Saturday, August 16, 2014

It's All About The Lens.

While I have long been a mostly Nikon shooter, I realize that there are other lenses out there that are really amazing, and that they don't mount on a Nikon.  Since I am shooting film here, I am not going out to buy a Sony Alpha or some other mirrorless digital camera to mount different lenses on.  No way.  This boy is shooting film as much as possible (and yes, I do own two Nikon DSLRs).  For instance, Konica has always had a reputation for manufacturing some excellent glass.  I was given a Konica Autoreflex TC by my mother-in-law last year.  The camera body wasn't working, but the 40mm 1.8 lens was perfect, so I bought a Konica Autoreflex T body on ebay for about $15.  Then, I saw the 57mm f/1.4 at Huron Camera -- an amazing lens I have read about elsewhere. I bought it, and it is one of those lenses that quickly becomes a favorite.  Wide-open it has a bokeh that will make some of those bokeholics pee their pants.   My Autoreflex T's meter is a bit off, so I usually use sunny-16 or a hand-held meter for my exposures.  What I have REALLY come to love is shooting the expired Panatomic-X (that I bought back in March at the estate sale) with this lens.  I am getting some images that I have really been liking.  Shooting late in the day with soft light at wide-open aperture or close to it is giving me some results that I am quite pleased with.

There are many other lenses out there that justify owning a body that they fit just to shoot with them.  It's all in the glass... the body is just there to keep the film in.    What's your favorite lens?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bag of Surprises

Last weekend I stopped by the Ann Arbor Recycle Reuse thrift store to see what I might find in the way of cameras, etc.  I found a few photographic books that I decided to pickup, and I was looking through a jumble of things in one corner towards the back, when I spied one of those Kodak Film cooler bags.  It was ratty-looing with mildew on it, but I looked inside, anyway.  Much to my surprise there were two decent Polaroid pack film cameras and a bunch of accessories.  The cashier was somebody new, and I offered $5, as the bag was unpriced.  He looked inside, and thought that "some of the small parts were probably worth more than the cameras" and came back with $7.50.  Sold.  I was going to offer $10, but Adrienne (who obviously is a shrewder person than I) thought that was too high to start with.  So, I saved at least $2.50.

Once I got the bag home, I immediately started looking through it.  It has sat around in someone's basement for a long time, I think.  However, the two cameras, a Polaroid 450 and a 340 were in pretty good shape.  There was a cardboard box of exactly the right size inserted into the bag for rigidity, and tucked between the box and the bag were a bunch of papers, including  a few old b&w Polaroids, some more recent-looking b&w prints, instructions for the Polaroid cameras and accessories, as well as the manual and papers for a Canon Canonet-28. A Polaroid self-timer, close-up kit, UV filter, M3 bulbs, 2 flashbulb holders, a screwdriver, and a Kalimar telephoto lens for the Polaroid completed the kit.  Oh, and there were 4 of the small tubes that hold the coater strips for the old b&w prints.

All of the items work, and I think I will keep at least the Polaroid 340.  It has a real rangefinder (as does the 450) and takes a single battery.  The close-up kit and self-timer are also keepers.  The 450 has a nicer Zeiss Rangefinder, but I'll need to check out the battery situation before I decide to keep it.  Polaroid made a plethora of models of the folding land cameras, and some are obviously better than others. The 340 lacks a tripod mount, but that is not a deal-breaker.
I was very interested in the photographs.  The Polaroids look they are from the mid to late 1980s, and the photos of the bartender and the waitress look like they are newer, perhaps 1990 or so. I wonder where they were taken?
 It's fun finding bags like this.  I cleaned everything up before I photographed it.  I have seen the Kodak cooler before, but this is a first time owning one. In the first photo, you can see a young man in one of those Papasan chairs and the Kodak bag is behind his shoulder.
The last two photos are at a different location, and are printed from 35 mm negatives. Perhaps from the Canonet 28?

