Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Yashica 72-E

A while back I signed up to be notified when certain cameras were offered on Ebay. Now, I haven't bought any cameras off Ebay for a while, however I didn't delete the notifications. One notification I kept was for "Yashica half-frame". Occasionally I still check the notifications out, however I seldom see anything that tempts me. Still when I saw one for a "buy-it-now" for a Yashica 72-E at $12 with free shipping I couldn't pass it up. I think I got a good deal. The camera came in decent cosmetic shape and is fully functioning. Even the selenium meter is working and appears to still be accurate.

Made 1962 the Yashica 72-E was one of many cameras introduced during the 1960's half-frame craze. The idea was to get more pictures on a roll of film back when film, especially color, was seen as expensive. Today I think the appeal of a half-frame is the diptych photos they yield. At least it is for me.

The Yashica 72-E is a fairly simple camera. The shutter speeds go from 1/8 to 1/250. The Yashinon lens stops down to 2.8. The selenium meter will do film speeds from ISO 100-400. One place where the Yashica has other cameras of its type beat is that if the meter fails it still can be used manually. The meter is on top of the camera and gives a reading in EV numbers. To set the exposure you turn a ring on the lens to the number provided by the meter. I compared what exposure setting the built-in meter gave with my hand-held meter and they were accurate. Kinda amazing that this meter should still be working so well after over 50 years.

So far I haven't finished the film that I put into the Yashica 72-E. From past experiences with Yashica and from photos I have seen online I would expect the results to be good. I think the Yashica 72-E certainly compares well with the more popular Olympus half-frames from the same era.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Motorola C2W

The Motorola C2W was made in 1959 at the Motorola Plant in Schaumburg IL. I bought it last week at the yearly Farm Bureau sale for $2. It is in very good condition with the radio and clock working as they should. In the last year or so I have found I have a liking for portable and clock radios from the late 50's to the early 70's. I especially like the last of the tube radios. I don't think I have a lot of competition since I seem to make quite a few good finds which cost very little. Like cameras these radios were once a part of somebodies life. Possibly the Motorola C2W was the first thing that some one heard every morning for many years. The styling and technology of these radios speaks of the tastes and the state of the art of of past years as few things can.  

Being a tube radio the C2W takes a moment to warm up. Now I spent several years of my youth when you had to wait for almost all electronics to warm up. That is because of the use of vacuum tubes.  I even remember once transistors made it possible to avoid this warm up that "instant on" became a big selling point.  Anyway I was pleased that the C2W seems to be working like new. Quite often the tube radios of this vintage have some problem like worn out capacitors. Still I have to admit that I don't really listen to the radio all that much these days. Mostly I just like the way these radios look so I am not much concerned if they work perfectly.

Here is the info for the Motorola C2W at the the Radio Museum

Friday, August 21, 2015

Station 144+27 Bridge

I call this bridge Station 144+27 because that is what it says on a plaque on the bridge. The same plaque also says it was built in 1932. Bridges of this sort were once common in this part of central Illinois. Now almost all have been replaced. The lighter section of the road on the right is an eight foot wide concrete pavement that was probably built around the same time as the bridge. This was a common pavement choice in rural areas when they were first putting in hard roads. Such an arrangement meant that one vehicle would need to yield and get onto the soft part of the road when they met head on. At first the lane to yield on was just dirt or sometimes gravel. Later on that side was paved with asphalt as can be seen on the left side of the photo.

Fairland is the name of the town that the road over the Station 144+27 bridge leads to. The building above is all that is left of Fairland's business district. While I don't think the business district here was ever large, I do seem to remember that there once were a few more buildings in this area. I remember a few years ago I was talking to a guy who worked for the C&EI railroad and he said that he once worked as a station agent in Fairland in the 1950's. So there once must have been a fair amount of business in Fairland to have justified a full-time station agent.

There is a small park across from the brick building. Across the street from the park I saw this old church. I would imagine this church was once an important place in Fairland. Today it doesn't look like there are many more than 100 people living in Fairland. Fairland is located in the northeastern part of Douglas County IL. Probably most of the people who live there work in nearby towns. Fairland would certainly be a ghost town if it had to depend on local jobs. One thing that is striking to me is that for many years the people who lived in small towns like Fairland also had some kinda job right in town. Until there were good roads and cars people didn't commute much to other towns for a job. I imagine that towns like Fairland will keep going on for as long as transportation by car remains affordable.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Hard Road

Since I am running out of inspiration to make enough posts about film cameras to keep this blog going I have decided to expand my subject to a wider range of vintage topics.

Back in 1923 voters in Champaign County Illinois approved a the selling of $2.5 million in bonds to build hard roads. The right-hand lane of the road above is one of the few remaining sections of the original pavement. Back then the idea was to connect all the towns of Champaign County with a nine foot wide concrete pavement. In all 173 miles of such roads were built in Champaign County between 1924 and 1928.  The pavement shown above is the last mile of a ten mile segment that connected Bongard Station to Pesotum.

