Monday, April 29, 2013

Photos from the Ferrania Condor I

I got the shutter working on the Condor I that I wrote about last week. So I loaded a short roll of HP5 to test the Condor I.  I shoot the scene above often when I am testing cameras. Still this image did jump out at me.  The detail in the corn crib and on the young leaves on the sugar maple is probably more striking when the image is larger than the one here.  It looks like the lens on the Condor I is capable of good work.

The rangefinder remains a problem with the Condor I, however it is still very usable as a guess the distance camera.  I used HP5 developed in Rodinal here.  Probably not the optimal developer for HP5 as far as grain goes. Still at the moment I think the Condor I has a lot of potential.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Vivitar T200 Focus Free/Flash

From the time that George Eastman in 1888 introduced the first Kodak until digital became predominant in the 2000's much of the photo industry was focused on making cameras for those who just wanted to look through the viewfinder and push a button. The resulting images didn't have to be outstanding.  Just good enough to trigger memory. Fortunately negative film with its generally wide latitude was very forgiving and perfectly accurate exposures were not necessary most of the time. That let camera makers produce cameras for the masses with usually just one shutter speed and aperture that would cover most picture taking possibilities.  From the early box cameras to the plastic point and shoots like the Vivitar T200 the approach was the same. 

Along with the events like birthdays and holidays, many people used their point and shots to take a few shots of their garden.  And the Vivitar T200 does live up to the focus free part of its name here.  The aperture for the T200 appears to be f/5.6.  The shutter speed likely is the standard 1/125.  It has a flash if you add batteries.  One nice feature is that you can turn the flash off.  On a lot of this type of camera the flash is always on.  The Vivitar T200 has a built-in lens cover that also locks the shutter.  Overall the Vivitar T200 is cheap, but well-made for a camera of this type.  It doesn't feel like it is going to fall apart in your hands like many of these cameras do.

As a camera in the long tradition of point and shoots the Vivitar T200 does its job.  It looks like it can give a reasonable representation of its subject most of the time.  Unfortunately, most of the people who wanted what the Vivitar T200 had to offer have gone over to digital.  And with the convenience of being able to take their snapshots with devices like their phones they are never likely to return.  And so far without the vintage appeal that some of the box camera have, the plastic point and shot is probably the most unwanted of cameras. Myself I tend to have some sympathy toward the unwanted. Which I think is why I often can't pass up giving these cameras a home when I see one cheap at a garage sale or thrift store. 

I found that there is a version of the Vivitar T200 that is still for sale.  It looks different than the version here and it also has a panorama mode.  I suppose Vivitar made so many of this kind of camera that they lost track of what camera was named what. Well, if nothing else you may have just read the only blog post devoted to the Vivitar T200.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ferrania Condor I (Officine Galileo)

The Condor I was made in the late 1940's by Ferrania in Italy.  Ferrania was assisted in the design by Officine Galileo, an Italian optical company.  The goal was to make a top of the line rangefinder.  It looks like they came up with a decent camera, however it doesn't appear to have been a commercial success.  The Condor I sold for around $90, which was a good price for a camera of this sort at the time.  So being too costly doesn't seem to have been a problem.  The Condor I also seems to be a well-made camera.

As to what kind of pictures it takes I can't say so far.  When I first started this post I couldn't get the shutter to fire so I was just going to present the Condor I as a non-working, but interesting camera.  As I was messing with it this morning I have been able to get the shutter to fire.  So maybe there is some hope for getting pictures from it.  Although there is another problem in that the rangefinder spot seems to be lacking in this camera.  The Condor I has a separate rangefinder and viewfinder. The viewfinder window is okay, however the rangefinder is fairly squinty. The leaf shutter goes from 1 second to 1/500.  The lens openings use what I believe are an old European marking from f/3.5 to f/25.  The lens is fixed and collapsible.  All the settings are on the front of the camera lens.  So you have to turn the camera toward you to change the settings.  So the Condor I probably isn't a good camera for situations where you would need to change settings quickly.

Until I manage to take some pictures with it I won't have a final opinion on the Condor I.  It is a beautifully made camera and it has a nice feel. For its time it has good specifications.  And while I find some of its operational design to be clunky it is not crippling. Hopefully, I can get the Condor I to the point where I can give its Eliog lens a test.

