Friday, July 29, 2011

Canon T90

I finally own one again! The mighty Canon T90 - the pinnacle of Canon's FD mount film cameras. The camera that Japanese photojournalists nicknamed "The Tank".

I've been watching, and waiting, and finally a mint-condition T90 came up for auction at a very reasonable price. Described as practically mint, with all functions, modes and dials working perfectly - in original box - with mint Canon 50mm f1.8 and dedicated Canon 300TL Speedlite - all for $190NZ. Bargain!

I recently posted some shots taken with my Canon T70 and outlined my history with that camera. It was the first camera I ever owned, and as such, will always have a special place in my life. But my original camera wasn't without its problems.

The electronics in the first T70 I owned were dodgy, and stopped working after about a year. Repeated trips back to Canon for repair unfortunately never fixed the problem, which would always return. As a young photographer trying to learn his craft, the delays with a camera always away being fixed were incredibly frustrating, until one day it all got too much and I blew up in the camera store and demanded something more be done about it (not in my nature, but I really was at the end of my tether). The store owner (who had always been very sympathetic) got on the phone to Canon NZ while I was there with him, so that I could relate my frustrations to someone 'in authority' so that something could be done about it.

To our amazement, and great surprise, a representative from Canon Japan just happened to be in the country, visiting Canon NZ, and the call was given to him. Of course he was very apologetic, horrified to hear that I was an unsatisfied customer who had been dealing with this for too long, and gave his word that 'something would be done about this' when he got back to Japan.

About a month later, while I was at work, I got a call from my local camera store to tell me that a package had turned up for me from Canon Japan.
"Great" I thought, finally a new T70. But to my amazement, when I opened the box, there was a brand new T90! I was gobsmacked! They had only just been released by Canon, and were worth more than I could ever have imagined paying for a camera - and I owned one!

Not surprisingly, I fell in love with the T90 - although it helped that it truly was an amazing camera.

So when I think back on film days, the one camera that stand out above all others - the camera that I will still mention if anyone asks me "what's the best camera you've ever owned?" - is hands down the Canon T90.

And now I own one again!  Am I excited? You bet. I can't wait to get one in my hands again. I expect a flood of memories to come pouring back.

With its arrival, my Canon T-series collection will be complete. And what better way to round out the set, than with the T90 - the jewel in Canon's FD crown. Awesome!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Color v B&W

Whenever I teach a digital photography course, and the question of shooting in the black and white mode comes up, I always tell my students to shoot in colour. It's so easy to convert to black and white later in Photoshop (or Lightroom/Aperture etc), and it does such a good job, while retaining the RGB colour values (important if you want to add tinting effects later), that I really don't see the benefit of shooting in black and white in-camera. Especially if you are shooting jpegs.

Of course, we don't have that luxury when we shoot film. Although in one sense, the same for digital is true for film - shoot in colour, digitise the negative, and convert later.

But what about all that black and white film? Is that akin to using the black and white mode in your digital camera, thereby restricting your options later? I suppose it is. Yet for someone who 'grew up' on black and white film photography - processing his own films in the darkroom - the allure of shooting black and white film is very strong. And I suppose that when I think of 'real' art photography, I think almost exclusively of black and white.

So recently, when trying out different films and cameras over a weekend, I found myself shooting with both colour and black and white film. And although I hadn't actually planned it that way, a couple of the images on both types of film were near to identical. So I got to compare them to each other, to see whether I liked the colour, or black and white version better.

To be clear, these are not simply black and white conversions of the same file. They are two different shots taken on both film types. The top, colour image, is actually taken by my 10 year old son on an Olympus Mju 1 with Fuji Superia 400, while I shot the bottom image on an Olympus Mju 105 with Kodak 400CN. They are uncannily similar, although neither of us were following the other around and didn't know the other had taken the same shot.

Which version do I like? Well, I like them both. But which version do I prefer? Probably my son's colour image on this occasion. I love the blue of the mountains and the lake against the green. It adds a real contrast that I find slightly lacking in the black and white version.

This is the trap of black and white photography - learning to 'see' in greyscale and not rely on the colour of the scene for impact. Because, lets face it, most of us see in colour, so it is often the colour in a scene (such as the blue above) that first attracts us to the image. But the black and white photographer has to zone this out and rely entirely on the tones of the scene - also keeping in mind the relationships of colour.

