Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ricoh 35 FM

I couldn't find much info on the Ricoh 35 FM.  At first glance it looks like it might be one of the compact rangefinders that Ricoh made throughout the 1970's, however a closer look shows that the Ricoh 35 FM is a much simpler camera.  The single person to mountain symbols on the lens shows that the 35 FM is zone focusing.  A search of the camera shows that there are no manual controls. The Ricoh 35 FM only offers auto exposure controlled by a cds meter. To take a picture with the Ricoh 35 FM you first enter your film speed on the dial on the front of the lens. The speed range is a narrow 25 to 400 ISO.When you partly press the shutter button a needle in the viewfinder will show you what aperture the meter has selected.  The camera doesn't tell you what shutter speed has been selected, however it looks like there is only one speed and that is 1/125.  The day I did my testing was sunny with and most of the ground was covered with snow.  So the 35 FM had plenty of light to use with the Arista.EDU 100 film that I loaded.

The Ricoh 35 FM uses a 40mm f/2.8 lens made by Ricoh.  It would make sense that this is the same lens that is used by the more advanced cameras like the Ricoh 500 G. The lens is the strong point of this camera. It allows this simple economy level camera to give some respectable results.  The meter on the example that I have appears to still be working well.  It handled the sometimes difficult light of a sunny snow-covered day well.  It is also a plus that the meter uses an SR44 battery instead of the mercury ones that were so common in its era. 

And mentioning era I would say that the Ricoh 35 FM was made sometime in the 1970's.  I never could find a definite date or original price for the Ricoh 35 FM. 

I admit that fairly often as I am thinking about a camera while I am writing a post that my esteem for the camera becomes greater than it was when I was actually using the camera.  Once I have some results and have done some research and fit the camera into its time my respect often grows.  That happened with the Ricoh 35 FM.  For an inexpensive camera aimed at the casual photographer the 35 FM does pretty well.  It is simple to use, and the Ricoh 40mm f/2.8 lens gives results that are better than most of the economy cameras of the Ricoh 35 FM's time.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Three under-rated cameras

Back in the mid-seventies when I was first getting into photography most photographers would buy into one camera system and stick with it. For the most part lenses and accessories would only work within their camera system.  So for most people it was too expensive or inconvenient to maintain more than one camera system. I early on bought into the Canon system and pretty much stuck with it even until now. In recent years however film camera prices have fallen so much that it is possible to experiment with cameras and lenses that wouldn't have gotten much consideration from me if I had to pay the original price. From the experience of trying out a lot of cameras I have found there were many cameras that would have met most of my needs.  The three cameras here particularly surprised me because they were not from the big names like Canon, Nikon, Pentax, or Olympus.  In fact I don't remember ever hearing about them when they were first sold. I think all three would be good cameras for someone wanting to get started in film again.  They all are reliable durable cameras that can be purchased for very little. Like the more famous Pentax K1000 they have all the basics and don't need a battery for anything other than the meter.

I have used this camera fairly often for the last few years and still have a high opinion of it. It probably helps that the Sears Auto f/1.4 lens is one of the best that I have used. It appears that this camera was made by Ricoh and was rebranded by Sears.  Unlike current day retail giants Sears did seem to value quality in what it sold. Although at the time being a store brand camera probably did cause some photographers not to take the Sears TLS seriously.

 A couple of years ago you could find a Sears TLS with the f/1.4 lens for around $20 on Ebay.  Now it appears that the same combination is going for between $40 to $60.  Still a good bargain in my opinion since you are getting a solidly made camera with one of the best standard lenses made.

I wrote more about the Sear TLS a couple of years ago.
Sears TLS
Here is a good forum post about the Sears TLS at
I also made a gallery for the Sears TLS.  The B&W images are from the f/1.4 and the color are with the Sears 28mm f/2.8.  Sears TLS Gallery

Pretty much everything that I have said about the virtues of the Sears TLS can also be said about the Argus/Cosina STL 1000.  I have encountered several of these in the past few years and have yet to see one that isn't still very usable.  That is a rare experience for cameras of this age. Like with the Sears TLS the standard Cosinon f/1.8 lens is a big selling point for me with this camera. The Cosinon lens renders color with a subtle warmth that I enjoy.  As a bonus the lens is one of my favorites to use with an adapter on digital cameras.

I just noticed that it was exactly one year ago that I wrote more about this camera. Argus/Cosina STL1000

The Mamiya/Sekor DSX 500 was one of the biggest surprises of the cameras I have tested in the past few years.  One surprise was to find that the DSX 500 offers both spot and averaging metering.  Another pleasant surprise was that it uses an SR44 battery.  So having some versatility in metering powered by an easy to get battery is a big plus for me. Like the other two cameras the auto Mamiya/Sekor sx f/2 lens is very good.  There is a DSX 1000 model which is pretty much the same as the DSX 500 with the exception of the top shutter speed of 1000 vs 500 for the DSX 500.  On Ebay there isn't much difference in price between the two cameras. 

