Monday, October 21, 2013

Pentax Spotmatic In-Depth

The Pentax Spotmatic SP.  In my eyes it is probably the most regarded and versatile 35mm SLR I have ever used.  Sure, there are other cameras that have interchangeable viewers and screens, but they were designed more as a professional camera instead.  Like the Exakta, or the Nikon F2, or even the Canon F1.  The Spotmatic is the longest running line of cameras. Beyond that of the Nikon F3, which was a very long running Professional camera.
The Spotmatic had a few refinements over the years.  From the "Value" entry model, the SP500, with a top speed of 1/500s marked shutter speed, but a 1/1000s top shutter speed (unmarked).  I know that sounds confusing, but the way Pentax made a value model was simply by changing the SP1000 speed dial to show 1/500s only.
I have two models.  The SP, which was the original model released in 1964, and the updated model, which was the SPII.  The difference between the SP and SPII was actually the addition of the Hot Shoe above the viewfinder.  The original SP had a pair of Sync ports on the front only.  FP Sync and X Sync.  To use a on-camera flash, you would need to purchase a clip-on Accessory Shoe and plug the flash into the sync ports.  Because of this, though, Pentax, with the Honeywell branding, added an On-Camera hotshoe.  Thus adding the SPII to the marketplace.
As cameras became more and more sophisticated, soon the advent of open aperture metering starting to appear, instead of the Spotmatic's StopDOWN Metering.  With M42 lenses, this required the lens to have 3 pins on it to make the electrical contact with the mount.  There was only a handful of lenses to allow this, and as such, the idea was then abandoned by Pentax and moved on to a new mount.
The K Mount, which is a Pentax Spotmatic F with a new mount, no FP Sync, and open aperture metering using a K-Mount lens.
The Spotmatic name may have ended after the introduction of the K1000, but the innards and the camera was still the same.  Mechanical shutter, 1.35v (1.5v on the K-1000) battery for the meter, and a top speed of 1/1000s.
The K-1000, when introduced, also had an offering for a M42 to K mount adapter, so that those that already had their M42 lenses, could then mount them onto the K-1000 for an easier transition.
The other noticeable difference between the K-1000 and the Spotmatic was the removal of the Self-Timer.  After 12 years having the Self-Timer, Pentax removed the clockwork timer, in favor of a screw in accessory timer, which can be pricey, if you don't do your homework on finding a working one that is not at ripoff prices.
You can see the Helios 44/2 58mm ƒ/2 Zeiss Biotar copy lens affixed to the camera in this photo.  The early model Helios 44/2 lenses were actually just rebadged Zeiss Biotars, since they used the Zeiss Glass while the supply for it lasted.  Similar to the Zeiss Ikon Contax III cameras which were rebadged as Kiev III cameras.
The early Helios lenses are the highly sought after glass, but the "newer" lenses are excellent!  Most of the original Helios 44/2 lenses were M39 mount for the Zenit M39 SLRs, not to be at all confused with M39 LTM Rangefinder cameras, which could not use M39 SLR Lenses except for MACRO photos.

The metering is controlled using an On-Off switch that uses STOP DOWN metering only.  Most people would Focus, Stop-Down and Meter.  Using a PRESET lens, like the Helios 44/2, the lens would need to be manually stopped down, while with other M42 AUTO lenses, it would stop down automatically when you turn on the meter, and when you actuate the shutter.
It was also a good way to get Depth of Field Preview, which the K-1000 was also lacking.
You can also see, which was later removed in the K-1000, the Sync Ports, which is the FP and X sync.  The K-1000 had the sync port moved to the metal plate beside the viewfinder on the front of the camera.
Looking at the back of the camera with the back open you can see the very dependable horizontal travel cloth focal plane shutter.
I have no idea how many shutter actuations this model has gone through, but since 1964 to today, it has to have gone through a lot, and it still works.  Perfect!  The shutter was a little sluggish when I first bought it 4 years ago.  Well, not really sluggish, but would release the second curtain a little early, causing banding on images using faster shutter speeds.
Needless to say, it has since corrected itself, and it is worked flawlessly.
The only problem, though, is that the camera's meter no longer functions.  It has completely failed and will need to be recalibrated, especially to work with 1.5v Silver Oxide batteries.
Like almost every single Pentax film camera I know, the winder, speed, release, and counter cluster all looks the same.  The speed dial also has the ASA selection dial on it, which is adjusted by lifting the outer ring and turning like you're adjusting the speed of the shutter.
Winding is a quick-action thumb advance lever which can be advanced in a single stroke, or in many small strokes.
The auto-reset counter is housed inside the winding arm with a window showing the current frame.
The shutter release button is a simple long-depress inside threaded shutter release button with a single-action release.  Unlike newer cameras, the release button only controls the shutter release, and not the metering system, which is done by the switch.
Personally, I don't mind having to meter by flipping a switch, but it is quite simpler to meter and release the shutter with one button.  But that will come in the 70s.

Honestly, this is a camera every photographer should have had to shoot with.  I like the K-1000, absolutely, but find that the K-Mount doesn't have the versatility of the M42, nor the range of lenses.  Plus, the prices of said lenses is skyrocketing with Pentax dSLRs able to use those old K lenses, and the M4/3s cameras.
This camera is simple, elegant, and very rugged.  Solidly built, and requires no battery to operate, other than the meter.
Has a great shutter, and even the sound is lovely, bright and big viewfinder, and is fairly easy to focus with using the MATTE Fresnel screen.  The center prism screen is very accurate, and would be even easier if it had a split-image rangefinder type screen, but it works.

