Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cosinon Auto F=1.4 f=55

I didn't want to let a whole month pass without a post, so here is the Cosinon Auto 1.4.  I was surprised to find this on a Argus STL 1000 that I was given a while back.  I expected the Cosinon f/1.8 that usually came with that model. I wasn't able to find much firm info on this lens.  Some say it was made by Tomioka and it was also sold under such brands as Revuenon and Rikenon.  It probably dates back to the early 1970's.  It is mostly of metal construction and is more solid and heavier than most modern lenses.  The optical design is 7 elements in 6 groups. 

For a test I used the lens wide open on a Canon digital SLR.  I am pleased with the sharpness, colors, and bokeh.  I'd say that if you run across one of these at a reasonable price that it would be worth picking up.  I saw one that recently sold on Ebay for $23.95 and another for $43.  So it's likely this lens could be a bargain for an f/1.4.

Some more images wide open.

Lastly, one at f/11.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Falcon Miniature

I saw this camera at the Wabash Depot Antique Mall Saturday for $6.  Most of the time when I see these fairly common cameras in antique shops they are in bad shape and priced much too high.  The Falcon Miniature however was clean, the shutter fired, and 6 dollars is pretty much what it is worth.  So I couldn't pass it up.

The Falcon Miniature came with a box which lists all it's features on the side.  It is a short list.

The body of the camera is made of Bakelite and reminds me of the body of the Argus A.  I imagine that was intentional since the Argus A was very popular in 1939 when the Falcon Miniature was made by the Utility Manufacturing Company of New York NY.   Utility was bought by Spartus Corp. in 1941 and Spartus continued to make the Falcon Miniature in Chicago. The one I have here was made in Chicago even though the face plate says New York. 

I found a blog that has some photos taken by this camera. The photos don't look too bad.  I imagine some young photographers cut their teeth on an inexpensive Falcon Miniature.  The wide exposure latitude of b&w film made it possible to get acceptable results with such a simple camera.  Some may not know that it wasn't until color slide film came along that photographers became more concerned about accurate exposure.  With films like Kodachrome you had to be spot on with exposure. If you look through old camera ads there is a parallel in the rise of Kodachrome and the rise of exposure meters.

Anyway talk of more sophisticated equipment seems out of place when looking at the Falcon Miniature.  It is probably one of the simplest cameras ever made.  To me the vintage look of the camera is the main appeal.  Maybe one day I will take some pictures with it, however I am in no hurry.

One recent claim to fame for the Falcon Miniature is that it is said to be the inspiration for the Sprocket Rocket  from Some people have found it possible to run 35mm film through the Falcon Miniature getting the film sprockets that some desire. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Yashica FX-2

Thought this camera might be a good place to restart this blog.  I was at the Covered Bridge Festival in Parke County Indiana last week and bought this Yashica FX-2 for $9.  I happily would have paid that much just for the Yashica ML 50 1:1.7 lens.  Last fall I bought a Yashica FX-3 Super from the same dealer.  I liked the camera, however it came with a rather large lens, and for a while I looked for a standard lens to replace it.  By the time I saw this camera and lens I had forgotten about that search.  So I was glad to see the lens I wanted along with another Yashica camera to add to my collection.

The Yashica FX-2 was first made in 1976.  It is the second in a line of cameras that came about as the result of a partnership between Yashica and Zeiss.   As a result the FX-2 uses the Y/C bayonet mount.  This means that it can use both many excellent Yashica lenses along with the highly regarded Contax Y/C lenses. The Yashica ML 50mm 1:1.7 is highly regarded by some and seen as ordinary by others.  So far I have no actual experience with the lens, however based on previous experience with Yashica lenses I would expect it to be pretty good.  I have heard that the mixed experience that many have with some of these economy lenses of good design may have to do with quality control.  Having a lens checked out thoroughly is expensive so probably more clunkers get out the door in the economy lines then with the more thoroughly checked upscale lines.

As far as the FX-2 goes it is a typical of the all-mechanical cameras of its time.  The shutter speeds go from 1 to 1/1000 along with B.  There is a button for a depth of field preview.  Other than for the meter no battery is needed.  Unfortunately, the battery that is needed is one of the no longer made mercury batteries.  So when I use this camera it will likely be with a hand-held meter.  Still the first use this purchase will get will be when I put the lens on the FX-3 Super.  That camera uses modern batteries, and when I used it last I remember that the meter worked very well. 

