Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Film Results and which Cameras to keep

I wrote about the Argus HFM II earlier, and it was one of the cameras that I got film back for.  The manual for the camera recommends using 200 ISO film so I used Fuji 200.  I like the results well enough that I will probably use the camera again.  I added the color pictures to the existing gallery. If this camera looks interesting to you, one can usually be found on Ebay for between $10 and $20. 
Argus HFM II Gallery

Since I started using film again about a year ago I have bought a lot of cameras.  When I get the camera I take some pictures using bulk b&w.  If the results from the test roll show that the camera worked okay and had potential I take photos with color film. Since I don't think that I am a collector my plan is to find out which cameras are ones that I will use.  And while I have been in the acquiring and testing phase for a while I think it has come time to go to the sorting phase. 

Some of the cameras are an easy choice.  I have my Canon F1 that I bought in 1974.  It still works well and just from a point of sentiment it would be the last camera that I would sell.  A recent purchase, the Olympus XA, also falls in the keeper category.  Because it fits easily in my pocket and takes excellent pictures I find myself using it a lot. 

A trickier one is the Yashica 124G.  The camera is in very good shape and the results I get from it seem excellent to me.

Still I don't care much for carrying a big camera around or for looking down to frame an image.  One thing I have found out about myself in the last year is that I do like a camera that I can put in my pocket and not notice unless I want to take a picture.  The Yashica 124G sure does not fall into that category, however it may be one that is worth the trouble. 

So that is all for today.  Not sure what I will post next, however it will likely be more about the results from the pictures I just got back.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Waiting on Film

For most of my life if I wanted pictures from a camera I would need to either develop them myself or send them out. There always was a time of maybe hours, maybe days before I could see how my pictures turned out.  And for me at least there was a tendency of focusing on the frustration of the wait and forgetting the pleasures of finally seeing how things turned out.  A pleasure that I think was increased by the wait.  When digital came along I embraced no longer having to wait.  Still I have never felt the pleasure in seeing my pictures load onto my computer that I remember from seeing negatives come out of the developing tank, or from getting that fat pack of pictures in the mail.

Saturday I had the pleasure of getting some pictures back that I had sent off in the mail a few days before.  The feeling for me is very much like I can remember as a child opening Christmas presents. The films were from a variety of cameras taken over a few months time. Like Christmas I expected there would be both some wonders and disappointments. 

I have heard others report feelings similar to mine about getting film back. Although I haven't often heard such feelings enter into the film vs digital debate.  Instead I think that it is taken for granted that quicker is better.  And maybe sometimes it is.  However if you have never done so before try taking some pictures on film and send it off somewhere that makes you wait a few days.  Then see if when your results come back if you experience a pleasure and excitement that made the wait worthwhile.

One set of negatives I got back was from a roll that I had taken last summer and forgot for a while that it was in the camera.  The camera is an Argus STL 1000 with a Cosinon 50mm f/1.8 lens. The film is Fuji 200.

I also got some results from the Argus Dual HFM II that I have written about in an earlier post. The film is Fuji 200.  Although 200 ISO is the recommmended film for this camera, I suspect the a 400 ISO film would work better.

Last results for today are from the Sawyer's Nomad 620.  Whoever I bought this from had loaded it with a re-spooled roll of Porta 160.  I took a couple of pictures with it when I first got the camera and didn't get around to finishing the roll until this winter.

I got the results from 11 rolls of film from 11 different cameras so this is just a small sample.  I would recommend the place I sent the film to.  They do a good job and are inexpensive.  Sharp's Photo

Friday, January 27, 2012

Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim

Aperture: f/11
Shutter:  1/125
Lens:     22mm fixed focus
Battery:  None

The Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim is one of the most famous lo-fi type cameras.  I find its very wide-angle lens with its tendency to vignette very appealing.  If you require corner to corner sharpness the Ultra Wide & Slim isn't the camera for you.  However if you do like the lo-fi look I have found the Ultra Wide & Slim to be one of the most best performers of any of the cameras of this type.  I uploaded a gallery for this camera today.
Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim

There also is a Flickr Group.

