Monday, December 31, 2012

Canon A-1

Canon's A-1 semi-professional camera is a solid, robust, and weighty Advanced Amateur/Semi-Professional entry into the camera world.  With shutters speeds from 30s to 1/1000s it out distances itself from the AE-1, and AE-1P (which has the same metering system).
The body is only available in Black, so don't expect to see any silver or brushed aluminum cladding on this camera.

The camera has a presence to it. The shape, the design, and especially the solid black body with the white accents of the lettering.  When paired up with the Motordrive MA, it makes quite the site to behold.  A Canon Speedlite 199a, Motordrive MA, and 50mm ƒ/1.4 (or 85mm ƒ/1.8 or even the ƒ/1.2) is just an amazing site to see.
Some of the weirder aspects to this camera is the ASA dial.  With speeds from ASA6 to ASA12800, it seems a bit extreme.  I do not know of any film that was ever up to ASA12800, and would hate to see the grain in 35mm for a film that fast.
It's also a bit tricky to adjust.  There's a little metal lever on the side of the dial to help lock it so you can't accidentally turn it from one ASA to another mid-roll.  This lever is a pain to work with because it is in a very difficult to access location.
There's also an exposure compensation dial on the ASA dial, with a lock button located at the rear top of the camera beside the Pentaprism hump, and located almost directly in front of the film-plane mark.
There is also a switch that turns the red LEDs inside the viewfinder on and off.
Also located on the Pentaprism hump, on the back of the camera, is a switch to black out the viewfinder to prevent fogging of the film during long exposures.
In the middle of the ASA dial is the rewind crank which also doubles as a level to pop open the back of the camera, or the film-chamber door.
Opposite side we have the On(A)/Off(L) and self timer (2/10) switch which, does exactly what you'd expect.  Turns the camera on, or off, or sets the exposure timer.
There is also the switch to adjust from Av (aperture Priority) to Tv (Shutter Priority) along with a switch to guard against accidentally changing the settings.
Depending on what setting you have the camera set to, you will see a window because the Av/Tv switch that has shutter speeds, or Aperture values depending on the priority mode you have the camera set to.
Looking on the left side of the camera at the front you a few more buttons and a slider switch.  The slider is the DOF preview switch, which stops down the lens, which is good if you are using an older FL lens which requires stop down metering.
Above that switch is a Meter preview button, which will display the settings the camera's meter reads according to the preset shutter speed or aperture value.
Above that button, there is third button, which is nothing more than the exposure compensation button. As on the AE-1 and AE-1P, it'll open the lens 2 full stops, which is very useful when metering for backlit scenes.
On the right side of the camera is the battery door.  When opened it houses a PX28 battery, or 4 LR44 batteries in sequence.
Once the film is used, it is then rewound back into the canister using the film rewind crank.  But before you can rewind the film, you have to press a button which is located on the bottom of the camera.

Although I've yet to finish a roll of film in this camera, the half-dozen photos I have already taken with it, I already know I'm going to have a hard time putting this camera down.

Until next time, keep those shutters firing!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Agfa Optima 1a

On this post, we're going to look at the Agfa Optima 1a.  The Optima 1a is also known as the Agfamatic, which is a Scale Focusing 35mm camera that actually has a built in AUTOMATIC mode that is completely powered by the Sun.  It has a Selenium power-cell that uses the light from the Sun to set the shutter speed and aperture size in accordance to the amount of light, vs the film speed.

With film speeds for 10ASA to 200ASA it actually is a fairly versatile camera.  Equipped with an Agfa Agnar 45mm ƒ/2.8 lens, which is coated for colour correction, and to help against flare. 
It is a very basic camera, with a viewfinder with Parallax markings, advance lever, and shutter release, which is mounted beside the lens.