I does seem like my purchases and use of film cameras has fallen off in the past few months.  I think that may be partly as a result of having reached the point where I have more cameras than I can find a place or use for.  At least right now all my camera drawers are full and many cameras are taking up space in places that I'd rather use for other things.  So that definitely has put a slow-down on my desire to add to the pile.  The FX-2 was too much of a good deal to pass up.  And with my liking for all things Yashica it will probably still be around when I thin the herd.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Three Cloud Versions

Have not been posting for a while.  I suppose that correlates with the waning interest that I usually have for photography in late Summer.  At least I have noticed for the last several years my photographic output declines a lot in August and early September.  Probably things will pick up now that Fall is starting to show itself here.

Usually I talk about film cameras here, however I do have a liking for various methods of changing photos. The photo above is from a digital raw file.  It is a pretty straight forward version of a cloud from last summer.  I think all I did to it was use curves to improve the contrast and added a little sharpening.

The second versions comes from using Photomatix on the single raw file.  This works pretty well if the photo is taken using a low ISO.  At least with my camera an ISO higher than 800 will result in a lot of noise when processed by Photomatix.

The last image is the Photomatix one when ran through Silver Efex Pro 2. Of the black and white conversion tools that I have tried I like Silver Efex the best. Although I probably wouldn't have paid the full price for it.  I was lucky in that I bought another Nik plugin a while back and then later got the whole Nik bundle as a bonus. Still I do still prefer the results from real black and white film.

So while I have been doing a lot of my photography in film the past few years I am not immune to the charms of digital along with Photoshop and its plugins. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Revival of Vinyl Records and the Survival of Film

I was listening to this podcast talking about the revival of vinyl record sales and I had the feeling that for some parts of the show they could have changed the word vinyl to film.  Especially when they were talking about a return to vinyl recordings being a reaction to the perfection and sterility of digital recordings.  Overall they made the point that some felt that vinyl records seemed like a more involved, and more human way to listen to music. It was interesting to me that Vinyl records have been increasing in sales since 2007.  They were up 30% last year.  Now it doesn't look like they will ever reach the level where they once were, however it does appear that vinyl has a stable niche.

I think film is in a similar place.  I would guess that many of you are like me in being tired of hearing people say that film is obsolete. Still like the vinyl crowd I think there is a segment of people who find something missing in digital images. I think the challenge for the film making industry will be to adjust to that smaller market.  Film like vinyl likely will never recapture the mass market.  Still I do believe that there is enough of a market for film to keep a film producer in business if they go out there and cultivate that market. While I know that many have problems with companies like Lomography, however I do believe that they are a good thing in that they are about the only people cultivating a market for film. And while it is likely that the Lomography thing may just be a fad for some, fads do have a way of helping to discover what may become a lasting preference. Hopefully, the message that film is not dead will start to be heard more.

 Taken with Fed 2 with Industar 61 on Legacy Pro 100.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Polariod Spectra System

Until I started seeking out cameras at garage sales, thrift shops etc. I had never heard of the Polaroid Spectra System.  I was aware of the 600, and SX70 cameras, but couldn't remember ever seeing a Spectra camera back in the old days. I still don't see that many of them, however when I do they are usually cheap.  So that got me into checking to see if there is still a way to take pictures with one.  What I found is that new film can be had from the Impossible Project .  Also there is still some expired Polaroid film out there, however it is usually expensive and getting way past its expiration date.

So after finding that the Spectra System camera can still be used I wondered if there is any demand for them.  What I found is that while some people are using the Spectra cameras they appear to be much less popular than the 600 and SX70 type cameras.  In a way that seems like a shame since the Spectra cameras seem like a better camera.  Especially better than the consumer type 600 cameras.  On the other hand the 600 cameras do seem to have more personality, whereas the Spectra cameras appear to be designed not to draw attention.

The reviews I read of the Spectra System cameras were all favorable.  The auto focus is said to be very accurate.  There is a reading telling you how far the focus is set.  The exposure system is also said to be very good.  One guy claims that he has never had an image be over or underexposed.  Considering how expensive film for these cameras is that is a good selling point. The lens and the build quality of these cameras is also supposed to be pretty good.  I can not from experience say anything about the lens, however I can say that these do seem to be a much more solid camera than most of the 600 types.