Imagine, for example, a figure in a lush green field wearing a red jacket. In colour, this image would literally scream off the page, and the red figure would immediately become the focus of attention - even if they were relatively small in the frame. Yet in black and white, this image wouldn't work at all. The mid tone of the green would blend together with the mid-tone of the red, creating one very boring mid-toned image! Yuck.

In the examples above, however, the tables are turned and I actually prefer the black and white photo. Maybe because I feel that this image is more about pattern, line and texture, than about in-your-face colour? Both were taken on a Bronica S2 - the colour image was shot on Fuji Reala 100, while the black and white is Kodak 400CN. And again, the colour photo is ok - I just prefer the black and white version.

Would I have gotten the same result on both occasions by converting the colour file to black and white? Yes, probably. But as mentioned, shooting in black and white to begin with actually forces you to see differently - and I kinda like that. Anything that helps you be more creative and 'think' about your images is worthwhile in my book.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Old Film Photography Magazines

I found an amazing auction on Trademe recently for some old photography magazines. Not surprisingly there wasn't much interest in the auction, and I won them for $10NZ.

Old photo magazines dating back to 1951!
They arrived last week, and although I haven't had a chance to sit down and have a really good read, the flick through I've had so far has been fascinating! The oldest of the magazines - Popular Photography - dates back to 1951! That makes it 60 years old!

I haven't read any of the articles, but the adds for the cameras are fantastic. Quite a few of them are for cameras I've never heard of (Iloca, Ventura and Ciro-Flex), as well as the classic brands (a brand new Leica IIIC can be yours for only $350US - a small fortune 60 years ago!).

I'll have a read through and share any interesting articles that I might come across.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fuji Reala 120 film

Just a short post to outline my admittedly brief experience with Fuji Reala 120 film.

Back in the deep dark past, when I shot film (and there was -gasp- no such thing as digital), I shot almost exclusively with Fuji. I occasionally tried a roll of Kodak Gold or slide film, but would always go back to Fuji Superia 200/400 and the outstanding Fuji Velvia 50/100. So I guess you could say I was a 'Fuji' guy.

Dorothy Falls, Kaniere. Bronica S2 & Fuji Reala 100
So now that I have returned to film, most of the 35mm stock I have is Fuji Superia 400, with some Kodak and Ilford B&W thrown in for good measure. Same with 120 - right? Wrong...

Looking on Trademe (our local internet auction site) most of the 120 film for sale is Kodak. The cheapest of which (new) is Kodak Ektacolor 160. So that's what I've mostly been using in the Bronica S2, and I must say I've been really happy with the results. So happy, in fact, that I've bought a lot more Kodak 120 film.

Then, about a month ago, we went to Nelson for a family holiday. Perfect opportunity to branch out and pick up some different film and, sure enough, one of the local camera stores had some Fuji Reala in 120. So I asked how much...

$25NZ for ONE roll of Fuji Reala 120! And no, that doesn't include processing! That's about $22US for one roll of film - unprocessed! To put that into perspective, I can buy a pack (5 rolls) of Kodak Ektacolor on Trademe for $40NZ - that's $8NZ a roll. So you can understand my surprise.

But I was determined to try some Fuji film in 120, so I bought two rolls (there goes $50NZ bucks) and left the store before I had a seizure.

Dorothy Falls Walk. Bronica S2 and Fuji Reala 100

A couple of months ago I bought my first TLR - a Yashica Mat 124 in excellent condition. The perfect opportunity, I thought, to use one of these expensive rolls of Fuji film. Long story short - the winding crank wasn't working properly and none of the film was exposed! $25 bucks down the drain.

So for my last film, I decided to play it safe and put it through the Bronica S2. Which I did last weekend. And it all came out perfectly - no problems. Yahooo - result! So I'm stoked - right?

Lake Mahinapua Sunrise. Bronica S2 & Fuji Reala 100
No, not really. In fact, it's a pretty average film, and I certainly won't be buying it again at that price! Maybe I expected too much because of how much I paid for it? Maybe I expected too much because of my predilection for Fuji film in the past? Or maybe it's just an 'average' film?

I paid almost as much for a couple of rolls of Kodak 400CN 120 film early on and I love that film. I'd happily pay that again for another couple of rolls of 400CN - although I'd like to find it cheaper if I could :-)  So I don't think price pays a factor.

If I found some really cheap would I buy it again? Probably. But if it was a choice between really cheap Reala or really cheap Kodak Ektacolor, then I'd go for the Ektacolor every time. And for a paid up member of the 'I love Fuji Film' Club, that surprises the heck outa me.

