A good cheap film camera for those who don’t want to spend a lot, but still want a great film SLR – The Yashica TL Electro-X.
I consider the Yashica TL Electro-X to be my first real film camera. Sure, I had a few other film cameras before this one, but that was years and years ago, before digital photography had taken over, and before my obsession for photography had kicked in. Why is this important to the story? I’m not sure, I’ll try to tie it in somewhere down the line (no promises though). But before we begin, here’s a quick brief on this fine camera:
- Manufactured from 1968-1975
- Made in Japan
- M42 Screw Mount
- TTL Center-Weighted Light Meter (see second video below)
- ISO 25-800
- All manual Exposure
- Heavy as shiznit
Main Video Review
Let’s go over some of the key features of this camera and some of the reasons you may want to pick up one of these fine film cameras.
The all metal, focal plane shutter in this camera is operated by electricity. This means you need a battery ( 4LR44 (alkaline)). The shutter speed dial on the top plate allows you to set your shutter speed from 1/1000 of a second all the way down to 1 second. In today’s terms, that’s not all that impressive, but this camera is from the late 60’s, so let’s keep that in mind. Also important to note, there is a bulb mode setting for long exposures.
The bad thing about an electronic shutter is that the camera is dependent on the battery to operate. The one exception to this is if you use the shutter speed of 1/1000. At that shutter speed you can operate the camera without the battery. Of course the light meter won’t work without a battery, but at least you’ll be able fire off a shot if your battery dies. All other shutter speeds require power to work.
The good part about the electronic shutter is that it allows you to set shutter speeds in between the marked shutter speeds on the shutter dial. For example, you can set the camera to 1/100 of a second even though that shutter speed isn’t on the dial. That shutter speed falls between 1/60 and 1/125.
The flash sync speed of the Yashica TL Electro X is around 1/90 of a second. 1/90 isn’t specifically marked on the shutter dial, but it is marked by a red X, as seen in the image above. Even though the flash sync speed is listed as 1/90 in the camera’s manual, I’ve been able to shoot my flash with the shutter set to 1/125 and haven’t experienced any problems.
The Yashica TL Electro-X (according to my research) is the first 35mm film SLR to use indicator lights to display the light meter readout, as opposed to a needle that moves up or down to display the light meter reading. The Light meter can handle film speeds from ISO 25-800. Some might find a maximum ISO of 800 a little bit limiting, but I’ve made due and when I need to shoot at ISO 1600, I just use my best judgment and wing it. Of course you can also just use a hand held light meter too, and presto-change-o, you’re back in bizzneth.
There’s a lever on the front of the camera that activates the light meter when you press it down. When the lever is pressed down, it checks three things:
- The current aperture of the lens
- The current shutter speed
- The ISO setting
After evaluating those three things, the light meter will display a red arrow that points right if you’re overexposed, or a red arrow that points left if you’re underexposed. Check out the video below to see it in action.
The Yashica TL Electro X’s lens mount uses the M42 mount, also known as a screw mount.
The screw mount system is great in my opinion. There are tons of lenses available, made by many different companies, and they’re usually very affordable. Asahi Takumar, Yashica, Pentax, and Vivitar are some of the big M42 lens makers that come to mind when thinking of the screw mount system.
I was able to get a great 50mm f1.4 Asahi Takumar lens (with a Yashica TL Electro-X) for $50. I would be willing to pay that, and more, just for the lens alone, it’s an added bonus that a camera happened to be attached to it.
Some other popular/affordable lenses are the Asahi Takumar 35mm f3.5 and the Asahi Takumar 135mm f3.5. Both of these lenses can be found between $50-100 depending on condition.
Another reason I really like screw mount lenses is because they’re very easy to adapt to my digital cameras. I can use them on my digital stills cameras and my video camera. They produce wonderful images.
Other Important Notes
- Equipped with a self timer
- Features a mirror lock up switch (not common in cameras from the era)
- Battery check indicator light
- Standard tripod mount on bottom
- Takes 4LR44 (alkaline) battery OR 4SR44 (silver) battery. I use the 4LR44 battery and haven’t had any problems.
To wrap it up, I really enjoy shooting with this camera and would definitely recommend this camera to photographers who want to learn on an all manual camera, or who want an cheap 35mm film camera, or someone who wants both of those things.
I should have mentioned this earlier, this camera is sooo cooool looking. I love the angles on the top plate, the atomic symbol on the front, the big red X, and the old english Y on the top prism. It really does have some unique design characteristics that, in my opinion, look a little more interesting when compared to something like the Pentax K1000 or Pentax Spotmatic. To me, those cameras look a little boring. Don’t get me wrong, I own a couple of them, and they’re great cameras, but the Yashica TL Electro-X has a more interesting look to it.
Also, I’ve heard some people say that it’s prone to breaking, and I have had one copy crap out on me, but I’ve had several old cameras stop working, so it comes with the territory. For $50 or $60 bucks, I won’t complain if a camera from the late 60’s decides it’s time to pass on to camera heaven. I’ve put a lot of rolls of film through my Yashicas and if my current copy were to break again, I would definitely pick up a new copy. That’s how much I like these cameras.
Some more photos of the camera
Sample photos taken with this camera