Yashica Electro Shutter Mod

We saw this picture on Flickr this morning and started getting really curious. The caption says that [Steffanhh1] modified the Yashica Electro Shutter camera to be fully manual. We’re not camera experts so we had to do a little research to see what was going on here. The Yashika Electro got its name due to how the shutter speed is controlled. You have two little LEDs that light up depending on which direction you need to turn the dial (based on ambient light?). [Steffanhh1] really wanted full control, so they hacked in a dial with a knot of resistors under it. The first test photographs are downloading developing, so we’ll have to wait to see the results.

20 thoughts on “Yashica Electro Shutter Mod

  1. Interesting idea, turning a nearly completely automatic camera into manual. Hope it turns out some nice photos.

    It’s hackaday, so the mandatory critique is: To go through all that work and only get full stops? Spring for a log taper potentiometer with some detents. ;-)

  2. @ M4CGYV3R

    Yes, many people still use film cameras. Digital cameras may be “convenient” in that it gets you an image quick, but film still offers many benefits.

    For example, the cost to scale film to your needs is nothing compared to the cost it takes to scale a sensor.

    That’s why people who do catalog work, high-fashion or other things where the final product is going to be projected on a large scale still use film.

  3. @ M4CGYV3R

    Digital is convenient, while film is a pain in the butt.

    That is where the digital benefits end however. If you need actual quality in the images, you still use film, and will for some time.

    I still think its funny there are millions of fully manual rangefinder cameras out there cheap that no one wants to use, so someone took a 50 year old expensive and desirable camera (ironically, one that is collectible because it was one of the first to have auto functions) simply to cut it up to remove those functions so as to get the same functionality as simply getting a cheaper and more common 55 year old camera.
    Cool hack nonetheless, I just can’t see the sense in it other than pissing off the people hunting for the very rare black model.

  4. There is one major advantage of digital over film that you didn’t mention, MRCGYV3R: Digital ‘film’ is WAY cheaper :0 Which is good, because I have to do passport photos for my CHL classes. I do those on my dye-sub Samsung spp2020 ( now superseded by the newer model, http://sn.im/spp2040 ) for a cost of under 15 cents per passport photo, on a printer that cost me less than $50, and weighs about 3 lbs.

    Back in college (just after the earth cooled and crusted over), I did a lot of 35mm B&W photography, developing my own film, and making my own prints. Was a fairly expensive hobby, but not as expensive as color photography (I did very little color photography for myself, because I could not afford it). I learned enough about photography in general to get a job as a photographer for a local party-pictures outfit. I even got the higher-paying color assignments.

    Those days are long gone. I’m not sure you can even get film and photographic paper any more, it’s been so long since I bought any… I drug my old Yashica Electro-X out of storage about 8 years ago, and sold it on eBay, for what I thought was a ridiculously high price of $25.

    Now, anybody can shoot color photography using a camera that costs about $100 ($400 if you want to get really fancy), and print 4×6 color glossies on a $50 printer for about 50 cents a shot. And dodging & other darkroom tricks are obsolete, too. I use GIMP…

  5. Lots of people still use film. Image, a Full Frame 35mm camera for, like 50 bucks!

    Unfortunately a lot of these are automatic only, I recently considered a Rollei X35, which is kind of cheaply built but has a Sonnar design lens with an interesting and romantic look I love. A similar Leica mount lens might cost 500 or more, the x35 can be had for 50 bucks, but it is also relatively useless for serious photography since it has only a program mode. Now I wonder how its shutter is controlled, a lot of these fixed lens rangefinders were made by the same manufactures and probably share similarities to allow such a hack.

  6. The description isn’t clear, so as the owner of an Electro 35, I feel I should clarify things.

    The Electro 35 is basically always in “aperture priority” (Av) mode. There are ‘bulb’ (B) and flash modes but they still require battery power. The shutter tries to fire at its top speed of 1/500 and an electromagnet keeps it open longer.

    The ‘dial’ you turn is the aperture dial. The over/under lights simply tell you when the shutter speed would go outside the 1/30-1/500 range.

    It’s a great little(-ish) camera, even after several decades. And film is still a great medium.

  7. I got the name wrong on the last post; that was for @stunmonkey. My apologies for not reading closely enough.

    @Thebes — I’ll have to take your word for it. I certainly thought film was a fine medium back in the days I used it, but I don’t remember the last time I saw anybody using a film camera, other that those little yellow one-time-use boxes that you can still find at some tourist traps.

