Yashica Electro AX – Yashica’s goofy automatic exposure SLR

Yashica was known to design many quirky cameras during its run of existence. Here’s what the New York Times had to say about the Electro AX on November 4, 1973.

“A NEW fully automatic 35mm single‐lens‐reflex camera with an electronically controlled shutter has recently been introduced by Yashica, Inc. in the United States. Called the Yashica Electro AX, the camera has actually been available for some time in Japan and Europe, but it is only now reaching the American market.

Unlike most of the fully automatic cameras currently being marketed, the Electro AX is designed so that the photographer selects the aperture he wants. An electronic exposure control circuit then automatically sets the shutter speed at any one of an infinite number of different settings from 1/1,000 of a second to a full 8 seconds. When set for manual operation (at the photographer’s choice) the user can manually select speeds in the usual gradations of from one second to 1/1,000 of a second, as well as a “B” setting for time exposures.

Because of the electronic focal plane metal shutter, the entire exposure system is solid-state without any delicate moving mechanical parts.

When focusing, the diaphragm is closed down to the aperture selected, but for dim light situations, the photographer can press a button on the front which opens the diaphragm while focusing, without affecting the actual exposure setting. One unusual feature of the Electro AX is a green signal light on top that glows when the shutter is open — a useful aid when the built‐in self-timer is used, or with long exposure shots.

The camera has a CdS solid-state sensor located behind the viewing mirror, in front of the shutter. The split image viewfinder has a microprism focusing spot in the center, and there are red and yellow exposure indicator arrows that light up in the viewfinder to warn of overexposure or very slow shutter speed (when on automatic).

Other features include a built‐in light shield operated by a lever on front to prevent light leaks through the viewfinder when the eyepiece is uncovered, an ASA range from 25 to 1600, a battery check lamp which also illuminates the exposure counter, and a double lock for the back cover which prevents accidental opening. The Electro AX is priced at under $600 with an f/1.2 lens, about $500 with an f/1.4 lens, or under $460 with f/1.7 lens.”

By serial number decoding, it looks like the first models were manufactured in March-April 1973 so as the article points out, there was quite a lag in releasing it in the US markets.

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A Japanese sales brochure dated early 1974 and I have another (not pictured) dated March 1973.

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The Electro AX was the second to the last M42 screw mount lens body cameras made by Yashica. It appears that the last model is the super hard to find Yashica FFT. BTW, I have no idea what if anything the FFT stands for.

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This Yashica FFT instruction booklet is dated June 1973. It would appear that this final M42 body came out just a few months after the Electro AX and they were in production at the same time and ended about the same time in early 1974.

An FFT in good condition is a very hard camera to find here in the US and I’m convinced it didn’t enjoy a long run in US camera stores. I would love to find some brochures in English and of course a good looking FFT.

Back to the Electro AX.

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The AX was one of the first Yashica SLRs to have the ability to shut a small curtain in the viewfinder to block light from entering during long exposures and “selfies”. It’s the little lever next to the eyepiece. It’s also the first Yashica SLR to have leatherette covering part of the pentaprism. An early prototype of the first Yashica Pentamatic had the same look before Yashica changed to an all-metal pentaprism.

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The big black button just above the self-timer lever is an Aperture Activator Button. Pressing it allowed the photographer to focus and compose at full aperture. The aperture would automatically close down to the selected setting once the Film Advance Lever was operated.

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On full auto, the camera would select the proper shutter speed given the aperture selected on the lens. A series of over and underexposure arrows would appear (when the shutter release button is pressed halfway down) in the viewfinder display indicating which f-stop to select.

The goofy comes in when switching to full manual. You would set the proper shutter speed and correct f-stop (aperture) on the lens based on readings from an external exposure (light) meter. In the manual mode, the AX can not meter thru the lens. Kinda dumb for an electronic camera with a computer brain.

Due to the design of the semi-transparent mirror, the following lenses can not be used on the Electro AX – Yashinon-DX 21mm f/3.3, the Auto Yashinon-DX 28mm f/2.8, and the Auto Yashinon-DX 50mm f/2, f/1.7, f/1.4.

The Electro AX was initially released with Auto Yashinon-DS lenses.

Thanks for stopping by. When I get the correct battery for it I hope to shoot a test roll and post the results. – Chris

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2020 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
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