Week 41 – The Goerz Taro Tenax
This week and next week were going to be hard in that I have planned some leave and would be leaving early Sunday, a day I normally square up all the processing, scanning and writing. Next week is sorted with something quite new to me and will be coming on the trip, but this week I needed something that fitted the schedule. Russell made a few suggestions but I felt we had been there before or that it might come back and bite me. Then I spotted the long extended bellows on the shelf. Enter the Goerz Taro Tenax…I duped my wife into researching it! She delved deep with this on google - c1912, a half plate double extending folder, simple 125mm lens pairing, F stops from 6.8 to 45 and shutter from 1 second to 100th + T & B. focusing is by rack and pinion projected onto a ground glass. It is from one of the original 4 that made up Zeiss Ikon and the last one of the group I have to shoot. A good reason right there. Secondly it gave me a chance to tackle the 1952/3 Ilford Ortho again, I have done all right with it but I would like to produce a nice small set with a vintage look. Third and finally I get another go at practicing sheet film which has been a bit hit and miss if I am honest! So the scene is set – an old man with very old film, 65yrs old, and an even older camera, 105yrs old!…
I did the usual under red light conditions of cutting down the sheets to 9x12 and loading 3 slightly iffy plate holders and packed them in a light tight bag. I had said last the time that I felt it needed to be between my previous rating of asa 25 & 50 so 32 it was. Day 1 rain! Day 2 locked into work. Finally day 3 I got 2 hours. First frame I chose the old school building at work. I set up, did all my stuff, checked – re checked! Took the shot… the film popped out as I replaced the dark slide! Grump! Repeat, this time all went well and I wander down to the Barbican and took my final frame as good as the second. You need to bear in mind that also after this I shot 5 frames to test a Kodak conversion appearing in week 51, and then did an 8 frame shutter test on the undead Graflex for week52, please do tune in for that!, and processed them so I am pushing the envelope in this shortened week! Anyway after work that evening/early morning I developed those two frames in DDX to see if it did better and they looked pretty good, some expected and understandable light leaks from the holders along with old film fogging but all else seemed ticketty boo.
Test shots done I reloaded 4 holders this time. Bolstered by the positive response to my interview published by emulsive film that day I set off on a Dartmoor drive with the family, they were very good at putting up with my faffing and I managed all 5 shots slowly but without hitch. I tried a landscape but I suspect this will struggle for detail, a group shot of my girls for something a little closer, a derelict church and an old stone bridge. All good subjects for a vintage feel. I kept with the DDX theme when developing and was pleased to see similar results.
Now, given the bigger negatives size scanning was not an option so I made a small mask to help produce some contact prints and at time of writing I have 3 reasonable prints given the films age and condition, I have confidence the other 3 will follow suit. There is only 6 I know but this is quite a lengthy process and time is not my friend. I think some tweaking in the dark room and with more experience I could cut though some of that fog and push a little contrast in there maybe but they will do nicely. I may add a little contrast post print scan bit will leave all else as is…there is a mountain of dust in those bellows! I got out what I could.
So, I achieved what I set out to do. The sheet film process went much better than before. I think I got as much from this film as I am capable of right now and the camera performed well! It does have a bit of misting on the lens and the leather covering is a bit dog eared but it is too good to sit on a shelf. Its bellows are light tight and a good clean made for clear focusing on the ground glass, it will make a great learning camera for anyone thinking of glass plate negatives…hmmm, there’s a though!
Week 40 – The Gallus Derlux
The Gallus Derlux, I remember its appearance in the shop and I also remember Russell pointing at it a lot in the following weeks usually with me shaking my head in answer with a slightly worried face. I don’t know why but the little chunk of metal was quite intimidating. However I stupidly paid the shop a visit with wifely in tow this week who spotted it and decided I should shoot as it was pretty …argh, I had to do it now! I left with it in my bag with Russell’s parting words of “I want sprockets”.
So, Gallus is a Jewish company that was firstly based in Germany and were making the Derby Deluxe already, they moved manufacture to Paris France in 1945 and changed the name to Derlux. A 127 half frame camera made of aluminium and polished it has quite look, simple in design with distance focus and aperture ring on the lens. The shutter release is in the front top which is cocked by a twist of the shutter speed select knob, that has to be lifted and dropped at your chosen speed of the curtain shutter, beside that is another Knob for advance. On the other side on top is your viewer with a couple of frame counter windows on the back…that is pretty much it really. I researched on the web but there isn’t a whole lot on there so I just did what felt right.
With sprockets being ordered I rolled an Ilford FP4+ 35mm into backing paper and cut down a roll of HP5+ 120 for roll 2. With the kids of school a few day trips were planned so there was my shooting opportunity. I loaded up the slower sprockets for a forecast bright day and spent it at Tavistock, a local market town on the moors under dark ominous clouds. I had noticed a little lag at 1/25th when playing with camera so decided to slightly push it up a stop rating it as asa 200, I still though really never got above 1/75th and f8. We wandered and I snapped away where I could metering with the spot meter, I tried to capture the feel of the little place but it was not exactly bustling with action. Once home the usual process commenced and I was able to scan after work that evening. They were a little disappointing really, I was convinced the longer straight flat back would work with sprockets but blurry spots were there in most where the film had not run straight and flat. There were a few good shots and exposures were not too far off but overall sprockets were not the call and the HP5+ would have given me more flexibility. I loaded roll 2 and the next day we set of on a coastal road trip, would you believe it we had bright sun! I could, maybe should have pulled the film speed to asa200 but I didn’t, I found myself shooting in the 200/500 bracket at its top f18 for most of the day. We first visited the river town of Kingsbridge for lunch where I shot several, then we stopped at the long pebbled beach of Slapton where I quickly finished the roll shooting the family skimming stones. Once more to the processing… Grainy! I processed this fresh film in my usual manner with fresh developer but just too grainy for me, I can only put it down to the smaller frame size. There is a line through many where I think the double curtain shutter is out of time and there are a couple of scuffs where the curtain probably made film contact. The focus was much better on these though with the film rails keeping its passage straight and true. There is one really wonky one where I fired prematurely but that was just a one off.
Overall I liked it, it was quirky looking and wanted to perform well. For a 1945 camera it has a few little creases that need ironing out in the shutter timing but it isn’t much and looks worse than it is. I think it is the sort of camera that appeals to a collector. I enjoyed the experience, something I probably will never get the chance to use again. So much polishing!
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Week 39 – The Zenit Photosniper
We had a problem this week and it was mine, I had a massive commitment to work in the form of a cricket and beer festival that was to last all week. So after declining the use of the Photosniper for several weeks I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to wheel this beasty out and have a crack at sports photography. It would be on private land and I had some nice vantage points to shoot from without fear of a tap on the shoulder from the boys in blue or worse, finding myself spread eagle on the ground being shouted at by armed police which did not appeal!
Why the issues in public? Well, it is a basic Zenith 12s with a prime 300mm f4.5 Tair lens screwed on which is then in turn bolted to rifle stock giving at a distinctive aggressive look, the original model was designed for military use in the late 40s but this was a newer remake from 83-94, also the kit comes with hood and filters for the 300, a Helios 58mm f2 44m4 lens with some screwdrivers and bits to fill up the enamelled metal case with leather back straps, most uncomfortable I might add!
Film – Time to process would be restricted so against my nature I went with a colour Kodak 400 ultra Max coupled with a Kodak BW400CN, I could develop at the same time without too much stress on adjustments timewise.
Day 1 & 5 would be the busiest so planned to do most of my work in the middle 3. I shot mostly from the balcony but did manage some wanders around the boundary, It does have TTL metering but I had no battery so settled for external metering of the scenes and leaving it locked in for a series of shots. A cool feature is setting the massive aperture ring, when closed down the viewer darkens but the twist and cocking of a further ring then locks it open, you focus by means of wheel neatly positioned on the front of the stock once you have your composition you squeeze the trigger one and the locked ring spins back to your chosen aperture a second squeeze captures the scene. The rifle style grip gives excellent balance making hand held 1/60th speeds simple with this long focal length. On one of my walks in I carried the 12s body coupled with the Helios like a standard 35mm and grabbed 3 frames. The whole experience was enjoyable and interesting. The weather as usual was changeable but I battled through.
I put them through the developer as planned together, at first look they looked inconsistent and not quite right. Upon scanning it was clear all were not good. My first thought was an issue in the development but half were ok and mixed well in both rolls. I did however notice the curtain shutter was clipping the left side while what seemed to be judder lines and uneven exposure were visible. I didn’t keep individual frame notes but my ruff over view ones told me the shots in the 1/500th and 250th were where the problems lay, below that all seemed fine. The smaller lens at 1/60th were bang on so a service is already underway, thank you Lyndon for that.
Overall I am pleased, a decent keeper rate for fast sporty shots which given the issue is good for me in this fast shoot style. The three small lens shots came out very well. I had fun with it and it certainly draws attention, this is a good reason to select where you shoot it carefully or you risk someone shooting back!
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Week 38 – The Pentax Spotmatic 1964-1976
Why a Spotmatic? Well I wanted to challenge my ideas that the Pentax Me Super was MY perfect 35mm SLR, also Jason Avery was running a little double exposure challenge, I kind of remembered the instructions on how to do from my ME manual and though it would be the same-ish. I pulled a couple of m42 50mm lenses of the shelf so I could play. First on was a Meyer-optic Domiplan 2.8, a poor effort at looking like a zebra lens. The E. Ludwig Meritar 2.9 looked the part though!
I screwed on the Meyer first with its 49mm filter thread meaning my own set of filters were compatible and I could slip on a cokin holder to assist in the multi exposures. With an Ilford FP4 loaded I set off in earnest with a desire to shoot architecture with this lens for a few days then swap lenses for roll 2…the weather had other Ideas! It took 3 days to get half way through the roll dodging huge rain storms, I attempted 3 or 4 double exposures but really didn’t enjoy the process that much and left it at that.
I decided to switch to the Ludwig mid roll, I am sticking to my purposeful usage plan and felt nothing good could come from rushing through shots to get in 2 rolls. I found a filter and hood for it which I think is 35.5mm and set off in search of interesting building, this and the Meyer lens darken your viewer as you move the F stops up of which I am not a fan of on 35mm, The Ludwig does have a fixed roll back system that is helpful. I found both a little tricky focusing on the spot system leaving me more in favour of the Me Super split focus prism.
