarged a small portion of the photo. This would be the approximate equivalent of a 30cm x 45cm (13" x 19") enlargement. As you can see, the detail is incredible. You can make out the color of the individual spools in the spool case behind the auctioneer. I should reiterate that this is handheld! We're approaching the limits of the grain of the consumer grade film as well as the resolving power of my Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED scanner (I have infrared cleaning on medium, which also reduces resolution). For available light photography, the GSN can't be beat. It even beats other rangefinders such as Leica and its clones because their focal plane shutters cause more vibration and noise than the leaf shutter.



Broken GSN?

Many GSNs haven't been used in over two decades. So it should come to no surprise that if you find a bargain GSN in a flea market, that it may not work. But often this is just because the internal contacts have oxidized from inactivity. Despite the gold contacts (the G in GSN), dust and evaporated oil can prevent good connectivity. A little exercise can often fix them.

Put the batteries in, then turn the aperture ring back and forth, back and forth multiple times. Also many GSNs have a very strange shutter trigger where the meter only turns on sporadically when you're pushing the shutter down. Try pushing the shutter button down veeeeerrrrrryyy slowly and see if the meter turns on at any point (you'll hear it more than see it). Do this multiple times until the contacts have self-cleaned and the camera should be fine afterwards as long as you regularly use it.


Technical Details

Camera Name
Electro 35 GSN
Place of Manufacture

Body: Hong Kong
Lens: Japan

Date of Manufacture
1973.4 ~ 1987.1
Focusing System

Fully coupled rangefinder with built-in parallax compensation
Lens use helical focusing

Fixed Lens

45mm, f/1.7, Color-Yashinon lens (6 elements in 4 groups)
Minimum focusing distance = 0.8 meters (~2.6 feet)
Right focusing (infinity on right side)
55mm thread for filters, 57.5mm lens shade


Copal shutter 30 (?) secs - 1/500
B and "flash" settings
X-flash sync at all speeds
Self-timer on lens mount

Metering System

CdS cell mounted above next to rangefinder
Aperture priority electronic exposure

Lights on top of camera / rangefinder warn of under/over exposure conditions

EV ? - ? (at ISO 100)


f/1.7 - f/16


External hot-shoe +
PC cable connection

Film type / speeds

Type 135 film (35mm standard)
ASA 25 to 1000

Battery type

5.6v PX32 (battery check feature)
-compatible with 6V PX32A; or 6V PX28 alkaline, with 40c adaptor

Dimensions and weight
Retail price
Use of this chart, text, or any photographs in an eBay auction without permission will result in an immediate IP violation claim with eBay VeRO. Violators may have their eBay account cancelled.

Auxiliary Lens
Wide-Angle Lens Telephoto Lens
Place of Manufacture
Date of Manufacture
¿¿¿¿¿¿ 1973 ~ 1987 ???
Focusing System

Focus using GSN rangefinder, then use distance conversion table on lens mount to convert actual distance to focusing distance.


55mm screw-in lens mount (direct to GSN)
72mm screw-in filter mount

Lens Construction

37.7 mm effective focal length (0.8x)
AoV = 61°

2 elements in two groups
f/4 effective aperture

58.4 mm effective focal length (1.3x)
AoV = 40°

3 elements in three groups
f/4 effective aperture

Copyright © 2005 Karen Nakamura / Photoethnography.com. Use of this chart, text, or any photographs in an eBay auction without permission will result in an immediate IP violation claim with eBay VeRO. Violators may have their eBay account cancelled.


About Yashica/Kyocera/Contax

The Yashica Corporation began making cameras in 1957, releasing its first model in 1958 (the Yashica 35). They produced a very well regarded series of twin-lens-reflex (TLR) medium format cameras under the Yashica-Mat brand and 35mm rangefinders under the Yashica Electro name. Yashica became a subsidiary of the Kyocera Corporation in October of 1983. For the next two decades, Kyocera continued to produce film cameras under the Contax marquee, including a very nice 35mm Contax SLR series (which used Zeiss lenses), a medium format system, and the Contax G1/G2 rangefinders (also with Zeiss glass).The Yashica name was only used for a small series of dental cameras and point and shoots. In March of 2005, Kyocera announced that it would cease production and sales of film and digital cameras under the Contax marquee. Thus ends 30 years of a wonderful camera line. The Contax name will most probably revert back to the Zeiss foundation, thus who knows what will happen in the future. Right now, the name "Yashica" appears to have been bought by a Chinese company for their inexpensive digital cameras.

On the Net





HI,.. My Father have this camera..still work good huhuhu

I have two of these,including the auxilary lenses, and use them regularly. Results are as good as my Nikon F3.

My best friend had an Electro 35 when we were in middle school, and he let me use it from time-to-time. I'm absolutely amazed at how popular these cameras still are. I'll grant you that it takes great pictures, has great optics and a nice, bright range/viewfinder - but the camera doesn't do a whole lot without the proper battery.

Now, the next time I find a clean, cheap Electro 35 (and there are a lot of them out there), I'll probably pick one up. But, I'd say that there are other options out there that can achieve the same results and give you more control over your exposures - you just have to be willing to do things the old-fashioned way.

My example might be my Minolta Hi-Matic 7S used along with a modern hand-held light meter, like the Sekonic Twinmate. You can change both the shutter speeds and the lens apertures manually on the Minolta, which you can't do with the Electro 35.

It's really a shame that more folks haven't had the experience of shooting with a rangefinder camera with a nice, bright finder. The lack of WYSIWIG aside, there's a lot to be said for them. In any event, my thought is that if you want to use and older camera, you must be prepared to take your time.

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