A nice little find, and worth every penny!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's All in the Bag

Sometimes I over think about packing camera gear for a trip, and sometimes I don't think enough about what I should bring.  My wife and I were going for a 5 day trip to Marquette, meaning 2 of those days would be mostly traveling from Ann Arbor to Marquette and back - a minimum of 8 hours each way, and we would be visiting our daughter and her partner.  So, I packed fairly light - two film camera bags + my Nikon 1 in a small bag.  For film cameras, I chose my Nikon FE and added a Nikon EM as a backup + various lenses in one bag.  In the other, my leica M2 with the 35mm 1.4 lens and my Yashica A TLR.  At the last minute I threw on a small Yashica microtec 70 P&S.   Yes, I used all the cameras except for the backup Nikon.  I mostly shot b&w, and hope to develop the film this week.
 The lenses I chose for the Nikon reflect my typical interest -- landscapes, architecture and nature. So, I chose a 24mm 2.8, 55 mm Micro-Nikkor, 50mm 1.4, 105mm 2.5, and 35-135 Tokina zoom that I recently purchased. A selection of filters - Red, Yellow, Orange, ND4, Polarizer,  split  graduated ND filter, and one close-up diopter were all that I needed. I mostly used the Polarizer and the Orange filter.  A small flash, cable release, lens brush, extra batteries, and business cards pretty much fill the Tamrac bag.
In the second bag, The Yashica A and the Leica M2, my new Sekonic light meter, film, cable release are pretty much it.
I later added the Yashica Microtec to finish up the roll of film that was in it.

In all, I shot about 10 rolls over the course of the 5 days -- and did a lot more shooting with the Leica than I expected I would.  The Nikon 1 got a fair amount of use, as well -- and it has proven to be a reliable and quality travel camera.  What I didn't bring is just as noteworthy.  I didn't bring the Mamiya C330, nor my DSLR bag, nor the Pentax 6x7 or the F100, etc.  I kept things pretty simple, and it pays off in working better with a small amount of gear.
I'll close with a cliche sunset shot from Preque Isle, one of my favorite places to shoot in Marquette. It was taken with my Nikon 1J1 on a carbon-fiber tripod, .5 sec at f/16, ISO 100 -.3 compensation, with the 10-30mm zoom at 30mm.

Friday, July 25, 2014

500th Post!

I never expected to have 500 blog posts. Ever. A blog is a way to express one's self, and when I am feeling creative, the post come easily.  When Iam not, or too busy, it does not get written.  I don't have a schedule or a plan for blog posts. They happen when I feel like writing.  When I started this blog in 2006, I really had no idea where I would be going with it, but I knew that I loved photography and using cameras of all sorts, hence the name Random Camera Blog. RCB has been a fun outlet for me, and has kept me writing about photography.  Sometimes I put out 4 or 5 posts in a months, sometimes only one. I try to keep them interesting, and I thought you might be interested in the stats. Here is a capture of stats from over the past weekend:

The average monthly pages views hovers around 5000, which I think is pretty good.  The all-time most viewed post is the one about the Argus 75, and the second is a review of the Gakken-Flex.  Wow.  Who knew that the Argus 75 post would be so popular?  It's the first thing that shows up in searches on that camera, too.  So, I am quite pleased to have a lot of followers as well as many visitors. I hope that viewers find my information useful and that a post has inspired them to try something new.

Only one thing bugs the hell out of me regarding the blog -- I really dislike when someone looks like they are making a comment about a post, but it is really an advertisement for their web site. Do you really think I want a link to some half-assed web store selling digital stuff?  Nope.  You get deleted.  I appreciate real comments and am always willing to reply if you have a question.

