Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ricoh SLX 500

I have a big drawer where I keep some cameras that have problems. Every once in a while I will go through it and see if I can get an idea about fixing one.  A short while ago I pulled this Ricoh SLX 500 out of the drawer and found that it was working perfectly.  I don't remember what got it confined to the broken drawer, however the problem seemed to have cured itself.  Hopefully the other cameras in that drawer will follow the Ricoh's example and fix themselves also.

The SLX 500 is an economy model released by Ricoh in 1975.  Its configuration is common to many economy models sold during that time.  Usually these cameras feature a 1/500 top shutter speed instead of 1/1000.  Also they would be lacking features like a self-timer or depth of field preview.  Most of the time the standard lens would be slower.  In the Ricoh SLX 500 the standard lens is an Auto Rikenon f/2.8.  The Ricoh SLX is the economy version of the Ricoh Singlex.  And like the Singlex it is a solidly made all mechanical camera.  The meter does have the mercury battery problem, however there are work-arounds or you can use sunny 16 or a hand-held meter.

In its day the SLX 500 was probably a good deal at $250.  Today when you can get some of the best film cameras ever made very cheaply it probably falls pretty low on the list of cameras to have.  The standard lens is okay, however it doesn't seem as good in quality as some other Ricoh lenses that I have used.  Still since the SLX 500 uses the M42 mount you have a lot of other options.  And it is hard to find fault with the SLX 500 as a good basic reliable and seemingly durable camera body.

For B&W I used Arista.Edu 100 developed in Rodinal 1/25 at 3.5 minutes.  I have since found that 1/100 using one hour stand development seems to work much better for this film. 

As another test I put the Auto Rikenon f/2.8 on a digital camera.  Since the lens doesn't have a manual option I was limited to keeping the lens wide-open. I think these images show that the Auto Rikenon f/2.8 does have some potential.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yashica Auto Yashinon-DX 50mm f1.7

The Yashica Auto Yashinon DX 50mm f/1.7 lens was the standard lens for cameras like the Yashica TL Super.  It was made in the 1960s. The image here is actually of the DS version of the lens.  The DS was a later version. The lens design is the same, however the DS version lacks an auto/manual switch and at least in my opinion isn't as nicely made.  Both lenses are single-coated.  The last version of this lens is the DS-M.  It is the same as the DS except that it is multi-coated. I scanned a booklet I have with all the Auto Yashinon lenses offered by Yashica in the mid-70's.  You can see it in my Google Docs.

Here is what the lens looks like on the camera that it came with.  The images here were made with a Canon digital SLR using an M42 adapter.  I started out doing that when testing these lenses and have stuck with it since it gives me a consistent basis for comparison. I tend to think that these Auto Yashinon standard lenses are one of the great bargains in lenses.  Usually you can pick one up on Ebay for between $20 and $30. 

The images below are all with the lens at f/1.7. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sharp Center and Mist Maker

If you were doing photography in the 1950's, 1960's, or 1970's it is likely that you have heard of Spiratone.  The company sold a wide variety of camera accessories and advertised in the photo magazines.  They had a store in Manhattan and did a booming mail order business. The company started from a small photo developing operation ran by Fred Spira and his father in the 1940's.  Spira was one of the first to import Japanese made accessories.  Spiratone came along at just the right time, benefiting from the postwar boom in photography. The company survived until 1990, going out of business just three years after Fred Spira sold it. Fred Spira lived on until 2007. His obit was in the New York Times if you'd like to know a little more about him and his company. A lot of items from Spiratone are still around.  I did a search for Spiratone on Ebay just now and there were 284 results.

I came across a couple of Spiratone filters in a box of filters that I was given. The one used for the image above is called "Center Sharp Lens".  When I put this filter on and look through the viewfinder there is a in-focus center surrounded by a blurry ring. 

This filter seems to do a little more than just make the edges of a photo soft. 

It also seems add a glow to the image.

So far I have just made a few images with this filter, however I think it has the potential to be useful.

The other filter is called "Mist Maker".

