Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Patent Etui in the Bosque

The shutter seemed sluggish in my Patent Etui so I screwed out the front lens element and removed the shutter face plate.  I brushed a little Ronsonol on the shutter gears and gently scrubbed the shutter blades.  That all made the shutter snappier, though the one second setting is still slow.  I'm happy with that result.  Removing the shutter completely and soaking it overnight might get the slowest speeds closer to the original specs, but I'm reluctant to risk pushing my repair efforts beyond a point of diminishing returns. 

Saturday, December 08, 2012


There are still a couple real photography stores left in Albuquerque that have film, as well as collections of old cameras and accessories.  I went to the Camera and Darkroom store at Menual and Washington recently looking for a 27mm lens cap for my Mercury II.

I found a cap that is a perfect fit for the Tricor lens.  I was also pleased to have the box the cap came in which has some nice graphics on it.  The depiction of the lens and cap clearly date the item to the film era.  There is also an inscription on one of the box ends saying "Made in West Germany" showing that the cap was produced when The Wall was still standing.

Another recent acquisition that came along with an old camera was a pocket-sized seventy page manual for the Nos. 1 and 1A Pocket Kodaks.  It is always a plus to have such a manual as not all features of the old machines are intuitive in their use.  The illustrations, typography and graphic style also provide revealing glimpses into the times in which the cameras were originally produced and used.

Although I always enjoy seeing  the ephemera that trails along with the old cameras, I never know quite what to do with the stuff.  I'm reluctant to just throw it out, so I squirrel it away in a box and it is just dumb luck if I am able to find it again sometime in the future.

For those ephemera that seem to have some special informational value I try to scan them so that I at least have an accessible trail to follow, and I share some of that in my vintage cameras web site.  In the case of the recently-acquired manual, I copied several pages which had a particularly good description of the Kodak Autographic System and put them in the ephemera section of my site.

Friday, December 07, 2012


The KW Patent Etui plate camera.

KW Patent Etui (6.5x9 Model), 12cm /f4.5 Tessar Lens in Compur  Shutter
The Patent Etui was the first product from Kamera Werkstatten and was marketed under the name, Kawee, in the U.S. -- a play on the German pronunciation of the company's KW initials.  The claims for the camera were a bit over-blown in the ads, though it was quite a revolutionary development at the time.

Getting the Patent Etui to the point of making some pictures has been a very nice experience for me.  I wanted this camera for a long time, and was very happy recently to get a good example as well as the Rollex film back for it.  It has also been a nice excuse to look at some of the historical aspects surrounding the plate film cameras.

It seems extraordinary that such a lot of talent and resources in camera manufacturing came back together in Dresden immediately on the heels of a war that was so devastating for Germany.  The concentration of resources encouraged modular designs that promoted quality while maintaining reasonable price points.  All the different plate camera producers made use of similar design features, and key components including shutters, lenses and viewfinders were often supplied as complete assemblies from Zeiss and the other major players in the industry.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Patent Etui on Safari

The natives watched us warily across this forest clearing.

A pair of rhinos and no place to hide.  Luckily, they chose not to charge.

I haven't found any good light seal material to block out the leaks in the Rollex back for the Patent Etui.  As a stop-gap I put a strip of black tape around the seam where the two halves of the outer case come together.  Eight shots, no leaks.

Monday, December 03, 2012

two eggs, up

The Cafe Lush at 7th St. and Tijeras is a classy place for lunch or breakfast with reasonable prices.  There's one friendly, competent waitress and a good cook.  I had two eggs up, hash browns, toast and coffee for $6.  We ate inside because it was early and a little cool, but by lunch the sidewalk tables are still feasible in early December.

In New York's Lower East Side in the '60s I could get the same meal for a buck, though the decor was not so spiffy. A couple blocks over, a lunch of pig hocks and mashed potatoes could be had for a buck or two.

All this got me thinking about deli food, so I picked up some pastrami, sauerkraut and rye and we made sandwiches for lunch today.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Compact History

When I went to the Nuclear Museum to put a test roll through my Patent Etui plate camera I also carried along my Olympus Infinity Stylus loaded with Fuji 200 color.  Besides affording the opportunity to explore the subject with the perspective of a 35mm lens, the little Olympus also provided the chance to experience a large part of the history of compact film cameras from the Twentieth Century.

