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.