Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend

War Eagles Museum, Santa Teresa NM

Tiguex Park, Albuquerque

Because it is so small and light-weight the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim often tags along on photo outings. It often produces pictures which I like better than those I get from much more elaborate and expensive cameras.  Quite a lot of people feel the same way about the little VUWS; there is a robust Flickr user group.  A couple talented VUWS users that I follow regularly are Calinore in Paris and mugley in Melbourne

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Santa Elena Canyon

Spring arrives in mid-February in the lower elevations of Big Bend, including the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon where the trees are leafing and there are already many wildflowers in bloom.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kodak Flash Bantam

These are the first images from my new Kodak Flash Bantam, shot on Tri-X at the War Eagles Museum in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
This camera was built to use 828 roll film, which is the same width as 35mm, but having just one sprocket hole at the beginning of each frame.  I decided to use some regular 35mm for my first efforts.  I attached the film without paper backing to the little 828 reels with masking tape for loading into the camera.  The frame counter viewing window on the back was securely covered with black tape to prevent fogging, and the film was loaded in a dark bag.  About 30% of the 828 format is lost to the sprocket holes and film borders on 35mm, but the upside is at least twice the normal number of eight exposures per roll of 828. On this roll, one-and-one half rotations of the advance knob between shots got me twenty images.

The Flash Bantam dates from 1947; it was based on a 1935 design by Walter Dorwin Teague. The simple construction of the strut folder used features developed even earlier by Kodak, but the quality was greatly enhanced and a number of advanced post-war features were incorporated into an ultra-compact camera that is about the same size at my Olympus Infinity Stylus.  The flip-up viewfinder is compact and bright.  The four-element Anastar lens is very sharp.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

half scenic

I took the Mercury II on a morning walk at the edge of the Sandia Wilderness east of Albuquerque.  I was pleased with this shot as it shows the rather good resolution from the Tricor lens and the half-frame format.

The image is also helped out by the capacity of Photoshop CS2 to tame the highlights which often look blown out in Fuji 200 color negative film.  Selecting Image/Adjustments and then Shadow/Highlight brings up a multi-slider box that permits useful alteration of shadows, highlights and mid-level contrast.  Adobe recently made CS2 available as a free download and it is worthwhile just for this one option, I think.  I appreciate any help I can get as my scenic efforts are generally pretty pathetic.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

café bébé

I'm usually partial to cameras that are more compact than the Mercury II, but it has some redeeming features.  The shutter accuracy and reliability are outstanding.  The lens is very good.  The half-frame format requires some extra care in framing to get acceptable image smoothness, but the doubling of the capacity for a roll of film also encourages a more spontaneous approach to image making.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Deco Japan

The Albuquerque Art Museum brought Deco Japan to town this weekend.  The show was first mounted by the Japan Society in New York about a year ago.  Reviewers since then nearly always make use of the the term "breathtaking" and that certainly seems justified looking at the range and quality of the pieces in the exhibit. All of the works are from the 1930s and '40s and range in size from matchbook covers to mural-sized paintings, but there is also a good selection of small sculptures, commercial art and stylish clothing from the period.  The most representative selection I've found on the web is a slideshow from a review at the site.

Mysteriously absent from the Deco Japan show are references from the period to Architecture, and there is just one small photographic print displayed precariously at the narrow edge of an exhibit panel.  As Alexandra Lange of Design Observer recognized and emphasized in her review of the show, it is a print that effectively summarizes the whole period in Japan.

The photograph, dating from 1935 is by Hiroshi Hamaya, an artist who applied his skills to a wide range of subjects from aerial landscapes to cultural documentary and graphic compositions of incredible power such as Woman Planting Rice produced when he worked with Magnum, and which I think Steichen may have included in the Family of Man show.

Coincidentally, I have been spending time lately with Brassai's Paris by Night.  The parallels one can see with the same period in Japan are really quite amazing.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Camera Catalogs

One of the great on line resources for those of us who are passionate about old film cameras is the Orphan Cameras web site maintained by Mike Butkus.  I usually go there looking for manuals for my cameras, but Mike has also assembled a great collection of period catalogs.  The 1940 examples from Abe Cohen's Exchange and from Sears contain the cameras that make up a good part of my own collection.

Most of the pages on my vintage camera web site have links to the manuals on the Butkus site.  I've sent him a few bucks to support his work, but I need to send along a few more as the value of my site would be greatly diminished if his were not available.

There is a site that offers printed copies made from the scans done by Butkus.  I sure hope that they are sharing some of their profits with Mike because they could not offer the service without the efforts he has put into his project.  I'm not very optimistic that is happening because they do not acknowledge the source of their materials which is only apparent if you notice the watermark which Mike includes in his scans.  While Butkus does not own the copyright to the materials, his considerable efforts to preserve and present the material are a great asset to the history of photography which should not go without appropriate recognition and support.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Shooting the Delco 828

The Delco 828 is the last version of the Argus Model M, produced by a Philadelphia company which bought the dies from Argus after WWII.  The construction of the camera was simplified by making the lens mount rigidly fixed, and the lens was now a two-element design rather than the Anastigmat triplet in the original design by Gustave Fassin.

My Delco 828 is in pretty nice shape except for a missing rear viewfinder lens.  In order to use the camera I found it helpful to remove the front view lens as well so I would have a clear if restricted view of the subject.

As the photos show, the Delco is capable of making some nice images with the two-element lens stopped down.  The central portion of the images seem about as sharp as those from the Model A triplet.

Unlike the triplet, however, the sharpness of the image falls off sharply toward the edges.  Keeping that in mind, it is still possible to get perfectly acceptable images if the primary subject is placed appropriately in relation to the background.  It is basically the mind-set required for using a box camera.

Opening up the Delco's lens to its f9.7 maximum aperture causes the whole image to go soft.  That still might not have been a deal breaker for the original users who were most likely getting back wallet-sized prints from the local drugstore.  Bigger enlargements, however, are out of the question unless you are in pursuit of a 19th Century pictorialist style.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Argus Model M

I was surprised to find myself the only bidder at eBay on a pair of late '30s Argus cameras, an Argus AF and a Model M.  Either one alone seemed worth the $20 I paid for the two together.

I was particularly pleased with the diminutive Model M because it has the 3-element Anastigmat lens.

The 828 roll film used in the Model M hasn't been made for a long time.  Luckily, the film is the same width as 35mm film.  I just taped over the two windows on the camera back, and then rolled some Kentmere 100 onto the little spools without any backing and inserted it in the camera in a dark bag.

Although the camera looks nearly perfect, it turned out to have some problems.  The pictures from the first roll were all out of  focus, and the negatives were riddled with light leak streaks.    I disassembled the camera and found that the spongy packing in the collapsible lens mount was deteriorated and loose.  The packing material was both letting some light by, and it also prevented the lens from fully extending to the proper focal length.  I removed the lens mount packing material, reassembled the camera and loaded up another roll of Kentmere.  The extended mount seemed to be making a good seal, but I layed on some black tape just in case.

The second roll looks fine.  The Kentmere is pretty grainy stuff, but the photos still show the good resolution and interesting tonal values that I was hoping to get from the lens.

I'm looking forward to trying some other film in the Model M, perhaps some Acros or TMAX 100.  I've also ordered a couple rolls of forty-year-old 828 Verichrome Pan, so that should be interesting too.