Mighty Mini: The Yashica Electro 35 MC

Flea Markets can be an awesome thing, particularly when you find something unexpected that you never knew existed.  

It was my first (of since many) trips to the Feagaville Indoor Flea Market, and while my wife was more interested in seeing what salvageable furniture there was to be had, I simply had to look in the booth aisles of assorted odds and ends in hopes that I might find something of photographic use amid the clutter of decorative salt shakers and other assorted bits of bric-a-brac.  

While a few odd bits of photographic goodies could be found, one in particular jumped out at me as being of particular interest, even though I had little knowledge of just what it was, or even if it was any good.  I simply did a quick test of the shutter snapping, as well as a quick swivel of the focusing collar to confirm that it was in at least some semblance of working condition, and quickly paid for it. It wasn't a tough decision given that it was selling for a mere $15.  And within 5 minutes, I was now the owner of a Yashica Electro 35MC.

The Mighty-Mini: the Yashica Electro 35MC.

Now prior to this, I'd never even heard of a Yashica Electro 35MC, so I certainly can't lie and say that this camera had been on my wish list for some time.  What was most ironic however was that a more modern camera of this sort of build (compact, zone focused 35mm) HAD been on my radar for some time. As someone who routinely fits in a few minutes of photography on my long commute, I often like to pack along up to 3 or 4 cameras in my daily tote, so the portability of these cameras is a must.  However, I'd often lamented that many of the more modern of the smaller breed of cameras tended to lack any sort of control that their precursors often had.  Of the few cameras that I knew of at the time, most, like the Rollei 35, were tagged at something of a premium more than I wanted to pay.  Yet, here, I'd happened upon a nice small camera that seemed to be exactly what I was looking for, and nicely within my price range.

Compared to a full size SLR type camera, the 35MC may not be nearly as versatile or capable, but it does offer a decent amount of capability in a much more compact package.

The 35MC is a rigid bodied viewfinder camera that has a footprint (when laid on its back) only slightly larger than a deck of playing cards.  It manages to pretty neatly fit into a jacket pocket for easy carrying in cooler weather months, and also takes up only minimal space in a camera bag if you prefer carrying your equipment in more sophisticated ways.  Unlike most cameras I've talked about on this site, this one DOES require a battery, but unlike many cameras of the past few decades that require tough to find equivalents like the 625 cell, the 35MC uses a reasonably common 6 volt PX-28 battery.  

The shutter is capable of automatic speeds between 1/500 and 4 seconds.  There is no bulb setting, and there is actually no fully manual mode at all.  The camera's entire operation is that of an Aperture-priority basis, meaning, you pick the aperture, and the camera picks the appropriate shutter speed based on the film speed.  For someone like myself who has mostly been used to selecting aperture and speed on completely manual cameras,  the lack of a manual mode took a little getting used to.  Gradually, as results became apparent, the anxiety of leaving the exposure decisions to a camera like this became a little easier. 

Controls on the 35MC are minimal in nature, and result in a camera that doesn't overwhelm the user, who needs only to set film speed at the start of a roll, and then focus distance and aperture for each shot, the latter of which is given some icons to make the process easier for the new shooter. The top of the camera, seen below has just a shutter speed surrounded by a locking collar, film counter, and the advance and rewind mechanisms. 

But that trust comes gradually.  This is due in large part to the extremely simplistic viewfinder on the 35MC that shows only the general focusing zone.  Whereas many cameras, even smaller 35mm cameras will give an indication of the shutter speed the camera has selected (or at least that a proper exposure can be made under the current conditions), the user is left to leave the 35MC to blind faith in choosing a shutter speed.  And given that this a viewfinder camera rather than a rangefinder, one must have some faith in their own guess focusing abilities as well as the abilities of to the camera's exposure system,

Certainly one of the most minimalist viewfinders to be seen, the 35MC offers only a vague framing line as well as a pointer lined towards icons to represent typical focusing distances for portrait, group photos, and landscapes. 

For my initial trials with the 35MC, I admittedly played it safe, loading the camera up with some Arista (Foma) 200 film, and taking it on a stroll through the nearby downtown on a bright sunny day for shots of largely distant subjects.  Under these conditions, I got back some very crisp negatives that shows the camera was exposing the scenes pretty much perfectly, so I have no reason to believe the camera would not come through under less optimal conditions on future attempts.  

Below are the results of this first roll of test shots taken on the 35MC on a pleasant afternoon in downtown Frederick.

I had no real idea just what to expect in the way of sharpness from a camera this small, so I was pleasantly surprised to see results like this come forth from the 35MC.  All in all, sharpness from the Yashinon lens looks remarkably good. 

Looking at some of the details evident in the brick work in the above photo, I'm actually quite amazed that results this good are coming from such a camera this small.

The slightly wide angle of the 40mm lens does result in some minor vignetting, but hardly anything objectionable. 

I more than likely had the aperture set to f/11 or f/16 for many of these shots given the bright day, and the 35MC responded by delivering a fast shutter speed that froze scenes with moving elements. 

Along the waterfront promenade of Carroll Creek, the camera and the Foma film combined to create a scene with particularly nice tonality where some very varied lighting existed. 

A scene of Carroll Creek portrays with excellent sharpness on the 35MC.  

Details in old stone work are nicely portrayed on the small 35MC. 

A trip to an apple orchard finished the roll of film for me, and delivered additional sharp shots.  I do look forward to trying the camera with slower film or in dimmer settings to see how accurate the distances are.

While the settings of my first roll are idealized in using more distant subjects on a sunny day and using a black and white film with a decent amount of latitude that also helps counter any exposure errors, I'm still quite confident that this little camera is capable of quite a bit more than my idealized conditions allowed.  I've since put the camera through some additional tests with a less forgiving film that will be posted to follow to see for sure.  

Even before these results are posted, I can say with a significant degree of confidence that for the photographer looking for something compact that offers a nicer degree of quick control than your typical point and shoot camera, the Yashica 35 MC is a true winner.  The biggest undertaking by the user is to approximate the distance of the focal point of the photo, after which they can choose the aperture of their choosing, and the camera will do the rest to compose a well exposed photo.  It is a great tag along when you need something small that requires minimal intervention, yet you still want to ensure some degree of control over the composition of your photo.  For $15, I am more than thrilled to add this Mighty Mini to my lineup!