Now if I could only get me hands on some cheap Fuji Velvia 120 film...

Olympus Mju results

Over the last weekend I finally finished a roll of Kodak 400CN film in the Olympus Mju (Stylus Epic) 105. At the same time, I handed the Olympus Mju 1 (with fixed 35mm lens) loaded with colour film, to my 10 year old son Joshua. I didn't give him any instructions since it's a fully automatic camera - other than to show him how to slide the front cover across to start the camera. With that sorted, off he went.

We'll get back to him later, but first let's look at the Mju 105 (with 38 to 105mm lens).

Olympus Mju 105 with Kodak 400CN
In one sense, this is going to be a fairly boring post, since there really isn't much to say. The Mju (Stylus Epic to our American friends) is a completely automated camera - there are no 'picture modes' to choose from - no aperture or shutter speed priority settings to contend with. It really is just point-and-shoot simplicity. Pretty limiting right?

Maybe. But there is also no denying that you can take some amazing photos with this little camera. The lens is super sharp and produces images with lots of detail, tone and contrast. The exposure meter gets it right most of the time, although there were a couple of over-exposed images on the roll of 36 (but the Mju's automatic winder extends that out to 38 shots).

Olympus Mju 105 (at 38mm)
I found that most of the time I stuck at the 38mm end of the lens - just because I tended to like the wider angle of view and was trying to fit stuff in, rather than getting in tight one something. Although when I did use the zoom feature it performed as expected, and the results are just as sharp. Probably not surprising though, really, since at the 105mm setting the widest aperture you can use is f8.9! This isn't really a camera that you can use to get nice blurred backgrounds with a shallow depth of field. Then again, no compact is.

What it does have is a lens with 6 ED glass elements (yes, I said 6!) and 1 Aspherical element. That's a lot of good glass! And it certainly does seem to be working, with negatives that scanned as good as (if not better than) images from my Canon and Olympus 35mm SLR gear. That's pretty impressive!

Lake Brunner, Moana
ISO is managed automatically through DX coding on the film canisters, winding and rewinding is automatic, the autofocus is active through 860 steps, and exposure is automatic with shutter speeds ranging from 4 to 1/500th of a second. In fact, about the only thing that can be (semi) controlled, fortunately, is the flash. By default the flash is always 'on', and pops up whether it needs to fire or not. It can't be tucked away in a 'down' position inside the camera - it's always 'up'. Which is kind of annoying, but at least it can be turned 'off' so it doesn't flash. Unfortunately you have to do this every time the camera is turned on! Bit of a pain - but only a button push (twice) to disable it. Of course if you want it on, then you also have the other options of red eye correction, fill flash etc...

Olympus Mju 105
So all-in-all I was mightily impressed with the little Olympus Mju 105. It's a very small and lightweight fully automatic camera with a stunning lens capable of truly fantastic images. It really does rival my SLR cameras for image quality, albeit with a complete lack of any creative control. This isn't a classic portrait shooters camera, but more of an environmental portrait or landscape shooters camera. I can also see it being useful for street/city photography - especially at the 38mm end of the lens.

And what about Joshua? How did he get on with the Mju 1 with fixed 35mm f3.5 lens?

Lake Brunner as shot by Joshua on the Mju 1

Very well actually. He thoroughly enjoyed shooting with the Mju 1 - so much so that at the end of the roll he told me he wanted one! He's not all that excited about photography, whereas his big sister has her own Canon 10D and is right into using her digital SLR whenever we go on walks as a family. Joshua has never really gotten excited about digital photography, but after using the Mju he told me he could get right into this film thing!

Olympus Mju 1 with Fuji Superia 400
On one level that's great and I find it exciting that he is more turned on by film than digital. But if you had seen the way he burned through a roll of 36 shot colour film you'd be a bit apprehensive too :-(

It's a pity, because I would like to encourage him into photography as a hobby - but I think one film shooter in the family is enough!?

It does, however, highlight the fallacy around digital that claims it's 'what the youth want' and film is a dead art form. Many are finding that actually the opposite is true - but I'd never actually experienced this myself until this weekend with Joshua. He really was quite excited shooting film on the Mju, and wasn't at all concerned that he wasn't getting to see the images instantly.

Frozen ground. Joshua, aged 10. Olympus Mju 1
Would he have had the opportunity to shoot with the Mju if he didn't have a father that was keen on film? Probably not. But is it worth persevering  with him on film now that he has had a taste and likes it? Probably. Heck, these cameras are so cheap - and so good, that it really wouldn't be a problem to pick him up another Mju (or toss him mine), for the times when he feels the urge to take some photos.