    Just this morning, I was at a convention, and I saw a couple of pro photographers with $1500 digital lashups. Last time I was on a cruise, I got my picture taken getting on board by a pro with a digital camera who transmitted the photos to the ship via the internet so that they were available for purchase by the time we checked in. One of my neighbors is a full-time wedding photographer — and he has *never* owned a film camera.

    The world has gone digital. Yes, film may be a fine medium, but it’s an increasingly expensive and difficult hobby. Kinda like muzzle-loading, although I actually know a few black-powder muzzle-loading enthusiasts.

  8. If you already have good film equipment, the longer you put off switching to digital, the better.

    A couple years ago, a half decent digital point and shoot cost no less than 300 dollars and something worthy of being called a DSLR cost 1000 bucks.

    You can half those prices today, and they are just going to keep getting cheaper and better.

    It all comes down to volume. If you don’t take lots of pictures, then upgrading to digital is less of a priority.

  9. Digital is cheaper only for minor stuff like the passport photos and random snapshots that only need small/low quality prints.

    As for film availability, places like Kodak and Fuji that bswore to get out of film 10 years ago are not only still making it, but spending serious money researching and introducing new film types today. Professionally, digital never lived up to its promise.
    They are gonna have to work side-by-side for some time.

    Digital isn’t cheaper at all if you want any quality. A professional MF digital camera runs $12000 – $45000 for just the body, to get the same quality as a <$200 MF film body.
    I can develop a lot of film for the +/- $20,000 difference. It actually works out to even more than that if you get on the endless upgrade treadmill of digital and buy new bodies every few years. The film bodies will work just the same in ten years as they did 10 years ago, and they have a working life span of 50 years, not 3.

  10. Developing your own film is not that expensive. Twenty to thirty for a spool and a daylight tank, spend a bit more for a light-safe bag. Couple bucks in chemicals, and you can develop black and white with no problems at all, long as you can read a stopwatch. Color film is more difficult, you have to be able to keep a sink of water at 100 degrees F, so that takes a thermometer.

    But please, keep spreading the story that film is dead. It helps everyone who just wants snapshots move to digital, and lets me find Zeiss lenses for 2 dollars. Though I may go broke finding old box cameras to repair. Not that the repairs are costly, but developing other peoples 30 year old film can be an addictive hobby.

  11. The Electro 35 is a nice camera – I even built one out of three broken units I had. The lens was fast and sharp, and that electronic exposure system also had a few tricks that even the modern cameras have trouble with. The cadmium sulfide resistor that acted as a sensor was actively read throughout the entire exposure, not just read for the moment beforehand… really handy for doing automatic fill flash, or long exposures where the lighting can change. Whenever the camera thought there was enough light, it closed the shutter.
    Long exposures over 30 mins have been reported successfully using this camera!

    Still, you would be hard pressed to find any digital camera that can beat my film camera – a 1952 Pacemaker Speed Graphic. With a 4×5 inch negative scanned at 3200DPI, I end up with an 80 meg greyscale JPEG! Even pushing the film scanner that far, you do capture useful detail.

  12. I don’t mind digital at all, I just have issues with the culture and marketing of digital cameras.

    Listening to those people singing the praises of the latest mark 50DX px 100 zed plus whatever, you would think that photography was brand new and that you couldn’t possibly take a decent photo before this new camera came along.

    People have the audacity to say that things like HDR are brand new and a digital only feature.

    HDR was being done as far back as the 1860’s. Mostly as a workaround to the problems associated with glass-plate technology of the time.

    So yeah, film has a strong pedigree and will not be going anywhere for a long time.

  13. Hi all!
    I am the one that modded this camera. Basically, the autmatic mode works by letting light shine through a photoresistor until a certain amount of electricity has flown through (simply spoken). What i did was bisically to let the light go through fixed resistors instead of the light/photoresistor thing.
    @QUIN: The proof of concept indeed was a potentiometer and i had markings on it for the different speeds. However, i was missing the satisfying clicks of a switch dial, so i chose the path with the ordinary resistors. After all, my manual mode is pretty easy to make and replaces the “bulb”-setting on the camera. i instead have a bulb-position an the dial now. I someone wants a schematic, let me know… And regarding all the digital-analog-controversy: The most enjoyable thing about analog for me is that the time that i need for a picture, the dial-turning, guessing, checking and the final click. I could have taken 20 digital pictures in the same time but i am glad everytime for only one, hopefully good, picture. and yes, the hopes are part of the fun, too. All the best from Hamburg, guys… Stefan

  14. Whats great about film vs digital is that you can use these great solid cameras from the 70’s. Until we get a digital film roll, that is quite a something for those who enjoys these historical cameras :)

    Nice hack!

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