How did I get on, well I liked the camera overall, it didn’t come close to my Me Super though, Looking at the pictures the Ludwig was by far the more contrasty of the two lenses, the Meyer was actually very flat. I would therefore choose the Ludwig, its looks and sharpness are better too. I was very happy with my regular compositions, I had a few of the inside of my bag and also one of the street I was walking along that I didn’t know about! The double exposures! Disaster! I attempted to put my reflection in the life ring, I am there but very faint. I tried to make the railway lines run into a post-box…but no. I had little more success in reversing the lighthouse but on all I somehow advanced a half frame and fluffed it and neighbouring frames. We will gloss over those as a lesson learned not to be repeated…I shall just enjoy the nice ones!
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Week 37 – The Wirgin Edixa Reflex
I think Russell must have read my mind, in recent weeks I had felt a little flat with the direction the challenge was taking, I wanted to push my own skills forward while experiencing some great fun cameras, which was lacking recently in the skills. I think I got that this week with the Edixa. A late 1950s German SLR, built like a tank and similarly weighted this angular black and silver chunk of metal felt trustworthy. Along with the standard Cassar f2.8 50mm lens I got a set of m42 extension tubes, a Sunagor 70-200mm zoom with both eye line prism and waistline view finders. My trusty tripod, a yellow filter and hood with a roll of HP5+ and Kodak 200 I was set!
The HP5 was loaded immediately and I worked a few frames on the way home. The advance sounded sweet and the trigger button on the front felt right with a really useful sliding locking switch alongside. The following day I had a few free hours to play so packed up the whole lot and visited Mutton Cove one of my favoured haunts when I want to concentrate. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot! I have played with extension tubes a bit on digital but with film it was new, I didn’t get drawn into stacking all of them trying to see my reflection in a fly’s eye, instead I sampled the shorter ones keeping it sensible. Zoomy stuff is kind of new to me too, I don’t own one. I shot one at frame with the 50 on the tripod then screwed the fully extended 200 on a repeated the shot. I know which I prefer, see what you think? Like the tubes it isn’t necessary to whack on 200mm all the time I found it useful at the lower distances too. All in all a very satisfying shoot, nice solid results with just about ½ a stop over exposure probably due to a little curtain lag on the focal plane shutter.
I loaded the Kodak for the weekend with the intension of underexposing to compensate for the lag. I got that bit right, but that was about all! I did everything, macro, zoom, street you name I tried it! I just couldn’t visualise the images. I swapped viewers to try seeing differently but nothing, I ended up stopping on 21 and winding it off…
So, I liked the camera! Loved playing with the accessories! And while the black and white was in I felt in control, working DoF, the composures and planning how I would process it for my taste, as soon as I put in the colour it just fell apart. I was actually compelled to write a page of drivel that might have made it out before this, just a few paragraphs on how I intend to finish of the remaining weeks.
Hope you enjoy the pics, I like quite a few, and even one or two of the colour…Cheers!
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52 cameras 52 weeks…Taking stock!
I hold my hand up, I do have a problem with G.A.S! I want EVERYTHING! It explains why this marathon project appealed, however there was always the end goal of my learning something about myself and where I was happy to take my photography. I am just typing away here with no planned text so forgive my ramblings, I just want to write it down as a constant reminder to control my enthusiasm! Here are some conclusions I have reached as to how I see what I do over the last dozen or so weeks and life in general after.
I already kind of know what set of cameras I think will fill my bag. Apart from a few fun or interestingly quirky ones most will challenge present thoughts if only to affirm my choices. At any time I want in my bag the following – My Pentax Me Super, I just cannot see me not having it to be honest! For 35mm it does everything I want and has personal meaning. The Zeiss Ikoflex is now my favourite TLR, the Yashica 124g is better in many ways but little Ike tugs my heart strings while making me work hard to get good pictures. I see the failed Bronica s2 replacing the Yashica, same format but as an SLR it gives me a different perspective and I just love how it feels in my hand. 2 cameras I hope will feature in the final weeks that I am also, along will the Brony hoping to persuade Russell to let me adopt, first is a Kodak 3a red bellows which with 6x12 frame size makes for a really interesting format and I just love the big arsed folder! Finally, the labour of love since it died back along – The R.B. Graflex 6x9. I hope it will be week 52 but there is much work to do. It has got deep under my skin though.
I am pretty much now sure I am going to concentrate on black & white, primarily Ilford’s with FP4+ as the mainstay and HP5 and PanF filling in either side. This makes perfect sense to me in my attempts to learn the zone system, perfect my development work and take it through to wet printing. I will still shoot and develop colour for budget reasons till the project is finished, but after that I will be using it sparingly and sending to labs for what I think will be more consistent less stressful results. That’s not to say I won’t still play around with old stock occasionally.
FORMAT & COMPOSITION
Format is clear from the above, I see 35mm for fun family stuff and those quick snappy shots while 6x6 & 6x9, 6x12 too as my solid photographic work. Using these to capture my growing attraction to my surrounding landscape seem favourable to me. I live in an area very much dominated by man’s encroachment on nature and natures fight back, it makes for stunning composures I have yet to do justice too. I the sea, the city and rolling moorland, I see a future of slow tripod work and that excites me! Large format is an itch I want to scratch and will eventually fall into place but my setup isn’t ready for that just yet.
WHAT NEXT THEN?
Presently I am trying to do too much, the exploring of gear and my love for vintage cameras satisfied by this project, coupled with trying to forward my own work and join in the many fun projects in the wider film community are time consuming, normal life stuff is affected sometimes So, I will be combining them altogether, I will be shooting less and hopefully with more meaning and quality.
Week 36 – BENCINI COMET III
I am by now settling into particular formats, styles and types of camera I like and want to explore further. I still however have a yearning for a folder of which there is one I have my eye on, and a little box camera. The Comet falls into the posh box category. A fixed shutter at 50th or bulb with a fixed aperture of f11, there is a focus ring on the 65mm lens requiring guestimates. The camera itself is very stylish with typical sleek Italian styling, made c1952 of polished aluminium trimmed with black leatherette giving this tall thin pretty boy a classy look.
So with an eye on @SummerFilmParty I picked some film, first up Lomography colour negative 100 expired was the only film I had that qualified and I was prepared to risk cutting down to the 127 format it takes, then I picked out similarly expired Ilford delta 100 I knew previously had shot pretty well. Cutting down 120 film to 127 has risks so these were fair game as practice rolls.
I knew the Lomo 100 needed shooting much lower than its native 100 having shot one before badly at asa 50 so I rated it at asa 25 and set off on a walk through town and along the seafront, I struggled to be honest, and its slowness just wouldn’t let me get into the shadows so I ended up concentrating on more open cityscapes. It was hard hot work in blazing sun, I just didn’t feel it. The camera itself was nice to use but the 16, 2cmx3cm half frames seemed to never end! I was hoping for some nice colour shifts to compliment the Lomo film but results were flat low contrast bland images, I felt I had let myself down. I put the softness down to the expired film but some of the resulting compositions had me at a loss, there seemed to be a trend toward down and to the right. I put this down to my holding position as the viewer is directly above the lens so should be straight forward.
I loaded the Delta a couple of days later, it was still bright but lots of grey clouds meaning I was in safe black and white territory. I was determined to make up for my first roll and work on composition. I took a trip over the bridge to the Cornish side of Saltash passage as a scouting mission for future personal work. I took a little yellow filter that I could hold in front, but the lens just wouldn’t marry up with any hoods. I used sunny 16 for exposure with a quick preliminary meter to set the tone. I worked hard on composure! Trying different things, I fully expected some loss of shadow detail and knew the delta would have some issues, lack of hood gave a risk of glare but I could live with that. I wasn’t however expecting such soft images particularly toward the edges! The down to the right was clearly there again even with my careful framing. I was somewhat frustrated!
I have to say, given the effort in the design and styling I expected more, lens quality was definitely overlooked! I was pretty disappointed, the simple Kodak brownie box knocks it into a cocked hat. That said, it is a perfect candidate for Lomo budget colour photograph that seems to be trendy once you get used to its little issues.
Let’s quickly move on… :s
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Week 35 - Miranda MS-3
This week ended up being one of the most challenging so far. The chosen weeks camera, an Ensign Rollfilm Reflex had, after much testing, cleaning and reading up on failed me at a pivotal point of the week leaving me in a bit of a pickle.
Luckily I was running a second camera alongside for another camera challenge organised by Twitterer Jason Avery. It was to buy a camera under the value of £5 sterling. I decided I would use it as this weeks stand in camera and push a few ideas. Heres my week
I had struggled to decide/find a camera that met my criteria, quirky – old! Whilst kicking my heals at Russell’s shop a chap came in to sell a camera, a Miranda MS 3 with a Pentax SMC 50mm lens on the front. After a look over he pointed out there was some fungus on the lens and the body was not exactly pristine so was of very little value if any. He then broke into a smile and offered the chap a roll of Fuji c200 to which the bloke agreed and Russell passed me the camera with the words under a fiver…£3.29! I couldn’t argue and accepted. I did however feel I had used my friendship as an advantage so pulled off the lens and handed that back being the only value on the camera. Once home I attached a Cosina 28-50mm zoom that I had picked up at a booty a while back for 1 due to a chip, dead centre of the front glass. I had bought it for my Pentax Me Super. Miranda kits came with Cosina lenses so a good matchup, this leads us neatly on to the Miranda.
The Japanese camera manufacturer Miranda had ceased trading in 1970. British electrical stores Dixons had bought the name in the mid 80s and commissioned Cosina to produce a home brand camera using that name. Cosina did a lot of Pentax stuff so no surprise the basic shape and working of the MS come straight of the Me Super, a 35mm SLR of aperture priority function. Similar meter system and layout. You can shoot in manual. It is cheap, plastic and just not as sweet in the hand though with several features missing.
The first roll in was an Ilford PanF 50asa, ideal for a sunny Friday. No sooner had I shot the first frame and my phone rang – youngest daughter was ill and could I pick her up, that was the end of that. It was Monday before I got out again with daughter in tow and between us we cleared half a roll on a tripod on a dull day, it then rained non-stop for the rest of the week so, I covered it with a bag and shot the roll anyway, I and the camera got very wet! I was pleasantly surprised by the results, some issues with the hood and rain on lens but good.
then took it a step further. I dug around in the spares lens box and pulled out
a fungus ruined Vivitar 135mm/f2.5, £0 and a Cosina 50mm/f2. £5 tops, remember,
the body is worthless! I popped in a budget Kentmere 400 BW and had a fun walk
that ended in the local park. I really enjoyed it, this is my standard Pentax
set up so I found it quite natural. The results were again surprisingly good,
some issues with 135 aperture sticking but hey it cost nothing! The Kentmere is
a little grainy and not a flexible or forgiving as say HP5 but it is £3.30 and
did a decent job
For a 30+ year old plastic cheap camera with budget lenses we pulled of a good week, you could at a pinch get the bloody lot for well under a tenner and it never missed a beat while rendering good images. To put it in perspective the body with one lens & film cost less than a disposable camera! I know which I would choose. I won’t be swapping it for the Pentax though!