Although it is a basic camera, do not let that fool you.  The lens is remarkably sharp, it has a hot-shoe for an electronic flash, or a flash bulb, is very simple to operate in all types of weather.  Can be used indoors (with the help of a flash) or outdoors.
The automatic mode can be over-ridden using a dial on the side of the lens mount.  Turning it to one side, with the little lightning bolt, goes into flash mode.  This mode sets the camera to 1/30s and whatever aperture setting you wish to set it at. Turning it the other way puts it into BULB mode for long exposures.  There is a threaded shutter release on the top of the camera for a cable release for long exposures. 
Also, looking at the top of the camera, you will see the film rewind crank, and the film advance lever.  Beside the lever is the film speed setting, from 10ASA to 200ASA.  Beside the rewind crank is the hot-shoe.
I was more than impressed the first time I really used this camera.  I took it out, loaded with my favorite film, Polypan F 50, and decided to use it in bright daylight.  It suddenly came alive in my hand as I just grew more and more excited with the camera.  Sure, I didn't take anything fancy with it, just random photos around the neighbourhood, but it let me get acquainted with this camera. 
In the photo to the right you can see the shutter release lever on the lens mount, and just beside that is a honeycomb window that is the Selenium cell which powers the camera.  The blue window on the left of the camera is the viewfinder.
Toward the top of the camera on the side is the frame counter dial, which is marked up to 36 frames of film.  Upon loading the film you will wind the dial to 0 to mark the start of the roll of film.
Opening the camera is very easy.  It opens from the bottom by turning the locking release which causes the entire back of the camera to become released from the camera.  Made almost entirely of plastic, save for a few parts, like the base plate, top plate, and lens mount which are metal, the camera is very light and can be held for hours in hand without causing you to become fatigued from holding it.
Directly beside the film back release lock there is the standard threaded tripod mount socket so that you can mount it to a tripod or monopod for long exposures.  There is no self-timer, so no photos of yourself with this camera.
 Focusing is done by turning the front ring  of the lens which will allow to you focus from 3¼ feet (1 meter) to Inf.  There are different symbols on the camera to make it easier to focus using the viewfinder and gauging the distance.  First is 3¼ feet, then two-heads (about 5-8 feet) then 3 people for group shots, which is about 8-15 feet, and lastly is the mountains, which is from 15 feet to Inf.
It is very easy to know when you have focused the ring as there are actually detent stops at each setting. 
This camera is almost like a Program AE camera, except it isn't quite that sophisticated.  Close, but not quite. 
Like a predecessor to the Program AE cameras of today, it was a step forward in time for auto-exposure cameras for weekend shooter who wanted to take a photo or three of the family, or around the house, on vacation, or just someone who wanted to step back and away from metering light, setting the aperture and shutter speed to match light conditions, and just get out and shoot some photos.

Yes this camera does make you go out and enjoy the thrill of taking picture after picture in vivid colour, or beautiful B&W.  Whether you're using Colour Negative, B&W print, or Transparency film, this camera will not let you down. 
Who needs batteries for the shutter, when you have this camera, through the power of the sun (even 50 years later) you can take one beautiful photo after the other.

The Agfa Optima 1a (Agfa Agfamatic 1a in Canada) is a beautiful camera to hold, and an even better camera to use!


Do you have an Agfa Optima 1a, or another 35mm camera, and not sure what film to get?  Check out the Film Photography Podcast for your source of 35mm film.  Want more?  Sure!  They have Polaroid film and cameras, The Impossible Project film for your Polaroid 600 or SX-70 or even your Spectra camera.  They also have Fuji FP100C, FP100B and FP3000B peel apart film for your Polaroid Pack camera.  They have 35mm, 110, 120, and even 4x5 film!
120 cameras, like the Plastic Filmtastic Debonair.  Check them out, at the Film Photography Project now!

Until next time, keep those shutters firing!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Canonet 28 First Look

On first look, it's not too much unlike my Canonet QL25, except it's smaller, and uses a 40mm ƒ/2.8 lens instead of the 45mm ƒ/2.5 lens on the QL25.  The same silver/black body, and big bright viewfinder and nice contrasty rangefinder.
The most noticeable difference between the QL28 and QL25 on first look is size.  The QL28 is more compact, and lacks a Flash Sync Port, where as the QL25 has a PC-Port beside the lens, but no Hot-Shoe,  where the QL28 has the Hot-Shoe for a dedicated flash.

The next noticeable difference is the lack of shutter speed select.  The Ql25 is loaded with a Prontor-SV shutter with speeds of 1/15s to 1/500s, while the 28 does not have a shutter speed select dial at all.

In defence of the 28 though, it has a very sophisticated shutter system.  The camera, essentially, is a Program Automatic Rangefinder.  You literally just have to compose, focus, and shoot, and the camera does the rest.  From setting the aperture to selecting the appropriate shutter speed.  The other interesting thing is that if the shutter speed required is above 1/125s and below 1/250s, say 1/175s, the camera will actually fire the shutter at 1/175s, while the base minimum shutter speed is 1/30s, and the absolute fastest shutter speed is 1/600s.
If taken off automatic mode, you are limited to 1/30s and whatever aperture size you select.

