The Yashica Electro 35 camera line and its variants had gone strong for over ten years, till the novelty wore out and automatic cameras became a common feature. In 1975, Yashica introduced the two last cameras with the continuous shutter and over / under exposure light alerts. The Electro 35 GX was the last full-featured Electro, and its sister, the MG-1, was a watered-down version. There were two cameras in the Electro line that did not subscribe to the name convention and were different from the others. One is the MG-1 and the other is the first in this line, the Electro half. From what I gather, the Half did not enjoy many sales. there are two telltale signs: There is hardly any online information about it, and camdex.ca shows only three transactions for it. As opposed to that, the MG-1 sold much more, as it shows 129 transactions and counting. All that assumes that the used cameras offered now reflect the number of cameras held by the past users.
Here we touch a sore point. A popular item enjoys many online entries. What it really means is that many entries do not necessarily reflect much information. Researching the MG-1 I noticed similar wording in many of the writeups. A sentence I picked up from rangefinder-camera.com appears 18 times on other sites, almost word to word. Another site mentioned this camera as the ‘last Samurai’, which term is found in another nine sites. I think that editors of such copied articles should take some pride and at least mix the words a bit.
The Electro Half shows little online information. I have this camera on my bench and will attend to it shortly.
Yashica had a reason for deviating here from the Electro naming convention. Apart from the red/yellow lights, this camera has little in common with the rest of the family. I do not know where the MG name comes from, but Yashica is known for using letters/numbers for their cameras. There is also an MG-2, a 1991 point and shoot, so named to piggyback on the MG-1 glory.
A firstborn in the family get all brand new and of the best quality. From Handcrafted oak cot to the best Gymboree clothes (do they still exist?) and designer nappies. The third child gets an Ikea cot, Costco baby cloths, and bulk diapers. There is nothing wrong with it, this is human nature. Same with this MG-1. In essence, it has what its elder brothers had, but just sort of. The camera retained the heft of the Electro 35 line as well as the atom symbol at the front. It uses the same battery, a hot shoe, and the meter location as in the late Electros. From here all go economy class.
The lens is slower, a 2.8 compared to the 2.0. I have read somewhere that a faster lens was also available but could not find any support to that. Shutter speed is up to 800. The plethora of lights that marked the early Electros have dried down to flickers with trigger half-press. A reminder: The Yashica Electro began with three lights on top: green for battery check, yellow and red for over/under exposure, and a brightly lit frame counter. The viewfinder is fixed, unlike the same in its elder brothers that shift to compensate for closer shots. To make up for all that, the camera was offered for half of the MX. Or perhaps Yashica had a target price for a low-end camera so such specifications were what they could for that price.
Using the camera is straightforward. Set the film speed on the ring at the bottom of the lens assembly, by pressing the lever there while pointing to the desired value. Set the lever on the top cover to Auto and you are ready to shoot. The aperture ring will mask the CdS meter lens accordingly, from tiny pinholes to a wide-open, cat-like pupil. The viewer is wide and bright with parallax correction marks and the focusing patch is easy to use. Distance units are metric and imperial, although the film speed is ASA only, no DIN. Being aperture priority, set the aperture ring for the desired value, or as hinted by the icons for sun, clouds, and indoors. The shutter speed will fire at the optimal speed. Note that true to the Electro name the shutter is electrically operated with no fixed stops, from about two seconds to /500. Half-press the trigger. If no arrow shows in the viewer and/or the indicators on the top don’t light up, the exposure is within the optimal settings. Else, a red or yellow arrow in the viewer will alert for under or overexposure, as will the light indicators on the top. There is no battery check and no light in the frame count.
For electronic flash use, there is a hot shoe, no PC port. Set the selector from auto to the lightning sign and shutter speed will fall to /30.
The mechanical timer lever is where it is expected to be, on the top left of the barrel, which is a relief. Some camera makers play where is Waldo with the timer lever.
The original battery is the same as in the rest of the Electro models, can be replaced with either four LR44 1.5 V batteries taped together, homemade adapter or with a ready-made adapter as found on eBay. A trigger lock marked with L only could cut the battery circuit to extend battery life, but the only way to find it is to dismantle the camera which I think is not worth it. When no battery the shutter defaults to /500. The way to check if the battery is alive is to set the camera to an extreme over or underexposure and see if it panics.
To summarize, the Yashica MG-1 is a textbook rangefinder, just what you need for everyday shooting. It looks like a camera, it feels like a camera, it may produce decent images, so a proud parent needs no more to immortalize his / her playing kids. To buy it today, if for collection, obviously. If for toying with film photography, no. It does not allow any freedom in the shooting.
|Mode||Aperture priority auto|
|Weight||650 gr, Body with lens|
|Class average weight||690 gr, Body with lens|
|Filter size||55 mm|
|Lens mount||Fixed lens|
|Speeds||30, stepless 2- /500, /500 w/o battery|