Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Exakta Camera

The Ihagee Dresden Exakta VX IIa 35mm SLR is a brilliantly designed camera.  From the innovative cartridge to cartridge winding system, with integrated film cutter, to a unique and bold look and feel to the camera, including a big and bright viewfinder.  This is quite the camera to behold.  It uses pretty much only Zeiss and Schneider lenses, but there are a few other manufacturers in there.

I really like this camera, really I do!  Although it feels backwards, and I have to completely forget about anything resembling a 35mm SLR to use this, it just works so nicely, and feels so right in my hands.  There is something about this camera, and perhaps it is because it is over-engineered?  I don't know.

What I do know, is that I can't stop using it.  Coming up on April 21, 2012, is another Roll In A Day, Day In A Roll, project that I will be using this camera to shoot. 
That, along with it's incredible Carl Zeiss Jena T* 50mm ƒ/2.8 15-Blade Iris Monster!

Either way, this camera has performed  flawlessly from the first frame I put through it, and probably will continue to perform when I finally decide to either retire it, or let it pass on to someone else (perish the thought!)

Exakta VX IIaOne really nice thing about this camera is the 3 sync ports on it.  This camera is synced for M class and F class bulbs, plus has an X-Sync, which is brutally slow-synced at 1/25s!  Oh it's terrible to know that it its sync speed is that low, but it's more designed for M class flash bulbs compared to the modern electronic flash guns.

The other thing about it that I really like, is that it has interchangeable finders. 
From the standard PRISM finder as you would see on any other SLR, to the Waist Level Finder that you see on Medium Format cameras.  The Waist Level Finder is fun, but tough to use.  As the screen isn't the easiest to see when you've got it down at waist level, at least for sharpness, you can't properly guage if the subject is in proper sharp focus or not.  Granted, most oft times you can just get it in NEAR focus, and stop down the lens, which is the common practice of using a WLF.  The only thing is, what if you want to use a fast shutter, slow film, and a wide aperture?  Well, focusing is then critical, and HAS to be sharp!  Especially when focusing near and doing portraits, a necessity!
Well, the easiest way for that is switcing to the Prism finder.  But what if you don't want to, or you didn't bring it to your locale.  Well, there's the handy FLIP OUT magnifying glass to help you focus.  Similar to using a LOUPE on a L/F camera, the magnifier will allow you to nail that super sharp focus you need for the perfect look on your image.
Which reminds me.  I REALLY have to try this camera out for some portraits.. Perhaps this weekend will be the time to try it!

Tech Specs;

Exakta VX IIa 35mm SLR - Ihagee Kamerawerk Steenbergen & Co. - Dresden, East Germany (USSR Occupied)
Circa between 1960-1963 (65,600 total produced)
Lens Mount - Exakta/Topcon Lens Mount
Shutter - Focal Plane Cloth Horizontal Travel Shutter - Speeds 12s - 1/1000s +B +T
3 flash Sync PC-Port Sockets (M, F, X - Sync Speed 1/25s)
Film Cutting Knife Under Body on Right Hand Side
Interchangeable Focusing Screen
Interchangeable Finder (Eye-Level Prism & Waist Level Finder)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kalimar A (Welmy 2)

Kalimar A (Welmy 2)Perhaps my favorite all time triplet Zonefocus (Viewfinder) camera is my Kalimar A.  The Terionon ƒ/3.5 45mm lens is just fantastic.  The 45mm is ALMOST identical to the total coverage area of the 35mm frame, which is 43.3mm diagonal, but not quite as close as the Kodak Signet 35c's 44mm ƒ/3.5 lens.

Focusing is, actually, able to be as close as 2.5', although not marked on the ring.  I have focused this close before, and actually a touch closer at ƒ/16.  Image came out very sharp, and I was quite surprised at how close you can actually focus this camera, considering it does not have parallax correction marks in the viewfinder for close focusing.  Just means you have to have it slightly UP tilted when framing the shot.