Thank you Jason Avery for another fun challenge!
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Week 34 – The Rolleicord VB
I had dropped off the Serine 105 and was just about to enquire about the forthcoming week 34 when Russell plonked the Rolleicord VB on the counter with the words – Can you film test that? Okay! A bit pushy lol, but I thought why not. I had ran its more desirable sister in week 1 and had been a little underwhelmed by it despite everyone raving about it. I found my Yashi 124g almost as good and easier to use. Then I remembered one of the first film camera reviews I had read, a review by one of my early mentors and a man responsible for bringing me into the film community – Shawn Mozmode! So all I am going to say about the camera is read here! ---
Shawn Mozmode, Me and my Rolleicord. You can google it or find it at EMULSIVE
Done it? Cool, we will move on. Shawn was in my head now so I decided to run with it. I would spend the next few days tipping my cap to a milestone man in my photography. I didn’t want to copy him but just a hint of his style. There had to be humour, quirkiness in an urban setting. He uses colour and B&W, expert at the selfie and a lover of portraits. I chose 2 films new to me – Kodak Ektar 100 for colour and on the recommendation of Sandeep a c41 B&W, Ilford XP2 400.
Ektar is a vivid colour film loved by many but it can, I believe, be a little finicky. I loaded it up and set along with my all my compatible Yashi hoods, filters and attachments. The sun was bright and the sky was clear and blue, perfect for this film. I just rolled with it and let things happen. The Cord was really easy to get on with. I loosely metered the shadows and played with composition and colour. I quickly realised why I had not been impressed with the Rolleiflex. It had been hyped as the god of TLRs and it was never going to reach expectation. This little fella however with its simplicity just felt right! I put the film through my usual process and while not perfect with a few iffy ones, they are probably some of my best colour work. It left me thinking maybe I CAN shoot colour after all!
Next up the XP2, I love my black and white film process and this film was off my normal track, developing as colour seems alien and not having the control in development was a bit scary. I couldn’t have been luckier, the sun vanished and nice cloudy skies appeared, perfect BW territory for me. Again I metered the shadows letting highlights fall wherever. I had 2 hours of fun! A little silly at times but hey! I shot a few selfies, mixed in some bikes for Shawnee but alas no portrait presented itself. Now, you might see a few damaged areas on both films, TBO I had a mare of a time loading tank reels in the humidity. I struggled post editing the WB on the XP2 and ended converting to BW in lightroom but I am pleased overall but really it is hard to see it fitting my work flow.
The Rolleicord is a great little camera giving much more bang for your buck than the flex. I would even go as far as it being better than my Yashi! I hope I haven’t done you a dis-service Shawn and thanks for your support!
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Week 33 – The Sirene 105 - possibly
Every little plate camera that arrives at the shop I have to touch and play with, I have since the Ernemann resisted! I buckled this week when Russell plonked the Serine 105? in front of me. Why do I question it, well it is marked up I.C.A. AKT GES Dresden. The model name is supposed to be on the handle but that is missing, other very similar models were, around the 1914-26 time, the Volta and the Lola but they had too many inconsistencies. The setup it has according to the ICA site I found puts it around 1920. A pull out bellows plate camera for 6.5x9 plates, it is the budget version with just 2 lens elements that screw in front and back. This by the way I read gives 3 options, normal or reverse them for macro and lastly just the front one screwed into the back for close portraits. The other budget point was it only ran f11 -12.5-18-25-36 with shutter speeds of B-25-50-100th. My opinion is the shutter is too fast for the apertures available but what do I know.
All I wanted from the week was to practice my previously poor sheet film work flow without busting my wallet. I decided to give the 1950s Ilford Ortho first crack as I could set it all up under safe lights. I left in the glass plates to support the film and all went well! So, next day after my work runs I grabbed 2 hrs just sat by a jetty carefully going through the motions and scribbling madly. I rated at 25asa which meant multiple exposures. It didn't go particularly well to be honest, I either missed a point or forgot something, e.g. the out of focus ring, I did everything to the letter! Except bloody focusing! I swore to correct that on the next set. I developed in DDX, they are OK with that aged look but don't really do what I wanted.
Set 2, I decided to cut down my favourite FP4, I replaced the glass with black card as I thought it was causing light problems behind the film and I cut card stays to hold down the film corners to stop jamming. This was all fiddly in full blackout but I did it. Saturday we had to pick up daughter 2 from Dartmoor so while waiting I set up a shot, did everything right but when pulling the dark slide the holder came too! First bolloxed. No more that day. Sunday I had to work, a friends christening and they agreed to a portrait. I got nervous fluffed the dark slide replacement and blew it, take 2 same shot, got it all but missed the focus. After I settled in a small on site garden and tried the close-up shot again, slide issues again! I was stressed now! I took a knee, had strong sweary words with myself and hit the last 2 with total commitment. I dev'd in DDX again in a standard tank and got as suspected 3 from 6. ALL worth it for the close-up shot.
The camera works. It works well when used correctly. I have however much to learn in this style of photography. It pulled me back a peg or two and rightly so. No doubt another chance will come and I will know more but for now you have little to view. Sorry!
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Week 32 – The Yashica Minister II
A bit of a fluke this one, and probably the right camera at the right time! I was hunting through boxes looking for a particular Yashica Electro 35 for Russell… which he had right next to him btw, just couldn't see it! Anyway, I saw what I took to be the 35 and pulled out what was the Minister II. As I held it I kind of liked its look, typical mid-60s, 35mm brush steel and black body, an all manual rangefinder and not a battery flap in sight! I had a scary looking week with sis's wedding with all its planning, stuff at work to do, plus the weather was forecast, and bore out to be miserable! No @summerfilmparty for me sadly. I decided to chuck in a colour roll and use the on board E.V.L system, to see how it turned out then if there was time run a second. I would meter off camera and compare the two. As I ran that first roll of 1 year expired Kodak 200 it became clear a 2nd was just not going to happen so I mixed the 2 methods up to see, without notes, if I could pick them out. Lets clear that one up now, I couldn't. To be fair the weather was so bad I think the scenes were pretty evenly lit so shadow detail / highlights were not an issue, perhaps more contrasting lighting would be a different story.
I found using the Yashica Minister fun, pretty quick and easy, an ideal little carry camera particularly for the all manual lovers. All the focus and exposure controls are on the 45mm Yashinon lens, the focus ring has a handily placed protruding thumb piece making for smooth pairing of the split image in the big bright viewfinder, the yellow centre spot is clear even in the dull horrid conditions. Exposure is a joy, set your film speed on the meter window, point at your composition and read off the EV number and dial it in on the ring at the end of the lens. Then with the ring just behind that choose your preferred available match up for your requirements of speed, DoF etc. It really is super easy! If you want to spot meter then dial in your required speed then turn the EV ring until your aperture value comes into line.
It wasn't all plain sailing, aside from struggling motivation wise in the to the skin soaking perpetual drizzle I forgot to allow for parallax correction far too often. I found the shutter release button super sensitive and fired just before I was ready a couple of times. The train is a prime example, I had to be quick so estimated distance, gave it a stop extra from the shot just taken, poked the lens through the fence and hit the shutter release. NOTHING! I had gotten into the habit of not advancing till ready to avert misfires. So I advanced and patiently waited for the back and promptly misfired!
The resulting images given the weather, lack of interesting targets and my dire efforts with colour are pretty good, the camera performs way better than expected. The lens is sharp, it is light and easy to use. It made what could have been a washout kind of fun. If I see one going for a bargain, and they are nice and cheap! I would find it hard to pass up.
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I know I only did the Bronica ETRS a few weeks ago but I have good reason for revisiting similar. Firstly, one of the reasons for this year long G.A.S. indulgence is to find what I like, how it might suit the direction of my hobby and fit my work flow. Second, my sister has asked if I could cover some photography at her wedding…NOT I might add as pro type photographer and while most will be shot on a digital I wanted to mix in some film. The Bronie s2 as a 6x6 would be easier than the ETRS's 4.5x6 when it came to composing the shots. Third, I have been questioning why I own 2 TLR's and would something a little different in MF give me fresh approach! Lets see…
With the wedding in mind and my complete terror of this responsibility I decided to shoot in a certain way, those closer to mid-range shots that would be required. Having several colour rolls, chemicals mixed I chose the dreaded colour for the first 2 rolls. NOT my comfort zone, both a little expired and have given me a headache before with colour shift. Roll 1 was Kodak Portra 160vc which I would shoot and develop as normal. An afternoon family day at Saltram House gardens in the sunshine would give me plenty of interesting possibilities. Roll 2, Kodak Portra 160nc which I would rate at 400asa and pre bath in Rodinal, something a few have been talking about on twitter recently. I also shot a 3rd roll as portrait practice, an FP4+ that I hoped to shoot on the day and roped my 2 available youngest in as models… I have included a few below.
I will admit this behemoth monster of a camera really caught my eye. She has sweet lines, classy chrome trim on the fat black body, no fuss, no batteries, just a straight up and honest MF SLR, 4lb in weight so heavy, but lovely in the hands. Easy to manoeuvre the focus ring on the 75mm Nikkor lens which at f2.8 is fast enough! Couple that with a shutter speed topping out 1000th and running down to 1 second there is ample play time right there! Removable film back for 120 & 220 with a Polaroid option out there I saw lots of fun ahead!
I really enjoyed using it, it felt playful, comfortable and quite different from the TLR. Small issue with the advance, wound on fine, frame spacing good on 12 of them but insisted on 2 false frames every roll that wound off! Odd, but talking today to an experienced repairer it is likely to be a quirk to that particular back and shouldn't present a problem. The results were however more concerning! I had missed focus across all rolls… not by a bit but by a few feet. Beautifully sharp but not where I wanted it! PANIC! I really thought I had lost the plot, maybe my eyes? Maybe I just wasn't seeing it right on the ground glass? Anyway today I had to assist Russell retrieve stuff from the above mentioned repairer who took a look at Big Bertha and immediately spotted that the critical focus was way off along with infinity focus, he can reset it so this isn't over just yet. I will keep you posted! In the meantime I shot most of the below pics knowing where I was focusing but to the unknown eye they are ok. Take a look.