The original Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim is long out of production, however it can still easily be found at places like Ebay.  Superheadz makes a newer version called the Slim Devil.  The Slim Devil comes in various colors.  Some people do agonize about paying around $30 for a camera of this type.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

March of the Toy Cameras

Toy may be the kindest categorization that these cameras get. Here I am talking about the simple amateur-oriented cameras of the age before digital. Still when looked at in the long arc of human history these cameras are a marvel. If in the middle-ages you had a Polaroid Color Pack and a supply of film you might have been seen as a great wizard or as somebody to be burned at the stake.

Throughout most of the time in which there have been people it has been very hard to make images or save descriptions of the things that mattered to us. I used to wonder why in the Bible there are few if any descriptions of what the people looked like. I thought maybe appearance didn't matter as much to the ancients as much as it seems to matter to us today.  Then I realized that in those times the materials to write on were often expensive and making copies was a pain. So it is likely that only what was essential was recorded. I have not researched this, however I would not be surprised if descriptions of people in literature did not become common until the printing press and cheap paper became available.

And while making and transmitting verbal descriptions used to be hard, making illustrations was even harder.  Even though literacy was rare in the olden days someone with the skill to make a reasonable representative of what he saw was probably even rarer. Today ancient forms of illustration like the reliefs in the Parthenon or the statutory in a Gothic Cathedral are still admired. However I think it is hard for us to appreciate that at one time such illustrations were about the only show in town.

The birth of photography in the 1830's started a progression to where almost anyone could capture an image of what mattered to him.  By the 1950's in the US almost every family had at least one of the simple box cameras that we now call toys.  Most of the time you could take a decent photo with these cameras without a lot of expense or trouble.  You could even make copies of your images to send out to family and friends.  An amazing advance that seems to have been quickly taken for granted and probably is under-appreciated.

Maybe some day in the distant future someone will come across a cache of ancient photos from the 50's and 60's and wonder why all the children were gathered around a circular object with burning candles on it. I imagine even then there will be little appreciation for the cameras that made this puzzle possible.


Taken with Kodak Duaflex II

Taken with Kodak Duaflex II

More Information about the Kodak Duaflex II at Matt's Classic Cameras.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Photography Year in Review - Part Two

As far as a review of last year I think this will be the second and last part.  At least it serves as the title for one more post.  My history in photography goes back to the 1960's.  My first camera was a 127 camera that the Boy Scouts sold.

After my experience with the old box camera  I decided to see what other film equipment I still had.  One of the first things I found was the Boy Scout camera.  I also found a roll of Verichrome Pan film that had expired in December of 1967.  The film has been at room temperature and from what I have read it is possible that images still could be made with it.  My plan has been to try the old roll of film in the Cub Scout camera.  However while I learned about the possibilities with this old film and camera I haven't felt the inspiration yet to test that knowledge.

My mother, aunt, brother and sister from around 1965. Taken with Cub Scout Camera.

Now, while I am aware of the shortcomings of some of the simple cameras, like my Cub Scout one, I actually always kinda liked some of those less than perfect results.  So when I decided to do film again one of the first things I sought to learn about was the other simple cameras.  One thing I found is that there are many people who have the same interest.

I remember spending quite a bit of time looking at the Junk Store Camera site. I also found that there is a Toy Camera group on Flickr. There also is a whole movement called Lomography based on using often simple cameras and almost seeking out less than technically perfect results.

So my first phase in a return to film was getting and trying out several box-type cameras from mostly the 50's and early sixties.  I also got one of the famous Holgas.

Taken with Agfa Clack.  The Clack was a popular family camera in Europe during the 1950's. 

Taken with Imperial Reflex 620 Duo Lens. Another camera from the 1950's.