The first roll of film I put through this, more than a year ago, had left me slightly disenchanted with the camera.  I spent a few hours cleaning this camera up, from cleaning the lenses and viewfinder, to adjusting the focusing and polishing the metal.
Needless to say, I didn't use it much after that.  I decided to give it a second chance.  After all, what is the point to having a functional shelf-queen, instead of having a camera that is fully functional, and still looks good?
Bobcat Front End LoaderI will continue to use this camera for both colour and B&W film, and just MIGHT put a roll of chrome through this, and why not?  With 100F Sensia that I got or cheap, I will most likely be doing that soon.

There is a fair bit of construction going on near my work, although the street construction has started to wrap up for the time being, so I decided to visit a couple of the locales that are being dug up and changed.  Near the railway with the upgraded GO line being installed, there is a fair bit of neat things to photograph, such as this little Bobcat 350.
I remember driving one of these years ago when I worked as a labourer on a couple construction sites, and what incredible fun it really is!

Kalimar A 35mm Viewfinder Camera
3-Element Cooke Triplet Terionon 45mm ƒ/3.5 Lens
4-speed Vario Leaf shutter 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200 +B
Frame Size 36mm X 24mm
Double Exposure Protection
Flash M-Sync PC Port (No X-SYNC but I have used a flash with this with no problem)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Kodak Signet 35C

An interesting little Rangefinder I was given. 
It is actually a bit of a problem too.  See, the rangefinder portion is buggered!  I don't understand why, either.  The rangefinder and viewfinder do produce an image together, if I point it towards a light source, such as a, well, a light.  I get a great image on image, very easy to focus, and use.  But that's the problem in of itself, it is only when pointed at a light.  For some reason, when I point it, say, at a chair, the image disappears, and I'm left with a viewfinder camera instead.

Not a major issue, as I've gotten quite good at guessing distances, and I don't use this camera in low light, so ƒ/16 is a great way to use it.

it does have a Kodak Standard flash sync port on the side, unfortunately it is synced for "BULB" type flashes only, and does not have X-Sync capabilities. 
The camera, itself, is very rugged and sturdy.  It is made of a single piece of stamped aluminum, and feels like it is built to last a long time.  The shutter is pretty much its weakest link, as that is the item that will fail first.  The lens, I haven't disassembled yet, as I can't figure out WHY I can't pull off the front element retainer.  It is stuck in there good!

Then again, there is little reason to clean this lens, as there is no real dust inside, nor fungus.  The thought of chancing breaking this little camera just doesn't sit well with me, and I think I'll just leave it as is.  The only bit of an oddity that I have with this camera is the backing plate.  It's bright polished aluminum instead of flat black.  A design flaw?  Or does it actually help the photos?  I don't know!  But it doesn't seem to make much difference on the image when properly exposed.  Although, I do think it helps shadow detail.

The shutter is decent, with speeds of 1/25s to 1/300s + "B", more than enough as the lens stops down from ƒ/3.5 to ƒ/22.  Even in the brightest of lights, it'll stop down enough to work with the shutter speeds, even shooting with 400ISO film!

The lens is a Kodak 44mm ƒ/3.5 EKTAR lens.  Their EKTAR line was supposed to be the highest possible line of lenses that they had available.  As it was designed after the older Zeiss Tessar lenses, it is very sharp, and a very capable lens.  Coated for colour correction, is capable of shooting EXCELLENT Chromes.  I very well may have to do that.  Shoot some Chromes with this camera!

The most interesting part of this camera is the slide rule.  Designed to be a simple exposure guide for the (KODAK) film loaded in the camera, and guaged off the lighting conditions present, so you do not require a light meter to get good exposures.  Personally, I feel a light meter is near indispensable, but this slide rule is a great way to guage good exposure.  Mind you, if you do not have an eye for it, then it is a good idea to use a light meter until you can train your eye for the lighting available.

Kodak Signet 35c - 44mm ƒ/3.5 Ektar Lens - Polypan F 50 - HC-110 B 7:30
This is one of those images that surprised me.  The buggy, which I focused on with the help from another camera, is tack sharp while the rest of the water gently softens toward the top of the image.  The highlights are perfectly exposed, not too dark, and not blown out.  The really weird thing is that I'm getting fantastic shadow detail here.  Perhaps there is something to having a polished backing plate!