Excellent camera, for anyone looking to get into photography, or go to a simpler camera.  It is an amateur's camera, yes, but that doesn't mean it can't compliment a professional photographer's system.  In fact it can easily fit in right beside a Nikon F3, or a Canon F-1.  Heck, even a Hasselblad or a Bronica can be complimented with this camera giving a faster system for those candids instead.

Tech Specs;

Pentax Spotmatic SP/SPII
Frame Size: 24x36mm Full Frame
M42 Thread Mount
Stop-Down Metering using a TTL CdS cell powered with a 1.35v Mercury Cell
Horizontal Travel Cloth focal plane shutter 1s to 1/1000s +B 1/60s X-Sync & FP-Sync
Hot-shoe X-Sync added on SPII
Quick-Wind ratcheting Thumb Wind Advance lever

"Apples and Bananas" - Pentax Spotmatic SPII
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm ƒ/2.8
Polypan F 50ASA

Stay tuned as I go in-depth with the Canon EOS Elan II

Until next time, keep those shutters firing!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kodak's Rolleicord - The Reflex I

When Franke and Heidecke released the Rolleiflex back in 1931, they had set the bar very high for TLRs.  It has been copied, and copied, and copied some more, but the Rolleiflex is still a very prestigious and versatile camera.
By the mid-40s Rollei had a model known as the Rolleiflex Automat, which basically denoted that it could count the frames without the ruby window.
In the mid-40s, Kodak released their first Twin-Lens Reflex camera, the Kodak Reflex I. 
Unlike the Rolleiflex, it had 80mm ƒ/3.5 Anastigmat (Tessar type) lenses to help combat Vignette, while the Rolleiflex had 75mm lenses.
The taking lens, and the viewing lens, on the Reflex TLR were exactly the same, helping save in manufacturing costs and camera costs, as they did not have to had two different lenses to be manufactured for the production of the camera.
Of course, Kodak did copy, somewhat, the Rolleiflex design in that they used a MATTE screen for focusing, which is considered to be rather dull, and hard to focus with, by many photographers.
Focus is achieved by rotating a geared helical which moves the upper and lower lenses in and out in tandem, keeping the focus even with the two lenses.
Located around the taking lens (lower) is the shutter and aperture select levers.  The shutter is a Kodak Flash Kodamatic 200 shutter, with speeds from 1/2s up to 1/200s, including BULB and TIMED, and aperture settings from a wide ƒ/3.5 to a narrow ƒ/22.
It uses a five-bladed iris, with some impressive Bokeh, not to mention some very impressive out of focus rendering.
As mentioned about the Rolleiflex doing away with the Ruby Window, you can see Kodak did not do away with it.  In fact, every model medium format Kodak Camera I own or have used has a ruby window.  Even the great Kodak Medalist, which has a film counter, still has a Ruby Window.
The big difference here, though, is that Kodak has incorporated a Flip Lever to open and close the window, which should only be opened when you are in subdued light. 
When the camera was introduced the films were not as sensitive as modern films today, so when using this camera today, the flap over the window is very important!

But, of course, speaking of film, this camera takes 620 film, which is now obsolete, but is the exact same size as 120 film.  In fact, you can use 120 film on a 620 spindle in the camera.
I personally usually unload the 120 spool, reroll the film without a spool, and pop it into the camera.  Of course, this is all done in the dark, and it will then be rolled onto a 620 take-up spool afterward.
There is little to say about the Kodak Reflex I TLR, other than the fact that it is a very fun camera to use.  It is fairly light-weight, considering the all-metal body, no bakelite here.  The M/F flash bulb setting is easily set on the bottom slider of the camera (under the Taking Lens) with a COCKING lever for the flash sync, which is rather odd.
The shutter release and cocking lever is integrated into the same lever, with it being slid upwards to cock the shutter, then back down all the way toward the bottom to release the shutter.
Similar to the Rolleiflex cameras, those that don't have an auto cocking shutter with the handle crank.
The viewfinder is fairly dim, but with the Reflex II that is corrected.  See, Kodak did something no one else at the time did.  They used a Fresnel screen for their model II, and it wasn't until years later that Rollei did the same thing.

So in short, this camera is a treat to use.  I have used it with B&W and even E6 film.  I have been told I am very brave for using it with E6 as with older cameras, the shutter may not work properly, be off timing, and over-expose the images.
Well, my model has working shutter speeds from 1/25s and up, and even B and T work, but anything below 1/25s does not.  It either sticks, or clicks away at full 1/200s.
The only shortcoming of this camera is the shutter.  It really should be faster, and could be faster.  The Supermatic shutter on the Medalist, which is of similar era, is up to 1/400s, as is the Supermatic shutter on the Speed Graphic.
But, that is neither here, nor there.
The lens is very sharp, and renders the out of focus area very well, giving a smooth transition. 
I have not noticed any swirly bokeh, but then again, I've never been able to get any, even with my Helios 44/2, no matter how hard I have tried.

I would highly recommend this camera to anyone who is looking for their first, or a second, TLR.  Granted, you may want to spend a coin or two extra and go for the Reflex II instead, as it has a better focus screen, but the Reflex I is a wonderful camera.