That's all I need. Two film shooters in the family!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bronica S2 with Kodak 400CN

All my experimentation with the Bronica S2 so far has been with colour print film (namely Kodak's Ektacolor 160). This has largely been for practical reasons, although I'm certainly not complaining about Ektacolor 160 - it's a great film.

I live in a small town with only one camera store, and they don't sell 120 film. So I've had to source my film online - or grab a couple of rolls from a store when I happen to be in a city somewhere (although this option has tended to be horrendously expensive!). When I first got my S2, I wanted a reliable film (not expired), but reasonably priced - because I was only experimenting, so I knew I was bound to make mistakes (and I did). We all know that film costs - so as much as possible I wanted to keep that cost down. Kodak Ektacolor 160, purchased on-line within New Zealand, fit the bill perfectly. And as I said earlier, there's nothing wrong with it as a standard film. I'll certainly be using a lot more of it!

But the more confident I've become with shooting 6x6, using a light meter (it's been a long time), and feeling comfortable with the Bronica S2, the more I've been 'branching out' with other film. I wasted a Fuji Reala 100 film recently when my Yashica Mat didn't wind the film on properly (and it wasn't a cheap film), although I have had success with a second roll through my Bronica. It's not a film that impressed my greatly (I'll write about it soon), and I think I'll stick with the Ektacolor 160 instead (especially considering the price difference!)

13 Mile Beach Reflection. Kodak 400CN. Warm tint added in photoshop.
One film has impressed me however, and that's Kodak's 400CN colour processed (C41) black and white film. I love b&w film anyway - especially shot on medium format. I suppose it's what I think of when I think 'medium format' art photography. I've wanted to shoot some b&w for a while now, but didn't want to have to process the film myself - even though I have all the gear to do it! But that has also been a long time, and I'm a bit unsure as to how reliable my (outdated) chemical is going to be. So I wanted a black and white film that could either be processed by somebody else - or processed by a lab. Enter Kodak's 400CN.

13 Mile Beach Rocks. Bronica S2 & Kodak 400CN
I have used C41 processed b&w film before, with 35mm - but that was quite some time ago. Because I used to teach darkroom processing, most of my b&w experience was with developing films myself.  And I'm sure I will start doing it again - I just have to get off my butt and do it!

But to begin with, I really did want to minimise the risk factors involved - so getting a lab to process (develop and sleeve) 400CN was the ideal solution. What I got back from them was very clean, well exposed (yeah me), and contrasty negatives - that scanned beautifully in my Epson V700 scanner. It really is a great film to use if scanning the negatives yourself is your end goal (and apart from drum scanning, what other options are there?).

Lake Mahinapua Reeds. Bronica S2 & Kodak 400CN.
Of course getting back good looking negatives has a lot to do with the exposure you use in the first place. Since using the S2, my light meter of choice has been the Polaris Digital Flash Meter - a great meter that is simple to use, yet very accurate. As much as possible I use the 'incident' reading, but that isn't always practical when shooting landscapes (is that mountain 20 kms away really in the same light as you are?!).

So for the 400CN, I actually switched to 'reflective' metering - but I took an incident reading as well. Reflective metering is what your expensive camera uses (it measures the light being 'reflected' off your subject) and is generally pretty useable. When the two light readings didn't match up with each other (sometimes they were as much as two stops out!), I would 'split the difference' and set something in-between. This approach seemed to have worked well, given the exposure latitude of film. I'm getting good detail in both the highlights and the shadows with this technique, so I must be doing something right?

Lake Mahinapua Jetty. Bronica S2 and Kodak 400CN
I like a good, strong, contrasty black and white image - and I am certainly able to achieve this using Kodak 400CN. As a judge for camera clubs I get to see a lot of black and white images (99% of them conversions in photoshop), and the single biggest problem is a lack of contrast. The images are all mid-tone grey, dull and flat! I was taught in the darkroom to strive for a rich black and a clean white in every image, and that advice has stuck with me for over twenty years.

I'm not afraid of 100% black, or paper white, yet so many photographers nowadays are afraid of both. Especially shooting digital, where they have it drummed into them that they must never clip the highlights or the shadows! For many, that advice leaves then striving to get everything sitting somewhere in the middle. End result - flat, grey, dull, lifeless images. Want to see b&w done properly? Check out any print by the master - Ansel Adams. No dull boring gray images there. Just heaps of punch, and tones of contrast! Black blacks and white whites.