I wrote more about this camera last summer.  Mamiya/Sekor DSX 500

So if you are looking for a solid basic film SLR that doesn't cost much I don't think you would go wrong with any of these three cameras. And regardless of price all three can hold their own in the quality of images they are capable of making.

I would like to know of any other cameras that you have used that you feel are under-rated.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Spartus Folding Camera Model No. 5-500

Back when I was in the deepest grip of camera mania I bought this camera off Ebay.  The main attraction was its Art Deco design.  I didn't pay much for it and I had it for a while before I started to appreciate it.  So far my experience has been that while not being a very good picture taker it is great to look at.  It helps that the camera was in like new condition.  I don't think that it was used much.  I imagine that it sat in its box for years. Probably the Spartus Folding camera was designed in the late 1930's. It started out as the Falcon Folding Camera in 1940 and shortly after the design was taken over by the Spartus Company of Chicago.  Spartus continued to make the Spartus Folding Camera up to the 1950's.

One of the things I like most about old cameras is that they can give me a feel of having a link to an earlier era in photography.  Sometimes that feeling is ruined by a camera that is so decrepit that it is hard to get a feel for what it must have been like when it was in its prime.  The Spartus Folding camera was in such good shape that it was not hard to imagine what it would have been like to use it when it was brand new. 

As you can see from the image above the Spartus Folding Camera is very simple.  About the only choice you have to make is to select an aperture of either f/16 or f/22.  There also is a choice of instant or timed for the shutter. Since there is no option for flash, the best time to use the Spartus would be on a sunny day.  That was a common limitation for cameras of the time. And since people back in those days seem to have spent more time outdoors this would not have seemed like a great limitation.

As far as the pictures it makes, well they aren't too great. Although I think the results would have met the expectations that most people would have for such a camera at the time. For a price of $7.95 the Spartus Folding Camera must have satisfied the needs of many picture takers back in the 1940's.  That is evidenced by its long production run, and by a fair number of these cameras still being around.

The Spartus uses 127 film, which was fairly popular for amateur picture making up to the 1960's.  Today with the demise of Efke, the last maker of 127 film, it appears that making use of cameras like the Spartus Folding Camera will be more difficult.  For the image here I took some 35mm film and put it on 127 backing paper.  That works reasonably well, however I don't think that I often will be willing to go to the trouble for the images that the Spartus Folding Camera makes.  Still I think the Spartus Folding Camera is very worthwhile for its design alone.  My advice if you are planning on getting one is to hold out for one in very good condition.  I would guess there still are a lot of good ones out there.  And having one in excellent condition adds much to being able to appreciate the non-picture-taking qualities of the Spartus Folding Camera.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mikona MV-828

I saw this Mikona MV-828 sitting on this shelf in a local antique shop for at least two years.  A few months back I was there while everything was half-price, and feeling sorry for the camera I bought it.  Now I would like to say that this story ends in my having found an unexpected jewel. 

Well, if not a jewel than I am offering the rare opportunity to see some photos taken with a Mikona MV-828.  My guess is that this may be the only time in 2014 that photos made by this camera will be posted.  And if not I am fairly certain that this will be the only blog post about the Mikona MV-828. 

You can learn all you need to know about the Mikona MV-828 from looking at the picture at the top.  It doesn't have any features that you need a manual to learn about.  It does seem that the makers of the Mikona MV-828 took their claim for being a focus free camera seriously.  The lens consistently remains free of focus from the center to the edges.  This particular camera also suffers from light leaks and flare. 

I admit that I like the first two images.  For me the softness, the glow of the snow, and the leaks add something to the images.  I probably will at some time put some expired color film in the Mikona MV-828 to see what will happen.  Still I don't think I will start calling myself a lomographer.

Monday, January 13, 2014

First Post of the New Year

My posting certainly has fallen off in the last few months.  The main reason is, at least for now, I have reached the end of my gear acquisition phase. I think most of us do this when we are returning to film.  For me I saw all these cameras that I had never been able to try before selling so cheaply.  I think I wanted one of everything.  Well, it didn't get that bad, however I did end up with a lot of cameras.  And the process of learning about each new camera gave me a lot to write about.  Now while there are still a few cameras that I would like to have I don't feel an urgent need.  I am feeling now like I can remain satisfied for a long while with the cameras I already have on hand. 

I did just recently develop some Arista 100 that I took with an Olympus 35 RC.  I shot this roll to test the auto exposure on the 35 RC.  I continue to be pleased with the performance of the 35 RC.  It is hard to beat for an easy to take with me camera.  Although I find that the Olympus XA is even more pocket-able and achieves an image of similar quality.

One thing I did learn from all the cameras that I have tested is to value the compact rangefinders from the 1970's and early 1980's.  I came to photography at a time when the SLR was starting to dominate and never gave much thought to the rangefinders.  I am glad that at this late date I have finally come to appreciate these smaller cameras that are often much easier to take along then the smallest of SLRs. I think having one of these compact rangefinders is now an essential part of my photography toolkit.

I do hope that every bodies New Year is off to a good start. I leave you with a couple more from the Olympus 35 RC.