"Camera Talk" - Kodak Reflex I - Kodak Ektachrome

"Decisions" - Kodak Reflex I - Kodak Ektachrome

"Washing Fruits" - Kodak Reflex I - Kodak Ektachrome

"Window Seat" - Kodak Reflex I - Kodak Ektachrome
In conclusion, you can see that the camera performs very well with colour film, rendering faithful and well contrasted images.
An excellent performer, and one that I shall hope to get working for some portrait work in the near future...

Kodak Reflex I TLR
Twin Lens Reflex Camera
Kodak Kodamatic Flash Syncro 200 shutter 1/2s to 1/200s +B +T
Kodak 80mm ƒ/3.5 Anastigmat (Tessar type) Taking and Viewing Lens
Matte Focus Screen with Flip-Out magnifier
Drop Down SPORT Finder on Chimney
60mm X 60mm Frame size on 620 Roll Film
ƒ/3.5 Maximum Aperture and ƒ/22 Minimum Aperture w/5-Bladed Iris

Until next time fellow bloggers.  Keep those shutters firing!

Stay tuned for the next review on...

.........The Pentax Spotmatic

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Chinese Excellence - The Seagull 4A-103

This is probably something you don't expect to hear often in the same sentence.  "A Brilliantly built, solid, and well designed, camera" when speaking about many Chinese product copies..
Yes, I'm actually talking about a product that has actually got some great build quality to it!
The Seagull 4A-103 TLR is a Rolleicord Copy.
Designed after the Rolleicord, with even a "triangular" shaped icon in the center of the viewfinder shade.  It's uncanny, but they made an incredible copy!
This camera is a little unique though.  The lenses are not Xenar or Tessar copies, but their own design.  And this is where the camera actually comes into its own.  The lenses are sharp, and I do mean sharp!  The viewing lens is a Haiou 75mm ƒ/2.8 Tessar type lens, and the taking lens is a Haiou 75mm ƒ/3.5 Tessar type.  Which basically means a 4-element in 3 group design.  The reason for the faster viewing lens is specifically for easier focus, something that the Rolleicord didn't do, except on their better Rolleiflex counterparts.  Plus the film advance is done via a crank over a winding knob, another copy from Rolleiflex.
It's very easy to see the appeal of this camera.  Its sleek, and distinct design, give it a very chic chic appeal, plus also get you to fall in love with the camera quickly.  It is relatively light weight, easy to handle, and fun to use!  Sure, it takes a bit to get used to looking at the world backward, where left is right and right is left, but you learn to adapt rather easily when you start using it more.  After using the Lubitel, Duaflex, Rolleicord, and Kodak Reflex.. I'm pretty used to the reversed directions!  Even my Exakta is the same, when I have the WLF finder attached.
Of course the Rolleiflex DID have the optional prism finder attachment which would allow you to use the camera similar to a SLR instead, which would correct the optical distortion.
The focusing screen is not the standard MATTE screen you would find in the earlier model Rollecord cameras, and Yashicamats, and pretty much any number of advanced amateur TLRs, but a Fresnel screen that you WILL find on a Rolleiflex.  Of course, Kodak had already beaten everyone to this game with the Kodak Reflex II which had a Fresnel screen when many clients complained of the dim viewfinder screen, even in bright sunlight!The big, bright, and bold screen is quite the image to behold.  Live-View on your dSLR is nothing compared to seeing the viewfinder on a TLR.
It's like seeing the world in a whole new light.
The flip-out magnifier Loupe really helps when going for critical focusing, especially when using close-up attachments.  Or the split-prism rangefinder in the center of the screen helps as well when using it even at your waist for focusing.  Yes, this camera really is a remarkable piece of engineering, even if the Chinese nearly copied everything from the Germans.
The most remarkable part is that this camera is STILL in production today.  Well, not the 4A-103 model, but the 4A-109!
Like most mechanical cameras, there is a Depth of Field scale on the focusing knob.  which helps you to determine what you will, or will not, have in sharp focus when you take the image.  This is good for portraits, sports, and even for landscapes, but I find it most useful for street photography..  Then again, it's ƒ/8 and be there!
When you turn the focusing knob the numbers change and you match the corresponding ƒ/stop on the "zebra" patterned scale to see what will and will not be in sharp focus.  As you focus closer you get a much thinner and thinner field of focus.  Stopping down the lens will also, subsequently, lead to a sharper image as well.  At least to the point of diffraction.
I, as of yet, have not used this lens stopped down beyond ƒ/11 simply because I rarely, if ever, use any lenses stopped down that far.  Well, minus large format photography, where ƒ/16 is pretty normal, and ƒ/32 is not unheard of at all.
On the other side of the camera we have the film winding crank arm, as well as the film frame indicator.  Whenever you finish taking a photo you wind this crank to advance to the next frame, which also subsequently will set and cock the shutter.  If you accidentally trip the shutter with the lens cap on, or you want to do multiple exposures, you can bypass the automatic shutter lock by pressing a small button under the winding arm and turning the crank in the opposite direction.  This will not advance the film, but will cock the shutter.
The indicator window lets you know what frame you are currently on, and will automatically reset to ZERO once you open the film door.  The door latch is located at the bottom of the camera.  I had a minor issue with mine, as the door wasn't quite in the correct shape.  It would strangely just pop open at times.. Which isn't good, considering one time it happened I had film loaded in the camera!
Talk about crappy timing.  Kodak Ektar no less!
Probably have some light leaks on a frame or two.
A minor bit of brute force and I was able to adjust the shape of the door to latch and close securely, solving that problem.  As you can see, I am currently on frame # 10.
Looking at the bottom of the camera you see the dial and latch as well as the tripod mount.  You can also see the shutter release button, self-timer, and even the PC-Sync Port for a strobe.
Small levers on either side of the taking lens control both the shutter, as well as the aperture.
Like the Rolleicord, the lenses are mounted on a solid plate that is geared.  When you focus closer in, the plate will extend outward from the body, and inward when focusing out toward infinity.
I am not sure what the dial on the bottom of the camera does, but I have a feeling it was once used to lock the latch lock lever on this camera.  Sadly, it is faulty on mine, so that could also be why the bottom would inadvertently pop open on me.
The shutter is a simple leaf-type shutter with speeds of 1 second up through 1/300 of a second, including BULB for long exposures.
Another minor problem with my model, the shutter sticks below 1/30s.  This is actually common with leaf shutters which have not received any service, and is easily fixed with a standard CLA.
It never fails to amaze me at how simple the leaf shutter is, and yet how much more advanced it is than the focal plane shutter.  Sandwiched in between the lens elements, the shutter is actually more complicated in design than the focal plane shutter, and will also allow sync speeds through the entire range of of speeds for strobes.
The most interesting part of this camera, in my opinion, is the added hot-shoe!  Unlike the Rolleicords and some Rolleiflexes, this camera has a hot-shoe mounted on the side with the focusing knob which will allow the attachment of camera mounted flashes to it.  Such as a Vivitar Thryster flash, or any other number of strobes.
Or even a non-wired remote trigger!
I have seen these shoes on Yashicamats and Mamiyaflex cameras, but I don't remember seeing one on a Rolleicord or Rolleiflex, but there is a good possibility that you will find a hot shoe on a Rolleiflex.
I haven't yet tried using a flash with the Seagull yet, as I haven't required one due to low-light, but I might have to try it in studio to see how it works out.  Probably be no different than using the Rolleicord for portraits.
The Seagull 4A-103 TLR, my particular model, was manufactured in May of 1991.  Built in Shanghai, China, is a remarkable piece of engineering.  Really impressed with this camera, and thanks to +Andrew Koran, it is now a camera I can call my own.
Incredible little camera, and one that is going to get plenty of use!