And here is one from a Holga. 

These are just a few of the cameras I tried.  I learned that each camera has its own character.  And that character can show even more variety as it interacts with different films.  There can be a lot of surprises with these cameras.  They are probably not the best camera to use when you want a reliable predictable result, however if you enjoy image-making they can be a lot of fun. And at least I find that I am much more emotionally engaged by the images these cameras make than I am by my digital images. I suppose part of it is from my love of history and feeling that I am connecting to the photographic past with these cameras.  I wonder who might have used the camera before me and what images they made.  

So this is as much reviewing as I'm going to do.  Hopefully, I can come up with better and more creative titles as this blog grows. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Photography Year in Review - Part One

Around this time last year I was looking at a box of old cameras that my father had purchased at an auction at least twenty years ago. One was a battered box camera that was different from the others in that it used a film that is still made.  The camera was a Kodak No.2 Kodak Rainbow Hawk-Eye Model C.

The Kodak No.2 Kodak Rainbow Hawk-Eye Model C is from the late 1920's and uses 120 film. 120 film is still easy to get.  As you may be able to see from the picture this camera was not in mint condition.  Still the inside was clean and the shutter sounded strong.  Because the lens is behind the shutter in this type of camera it also was in good shape.  So out of curiosity I ordered some film and the chemicals to develop it.  And on one grey Sunday I went out to try a roll of film.  The viewfinder was worthless on this camera so I just held it at waist level and pointed it toward my subject.  The cold outside motivated me to finish the eight pictures pretty quick.  Then for the first time in twenty years I developed some black & white film.  

Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros

The image above is the scan of the first negative that I saw when I hung the roll to dry.  I actually was amazed to see any sort of image from this camera. So I was very happy to see one that was pleasing to me.

Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros

My experience with the Rainbow Hawkeye renewed my interest in film. And that renewed interest in film is my personal biggest photographic development in 2011.  I have been using mostly digital the last several years and actually thought it likely that I would never do film again.  I had forgotten the variety and surprises that film can offer.  And while I still use digital for some things my most satisfying photography this year has been in film.  I plan to do some other posts talking about some of my experience last year in film.  I believe it will be useful to me at least to review what I learned.  So I am glad that I followed my curiosity and found out if that old box camera could still take pictures. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sears TLS

From the glory days of the all-metal mechanical SLR is the Sears TLS. The Sears TLS only needs a battery for the exposure meter.  The battery called for in the Sears TLS manual is a no longer made mercury PX625 1.3v. I have found that an SR44 1.5v fits and works fine. You can find out all the details about the Sears TLS at Matt's Classic Cameras .  The Sears TLS is usually very inexpensive on Ebay.  I tend to think it may be the best bargin out there for this type of camera.

The Sears TLS is a very durable reliable body of a camera and the standard 55mm f/1.4 lens seems to be excellent.

I find the standard lens to be especially good for Black & White.

The Sears TLS uses the M42 Pentax lens mount so along with its great standard lens it can use the wide variety of lenses made for that mount.

There are a few more images in my Sears TLS Gallery
The color images are from the Sears 28mm lens.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Roll film size 620; 8 exposures, 2'/4x
3'/4; flash synchronization; fixed focus;
eye-level viewfinder. Price, $5.95; with
gadget bag, flashing unit, flashbulbs,
and three rolls of film, $13.95; Ansco
flash unit, $2.75.

The Ansco Readyflash was the camera that my parents used when I was young. I suppose it says something about my affinity for cameras that I should remember that.  I have not been able to find the camera that they actually used, however I did find that the flash attachment had survived. I bought another Readyflash off Ebay to go with the attachment.  It is likely that the original Readyflash took the photos below:

My brother and sister, who are twins, being baptized in 1959.

Myself with my cousins, Debbie, Rosemary, Sharon, and Pam.

The 1953 Ford that my parents had when they were first married.

