Thursday, March 31, 2011

The New House

New to us and newly renovated, the house was built about 1923. The museums and the Plaza Vieja are just a short walk away.

We got blinds installed yesterday, so Margaret no longer needs a sun hat to read her email.

Richard assumed command on arrival. The other two cats had a rougher transition.

The house is pretty small and there's no outside storage, so the bikes are back in the livingroom.

The Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd across the street are a quiet bunch. I wonder which one owns the spiffy red sports car in the parking lot.

The historic Henry Mann house to our south has some great landscaping, but no tenant at present. We're hoping someone friendly rents the place so we can get a look inside.

I think the house on the other corner belongs to the same owner as the Mann house; she's a local jewler who now lives in a concrete castle down near the rail station.

We're currently sharing a flock of pigeons with our neighbor to the north. I've been discouraging them from roosting at our place with a liberal application of chicken wire.

The cats are digital. All the rest are shot with a Zorki 2-C and a collapsible FED 50 on TMAX 100, developed in HC-110.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Certo Dolly Super Sport (rf model) Part 2

(Guest Post by Gil Zilberstein -- Part 2)

So, after all that what kind of pictures does it take? I have some samples below:
(NOTE: all color photos are on Fujichrome film)

The above 4 pictures were taken within 10 minutes of each other at the end of the day. The location is a road off the main highway at the northern (Marin) end of the Golden Gate Bridge. For the sunset photos, I turned almost 180 degrees around from the photos of the bridge. Now these things are a matter of taste, but I really like these photos, especially for an experiment with an old camera to “see if it works”. Also note that these were taken without the 6x6 mask, and therefore without film rollers . . .

The next set of photos were taken in Times Square in New York City, AFTER I installed Mikes 6x6 mask with the rollers.

Now, these kinds of photos were difficult or impossible when this camera was built. I really like the way these photos came out.

It is a credit to both the camera (especially the lens), and modern films that these photos came out so well. And, I guess that I as the photographer should take some credit too . . .

And finally, some black and white photos:

With the exception of the above interior shot taken in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, these are all catch-as-you-can street scenes. The results are not bad, but this kind of photography is not my forte, so I feel that I need a bit of practice for this kind of work.

So, that’s it for now. What do you think?
Am I crazy to use a 70 year old camera with a 100 year old type of film (120 rolls) in a modern slide emulsion, scanned to a digital CD so I can download it to my computer and sent it out over the web?

Maybe, maybe not, but I like it, and I had fun doing it. And as a side-benefit, I find that the slides themselves are beautiful on their own! I love just holding them up to a bright light and looking at all the colors. It really turns my camera into a magic box ! !

Gil Zilberstein
< >

Certo Dolly Super Sport (rf model)

(Guest Post by Gil Zilberstein)

Mike Connealy asked me to write a bit about my Certo Dolly camera.
If you haven’t seen it yet, his website is: < > .

Let me start with the markings on the camera:
While I am sure it is a Certo Dolly, all it actually says on the camera is “ Super Sport” embossed in leather on the front.

On the lens/shutter assembly, it says: Compur for the shutter (the speed range
is 1-250 plus “B” and “T”). The lens is marked: Meyer Görlitz Trioplan 1:2.9, f=7.5cm, Nr. 884813.

I bought the camera on ebay, and didn’t expect much from it. I just wanted an inexpensive large format folder, and I have had good luck with getting nice photos from German folding 35mm cameras from the 1930’s (a Certo Dolina, and a Weltix).

The camera came with a leather case in excellent condition, with what appears to be a locking latch ! (No, I don’t have the key . . . ) (see fig. 1 below)


Here are some general views of the camera with the front closed:



Now, I don’t know how evident it is in these photos, but the top viewfinder/rangefinder/extinction meter unit was probably heavily brassed, because when I got the camera, someone had touched these areas up crudely with black paint ! I wish they had left it alone . . .

Now here are some views of the back, with the depth-of-field table/ red window cover open and closed:



And here is a close-up of the depth-of-field table:


And now for some views of the lens/shutter assembly:




So that’s what my camera looks like. So, how well does it work?

I’ll answer that in two parts: firstly, how well the features work over 70 years after it was built, and secondly, what kinds of photos it takes with modern films.

The shutter works perfectly, as far as I can tell, at all speeds. This alone is remarkable for a 70-plus year old camera. By the way, the shutter release lever is a backwards “L-shaped” lever on the lens/shutter mount. You can see it above in fig 9, with its hinge/fulcrum to the left of the “COMPUR” label. One rotates the top part with the teeth and the hole in it outward and downward to trip the shutter. The action is very easy. The shutter must be cocked manually before each picture. Referring to fig 7, the lever with the hole in it above the “B” on the shutter speed ring is for cocking the shutter. It moves to the right as seen in the photo.

Now for the focusing, referring to fig 7, the solid lever without the hole in it above the “1” on the shutter speed ring is the focusing lever. It is to the right of the shutter cocking lever mentioned earlier. As you swing it around, the whole lens/shutter moves forward and backward from the front of the bellows. The focusing action is smooth, but the rangefinder is very difficult to use. I don’t know if that was the original design, or if it is age-related and subject to improvement by adjustment.

Exposure adjustment is from the front. Referring to figures 7-9, the shutter speed is changed by rotating the ring at the top so that the desired shutter speed is opposite the pointer. To adjust the f-stop, there is a silver metal triangular tab (just below the shutter release lever fulcrum and under the letter “C” in “COMPUR”. you slide this back and forth to the desired f-stop setting.