The first model of the Patent Etui emerged from the KW Stuttgart factory about 1920.  The Infinity Stylus made its debut in 1990.  Both cameras were responses to interest in compactness and ease of use, and both were at the leading edge in their respective eras of technology and design.  
  The Olympus has auto-exposure and auto-focusing and requires nothing of the user beyond composition in the viewfinder and a press of the shutter button.  While the KW camera requires manual setting of focus and exposure settings, the Compur shutter is rugged, accurate and reliable.  The four-element Tessar lens in the folder will still hold its own against modern lenses in terms of resolution, lacking only the anti-reflective coating which came along in the post-war years.   Snapshot-sized prints from the two cameras would be hard to distinguish, though the 6x9 negative from the folder will support vastly greater enlargement than that from any 35mm camera.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Moving along with the Patent Etui

I took the Patent Etui to the Nuclear Museum after doing a little more work on it.

I cleaned the lens again, replaced a missing light seal at the hinge in the film holder and smoothed out the film path a little to avoid film scratches.

The Tessar lens is really a great performer.  Combined with the 6x9 negative size it is capable of producing some great results.  Below is a crop of the rocket nozzle at 100% enlargement.

All the shots suffered to varying degrees from a couple remaining light leaks.  I'm pretty sure the bellows is leak-free at this point, but the camera body and the film back still need some work on the light seals.

Like the Rada that I use with the Recomar 18, the Rollex film back has a removable internal frame for mounting the roll film and the take-up spool.

Because of the way the film back is constructed, the film feeds onto the take-up spool against the existing curl of the film.  That means that when you remove the roll from the holder, the film and the paper backing spring outward and unroll.  So, it is a good idea to perform that operation inside your light-tight film changing bag.  Because the Rollex is a bit rougher in its design than the Rada, I think it is going to be a little more difficult to get it leak-proofed.  It is unfortunate that sheet film is no longer available in this size as I think the use of a sheet film holder would be a help in diagnosing problems.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Flowers for the Happy Camper

I got my first pictures today from my KW Patent Etui plate camera.  

Finding a roll film back was easier than I had anticipated.  It is a Rollex Patent model which has the proper rim to fit the narrow rails of the camera.  

The photos I made indoors looked good.  The outdoor ones were less so, showing a lot of light leakage which I believe is coming through the slot for the dark slide at the top of the film back.  I think a bit of tape will cure that problem, but I may need to put new light seals on the camera body as well.

The Tessar lens and the Compur shutter seem to be working well.  It took some effort to find all of the half dozen pinholes in the bellows, but a little opaque fabric paint seems to have taken care of them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ricoh 500

The Ricoh 500 is a Japanese rangefinder camera from the late 1950's that has been greatly under-rated.  I wrote about that and posted some pictures about a year-and-a-half ago.  I just got around to adding a page about the Ricoh 500 to my vintage cameras web site about the camera -- can't believe it has taken me so long.

I originally bought into the idea that the Riken Ricomat lens was of poor quality and I neglected the camera for a long time.  Finally, I got around to properly adjusting the infinity focus and found that the lens is really a very fine performer.  There are a couple more pictures from it on the web site, and there is also a slide show of shots from the camera which I recently moved to my Picassa web albums.

The Camerapedia page on the Ricoh 500 has some good information about the model variations.

The Ricoh Five One Nine model was introduced a year after the 500.  The f1.9 lens is reputed to be superior to the f2.8, though I'm not convinced there is such a great difference as has been alleged.

Ricoh is one of the oldest camera manufacturers in Japan; it was originally known as the Riken research institute.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What did you shoot this weekend?

Here is another good book choice for the photographer on your holiday gift list.  This self-published Blurb book is edited by Filmwaster Calbisu and contains many of the best images from regular participants at the Filmwasters forum.  Click the image for a full preview of the contents.
The first version of this book was hardcover, and it contained a number of blank pages that drove up the price to over $60.  There is now a softcover version at $35, which makes it very competitive, particularly in view of the outstanding images.  As of this writing, there are a few more changes to the format that may be made, but it is promised that they will be finalized within five days.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Light Gatherer

I've been following the photographic artistry of Norman Montifar for quite a while at Flickr and on his blog.  Now he has produced his first book, self published through Blurb and entitled The Light Gatherer.

