Way back in the 1970s, the market for 35mm compact cameras was led by the big-three, dominant players in the market: Canon, Olympus and Yashica (probably in that order). Many of these so-called compacts were not that compact at all. The Canon G-III 1.7 weighs 620 grams, whereas the little Yashica that we are looking at today – weighs just 380 grams.
The 35 MC belongs to that group of cameras that can be considered truly compact – in that they can fit easily into a good-sized jacket pocket or into a ladies handbag or purse, but not (as would be possible with an Olympus Mju or Ricoh GR) into a jeans pocket.
The 35 MC is a very small camera, just a little bit bigger than the Rollei 35 SE. The 35 MC will fit into the same pocket as the Rollei and you won’t have to extend the lens on the Yashica when you take it out.
One of the advantages of inexpensive compact film cameras, such as the MC 35: is that is can be easily repaired, and if it can’t be repaired, then you just throw it away and buy another one. If you’ve laid out several hundred £$ on one of the more modern 35mm compacts (Contax T2, Nikon 35ti, Ricoh GR1…) which cannot be so easily repaired, then in the event of failure – the throw away option becomes a rather more painful one.
Expensive, automated compacts from the 1990s also make a lot of noise. They all seem to sing the same electro-mechanical tune: Whirr-Click-Whirr, and they take their time getting the job done. 1970s cameras, even the one that are dependent upon batteries to power the meter – are a lot more basic, mechanical machines. There is no lag-time and no distracting whirring noises – just an almost inaudible click, and the job is done.
The 35 MC, as with most of the Yashica compacts; is a mechanical camera with an electronically controlled shutter. That means; no battery – no camera. The Rollei, by contrast; is a fully mechanical camera, the battery only being required to operate the exposure meter.
This is a very well made camera, quality of construction is top-notch with no loose or rattly bits anywhere. I would grade the build quality as higher than the much larger Electro 35 GT and GS series cameras. Very often, I find that with this class and vintage of camera; the lens assembly will suffer wear and components will work loose over time. On each of my copies of the 35 MC, the lens assembly is rock-solid. With the correct light seals in place, the rear door fits firmly and snugly with no play at all.
Metering is achieved using a Cds cell mounted on the lens; which means that you can use filters without requiring exposure compensation – which is good because there is no exposure compensation. This is an Aperture Priority, auto-only camera with no control over setting the shutter speed and aperture independently. Now there are many auto-only SLRs, so why should this be a particular issue with a compact?
Film speed or ISO range is the key here. If your auto-only SLR has an ISO range that tops-out at 1600 or better, 3200 – then you can put whatever film you fancy into it and let the camera’s meter work out the exposure. Many 1970s compacts are rather limited when it comes to top film speed, with a lot of them stopping at 400 or maybe 800 if you’re lucky. With a camera that has full manual control, this does not matter – you just take a meter reading from your phone and set the camera’s aperture and shutter speed accordingly. if your camera is auto-only – this is impossible. So, if you want to use Ilford Delta 3200 or Fuji Superia 1600, then you need an auto-only camera that offers something above ISO 800.
The bad news is that no such auto-only, compact camera from the 1970s that goes to ISO 1600. well almost none; the Yashica 35 MC has a top ISO setting of 1000. This means that I can load Ilford Delta 3200 and shoot as its native speed of ISO 1000. I can also load Fuji Superia 1600 and over-expose by two-thirds of a stop, which is fine for print film. I can also push my HP-5 and Tri-X to 800 or 1000. If you never venture beyond ISO 400 film, then what I have just described is largely irrelevant and the 35 MC will offer little advantage to you.
The accuracy of the meter is outstanding, bordering on flawless. I have yet to experience a bad exposure.
Unlike its sibling; the 35 CC, the 35 MC has no rangefinder, it is a zone-focus camera. This is tech-speak for: you guess the distance to your subject and then turn the focusing ring so that the index lines up with the distance marked on the lens barrel. So, is the lack of a rangefinder a signifiant disadvantage?
In my view – not necessarily so. A rangefinder is a very useful device when you need precise focus; at short to medium distances, using a large aperture. In these circumstances guessing the distance is likely to be a hit-and-miss affair. However, if you use this camera as it was intended; outdoor, spontaneous photography with fast film and subject distance from 2 to 5 metres, then a rangefinder offers no real advantage and if anything, could end up slowing you down.