By the way, you open the front by pushing a chrome button on the bottom, next to the wind knob (see figures 1 and 2). To open the back, there is a sliding cover-tab on the wind-knob side of the camera, under the carrying strap.

Now to the back of the camera for viewing. Referring to figures 4 and 5, the larger round window on the left is for viewing and composing. Right above it is a flat round knob for moving a mask into place if one is shooting 6x4.5 photos instead of 6x6. The knob can also be seen in figures 2 and 3, but note that the window for the viewfinder is square on the front. To the left of the viewfinder window is a slightly smaller round window for the rangefinder. Mine is so far out of adjustment, that only a particular, low eye position even lets me see it, and then it is hard to tell if it is the coincident type, or the split-image type . . . To the left of these round windows is a long rectangular window. It is on the left when viewed from the back (figures 4 and 5), or the right when viewed from the front (figures 2 & 3). This is the extinction-type “light meter.” I say “light meter” because: a) this device was always notoriously inaccurate, b) it is not a light meter in the modern sense. The way it works is you look through a kind of graduated neutral density filter at a series of numbers, and read off the dimmest one you can read without straining. Then you look up this number in an exposure table to get your shutter speed and f-stop settings. The problem is that your eye adapts, especially if you stare and take too long trying to figure out the dimmest number. (In other words, if you stared at the numbers long enough, more and more of them would become readable ! ! ) It was better than nothing, but not really accurate.

Film advance is by a rather stiff knob on the bottom. AND, you have to flip down the depth-of-field table by pulling up the tab at the top. Then you can see the three red windows so you can see the paper backing of your film roll and know where to stop advancing the knob for the next picture. (See figures 4, 5, and 6). I only use the middle window, which is marked for “6x6” (barely visible after all these years). If one wanted to shoot 4.5x6 photos, one would have to do three things: 1-install a special mask inside the camera BEFORE loading the film; 2 – turn the knob above the viewfinder window all the way counter-clockwise to put the correct viewfinder mask into place; and 3 – advance the film carefully until the next exposure’s number is in the LEFT-hand upper window, shoot the photo, then advance it carefully just a bit to put the same number in the RIGHT-hand upper window, and repeat for the next
exposure’s number. As I said, I only have the 6x6 mask (thanks to Mike Connealy’s generosity), so I only use the lower 6x6 window and use each exposure number only once. (Note: before Mike sent me the 6x6 mask, I did manage to shoot a roll successfully. What was remarkable was that I didn’t scratch the film, since the camera has no built-in rollers. The film rollers come with the mask . . .

(continued in next post with pictures from the camera)

Friday, March 25, 2011

old shooter

I have added a page about the Foth Derby to my vintage cameras web site. I ended up buying two of these nice little cameras from the same seller on ebay for about ten dollars each. The listings stated that the cameras' shutters were only operating at a single speed, which I imagine scared away some potential bidders. Well, in fact, focal plane shutters such as those in the Foth Derby or the Leica are supposed to work at just one speed. What gets varied to change exposure is not the speed at which the shutter curtains travel, but rather the size of the slit between the curtains.

I was able to get rid of the multitude of pinholes in the shutter on the first camera by painting the curtains with black fabric paint. However, there was also a misalignment of the curtains which caused a light-revealing gap to appear while winding the shutter to the cocked position. Replacing the shutter curtains was a more ambitious restoration project than I was willing to undertake on this little camera. At ten bucks per, getting another camera seemed a more practical solution.

The second camera was less worn in appearance, and it did not have the curtain misalignment of the first. I was able again to get rid of the pinholes with an easy paint job. This time, though, I ran into a problem with the shutter hanging half-way through its travel across the film plane at the top speed settings. I disassembled the shutter assembly several times without really figuring out what exactly was causing the difficulty. I finally discovered that slightly loosening the film-holding brackets on either side of the shutter would provide enough clearance for the curtains to travel smoothly.

The biggest problem in shooting any of the 127 cameras is not the mechanical operation, but rather the film itself. I used Efke 100, which is quite pricey, and it also dries with quite a tight curl which not even a night under a pile of heavy books would undo. Without a proper 127-size film holder for my scanner, getting images from the cork-screwed film proved a frustrating experience. Since I still have a couple of rolls of Efke that I want to put through my 127 cameras, I guess I'll try cobbling together some kind of cardboard film holder for the scanner.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

my life in pictures

I am going to end this series of Sunday Slideshows with a few photos of my favorite subject, Margaret.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


This Sunday Slideshow comes in two parts: one black & white, and one in color. These two groups of picture represent just about all the shooting I've done with the Retina IIc.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Lucille Smith

"In the N.C. Mountains, early 40's"

Margaret found a packet of negatives while unpacking in the new house and asked if I would like to scan them. This picture of Margaret's grandmother was most certainly made by her son, Lester. I thought it the nicest of the lot. While I have access to considerable information on the subject, I think the image can stand alone without an explanation beyond that which was penciled on the envelope.

On my vintage cameras site there are some more found images along with some thoughts on the topic of photo ephemera.

Friday, March 04, 2011

A New England Sampler

I was treated to a fine tour through New England in 2006 thanks to Margaret and her brother, Jim, who lives there six months of the year. This Sunday Slideshow is brought to you courtesy of some of my favorite old folders and a couple fine little 35mm cameras listed below.