Most of Norman's pictures are made in and around New York City.  Quite a few might be classed as street photography, but his scope is really wider than that.  As he says in the book's introduction:  "...It's an exercise in observation, studies of the nuances of natural light and capturing the unexpected when subjects turn up in totally unpredictably interesting ways."

All of Norman's work shows a great eye for composition, whether his subject is a pattern of shadows on a city street, or people playing, working or just being themselves in their neighborhoods.  Throughout this urban tapestry, Norman always seems to find and portray a serenity that many other photographers of the City have missed. There is also a good deal of gentle humor to be found in his pictures of New Yorkers, but never of a kind that his subjects would find objectionable.

I am also particularly impressed with the level of craftsmanship which Norman brings to his work.  Meticulous attention to the details of the craft is present in every picture in the book; it is a work that can instruct and inspire anyone  regardless of experience and skill levels in photography.

Norman and I have exchanged a couple old cameras in the past, and I know from correspondence that the majority of the work in this book was done on film.  Pro that he is, though, if digital suits his purpose that is what he will use, but you will see none of the over-saturated digital gimmickry here that so clutters today's visual experience for all of us.  What you will find is classical technique attuned to the subtle rhythms of daily life in the City.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lot 308

Here's a classic Pentax that belonged to George Harrison being auctioned at Bonhams.  It could be yours for $8 or $9 (thousand).

If you don't have that kind of scratch on hand, you can go to the Guardian and read an appreciation of The Yellow Submarine by Josh Weinstein.  Or just turn up the volume real high and click below. Has it really been half a century?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Re-engineering Xmas

In the Southwest and much of the rest of the country, the formerly discreet late-year festive days have begun to merge into a combination of Halloween, Day of the Dead, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So, on November 17th it was time to set the mood with some decorative additions to Albuquerque's Plaza Vieja.  I decided to document the event with my No.1 Kodak Series III folding camera.

To get the job done, the City dispatched its anti-lumberjack crew to build a tree at the south end of the plaza.  A metal frame with tubular branches was hoisted into place with a crane.  

Crew members in cherry pickers started at the top of the tree structure, inserting actual tree branches into the metal branch tubes.

The crew had the tree about half done by the time I came to the end of my roll of 120 TMAX film in my old folder.  When I drove by the next day, the structure was complete, looking quite a lot like an actual tree.

Have a happy HalloweenDayoftheDeadThanksgivingChristmas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Delco 828

I picked up this Delco 828 at a yard sale recently.  It is another of those cameras that is in need of some parts to work properly for picture making.  Mine is missing the rear viewfinder lens and I have only one 828 film spool for it.  If I find another spool, I'll try rerolling some 35mm film into some backing paper cut to the right size.  The 828 roll film format was introduced by Kodak in 1935; it is the same width as 35mm, but without the perforations.  I'll be curious to see what kind of images can be had.  The 828 produces the same size image as 35mm, and the mid-'Forties Delco sports a two-element lens.

The Delco 828 was made from dies originally manufactured by Argus in the pre-war years and marketed as the Argus Model M.  In its original Argus configuration, the camera was more stylish and rather sophisticated compared to similar small cameras of the time.  The Model M lens was housed in a collapsible mount yielding good compactness, and the three-element f6.3 anastigmat design was capable of producing quite good images.  The lens mount was altered later by Argus to a fixed f9.7 design which gave up the nice compactness of the original, and the camera was renamed the Argus Minca 28 before being turned over to a Philadelphia company which would market the post-war models.  The later models also lacked the internal shutter mask that permitted a choice of full-frame or half-frame images.


The original Argus Model M was the brainchild of the Belgian-American design engineer, Gustave Fassin, who was the inventor behind the wildly successful Argus A and Argus C3 cameras.  In many ways, the elegant little Model M was even a better showcase for Fassin's innovative design talents.  Had WWII not put a temporary halt to 828 film production, it is possible that the designer might be as well known for the Model M as he was for the ubiquitous C3.  Kodak did resume 828 film production after the war, but by that time Fassin had left Argus to move to California and his design work never again reached the heights of his earlier efforts on behalf of the Argus company.

