Saturday, March 25, 2017

my photo consultant

The neighbor's cat has been very patient in helping me to sort through some problems I've been experiencing in processing Kodak Tri-X.  I managed to use up a five-pack of the film before I finally figured out that the inconsistent results seemed due mostly to the film not loading properly onto the metal reel in my steel developing tank.

I have processed a lot of 120 roll film in my steel tank with very few failures, so I'm inclined to think at this point that the film has undergone some changes which have prompted the problem.  While I'm not totally sure on the details, my guess is at this point that the film has more of a curve across the width which is causing it to slip out of the spaces in the wire reel, preventing proper exposure to the developer.

So, today I shot a quick roll in the Bentzin plate camera and loaded the film into the plastic reel of my Paterson developing tank.  I processed the film in HC-110b for six minutes at 20 deg. Centigrade and got pretty good consistency in negative density from beginning to end.

I still have four rolls of 120 Tri-X in the refrigerator, so I'm looking forward now to trying some different developers and processing, possibly including some stand development.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bentzin Primar

I was pleased recently to come across a Bentzin Primar on ebay.  It is a compact plate camera, this one likely from the early to mid-1930s.  The dial-set Compur shutter having a top speed of 1/250 could have been made as early as 1914 based on the serial number.  The lens is a 10.5cm f4.5 Tessar.  The Bentzin closely resembles the KW Patent Etui, but has a somewhat more robust design.

Bentzin Primar 6.5x9
I was relieved to find that the Bentzin accommodates the Rada roll film adapter which is a much sturdier  than the Rollex adapter which is required for the Patent Etui with its very narrow back rails.

The Bentzin needed just a light cleaning of the lens to be ready to make pictures.  I loaded the Rada back with some Tri-X 120 and strolled around Albuquerque's Old Town on a warm afternoon, and then again the following morning to finish off the roll of eight 6.5x9 frames.

My afternoon walk took me by some cottages near Tiguex Park which have undergone a lengthy restoration over the past year.  I snapped a couple shots, but the light was past its prime for this subject.

By pure good luck, a summer visitor to one of the cottages happened by and treated me to a quick tour of the furthest west cottage known as The Priest's House.  She said that the place was about 140 years old and that it had in fact been a priest's residence at one time.

click for 100% enlargement
I recalled making a picture of The Priest's House some time ago with better light.  After some searching through my blog, I found the picture made about six years ago with my No. 1 Series 3 Kodak.

The place does not look much different today from the outside, but the interior has been done over very nicely.  We are thinking we may lodge our daughter there when she comes for a visit from Phoenix.

Folded up, the Bentzin Primar fits easily in the hand or the pocket.

The plate cameras were originally designed to be used with glass plates or sheet film, either in sheet film holders or in film pack adapters.  This shows the Bentzin with a couple of film holders to the left and a film pack adapter at the top.

I believe the film pack adapter for this model held ten sheets.  After the exposure, a paper tab attached to the sheet was pulled to move the exposed negative through rollers to the back of the adapter and to make the next one available for use.  The film packs were fast and convenient, but expensive as they needed to be factory assembled by hand.

Sheet film is no longer available in the 6.5x9 size used in my small plate cameras.  It is still possible, however, to get 9x12 format film for the larger plate cameras from some European sources.

The only practical way to make photos with the small plate cameras like mine today is with a 120 roll film adapter like the Rada or the Rollex.  The roll film adapters work well in these cameras, though they add some bulk.  When putting the film adapter or the ground glass back onto any of the plate cameras it is important to do so only with the bellows extended.  If the back is slid on or off the camera when it is folded up, the back can snag the folds of the bellows and damage them.

All my compact plate cameras.
Kodak Recomar 18, Zeiss Ikon Maximar, KW Patent Etui, KW Patent Etui (w/Trioplan), Bentzin Primar
 Now, these old folding view cameras seem quaint and a little awkward in use.  In the 1920s and '30s, however, they were a big deal; perhaps the equivalent of today's iPhones and Androids.

Monday, March 20, 2017


Monday was a particularly nice day to be alive in Albuquerque.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

I was given one of these cameras by my family when I was about twelve. It came in a Kodak yellow, black and red box along with a flash gun, a soft plastic shield for the reflector, and about a half-dozen big flashbulbs. I don't specifically recall any photos that I made with the camera; I'm sure they were quite forgettable as I was definitely not a photo prodigy. A half century later I've developed a few more skills as a photographer, and I've come to realize finally at this late date that the Hawkeye Flash was possibly the finest camera of its type ever produced.

The camera shared nearly all of its basic features with every other simple box camera from the preceding fifty years, but the design, construction, materials and functions represented the ultimate evolution of the box camera idea. The brilliant waist-level finder was one of the brightest put in a simple camera, the bakelite case was nearly indestructible, and the smooth, rounded form along with the gracefully fluted sides made the camera a pleasure to hold. The most superlative feature, though, was the extraordinary lens, a simple meniscus design similar to a common magnifying glass. Somehow – in a way I certainly don't understand – the single lens which is located behind the camera's one-speed shutter is able to produce images of astounding sharpness.