Thanks Andrew, it didn't take long for me to get well acquainted with this camera.  Very impressed with it so far!

Shanghai Seagull 4A-103 TLR (Twin-Lens Reflex) Camera
Haiou 75mm ƒ/2.8 Coated Viewing Lens
Haiou 75mm ƒ/3.5 Multi-Coated Taking Lens
Seiko Leaf-Shutter 1s to 1/300s +Bulb
Aperture settings from ƒ/3.5 to ƒ/22
60cm x 60cm Frame size on 120 roll film (12 Exposures)
X-sync at all speeds with PC-Sync Port or On-Camera Hot-Shoe
Double Exposure Protection, w/over-ride for trick shots.
10s Self-Timer
Pop-Up Focusing Magnifier Loupe

Old-Time Relaxation - Seagull 4A-103 TLR
Kodak TMAX400 @ 100ASA
Developed in Rodinal 1+50
Cool-Comforts - Seagull 4A-103 TLR
Kodak TMAX400 @ 100ASA
Developed in Rodinal 1+50
Until next time, stay tuned.  Expect more in-depth reviews on many more cameras in the weeks to come!
Next review;

The Kodak Reflex I TLR

Monday, July 22, 2013

Praktica L2 - Soviet Design Brilliance

In the 1970's, Pentacon, a GDR based company (Soviet Controlled Germany) released a camera know as the Praktica L2.  During a time when their Japanese rivals were releasing cameras such as the Nikon F2, Canon FTb, Pentax Spotmatic F, Olympus OM-1, Minolta SRT-102, they released a camera that has almost none of the features of the aforementioned cameras, except for the 1/1000s shutter speed.
For one, this camera had a all-metal vertical travel focal plane shutter curtain with flash sync-time of 1/125s, which beat the Spotmatic, OM-1, Minolta, and many cameras even following, which had a horizontal traveling cloth shutter curtain, which has a much slower flash-sync time of around 1/60s.  Take the Canon AE-1, or Pentax K-1000 cameras, which both have a 1/60s shutter sync due to the longer travel of the shutter curtain.
This meant narrower apertures for fill flash outdoors. 
The thing is, this camera came in under the radar, pretty much unnoticed in North America, but recognized for its German robust construction, and the M42 mount which was very versatile and had some amazing variety when it came to lenses.  From mediocre to divine... to some of the best lenses.. In the world!
The Pentacon lenses were amazing.  Super sharp, and based off the Meyer-Optik designs, which are still highly sought after lenses.
The aperture was actually limited to prevent diffraction, and as German optics go, not surprising. 

The thing about this camera is that it looks very German.  Cold, chiseled, and plain.  Perhaps this is why it never caught on to be imported into Japan, but sold well in the UK.  Unlike other cameras that were being made at the same time, this camera had not a single spot of electrical control on it, aside from the hot-shoe. 

This meant that it would always operate.  In the highest temperatures of the Sahara and Arizona desert, to the freezing arctic and Serbian winters.  There would be no stopping this camera from operating at its fullest potential in any climate.  The thing is, unless you knew how to meter by eye, or wanted to hand-hold a meter, it was very limited.  When the FTb was a fully mechanical camera, but had a built in meter, same as the Nikon F2, it was overshadowed by these two facts. 

Or was it?

