Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Kodak 35

I picked up another Kodak 35 recently on ebay.  I have another very similar, but this one has some interesting differences and is likely the first model which Kodak made in 1938.  

The most obvious difference in this early model is a frame with rollers which holds the film down over the film transport sprockets which both activate the film counter and cock the shutter.  Later models dispensed with the frame, but they all had a tendency to chew up the film strip along the edges.  After I cleaned up this one it seemed to be operating pretty smoothly, but it did tear out a couple edge perforations and caused some difficulties in loading the film on the developing reel leading to the loss of several frames. 

The pictures I got from the camera showed the Kodamatic shutter and the Anastigmat Special lens to be performing well.

Kodak continued production of the camera after WWII and beefed up the design with flash synchronization and a rangefinder.  However, those improvements did not allow Kodak's offering to catch up to the popularity of the Argus C-3 which had interchangeable lenses and no film transport issues.  In spite of the quirky design, the Kodak 35 is interesting historically, and it is pretty easy to work on.  I posted some notes on servicing the camera on about eight years ago.  That model had a simpler lens and shutter than my recent acquisition, but the sunny day pictures it made seemed no less sharp to me.

Monday, January 19, 2015

diy color

This is my setup for color film processing.

If you search the web for tips on doing your own C-41 color film processing you will find people suggesting rather elaborate temperature control schemes, often involving aquarium heaters, turkey roasters or expensive rotary agitators.  None of that is necessary if, like me, you are mostly processing one roll at a time.  I just run some hot water into a plastic pan into which I put the developer, blix and stabilizer to warm to the recommended temperatures.  When the developer reaches 102 deg. I pour it into the developing tank, turn off the hot water and set the tank in the pan.  Since development only takes 3.5 minutes, there is very little temperature change that takes place.  The blix phase is less critical in regard to time and temperature, and the stabilizer goes in at room temperature.   I have developed nineteen rolls of color film using this method and the one-liter Unicolor kit and have not seen any unusual color shifts or other processing problems.  Below are some shots from my last roll shot on Fuji 200 in my Contessa 35.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


We are pleased to see a rebirth of our favorite local coffee shop in a corner of Old Town Albuquerque.

The new owner is Greg Smith.  His enthusiasm for the place seems a good omen.

The pastry also provides some positive reinforcement.

Pull up a stool and I'll buy you a cup of coffee.

The last shot below is from my Contessa 35.  The rest were all from my Pentax Spotmatic with the 24mm Super Takumar.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Argoflex Forty Fix

The Argoflex Forty is one of my favorite cameras, but I haven't shot it much as it has been plagued by an intermittent light leak.  I thought I fixed it several times with layers of black tape over the back, but sunny day photo outings proved me wrong.

I finally figured out with the help of a bright little LED that the light was sneaking by the side of the slightly loose-fitting shutter release button.  The inner cone of the camera comes out with the removal of two screws, revealing the shutter release and double-exposure prevention mechanism.  I glued a small square of fuzzy light seal material beside the shutter release shaft and that seems finally to have done the trick.

None of the pictures on the last roll through the camera showed any light leaks.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015


A local pro gone digital gave me a big bunch of film about five years ago.  I used up most of it except for a couple rolls of Provia slide film which I chucked in the bottom drawer of my refrigerator.  Since I've started doing my own color recently, it seemed like the time had come to try cross processing the Provia.

I loaded the film in my Ansco Panda and shot up the roll between my place and the Old Town Plaza.

The outdoor shots were all over-exposed and green tinged.  The indoor shots showed much less of a color shift.  I'm not a big fan of cross processing, but it was an interesting experiment.  I might just try the remaining roll of Provia for some interior or night shots.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

keeping it simple

One advantage of using film cameras is that it facilitates an examination and understanding of photography's fundamentals which are largely hidden under layers of technology in the digital age.  The basics include some way to hold film, a light tight box with one hole to permit the entry of light and some way to control the amount of light reaching the film.  Once those elements are in place, you can then move on to adding some niceties to facilitate the capturing of images such as lenses, viewing systems, and frame spacing and counting.

The Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim (vuws) offers no adjustable features such as variable focus, speeds or apertures, but it does have many enhancements over pinhole or box-camera basics incorporated into a design characterized by a high level of innovation.  While the feature list is based on a century of design precedents, it also includes materials and construction expertise which could only be dreamed about prior to the late Twentieth Century.

The extreme light weight and compactness of the vuws camera is primarily a product of sophisticated plastics molding technology.  I don't know if the lens is glass or plastic, but modern computer-aided design and manufacturing certainly played an important role in its realization.  At the same time, the actual lens formula likely goes back to the mid-Nineteenth Century.  There are two lens elements, located in front of and behind the shutter/aperture; this is basically the same symmetrical configuration found in the Steinheil Periscopic lens which was in production around the time of the U.S. Civil War.

Looking in at the open back of the camera, you can see that the film rails are gently curved, as are the ribs on the back.  That curved film plane is a feature often built into many simple box cameras, mainly for the purpose of compensating for the edge distortion inherent in simple meniscus lens designs.  While that objective may also have figured into the vuws design, it is also possible that its curved film plane was dictated by a desire to reduce apparent vignetting which is the result of a combination of a small aperture and a very short (22 mm) focal length, rather than any deficiency in the lens.

Some other important features of the vuws include coupled film advance, shutter cocking and frame spacing, all facilitated by the two plastic gears above and below the frame mask.  Just above the top gear is a slot matching a tab on the camera's back which automatically resets the frame counter when the back is opened for film loading.  In spite of the very light-weight materials used in the camera's body, it has great structural integrity which enables smooth operation and a light tight container which requires none of the foam seal material that was essential in most of the metal-bodied cameras of previous eras.

What this all adds up to for the vuws user is a camera that can be slipped in a pocket and that is instantly ready to record high-quality images with very little need to think about photography's technical details.  In combination with the wide exposure latitude of modern films, the fixed focus, shutter speed and aperture are transformed from weaknesses to strengths in support of the creative task of image making.
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I bought my first vuws camera for ten bucks new on ebay.  I later found a couple in thrift stores for which I paid 99 cents.  Then, the would be hipsters found the camera and prices shot up to over $40.  Demand has since nose-dived as film and processing possibilities have dried up.  Superheadz is still trying to peddle them for $36.99, but I've seen them listed but unsold on ebay for as little as eight bucks.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Richard's New Chair

He doesn't care much for the reclining back, but the rest seems to suit him.  Luckily, he is willing to share with the rest of us.

I could have bought a used Leica for what I spent on the chair, and I plan on spending quite a bit of time in it.