I got the Condor I in a batch of cameras that was left over from the photo club at my old high school.  I think it wins the prize for being the most unique camera in the batch.  If anyone out there has some experience with this camera I would be glad to hear from you.  So far I haven't found much info.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Canon FTb

I remember in the 1970's when I was first looking to buy an SLR that the Canon F1 was the professional camera while the FTb was for the amateur or for use as a backup camera. Without a doubt a lot of Canon F1s were sold to professionals, and I imagine that a large number were sold to people like myself who had no real aspiration to become a professional. I do think that I fell somewhat for the allure of thinking that top of the line equipment would make me a better photographer.  I have never regretted buying the F1, however there is little that I have done with the F1 over the years that I couldn't have done with the FTb. 

A lot of the difference in expense with the two cameras has to do with the use of more durable materials for the F1.  For example, the F1 has a titanium shutter whereas the FTb has a rubberized silk shutter. Overall the F1 was made to stand up to heavy use and hazardous conditions and that costs more.  Most of us are never going to subject a camera to the kind of use that the F1 was built to endure. And the FTb has nothing to be ashamed of concerning toughness.  I think it says a lot about the quality of Canon products of that era that the FTb was considered an economy camera.  If you can get your hands on an FTb I think you will be impressed with its quality look and feel.  And by all accounts it is a remarkably durable camera.  I have read countless reports of people using the FTb for decades with no complaints.

Anyway my point in comparing the F1 and the FTb is that many times we pay for professional equipment when the lower priced models may serve our needs just as well.  I think that may be more true in the digital age where I don't think that current cameras will have anything like the lifespan of an F1 or FTb. At least if you payed for more camera than you needed in the 1970's you could still count on it for decades of use.  I don't think that will happen with today's digital cameras. 

Now the FTb also lacked a lot of the features and options of the F1.  Still it has everything that I would need most of the time. And it does have useful features like mirror lock-up and a nice depth of field preview that many cameras in its class lack. I haven't checked out how well its exposure meter works since I find it easier to use a hand-held meter than to mess with battery issues.

I have only recently gotten first-hand experience with the FTb.  I just happened to come across a nice looking FTb body for a good price on Ebay.  I actually didn't expect to be so impressed with this camera.  My thinking mostly was that I should at least have one of what as become one of the iconic Canons.

Canon FTb Gallery

Here are some of the details for the FTb.
At Wikepedia
Canon Camera Museum

Monday, April 15, 2013

Blue Deluxe 35mm Compact Camera

I suppose that I have a belief that every camera should have its day in the sun.  I would guess that the Blue Deluxe 35mm Compact Camera hasn't had many of them.  I picked this camera up at a garage sale last summer.  Its design did stand out from the other cheap plastic cameras, which seem to be trying to imitate whatever more upscale point and shoots are out at the time of their conception. I don't have any idea what the inspiration for the design of the Blue Deluxe was.  I think its appearance is fairly unique.  As far as capabilities go it is the same as other cameras of its type.  One shutter speed, probably 1/125, and one aperture which looks like f/8. The lens is very soft, lacking even much sharpness at the center. 

In honor of recently deceased film critic, Roger Ebert, the Blue Deluxe took a picture of the Cinema Theater in Urbana IL.  The Cinema was named the Princess until 1967, and was the place where Ebert often saw movies while growing up in Urbana in the 1950's.

There really isn't much more I can say about the Blue Deluxe.  It was kind of a fun camera to use and I like the pictures it makes.  I imagine that for as long as it continues to work I will run a roll or two of film through it every year.  I did make a Blue Deluxe Gallary.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Smena 8M

I was surprised when I noticed that I hadn't posted about the Smena 8M before.  I have had it for at least a couple of years although I haven't used it much. I got partly because I like Russian cameras and because I liked its red face plate.

When I opened the camera there was a finished roll of film in it. I developed the film and almost every image turned out well. The images are of a couple with a new baby.  From some feed back I have received when posting the images to other sites the images may have been taken in the Urkaine the 1990's.  So far these are the best found film images that I have developed.  I made a post about the images and a gallery here.

