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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Feeding the Panda

TMAX 100 is a film I have often shot in my box cameras, but it has been on back order for quite a long time at the places I usually go to get it.  I had one roll of 120 TMAX left in the refrigerator which I decided to shoot in my Ansco Panda.  I re-rolled the film onto a 620 reel and took a stroll by the Tingley Ponds with the Panda.  I'm wondering now if that was the last roll of this Kodak film that will see the inside of one of my old cameras.



 

The little Panda is my favorite box camera.  I think it would likely find more favor among today's remaining film shooters if it did not require re-rolling 120 film onto 620 reels.  That is not a very difficult or time-consuming process, but it seems enough to discourage a lot of potential users.

At first glance, it is difficult to understand why Ansco would choose a unique Kodak film format for any of its cameras as the company had its own film producing capability.  It seems very likely that the film format selection was tied to the fact that Ansco had merged with the German Agfa company in 1928 and the conglomerate's U.S.-based operations were seized in 1941 by the U.S. government and held as an enemy asset into the 1960s.  So, the decision process at the time of the Panda's appearance in 1946 was under the direction of government-appointed overseers who quite probably had a cozy relationship with Kodak which had many government war production contracts at the time.

9 comments:

jon campo said...

Hi Mike, Very nice work here. Funny, I was just looking for a "new" box camera when I read your post. This all started when a co-worked brought me an old kodak box camera that turned out to be unrepairable. Inspired by your endorsement of the Ansco, I just bought one, and a copy of your book for good measure. Regards, Jon

Mike said...

Hey, Jon
Great to hear you are giving a Panda a chance to show its stuff. I'll look forward to reading about your experience with it.

Andy Umbo said...

You know I bought your book at the suggestion of Jim Grey, and I was amazed at the quality of the images. This entry on the Panda is a "ditto". Strangely enough, both your site and the book make me think that even if I had to downsize in retirement, and get rid of every professional camera I own, I would still be able to have an outlet for taking images. It's like every amatuer box camera is a scratch and leak free Holga!

JR Smith said...

I've been tempted to buy one of these but always hesitate because of the film needed. Great shots here. I hope this isn't your last roll of Tmax through the Panda!

Side note: I grew up in the shadows of the Ansco factories in Binghamton, NY.

Mike said...

Andy's comment resonates for me in a couple directions. The first is that shooting a simple camera like the Panda allows one to focus on the fundamental miracle of the photographic process, much as it was experienced by those who witnessed its birth and early development in the mid-19th Century. The other important point is that many innovations in materials and design as applied to box camera development were as essential to the progress of the craft as any later ones. Among those I would count as the most significant the brilliant finder such as the one on the Panda.

Mike said...

JR, that reference to Binghamton is one of those fine coincidences that come to light thanks to the connectivity which this medium offers. I'm always thrilled by those small nuggets of information related to the history of photography. I'm reminded of a blog post I did on the Argus C3 designer, Gustave Fassin. Shortly after I wrote that one, I got a comment from a fellow who was living in a house in Irondequoit designed by Fassin.

JR Smith said...

Mike,
Somewhere, I have a booklet from Anthony & Scovill...which later became Ansco. It's a manual of safety procedures for Binghamton factory workers. Lots of people know that Rochester was home to Kodak. Few people remember that Binghamton was a big player in the photography world as well.

Mike said...

I'd be interested in seeing that booklet if you come across it. There used to be a site cilled "Bill's Photo History" that had some good information about Ansco, but it has gone off line. I reused a couple pictures about the Anscoflex from his site on my blog and corresponded with him about the development of the Panda. There are not many people left with first-hand information on the operations of the big film camera makers.

Mike said...

PS. on Ansco
I see that some of Bill's Photo History has been preserved on the Wayback Machine:
https://web.archive.org/web/20061206011350/http://home.att.net/~wlcamp/whatever.htm