The map is from some promotional info sent out to explain the bond issue. The red dots mark the section of the pavement that still exists. Bongard Station on the east end of the pavement never became a town. To this day the only thing there is a grain elevator. Pesotum on the other end also began as a station to gather products from local farmers for shipment on the Illinois Central. Today Pesotum is a town with a few hundred residents. Pesotum has managed to keep its depot in good shape.

The reason for only making one concrete lane was that they would get more road for the money. If you occasionally had to pull off to let another car by it would be made up for by being able to make most of your trip "out of the mud".
Today it is hard for most of us to understand how the phrase "getting out of the mud" could have so much appeal. We take for granted being able to travel on roads that are passable almost all the time. However before hard pavement travel could be almost impossible when roads were deep in mud.  And as the vote on the bond issue proved "getting out of the mud" was a popular idea. Not that there wasn't some opposition. Many farmers still used horses and the hard pavement was more difficult for horses. Also many small town merchants believed that they would lose business as people used the new roads to travel to larger towns.The section of road at Pesotum was connected to the larger road network by the new state route 45. And it is true that many people began to use that road to travel more frequently to the larger cities of Champaign and Urbana.

The pavement here is the way I remember the entire road being when I first saw it in the 1960's. By that time an asphalt lane had been added. Still people tended to drive on the concrete lane and would only use the asphalt lane when they had to yield.  The road was still called the "hard road" although by that time almost every road around had a hard surface.

The pavement has held up pretty well considering that it is now 90 years old. The rest of the section was rebuilt into a two-lane highway during the mid-1980's. To my knowledge this short section by Pesotum may be the last segment of the original hard road project in Champaign County that still exists. Up until the 1980's roads like this were still fairly common, however all of the ones that I knew of have since been replaced. Still Champaign County got nearly 60 years of useful pavement out of its investment. And this short segment by Pesotum is still doing well.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Time to get your Argus out

Winter and spring are now trading days here in the North. Coats still hang near the door, however soon they will not be needed. Once people in the north headed outdoors for the warm weather and didn't come back inside much until the weather got cold again. Back in the 1930's during winter a warm house and entertainment from the young days of radio was popular. Radios sold well. In summer radios often sat quiet in the hot house and no one was buying a new radio. Now that was a problem for the International Radio Corporation of Ann Arbor MI.  During the cold months there were lots of radios to make and everyone was working and making money. But not in the summer. Now cameras were something people used in the summer so IRC decided to make one. The result, the Argus A, became one of the most popular cameras of the time. IRC changed it's name to Argus Corporation and stopped making radios. The next camera in the line, the C3 became the most successful camera of all time. And all this happened as a result of the seasonable habits and inventiveness of the people of the great industrial north.

Today neither the North nor the seasons have the influence they once did. Argus now exists in Ann Arbor as a museum. Fortunately, today many Argus cameras remain ready to take pictures. So with the warm weather returning to the north the time is right to get an Argus and head outdoors.

The images here were taken with an Argus C4.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rokinon Automatic MC 1:2.8 f=24mm

A while back the external hard drive that I had a lot of my older negative scans stopped working.  Unfortunately, I hadn't gotten around to backing it up. I figured it was just a problem with the case and that the drive was probably okay. Anyway it took me a while to get around to taking the case apart and putting the drive in another case. Fortunately once I did I was able to see the drive again. And this time I backed the files up immediately. Anyway now I have access to some stuff that I hadn't written about before and some images I am revisiting.

I did write about the Rokinon 24mm three years ago.  At the time I had mostly used it on my digital camera. Since then I have used it a few times with film. I found it to be a good performer. Especially for a lens of this focal length that is usually fairly cheap. I remember I got this one for under $10 because the seller said there was a problem with haze. It turned out the haze was just some film from cigarette smoke that was easily cleaned. Even in good condition this lens was selling for around $20 to $30 on Ebay a few years ago. However I did look at recent sales on Ebay and it was selling for between $50 and $77. Not sure what the reason for the increase is other than people are using it on digital. And it does do well on digital where the crop factor can eliminate the edge problems that this lens can have.

So here are some images from the Rokinon 24mm. The B&W are on Legacy Pro 100. The color are Fuji 200. The last image of the Cinema Theater in Urbana IL, is where the late movie critic, Roger Ebert, watched movies when he was growing up. It was called The Princess Theater then. I also made a gallery a while back which mostly has digital images made using and M42 adapter.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spartus Rocket Camera

The Spartus Rocket comes from the early Space Age. Made in 1961 it sold for $4.75 ($37.08 today). I got this one at an antique shop Saturday. Aside from a small chip it is in good shape. The handle which is often broken in cameras of this type looks brand new. The Spartus Rocket uses 127 film. Up until the later 1960's when Kodak Instamatic's came along 127 film was very popular for consumer level cameras. The negative was a little bigger than 135, however it still allowed for a fairly compact camera. The 127 image size was especially popuar for slides. I think the Rocket is one of the nicer looking designs for this type of camera. From just playing around with pushing the shutter and using the viewfinder it seem like a handy camera. Like most cameras of this type there isn't anything to adjust. There is one shutter speed and the focus is fixed. It is point & shoot in its purest form. 