The Smena 8M seems to have been aimed at those who needed a cheap camera but who also wanted to learn something about photography. It was made in the USSR from the early 1970's till the mid-1980's. The Smena allows for learning by giving a choice in shutter speed from 1/15 to 1/250, and apertures from f/4 to f/16.  Nothing about the Smena is automatic.  You even have to manually cock the shutter. Focusing is by guessing the distance.  Most of the camera is made of plastic, however some parts like the lens an face plate are aluminum.  This makes the Smena 8M a very light camera.  Sometimes this lightness can be a problem since the shutter button takes a fairly hard push.  That combined with the lightness of the camera can make camera shake a problem.  Some people also have a problem keeping their finger out of the cocking lever when pushing the shutter.  Although that wasn't a problem for me.

So the Smena isn't the smoothest handling camera.  Where it redeems itself is with a good 40mm triplet f/4 coated lens. Its the kind of camera where if you know what you are doing you can get surprisingly good results. It is also the kind of camera that would reward a newcomer to photography who made the effort to learn.  Even some of the lack of smoothness in the camera's operation can be seen as positive if looked at as something that forces the shooter to slow down and think about what he is doing.

Smena 8M Gallery

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Agfa Silette, Aires Viscount, and Argoflex 75

I am back to going through my scanned negatives from last year.  I am picking out one image for each camera - an image that I haven't posted before.

The first one is from one of my favorite 1950's zone focusing cameras, the Agfa Silette.  I did a post on the Agfa Silette a short time ago. The film is Fuji 200.

I posted about the Aires Viscount back in January.  Unfortunately, the focusing ring is broke in my Viscount, however it is stuck at a distance which with the right aperture does make it usable for some shots.  Hopefully I will get the around to fixing the Aires Viscount this year.  The film is HP5 in Extol.

The last photo is from the Argoflex 75.  I haven't written anything about this camera and haven't used it much.  It is made for 620 film, however I did manage to fit a 120 roll into it.  It worked okay, however it got pretty hard to wind by the end of the roll.  The Argoflex 75 is one of the pseudo TLRs that were popular in the 1950's.  Made by the famous Argus Company, it is fixed focus with two shutter speeds, instant and time, and one aperture(f/11).  It seems like a decent enough picture taker for what it is.  And it is solidly built with a fairly bright viewfinder. The film here was Arista.Edu 100. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Olympus Pen EES

When introduced in 1962 the half frame Olympus Pen EES was the first camera with a programmable shutter. A setting of either 1/40 or 1/200 was selected based on the light readings from its selenium meter. An appropriate aperture also was automatically set. If there was not enough light or too much light a red flasher appears in the viewfinder. There is no manual option with the Pen EES. The lens is a 30mm four element D Zuiko f/2·8.  The Pen EES uses zone focusing.  You select from portrait(4ft), group(10ft), or wide open(50ft).  In actual practice the lens on the Pen EES has sufficient depth of field to achieve reasonable focus in decent light most of the time using either the group or wide open setting.

Probably the greatest obstacle to sharp images with the Pen EES would be camera shake with the slower 1/40 shutter speed.  So it is best to use the fastest film that the Pen EES can use to help have the higher 1/200 shutter speed be selected. And the fastest film the Pen EES can use is ISO 200.  To younger readers that may seem slow, however when the Pen EES was introduced 200 IS0 was considered fairly high speed.

With its selenium metering the Pen EES doesn't need a battery.  As long as the selenium meter is functioning you are in business.  The Pen EES that I have came from some film cameras that I was given which used to be used by my old high school's photo club.  While the camera definitely shows signs of use the meter still appears to work fine.  When I wanted to test the camera all I had on hand was some 400 ISO HP5.  So I set the meter to 200 and pull processed the HP5 for that speed.  I think the results turned out reasonably well. At least they showed that the Pen EES is working okay. Right now I have some Fuji 200 in the Pen EES so I can get an idea of how it functions with what probably is one of the optimal films to use with this camera. I will have a more well-developed opinion of the Pen EES when I get those pictures finished.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Konair 35

I saw the Konair 35 on Ebay with what seemed like a cheap buy-it- now price and so I bought it. I couldn't pass up a 1950's rangefinder with a  f/1.9 lens.  As I found out I don't think that many people have heard of this camera.  There is next to no info about it online.  The only listing I could find for this specific camera model is in McKeown.  It appears that the Konair 35 was made in 1956 by the Windsor Camera Company.  The same camera was also sold as the Windsor Deluxe. The Windsor Camera Company was a Japanese company that was originally called Toko Photo Works.