If you haven't ever shot with Kodak 400CN - either in 35mm or 120, then do yourself a favour and pick up a couple of rolls today. Use a light meter to get your exposures bang on, boost those contrast levels to get some really punchy images, and then marvel at the results. A great film, highly recommended. I'll definitely be getting some more for my Bronica.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bronica S2 Kit Expansion

The more I delve into film photography, the more I become excited about medium format. And the more convinced I become that it's (almost) the only way to go.

I say almost because I'll grant you that 35mm is more convenient if you are out for an afternoon with the family and simply want to 'record' the day. In that situation then 'no', I wouldn't want to be lugging around a complete medium format system, plus tripod and light meter, just to get a quick shot of the kids as they play on the beach.

But even that is relative, since I would make exactly the same statement regarding my digital SLR kit. Less and less I find myself inclined to carry around my Canon 5D with battery grip and big zoom lenses, when for most occasions the Canon G6 compact will do. I'm even seriously considering leaving my digital SLR kit at home when we go over to Australia in a few months time (or pairing it right back) and just going with the G6. And I'm undecided as yet whether to take a film camera with me as well? I may end up just buying one over there.

The flip-side of this argument highlights therefore what I consider medium format film, or pro digital SLR cameras, to be for. The answer, of course, is for serious photography. I'm not going to take my Canon G6 to a wedding and start firing away - and nor would I get up at 5.00am to take sunrise images armed only with an Olympus Mju point-and-shoot. As a professional wedding photographer, my clients expect a certain level of gear when I turn up to shoot their big day - even if that is only their perception of quality. I probably could shoot a wedding with my G6 and present a beautiful album to the couple afterwards. But I wouldn't.

I love my 5D with its big grunty hand grip attached, together with my 70-200mm f4 L and Canon 580EX flash. Set that baby up and you absolutely scream photographer. Even if you're not (don't get me started on that). Sure, there is a level of reliability to be had from using the more rugged 'pro' quality gear - but even the entry level Canon Rebel's are solid units that take a licking and keep on ticking. Check out DigitalRev TV for this video on how much abuse these entry level DLSR's can take and keep working. So in the end, as far as using the big Pro DSLR's are concerned, it may very well come down to public perception - and looks.

But is that the case with medium format film? Do I advocate lugging 20 pounds of gear around just to look 'cool'? No - of course not. Because the real difference between medium format and 35mm film is, well, the film (or at least, the size of the negative). When you are scanning, enlarging and printing from a negative, then that extra real-estate really does make a huge difference. And it definitely makes it worth while to carry around the extra gear to produce a superior result.

Hang on though - I hear you say. What about digital? Doesn't a bigger sensor give you a better result? Isn't that the point of going to 'full frame' digital? And again, the answer is 'yes'. Although with today's technology, and the amazing advances in small sensor manufacturing, I would argue that the gains are not necessarily as marked or as obvious as they are when moving up from 35mm to 120 film.

My new Bronica S2 Kit
With that in mind, my latest purchase on Trademe has me more pumped and excited than I've been in quite a while, because I've expanded my Bronica S2 medium format kit.

Since getting my first S2 about 6 months ago, it has become my preferred medium format system. I love its handling, its look (very Hasselblad), its ease of use, and the images that come out of it. The more I've used it, the more enamored I have become with it. So, of course, thoughts then turn to adding on to the system so that I can expand my creative possibilities.
Bronica S2 with 135mm Nikkor lens

My first thought was to find a wide angle (50mm) Nikkor lens, since I mainly shoot landscapes with the S2. Add to that one more film back and I would have a kit that I would be happy with. Well, it would be a start anyway :-)

Trouble is, 50mm Nikkors for the S2 system don't come up very often, and if they do, they tend to be very pricey. So I've watched, and I've waited, and a few have passed me by.

Then last week, a S2 kit came up for auction that almost blew my mind! A fully CLA'd S2 body, with 50mm, 75mm and 135mm Nikkors, a full set of Bronica close-up adapters for macro work, grip holder, lens hoods, quick focusing ring - the works!

The full 'Buy Now' price was, not surprisingly, out of my reach - but I added it to my watch list anyway - just to see what it eventually went for. Because although the 'Buy Now' was pricey, the starting price for getting under way was very reasonable. I thought I might even make a starting bid - just to say I was in the auction.

