As I mentioned in my first post on this subject, where I talked about why I stopped shooting, I’ve been wanting to get back into photography. Specifically, I want to shoot film again. Right now film seems to be having a bit of a renaissance, and I’m happy to say there are a lot of resources out there now for affordable film & processing.
I wanted something simple. I wanted to get back to basics, to really learn how to be a good photographer. A “real” photographer, in my mind. (Not trying to dig at digital photographers, more just at myself and how I’ve always felt like a sham because I never felt particularly good or knowledgable in photography.) I wanted to adopt the Lomography principles of have fun & shoot everything. I wanted to carry my camera with me everywhere like my first teacher at the Academy told us all to. (That was a running joke in many photo classes- the teacher would want to demonstrate something and asked if anyone had their camera with them. Of course, no one did. We’re photography students, why would we carry a camera?)
Because of all this, I decided I wanted I wanted to try a rangefinder. I had never really shot much with a rangefinder before despite owning an old Fed-2 (the Soviet Leica) during college, and you often hear that shooting a rangefinder makes you a better photographer. I did research to find an affordable, good old rangefinder thinking it would be the best way to “get back to basics”, and settled on the Yashica Electro 35 GSN. (It didn’t occur to me at the time that it would be unusable in the -40 Northland Winter.)
Now the Electro has some issues. The lens and lightmeter are most excellent but there’s a little bit of foam inside of it that plays a role in the shutter and typically needs to be replaced due to it becoming a gooey mess over the past 40 years. (Enthusiasts will know this as the infamous “Pad of Death”.) I knew this before I bought it, I knew it was a slightly intimidating job, but I found instructions on replacing it myself and decided it would be an adventure. I went into this expecting to also replace the light seals, & clean the viewfinder glass from the inside.
I bought a beautiful specimen for a steal that looked near mint. I popped in The Yashica Guy’s battery adapter and it fired right up. I set about buying my supplies to get it all up to date and ready to be my little buddy for the next few years. I was so excited to shoot it I got to work as soon as possible and decided to replace the POD first. That’s when things started to go wrong.
Replacing the pad itself went fine but when I went to reinstall the film advance lever to test it out, the lever went flying off. Turned out I managed to break the screw off inside the camera- and this wasn’t any old random screw, it was a proprietary thing built on to a little cover top-cap-thing that needed a special tool just to remove.
Since we had recently moved I had no idea where most of our tools were, so it took me a good week to find our drill & charger & a screw that would fit in its place. We drilled through the cap thing & used a 2.5mm machine screw that we had to cut because they didn’t have any short enough and it actually turned out really well. Ok, so if that was the worst thing to happen, but I fixed it I would be pretty happy and pretty darn proud of myself. The lever was working again, I popped the battery back in and…
Remember it was working before. I genuinely have no idea what I did. The battery compartment was completely free of corrosion, the battery was fresh, I tested it with a multimeter. Additionally, even though the shutter was working, the release was both squishy and sticky. Back in I go.
I determined the rubber I used for the pad was too soft, hence the squishiness, and the old foam had rubbed off on the rod it depresses which I did not see when I was cleaning it, hence the stickiness. So I removed the new pad, cleaned it again, and replaced it yet again with another new pad of harder rubber. Then I looked at the wiring, trying to determine why it was no longer receiving power. The wire connecting the negative battery terminal to the circuit board next to the battery test switch was very badly corroded along its length and literally hanging on by a thread, so I removed it, learned how to solder, and attempted to replace the wire. Put the camera back together.
Still nothing. And now, the shutter isn’t firing…or rather, it fires about once in 10 times of pressing the release.
Now I’m not even back to Square One because at least at Square One the camera was working. I sure regret messing with it. I’ve taken the bottom off too and examined all the other wires, examined the circuit boards. I’m inclined to believe my soldering just isn’t good enough, and that’s the reason it’s still not getting power, but multiple people more experienced than I have confirmed that the fact it’s not receiving power would not prevent the shutter from firing- the shutter of the Electro will still fire without power, just only at 1/500. I feel my first priority then, is figuring out what happened (or more likely, what I did) to the shutter while replacing the POD for the second time. The trouble is, it could be a wiring issue inside the lens and that’s a much bigger job than I’m capable of taking on.
That’s where it stands right now. Despite research, I can’t pinpoint the problem exactly, so I’m not entirely sure how to proceed short of taking the lens off and opening it up from the front so I can examine more of the shutter mechanisms, which kind of fills me with dread. I know “if all else fails, there’s Mark Hama”, but I emailed him to see if I could get a rough estimate of repairing this + a CLA and I haven’t heard back. So…if I want to get back into photography, I’m thinking of just buying a different, preferably functional camera, one that I won’t be poking around the insides of and potentially killing, and then continue to work on my Yashica on the side as I have the time and energy. If I ever fix it, you can bet I’ll post about it.