Yashica TL Electro Review

Last weekend I found myself with a Yashica TL-Electro in my hands and the quest for a battery replacement began. So what follows is the ordeal of trying to find a battery for this bad boy and sharing my Yashica TL Electro review.

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Yashica TL-Electro
Yashica TL-Electro

The first thing I noticed when I held the camera was how heavy it is. This thing feels like a very sturdy build, and indeed it clocks in at 980g on the scales. It passed the test after a quick check over, there was a small scratch on the rear lens element, but shutter cocked nicely and gave a crisp sound after hitting the release. There was a small knock on the front of the lens, but this appeared to be only superficial.

Yashica TL-Electro
Yashica TL-Electro

History

Yashica TL-Electro
Yashica TL-Electro

The Yashica TL-Electro was released in 1972 by Yashica in Japan. It was the subtly inferior sibling to the Yashica TL-Electro X, as it did not have a battery check, had no FP socket and a lower sync speed.

Features

Yashica TL-Electro
Yashica TL-Electro

The Yashica has a standard through the lens (TTL) center-weighted manual match needle meter.

Mechanical self-timer of 8-9 seconds.

12 – 1600 ASA

Lenses

Yashica TL-Electro
Yashica TL-Electro

The Yashica has the standard Pentax M42 screw mount, so it works with a massive range of lenses.

The Yashica TL-Electro Is A Cheap 35mm Film Camera

Yashica TL-Electro
Yashica TL-Electro

After picking up the camera for $40 from Gumtree, I thought I should probably have a look online to see what they were selling for. I know, it’s a rookie mistake to first buy a camera without even checking what they are selling for online, and you’d be right. Once I’d looked, I wish I had picked one up from here instead.

I picked this one up for $40 and they were selling for around the same cheap price but with no damage. This makes them an extremely cheap 35mm SLR. The only real cost will come from finding a solution to the battery dilemma. The best place to look for these cameras is on eBay. It was interesting to note that the TL-Electro X seem much more commonplace.

Controls

Yashica TL-Electro Controls
Yashica TL-Electro Controls

Unfortunately, the shutter speed dial was so worn that it no longer showed any of the shutter speeds. Not the worst problem to have, but still a pain. I’m thinking I’ll just scratch in a few of the key numbers like 1/60, 1/250 to get a rough idea of where the shutter speed is at and wing the rest. Usually, if you don’t fall below 1/60 it’s going to be OK.

Battery

Yashica TL-Electro Battery Opening
Yashica TL-Electro Battery Opening

The biggest beef with this battery is that it uses now obsolete 1.35V mercury batteries. These ceased manufacturing a long, long time ago and so are extremely hard to find. Even if you do find some, the batteries are so old they will have likely lost most of their charge.

So what to do?

There are a few options and they range from expensive and safe to cheap and risky.

The Cheap and Risky Option

The replacement batteries for the 1.35V Mercuries were the 1.5V LR9 alkaline batteries. But be forewarned, there have been issues reported with using the LR9s as they result in a 0.3V overvoltage. It has been mentioned that this can burn out the LEDs in the camera. Additionally, alkaline batteries do not give off a stable voltage throughout their life. It might begin at 1.5V, but will gradually drain throughout its lifetime.

Yashica recommends using two PX640A batteries to achieve the 2.7 Volts.

The issue of the extra voltage has also been addressed, though, through some more expensive options.

The Safe and Expensive Option

The key to getting the steady and constant 2.7 Volts is by using an MR-9 battery adaptor which was made specifically to be able to convert the voltage of two SR44 silver-oxide 1.55 Volt batteries to the 2.7 Volts required. The two SR44 batteries are placed inside the MR-9 adaptor and when closed it takes the size of the original 2.7V mercury battery, so you just have to place it inside. Be wary if you choose to go down this path, as some manufacturers don’t offer the voltage conversion, they just do the size.

For an insightful discussion on the trials and tribulations of the Yashica TL-Electro battery saga, check out this Flickr forum.

You can get the Yashica TL Electro manual here.

Photo Examples

Train station
Source.
Guy in a field
Source.
Coffee Shop
Source.
Beach
Source.

I’m waiting on a few batteries to arrive and then I’ll promptly shoot a roll on the Yashica and share my own images here.

In summary, the Yashica TL-Electro feels like a rugged and cheap 35mm film camera perfect for the student or beginner in film photography that won’t break the bank. It has the slight downside of battery availability, but this appears to be reflected in some of the prices, making it so affordable.

Enjoy this Yashica-TL Electro review? Let me know in the comments!

#keepfilmalive

James Grundy
I’ve been photographing for 13 years and have a penchant for 35mm and medium format film. Black and white street photography is my go-to. My work has been featured in online and print media through a few publications like Shutterstock, Brooklyn Resource Mag, Off The Rails and Collective Quarterly.

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