So if you are just into giving yourself the best odds of getting the image you are aiming for than the Spectra System is worth some thought.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Time Promotional Camera

It is possible the the Time Camera is both the most reviled and the most imitated camera in the history of photography. The Time camera was introduced in 1985 as part of a magazine sales promotion by Time magazine. At a time when many photographers were complaining about the increased use of plastic in cameras, Time decided to add metal in the form of lead weights to their otherwise plastic camera.  With this innovation the Time camera had the extra heft that many at the time felt was the hallmark of a well-made camera.

Apparently the Time promotion was a success and set off a wave of offering a free camera as a promotional item.  Most of these cameras were either a clone of the original Time camera with a different name, or were a minor variation on the Time camera theme.  Maybe there were a few people who thought that they were getting a high quality camera, however it appears that most people didn't value these cameras much.  Today this type of camera is a staple of the thrift shops and garage sales.  Many are found still in their original packaging.

Back when I was more into toy cameras than I am today I used many of the Time type cameras.  However I had never had used the father of the family until I recently bought one at our local Salvation Army Thrift Store.  The Time Camera offers the choice of four apertures, f/6,f/8,f/11 and f/16.  The shutter speed is 1/125. The pictures that this camera took are better than I expected.

Of course I took most of the photos on a sunny day while visiting some antique shops in Danville, IL.  Such conditions are likely to bring out the best in a camera with the capabilities of the Time Camera. Nonetheless I was pleased with the pictures it made which I can't say is true with every camera.

If you are anywhere near central Illinois, Danville is a worthwhile place to visit if you like antique and thrift shops.  The town also has a nice mix of old buildings to take photos of.

So now I have used a Time Camera and was not traumatized by the results. My biggest complaint about this camera is that it seems that what I saw in the viewfinder was only about half of what would end up in the photo.  Its maybe the most useless viewfinder that I have experienced.  Still if I had to I could probably make do with the Time Camera.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Canonet G-III 17

It is hard to think of anything new to say about the Canonet G-III 17.  Lots of people have written about this fine rangefinder, and most everyone praises it as one of the best fixed-lens rangefinder made. If you have ever shot photos with this camera, or even just handled one I think that you understand the enthusiasm. About all that I can add is that I probably see this camera more in the antique shops than I do any other camera of its type. That is not surprising since Canon sold 1.2 million Canonet G-III 17s between 1972 and 1982.  It may be the best selling rangefinder of all-time. I would guess some of the appeal for antique shop owners is that this is such a nice looking camera that it may sell as a decorative item to those who have no interest in film.

On my test roll I made a mistake and had my hand-held meter set to 400 ISO instead of 100 for the first few shots.  I did one hour stand development in Rodinal and notice no difference between the shots that should have been underexposed and those that had proper exposure.  I suppose that is one more good thing to say about Rodinal and stand development. About the only negative thing I can say about the Canonet G-III 17 is that it has the mercury battery issue.  Fortunately it is easy to use in manual mode with an external meter or sunny 16.

On Ebay I see that the prices range from around $30 for ones of questionable working condition to the low one hundreds for good working quality versions.  Considering how many Canonet G-III QL17s were made the demand for this camera must be fairly strong since they appear to fetch what is a good price for a film camera these days. One thing I wonder about with some of these camera descriptions on Ebay is how hard can it be to test and see if a camera's basic functions are working?  I do avoid those cameras where someone says I bought it at an estate sale and have no idea if it works.  I wonder in these cases if they are really saying I know it is a piece of junk, but I hope you will take a chance. If that is not what they are doing than they are probably cheating themselves out of some extra money if they would find by simple testing if the camera may be usable.

I did see one of the black versions of the earlier QL 17 that sold for $132.50.  I actually like the chrome versions of most cameras better than the black, however a black Canonet G-III QL17 is a camera I would not turn down.

For some more details on the Canonet G-III QL17 I found this to be a good link.  Quality Compact 35 Rangefinder

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Polaroid Supercolor 635CL

I got a nice haul of Polaroid cameras at a church sale Friday.  The nicest was this Polaroid 635 CL.  It still had the original box and appears to have only been lightly used.  When tested with a empty film cartridge the camera fires up.  So I imagine the odds are pretty good that it works.  Although I am not tempted to buy some new film to find out more.  Instead this is one of the rare cameras that I will post on Ebay quickly.  They usually sell pretty well and it helps fund my film camera habit. With the Impossible Project now selling 600 film the market for 600 film cameras seems to be improving.  Any of the versions with the rainbow stripe seem especially popular.