S2 with 75mm, lens hood and grip
Well, I've already given the game away, so I won't spin this out much longer. To my amazement and surprise, the initial starting bid that I made 5 minutes before the close of the auction, also happened to be the reserve price and I WON! Nobody else bid! OMG. I still can't believe it!

So now I actually own my dream Bronica S2 Kit, which should be here by the end of the week! Two bodies, four lenses (counting the one I already had), three film backs, hoods, grip, close-up attachments - the works! All for the price of a mid-range digital compact camera. Unbelievable!

This is the sort of kit I could never have owned fifteen years ago when we were all shooting film and there was no such thing as digital. So I guess I have digital photography to thank for my good fortune. And I'm sure you can too. Amazing deals on medium format cameras are going up on internet auctions every day.

Thanks to digital, there's never been a better time to shoot film! Oh the irony....

Friday, July 8, 2011

Braun Norca Folding Camera

My journey back through camera history goes even deeper with the addition today of a folding camera.

Braun Norca 1 folding camera
The Braun Norca 1 was made by the German company Carl Braun Camera-Werke in the early 1950s - with the Norca Super their most popular model. To be honest, I couldn't find much information about the Norca 1 - sites mostly discuss the Super.

From the auction description and photo (right) I do know that the camera is in near-mint condition, the shutter fires, lens and viewfinder are clean and clear, and all the buttons are in tact. Just from the photo I can tell that the camera is in very good condition, and as long as the bellows doesn't leak light I should have a bargain!?

The lens is a Braun Praxar 105mm, and from what I can glean from websites, it's a 120 roll film camera that shoots in the 6x9 format? If it does, it will be the biggest format camera I own, and the 105mm lens would roughly equate to a 'normal' 45 to 50mm lens (which sounds about right).

To be honest, I've shied away from bellows type fold-out cameras in the past because they scare me! They look so complicated, unwieldy and difficult to shoot with. So why have I got one now?

Well first; the condition was so good, and the price so cheap, that I couldn't pass it up. Second; I used to think the same way about TLR cameras - they just looked too complicated to bother with - but I am in love with my Yashica Mat 124 (even with the problems I've been experiencing with it), so I suppose I'm getting bolder with my camera choices. Third; it's just such a cool looking camera - isn't it!? Even if I hate using it, it will still look fantastic displayed on a shelf in my house as a piece of history/art. And finally; it'll just be fun finding out about the camera and how it operates, what kinds of images it takes etc. In the end, for me, that's what this camera collecting thing is all about. Heaps of fun.

Voigtlander Vito C

In the modern world of digital cameras, Japanese company's such as Nikon, Canon, Sony et al., rule the roost. But with film cameras - and especially classic collectable film cameras - it's really German made cameras that inspire awe.

Top of the pile is definitely Leica. That little red logo attached to any camera demands respect, and huge prices! Leica, together with Zeiss glass, has to be at the top of any film shooter's 'wish list' (if they aren't lucky enough to own one already). But did I mention the price? Old, new, film, digital, working, not working - doesn't matter where a Leica is concerned... the prices are astronomical!

I don't own a Leica, and maybe never will? But I'd love to shoot with one, just to experience the mystique. Maybe when I'm old and grey and have a few thousand to throw around I just might treat myself and get one? Maybe.

Leica aren't the only German camera manufacturer with a cult following. Of course there were Contax (Zeiss's camera division) and Agfa (everyone say Agfa Clack), as well as the oldest camera manufacturer of them all - Voigtlander.

Voigtlander was an optical company, founded in Vienna in 1756 by Johann Christoph Voigtlander. Starting as a binocular manufacturer, they produced the Petzval photographic lens in 1840, and then the world's first all-metal daguerrotype camera in 1841. They also produced the world's first interchangeable zoom lens (the 36-82mm f2.8 Zoomar) in 1960, as well as the first compact camera with built-in electronic flash (the Vitrona) in 1965.

Unfortunately, the company was purchased by Zeiss in 1956, who then on-sold the rights to the Voigtlander name to Rollei in 1982. The demise of Rollei concluded with Voigtlander now being used by Cosina, who produce lenses to this day under the Voigtlander name. They make prime lenses to fit Leica camera's which, although expensive, are only a fraction of the Zeiss made Leica lenses.

All of that is background information relating to the fact that my latest classic camera (that arrived today) is the Voigtlander Vito C 35mm film compact.