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Week 30 – The Ricoh 16
This Ricoh 16 is one of those little fun cameras Russell likes to pick up when he can. He definitely has a tendency toward the quirky and this fits the bill! A tiny little sub miniature that you can slip into your trouser pocket if you wear the looser fit like me. I am a comfort over style man! It isn't a toy camera at all, well made with nice looks, it has a full range of apertures on a lens ring. A tiny knob on top gives you speeds of B, 50, 100 and 200. You focus as a distance finder again with a setting ring on the detachable lens, yes there are interchangeable lens options. Made in 1959 it has the black and silver look of the period which for me was more appealing than the preceding golden option which was a bit too much bling for my taste.
The film – this may have presented a problem, as the name suggests 16mm is what is required and there was none to hand immediately but as luck had it Terry, Calor-gas-Terry, posted on twitter he had bagged a couple of 200 foot reels of 1980s HP5 movie film, a quick conversation and he returned to purchase me one for the princely sum of £2 which he gifted me… what a nice man!
The next problem, fun part! Getting a piece of a 200 foot reel into a tiny reloadable cassette in pitch black I figured would be a challenge. I cut a test piece to practice loading in daylight which went well so off to the darkroom with ruler and scissors. I estimated the 20 frame lengths the camera can hold plus spacing and ample spare to cover my ass, approx. 18 inches. I will not bore you with details as it would be lengthy but! Many cassette parts, curly film, sweat, cursing and growling I got it in and sealed up and ready to shoot. It was fiddly, you have to do it accurately but very doable.
Shoot day – I rated the expired 400asa film at 200 and set of on my usual travels metering quite loosely with my spot meter and just freely shot at things at different distances trying to mix up the settings to see what it could do with the intention of the usual second roll improvement. It is marked up for 20 frames but you can choose more, or less as you wish. Once done I developed with my preferred HP5+ method 1:50 Rodinal for 20 minutes.
Results – I was expecting really grainy images given the tiny 10mm x 14mm frames coupled with expired HP5 but they weren't too bad being less noticeable in the busier close to medium distance shots. It focused well and exposures were ok but next time I would probably rate at 100 asa. The one thing I did notice, and it may be a quirk of the size and 28mm lens length, but parallax error occurred in the distance shots, I know I had the cricket pavilion dead centre with wriggle room! Odd, close-ups were bang middle with no correction on my part. Also the image you get is smaller than what you see in the viewer resulting in some chopping off which was annoying.
Summing up – With some unsurprising fogging on the 30 plus year old film and no filters to fit to change it up a gear I didn't run a second roll, I got what I needed from the first and really didn't think I would get anything from running a second. It is a bit of fun, an experience but not my cup of tea. I struggle to see the practical use of it but maybe there is none, it is just a fun and quirky camera.
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Week 29 – The Kodak Box Brownie No2
Why another Box Camera I hear you ask? Yes I know we only did one 2 weeks ago. Jason Avery on twitter had come up with a bit of fun #boxcamweek and it sounded fun. I had really enjoyed the Coronet cardboard jobby so why not have a go at another. Russell let me rummage through his box of boxes, all a bit rough and ready but I pulled a rusty mucky Kodak Brownie number 2 out that needed a spruce. I took it home. I scrubbed away the rusty edges with the back pad of a dry sponge, glued the curly leatherette covering back down then polished all the exterior with balsam wax. I gave all the glass bits a going over with white vinegar, the fixed lens came up well but the bright viewers were not great. Inside got a good clean too, the rust removal on rollers with a careful lube.
Camera now looking grand with an aged look we can go through a couple of differences with the Coronet. The Kodak body is mean to be aluminium but the rust says not! Shutter is faster at 1/50th and a slide out plate with holes stamped in for aperture options of F11-16-22, which is about it really.
Roll one – the usual FP4 was loaded and I did a few test light evaluations, the loss of a stop of light with the faster shutter made it hard to get a shot in with any filter for effect even at f11 so I decided to have a crack at multiple exposures across the whole roll. In fact all were x3 accept the sundial which was x4! The one of the street scene looking at the pub a meagre x2. To be honest I wasn't overly confident with my math re exposures so a very tense time through developing, I need not have worried as they were pretty damned good! I hadn't done too badly with composure either considering the viewing glass, the tripod was a must!
Roll 2 – HP5 for a change of pace. At asa 400 it gave me a couple of stops of light to play with so set about a day of single exposures. I just wanted a day of taking photographs so jumped on the foot ferry to neighbouring Cornwall and Mount Edgcumbe Country Park and just had fun. I thought I had it all in hand. A great historical place set in lovely woodland, open parkland and right on the Tamar River bank. I am going to pick out one picture in particular – The Folly tower looking over Plymouth Sound with the city in the background. I have taken this view in my digital time and really wanted it on film. I was lucky in that stormy skies added some drama and I could just about justify the light orange filter. Here is a fun fact. The folly was built from the stones of a couple of ruined churches of Plymouth in 1747 by Baron Richard Edgcumbe. It was built complete then the story goes he ordered it to be distressed by using gunpowder. They over did it a tad and dropped it completely so had to rebuild it again! Anyway back to the roll, I knew I had on a few frames accepted slight under exposure so wasn't surprised with a few dark ones after developing so a little post tweaking has been done. I am confident I could print them so I won't be beating myself up. The folly shot is as though and I am very proud of it indeed.
Summing up? Nothing but joy, good honest images with a look of their own, not razor sharp but who cares! I am now looking for a nice box of my own. I had to work the exposures a little but that is the fun part…loved it!
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George Hare Improved Field Camera
Normally I get a camera, chuck in a roll - develop and scan – assess then repeat in the hope of improving and learning something along the way. Well this week is a little different and honestly a lot earlier than we intended! We don't normally plan but Russell part purchased this old girl some weeks ago with an idea to research, tweak and repair its case then test before deciding if it was going on the shelf. When he first got it there was no makers name to help identify it. A lengthy trawl of the tinternet revealed it as THE GEORGE HARE IMPROVED FIELD CAMERA. Built between 1890 and 1899, a large format bellows plate camera made of wood, brass and leather. The compur shutter on the front probably replaced the original curtain shutter, its housing being in the box now replaced with the more traditional type on a front plate of wood which doesn't quite match the quality of the rest of the body. The lens is brass with no name or size on it but I guess 4 inches-ish or 100mm in new money. It came with 5 double sided glass plate carriers now neatly set up with black tin sheet film cassettes for 4 ¾ x 6 ½ inch in size.
The film size presented a problem, had it been 4x5 or 8x10 then buying a pack would have been ok as it would get used up eventually but the odd size might not raise its head again for a good while. There was however a pack of film in the case! It was Ortho and expired in the 1950s! Yes 65 years ago, this could be problematic but hey, worth a shot. I took the pack and a holder home to attempt a load. A quick google told me Ortho film could be loaded under safe light conditions which was a bonus, being able to see what I was doing. Next day back to Russells and we went out to shoot it. We took the nice wooden tripod and I set about taking my first LF pictures. I did everything I thought I should, focusing under a makeshift black sheet I stole from wifelys fabric stock using loupe, making notes on EVERYTHING! Loaded carrier, pulled back dark slide…pop! Done, repeat, I thought it went well. Straight home to develop. Now, I had tested some film off cuts prior and there was some fogging. After a chat with film gurus Erik and Craig a suggestion of using paper developer to cut back the fog and add contrast was offered as an option so I gave it a go, again under safe light meaning I could watch it unfold! Unfold it did… very quickly…too quickly! They went very dark. I would normally scan here but I can't at this size so straight to contact print, and they printed OK!
Process proved I got 2 holders and loaded 4 new sheets, this is where it gets sketchy, I came down with a virus, I spent 3 hours over those 4 shots dodging rain and feeling increasingly awful, the final shot was a real effort to concentrate. The following days were somewhat blurry but I developed the first one in a more diluted version of the first but that was way too weak so I went for plan B, a 1:15 Rodinal mix which I found I could control by eye and ended up with 3 fairly good negs. I was at this point suffering fevers lost voice etc. and had no drive whatsoever. Last night, Sunday, I knocked out some feeble prints and viewing this morning I am compelled to do them again tonight. Hopefully when you read this there will be 5, maybe 6 reasonable scanned prints to see below.
For a first foray into LF on a strange 130 yr. old camera with much expired film I think I did ok. I learned a great deal and had fun to start but sadly fate dealt me a curve ball and spoilt it a bit. Using the Ortho film under safe light conditions was a highlight, a rare chance to watch the whole process unfold. Then going straight to print allows me the fun of saying for the first time – I made a photograph!
Update – a heavy waste basket and several hours later it is clear that my skills, read lack of! Just are not ready for these difficult negatives. I am not disappointed, I am lucky to get images from 65 year old film left in a loft. Strangely the 2 first dark images printed best.
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First, I have said I didnt want this to end up as camera reviews and I always end up babbling on about this and that so I will try not to! So, the lubitel is from the USSR – Been around since the 50s, still made by Lomography as the 166, it is plastic and basic! Google is your friend.
They made millions of these bloody things and I had till now managed to dodge the huddle perching on Russells shelf but he got me this week. I dont mind a toy camera, they can be fun but everything I read insisted this TLR was not a toy, more a basic amateur camera…Lubitel translates to amateur apparently! No matter I had it now so I would make the best of it. I have recently dipped a toe into the darkroom and those in the know tell me I should be honing my skills on producing good negatives so I will be using a lot of FP4+ from here on in fine tuning my exposure and development…that is not to say there wont be the occasional transgression. Both rolls this week are FP4, developed in DDX at 1:6 for 10 minutes. I will be metering with a spot meter as usual.
Roll 1 – I didnt get the camera until the Wednesday and didnt load the 120 until Thursday due to a busy work schedule, even then I only managed an hour out at Radford Lake where many old wooden ships rest and rot. I kept everything simple with just a makeshift hood and the usual B&W filter glasses. I hand held or rested on flat spots for anything under 1/60, I tried a few Shallow DoF etc. and it wasnt too bad, I found the shutter release awkwardly too close to the cocking lever so used a cable release from then on. The big bright viewing glass is great for composure but the ground spot in the middle for focusing, even with the little pull out magnifier is just useless and I ended up using the distance scale on the viewing lens. Saturday I took 3 on the way to work then managed a clumsy double exposure and finished off exploring a couple of 7 minute long exposures that did not really come of that well. The rest? Well, not bad! Quite good actually, swirly bokeh, reasonably sharp and not bad exposures… I was surprised! Incidentally as a side note, the castle type folly you see in some is where wifelys Great Grandma was born, her family once owned the big house and surrounding parkland.