El Paso

Dead Man's Curve
Kodak offered an unusually ample selection of accessories for the Hawkeye Flash. In addition to the plug-in flash gun, there were "Portra" close-up lenses and filters that could be pushed on over the black lens ring on the camera's front. The filters provided some control over tonal values that helped to darken skies and bring out cloud forms, or they could lighten foliage or enhance the complexion of people in the photos. The filters were also useful for giving a degree of control over exposure in a camera with no adjustment for aperture or shutter speed.
    The commonest close-up lens, the No. 13, allowed the photographer to get to within about 3.5 feet of the subject - ideal for portraits and other close studies. It has also been suggested that adding the close-up lens provided some correction of aberrations of the simple meniscus design of the main lens.


The camera, while advanced in many ways, was not perfect. While it had a time release function activated by the slide opposite the shutter, there was no cable release to help avoid camera movement during a long exposure. There was also no tripod mounting receptacle. Probably the biggest weakness in the camera, however, was a rather stiff shutter which tended to jar the camera when released, causing a blurred image if extraordinary care was not exercised in bracing the camera against the body or some handy object. Of course, it is not terribly difficult to rig up some kind of jury-rig tripod mount.   A few people with good DIY skills have added cable release and tripod sockets to their Hawkeye Flash cameras.  If you are not the handy type, Randy Smith of Holgamods can add the cable release and tripod socket to your Hawkeye Flash, as well as providing a number of other functional and cosmetic enhancements to the camera.

Chase Bank Building, Phoenix
Another irritant for Hawkeye Flash users is the fact that the camera was designed to use now-obsolete 620 film. Some of the Kodak post-war medium format cameras simply cannot be adapted to using the still-available 120 film rolls without extraordinary modifications, or re-rolling of the film onto 620 reels. Fortunately, that is not the case with the Hawkeye Flash; most you will find in junk shops and on ebay will contain a 620 spool which can be placed in the take-up position. Usually, you can just insert a roll of 120 film in the supply side, thread it into the 620 spool on the take-up, and you are ready to shoot. Occasionally, some cameras will be a bit tight for a 120 roll on the supply side, but this is easily remedied with some sharp nail scissors or clippers to trim down the spool ends flush with the backing paper.

Forrester Ave., Albuquerque
The Hawkeye Flash is such a sturdy camera that you may be able to use if straight-away, but most are going to require a little cleaning to restore complete functionality. The only tool required is a phillips-head screwdriver. There is a possibility that the bakelite screw holes will be stripped of their threads in the process, but a little glue on the screws will fix that when it is time to reassemble the camera.
    It is not usually necessary to remove the screws on either side of the top viewing screen; they are hard to take out and will probably be hard to put back. Just take out the screws above and below the lens ring on the front. Then, carefully lift the silver panel and remove the glass lens protector, the plastic retainer mount, and the front viewfinder lens for cleaning. You can reach in to clean the underside of the top viewfinder lens with a cotton swab.
    The camera's lens and the shutter are accessed from inside the camera back. Remove the two phillips-head screws, take out the film holding frame and remove the lens and spring washer for cleaning. It might be a good idea to swab a little lighter fluid on the shutter mechanism at the same time. Be sure to replace the lens and washer in the proper order and orientation, and take care to properly seat the film holding frame. That's about it. Your camera is good for another fifty years, and maybe a couple more owners.

Some Hawkeye Flash Links:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A morning at the zoo

I'm getting accustomed to my zoom lens which I use with the Spotmatic.  I don't think I have the reflexes at this point to use it to its best effect, but it does allow a level of intimacy with my subjects which would be difficult to achieve otherwise.

I can't recall exactly when or where I got my Yashinon Zoom with the Pentax screw mount.  I think I paid about fifteen bucks for it.  The 75-230 zoom range gives it quite a lot of versatility.  The optics are excellent.  The 11-inch length and the weight make it a challenge to hand-hold.  It is a lens that definitely requires some practice in using so that you don't focus when you want to zoom and vice versa. 

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.

Monday, March 06, 2017

An Old Favorite

I noticed recently that about three years had slipped past me since I last put any film through my Ikonta A 520.  The camera was one of the finest available in the pre-war period with its Compur Rapid shutter and Tessar lens.  The compact design was built around the 6x4.5 format on 120 roll film, so the camera fits comfortably in a pocket and produces images of extraordinary resolution.  I loaded a roll of Tri-X and took a walk around the neighborhood.

I developed the roll in HC-110-B.  The negatives looked ok, but my initial scans from my old Epson 2450 running SilverFast seemed over-exposed and excessively contrasty.  I played around with different film profiles in the scanning software and eventually chose to use the Kodak Royal Gold profile which gave me some sepia-toned images which I liked better than what the scanning software produced with the Tri-X settings.  The roll of Tri-X I shot in the camera three years ago was processed in Rodinal and produced very nice b&w tonality, so I'm going to order a bottle of that classic developer for the next round with this camera and film combo.