I have read that a company named Maco will still be making 127 film. Also there are various companies that sell 127 that has been cut down from 120 film. Usually this film is fairly expensive.  Probably more than I am inclined to pay to shoot the Spartus Rocket. Still it is a nice display camera. It would fit well into many early 1960's themes.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Start of a New Season

I imagine the image above may hurt some people's eyes. Still if you have read some of my past posts it does seem I have an occasional fondness for often ridiculed cameras. Last year I didn't see many such cameras. For a long time I could count on the cheap plastics being present at garage sales and thrift shops. However last year it looked like people must have finally cleaned all these cameras from their drawers and closets.

So at the start of a new season I was surprised to see a whole bin of these cameras at a thrift store that I visited on Saturday. I decided just to take the ones which were not grey or black. The five cameras above are the result. The Pink Eyelash camera says it has a 28mm lens. Other than that they are fairly ordinary.  I don't remember ever seeing anyone use one of this type of camera back in the years when they were prominent. From what I understand many of this type of camera were used as promotional items and often ended up tossed in a drawer. I actually have another of the Lexxus camera. The pictures it takes are not bad. They are consistently fairly sharp in the center and soft on the corners.

I don't feel in a big hurry to take pictures with these new finds. Although in the past I have found that a few of this type of camera, will take surprisingly nice images. And even some take bad images that are nonetheless interesting. Anyway at least they are some nice colors for the Easter season.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Spartus Box Camera

Strangely, I don't remember where I bought this camera.  I know I got it last summer and I would guess it was at a garage sale.  Until the last few days it sat on a shelf mostly ignored.  When I did take a good look at this Spartus Camera I was surprised that I found it to be a fairly attractive camera. It could use a little cleaning, however its simple clean lines look good to me. 

The features of this Spartus box camera are the standard ones for a box camera of the 40's and 50's. There are two shutter speeds, instant and time. The instant speed is probably 1/30.  Two good things about this camera are that the viewfinder is actually usable and it uses 120 film. With most of the cameras of this type I have found the viewfinder, even when clean, to be difficult to use.  The one on this Spartus, while small, is bright and clear. 

I couldn't find anything on what year this Spartus camera was made. I would guess the late 1940's to the mid-1950's. Spartus was a company in Chicago that made a great variety of inexpensive cameras during this era. My guess is that these cameras were kinda like the inexpensive point & shoot cameras made by companies like Vivitar in the 1980's and 1990's.

So far I haven't taken any photos with the Spartus. Although since it uses 120 film I will do so when the weather here is more compatible with the leisurely pace of shooting that seems called for with this camera from what many think of as a slower time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Kodak Retina Reflex III

I bought this camera last summer for 50 cents at a garage sale. Back during the early 1960's the Retina Reflex III sold for the equivalent of $2000 in today's dollars. Today that same price would get you an entry level full frame DSLR from Canon or Nikon.  I imagine that you would either have to be a fairly serious photographer or have a lot of spare change to have bought a Retina Reflex III when it was new.

The Retina Reflex III is certainly a nice camera to look at even after all these years. When the shutter is pressed it is one of the most quiet, vibration free SLRs that I have used. Part of that is because the mirror doesn't return automatically.  Like many other SLRs from this period the mirror doesn't return until the film is advanced. Overall the Retina Reflex is a fine specimen of a high quality German made camera. That being said I don't think I will ever take pictures with this camera. The main reason for that is the very limited options for exposure.

The Retina Reflex III uses one of the selenium meters that were popular in the early 1960's. You made your exposure by turning a ring on the lens until a needle in the viewfinder was centered. Probably in 1961 this was quite a feature. Unfortunately in my Reflex III the meter is dead. Still there is the option of selecting your own shutter/aperture combination.  When you move the ring you can make various selections of shutter/aperture pairings. Each shutter speed is paired with one aperture.  Like if you want to use f/8 the shutter speed is 1/30.  Now the bad part is 1/30 is the only shutter speed you can use with f/8.  There appears to be no way to decouple the shutter/aperture combinations. And that is a killer for me as far as this camera is concerned. I could probably figure out a way to make this set-up work, however it is more figuring than I want to do to get pictures from this camera.

I kinda wonder if this lack of flexibility didn't help to kill off the Retina Reflex line.  Probably there were other factors, however like today I think that a photographer laying out some serious cash for a camera would want at the least the ability to make his own shutter/aperture selections.

So for me the Retina Reflex III falls in the category of interesting and nice to look at, but not for taking pictures.  Which isn't bad for 50 cents.

If you want more details about the Kodak Retina Reflex here is the entry from Kodak Classics.