Roll 2 – Sunday morning, one roll to shoot! I packed the tripod and set off to Plymbridge woods, the River Plym runs through its deep valley lined with pine plantation with lots of abandoned quarry workings, railways, cottages etc. I started with a few simple shots to warm up then taking the advice of a wise man I tried some adventurous long exposures in the very shaded valley bottom, the longest up in the 20 seconds with a deep orange filter. These were using bulb mode, I much prefer these slow cameras when they have better low end shutter speeds, 1 1/15 just doesnt cut it for my preferences. I climbed the steep bank and finished the roll walking back on the old rail route. It went I think very well with a couple of exposures straying a bit, some of the results are a shade dark but then it was dark so a fair representation of conditions.
Thoughts – It wasnt nearly as bad as I thought it would be, I am really pleased with the results too. If I saw one in a flea market in the tens of pounds I might be tempted or NOT! I will not make comment on the new prices… A good medium format starter camera if you like plastic.
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Week 26. Wow the half way mark. To celebrate the occasion and to give me an antidote to last weeks pressure pot i have been entrusted with a cardboard box. The Coronet No2. What do you get? A cardboard box with a lid on the front held with two clips, not opposite each other but on the left side on top. Two bright prism finders on the same side for landscape and portrait. On the top is a handle and a pull out bar for timed shutter. Back to the left side and there is a knob and taking switch. On the front is a hole containing a Meniscus lens with a single f14 aperture a simple shutter of 1/25th only, below it is a switch to swing the 3 foot only focus portrait lens into place. Other than the 120 spool holder and a little red window in the back to count your 8, 6x9 frames that is your lot.
Roll 1 Ilford FP4. I loaded straight away. I had no expectations other than probable light leaks and unbalanced exposures, the f14, 1/25th were approximates with little info on the web. I cobbled a set of filter glass and a holder, yellow, orange, strong orange, green, and a hood held on with rubber bands. I was not looking to create any particular look with the filters, that would be a bonus, they were there to give stops shifting the aperture tighter and i planned to multiple exposure as well for the too dark situations. Using the spot meter, i metered as normal and went with an aperture matching up with 1/25th, then use the filters to pull it back to f14. I wandered the usual haunts of the Barbican where the tall ship trainer was in dock and slowly worked the exposures. For some idea as to what i used, the shot of the men working on the ship was a straight f14, 1/25th while the Lido pool and fountain was a strong orange x2 exposure. The marker stone a straight x3 exposure. I saved one frame and attempted long exposure portrait of a determined five seconds that would have been good except i forgot the portrait lens and got nowhere near allowing the parallax error. Other then that and the obvious mismatch of hood i was really pleased.
Roll 2, another FP4. I changed the hood and lost the filter holder just sliding the glass in behind. I did pretty much the same as the first roll but with some good cloud cover i tried a more adventurous approach attempting to utilise the filters to their best, double exposing with the orange on the ship, green on the cafe. I repeated my portrait attempt remembering the close up lens and measuring the required three feet, much better.Still a bit of parallax correction wise but closer. BTW, if you are wondering why the girls are looking off into the distance it is because they kept getting the giggles. Not great for a three to five second exposure. 30 minutes for those two frames, lol. A few light leaks crept in with a bit of fogging on a few, the lid just is not tight enough and being paper covered cardboard, tape was not an option, so i can live with the otherwise pleasing results.
Did i like it? Damn, yes, capital YES. It is simple and basic yet with a little thought you can get creative and push some boundaries. The lens is reasonable the middle getting much softer as you get to the edge giving a tilt shift effect. I was glad of the slowness too, something that is increasingly where i want to be. If it were mine i would strip of f the felt around the inner lid to easily fix that leak. I would also concentrate more on central points of interest to ultilise the centre sharpness that is wasted on attempted landscapes. I had lots of fun, i really did.
Week 25 –
R.B. Graflex series b
Week 25 –
Kodak 2a Hawkette
WEEK TWENTY FIVE!!! –Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta!
Yes, yes! You get the drift! Please read on. For some time, well almost since the beginning, Russell has been trying to get me to shoot the horrible Kodak as he thinks it is great. I however do not. Then 2 weeks ago he bought in a Graflex and it really caught my eye so after some pestering we shook hands on a deal – I would shoot the Graflex for week 25 on the understanding I would have to shoot the Kodak thing for 26!
I took the large box home, I will not go into any detail as it will become clear as we go on but I read, studied and learned, liaised with Erik Gould who has expertise in the camera and went for a dry run … nothing! Fiddled twiddled and finally took the back plate off, the cloth shutter had broken! I was gutted! 3am I finally gave up any hope of rescue. I awoke in the morning and trudged to Russells to pass on the bad news. Now whether it was the fuzzy head from lack of sleep I don't know but in that 30 minute walk I decided I would not quit, I would not be beaten and formulated a plan to run a rebuild as a side project where if successful I would shoot it on week 52. You will find this on Soperfect images home page where this is… the bad news was I now HAD to shoot the Kodak L
I got to Russells and explained, he sniggered and dragged the glossy fake wood looking plastic monstrosity from the shelf. We were already on Wednesday and not a frame shot so I immediately loaded one of the expired Delta 100s and set off …STOP! [Cuts to chase] when I developed the roll every frame was black on the negs so positive white, in my hurry and drowsy state I made the school boy error of not checking it over properly, the bellows were shot and leaking light like colander.
We are now at Thursday and no camera and no pictures, I am drained and very miffed! Back to the shop where a line of Zeiss folders had just come in, Russell passed me the pick of the bunch, I took it home, checked it and loaded it with expired Portra 160vc colour.
The Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta – I have done a couple of Zeiss folders now but this is more advanced. Tessar lens – light meter that gives you your combinations, 120 type 6x6 frames that auto stop when advanced etc. Google it if you want the jargon but it looks and feels quality – its been a LONG week! I shot the Porta using the camera meter rapidly around the harbour trying to see things in colour and got it in the developer asap. I scanned it in the early morning, they were ok with some colour shift but the heavy beast had done ok. All the knobs and twiddly bits were in good positions where you could work with comfort and not have to be searching too much for things. The centre spot in the viewer for the rangefinder was small but bright and clear. The next shoot day was Sunday, today! I loaded one of the expired Delta 100s that have done well before and set off early with the tribe as my 2 youngest were part of the junior half marathon. We were only there three hours but I tried my hand at some sports photography – man that is hard, especially with a bulky rangefinder. I have just looked at the scans and to be honest they suck, the film either rubbed on a stiff roller or this one film is just not at its best. My panning of moving targets while trying to be in focus was rubbish really while my hurried exposer settings were riddled with errors…speed is not my forte! Over all, the camera is good and does everything it should but just isn't my bag, the extra size and weight with the meter system makes it clumsy for what is reported to have 35mm qualities. The focus wheel and shutter/aperture rings are too easily accidently moved if you aren't careful. I wish to draw a thick line under this week, get some rest and smash next week… Please do look in on the Graflex, it should be interesting.
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Week 24 – The Voigtlander Bessamatic
Well I don't know where to start! A bit of a funny week that really kept me on my toes. I will try to keep it short but it won't be easy. I arrived at Russells to see what was in store and he pulled out this little package – A Voightlander Bessamatic c1959, a 35mm SLR with a F2.8 colour Skopar X 50mm lens attached. With it also - a Skoperex f3.5 35mm wide, a Super-dynarex f4 135mm prime, a set of Voigtlander filters and a hood – a great kit! At 2lbs in weight it is heavy and built like a tank, but a tank with finesse! Really superb build quality all round. I would advise looking at many review sites as the complicated mechanical workings that make this one of the most enjoyable cameras I have used would take far too long to go into here but quickly - You have to advance and cock shutter to view through the big bright viewer, you focus via a fairly standard split prism. First dial in using shutter ring on the front a desired speed, then on the right side of viewer are 2 needles > turn large knob top left until they align. The interlocked shutter aperture mechanism has now given you a pair of suitable settings that by turning the shutter ring can be changed for any preference retaining the same EV value! Pretty cool eh! Thats not all, at the same time two further pointers on the lenses open or close synced with it showing the D of F your settings will give you! You want to use an external meter? Easy, just set the shutter speed FIRST then turn the meter knob until the aperture you want lines up…easy as, it really is.
Roll 1 – I fancied some fun so went for a slide colour film, an expired Provia 100f that I would cross process as c41. It is a straight forward load – I decided to run this one on the cameras meter then go spot meter on the second roll. I had to hump the block of iron in my hand as there was nowhere to attach a strap and no case, I think Russell will be getting one. It really was simple and enjoyable to use, the advance lever in the standard top right corner purrs on the out and in stroke, you find yourself deliberately doing it slowly just to listen. When it comes time to press the shutter button there is a lovely metallic swish that is gorgeous. If you recorded it and played it backwards I swear it must whisper “buy me”! I quickly ripped through the roll and had it in fresh developer ASAP. I looked at the negs and was worried – looked at scans and was horrified! They were massively over exposed, I checked the meter against many of my own and it was fine, I did every possible check to camera and it seemed sweet. There must have been a reaction during processing which can happen. I have included some images – some untouched so you can see, others heavily adjusted or BW conversions just to have something – My apologies!
Roll 2 – I decided to run a second, FP4 B&W. I mixed up the metering with on and off camera, I wedged it into half a case and went about it all over again. Having a strap is even better, you just look down and everything is there for you the see and adjust. I had a great afternoon shooting, it begs you to use it. Back to process and a massive relief all was good, very good I thought.
I loved this camera, it is super easy to use whichever way you meter, you lose some shadow detail with the on-board but it is good enough. It sounds and feels superb like a fine time piece. Lenses switch out easily and are very sharp. Ah, I forgot the filters. There is a nifty scale by the meter knob matched to their values, and you simply turn the meter knob and line up the markers to the clearly marked values. ANYONE could use this fully manual camera and get good results while experienced folk can delve as deep as they want. The one down side is all those trick mechanisms will be costly to repair and service. If you ever see one on a shelf and pick it up, I doubt you will want to put it down. I made a bold claim to Russell – I would trade ALL my 35mm cameras for this one and I stand by it. Hope you enjoy the FP4s and the Provia gives you a giggle.
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Week 23 – The Mamiya 645.