Sure, it's nice for the amateur photography to have the Auto-Everything Point-And-Shoot ease of the Canon AE-1Program where you just pointed, focused, and tripped the shutter (the camera did the rest) but what good is that when the battery runs dead? 
Or you're using a non-dedicated flash?  It's no good at all!  The Praktica L2 didn't have that worry at all.  It was built for one purpose, and one purpose only.  To take stunning photographs.

From Transparencies, to B&W, to Colour Negatives and prints, it was good for everything! Incredible optics, big bold and brilliant viewfinder (some may argue about the focusing screen being hard to read) and a little arrow in the viewfinder that would remind you to advance the camera to the next frame as the shutter has been fired.

Yes it was a very good camera, and still is today. 
I would say it is a Mechanized Mechanical Masterpiece that was Masterfully built.  Solid, tough, and bold.

Pentacon made some of the "FIRST" cameras in the world.  From the Exaka, which featured the first 35mm SLR with interchangeable lenses, to the Praktica LLC, the first TTL camera that could do wide-open metering by reading through a coupling on the mount and lens.

Why not be one of the only manufacturers that made a NON-TTL camera when everyone else was making TTL cameras.  Back to the basics, when shooting film wasn't just a hobby, but a form of art...

The Praktica L2 SLR...  Your everyday camera...  Then... Now... And Tomorrow!

Praktica L2 35mm SLR
Metal Curtain Vertical Travel Focal Plane-Shutter 1s to 1/1000s +B
24x36mm frame size (Full 35mm Frame)
1/125s Flash X-sync
Manual Rewind
Mechanical (No batteries)
M42 Mount for a wide-variety of lenses, from preset to auto-aperture
ASA reminder on speed select knob
Threaded shutter release

Until next time, keep those shutters firing!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Exakta RTL1000 - The Last Exakta

This camera is funny.  It's not a True Exakta, as it is actually built by Pentacon.  But it is an Exakta mount, and has the Interchangeable viewfinders.
For all intents and purposes, this is a Praktica in Exakta clothing.

That said, of course, the RTL1000 is also a some sought after camera, in some ways, and not in others. For one, it is a typical SLR construction, and has a dual-release.   One for left handed operation, and one for right handed operation.  Both releases are located on the front of the camera.  The left handed release is in the typical Exakta location, right beside the upper corner lens mount. The second release, or the right-handed release, is in the typical Praktica location, which is beside the lens mount around the center of the mount, and right above the self-timer.
You can use either release to trip the shutter curtain.

As you can see, the particular model I got is in rather rough shape.  And believe me, when I got it, the camera looked much nicer than this.  The body still had its skin on, and it had a Carl Zeiss Flektagon 35mm ƒ/2.8 lens attached.  That really made the camera stand out.
But, sadly, the Flektagon lens was a write-off, as was the other 50mm ƒ/2.8 lens that came with it.  The Zeiss was mangled.  Someone had attempted to repair the lens, screwed up the retaining rings on the back of it, and left a HUGE glued thumb print on the second last element.  What a disaster!  I could not open the lens to clean and repair it.. so sadly,. the lens went into the trash...
Talk about upsetting.

The other lens, the aperture dial wouldn't adjust the aperture..  It wasn't a highly sought after lens, and I have two Exakta's already, and both have Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lenses on them.  So needless to say, this lens has gone into storage until I feel I have time to repair it.  At least, I think it went into storage.

So aside from those minor let downs with this camera, it had a major flaw.  The shutter wouldn't fire at any speed, and the winder was jammed.  I told you, I bought the camera for the lenses!
I paid, or around $20.00 + shipping for it all..
Well, I decided to get my monies worth out of it, and decided to have a go at fixing the camera.
Sure enough, I got the camera apart, and checked out why the advance lever wasn't working.  Well, one of the gears was stuck, so a little bit of gentle coaxing, and it released.
I was very gentle, because if it didn't release I would have to look deeper into it.
Sure enough the lever started advancing the film winder no problem, which I thought was problem #1 solved, and back to having a working camera.
I was wrong...  The shutter fired at all speeds, but those speeds were all the same.  1/1000s.
Wow, I was pretty upset at that..
Enter the screwdriver set.  I have my fine-tipped jeweller screwdrivers as well as a camera screwdriver set.  Unfortunately my kids have run off with a bunch of them, and so I'm stuck with two that aren't the best suited for the job, but they are functional.

I got the top plate off on both sides, then removed the back.
After that happened, I had to pull the skins off, and remove the lens mount so I could get to the shutter mechanisms.
Oh that was fun!  The four screws to the lens mount were removed, and the mount was released from the camera.
I had to gently coax it off as the glue from the skin was still in place.  Once it was off, I had access to the shutter release mechanisms.

This really left me with a feeling of trepidation, confusion, bewilderment, and especially anxiety.
I blinked probably a few dozen times trying to make heads or tails of what I was looking at, and just couldn't figure it out.
So into a box along with all the parts for storage.
And there it sat for a good year!
Well, that year ended when I got the news that I was going to be delayed going to work.  So, since I couldn't go to work, I decided to hunt around in my basement for lost treasures.  Sure enough, I came upon my RTL1000 that I had completely all but forgot about.  Funny, I was thinking of this camera recently.

I opened up the storage box, and got that same feeling of anxiety, and bewilderment again, but gritted my teeth and thought to myself.. "It's now or never!"

So I pulled out the body, minus the lens mount, and cocked the shutter.
I found the inner release lever, and fired..
Yup.. same thing, still 1/1000s.

