Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Replacing the light seals on old cameras

Light seals are foam material installed along the door and hinges. These prevent stray light from entering the camera so the film would not be improperly exposed. If you look at my photos from the Yashica GSN with Fuji Superia 400, you might have noticed a light streak in the left half of the photos. That's light leak.

The Yashica GSN is a 30 year old camera. The original foam has returned to its primal state - sticky goo. This is very common with old cameras, as seen also in my Canonet QL17 GIII here. The goo is sticky, does not block light anymore and could get everywhere inside the camera. Luckily, it's not too difficult to replace them.

From recommendations on rangefinderforum, I got the light seal kit from Jon Goodman. His eBay id is interslice. He offers a smaller kit and a bigger one. I got the smaller one. The kit came quickly. It contains a few pieces of foam in different thickness, instructions and a wooden tool to help clean the old seals. Jon also sent me a link to his instructions for specific cameras. Some people would recommend getting cheaper foam from a local craft store, but I'm lazy and wanted assurance that I'm using good material that would not damage my camera and also last a long time. Depending of the type of camera, even the small kit can easily fix 4 to 5 cameras.

I used 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol from Longs. It does a nice job of melting the old light seals. Then I used tissue paper to remove the goo. It takes patience but it's quite fun. There is no need to do a perfect job here, really. After that, I started installing the new seals. I found the 2mm long strips in the kit especially useful; they fit perfectly into the door rails of both my Yashica GSN and Canonet QL17 GIII.

After the easy part, I had to cut the foam from the rest of the material in the kit. Using a sharp knife makes the job much easier. I also find cutting from the paper backing side instead of the foam side reduces curling and the foam sticking to itself. Again, be patient and it WILL be done. Here's a picture of the completed film door.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Yashica Electro 35 GX

The Yashica GX is the last of the fast-lens Electro 35 series. It has a Color Yashinon DX 40mm 1:1.7 lens, a hot shoe and PC connection, a 8-second self timer and shutter lock. The camera is aperture-priority ONLY: set the aperture, and the camera decides the shutter speed (stepless from 1/500 to several seconds). Over and under exposure arrows light up to warn the user if shutter speed needs to be higher than 1/500 or lower than 1/30. There is NO manual mode, which is a limitation. The shutter is an electronic Copal leaf shutter, which means flash sync at any speed (great for fill flash). Film speeds of ISO 25 to 800 are supported.

The GX is routinely referred to as the zenith of all the previous Electro 35 rangefinder cameras. It is basically the same camera as the Yashica GL (great camera), but quite a bit smaller (even better). The silicon meter new to the GL and GX is more reliable than Cds cells, and MUCH more responsive. The 40mm lens is slightly wider and easier to use than the usual 45mm lenses; though not as wide as the 35mm Yashica CC, it does not have the shutter and diaphragm compromises. The GX represents the best compromise between big, fast lens and compact design.

The GX features a Flash Pulse Selector auto flash system, if it's used with the ES-20 Auto strobe. It is close to the TTL flash systems today (more like ATL). The flash has an extra contact on the shoe to communicate with the light meter on the GX. As the flash fires, it uses the meter to learn when to stop output. If the flash exhausted its power and the image is still underexposed, the GX will automatically close the shutter at 1/30 to prevent blurred photos. With ISO set to 100, lining up the ISO lever and the flash symbol on the barrel corresponds to an aperture of f4, where the flash effective range is 5m. Unfortunately, this feature is not present with other strobes. When using a third-party auto flash, there seems to be no way to fix shutter speed at 1/30 easily, a feature I like very much on the GSN. If anyone have tips on how to do that, please let me know.

I love this camera. It is small and light enough that I can carry it all day. I did that with the GSN too but my shoulder would be sore afterwards. The GX takes sharp pictures and shines in low light situations. Recently at a friend's wedding, I shot a roll of Natura 1600 film at 800 and the photos came out better than my Panasonic Fz7.

There are a few issues though. The GX only goes up to ISO 800, which is a bummer. The ISO setting lever is very inconvinent compared to the dial design, makeing exposure compensation difficult. The camera is quite a bit lighter than the GSN, and overall does not fell as solid.

You can search for GSNs on eBay with keywords Yashica GX, or a broader search Electro 35 will get you the entire family.


(Yashica GX x Fujicolor Reala)

(Yashica GX x Fujicolor Pro 400H)
(Yashica GX x Fujicolor Pro 160S)