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.