What came next, I don't know..  I started to check out what happens when I trip the shutter and cock the shutter.
Well, I noticed that there was a free floating lever, or pin, or something that seemed unattached.
So, I did what came naturally to me.  I sat and figured out where it went.
I was shocked when I found a spot for it, and it fit.
No clue what this thing did, but maybe it had something to do with adjusting the tensioner for the shutter.  Not really sure, but after I did that I cocked the shutter, and pressed on the shutter release catch.
Sure enough, at 1/30s it was... slower..
So I tried 1s...
Click...zzzzzzz.... clank...

The shutter was working!

So... What abut Bulb?

Click clunk... Nope, no bulb mode.
I shoot my head.  I tried to get BULB to work.  I found the locking mechanism for the shutter to keep it open when the button was depressed, but couldn't get it to hold the shutter open like it should. 
No matter what I tried, so I just finally gave up.

I checked out the mirror box/lens mount and moved a couple levers to male sure the mirror would flip out of the way.
Sure enough the mirror flipped up easily, and the aperture pin fired just fine.
Good!  Everyone is looking good now..

Now to close it all up...

What a chore that was!
Lens mount/mirror box was re-attached, and I had to make sure that the shutter release levers were in the right spot.
I pressed it into place, cocked the shutter, and released it..
Sure enough it fired beautifully, the mirror moved out of the way, and it looked like it was in business.. definitely in business!

Next, got the top plates back on, and the camera reassembled and screwed together.
That's when I noticed... No bottom plate!


Ah frig!  Where the hell did it go?

So far, no avail to finding it..
I know it was there, because I still have the screws for it!  But, since I can't find it, I'll just have to get another parts camera and shift some parts around.  That's fine, of course, as there is a spring missing from the lens mount to hold the lens on at the release.
So once assembled, I took out my big flash gun.  Now to test out the shutter and X-Sync at the same time.

The nice thing about using a Flash gun is that you can test out the shutter timings with how it looks by shining the flash through the lens mount without a lens attached.
Starting at 1s I released the shutter.
Yup, bright flash, full mount..
And so it went up to 1/125s.  The flash filled the film plane nicely..
Well, 1/250s and I could see part of the shutter curtain in the way of the flash...
1/500s, and half the shutter was in the way of the flash..
1/1000s and the last 1/3 of the shutter closing was all you'd see when the shutter was tripped and the flash gun fired.
That was a great sign!  The shutter WAS firing at different speeds, and seemed fairly accurate.
Plus the X-sync was functional.

Now I need to load up some film, and get shooting with it!
Sure, it's a little ugly right now, but it definitely has its charms!

Exakta RTL1000
35mm SLR w/Interchangeable lenses on an Exakta/Topcon mount
24mm x 36mm frame size on 35mm Perforated (135) film
Metal Vertical Travel focal plane shutter 1s to 1/1000s +B X-Sync @ 1/125s M-Sync 1/30s
Dual Shutter release (Left/Right hand operation)
10s self-timer
Threaded shutter release
Chrome and Black colour pattern/body

Until next time fellow bloggers, keep those shutters firing!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Canon A-1

Another post about the Canon A-1.  This time, since I have really gotten a chance to use the camera to its fullest, I can make a proper review into it.
It is a 35mm Full-Frame (24mm X 36mm) SLR with a Cloth Focal Plane shutter.  It has speeds of 30s to 1/1000s +B with full Manual Mode, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Program, modes.
Most that use this camera use it on Aperture Priority or Program, but I, like many others, use it on Manual mode more often than not.  Unless, of course, I'm feeling rather lazy, then I'll set it to Aperture Priority... and if I'm really lazy, Program mode.
The typical lens that is used with this camera, at least in my experience, is the Canon 50mm ƒ/1.8 FDn, but for me, it's the Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 S.S.C. (as Michael Raso of the Film Photography Project will call it, the Super Sweet Coating) lens.  I do use other lenses, like a Osawa 24mm ƒ/2.8, or not so wide with the Vivitar 28mm ƒ/2.5.  It's light weight, considering the all metal body, well built, like a tank, and has a very bright and easy to see viewfinder.  Although it doesn't give 100% coverage, it's still in the 95%+ range, which is still decent.
Surprisingly, to me, one of the best features I find on this camera are actually something that a lot of cameras are lacking.  A Viewfinder blockout.  Sure, there's that little "CUP" that you get when you buy the camera for the first time (new) which you more often than not lose, which covered the viewfinder to help prevent light from sneaking in and giving false readings on the meter.  But this is a shutter that, with the flip of a switch, opens and closes.
Very good for long-exposures, and takes the trouble out of getting stray light slipping around the mirror and onto the film.  Yes, it does happen, and I have seen it happen.
The other thing is the Motordrive for this camera. 
Have you ever seen the Canon F-1 with Powerdrive?  It's just gorgeous!  The camera looks incredibly sexy with that Powerdrive on it.  But this is the A-1!  And believe me, the Motordrive MA makes the A-1 look incredibly powerful.  
The only downside is that it requires 12, yes 12, AA batteries.  I have cameras that require 2... my Canon EOS40D takes 6 in the battery pack, and it's quite heavy with 6.... but 12???  That's insanity!
But if you have ever heard a Canon A-1 with Motordrive, believe me, you will completely understand my desire to own one.