TMax Party week, a week of fair weather and the kiddie winkies on hols meant a chance for some photographic fun. The Mamiya is another one of those cubed multiple attachment medium format SLRs, in fact go back a month and read the Bronica week there is little to say different! The 2 main differences were for this one there isn't the option of interchangeable backs and the mirror recoil is much gentler. I went all tripod and slide in square filters so I could play a bit and get the beasty down in the slower shutter speeds.
Film 1 – Ilfords SFX 200, a black and white film mimicking infra-red film but my twitter buddy Sandeep informed me could be shot like regular B&W film. It was a nice sunny day with the right sort of clouds. I wandered the harbours dropping in yellow, orange and eagerly popping in the red filter to darken those blue skies. There was my first school boy error! If you look at the ice cream van shots the writing has all but disappeared, I had been so focused on the background I missed how it would treat the central character! That said the results are very good over all, a film for first time out I thought I did well with and it has a feel and glow I really liked. Then we get to our second film…
Film 2 – Kodak TMax 400. A film I have struggled with, I just cannot get to grips with this finicky film. The 3 days it took to shoot it ranged from even overcast grey to super bright harsh clear skies so developing for all image metering was difficult. I tried stacking filters for effect, a couple have graduated ND filters behind orange and that didn't really work giving a look like I used a lightroom filter badly! I tried 2 shallow D of F of my kids, one close and one far with the latter not really working for me. I am just not a great fan of this film type and the images just miss something for me although these are probably my better efforts.
The camera itself was nice to use, simple, straight forward and sharp. I cannot see myself going down this route though, I prefer my 6x6 TLRs. If interchangeable lens/viewer options are important to you this modular type system might be for you if you don't mind heavy! Which of the several available makes would be down to aesthetic taste?
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The Univex Mercury 2
Several weeks ago I was passed this camera more as an oddity for Russell's shop. I think he saw it as more of an ornament, a dressing piece if you like. He liked its quirky look! I gave it the once over and all seemed fine except for a lot of fungus on the lens, when I say a lot I really do mean a LOT! He sent the lens off with a batch of cameras for repair just to see if it might be improved.
So, while its off being cleaned – the camera. Short version! Universal Camera Corps were better known for cheap plastic toy cameras but in 1938 produced the Mercury to compete with higher end cameras. Work moved to the war effort, then in 1945 they returned to cameras with a revamp – The Mercury 2! A half frame viewfinder with a magnesium/aluminium body machined to ridiculous standards, I have never seen a film door fit that flush! It has an odd semi-circular protrusion on top to house the innovative rotary shutter, a black fake hide cover wraps around the main body. The viewer is in portrait mode and while the eye piece is tiny it is clear and bright. As you look at it front on the left knob is the advance and the right one is the shutter speed. The screw on lens is a coated Tricor 35mm f2.7, between that and the body is the distance focus ring with many bold increments assigned. It takes 35mm film which gives you 46 frames from a 24 and 70 from a standard 36…ah, the lens is back!
The lens was better but still heavily marked so I thought just one film. I easily loaded an FP4 and set off on a long city wander with an aim to push every angle, close up and depth of field option while capturing a bit of normal Plymouth that usually just gets passed by. I had to go without a strap as that is on the case that I did not have. I carried a light meter, my trusty universal clip on yellow filter/hood combo and a note book. With so many frames I was fairly loose with metering notes concentrating more on getting the camera set in the right order. You have to advance the film BEFORE setting shutter speed! I also deemed the fast F2.7 and the heady 1000th of second top end shutter speed combined with lots of distance markers a sign I would need to be pretty close with my focusing guesses! All went well I thought, I had a few miss-fires, forgot to put the filter on a few times etc. Then I got to 46, it kept going – 52! – I got concerned – 56! I gave up! I had all sorts of possible disasters in my head, film snapped, incorrect load – had I shot 56 nothings?
Results – straight home and in the tank! 30 minutes of torture, out they came! Lots of tiny cute images but just 45 and a half, the last one had clearly got lots of exposures overlapping so, it takes 46 and doesn't tell you the roll is finished. Once scanned it was clear the lens fungus had softened the images but not too badly really, they have a real era feel about them. It had caused flare though where brighter light was present which is a pain meaning I pushed the blacks and pulled the highlights in post mainly and I presume the smaller images make them a little grainier. If you spot the two pictures of the magnolia flower one was taken centre frame the other using the parallax correction markers in the viewer from 18inches and they work. I tried my hardest to make shallow D of F images but it just wouldn't!
My conclusion – it is a beautifully made funky camera that was immense fun to shoot, the lens is an issue if you want sharp and they are as rare as hens teeth to find. It is a fun collectors piece that is totally useable if you can live with the lens.
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Week 21 – The Pontiac, Paris, Bloc Metal 41
For several weeks now Russell has hinted he wanted me to take out the Pontiac. If I'm honest it didn't thrill me! I don't know why as I like my folders, in particular 6x9 format. This eats standard 120 so pretty straight forward. It looks a lot like the Agfa Billy Record with its hints to Art Deco just not as well finished or built in my opinion but then the Agfa is German! The Pontiac is French built c1941, cast alloy body painted black with some chrome trim. A little brilliant finder quite difficult to see through sits to one side and on top of the home grown f4.5 Anastigmat lens housing their own shutter marked T P 25 50 100 150 and a distance finder ring perched on the front.
I choose to load it with an Ilford Delta 100 which although a little expired would rate easily at box speed. I had acquired 8 of them and the 2 i had used had behaved well. Loading was a small hassle and I had to do it 3 times as the markers were really hard to see through the red frame counter window. Once I had it I shot the first roll pretty quick along with a little box brownie I had repaired and was testing. The weather was ok with sporadic heavy showers that broke into short spells of blue skies with dramatic clouds.
Results – I developed quite gently safe in the knowledge I had been very careful re the exposure so I was hoping for some nice negatives. Ah but no, they were really thick with clear evidence of light leaks. I popped down into the cellar and candle tested it and sadly light was visible through the shutter which I can do nothing about with the usual electrical tape so the decision to stop there I think is prudent, no point wasting film.
I have adjusted the blacks and lowered exposure levels in lightroom for presentation, it isn't the sharpest lens either but it is ok, there is also a lot of dirt in the bellows. There isn't much else I can say other than I hope someone out their will love it. I didn't, but that is a personal taste thing as I am holding it up to the Billy Record which impressed me.
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Week 20 – The Pearlette 1929/31
Week 20 eh! Time flies, this is a week with a difference too, I would be shooting everything in one day – Wednesday brought Expired Film Day! This is a day when many photographers around the world load film well past its sell by date to see what comes out of the other end, dust, scratches, colour shifts and grain are all encouraged and embraced as character!
I was to run 2 cameras. My own beauty, a 1936 Zeiss Ikoflex TLR and the Pearlette. I selected 3 films – a 35mm 1998 Truprint cheapo colour and a 2005 Ilford Delta 100 in 120 for the Pearlette with an OWRO 27n 1991 120 for little Ike.
The Pearlette – a vest pocket folder taking 127 film, it is so similar to the Kodak VP we shot in week something or other you can pretty much go with that. This second generation model from 1929-31 made by Konishirku in Japan, they later became Konica, has the better option lens, a Delta f6.8, a fold out frame doubling as a sports viewer with inset close up glass and clearer italics on a full length face plate which acts as a stand, this is all that really differs from the Kodak.
The film – We are back on the 127 trail, in the early hours of Wednesday morning I rolled a length of the very stiff and curly Truprint 35mm into a 127 backing paper. The OWRO was 120 so ready to pop straight into Ike as soon as I had finished the roll in her. I used the new improved jig to cut down the Delta with the cigar cutter and that went perfectly so we were ready to go. A quick clean and check of gear with no tape or bellows test on the Pearlette so what came out was what we got!
Shoot day – I would be shooting between work walks, Cash and Carry runs and any other time I got a chance. The weather was dry but grey and dreary. I had my light meter, a cable release and a tiny tripod designed for little digi cams. I cleared Ike of her resident film and loaded the 400 OWRO which I rated at 200 asa, the 35mm 200 colour sprockets went in the Pearlette which I rated at 50. This I rattled through fairly quickly and soon had the Delta 100 in which I ran at box speed. Things I thought were going well, having forgot my specs I found the cheap loupe I carry ideal for looking into the tiny prism viewer of the VP. Things slowed as ideas and energy waned. I got a couple of shots on a stop at Ham Woods of which we will pick up later. I had work that evening and was left with a single frame in each. These I shot playfully just before midnight taking long exposures of each camera still life style. Using the Ikoflex at f22 for 2mins 30 secs and the Pearlette at f32 for 15mins 17sec!!! Done!
Results – Not having the benefit I usually have of studying the last roll to make adjustments I wasn't surprised to see similar results. OK they aren't great! It took me a while to suss out why there was huge vignetting and varying focus issues with the Pearlette, it finally dawned the bellows were not fully extending meaning it didn't have the correct focal length, they were a bit stiff! No light leaks though which is good. There was a little film creep from the 35mm but thats the film being stiff and curly. I managed to shoot 7 shots of the OWRO roll on the leader so just 5 shots I will include just to keep my expired day in one place.
Conclusion – great day! Some fun images. The extension issue sorted with a lube! Now, 1 shot made it all worthwhile, the stream shot in the woods – f8 with 5second exposure… take a look! YES this camera CAN take good pics it just needs TLC
I hope you enjoy the images, they were never intended to be held up to perfection but I had hoped for a little better….but that ONE!
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Week 19. Zenza Bronica
A week of such promise and excitement, I have doubled up a few previous weeks with the social media fun of FP4party, this has now transformed into TMaxparty so a move from Ilford to Kodak. I have shot a couple of their 400asa with mixed results but optimism and the sight of the Bronica gave me renewed hope. The Bronie – medium format big SLR system, basically a central body with a huge array of options surrounding it with a few of those open to me for this week. The camera checked, I loaded the detachable 120 back with TMAX 400. 220/35mm/Polaroid are also available. I had the one lens but there are others as with any SLR but this one was an F2.8 75mm Zenzanon EII. I chose to fit a speed grip with advance lever and shutter release which would gave me a more traditional SLR setup coupled with the prism finder!
Roll 1 – Monday arrived and just awful weather! Nothing doing… Tuesday repeat… ditto Wednesday! Its worth noting I also have a 35mm TMAX 100 loaded in my Pentax to run at the same time so pressure to shoot was mounting. Thursday was as dull as dishwater but dry so I set about trying to shoot things without sky but still having something interesting in it, a yellow and orange filter on hand to squeeze anything out of the grey skies. I plucked up courage to request a few portraits from strangers and we got through the roll. I was spot metering as there is no on board meter and the aperture ring of f2.8 to 22 and shutter knob - 8sec to 1/500th are all full manual which is beautifully simple. When you trigger that shutter the mirror retracts with a sound striking fear into small children and attracting the attention of all around not already admiring its behemoth good looks. Fear not though I successfully hand held at 1/60th with ease!