Sometime early in the 1960's my Father started recording family events with a movie camera.  The old black & white still images stop around that time.

I made one attempt to take photos with the Ebay ReadyFlash with poor results.  I do believe that the camera has some light leaks.  And so far I haven't had the ambition to do anything about the leaks.  Still I will likely give the ReadyFlash another chance and hopefully I will share the results here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Agfa Isomat Rapid

Agfa introduced Rapid film in 1964. It was supposed to be easier to load than regular 35mm film. Unfortunately for Agfa, Kodak 126 film propelled by the poplar Instamatic Cameras eclipsed the Rapid Film System. By the end of the 60′s even Agfa was selling 126 cameras. With the Rapid System you need two cassettes. One with film and one to take up the film. You place both cassettes in the camera and slide the film leader into the empty cassette and close the camera. When you are finished you remove the take-up cassette for processing. There is no rewinding. With this system the film also is protected if you should open the back of the camera before the roll is finished. The Cassettes also have a metal plate that sets the film speed for cameras that are capable of reading it. The Rapid cassettes use standard 35mm film and it is easy to reload an empty cassette. For me Rapid film is far and away the easiest of the obsolete film systems to work with.

I bought the Agfa Isomat Rapid for a few dollars on Ebay because it had a couple of Rapid Film Cassettes that I needed for Yashica half frame. It is a funny thing that on Ebay often a camera with a Rapid cassette will sell for less than people are selling the casssettes for by themselves. When I got it it appeared that the shutter would not fire which didn’t bother me since I hadn’t bought the camera to use. Lately I have been interested in using the square format. When looking to see if there were any 35mm cameras that did the square format I saw the Isomat Rapid mentioned. I thought it was too bad that the one I had appeared not to work. However in reading further I found that this camera has to be loaded with film and have the back closed for the shutter to work. And when I loaded the film and closed the back the Agfa Isomat Rapid did work.

The Agfa Isomat Rapid came out in 1965. It has a 38 mm 3-element Color-Agnar f:4.5 lens. The lens is zone focus either by symbols at the top of the lens or by a length scale at the bottom. It has two exposure modes, automatic and flash. The mode is set by a lever upper-right of the lens. For automatic exposure set the lever to “A” and the camera will automatically select an aperture setting. At automatic the shutter is fixed at 1/70. In automatic mode when you press the shutter halfway you will see a green light in the viewfinder if the exposure is okay. If not okay there will be a red light. The exposure system is powered by a selenium cell so no batteries are needed. Surprisingly the cell in my camera still works. For the flash mode you use the lever to set an aperature that will work with your flash. The shutter speed in the flash mode is 1/30.

So far I have just ran a couple of rolls of Legacy Pro 100 b&w film throught the Isomat. I took two feet of bulk film and pushed it into the Rapid cassette. This yields 16 square images. I have only used the automatic mode and found it gave good results. I haven’t been too particular about the focusing going mostly by the symbols. I do think that with some care this lens could give reasonably sharp results. So far I have been pleased with the ease of use of the Isomat and the images it gives. I imagine it will be a camera that will get regular use. If you would like some square images in 35 mm along with a kinda interesting camera then the Agfa Isomat Rapid can often be found for less than $10 on Ebay. You will probably need to ask the dealer about the cassettes since they usually don’t mention them.

Agfa Rapid Cassettes

Agfa Isomat Rapid Gallery

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Camera ads from 1949 and 1955

I was using ABBYY FineReader yesterday to see how well it would copy items from some old photo magazines.  I think it works reasonably well.  So I decided to share a few things that I copied.  I also wanted to test putting the resulting pdfs on Google Docs. 

In 1955 Geiss-America offered a modification to the Argus C4 which allowed it to use interchangeable lenses.  Geiss-America Ad

Also in the same 1955 Photography Directory were some short descriptions and prices for most of the cameras made at the time.  Here is one page for box cameras.
Box Cameras

Also there was a nice early ad for Canon cameras.

