Flirting With Insanity

I’m referring to Einstein’s definition of insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. 

In early June I bought a Yashica Electro 35 GSN for $20. Given the price, I didn’t necessarily expect it to be in working order. I figured it was a 50/50 shot. I had never owned a rangefinder camera and was intrigued by it. I was also intrigued by the material I read on the Web about the camera, particularly the 45mm, f/1.7 Yashinon lens. I found a new battery at the local Radio Shack and loaded the camera with film. After shooting the roll of film and having it developed, it was obvious that there were some problems with the camera, as I noted in the Rangefinder Test post.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN with the bottom half of the “Ever-Ready” case attached.

I sent the camera out for repair and CLA, and to have a new battery compartment installed (so the batteries now available for it would fit properly and not be susceptible to shorting). When I got the camera back from the repair facility, I had $160 into it, but it was in good working order.

I shot four rolls of film with the camera over the next month, The camera never really “clicked” with me. It wasn’t the handling that bothered me, though it could use a finger grip on the right front of the body. The biggest problem I had with  it was the lack of anything but indirect control of shutter speed. I don’t mean that there is anything wrong with the camera, since it was designed to work that way: The build quality of the camera is very good, but it is an consumer level rangefinder, designed to make shooting easy.

Example Photograph from the 10/19/2012 shoot.

The camera runs in Aperture Priority mode. The operator zone focuses with the rangefinder, sets the desired aperture, then presses the shutter button. Simple. If the aperture is not right for the lighting conditions, the camera displays arrows in the rangefinder window when the shutter is partially pressed. The arrows show which way to turn the aperture ring on the lens to bring the aperture setting within the range that will assure an acceptable photographic outcome. The camera calculates and sets the correct shutter speed, using the aperture, light meter reading, and film speed values. 

To control shutter speed, or more correctly, exposure compensation, I had to resort to adjusting the exposure with the ASA (ISO) wheel – rating the film at higher or lower speeds than it actually was. Despite the resulting photographs, which were of good quality, I didn’t like shooting the camera after the first few rolls. It just didn’t fit the way I normally shoot. I left the camera on the shelf for three months and occasionally toyed with selling it on eBay or on this site. But I wasn’t quite ready to part with it, since it is the only rangefinder I’ve ever owned.

I had repeatedly shot the camera and got the same result every time: I wasn’t comfortable shooting it. But a particular thought kept rising during those three months. I couldn’t reasonably expect that shooting a rangefinder would feel the same, or even require the same approach as shooting a SLR or DSLR, any more than shooting with a TLR like the Yashica Mat did, a camera that didn’t even have a working light meter. And I was quite comfortable with shooting the TLR, though it took two or three rolls to settle in to the decidedly different way of making a photograph.

Example Photograph from the 10/19/2012 shoot.

On the day that was the subject of the previous post, Boathouse and Coffee, I took the Lumix G1 and the Yashica rangefinder to Fairmount Park to shoot the boathouse. I left the G1 in the saddlebag and shot around the boathouse with the rangefinder camera loaded with Kentmere 100. Oddly enough, the three month layoff with the camera changed my results. I shot 34 frames, the remainder of the roll of film. After I got to the last frame and the film advance lever wouldn’t move, I wanted to keep shooting, but I hadn’t brought an additional roll of film. I had become comfortable with the camera, and the different approach necessary to run it.

I think Einstein was right. In the overwhelming majority of cases his “rule” proves to be correct. But it is good to assume that all rules have situation-specific exceptions… 

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