The Yashica Electro 35 is a 35mm film rangefinder camera that was released in 1966. Its name refers to its then-innovative shutter mechanism, which used an electromagnet to control the shutter speed. Able to automatically compute for correct exposure via Aperture Priority and armed with a fast 45mm f/1.7 Yashinon DX manual focus lens, the Electro 35 was very popular in its day.
Today, there are still a lot of Yashica Electro 35 (and its successors, the G, GS and GSN) cameras available. They’re already considered vintage cameras but many of them are either still in working order, or easily restored. They will still take great pictures. The problem lies in its reliance on electric power to function, as the 5.6V battery it was designed to use has been long out of production because of mercury content.
The good news is that the modern 6V batteries available in the market today can power the Electro 35. The bad news is that none of them fits the camera’s battery compartment. Yashica-Guy has an adapter that will let one easily use a modern battery in an Electro 35. Unfortunately, I don’t have ready access to that.
I had my Electro 35 restored at Columbia Photo in Cubao, and the technician showed me a locally-available battery that I could use with the camera. It was a GP-brand 6V 4LR44 battery A.K.A 476A, A544, PX28A, V4034PX (essentially four 1.5V LR44 button batteries stacked up and packaged into a single unit), and I was told that it could be adapted for use.
This battery proved to be quite elusive. The hardware stores didn’t have it, and neither did the battery specialty shops I went to. After a few months of fruitless searching, I found a mall-based watch shop that carried the GP 4LR44! It was also pretty funny that the store people didn’t seem to know why they stocked the battery and they even asked me what I was going to use it for.
As mentioned above the 4LR44 does not really fit the battery compartment of the Electro 35 and will require some adapting to do so. The 4LR44 is smaller than the compartment in both height and width. Thus, we need to ensure that:
A. The battery should be “widened” to keep it at the center of the compartment and
B. The battery should be made “taller” so that it will be in contact with the positive and negative terminals in the compartment.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Get some cardboard (the battery packaging’s cardboard backing is good for this), scissors, tape and aluminum foil
2. Cut the cardboard into strips as wide as the battery is tall.
3. Wrap the cardboard strips around the battery, starting with one layer. Secure with tape.
4. Do a test fit in the camera compartment and add additional layer(s) as needed. Around two layers thick was enough in this case. Be careful not to put too many layers as this can result in too tight a fit and prevent you from removing the battery from the compartment. You should now have a battery that’s less prone to moving around in the compartment, yet can slip out easily from the compartment.
5. Cut strips of aluminum foil and fold them into squares that will fit the round hole of the battery compartment. Flatten them thoroughly so that the folded layers are as pressed to each other as possible. This is to ensure that electricity can pass through the layers, from the battery to the positive terminal in the compartment. You may end up folding several strips; I used a 6-inch length’s worth of standard kitchen aluminum foil.
6. Insert the battery, with the battery’s bottom towards the spring inside the compartment (battery top pointing outwards).
7. Insert the folded strips of aluminum, stacking them up until you almost fill the compartment. The aim is to ensure that there will be enough contact between the battery and the positive terminal in the battery compartment cover, without overdoing it. The cover should screw on back into the compartment without too much effort.
8. Press the “Battery Check” button at the back of the Electro 35. If you did the steps above correctly, you will be rewarded with a glowing green light, and the red and yellow lights on top of the camera will now light up when you half-press the shutter button.
This is by no means the most elegant solution, but it serves the purpose and can easily be done with household materials.
This procedure should also work with succeeding Yashica Electro 35 variants such as the G, GS and GSN. This might also work with other 6V battery or equivalents (stacked LR44 button type batteries and taped together for instance), just vary the amount of cardboard layers and aluminum foil.
(Apologies for some of the blurry pics, not enough light and shaky hands.)
What’s your experience with reviving old cameras? Let’s hear your stories, feel free to comment below!