Monday, November 12, 2012

color vs black and white

The color shot below is from my Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim.
The b&w was made with my Mamiya C330.

I am prompted to write a little about the subject by the appearance today of an article by Joel Meyerowitz in the Lens section of the New York Times.  Here is part of what Meyerowitz has to say on the matter:
What I saw was that the color image had more information in it — simple as that! There was much more to see and consider, whereas black-and-white reduced the world to shades of gray...[color] was much more elegant in the way it described things. The sharpness and cohesive quality of the image compelled me to “read” everything in the frame more carefully, as if that small “ping” of color in the distance actually added something to the meaning of the whole frame, and it did.
The passages above and the whole article seem rather nonsensical to me.  I'll grant that a color photograph contains "more information in it".    Meyerowitz, however, fails to delineate the nature of the additional information in any meaningful way.  He might have pointed out, for instance that two colors can appear identical in a black and white representation of a scene if the surface textures and reflectivity are the same.  Instead, he talks about "sharpness and cohesive quality" and "that small ping".

Here's the thing, Joel:  Information is made up of observable and measurable facts.  There is an important  difference between Information and Opinion and confounding the two can have unfortunate consequences as we saw in some recent election analysis.  It is also important that in arriving at judgments we do not make unsupported assertions or conveniently ignore facts that don't support conclusions.

The assumption underlying Meyerowitz's argument is that more information makes a better photograph.  In my opinion the examples with which he illustrates his article are not at all convincing in regard to his thesis.  Some of the color pictures are very nearly monochrome, and I thought them all pretty forgetable regardless of chromatic considerations.  In any case, the idea that packing more information into a picture increases its communicative or aesthetic value is simply not defensible.  Meaning in art surely is mostly a product of being selective -- of leaving things out of the picture to emphasize what is important.  That end can come about by a variety of means including framing, selective focus, use of color or not, contrast control, filtering and many other useful techniques.

It is probably true, as the editor's introduction to the Meyerowitz article asserts, that collectors and curators were unwilling for a long time to to admit that photographic art might be rendered in color.  However, that is an argument long since buried.  To attempt a resurrection of the idea turned head to tail is about as productive as a zombie hunt.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Portrait of K

Got another roll through my Yashica-Mat.  I liked the indoor window-lit shots.  The outdoor pictures were a bit washed out even with an overcast sky.  Time for some spelunking in the parts boxes to find my lens hood.

Friday, November 09, 2012

KW Patent Etui

The Patent Etui was manufactured in Dresden between 1920 and 1938.  This one makes 6.5x9cm images on plates or film.  It has an f4.5 12cm Tessar lens and a Compur shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/250 plus T and B.  I don't normally talk about cameras here without having some sample images to show.  I'm making an exception this time because the Patent Etui is quite an extraordinary camera, and because I won't be able to get images from it unless I can turn up a roll film back.

Besides being very well made, the Patent Etui is exceptionally small.  When folded, the camera can easily be slipped into a pocket.  My similar Kodak Recomar and Zeiss Ikon Maximar cameras are small too, but the Patent Etui is in another league.

My Patent Etui is in nice shape for its age.  The lens is clean and the shutter is only a little slow at 1 sec.  The bellows had just a couple pinholes which I was able to paint out easily.  Most impressively, the bubble level on the viewfinder still has fluid and a bubble.  The camera arrived along with a case in pretty good condition, and there is a nice little packet of film holders as well as a ground-glass back for critical focusing.  The bellows does not extend quite as far as the Recomar or the Maximar, but it still gets pretty close to 1:1 on the ground glass.

So, I'm ready to go except for a way to use available 120 roll film.  I have a good Rada film back which I have used successfully with both the Recomar and the Maximar.  Unfortunately, the Rada has a rim that is just too thick at 1.5mm to fit into the back of the Patent Etui which appears to need a back with the edges measuring between 0.5 and 1mm in thickness.  I have seen illustrations of  Rollex backs on the Patent Etui, but the ones I've seen for sale have been for the larger 9x12 cameras or for 127 format rather than the 120 roll film size I need.

Leads to the needed roll film back will be greatly appreciated.  I'm willing to pay a reasonable price, and I'm also open to  trades from my collection. ( I found the roll film back I needed.)