Tuesday, February 21, 2017

On The Road

I've watched a lot of phone poles go by in the past couple weeks.  Two trips south to Las Cruces.  East on 66 to Lubbock.  This morning to Prewitt.  None of it was motivated primarily by photography, but I did always have my Olympus Infinity Stylus in a pocket to snap a few images along the way.

New Mexico's economy has been an on-going train wreck for quite a while, but it still has the most interesting rest stops in the country.

Monday, February 13, 2017


The wind blew all day Sunday, and a cold, gray sky kept me indoors for most of Monday.  I loaded some Fuji 200 color in the Pentax H3v and used the 1.8 SMC-Takumar to do some closeup work.

Friday, February 10, 2017


A two-day stay in Las Cruces allowed a morning visit to the nearby community of Mesilla where I often walked with my old cameras when we lived in southern New Mexico.

The surrounding farm land has largely been taken over by ostentatious mansions surrounded by token groves of pecan trees, but the area around the old town plaza still retains much of its charm from centuries past.

I was pleased to get a roll of film through my Yashica-Mat with no difficulty.   The last time I had tried using it in Chaco Canyon, the camera' shutter and advance locked up on the first frame.  That turned out to be nothing more than operator error.

I had noted a problem with the film advance and had cranked the advance lever and fired the shutter numerous times trying to figure out what was going on.  Some subsequent web searching revealed that you should not crank the camera and fire the shutter with an empty reel in the camera's take-up side.  Fortunately, I had not forced the crank in trying to clear the problem.  I removed the empty reel and cranked and fired the shutter a few times.  Then, I was able to insert a test roll of film and work my way through it with no difficulty.

San Albino

Monday, February 06, 2017

Dawn Camera

The H3v, known outside the U.S. as the SV, was the immediate precursor to the Pentax Spotmatic. It had all the basic features of that ground-breaking camera with the exception of a built-in, through-the-lens meter.

This one came to me with the very fine Super Takumar 1:1.4/50 lens.  Unfortunately, the camera also arrived with a shutter that intermittently would not fire.

I played with the camera's settings to try to understand the shutter problem and found that the shutter worked better with the aperture auto-stopdown feature turned off, and it seemed to work faultlessly with no lens mounted.  So, time to search the web for possible explanations.

After quite a bit of digging, I came across the likely answer at the Pentaxforums.com web site to the apparent shutter problem, which in reality was a compatibility issue.

"The SV came in an early and a late type. The latter has an orange 'R' on the rewind knob which tells that the camera can use the 50mm f/1.4 lens (which protudes farther into the camera than all other 50mm lenses)"

So, that green R designating the rewind knob is clearly pointing to the source of the difficulty.  That does not explain exactly, however, how the misfit lens was interfering with the action of the shutter.  My first idea was that the little flapper that activates the aperture stopdown was implicated in the problem.  On further thought, and considering the clicking sound of the misfiring shutter and the likely train of events in the process, I decided that it was likely the instant-return mirror hitting the lens that was stopping the normal shutter cycle.

With the lens off the camera, I brushed Ronsonol lighter fluid onto the mirror levers that were visible in the interior of the camera body.  Then, I mounted the slightly slower, but still very good 1:1.8/55 Super-Takumar from my old Spotmatic.  I worked my way through the full range of shutter settings many times without encountering any hesitation in the shutter's action.  The final test, of course, was to shoot a roll of film in the H3v.  I dropped in a roll of Kentmere 100 and took the camera on my usual walking route through Albuquerque's Old Town.  I only got a couple images I haven't shown here before, but I'm very happy to report that I came home with twenty-four perfectly exposed images.

The H3v story for me provides some interesting insights in several regards.  I think it points to the fact that Pentax and the Japanese camera industry at the time of the introduction of the H3v was undergoing a pace of discovery and technological development of a vertiginous nature.  The complexities were such that some compatibility issues were inevitable.  It also shows that Pentax and other Japanese companies were up to the challenge, and explains much of their long-time international dominance of the industry.

My own encounter with the H3v also provides some insight into my approach to camera restoration.  My tendency is to look for the simplest, non-destructive solutions to common problems encountered with the old cameras.  My objective is to get the equipment working well enough to make pictures reasonably close to what might have been expected when the cameras were near new.  I know that is a stance that will rankle with people who have more of an inclination toward mechanical expertise, but I'll happily admit that I'm a photographer first, and a camera repairman only as a last resort.  Of course, this approach only works in the short term.  If I need a camera to be ready to perform on a regular basis I think a better option is to seek the help of someone who has real skills.

Friday, February 03, 2017

a perfect body

A generous friend gave me this pristine Pentax Spotmatic SP.  It is very nice to have a reliable camera to which I can attach my assortment of Takumar lenses.  The SP model appeared on the market in 1964 and it signaled the arrival of a new vision of photo technology for a new era.  Pentax would refine the Spotmatic's features over the next decade, but this early model had all the essentials: pentaprism eye-level viewfinder, auto aperture stop-down, instant return mirror, through-the-lens light meter, a large number of accessories, and a big lineup of extraordinary lenses.

Here are some shots from the first roll through the camera.  I've been shooting a Spotmatic for over forty-five years.  Makes me wonder why I bothered with anything else.

This is not the best photo I've done of San Felipe de Neri, but it is interesting for me because it is the first I've done with my 24mm Super Takumar.  I like the the depth and sharpness.  There was very little light for the shot.  I think I set the speed to 1 sec. and the aperture to about f5.6, though I couldn't really see what I was doing.  I braced the camera on the back of a pew and hoped for the best.  I'll go back to try this again.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Cars and Trucks and Mr. Lewis

We have had a nice stretch of sunny days in Albuquerque.  It seemed a good excuse for a little road trip going east on Route 66 to visit the Lewis Antique Car and Toy Museum in Moriarty.  Here is the proprietor, Mr. Lewis.

He looks rather formidable in my portrait of him; I'm sure he can be that, but he's actually a very friendly guy who is happy to talk about his car collection and his life in Albuquerque and Moriarty.  My pictures of his collection of 700 vehicles doesn't do it justice for a couple of reasons.
    The restored classics, many of which have appeared in films and TV series, are in a poorly lit barn. Mr. Lewis said that the recent cold weather had knocked out most of the overhead florescent lights.  That was actually ok with me as I was really more attracted to the outside collection which fills several acres in the back of the property.  Unfortunately, my Olympus XA2 camera did not perform as I had hoped and only about half of the pictures on the roll were usable.

My first car was a blue '48 Plymouth much like this one.  I drove it for a couple weeks before it developed an oil leak which ended up sending a piston through the side of the engine.  I spent the rest of that summer installing a motor in the car which I got from a salvage yard somewhat resembling Mr. Lewis's museum.

The trip out to Moriarty in my pickup was a bit of an adventure in itself as I generally avoid freeways.  There looked to be a couple hundred trucks backed up in the west-bound lanes due to an accident, but the east-bound road was clear.  I switched on the radio and tuned it to the NPR broadcast on KUNM of Native America Calling.  The program was about the reversal of the decision to halt the pipeline construction near the Standing Rock reservation.
    On the way home, I stopped at the Blake's just down the road from the Lewis museum for a corndog and some fries.  Then I got back in the truck and headed back to Albuquerque.  When I switched on the radio again I found a program devoted to the first day of Black History Month with some great music from the Civil Rights Movement of the '50s and '60s.  I hoped that the folks at Standing Rock were listening.