Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Polaroid Colorpack II

The Polaroid Colorpack II was one of the early non-folding Polaroid cameras. Made in 1969 it sold for $30 which translates into around $185 in today's money. The Colorpack II is auto exposure with shutter speeds between 10 seconds to 1/500. The lens is an 114mm f/9 with three elements.

The camera here is one that my parents used when I was growing up.  Most of the pictures they got from it weren't very good and after a while it was seldom used. Still I learned something important from this camera.

Mild weather here. 59F (15C)

When I first became seriously interested in photography in the mid-seventies I read one of my first "it is not the camera, it is the photographer" type articles. The author made the point that often the failure to get a satisfactory image from a camera is the result of the photographer not understanding his equipment and working within its limitations. If I remember correctly he advocated that worthwhile images could be made from almost any camera.  I remember thinking at the time that if this were true then that Polaroid Colorpack II would be a good camera to test the theory.  By the time I had read this article I had some understanding of the basic principles of photography.  With that knowledge I went to work with the Colorpack II and did get much better results than what my parents had been getting with the camera.

Now the results were not so good to make me a lifetime devotee to Polaroid.  In fact I think that was the only pack of Polaroid film that I ever used.  And unfortunately I have no idea what became of those pictures.  Still I think that lesson of knowing your equipment and working within it limitations is an important one.

Hosta My next experience with the Colorpack II was using Fujifilm.  When looking for what old cameras that I still had I came across the old Colorpack II. I wondered if it still worked so I ordered some film.  Again the results did not put me in thrall to instant photography.  I do like the color of this film and the softness of the lens, however not so much that I would like to make a lot more pictures like this. Although maybe one day I will come upon a subject for which the capabilities of the Polaroid Colorpack II are ideal.

Fujifilm FP‐100C

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Argus C4

The Argus C4 sold for around $90 from 1951 to 1957.  That $90 would be about the equal of $720 today. So buying an Argus C4 wouldn't have been a casual purchase for most people back in the 1950's. Still judging by the numbers that are still around Argus must have sold a fair number of the C4.As the 1950's wore on the Argus C4 had trouble competing with the Japanese imports that were often less expensive, seemed more modern, and had more features. The C4 was the last big seller for Argus. Argus did attempt an improved version of the C4, the Argus C44, however the C44 didn't sell well.  As the 1960's started Argus was limping along still turning out C3s and offering cameras made by other makers.  I think they were out of business by the early 1970's.  The name Argus still had some value as it appears to have been owned by several different companies over the years.  Occasionally you will still see some usually cheaply made camera with the Argus name.  The most notable one for me was the half frame Argus HFM that was made in the late 1980's.

In the last five auctions for a C4 that sold on Ebay the average price for an was around $20. And there were a lot of them for sell. So if you are curious and want to try out one of the last rangefinders made in the US it won't cost you much. For myself if I was stuck back in the 1950's and the Argus C4 was the only camera that I had I don't think that I would be sad.  While I might pine after features like higher shutter speeds and interchangeable lenses I still think I could do alright with the Argus C4. Even after all these years the rangefinder on my C4 is bright and contrasty and the Cintar lens seems decent enough.  There isn't that much about the C4 to get excited about.  It is just a good solid camera capable of consistent good results provided the user knows a little about photography.

It was possible to send your C4 to Geiss-America and have it modified so that it could use a set of lenses made by Lithagon. I have read that this is a much more usable interchangeable lens system than the one for the Argus C44.  A Geiss modified C4 with a set of Lithagon lenses in good shape is one of the few Argus collectibles that you may need to spend a decent amount of money for.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Some things I have been working on

The other day I was reminded of an item that I bought some time ago.  It is a thing that attaches to the filter part of a lens and it lets me take a picture of a slide or negative.  I don't remember when or why I bought it.  Although it must have been some time ago since I have had a scanner for slides and negative for a long time.  Anyway I decided to take another look at it.

This one is from an Ektachrome slide from around 1975.  I used a standard Canon 50mm to mount the slide copier.  This is the first one that I have processed from the slides that I copied and I am satisfied with the result.  As I get time I plan to experiment with this thing a little more. I may do a longer post when I have more results.

I also have been working some on doing a post about the Canon 24mm f/2.8 lens.  I was struck by this image.  When I finished working on it I was thinking that I would probably have to use some kind of hdr technique to get such a result in digital.  The film was Legacy Pro 100 stand developed in Rodinal.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Recesky TLR

The Recesky TLR is a camera that comes in a kit that you assemble yourself.  You can usually buy the kit from somewhere between $10 and $20.  My experience was that it is fairly easy to put together.  Although I found getting the  shutter set-up correctly kinda tricky.  The instructions that come with the camera are not very well-done, however if you do get hung-up while making the Recesky TLR it is easy to find help by doing a search.  A lot of people have shared their experience of building a Recesky TLR. 

