Yashica Electro 35 GSN

  • Type: GSN
  • Serial No: H 662891
  • Manufactured: 1973 - 1977
  • Manufacturer: Yashica
  • Shutter: electromagnetically controlled Copal metal leaf shutter
  • Shutter speeds: stepless from 1/500 to ~30 s (depends on the aperture) and B
  • Lens: Color Yashinon DX 1:1.7 f=45mm
  • Aperture: 1.7, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16
  • Lens mount: fixed
  • Last CLA: none, it's virtually new

I’ve got this camera and the extension lens set in their original boxes, even the protective plastic bags were on them.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN

Yashica Electro 35 GSN

Yashica Electro 35 GSN wide and tele extension lens set

Ever ready case, lens holder, straps, user’s manual, auxiliary finder, lens caps, everything. And it was virtually unused. (Ok, there was a film cartridge in the camera and an old battery but there were no other signs of use and the extension set was not even unpacked.) Am I a lucky guy? Yes, I am.

The Yashica Electro 35 GSN is an interesting aperture priority camera which needs an 5.6 V mercury battery (don’t worry, you can find good replacement batteries). The battery is needed by the CdS light sensot and the stepless, semi-electronic shutter which is basically a mechanical metal leaf shutter controlled electro-magnetically (the quietest shutter I’ve ever heard). So you can use the camera without battery but you will lose light metering and will be limited to only one shutter speed: 1/500. Not bad for daylight photography, though.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN

The camera itself is big and heavy like hell. The body is full metal and ready to make serious injuries if the situation requires. The extension lens kit is quite impressive but almost unusable in the practice because the coupled rangefinder needs post-calculations on focus setting if you put an extension lens on. However, the 45mm focal lenght of the default lens is very comfortable in most of the cases.

I don’t like this Yashinon lens, I have to admit. It can be my fault but I don’t like the way it renders the pictures and the colors. I’m seemingly alone with this opinion because the net is full of praises of its sharpness and other superior qualities. Sorry guys, I still don't like it.

Monet-Goyon motocycle

BMW race car

An interesting solution of the light metering: it is adjusted to the film speed with a little aperture on the top left of the camera front. You can see it moving when you set the ISO value on the top. The metering is surprisingly precise, by the way.


Two FED-2s together

Great cameras have great stories behind them and this applies to the FED-2 which was named after Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky alias Iron Felix. Iron Felix wasn’t a cartoon superhero but he was the founder of the fearful Bolshevik secret police called Vecheka, well-known from its brutality. It was the ancestor of the latter KGB. He got the assignment directly from Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

F.E. Dzerzhinsky

Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky wasn’t an optical engineer. He wasn’t a photographer either. But he must have been quite influential because they named six towns after him, and, most importantly, a labor commune in Kharkov, Ukraine. This rehabilitation commune of abandoned youths (or prison of young criminals, mostly 13-17 year old boys and girls, as the rumor says) was led by the reputed Soviet pedagogue, director Anton Semyonovich Makarenko, famous after his theory of collective discipline. Here they started to manufacture the Soviet Union’s first 35mm camera, the FED, during Stalin’s push for the industrial and economic transformation of Russia.

Young communards working in the F. E. Dzerzhinsky Commune - 1934

The FED was based on the Leica II(D) - the Russians bought the license from the German company for the camera body, the collapsible Elmar lens and the 35mm Leica film cassette in 1932. But they didn’t just copy it, they made some developments as well. Soon, the FED-2 was born. It wasn’t a simple Leica replica anymore.

FED-2 type B2

  • Type: B2
  • Serial No: 153914
  • Manufactured: 1956 - 1958
  • Manufacturer: Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky Labour Commune, Kharkov, Ukraine, SSSR
  • Shutter: curtain
  • Speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/250, 1/500 and B
  • Lens: FED 1:3,5 F=50mm
  • Apertures: 3,5 - 16 without stops
  • Lens No: 280375
  • Lens mount: M39
  • Last CLA: 06/2010

The FED-2 got a large, Contax-like 67mm coupled rangefinder and a Contax-like film loading mechanism while keeping the ergonomic Leica design and the Leica shutter. The best from both world, one may say. The FED-2 is therefore a very comfortable and surprisingly usable camera.

FED-2 type B2

I love the way you have to cock the curtain shutter: you can feel the curtain rolling to the spool. The exposition feels a bit clumsy as the curtains roll down but in fact, the shutter is quite precise. The whole process is simply lovely.

FED-2 type B2

Despite the compact look, the FED-2 is heavy and solid as a rock so you can use it for self-defending purposes in case of need. The knobs rotate a bit rough, you can feel that it’s a Russian piece of machinery of the not-too-precise-but-surviving-everything kind.

FED-2 type B2

FED-2 type B2

The camera design is so simple that it’s almost impossible to wreck and cheap to get repaired. They made more than one million FED-2s so it’s not too difficult to find spare parts. However, parts of different cameras are not necessarily interchangeable from two reasons: firstly, there were about 30 more or less different types of it, secondly, they were made by hand so the sizes and the location of screw holes may differ a little.


The collapsible FED lens is not the sharpest one I ever had, but it’s a big fun to use it. First, you have to pull it out of the camera body, then you have to twist it while pulling to lock it. Don’t forget to push it back a little to check you locked it properly otherwise you can get an out of focus image like this:

Landscape out of focus

You can call it artistic anyway.

Now let’s see the other one:

FED-2 type D6

  • Type: D6
  • Serial No: 2343868
  • Manufactured: 1959 - 1968
  • Manufacturer: Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky Labour Commune, Kharkov, Ukraine, SSSR
  • Shutter: curtain
  • Speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 and B
  • Lens: FED I-26m 2,8/52
  • Apertures: 2.8 - 22 without stops
  • Lens No: 1581284
  • Lens mount: M39
  • Last CLA: 06/2010

I ‘ve got this camera from a girl working at the photo lab when I took a few rolls of film there for development. She was enthusiastic about digital photography and didn’t understand why I used a film camera. This FED-2 was her grandfather’s camera but she never used it and wanted it to be in good hands so she handed it over to me. I’ve got it CLA-d and promised to take care of it. He made me promise to show the first roll taken with it but I couldn’t find her at the shop anymore despite that I tried it several times.

FED-2 type D6

This later type FED-2 feels to be exactly as well-balanced in the hand as the older one, with the same vulcanite exterior which gives a good grip. The main difference is that the knobs work more easily and more precisely. There is a minor change in shutter speeds which I wouldn’t call an enhancement: 25, 50 and 100 was replaced by 30, 60 and 125. The shutter itself is a newer design: it’s not as vulnerable to improper handling as the older ones were.

FED-2 type D6

The pretty collapsible FED lens was replaced by a definitely better performing but less charming Industar 26 labeled as FED I-26m with a strange 52mm focal lenght. It is sharper and renders definitely better pictures than its collapsible brother.


The widest aperture

Elisabeth Bridge

St. Stephen's Basilica

Here are two really important warnings if you want to use a FED:
  1. Always cock the shutter before setting the speed. Never set the speed first or you damage the shutter permanently. (Some later types are not vulnerable to this but you’d better not count on it.)
  2. Never turn the lens to the sun. It will burn holes into the shutter curtain. Use lens cap every time.
The FED-2 is a popular camera among vintage camera users because it’s cheap, handy, good looking and has a special story behind. You will find lots of information about it on the net. Here are some starting points: