Monday, December 15, 2014

Fix that old camera!

My rudimentary mechanical skills dictate a cautious approach to camera repair.  My goal is not perfect restoration, but rather a working camera that will let me approximate the results the camera could yield when it was in the hands of its first owner.


I am indebted for my small successes to advice gleaned from the internet.  One of the best sources for film camera restoration on the web was the Classic Camera Repair Forum (CCRF).  That on-line site for many years provided a place to exchange information on fixing old cameras that was unequaled.  The site's operators eventually ran out of server space to maintain the data, and, fortunately, the information was preserved on the RangefinderForum site.  It is still possible to browse through the vast trove of postings, but new queries cannot be made, and the search link goes nowhere.

Luckily for posterity, making the CCRF archive visible on the web made the data available to indexing by the big search engines.  So, for instance, if you want to do a search on fixing a particular old camera and confine the responses just to postings from the old Forum, you can use the "site:" modifier in your Google search query.  An example of this approach for a search of the archive for all references to "Retina" would be to go to Google and enter the following in the Google Search box:

site:www.rangefinderforum.com/classics/forum retina

You can substitute any other term(s) in place of "retina" and likely turn up some useful gems of information about dealing with any old camera repair problem.

In the interest of making the search of the CCRF archive even easier I have created a small html form widget in which the desired terms can be entered and the information retrieved by just clicking on the "submit" button.  The search form is over in the right-hand column on this blog.  Just scroll down past the "Popular Posts" listing and try it out.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Flash Bantam on the Front Page

My favorite little American-made folding camera, the Kodak Flash Bantam, has been featured on The Guardian.

The Guardian -- 12-12-14
The picture was illustrating a brief history of time capsules, and the camera is part of a stash in a capsule buried under the site of the 1939 World's Fair in Flushing, New York.  The capsule is scheduled for opening in the year 6939.  Given humanity's current trajectory, it seems rather optimistic to imagine that anyone will be around to dig up the treasure.  Clearly, however, a high degree of optimism about the future is the whole point of such exercises.

There is an interesting fact about the camera and the date of the capsule's burial which was not noted in the Guardian article.  The Bantam model actually in production at the time of the 1939 World's Fair was not the Flash Bantam, but rather the Bantam 4.5.  The Flash Bantam was not marketed until 1947.  Given the similarity of the two cameras, it is certainly not unlikely that the company had a pre-production example ready to go into the capsule, but I have not seen any evidence of that before.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim

I'm been making an effort recently to promote the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim group at Flickr. The little vuws is my all-time favorite point-and-shoot, and participants in the Flickr group have produced some of the most interesting images you can find on the big photo sharing site.  Like a lot of other groups there that focus on a specific film camera, the vuws group over the past year or so has seen a drastic diminution in participation.  I've blamed that mostly on the increasing scarcity of places to get film and processing, but there may be other dynamics at work in the ways that people make and share images.  Whatever the case, it seems worthwhile to me to support the survival of a virtual meeting place for people around the world who are still interested in shooting the little ultra-wide.

I have a lot of nice old film cameras which I've enjoyed shooting over the years.  I put what I consider to be my best pictures in my Flickr photostream.  The largest number from a single camera were made with my vuws.

undercover cadillac

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Kodak Duo Six-20

One of my three Duo Six-20 cameras.  This one has a distance scale in meters, an older Compur shutter with a 1/300 top speed and a Tessar f/3.5 lens.  The four-element design of the Tessar yield good correction and resolution, but the added lens-air surfaces increase the likelihood of reflective flare in an uncoated lens. The old Compur's top speed is about a stop slow, but the lower speeds are all close to being correct.

I decided to get a lens hood in order to get the best results from the Tessar, but the only ones I found in the right size on line were expensive and located in Europe.  The local Camera and Darkroom shop did not have any that would easily fit the Duo Six-20 either, so I settled for a standard Series Five hood.  I cut a small strip of black foam and glued it to the inner rim of the hood to provide a good press fit.  I also picked up a selenium cell light meter at the same time to replace my old Sekonic which has gotten lazy in its readings.






I shot all of the pictures on this roll at 1/100 with the Tri-X rated at 200 ASA and processed in Ilfosol 3 at 1:14 dilution.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Sandia Wilderness



First roll of color processed with my second Unicolor kit

Friday, November 21, 2014

autumn leaves

"I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed."
Garry Winogrand


Taken out of context, Winogrand's statement may appear flip and cynical.  I think, however, that he meant it quite sincerely.  He actually made similar statements on many occasions which alluded to photography as a way of investigating the world and the mind's perception of it.  The fact that Winogrand worked primarily in black and white is particularly relevant because of the often unexpected transformations which the extraction of color produce in a photographed scene.


Photographing leaves as they change color in the Fall is illustrative of the nuances of translating from color to monochrome.  Much of the immediate visual impact we experience in viewing Autumn foliage is due to the interplay of colors in the leaves.  Monochrome translation reveals that distinct hues may appear undifferentiated depending on surface reflectivity in the subject and on the chromatic sensitivity of films and lenses.  The challenge then for the monochrome photographer is to look beyond the immediate impact of Autumn's colorful displays to explore some of the other visual components of the observed scenes including form, texture and contrast.