What you get when you are finished is an interesting looking, but flimsy feeling TLR that takes classic toy camera pictures on 35mm film.

My version seems to be always soft on the edges and less soft toward the center.  Unlike a lot of toy cameras the Recesky TLR is not fixed focus.  You focus the camera by turning the viewing lens.  The viewing screen for the Recesky is fairly bright and might be helpful with focusing for someone with better eye-sight than mine.  As it is I found getting even the soft edges and less soft center a challenge.

The aperture on the Recesky is f/11 although that can be changed to f/5.6 by removing the aperture ring.  The shutter speed is said to be anywhere between 1/50 and 1/250.  The one on mine seems to be around 1/125.  There is not frame counter.  And it can be difficult to tell how far to advance the film. Basically, I can say that building the Recesky is interesting, however for me using it wasn't much of a pleasure.  I did like a few of the images it took, however for the trouble there are many toy cameras that I find more rewarding. Still some people have found the Recesky more rewarding than I have so I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying one out.

Here is the Flickr Group.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Two Camera Books

 Canon EOS 650 Promaster 28-80mm F/3.5 on Fuji 400

I recently saw Camera: The History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital on sale at Barnes & Noble so I bought it.  It has been out since 2009 so I imagine a lot of you have it or have looked at it.  The book is not an in depth history of photography, however I thought it was an interesting quick read.  The main appeal it had for me is the many photos of descriptions of cameras in the Eastman Collection. And for me the pictures were worth the price of the book.

Camera: The History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital also shows the important part Kodak played in the development of digital photography. I know that a lot of people have faulted Kodak for its seeming failure to take advantage of the digital technology that they developed.  Myself I can't say what Kodak might have done differently, however I can see why many wonder why they didn't avoid sinking to the low point they are at now.

A second book Glass, Brass, & Chrome by Kalton C. Larue and Joseph A. Baily is one of my all-time favorites. Subtitled The American 35 Miniature Camera Glass, Brass, & Chrome was published in 1972. Glass, Brass, & Chrome gives some in depth information about the 35mm cameras that were made in the US from the 1930's until the 1960's. Both of the authors used many of the cameras that they are talking about.  I think that this book may be one of the best ways to get a feel for the glory days of the US camera industry.  It has been out of print for a long time, however it is not hard to find a used copy. 

Both books make some predictions about the future.  Glass, Brass, & Chrome was finished at the time that Kodak's 126 Instamatic film was dominate.The authors seem to expect this dominance to continue with Instamatic film maybe replacing 35mm.  I wonder if Larue and Baily would be surprised that over 40 years later that 35mm is one of the surviving formats while 126 has been out of production for over a decade.  The author of Camera: The History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital appears to have no love for film.  To him digital is much superior.  His prediction is that the next advance will be a camera and media that can capture the kind of image that our eyes can see.  How that will work out I have no idea. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sears 35 Motor Drive

In the early 1980's cameras like the Sears 35 Motor Drive made it possible for almost anyone to take decent photos in most circumstances.  You didn't have to be concerned about focusing or exposure.  That challenging process now was taken care of by your camera.  And most of the time it worked pretty well.  And if you didn't have enough light the camera had a built-in flash. More advanced photographers didn't like that there was no possibility for manual control, however most everyone else didn't care.  The auto exposure auto/ focus cameras were very popular.  All the major makers made one.  The Sears 35 Motor Drive seems to be one of the lesser known cameras of this type.  It looks like it was made for Sears by Chinon although I don't know for sure. 

I couldn't find any detail about the Sears 35 Motor Drive other than what you can tell by looking at the camera's picture.  Its all plastic and fairly light, however it has a solid feel to it.  Like many cameras of this time it has a built-in lens cover which also turns the camera on.  It runs on two 2 AA batteries.  As the Motor Drive part of the name implies it has one of the loud motor drives that were typical of the era.  I would have much preferred a quiet manual winder. The auto focus worked well in the few pictures that I took before the camera went belly-up.  About half-way through the test roll the auto-winder stuck and wound what was left of my film.  Since then the motor grinds away anytime that I turn the camera on.  I did like the few pictures that I got with the Sears Motor Drive. Most of this type of camera had pretty good lenses.  Some of the versions by the major makers like Canon, Nikon, and Minolta are very good picture takers.  And if you have some times when you don't care about manual control they are a good bargain. As for the Sears 35 Motor Drive I would say it takes worthwhile images, however the loud motor drive is not something that I care for.  In a camera of this type I would look for the versions made before motor drive became a fashion.