Thursday, September 27, 2018


A package showed up on my doorstep containing a Pentax ESII and a box of Ferrania P30 film.  I'd never had the opportunity to use either before, so I decided to put them both to use together during a walk through the botanical garden to shoot some familiar subjects for the sake of comparison.
     I spent some time first searching for images made with P30, and most I looked at seemed under-exposed and overly contrasty.  It seemed like an opportunity to see how the film would react to processing with PMK Pyro along with an additional stop of exposure which has given me good results with other slow, fine grained film.
     The result was some thin, under-exposed negatives.  Well, that proves nothing of course.  It may be that P30 just isn't a good match with PMK Pyro.  The camera's auto-exposure system is also an unknown quantity.  A bit of Photoshopping rescued some of the better images, and allowed me to see that the film has ultra fine grain and rich blacks.  I'll have to give the P30 another go with some of the developers that Ferrania recommends.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Sixth Retina

I said recently that I have five Kodak Retinas, forgetting my Retina Reflex.  I haven't shot the camera in over ten years because of a cloudy view due to a deteriorated prism.  Everything else on the camera works pretty well, so I may try to do something about replacing the prism.
    I managed to muck up the shutter in the process of cleaning the camera recently so that the aperture would not close down properly.  I did not discover that until I had shot a roll of Fuji 200.  The aperture malfunction caused some over- exposure and some depth of focus issues.  I think I've got the shutter working properly now, and I have my eye on a couple '80s Minoltas on ebay which might work as prism donors.  Also had some double exposures toward the end of the roll; not sure what that is about.

Here a couple of shots from the last time I shot the camera which show something of the potential of the Xenon lens:

Sunday, September 23, 2018

An American Journey

Christie's is auctioning the Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann Collection of Photographic Masterworks in October.  The 277 page catalog for the collection can be purchased from Christies, or it can be downloaded free as a pdf file.  This is an amazing collection of photographic images spanning a century of photography, with detailed notes for each item.  Thanks to Mike Johnston of The Online Photographer for the heads-up.

Saturday, September 22, 2018


I like the elegant simplicity of my compact Kodak Retina I; it has just what is needed for making high quality images, and nothing more.  Mine is a Type 010 made just after WWII.  The camera came equipped with a Xenar lens, but I could not seem to remove the dense haze on the lens surfaces, so I transplanted an Ektar from a junker.

    The camera is easily pocketed, and uncomplicated to use once you are accustomed to its capabilities.  Having not used the camera in some time I slightly misjudged the compensation needed for parallax correction on many of the frames on this recent roll of Kentmere 100.  The viewfinder is low and well-centered over the lens, and it requires much less adjustment of the image in the viewfinder than is true of the II and IIa rangefinders.

Using a camera without a rangefinder can be challenging in low light.  With normal open sky conditions, however, a little care in distance estimation and focusing produces good results.  The early Retina I models like mine incorporated a depth of field dial on the camera's bottom which is a good help in determining the range of sharp focus yielded by the selected aperture.   For instance, if you are shooting on a sunny day, the dial shows that with the aperture at f-16 you can set the focus to the hyperfocal distance of 13 feet (4 meters) and everything from about 7 feet to infinity will be sharp.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Albuquerque Color

My bicycle is one of my best photography accessories; it lets me explore places in the city that I might not otherwise get to.  I took a couple rides in the last week through the Old Town and Downtown districts  carrying along my Retina Ia which easily fits in a pocket; it was loaded with Fuji 200.

The Ia model, produced from 1945 to 1949 is a direct descendant of the original Retina which kicked off the era of 35mm photography in the mid-1930s.  A number of variations on the first model appeared in the pre-war years, but the pace of development rapidly gained additional momentum after the war.  Enhancements incorporated into the Ia included a lever advance coupled to a Synchro-Compur shutter with speeds to 1/500, a depth of field scale on the lens mount, and a synthetic leather-like covering that precluded the development of Zeiss bumps.  My example has a sharp Xenar lens.  The Wikipedia Retina page is very helpful for sorting out the many models in the line.

Chris Sherlock has a great series on youtube about servicing the Retinas

 The little Gossen Pilot meter is a nice companion to the Model-Ia for light-weight travel.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Too Many Retinas

I have five models of Kodak's post-war Retinas, all working well with fabulous lenses.  The three rangefinder models have the 6-element Xenon.  The lenses on the viewfinder cameras are both Tessar-types; the Retina I has an Ektar and the Retina Ia is equipped with a Xenar.  I get around to shooting one or the other every few years, and never cease to be impressed with the quality images they deliver.  Recently, I decided to put film through all of my Retinas.  Over the last week I shot some Kentmere 100 in the Retina II, which was the first of the line I acquired about fifteen years ago.

I had to do some minor repairs to the Retina II when I got it.  The bellows was partially detached and the shutter seemed to be a bit sluggish.  I opened the shutter and cleaned it about three times, but the sound it made when tripped was nearly inaudible, and I was convinced for a long time that the main spring was weak.  On looking at the pictures from the camera made over the years, however, I think the Compur Rapid is just an extremely quiet shutter and mine seems actually to be working just fine.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


All five of my Kodak Retina cameras are post-war models that have excellent lenses.  The IIc is looks nearly new and works very well.  The others show more wear, but are still very capable shooters.  My goal is to spend some time with each of them over the next month.