To me the Mist Maker seems to diffuse more brightly lighted objects in an image.

Again so far I have just taken a few images with this one and while I think it could be useful it will take more trials to figure out how that can best be done.

Back in the days before Photoshop, filters like these were about the only way to add effects to your photos.  And I know that there are many who would say that such effects are more easily done in Photoshop.  I'm not going to enter into that argument since I don't think there is a right or wrong here. For myself it is still fun on occasion to see what these filters will do, however I am personally aware that Photoshop can yield the same pleasure. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kodak EK6 Instant Camera

I don't imagine that anyone would be surprised to hear that this Kodak EK6 came from an estate sale in a box with a bunch of other beat up cameras. Back from the mid-seventies until the early 1980's Kodak made a run at establishing their own brand of instant film and cameras.  Polaroid didn't like this and managed to use the courts to make Kodak stop.  The result was a complete wipe-out for Kodak.  They were forced to shut down their efforts at making instant film and pay reparations.  I think that Kodak offered some kind of refund or trade-in for people who had purchased their brand of instant camera. The Kodak EK6 was part of this commercial drama.

And from the looks of it that is about the only thing that is dramatic about the Kodak EK6.  Other than it was made from 1976 to 1979 I could find little info about this camera.  The thing I notice most about the EK6 is that it is heavy - weighing over two pounds.  Basically, it looks like a simple zone focusing camera.  I think film came out like the Polariod SX-70 film.  The camera here has a film pack in it.  Unfortunately, even if the film still had some life in it, the battery pack that is included in the film pack doesn't.

Throughout its history Kodak appears to have put a lot of effort into putting out films in formats that they could make proprietary. While they had a lot of success for a time with efforts like 126 film, just as often this seems to have back-fired on them such as with their instant film.  Kodak actually made film for Polaroid before the lawsuit, however because of the conflict Polaroid took all their production in house.  So Kodak lost what must have been a pretty good revenue stream back when Polaroid was at its most popular.

So like many cameras it is doubtful that this Kodak EK6 will ever again take pictures with its intended film. Today it is just a humble reminder of a corporate battle that seemed like a big deal in its time.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Minolta Maxxum 5000i

I bought the Maxxum 5000i at a flea market last summer without knowing much about it.  I just figured it was probably worth the $15 that the dealer was asking. The Maxxum 5000i by default has two exposure modes: program and manual. If you want more you have to buy an expansion card that adds aperture and shutter priority.  The 5000i probably was the first camera to do this.  And it might have been the last for all I know.  Although I can see how requiring the purchase of a card to add features to a camera might have once seemed like a good idea.  So far I haven't felt motivated to find an expansion card for this camera.  And I would guess that if I had been in the market for a camera at the time I would have been more likely to buy a camera that came with the features I wanted instead of having to mess with additional cards. 

You may have noticed the built-in flash. I'm not sure if this is the first time that an SLR had a built-in flash, however I would guess it was one of the earliest.  The flash would fire when needed while in program mode.  It also was possible to turn the flash off.  I didn't take any flash pictures with this camera so I don't know how well it works.

The 5000i came with a f/4-5.6 35-80mm zoom lens.  From my reading it appears that this isn't one of Minolta's highly regarded lenses.  Still in the one roll of film that I shot I found it to be decent enough.  The 5000i was the mid-level camera in the series that followed the original famous Maxxum AF cameras.  The auto focus has a new feature called predictive auto focus which can help with focus on moving subjects.  I haven't shot any moving subjects with this camera so I don't know how well it works.  You also could get continuous auto focus with an expansion card.

Since it has been almost a year since I took the photos here I don't remember a lot about what my experience of using the 5000i was.  Obviously I wasn't so impressed that it became a camera that I use regularly.  Still when I was recently looking at the these images I was thinking that it certainly is a good camera.  Probably one that I wouldn't feel bad about using if my options were more limited.  And I do have to admit that it makes me think that maybe if I don't have time for this camera than maybe I have too many cameras. 

I believe the images here are on Kentmere 400 developed in Xtol.