Sunday, June 25, 2017

rollin', rollin', rollin' ...

Since this blog is devoted to the the resurrection and use of old film cameras and  often discontinued film formats  I thought it should have a fitting theme song.  I've settled on Frankie Laine's 1958 rendition of "Rawhide".  A lot of my old film cameras are from that same time period, and more than a few go back another fifty years.

Meanwhile, I continue to make progress in reverse with my efforts to get pictures from my excellent if small collection of cameras using long-discontinued film formats.  Rolling 46mm Portra 160 into home-made backing paper for my Foth Derby and my Kodak Brownie Reflex went well.  I decided to capitalize on that success by extending the benefits of the lessons learned to my 828 cameras, which include some really stellar performers when they are supplied with film.

The first important step in my latest film rolling adventure was to move much of the process from my one-gallon dark bag to my ten-gallon bathroom.  This morning, as I had done with the 127 film, I cut some 120 backing paper down to the appropriate width for 828 and inked in frame spacing numerals using old 828 paper as a template.  One advantage in doing this with 828 is that I can make more frames available than the meager eight that was true of the original 828 packaging.  I decided to go for 14 exposures, and that does look like it will work, though it may be a tight fit in the film chamber.

Next, I moved all the necessary tools and components into the bathroom which has two handy work surfaces: the toilet seat with a towel covering, and the flat top rim of my steel bathtub.  I also carried in a small stool to sit on, and I covered the bathroom door keyhole with a piece of black tape and the gap at the door's bottom with a bath towel.

The two round refrigerator magnets work like an extra pair of hands to hold the backing paper and film in place.  A couple paperclips served to mark the starting and ending points for the film strip, as well as measuring markers for cutting the strip to length in the dark.
     After removing the magnet and paper clip, rolling the film in the backing paper starts from the frame-14 terminal end; the film on this end is left unattached as the paper is rolled over it.  The magnet on the other end remained in place briefly to help maintain tension and alignment.  Then I removed that magnet as well and rolled up the film and paper completely on the spool.  I then unrolled back to the beginning of the film strip preceding the first frame and applied a piece of tape to hold the film in place as it initially travels past the film gate.  I rolled up the remaining leader, applied a piece of masking tape to hold things in place, and popped the roll into a black plastic 35mm film cannister.
     The 35mm film I used, by the way, is exactly the same width as 828.  The image will spill over onto the perforations; that can be retained in the scan for an interesting framing effect, or the sprocket holes can be cropped out, leaving somewhat of a panoramic-proportioned image.  The actual rolling of the film strip into the paper backing only takes a couple minutes.

The candidates for this first roll are my Kodak Flash Bantam and the later Kodak Bantam RF.  Both cameras have fabulous lenses  The f4.5 Anastar in the Flash Bantam is a coated four-element design that was the equal to anything available in the immediate post-war years.  The coated three-element f3.9 Ektanon on the Bantam RF produces sharp, brilliant images.  Perhaps I'll give the roll to the Bantam RF; I've only shot a single roll in it before, and it only needs the first frame number to start as the subsequent frame advance is automatic thanks to a roller cog sensor.

I have used simpler techniques in the past to get film into my old cameras built for now-unavailable film formats.  With both the 828 and 127 cameras I have just covered the ruby windows with black tape, rolled 35mm or 46mm bulk film with no backing paper onto the reels and shot the roll by blind winding the film between exposures.  That has worked out surprisingly well with only a few over-laps and failures.

My medium format 1A Pocket Kodak was built to use 116 film which a little wider than 120.  I found that I could use 120 film in the 1A with no modifications at all.  The pressure plate has cut-outs that accommodate the smaller 120 roll and the boxy structure of the camera's front section hold everything in place.  Again, you need to cover the ruby window and blind wind the film between exposures, but that is easily accomplished with a little experimentation.  Others expounding on this subject have issued dire warnings about film flatness using the method I advocate, but I submit my images in rebuttal.