The ad above is from the September 1949 issue of US Camera.  You can get a larger view with the pdf.  Ciro-Flex Model F

Lastly from the same issue is an ad for Bloom's Camera Center in Springfield MA.  Like most independent camera stores Bloom's is long defunct. The ad does list a nice variety of new and used still and movie cameras.

Hopefully, the links to Google Docs work okay.  If there are any problems let me know.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Found Film from the Ukraine

In May I bought a Smena 8M from a dealer in the Ukraine.  When I opened the back of the camera there was a re-loadable film cartridge with film in it. When I developed the film I got what were the most interesting found pictures that I have so far experienced. 

I am guessing these are photos from a visit to one of this young couples grandparents.  Maybe the grandparents are meeting their grandchild for the first time.  One commenter on my Flickr said that the clothing looked like the styles in the Ukraine in the mid-nineties.

If this is grandpa he doesn't appear to be very comfortable holding his grandchild.  I do wonder why the pictures were never developed and I imagine that may always remain a mystery to me.  Here is a gallery if you'd like to see more of these photos.
Found Film from the Ukraine

Here is the camera that took the photos.  I admit that I got it because it is red.

More information about the Smena 8M

Monday, January 16, 2012

Photography Fourteen Years Ago

I am looking at an issue for Popular Photography from February of 1998.  Film was still big then although digital was gaining a presence.

A review of the Kodak DC210 reports that the DC210 is the first under $1000 camera that Popular Photography has tested which can make a quality 4x6 print.  The review also praises the color accuracy of the DC210. 

Herbert Keppler notes the passing of the Pentax K1000.  He also looks at what some people claimed was a decline in the quality of the more recently made Pentax K1000 versions.  To find if there was any truth to these claims he had Popular Photography labs compare a new Pentax K1000 with one made over twenty years before.  What was found is that while there were some minor differences in materials, mainly some use of plastics in the newer version, that there was not a real difference in quality.  In 1998 you could buy a new K1000 body from B&H for $199.95.

A review of the Canon Elph Jr raves about the camera and hopes that Kodak will make its "wunderfilm", Gold Max 800, available in the APS format.  I don't know if that ever happened, however I do know that APS was a doomed format. From what I understand APS was aimed mostly at the amateur market and was killed by digital.

In the ads film still dominates.  All the major companies are offering a full-range of film cameras.  I don't think anyone knew at the time that very shortly digital would put all but a few film cameras out of production. I didn't see any ads for the Holga or Diana cameras that are a mainstay for places which still offer film cameras.  Here are some cameras offered:
Canon EOS 1N Pro Kit $1979.99
Canon Elan II Zoom Kit $439.99
Canon EOS Rebel G Kit $294.99
Minolta Maxxum 400SI Outfit $279.99
Minolta Maxxum 500SI Outfit $309.99
Minolta Maxxum 600SI Outfit $459.99
Nikon N50 Kit $339.99
Nikon N6006 Kit $414.99
Nikon N70 Kit 449.99
Nikon F5 Pro Kit $3799.99

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Canon SURE SHOT Zoom 85/Date Camera and Found Film

I got this camera at a garage sale last summer for $1.  It had a working battery and a roll of film in it.  I am often curious about the kinds of photos that people leave in their cameras.  So I took the last few shots and sent the film to be developed.  The only real interesting photo was this one:

Maybe this photo could activate a macabre imagination

Overall the Sureshot 85 seems like a competent if not exceptional picture taker. I made a SureShot 85 Zoom Gallery

It you would like to know more about the camera there is a lot of information here .

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Argus HFM II half frame camera

Even through I know that the ghost of the real Argus company has long been departed there is still something in the Argus name for me.  I also have some liking for the diptych photos that can be made with a half frame camera.  And then add that I have been having some curiosity about the point & shoots of the 80's and 90's.  So when I saw that there is a point & shoot Argus with a half frame option I decided to go looking for one.