Roll 2 – Sticking with the Kodak theme I loaded a Portra 160nc, a little out of date from 2012 but should be like new. I switched to the little crank advance arm and moved to a familiar waist level viewer. The frame sizes of 4.5x6cms with this set up would and did prove much harder to use in portrait. Friday/Saturday were just impossible with weather and work but a productive Sunday saw the roll off easily shooting on and around Plymouth Hoe and Barbican with a Polarizer to help. I tried playing with depth of field, angles comfort zones etc. to test myself and the camera.
Thoughts? Loved it! BWs I got good exposures and the set up while heavy gave me lots of options. I felt good carrying it around and heaving its mass up to my eye gave me a feeling of gravitas. The Portra pics are coming through the scanner right now and look pretty good but for a bit of glare here and there as I used a hood far to short really – lesson learned!
The best way I can put this is if wifey told me I had to get rid of all my cameras and have just one then the Bronica would be a serious contender, but I would need both viewing options. With the flexibility of multiple film backs for 120/35mm and swapping out mixed emulsions as and when needed I could overlook the weight and limited 1/500th max shutter speed…a lovely, lovely camera but somewhat out of my budget!
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Week 18 - The Yashica Electro 35 GSN
After looking back at a few recent ramblings, and I am happy to ramble but admit they were a tad lengthy so I will try to pare it down a bit. So this little Yashi Electro is mine, we had intended to run together with one of Russells but it didn't pan out. I got her from a friend through work who said it had sat in a shoe box for some time. It needed a now unavailable mercury battery so a converter and suitable replacement was ordered and received for £7. I set about checking and cleaning using the plethora of sites dedicated to the mass produced well thought of beasty. You can find all the techy stuff there so I will only sneak bits in where necessary but YASHICA GUY is the first think to look up as he really knows his stuff I used his check list and determined all was good.
A quick glance at the weather predicted for the week coupled with work left me 2 mornings Tue/Wed and all day Thursday then it got nasty! They called it right too. I decided run a couple of 400 speed films to give flexibility with changing light controlling the extremes with filters and fiddling with the film speed dial, as aperture priority you adjust exposure turning the aperture ring between f1.7 and 22 – a nice bright lens of 45mm! The meter then sets a speed showing a red arrow in the viewer for over and a yellow for too slow to hand hold.
The two mornings I wandered around the city and seafront loaded with Ilford HP5 snapping away trying different things using a yellow and orange filter often in the rain adjusting for filters using the film speed wheel. I tried to keep it just touching the red arrow having read it tends to over expose, planning to pull development 10% to hold the highlight. I struggled to be honest, the focusing was a synch with big bright finder and clear focus spot but I kept forgetting to change the film speed and fumbled with the aperture ring meaning I got it wrong! Under exposed and under developed! I have done some tweaking to present better and it is all on ME!
Thursday was lovely so loading a nice Fuji Superia Xtra 400 I set off on a quick ferry ride and walk along the river Tamar shoreline and explored an old boat yard. I attached a polariser guessing where the optimum setting was which is not easy on a rangefinder! I had a great few hours trying shots I wouldn't normally really, getting to grips with her and things went far better. I set film speed to 160 asa and left it there which, with the bright skies and filter and trusting the meter gave great results.
Summing up I had a lot of fun. The lens is sharp enough, meters well and if you stay within its limitations you can get a good set of pictures. She will definitely be coming out again probably with colour film on those snappy happy type days.
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Kodak No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak [model E-3]
Finally! I get to play with this!!! So, for many, many weeks I have looked at and admired this camera. It sits with a few other No3s on a shelf but this one really had me drooling over it. It is a big medium format folding camera producing postcard size images on now defunct 118 film with 3 1/4 x 5 ½” frames made by Kodak and built between 1903 & 1915. I can with some certainty date this one between Nov 6th 1906 & May 7th 1907. How? 1906 date last patent stamp inside back and the marked as “patents pending automatic” the shutter it is fitted with received its patent on the 1907 date! Good stuff eh! The postcard size images give away its target use – BIG scenes! This backed up by the provided settings – the shutter mentioned fires a 100th, 25th, 5th half, quarter, 1 second & T+B. Aperture in old American guise 4-8-16-32-64-128 which in todays money is f8-11-16-22-32-44! The beautiful red bellows pull out on two rails with possible pre-set distance finder stops at 3-5-8-30metres. This was an early expensive version carrying a Bausch & Lomb rapid rectilinear lens with up/down left/right adjustment to front unit. A waist level prism finder is how you view your scene, better than a lot but still meh!
Due to the obsolete film, a set of spindle extensions from @camerahack FAK118s allows use of 120 film. This means you can no longer use the film counter window so I repeatedly loaded backing paper marking and counting half turns, the quarterly placed screws around the advance key make this really simple. I placed the big arrow line at first roller, then 15 half turns nail the first frame then I went 6,5,5,5,5. Should have given me 6 frames.
Roll 1 FP4 and a trip to the moors specifically Gutter Tor and the old abandoned Ditsworthy House, a long abandoned farm stead that has been used for military training during and since WW2 and later filming of War Horse. It wasn't a spectacular day, a bit dull but a bit in the sky. I went about setting up tripod shots of half second exposures at f32/44 ish at the longest focal length to see just what it could do landscape wise. I did have to use it fully opened at all times as when folded I determined it was going to hit the film. I suspect being left open for a very long time has allowed the wooden ribs in the bellows to warp. All went really well, slow and calm which was most enjoyable though the film could be heard dropping off the roller early so just 5 frames. Results were pleasing! Well exposed so all was working sweetly and no sign of light leaks at all. The lens was sharp enough at the given 30m distance but lost a lot at infinity which is common for these folders. What it did have was a bucket load of character!
Roll 2 FP4 – After 2/3 days of poor weather and Storm Doris approaching, I was left with Thursday morning at the Royal William Yard determined to try other types of shot on a tripod in already 50mph winds. Shot 1 I warmed up with a sea scape of longer exposure than I expected and the wind gave it a tug, frames 2/3 the cranes again I was struggling for light! It was at this point I noticed I had the meter set at 50asa…. I chastised myself but carried on, I shot at all the distances with good sharp results. I allowed for reduced ASA during development and they came out well again, I even got the 6th frame by taking a quarter turn off each advance.
I guess some might not like the 6x10.5cm resulting frame size, or the faff of counting turns or having it open all the time. I, however am very happy to live with its quirky really slow nature. Rubber band attached hoods with fettled filters, pockets full of notes etc. It is a 110 year old camera that still can put a sharp light tight image filled with character on to film. You don't have to worry however as I will be returning this with my name written all over it. I want this beautiful piece of history although wifely upon proof reading this might not be so keen! Further text is not of my doing >>> Dreaming!
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Week 16 - Nikon N800s
This week is a tad different in that we combined two projects. I had been approached last November-ish about contributing some pictures for the local Dartmoor Zoo, a small zoo which carries a little fame as the film ‘We Bought a Zoo' tells the owners story, but the timing was bad and I passed. Two weeks ago Coral asked again and I agreed.
The main bulk was to be digital but we agreed I would take some film stuff too. The plan was to use Russells favourite Nikon D300s and combine it with a film body but only use lenses that fitted both. The 8008 was ideal! Yes it is all electric, but the auto focus and TTL would be needed as I was getting access to places where speed might mean I would not become lunch! I picked up the camera on the Tuesday and shoot day was Thursday so I threw in an FP4 test roll and blasted through it on the way home. The weather was changeable to say the least! Everything bar snow! I tried everything to find its limitations and upon viewing the results it had performed admirably. I set about reading the instruction manual and abandoned it straight away so I won't rattle on with techy stuff as it was like War and Peace but I will say it is weighty yet well balanced with lots of features to please everyone. You can go all auto or choose shutter/aperture priority with ease. It was, in its day back in the late eighties, aimed at serious amateurs and had a reputation as a bullet proof reliable excellent camera.
Lenses we took were prime 50 & 85mm, 35-80, 18-70 and a 70-300 all Nikkor with a stonking 150-500 sigma with its 2x converter for those places no man should go. I shot Fuji Superia X-tra 400 and Kodak colour 400.
Shoot day arrived and we were escorted around by the lovely Coral. I started by shooting both but had a devious hope that Russell would get the itch and take over the D300. Russ hadn't done a shoot for exactly a year since his illness and as I hoped my fumbling with the myriad of buttons must have driven him potty and he eagerly ended up with it leaving me to play with the 8008.
We chopped and changed lenses between us and the day went really well. I soon realised I wasn't going to get everything in one day, animals are finicky things wanting to either sleep or stand in the wrong place! But we got enough to start and I found the 8008 a really nice beastie to use. The little dial on the top by my thumb easily rolled through the shutter stops displaying clearly in the large bright viewfinder, all be lenses focussed fast and precisely with only the sigma requiring manual focus. I can also confirm hand holding 1000mm of zoom at 1/15th doesn't work.
Now I could write pages about the day and the camera but I think the photos sum it up. I had one roll of film prep and dove straight in. I loved it! I am normally an all manual slow photographer so this was really far from my comfort zone and it never missed a beat with only user error spoiling shots. Enjoy the pics, we have pruned them down as there are many. Hopefully Russell will put in a few of the digital shots he took recording the day….. A great experience all around.