In all of the above examples I am using film stock that is exactly or close to the right width to fit in the cameras.  Perhaps more frequently, film re-rollers will use a film splitter to cut down 120 film to a size appropriate to use in cameras built for now-discontinued formats.  You can find film splitters for sale on line for $30 to $50, or you can build you own if you are the handy type.
     I'm not that type, but I have been tempted to build a splitter based on a design illustrated in a video by Nikolay Grinko.  A couple credit cards and a razor blade are the main components of Grinko's splitter, and the work flow he illustrates in using the splitter is pure genius, and would easily be accomplished in a small dark bag.  The resulting film roll does not have frame spacing numerals, so it would only work in something like my Bantam RF or his 127 tlr cameras with auto frame spacing.  Otherwise, you could take the extra step of re-rolling the film into backing paper with the proper markings to use in ruby windowed cameras. (Grinko is a musician, sound producer and photographer based in Moscow.  His 127 Flickr album is superlative.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Brownie Color

I shot the second roll of Konica 160 in my Kodak Brownie Reflex.  This was the first opportunity I have had to shoot color in the little 127 box camera, and I was quite pleased with results obtained from the expired film which seemed a good fit with the camera.  My judgment in this regard may be a bit clouded by sentimentality; the Brownie Reflex was produced in the year of my birth.

The elegant little Brownie Reflex was in production from 1940 to 1941. In 1942 Kodak added a capability to use flash in the succeeding "Synchro" model; that became one of the company's longest lived cameras, being produced in Great Britain until 1960. The camera's compactness was owed to its use of the 4cm-square 127 roll film format. The unique style is attributable in part to the fact that the inventor, Henry O. Drotning, came to Kodak with a background in designing mechanical music toys. Drotning filed his patent for the Brownie Reflex early in 1940, making it one the early roll film designs featuring a large and brilliant reflective viewfinder which would become very prevalent in the post-war years. (The British Ensign Ful-Vue came along slightly earlier in 1939, but the first was probably the Voigtländer Brillant in 1932.)

The non-flash model of the Brownie Reflex is uncommon. I was pleased to find myself on ebay as the only bidder on one, and I got it for just five dollars. The camera's exterior had only small blemishes from use. Inside, however, I discovered that the bakelite film carrier had broken away from the base. Someone, many years previously, had repaired the damage quite carefully with glue and cellophane tape. However, the tape and glue were yellow and brittle, and no longer held the parts together. I cleaned up the break, glued the parts together and added a bead of JB Weld all around the seam. Dismantling the camera was uncomplicated and enabled cleaning of the optics and the simple shutter.

The manual for the Kodak Brownie Reflex is available at the Butkus site.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Derby Color

The Albuquerque sky is a little hazy this week because of a couple fires burning in the north end of the state.  The one burning up near Los Alamos caused us to make a hasty exit from our Jemez Falls campground on Thursday.  The haze makes some nice opportunities to capture saturated color, but getting the exposure just right with the Foth Derby is a little tricky due to the odd progression of f-stops, which goes 3.5, 4.5, 6.3, 9, 12.5, 18.

I've mostly been shooting Portra 160 in the Foth Derby lately, but I was able to try some Konica 160 recently due to the generosity of James Harr who sent me a couple rolls.  The Konica 160 is fine grained like the Portra, but I would not hazard further comparisons given the many variables of shooting old film in an old camera.  In any case, I was pleased with the results.

I am not willing to pay the going price for 127 film these days, so am fortunate to have a bulk roll of Portra 160.  Rolling the film into a strip of backing paper is a bit of a chore, but it does make handling the film and shooting it a lot more convenient than shooting unbacked film which must be loaded in darkness, and which sometimes interferes with focal plane shutter operation in the Foth Derby.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

my new pony

This is the ebay seller's picture which sold me on a new Kodak Pony 828.  On the far right you can see that the little tab on the latch is intact.  He also said everything was working fine on the camera, and even posted some pictures made with it.

I was the only bidder and paid $5 for the camera and another $5 for shipping.  I cleaned the inside of the viewfinder, but nothing else was needed.

The pictures on the first roll of Fuji 400 included our yearly visit to see the Yerba Mansa blooming near the Rio Grande south of the National Hispanic Cultural Center.  The blossoms are especially tall and plentiful this year thanks to the river's high water.  We also found and enjoyed large amounts of mulberries and wolf berries.  The dog had a blast racing through the cottonwood forest.

Monday, June 05, 2017


I made some 127 backing paper using some old Efke as a template.  I rolled up a two-foot strip of Portra 160 in the backing paper and shot it in my Foth Derby.  I was pleased to get 16 perfectly spaced frames.  It is likely I'll do this many more times as I've got enough film left in the bulk roll to make about forty rolls of 127.  The film was free and it costs me only about a buck per roll for the Unicolor C-41 processing.

Getting the 127 film into a form that is ready to use requires some effort, but it does get easier with practice.  I think my next step will be to try to shoehorn a card table into my little bathroom to give myself a bit more working room than is available in my dark bag.  I'll probably try shooting some of my other 127 cameras as well.  The Kodak Brownie Reflex has a marvelously bright screen which makes it a real pleasure to shoot.