My Voigtlander Vito C. - Beautiful!
The Vito C was introduced in 1960, when Voigtlander was owned by Zeiss. It uses a 50mm f2.8 Lanthar lens with a Pronto four-speed shutter (with 30th, 60th, 125th and 250th sec speeds, plus Bulb).

It's a zone focus camera, so you need to 'guess' the distance of the subject and set it on the lens. There are three 'average' settings that equate roughly to single portrait, group portrait or landscape settings. It also doesn't have a light meter (later models did), so you either use the sunny 16 rule, or take a light meter with you. Pretty basic stuff - but it also means that there is no battery required.

The big, bright, beautiful viewfinder is described by Voigtlander as a 'Crystal frame' viewfinder. And for a small camera, it is nice, big and bright to look through. If only modern digital SLR viewfinders  were this nice.

I bought the camera 'as is', so the condition is a little rough. The lens has some fungus (bummer), and the body has a few dents, but it has cleaned up ok - so I'm hoping it will perform properly. I'll run a roll of Fuji print film through it and see what I get.

It's a solid, hefty, good looking little camera. So even if the images from it aren't that great, I can still use it as a 'showpiece'. I'll post some images from the camera once they're shot, scanned and ready to roll...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Olympus Mju

Discovering the Olympus Pen range of digital (and then film) cameras last year - which in turn lead me to read about the brilliant Japanese camera designer Yoshihisa Maitani - is what got me started on this film photography re-discovery. Since then, I guess you could say I've become an Olympus fan boy. Although, since Maitani was the designer of the Pen FT, OM Series and Compact XA line, it's probably more correct to say that I'm a Maitani fan boy. The man was a true engineering genius.

My first truly collectable camera purchase was the Olympus Pen EES-2 and not long after I bought my first OM SLR - the OM2 (followed by an OM10). As yet I don't have a Pen F camera, but definitely plan to fix that in the future.

In looking around at compact film cameras, one name kept popping up as a good (to excellent) series with a bit of a cult following - the Olympus Mju (Stylus Epic in America). The revolutionary design for the Mju (named after the Greek letter for 'micro') has, not surprisingly, morphed out of a Maitani design for the Olympus XA, with the character 'convex' front that closes over the lens.

My two Mju's -
the Mju 1 and Mju 105
The first Mju - the Mju I (incidentally, Mju rhymes with 'pew') has a fixed 35mm f3.5 lens (see the black camera in the photo left). and was first introduced in 1991. The Mju II moved to a fixed f2.8 lens and introduced waterproofing to the range, which was to become a selling point for all Mju's to follow.

After the outstanding success of the Mju I and II, Olympus released various zoom versions. I have the Mju Zoom 105 (the champagne coloured camera bottom left) with a 38-105mm f4.5/8.9 zoom lens with 6 ED glass elements and one aspherical element. All the Mju cameras are completely automated, although the flash can be turned off after start-up with a couple of button pushes. Also Mju's after the Mju I feature a spot metering mode for more accurate exposure control.

I have yet to shoot with the Mju I, but have been using the Mju Zoom 105 over the last week or so. It's an easy, quick and responsive little compact to shoot with, although it is a pain that you can't disable the flash (it always pops up, even if you set it to 'off').

I think I'm going to like the Mju I as well, since almost all the images I've taken so far with the Zoom 105 have been at the 38mm focal range. I think I may have used the zoom once? And at f8.9, that doesn't really give you a shallow depth of field!

I'm shooting Kodak Black & White with the camera for a more 'artsy' feel, and am looking forward to seeing the results. The Mju's are known for their accurate focusing and sharp lenses, as well as their small size and super cool (cute) styling. They really can fit in your pocket (jacket, not pants) and are a lot of fun to shoot with. And even though I turn the flash off, they are also known for their well-balanced flash exposures. Might have to try a few indoor 'people' shots with flash just to see how intelligent these little cameras really are?

A Win and a Loss (Kind of)

If (and when) you catch the bug and start collecting old film cameras, it's inevitable that along the way you'll have some wins and some losses. Just pray that the wins outweigh the losses and you should find this a very rewarding hobby :-)

Over the last few weeks, I've had a win and a loss that I want to share - just as a snapshot of the journey I'm on collecting film cameras. So, do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Okay, let's start on a positive note - with the good news.

My very first camera when I started out all those years ago was a Canon T70 - a great camera that I enjoyed using until it died on me and I replaced it with the might Canon T90 (an even better camera).