Opening the 28 is a little different than the QL25, where you lift the rewind know fully and it pulls the release up to open the back so you can load/unload the film.
The last thing to note is the loading system.  The QL (Quickload) system is not utilized on this camera, which is very unfortunate, as it does make the camera a little more difficult to load in comparison to the other rangefinder models of similar design.

The meter & automatic mode is powered by a PX625 1.35v Mercury cell, but I have used a newer 1.5v Silver Oxide battery with no noticeable effects against the meter.

Specifications; from Camera Wiki

Type: rangefinder camera
Manufacturer: Canon
Year of launch: 1971
Film: 35mm with speeds 25 to 400 ASA (Frame size of 24x36mm)
Lens: 1:2.8/40mm (5 elements in 4 groups)
Shutter: programmed shutter with speed/aperture combination 1/30 sec./1:2.8 to 1/620 sec./1:14.5
Aperture: automatically or manually, 1:2.8 to 1:16
Viewfinder: bright frame finder with 0.6× magnification, superimposed coupled rangefinder, shutter speed control meter scale and parallax marks
Metering: CdS photo cell above the lens within the filter ring (EV 8 to 17 at film speed ASA 100). The shutter is locked when the meter indicates over- or under-exposure
Battery: 1.35 V battery type PX625
Film advance: Lever, exposure counter, rewind unlock button, and rewind crank
Flash: hot shoe with second contact allows usage of Canolite D flash in automatic exposure mode. Other types of flashes may need an adapter and can be used only with 1/30 sec. shutter speed with manual aperture setting
Dimensions 125×75×61mm

Weight: 550g

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

ФЭД - The Fed 2

Fed 2 Gazing
"The Fed 2 Gazing" - HTC Kaiser Smartphone
Not to be outdone, the Fed 2, a Leica M39 screwmount rangefinder copy, is actually a very impressive little camera.  With speeds of 1/30s to 1/500s, it is capable of handling pretty much any situation needed.  The only downfall to this camera is the shutter.  The cloth curtain is unfortunately very prone to pinholes.  Now, of course, this is also common with Leica's as well, especially if you accidentally forget to put the lenscap on and have it pointed toward the sun.  In only a matter of moments it'll burn a hole through the curtain.

The rangefinder on this, although a little murky when compared to some other rangefinder cameras, is very easy to use, and I find it actually pretty bright, myself.  The winding mechanism to advance the film is pretty straight forward, and again, easy to use, even wearing gloves.  Loading the camera is a simple endeavor, unlike Leica's, you don't have to cut the film and load it in some weird fashion.  You basically load it like any other 35mm camera.  Pop over the back, although there are two locking mechanisms on the bottom that you have to open, and the entire back comes away allowing simple and easy access for loading of any film.  The lens attached is a Industar 50mm ƒ/2.8 lens, which is very sharp, contrasty, and simple to use.  The coatings are very basic, and it is prone to a little bit of flare, but nothing that isn't easily remedied with a lens hood, and in fact, I would highly recommend a lens hood for pretty much any lens.

The lightweight, solid, and slender body of this camera is very easy to hold, and fits very nicely in anyone's hand, big or small.  The camera is also very durable, and since there are no electronics on it, takes no battery(s) so you can use it in any weather, or temperature.

The best feature, and one that is not on many other Rangefinders, is a built in diopter correction in the viewfinder.  Nearsighted, far-sighted, no longer a problem with this camera.  Take off your glasses and adjust the diopter for sharp focusing so that you can see without smushing the camera up against your glasses and hurting the bridge of your nose (especially if you have lost the nose-guards on your glasses).

Simple Quickspecs;

Fed 2 - 35mm Rangefinder Camera
M39 Leica thread mount (for any M39 Rangefinder lens)
1/30s to 1/500s Cloth Shutter Curtain (X-Synced and M-Synced at 1/30s)
Rangefinder designed around a 50mm standard lens

"Wagon Suspension" - Fed 2 Rangefinder
Polypan F 50ASA Film
HC-110 Dil. M (1+250)
If you haven't had your chance to try out a Russian Rangefinder, pick yourself up a Fed or a Zorki, they are wonderful little cameras, and will fill your days with shooting bliss.
Just be careful, collecting these little cameras can be rather addictive!
"Bike" - Fed 2 Rangefinder
Polypan F 50ASA Film
Caffenol-CM Coffee Developer