Kodak Signet 35c - 44mm ƒ/3.5 Ektar Lens - Fuji Superia 400 - ƒ/16 1/300s
This is the image that took me completely by surprise.  The bell is just tack sharp, and perfectly exposed.  Take into account, this is 400ISO consumer grade Fuji Superia.  It is not know for lack of grain, yet here's an image that is perfect.  There is little noticeable grain, except in the sky where it is accented during the scan.
As it was a camera test, I wasn't really holding my hopes up high.  Now, when I use this camera, like the above image of the buggy, I expect the results to be strong, sharp, and very well exposed!

Below image is shot on Polypan F, close focusing at 2 feet.  This was a simple close focusing test of the camera, and to see how well it'll render the out of focus area.  Well, from what I can see, there is no swirly bokeh, but I would like to see how this camera does for potraits.
Kodak Signet 35c - 44mm ƒ/3.5 Ektar Lens - Polypan F 50 - HC-110 B 7:30

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Canon AE-1

The Canon AE-1 is a 35mm SLR that was released in 1976 aimed specifically at Amateur and beginning photographers because of its simple ease of use, and versatility.  It was a mile-stone model that was released, as the first microprocessor controlled camera in the world.
The camera was designed as a shutter priority camera.  The amusing part was, it was super easy to use.  The needle type meter on the right hand side of the focusing screen showed what ƒ-stop that the camera was going to use based on the shutter speed set by the user.  This, of course, could be over-ridden by setting the aperture dial off of "A" which would disengage the auto-aperture feature.  This way, if the camera was fooled by reflecting light, it would stop down further, which could cause the image to be darker than intended.
There is, however, a button the side of the camera mount designed as a "backlighting" control switch, which would allow the aperture to open up 2 more stops.  This was a nice feature, but was in a difficult position to reach all the time.
Once you were aware of its existence, and with some practice, you could do this fairly easily.

There is also a slide switch on the front of the camera which switches the camera into "stop-down" mode.  What is nice about that is it allows you a Depth of Field preview.  You test the "shutter" speed, by depressing the shutter half-way, and it'll show you the suggested ƒ-stop, which you can record, then turn the dial on the ring to the suggest ƒ-stop.  Slide the lever over, and it'll engage the aperture to give you a DoF preview.

The camera is also compatible with multiple different lenses, from the FL mount, to the FD mount, although the camera is designed for use with the FDn mount.  The difference between the FD and FDn mount is actually minor.  The FDn mount had a locking pin and had you rotate the entire lens to lock into place, very similar to modern lenses, where as the FD was a breechlock style that had a ring you would rotate to lock it into place.

I am, actually, second owner to this model AE-1.  My dad, who bought it new in 1976, used this camera when myself and two other sibling were growing up, in his way to try to record our childhood.  Sadly, he didn't remember about it too often in our adolescent years, and there are massive gaps between.  A minor mishap that I am not going to repeat with my two kids.  My dream would be for one of my two kids to take up this camera as their own.

The AE-1 is my main go-to camera.  Sure, I have the most glass for it, and the most versatile glass for it, but it's the ease of use, great results, and semi-simplicity of the camera.  Every time I use it, it just feels like it'll go forever.

Here's to many more years of use out of this camera, and years from this camera!

Canon AE-1
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 FDn
Polypan F 50ISO Film
Flash Bounce off Ceiling
 Canon AE-1
Vivitar 135mm ƒ/2.8 FD
Polypan F 50ISO Film
Flashbulb In Fan Reflector Flash
Canon AE-1
Osawa 24mm ƒ/2.8 FD
Polypan F 50ISO Film
Canon AE-1
Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 FD
Kodak Kodacolor 100ISO Film

Shot in the mid-1980s


Canon AE-1 35mm SLR
FDn Bayonet Style Breech lock Mount
Cloth Focal Plane Magneto Controlled Horizontal Shutter - 2s to 1/1000s + B
Full Manual Mode or AE Aperture Priority Mode
Single Match The Needle style Light Meter*
Single 6v PX28L Battery (Alkaline)
DoF Preview
Backlight Adjust

* Match The Needle shows suggested Aperture in manual mode, or selected aperture in AE mode