Anyway, since it was my first camera, I will always have a soft spot for it. In fact, it was one of the first cameras I purchased when I started collecting (along with a T50 and T80). I shoot with it occasionally, but have only had a standard 50mm f1.8 (with fungus issues) and beaten old Sigma 28mm as lenses.

I use the wide more than that standard, so have been waiting for a Canon wide angle FD lens to come up for auction on Trademe - and last week one finally did.

A pristine 24mm f2.8 was being sold with a 70-210mm f4 with some fungus issues. For this reason, the reserve was low and I managed to win both very cheaply. So now I have a beautiful Canon 24mm that will probably sit on the T70 most of the time - and a 70-210 that needs some work.

When the lenses arrived I checked them over (as I always do), and was very pleased with them both. They were definitely as described by the seller (which unfortunately is not always the case). The 70-210 f4 did indeed have some fungus showing, but it seemed to be only in the top elements. So I decided to attempt something that I had never considered before - I would clean the lens myself!
It had only cost me a few dollars anyway, so if I botched the process ( I had no idea what I was going to do to clean it), then no big deal.

I started by removing two tiny screws from around the rim of the lens (the yellow circle shown left). Then, carefully using two small screwdrivers, I placed them within the joints of the lens element 'cap' and carefully forced them to turn (unscrew) the cap (slots shown in the red circle). It began to unscrew almost immediately, but do be careful if you decide to attempt this yourself. I did slip a couple of times - fortunately only scratching the cap itself and not the top lens element!

I probably wasn't being as careful as I could have (should have), since I'd already decided that this was a bit of an experiment. Even so, it's still a lens. And as a photographer I've always treated my lenses with extra special care. I'm not one of these photographers who throws gear around and bangs it up just because they're 'only' tools. As a family man, I'm fully aware of how much it all costs - even the cheap stuff. It all adds up. So I look after my gear - no matter how much it cost.

Anyway, back to the cleaning.

With the cap removed, the lens was exposed - but not moving anywhere. So I 'carefully' took a small screwdriver and used it to lever the front element up and out of the lens barrel. It's quite a thick front element  - I'd say about half an inch thick, maybe more? And it took a while of levering all around the lens (there is a bit of a gap to aid with this) before it finally popped out. But pop out it did. Unfortunately, the fungus wasn't on this element, but on the underside of the next one!

A quick inspection, however, indicated that this lens was going to be much easier to move - it's only held in place by a thin metal 'O' ring, that slips out very easily with the use of my handy dandy screwdriver! Once removed, I tipped the lens upside down, gave it a little shake, and out came the glass element with the fungus on it (into my waiting hand). This is a convex lens, so remember which way it came out - that's the way it needs to go back in! :-)

I cleaned the element with Isopropyl Alcohol and left it out in the sun all afternoon (I've heard that UV will kill fungus growth as well). Then it was simply a matter of making sure everything was super clean and dust free (with a blower) and re-assembling in reverse order. In the end I was actually amazed at how simple it was - although I suspect it has become a little more complex with todays modern lenses. I wouldn't even contemplate pulling my EF 70-200mm f4 'L' lens apart!

Having said that, I was very pleased with the outcome of my cleaning on the FD 70-210 f4. It probably isn't perfect, but it's 100% better than it was. And to my eye at least, the fungus is all gone!

So that was my 'win' (that and the 24mm f2.8) - what was the 'loss'?

Well, briefly... about now I would have been posting my first images taken with the Yashica Mat 124 TLR - but I can't! Because they didn't turn out! All blank. Nothing, nada, zip, zero! I've gone back over the camera, and I'm positive that the shutter is opening and closing - I can actually watch it happen! And I also know I loaded the 120 spool correctly. So I've narrowed it down to the winding crank not working, and a 'play' with a 120 film I sacrificed for the experiment seems to confirm this.

Which is a bummer! Because it's probably not something I can fix myself. Yet in all other aspects, the camera is in great condition. Especially the taking lens. So I've purchased another one (with a fuzzy taking lens but a perfect cranking arm) and plan to take the best bits from one, and merge them with the other to get one good camera!

Yes, I could have complained and sent the Yashica back to the lady I purchased it from - but I don't believe she sold the camera under any false pretenses. In fact, I'm pretty sure she doesn't even know which way is up on the thing! So I'm looking at this as a 'project' and I'll have fun putting the two cameras 'together' to make one. Sometimes that's what this old camera collecting hobby is all about.

As they say... "You win some, you loose some".  I hope in your collecting you win more often than you loose!