The Canon A-1 is known as being a camera that is (was) highly advanced for its time, and built incredibly well.   But, years later, an issue started to crop up.  The Infamous Canon SQUEAL.  This happened as the lubricant that was on the mirror brake would dry up, and the shutter would "squeal". 
Fortunately, this turned out to be an incredibly simple fix.  A long syringe, and some gun oil.  Suddenly this became an issue that was ignored by those that had no problem taking the bottom of the camera off and adding the tiniest bit of oil to the mirror brake.
In fact, I have done just that with this A-1.  It is freshly lubed, and works perfect!

The last thing I can think of, and probably the one thing on everyones' mind regarding this.  Would I recommend this camera?


Who should use this camera?

Anyone!  From a beginner, amateur, advanced amateur, semi-pro and professional photographer.  Anyone, literally, should and could use this camera!  If you can focus manually (which we all did for years) then you can use this camera.  Whether you shoot it on Manual or Program (Auto) you will enjoy this camera for many many many years.

Can you use this camera in the rain?

Why not?  I have!  I've used it in the snow, and I've used it in the heat.  I've even used it when the temperature was down around -20°C without the windchill!

Can you use this camera on horseback while being chased by angry natives?

Well, having not used it on horseback, or while being chased by angry natives, I don't see why not.
You shouldn't have a problem turning it behind you and shooting at 1/1000s to combat the bouncing of the horse.  Just remember to watch for low-hanging branches!

Can you use this camera in space?

Well, they used a Hasselblad in space, so why not the A-1?

So as you can see, anyone can use this camera! 

Fade To Black
"Fade to Black"

The Canon A-1 35mm SLR

Full-Frame 35mm 24mm x 36mm frame size
FD Breechlock Lensmount
DOF Preview
Backlighting Compensation
PC-Sync Port
Dedicated Flash Port
Viewfinder Blackout shutter
30s to 1/1000s +B Focal Plane Cloth Shutter
Fast Action Film Advance Winding Lever
Powered by a 6v PX28 battery (or Everyready #544)

Yes, the Canon A-1 is a versatile camera that has been used by beginners to pros, and is still used by both today.

Until next time fellow bloggers.  Keep those shutters firing!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Voigtlander Vito CL

I had purchased, well more traded, for a Voigtlander Vito CL 35mm Scale Focusing camera for some Polypan F film.  And not just a few rolls, but a lot of rolls..

I traded more than 30 rolls of film of the stuff for a few cameras, and honestly, it was very much worth it!

One of those cameras I traded for was the Voigtlander Vito CL which had a stuck shutter (oil) and fungus on the lens..  Plus, a little bit of corrosion in the chrome.  Honestly, nothing that can't easily be fixed.  So I fixed it as best as I could.  Needless to say, the camera is working perfectly and the glass looks crystal clear now, minus some dust.  The corrosion is something of a different story, though.  That is a little beyond my skills and capabilities.  Not like it matters, to be perfectly honest.

Nonetheless, I have used this camera a number of times, but I don't quite feel it is often enough.  I really like the results I get using it, but much prefer my Kalimar A for different reasons entirely.

The VITO is a great camera, honestly it really is.  And works really well, has a super sharp lens, and not difficult to use at all.

Voigtlander Vito CL

The images that I have taken with this camera are quite nice, in my eye, and exceptionally sharp, excellent contrast, and really well exposed while using the on-camera light meter.

Whether I have shot B&W or C-41 (Colour Print) film, the images always come out well exposed, and sharp.
Can't always say I can nail the focus on every image, considering that it uses a scale focus where you set the range and distance of the focus to the subject, and hope it's right, or measure it out.
I'm pretty good at guessing when gauging in feet, but I'm not quite there in meters.  Not yet!

Go figure, since I use the metric system in Canada, yet guessing the distance with feet is easier than in meters for me.

And of course, a sample image from the Vito;

Cool Calm Waters

A full in depth review of the Voigtlander Vito shall follow soon.

Until them, keep those shutters firing!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bronica ETRs

The Bronica ETRs Medium Format Single-Lens Reflex 120 roll film photographic system.

About 2 years ago I purchased a Bronica ETRs 120 SLR from a professional wedding photographer who was hanging up his gear, and moving on to just hobbyist type of photography instead.
Well, knowing it was well cared for, and would be in excellent shape, I bit and bought it.  One of my biggest camera purchases, as it was solely intended on being used for my portrait work instead of my hobbyist work.  Needless to say, it migrated out of studio and into the field for just shooting whatever with.
As I have come to know this camera, I have learned that there are many advantages to it, and some disadvantages.  The biggest disadvantage with this camera, aside from the bulky design, is the viewfinder blackout, and lack of mirror return.  As I'm used to the Exakta and Contaflex SLR cameras, this is not an issue for me, but was rather disconcerting the first time I had used this camera, and wasn't used to a non-returning mirror.
The other disadvantage is the location of the shutter release button.  I'm not quite sure why it is in the location that it is, but it's a little out of the way, and honestly, it's also very easy to accidentally press when you pick it up.
And lastly, the shutter is a 1/500s leaf shutter.  It does have other speeds, like 8s to 1/500s +T, nope.  No BULB mode!  The T is a real PITA to use, as you have to slide a little lever on the lens to set it.  As with such, you also have to have a battery for the shutter to operate at any other speed but 1/500s.  This draw back is easily noticed in cold weather, as the cold will cause the battery to seemingly drain rapidly as it gets colder, and colder.
But those are all issues that are easily over come.  The advantages to this camera are many!  Larger negatives/transparencies.  Beautiful clean, sharp, and easy to see viewfinder, whether you are using the PRISM or the WLF it is very easy to focus with.  The 645 frame size is wonderful for landscapes or portraits!
Although I haven't used it much for landscape work, it has proven itself to be a very versatile camera! Spending most of its time on a shelf or being used in studio, I intend on taking it out for outdoor work, and on location shoots.  The camera spent much of its life as a Wedding Camera, so I don't see why it can't spend its time as another portrait camera.
15 frames per roll make it the right amount of frames for a portrait session.  Not too many, and not too few.  Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with 6x6 or 6x7 (or even 6x9), but 645 is a great size and gives you just the right amount of frames.
Having said that, of course, I don't quite understand what happened to frame #16 with this camera, as a 120 roll of film using the 645 frame size should get 16 frames, but Mamiya and Zenza both only let you shoot 15 frames, which is very odd.  Nonetheless, the quality of the lenses, and the camera, truly make up for the loss of a single frame, in spades!
With only a couple of lenses, the 75mm PE and 150mm MC, I have the two main focal lengths covered.  Thing is I would love to get more than just these two lenses.  I want to be able to do better, wider, landscapes, and would love to one day get my hands on the 40mm, but just isn't feasible at the moment.  The other lens is the 100-200mm zoom, which is a beautiful lens.
But unfortunately, it'll have to wait.