For a camera that doesn't look very tough these 600 cameras appear to be quite durable.  Out of all the ones I have picked up in the last couple years, I have only found one that didn't work.  The Polaroid Supercolor 635 CL was introduced in 1986, and appears to be still functioning almost thirty years later.

The big deal about the Polaroid 635 CL was that it had a computer that measured light and then came up with a combination of natural light and flash that would give a good exposure.  Otherwise the camera seems to be a typical Polaroid 600 camera.  The 635 CL also has a built-in close-up lens which not all of these cameras had. With the close-up lens you can focus to 2 feet.  Otherwise the minimum distance is four feet.

This Polaroid 635 CL came with its original box and instructions. In the box was a photo that was most likely taken with this camera.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Voigtländer Vito B

I have wanted a Vito B for a while so I was pleased to find one in the lot of cameras that I was given from my old high school's photo club.  The Vito B was first introduced in 1954 and was made until 1961.  The version here was a later model first introduced in 1959.  It differs from the earlier versions in having a 9 speed Prontor SVS shutter and a f/2.8 50mm Color Skopar lens.  The earlier versions had either a 4 speed Prontor or an 8 speed Prontor SVS.  Both came with a f/3.5 Color Skopar.  The 1959 version also has a top shutter speed of 1/500 versus 1/300 on the earlier version. My version also has the over-sized viewfinder that some feel detracts from the Vito B's appearance.  While what some feel about the oversized viewfinder may be valid I do have to say that it is a great viewfinder from a practical standpoint.  It is easily the brightest and most useful viewfinder that I have encountered on a camera of this type.

The Vito B is a scale focusing camera.  For the picture above I actually measured the distance because I wanted to test the lens up close and wide-open. I think the Color Skopar did pretty well. There are some symbols on the lens to help with quick focusing.  These are said to work best with the lens at f/5.6 or higher. As with most scale focusing cameras unless you are very good at guessing distance it is probably good to get familiar with any focusing aids that the camera offers.

Most everyone who has handled a Vito B is impressed by the quality of its construction.  I would have to include myself in that crowd.  To me its one of those cameras that has value just for its build quality and appearance.  In 1959 the f/2.8 version of the Vito B sold for $640 in today's dollars.  The f/3.5 was around $480.  So it was a camera for at least the serious amateur.  And there most have been quite a few of those around in the 1950's, since judging by auction listings there were many Vito B's sold.  I suppose it speaks of the quality of the camera that so many survive until this day in working condition.

One important thing to know about the Vito B is that the shutter is locked until the camera is loaded with film.  So it might appear that the shutter isn't working if you are counting on the film advance lever to cock the shutter.  You can test it by opening up the back and turning the spocket that catches the film until the shutter cocks.   So you might be able to find a bargain on a Vito B from someone who thinks the shutter doesn't work when it just isn't being tested properly.  Still there isn't that much of a need to seek out a bargain since it looks like a Vito B can be found for around $30 for the f/3.5 version.  I wasn't able to find a closed listing for the f/2.8 version so I would suppose that they are rarer and may cost a little more. 

From my first experience of the Vito B I can say that it has become my favorite scale focusing camera.  The Vito B is one of those peak cameras made by a quality company at a time when the technology for such cameras was mature. We are lucky to live in a time when a camera like the Vito B is plentiful and inexpensive.  Although it is a shame that such classic design and build quality is unappreciated by our larger culture. I suppose the Vito B brings out the old-timer in me.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Voigtländer Vitoret L

The Vitoret L is the economy version of the Vito series of cameras.  Mainly the shutters and lenses were of a somewhat lower quality than those used in the Vito series.  That being said it seems that the definition of economy model has gone downhill in the last few decades.  The Vitoret L does not seem cheap or flimsy in the way that most economy products seem today. 

The L in the name stands for light meter.  The Vitoret L has a meter that is visible in the viewfinder and on the top of the camera.  To get the correct exposure you adjust the settings until the two indicators line up.  The one in my camera seems to work.  I used it to take the photo below.

Although I used a handheld meter for most of the pictures from this result it looks like the meter works well.  So when I use this camera next I will probably rely on the built-in meter more.  Its a fairly easy system to use.

The Vitoret L only has four shutter settings, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, and 1/300. The lens is a 50mm f/2.8 three element Color-Lanthar. Probably the nicest thing about the Vitoret is it's large bright viewfinder.  It is one of the best that I have seen in a camera of this type.  Focusing is by guessing the distance. There are symbols for person, group, and views on the focusing ring that are suggested for quick focusing.  There also is a depth of field scale. 