I know that if I set the aperture to f/8 and focus the lens at 3 meters – on a 40mm lens, this will give me acceptably sharp focus from 2 metres to about 8 metres. With the ISO set at 1000 on the 35 MC, on a bright day I should get a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second – enough to avoid motion blur. Almost as good as auto-focus – Street Photography anyone?
The viewfinder of the 35 MC is a very basic affair. You will not see any indication of shutter speed or aperture. There is a green lamp that lights up when you press on the shutter release – but this is just a battery check, it does not indicate anything else. We also have the three zone-focus symbols and a little bar indicating which one is selected. As you rotate the focusing ring on the lens, the bar will move to indicate which zone your are in: head-and-shoulders, group or landscape. The viewfinder is actually brighter and clearer than that of my Electro 35 GTN – which would not be difficult.
One of the major obstacles in achieving sharp pictures with any compact camera; is their light weight and lack of heft. Some models are bigger offenders than others. For example; the Olympus Mju-II weighs 135 grams – which is feather-light. I have always struggled to hold this camera steady, I am acutely aware of it vibrating and twitching as I hold it.
The other significant obstacle; is the degree of pressure required to release the shutter. The worst offenders here are those which have a long shutter release button and a two-stage release process – that is, you press on the shutter and keep pressing, then you meet resistance and more finger-energy is required to complete the release. This additional energy cannot be absorbed by a light-weight camera and the result is camera-shake. The number-one, repeat offender for this crime is, in my experience: the Yashica 35 GTS.
This objectionable behaviour is thankfully, completely absent from the 35 MC. It has a short, stubby release button which yields to finger-pressure immediately. So, unlike many small cameras that I’ve used, I have no sense of the thing moving while I’m pressing the shutter release.
Lens Quality Comparison
Yashica lenses have always had a great reputation, on compacts and SLRs alike. I’m a big fan of the ML series for the Contax/Yashica mount, and of course let’s not forget that Yashica did make the Carl Zeiss lenses for the Contax SLR brand in Japan.
I’ve tested the Yashica alongside its most obvious competitor: the Rollei 35 SE. The Carl Zeiss designed Sonnar lens has a mighty reputation, will the result support that reputation? Also, as a control – I’ve included the most modern 40mm lens that I own: the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake. This lens was mounted on a Canon EOS 1V. All shots are at f/8 on Fuji Superia 200.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge
Yes, the Rollei and its Sonnar lens has delivered a truly appalling performance here. It may be that I have a bad copy, but unfortunately this performance is consistent with other images from this camera and from another 35 SE that I had last year.
The surprise for me here, is that the Yashica is almost the equal of the Canon. On the 5DS R, the 40mm STM is an outstanding performer and to see the ancient Yashinon run it so close is quite a revelation.
If size is your number one priority, then the obvious alternative is the Olympus 35 RC – which is a few millimetres bigger on all three dimensions, has shutter-priority auto, adds a rangefinder, has full manual control (non-metered). Alas, the meter only goes up to ISO 800.
I have two of these cameras, both purchased in the UK on Ebay in 2016. One cost me £20 and the other £30.
This diminutive Yashica is not for everyone – it is definitely not a jack-off-all-trades. If you’re comfortable with zone-focusing, can live with no exposure information the viewfinder, like to use fast film and need a camera that you can slip into a jacket pocket – then the 35 MC with its excellent build-quality, flawless metering and superb lens will fit the bill perfectly.
Yashica 35 MC - Specifications
|Model||Yashica Electro 35 MC|
|Produced||1973 - ?|
|Lens||Yashinon DX 40mm f/2.8|
|Focusing||Manual focus ring, distance scale 0.9m to infinity. Zone symbols in viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Info||Battery check lamp and three zone symbols|
|Shutter||Electronic step-less from 4 to 1/500th of a second|
|Film Speed Range||ISO 25 to 1000|
|Exposure Control||Aperture Priority Cds Sensor - no manual override|
|Battery||6v silver oxide PX-28|
|Dimensions||102.6 x 67.8 x 52.5 mm|