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Week 15 – The Meopta Milona
If you just read the name and thought “the what?” well I thought the same! With the previous weeks awful weather continuing into the new week it was Tuesday lunch before I got to the shop itching to shoot something! Russell was busy with some students so I settled at the back fiddling with the expected to be ornament pieces, I picked up the somewhat tired looking Milona and ran through the shutter and twiddly bits and it seemed ok, I was intrigued by it. Pretty basic stuff. A 120 6x6 MF with a regular Prontor 2 shutter maxing at 1/250th, aperture f4.5 – 22. A fairly standard distance finder dial surrounds an 80mm Mirar, Moepta's own lens on a square panel face. It is a folder which is released by a button on the top plate coming out horizontally on a short bellows, sighting is done through a fold up square sports finder with glass in it. Apart from the big round advance knob and a frame counter window with a rather nifty spring loaded masking plate that is your lot! There is very little written about this camera but searches found it to be Czech made between 1945/50, later the shutter was pushed to 1/500th and a tilt on the front plate to correct parallax error along with the ability to take 4.5 x 6 as an option. Meopta made a handful of TLR's, weird 35mm cameras but were predominantly optic manufacturers. Anyway enough boring stuff …
Roll 1, Russell had to hand an expired Lomograph colour 100 which loaded there and then, I needed to get out and play! A series of conversations had sparked an idea so this was the perfect time. Most distance finders have a “snapshot” setting and the Milona's was f10 – 15metres and 1/100th on the shutter for the 100 asa film, yes, I know I should stop down but meh! I gave myself an hour to shoot the 12 frames on the way home snapping away at things that mean nothing really but at the time... This would be how a person who had picked up an inexpensive unit from a fleamarket or similar with little or no experience might shoot. I did for testing purposed try 1 or 2 shallow depth of field etc but the exposure calculations came out approximately the same. The results were OK, yes there was some colour weirdness due to the films expired nature and oddly the colour in bright highlights appeared bleached, the mural being a good example looking fine in the shadows but given a fresh film they would have been in the ball park, what surprised me was the lens seemed pretty sharp.
Roll 2 – My favourite FP4+ and fresh! This time I took it to where I thought the above mentioned might take the next step, a £3 hand held Leningrad light meter which I just aimed into darker parts of my frame, I roughly guessed distance and experimented with settings and a couple of filters while out with my 2 youngest. I was fairly casual about it just enjoying the time. I developed it on standard times with some stock solution that needed using. The results were great I think for what we did, I didn't do well with the red filter shot and there were some parallax errors in there but I did squeeze some shallow DoF and most exposed well with minimal loss in the highlights. What a lens though! Pleasingly sharp with enough character to please the eye.
To sum up this was at first impressions a slightly tatty old folder from a left field maker with a price tag down the bottom end but performed beyond my expectations, light tight with no tape needed, sharp enough to please most and easy to use for the beginner with enough in it to satisfy the keenest vintage user. I got enough good pictures using a casual approach that I think if you put the effort in it could give much more. I am glad I rummaged through that shelf I used a camera I might never see or use again as there isn't many out there it seems.
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AGFA BILLY RECORD 8.8
The Billy Record! A 120 folder, I am really starting to enjoy folders even with all the possible problems they may bring. This little fella has an all black body with nice chrome deco trim, produced between 1933 & 1949. This one is post 1939 or the trim would have been nickel. I think it was most probably aimed at your average family as a grown up camera, kind of like todays budget end bridging cameras. Some shutter settings b – 25 – 50 – 100th, aperture 8.8 – 11 – 16 with guesses in between. Focusing has just 2 setting 2-5m & 5m to infinity, and that is your lot other than a crappy tiny glass prism you can see your own face in and flip up sports finder. A simple uncoated Anastigmat Igestar 105mm lens puts your image into 6x9 frame.
I got it home and gave it the usual check over and clean, the front lens screws off so you can give most surfaces a good clean. I popped my test light in and the bellows were good to go. I had to glue down the bottom plate with a spot of gorilla glue but other than that it was in great condition.
I loaded up an Ilford HP5 which was one of the nicest loads I have ever had to do and ran a single line of black tape around the door more for peace of mind. I think it is pretty light tight, I just do this with folders anyway! Sunday morning brought light drizzle and mist but I decided to head for the moors anyway. It got worse on the drive so I detoured to Shaugh Prior to shoot at the river. It was dull, really dull and I was struggling for any light so I risked some long exposures using calculated guesses and counting out loud. By frame 4 everything was soaked, it was getting worse so I beat a retreat. It rained then non-stop until Wednesday! A crack appeared in the weather and I was able to get off the last 4 frames on my workly wanders. The “head” is carved from a tree stump in central park and the Arches are actually a city historical reservoir retaining wall, double exposure, note the ghostly figures. I finally got to develop it on Thursday, scan Friday and was pleasantly surprised! Sharper than I had expected with good exposures.
Loading roll 2 a Kodak TMax 400 I missed the first frame. Into the bag and reload. Sunday morning back onto the moors – bloody freezing! Wind chill factor high so numb fingers and again not great light. I shot all 8 driving from spot to spot all at 1/25th covering the f stops. There is such depth of field it makes little difference but beyond 20 meters sharpness slowly degrades and I think f11 is it's sweet spot which makes sense with its box camera mentality. Results were OK. My first time with this stock and never really got on top of the exposure/development combo.
In short, this was a fun camera to shoot and gave surprisingly good results that I think would do really well on a sunny day. You could fire away using sunny 16 and get great pics. I pushed its limited boundaries and it stepped up admirably. Just a shame I only got 3 short mornings with it.
Please click on the camera to see photos taken with this camera
The Zeiss Ikon Contaflex 1
Week 13 already!!! Its flying by! This week, after a few weeks of butchering perfectly good film, I was glad to have something more main stream like the Contaflex. One of the first 35mm SLRs to come on to the market the “1” was released in 1953 until 1958 and this is early as soon after release they changed the aperture scale and this has the early version. Its a nice looking camera with some quirky features I will go into as we go. First job was to get it home and study. I went for the load which is slightly different in that the take up spool is the same as you will find in any 35mm cassette and WILL just fall out as you drop the back off as I found out! I am sure many have been lost but this has its original which is nice. If you are a bulk loader then you can actually just feed into an inverted empty cassette which is kind of cool.
I loaded up the first film, an FP4+ 24 exposure and set about giving it my best over 2 mornings trips to and from work. I tried to cover as much of the range of speeds, B to 500, and aperture, f2.8 to 22, as I could and the weather was favourable. Quirk number 2 is – to see through the huge and bright viewfinder you have to prime the mirror by advancing the winder and cocking the shutter or all you see is black… I like to use the viewer when deciding a shot so a bit of a pain. It also advances counter intuitively but you get used to that. They say it is easy to maintain having one weakness being a sticky aperture iris positioned in the fixed lens which sets and resets on firing. I think this one was just starting to show the signs with a bit of exposure inconsistency and mild corner haloing. So with that in mind and a big week at work with a weather front coming in I didn't bother with a second roll.
I found it nice to use and it sat well around the neck, the front strap loops pulling the camera tight to my chest with no bounce. All the twiddly turny things were sure footed and never gave me cause for concern. Aside from 1 or 2 wobbly exposures it hit my marks so a satisfying week which allowed me to enjoy improving my own skills trouble free.
Hope you enjoy the pics of in and around Plymouth… the arches shots are nice for me as access is usually restricted but someone was slack with the gate. I suspect future development might not give many chances like that again.
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Week 12 – The Ernemann Heag XV
There was never any intention to run this camera for the project. Russell just let me take it home to have a bit of a nosey, however the more I failed to find out about it the more it intrigued me. I found out a 4x6.5 was introduced in 1912. I knew there were many varied configurations thereafter. The 6.5x9 appears to run from 1914 to 1926 out of Dresden Germany. Ernemann-Werke AG post war merging with several companies becoming Zeiss Ikon, the later models then sporting Tessar and such lenses. This has an Anastigmat Ernar f6.8 105mm lens with only Ernemann markings so I assume an early model. Its a folder, with options of multipurpose backs, I only had the plate back with 3 holders, opening the black canvass folding back reveals a ground glass focusing viewer but I found it awful. There is an attachable roll back but this I didn't have the luxury of.
In a bid to improve my exposures i had acquired the spot meter with the intention of exploring the zone system. Sheet film is still available in the size required but at one pound each. I foolhardily decided to cut pieces of 120 and run it as a 6x9... in diary style here, i will keep it short, is my journey of my week.
Sunday – Actually the night before I fashioned a jig and tried cutting 3
frames from FP4 in my dark bag and loaded my first ever holders! I set off in
the morning to shoot 3 images at the river in Plymbridge Woods, it was dark and
exposures were at 1 second on the minute reading plate. Home – develop
appropriately – scan! Bad! Dark, sooo dark! Transpires the shutter had locked
itself at 1/25th. I determined this by ear comparing to my Ikoflex.
Consulting the oracle I had enough detail in the shadows to carry on and give
it a go in aperture priority.
Monday – Having reloaded using a revised Jig to give much straighter cuts I set off on my general work wanders with the sole intention of just getting a reasonable starting point exposure wise. First attempt I tried to use the ground glass again setting the shutter to T but not good I would be opting for distance finder from now on, I promptly forgot to rest shutter and realised as I drew the cover plate, I shot anyway, reset and retook properly. The last one went well until I replaced the plate and the film popped its retainers, a risk from cutting roll film so I had to live with it! I had low expectations from the start, it was a 100 yr. old camera full of dust and probable light leaks! It was a journey…. I processed once more and the oracle was happy with shadow detail telling me to get out and practice and enjoy.
Tuesday – target was to shoot three frames with no mistakes! First frame went perfectly until a passer-by engaged me in chat and I forgot to fit my allowed for filter. I got the next two I thought – process – clearly a holder had leak issues but I had 3 sort of images, dusty inconsistent but there!
Thursday – I took Wednesday off to test the Rollei and gather knowledge from the oracle. I would rate film at 100 and give it my best! One just jammed the cover plate, one leaky holder and the camera itself was showing either a leak of flare but the results were better! I had one last chance!
Sunday – This morning! I set off to the moors with a single minded intention of shooting successfully. I took my time, made my notes and took every care! Once processed I was at first a little disappointed but actually they aren't that bad.
Thoughts – On reflection I am really happy. Its a 100 yr. old camera fed with makeshift film, get rid of the dodgy holder, fix the shutter and possibly source the roll back and it would be fun for project stuff. The lens isn't great but good enough, it is what it is. I had learned an enormous amount and had a week of great fun, only touching the very beginnings of the zone system had put me in a good place thanks to my oracles teachings and as I said before so much fun was had!
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Rolleiflex T1 take 2!
Week 1 revisited
All the way back to week 1 we go, it had been a disappointment to say the least! I had fought a sickly classic with advance issues. Its now back from repair and all is well so I took it out for a spin or two to put down some pics to salvage some pride for it and myself. Using my new spot meter and implementing my beginners lessons in “the zone system” I found the EV system that bugged me first time around now useful tool. So, I ran a Delta 3200 rated at 1600 through first as it was the most expendable to me, it mostly came out ok with reasonable exposure but I didn't really quite get it right and I don't much like the grain. Later in the week while taking a day off from week 12s Ernemann I ran a HP5 I had half a roll of which I was much happier with. Anyway its all better so hope you enjoy the pictures!
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