By all accounts, the Yashica Electro-35 is one of the most popular rangefinder cameras from the 60s, and with good reason. The camera is well made, and even looks quite nice, although a bit large, but what makes the owners of this camera happy is the Color-Yashinon DX 45mm f1.7 lens, which produces sharp and contrasty pictures on film. There is no surprise that many people who own this camera want to be able use this lens on their digital cameras, either because the Electro-35 is no longer working, or they just don’t shoot film any more. Unfortunately for the owners who upgraded to a digital SLR, this lens has a relatively short flange distance, which prevents it from achieving infinity focus on DSLRs, but would work beautifully on mirrorless cameras, especially on the Sony full frame A7 series. Speaking of full frame mirrorless cameras, I just don’t get why other manufacturers don’t jump on the bandwagon, and handing the whole market to Sony. Canon and Nikon are more than capable of making one. Mystery of mysteries.
This is not a post about adapting the lens to digital cameras, since the tear down happened awhile back and the conversion was unsuccessful. Only very recently I was able to make it work on the Sony A7 and the Pentax focus helicoid because I now have access to the lathe. I intended to retain the original focusing mechanism with this lens, but I wasn’t able to do it. In practical terms, it’s better with the current implementation, as the focus is much smoother and I can take extreme close-ups using the 17-31mm helicoid, it just does not look as aesthetically pleasing as the original focusing. Oh well, when you are handed a lemon, make lemonades! I do, however, have another Electro-35 (above) that I will do a proper conversion post with detailed instructions.
As you can see from the picture above, the lens is relative compact and looks really nice on the Sony A7. It balances very well with the camera body. I like it as a walk-around lens. Its fast maximum aperture of f1.7, coupled with the high ISO capabilities of the camera, makes a formidable low-light shooting combo. The maximum aperture is not for show either; it’s completely usable, especially at the center. Stopping down, the lens produces sharp and contrasty results. This really is a versatile lens.
The bokeh, as smooth as it is, seems to lack a certain character that I like from its predecessor, the Yashion 4.5cm f1.8. I am not saying the bokeh is bad, just less pleasing to my eyes. Since bokeh is subjective, your mileage
may will vary, of course. It does, however, have much sharper corners, which the Yashinon 4.5cm f1.8 is not as good.
If you are able to convert this lens to use on your mirrorless camera, I think’s worthwhile. The heft of the lens gives it a sense of luxury, and its chrome finish makes it look stylish, in a retro way. An enjoyable lens to take out and shoot, or just to play with.