I am not sure what the source of the Konair name is.  I had no better luck with info about the Konair 35's Velex shutter.  The shutter speeds are 1 to 1/400 and B.  The f/1.9 Super Color Sygmar lens seems to be just as obscure as the rest of the camera.  On Ebay other than the auction that I won there are no current listings or recently closed listings for the Konair 35 or for the Windsor Deluxe.  There were a couple of sold listings for the Windsor 35, which seems to be the one Windsor Camera company product for which there is info available online.  One sold for $61 and the other for $76.  Since the Windsor 35 with its f/3.5 lens and slower shutter appears to be more common than the more fully featured Konair 35, maybe I got a good deal at $22.

In actual use the Konair 35 should satisfy any fan of the 1950's all-mechanical rangefinder.  Even after nearly 60 years the operation is still smooth and the rangefinder is bright and contrasty.  For a test I loaded up just 10 exposures of bulk HP5.  I think the results look promising. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kuribayashi C.C. Petri Orikkor 50mm f/2

The Petri Penta, first made in 1959, was the first in a series of Petri SLRs. Unlike later cameras in the series the Penta used the M42 lens mount. And that is the mount that the Petri Orikkor f/2 uses.  I was pleased to see that I could give this lens a quick digital try-out using my M42 adapter.

The Petri Orikkor f/2 seems to be another of those lenses that has some mystery about exactly who made it.  Normally the Orikkor lenses were made for Petri by Kyoei.  However it seems that the design and quality of this lens is seen by many as not likely to have originated with Kyoei.  Putting the issues of origins aside the quality of the build and design of the Orikkor is surprising high.  The lens has a 7 element 4 group optical layout.  The Orikkor f/2 is also unusual in that it has a cemented triplet in its rear element. If you are interested in a more complete discussion of the Orikkor f/2 than you will find it here.

I have to admit that I was surprised to find that the Orikkor is such an good performer.  I saw it on the fairly humble Petri Penta and on a whim decided to check it out with my digital adapter.  When the results much exceeded my expectations I went online and found the info above. One of the fun things about these old M42 lenses is that it is possible to find some gems that I wasn't aware of before.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Hanimex Compact R

Hanimex was a company started after WWII to import cameras and other photo equipment to Australia. Sometimes Hanimex rebranded or co-branded cameras made by other companies.  Other times they actually did the design work and had the cameras manufactured by another company.  The Hanimex Compact R appears to be a slightly altered version of the Ricoh 500 G.  Introduced in 1972 the Hanimex Compact R is one of the compact fixed lens rangefinders that were popular in the 1970's.  Originally the Compact R used a mercury PX675 battery to power its aperture priority exposure option.  However if you can't find a battery the Compact R will still work in manual mode.  The range of shutter speeds is from 1/8 to 1/500.  The lens stops down to f/2.8.  At least on my version the rangefinder spot is quite good and remains usable even in fairly dim light.  The shutter is quiet and the camera is light and small.  Not quite shirt pocket small, however easy to fit in a decent sized pant or coat pocket.  As far as usability I think the Hanimex Compact R is in a league with the better compact rangefinders of its era.  As far as picture taking results it may be just slightly below what some of its brother compact rangefinders can do.  Although the difference probably isn't all that great.  However if there is a difference  I don't think it is great enough to detract from an otherwise well-made image.

The Hanimex Compact R must not appear often on Ebay.  I couldn't find any recent listings for it. However the Ricoh 500G is common and usually sells for between $10 to $25 dollars on Ebay. There is also a version made for Sears called the Sears 35 RF. 

I made a few images with the Hanimex Compact R that were not made under the best of conditions.  Basically I just popped outside on a cold snowy day to take some pictures to make sure the camera was working.