I am guessing that the Vitoret L originally sold for between $40 and $50. That is based on looking at prices for other cameras in the Vitoret series.  The L model was first made in 1966 and discontinued in 1968. The Vitoret line ran from 1961 to 1971.  Altogether the Vitoret series is estimated to have sold around 700,000 cameras.

The Vitoret series doesn't usually sell for a high price on Ebay. One Vitoret that seemed in excellent shape did go for $73, however most were much less.

I don't find myself inclined to rave about the Vitoret L.  It is a nice-looking well-made competent camera.  Definitely worth picking up if you like the the all-mechanical zone focusing cameras.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Olympus 35 RC

Weighing 15 oz, the Olympus 35 RC may be the smallest AE rangefinder ever made.  However the Olympus 35 RC is a substantial camera, capable of excellent results.

For me the 35 RC isn't as shirt pocket friendly as the Olympus XA, however it easily fits in a pant pocket. I used the manual mode with the 35 RC since it requires an old mercury battery or its equivalent.  After my first use I am thinking that I may want to work out the battery issue with the 35 RC.  With its small size, quiet shutter, and excellent lens having the auto exposure option would make it a nice walking around camera.

I read that the E.Zuiko f/2.8 lens gives 80+ center resolution at f/5.6 to f/16. From my results I don't find that hard to believe.

I can't think of much more to say about the Olympus 35 RC.  From my experience it is a camera that lives up to its hype.  Here are a couple of links that give more details.
Smallest 35 Rangefinder ever with AE Exposure and Manual Override?
the essence of 35mm photography in a small package

I think that the title of the second link sums up the Olympus 35 RC pretty well. Checking on Ebay the 35 RC has been mostly selling for between $50 and $100 in good working condition.  If you are patient and willing to take a chance on condition you might find one for less.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mamiya/Sekor DSX 500

When I test some of these older cameras I am so used to the meter being dead or needing a no longer made battery that usually don't check it and just grab my hand-held meter. That's what I did when I took the photos for this post. With the Mamiya/Sekor DSX 500 that was a mistake.  While reading up on the DSX 500 for this post I found that it uses a still available silver-oxide SR44 battery. I also read that to turn on the meter you pull the film wind lever back slightly.  When I did this the needle for the meter responded.  Now this camera came from a bunch of cameras from a defunct photo club.  I would guess it hadn't been used in twenty years.  So I was very surprised that the battery would still be powering the meter after all that time.  I checked the meter with by hand-held meter and it seems to be working okay.

So seeing that the meter was still working and used an easy to get battery was my first surprise. My second surprise was that the DSX 500 offers both spot and averaging metering.  That's something you don't often find on an economy camera.  Selling for around $229 the DSX 500 differed from its brother the, DSX 1000, in having a lower top shutter speed and lacking a self-timer.

The Auto Mamiya/Sekor SX f/2 lens seems to be a good performer.  The SX lenses are unusual in that while they are a M42 lens they also have a locking mount.  There also is a pin in this lens that allows one to meter without stopping down the lens.  You can use non-SX M42 lenses, however with these you will need to stop down to meter.

Weighing in at just over two pounds the DSX is solidly made mid-1970's all mechanical classic.  The DSX 500 with it's two metering modes and easy to get battery would seem like a good option for today's film shooter. Although if you want the 1/1000 shutter speed and the self-timer you can look for the DSX 1000.  Just from a brief look on Ebay there isn't much difference in price and the DSX 1000 seems to be more common. 

My admittedly superficial check of DSX prices got me to thinking that maybe cameras like the DSX 500 were offered in the same way that medium soft drinks are offered.  And that is because for some reason having a choice between small/medium/large seems to increase the sales of the large drink.  At least it seems like more DSX 1000s were sold. 

With a lot of these older cameras I use them out of curiosity, but end up without a desire to use them again.  The DSX 500 falls into the category of one that will get further work.  It may not reach the level of a goto camera like several of my Canons or the Olympus XA, however after a first use I am impressed with it.

I used Arista.EDU 100 for these pictures.  I have never been that happy with that film, however because it is cheap I have kept trying with it.  This time I use a dilution of Rodinal at 1/100 and one hour stand development.  And that finally is a combination that I am happy with. 

I also tried the Auto Mamiya/Sekor SX f/2 lens out with an M42 adapter for digital.  Since the lens doesn't have an auto/manual switch I was only able to use it at f/2.  Here is one of the results.