For me, the Bronica was a camera I wanted.  I definitely wanted this camera, and had been looking for one for a while. Originally it was a Bronica SQ-AI that I was looking for, but changed my mind quickly when I saw this one.
Sure, the SQ is a great system, and 6x6 frame size would be perfect, plus the Nikkor lenses.  But I was after a system that was a little different.  Not a Mamiya, or a Pentax, so I went with Zenza.
The 645 frame size is the size I also wanted to go with so I could squeeze in a couple more frames per roll, and I am very happy I went with this system.

So if you're in the market for a Medium Format camera, want something economical, yet still classified as a professional camera that has been used, and is still being used, by wedding and portrait photographers around the world?
You can't go wrong with a Bronica ETRs system.

Zenza Bronica ETRs Single-Lens Reflex
8s - 1/500s Seiko leaf shutter (1/500s only without battery PX28)
15 frames on 120 film (60mm x 45mm)
Double Exposure Protection w/Over-ride
PC-Sync Port X-Synced at all speeds

Accessories you can get (some of)
Non-AE Prism
Waist Level Finder
Speed Grip
Power Grip with Motor Drive
MACRO Bellows
120 Back/220 Back
Polaroid Back

And probably more.

Until next time, keep those shutters firing!

Governor's Room - CNE Grounds

Children Portraits...

The Tale of Kitty

Watching The Ducks

Cabin In The Woods - Explored May 25 - 2012

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Argus - The C3 Brick!

Manufactured in 1939 after the Argus C (a non-coupled rangefinder camera), and well into the 60's when sales slumped dramatically with the dated and clumsy design, and not to mention the introduction to cheaper and high quality Japanese rangefinders, like the Yashica Electro variety of Rangefinders.
The C3 had a typical era rangefinder, which was a military style split rangefinder instead of the usual image on image type found on other Rangefinders, like Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc.
But it also had the same thing that Leica and Canon had to offer.  Interchangeable lenses.  The lens could be unscrewed (although this was a four step process).
The lenses on the Argus, though, are very good.  The 50mm ƒ/3.5 Coated Cintar is a basic triplet design, but is remarkably sharp.  The aperture blades are circular and give some excellent out of focus distortion, and a smooth transition    Not to mention some decent Bokeh.
The design of the C3 gave it its nickname.  The Brick.
The "brick-like" shape not only defined the camera, but was one of its many charms.  The camera was durable, robust, but ultimately, it was heavy!  Weighing in at almost 760g it is a very heavy camera, and becomes tougher to hold after long periods of time.  In fact, it's the same weight as my Canon FTb.  That's almost 2lbs of camera!
The simple design, and simple ergonomics of this camera lead it to be one of the most popular cameras of the time, and considering it ran for almost 3 decades as one of the top selling rangefinders, that made it one very successful camera.
The lens on this camera, the 50mm ƒ/3.5 Coated Cintar is a very sharp and quite contrasty triplet lens.  The lens is very easy to clean, and even comes apart exceptionally easy.

The camera itself, although heavy in hand, is actually not too difficult to use.  Just focus using one viewfinder (the Rangefinder) window, then a quick move of the eye, and you can compose and take the photo.  Sure, it's not the easiest method to shooting, but it works.  It makes shooting action scenes a little difficult, especially if you are using a wide-open aperture on the lens.

Film advancing is fairly painless, unless you forget to release the frame advance lock.  Then you can turn the WIND knob all you'd like.  It won't budge!  (or at least it isn't supposed to)..
Loading the film is easily accomplished, and taking photos is really straight forward.  Just remember to move your finger off and away from the cocking lever.  I've had the shutter get stuck open a few times because I forget to move my finger away from the lever.

But, for sample images, this camera doesn't disappoint!

Basic Quick Specs;

  • Argys C3 35mm Rangefinder
  • Split-image style Rangefinder in difference viewfinder
  • Interchangeable lens
    Standard 50mm ƒ.3.5 Coated Cintar is attached
  • 1/10s to 1/300s +Bulb
  • 41mm slip-on filter size
  • M/F synced at all shutter speeds
  • Three Bladed manually set Leaf-Shutter
  • 759g with 50mm ƒ/3.5 Coated Cintar & no film.
Until next time, keep those shutters firing!