From what I have seen it looks like there were two versions made in China starting sometime in 1988.  The first was the Argus Dual HFM and the second was the Argus HFM II which is pictured here.  Both were distributed by Argus Industries of DesPlaines Illinois. It took about a month to find this one on Ebay.  It came to me in almost brand new condition in a box with a manual.   I would guess from a lack of information about this camera on the internet that it was not popular when it was released and there is not much interest in it today.

The Argus HFM II other than its half frame feature is typical of fixed focus point & shoot cameras of its era.  The lens is 38mm with a minimum aperture of 3.5.  Details of what the other aperture settings are or what the shutter speeds might be are not given in the manual.   It does have some kind of auto exposure mechanism, however I could find nothing to explain how it works.  The choice of half frame or full frame must be made before a roll of film is started by setting a switch within the film compartment. The film speed is read from DX coding.  200 ISO film is recommended.

So far I have ran a couple of rolls of Legacy Pro 100 through the Argus HFM II and with the second roll I admit I am warming up to the camera.  As time goes on I expect to have more to report on this camera.
Argus HFM II Image Gallery

Friday, January 13, 2012

First lasting snow and a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7

Yesterday in central Illinois the first snow that stayed on the ground fell. Not much snow, however the wind blew and piled it up in places and made it hard to see.  And with the wind came the cold which was magnified by the wind to give bare skin and thin clothes a difficult time.  And on the snow day the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 came in the mail.

I was thinking that I would like to have a digital camera that would easily fit into a pocket.  I have some film cameras that do so, however sometimes I wanted some of the instant gratification that digital can offer.  So figured that if I looked for a camera that had been out for a couple of years I might get a good deal on a quality camera. I have noticed that with digital people seem to want the latest thing so perfectly good cameras lose a lot of value in a short time. 

So after doing some research and finding a good price I settled on the DSC-TX7.  It looks like the camera should be able to make decent prints up to at least 8X10 and it is very small.  I also like that its telephoto starts at 25mm and is made by Carl Zeiss.  I especially like that the telephoto does not stick out from the camera body.  So far because of the weather I have only done a few test pictures and I think it will suit my needs. 

So far two posts in the new year.  I am going to make an attempt to post something photographic every day for a while.  Usually I think too much about what I could post and end up not posting anything. So for a while I believe I will try just posting without thinking things out too much and see what happens.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beacon Two-twenty five

The Beacon Two-twenty five was made by Whitehouse Products Inc in Brooklyn NY from 1950 to 1958. The one pictured here is one of the earlier models because it has two apertures and a bulb setting. These were removed in later models.

I did find a manual for the later model that said that the single aperture is f12.5.  So I would guess that the aperture on my version would be 12.5 for the larger and maybe f9.5 or f8 for the smaller.  The single shutter speed is 1/50.  The lens is a 70mm doublet.  It uses 620 film which is no longer made.  However if you have an empty 620 spool you can roll 120 film onto it and it will work fine.

So the Beacon Two-twenty-five is a very simple camera.  To me its main distinction is its wonderful molded bakelite body.  It is one of the few cameras that I found myself wanting just on the basis of appearance.  And I think its main value will continue to be that I enjoy looking at it.  The Beacon Two-twenty five I think is a little above average in its class in picture taking, however so far I haven't used it much for that purpose.  The Beacon Two-twenty five did do me the service of providing a name for this blog.  I am not good at naming things so when I had to type in a name I looked at this camera sitting on the shelf decided to use Beacon 225. And helpfully the Beacon Two-twenty five gave me the subject for the first post here.

Here are a few images in the Beacon Two-twenty five Gallery

Here are manuals for the Beacon Two-twenty five and the Beacon II:

Found this after making the post.  It is an ad from the 1955 Photography Directory.