I don't want to just write a bout the blog.  I didn't get to 500 posts without writing SOMETHING about cameras.  As you can tell from my posts, I have had a lot of them pass through my hands over the years.  Some I keep, others I use for a while, and then sell, give-away, or trade for something else.  Recently, I have written quite a bit about the cameras that I have been selling for someone else.  I also have a soft spot for camera bargains.  Here is one such bargain...  
I was in the local thrift shop a few weeks ago and picked up this nice Canon EOS Rebel X 35mm SLR with the 35-80 kit lens for the sum of 10 dollars.  A decent pizza costs more than that.  Three bottles of wine can cost that at Trader Joe's.  A six-pack of beer can cost that.  Hell, a roll of film can cost $10.  Now, I have gone through my Canon EOS phase a while back, and sold off all the Canon gear that I had acquired.  However, seeing that lonely camera in the case for $10 made me buy it.  It was pretty clean, and only needed a fresh set of batteries (CR123)  and film.  The Rebel X (or at least THIS rebel X) does not have a built-in pop-up flash.  From the Canon Museum web site: "Based on the popular EOS Kiss marketed in October 1993, the Rebel X was for the North American market. The Rebel X did not have a built-in flash, auto date back, and metered manual like the Kiss. The Rebel X was 55 g lighter than the Kiss.." So, the camera is 21 years old. Wow. It still takes great photos, and weighs less than 500 grams. In fact, it is so light that it can be carried in the hand without fatigue. I have shot one roll with it, and am working on another. If you are a mostly digital user, and want to experiment with film, find yourself a cheap Rebel and use the lenses that you already have (except for the lenses that are only for APS-C DSLRs). So, for less than a dinner, you can find yourself a decent modern film camera with features that you are probably already used to on your DSLR.

Some images from the first roll, shot on Kodak B&W C-41 400 film.

The camera just plain works, and remember, yes, it's not the camera, but the person using it--however, some cameras do make it easier to "get the picture." The EOS Rebel was a fantastic entry into using modern SLRs, and certainly still holds its own against later Rebels that appeared.

Thanks for viewing the 500th post of Random Camera Blog, and USE FILM!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Living Light with the Leica M2

 The only Leica that I have previously owned was a very old Model A - the first version without a removable lens.  That particular camera had been given to me by a woman in her 90s, and she had used it a lot many years before.  By the time it came into my hands, it was a relict of sorts, and as far as I was concerned, no more useful to me than using an Argus A.  So I sold it for a tidy sum on ebay, and bought a camera and other things with the money.  I have no regrets, as it was around 2001, and the camera I bought - a used Nikon F2 was very useful to me.  Another time someone had a nice Leica IIIf that I tried out, and it was awful for a glasses wearer.  The viewfinder was not any better than my Argus C3.  Mechanically a nice camera, though.  I suppose it was one of those things  that you either love or don't on first sight.  I never bought into the Leica mystique, mostly I suppose because I couldn't BUY into it.  Between the obscene prices paid for (used and new)  lenses  and the bodies, and the fact there there are so many "poor man's Leicas" out there, I knew that I would never be able to afford one.  As far as "poor man's Leicas" I think I have used every one of them - Canon QL17, Konica Auto S2, Yashica rangefinders of various models, Fed 5, Olympus 35 RC, Minolta Hi-Matic 11, Contax G1, Konica Hexar, and I am sure there have been others.  Of those cameras, the only one I believe might actually qualify is the Fed 5.  Why?  Interchangeable lenses and the ability to shoot fully manually without any sort of automation. The Fed 5 has a better VF than the Leica IIIf that I tried, for sure. So, where does the subject of the title of this post come in?

If you have read my previous posts, you'll know that I am selling the photo gear from the estate of a deceased photographer.  There have been some very amazing cameras that I have tried out - (a) to make sure that they work and (b) to satisfy my curiosity.One of the cameras - a Leica M2 with a 35mm f/1.4 Summilux has been in my hands for over a month now.  I have shot 5 rolls of film with it, and have become comfortable using it.  Its value is high due to the fantastic 35mm Summilux attached to it, and that is something I have to try and not think about when carrying it.  To anyone else, it's just an old-looking "obsolete"  film camera.  The M2 body has it share of small dings and signs of use, but it works beautifully.  The lens is clear and also works well.  The more I used the camera, the more I came to want it.  So, in lieu of a 25% commission for the gear I am selling, I'm taking the M2 and lens as partial payment.    I would never be able to buy one outright.

My impression of the  M2 so far is that I now understand why this 57 year old camera has such a following.  Yes, there are newer M models, some even have a sensor instead of film -- and cost as much as 3 month's pay (at least for me.)  The M2's viewfinder is wonderfully bright and sharp, and the frame lines adjust automatically for most of the lenses attached to it. I bought a Fotodiox M39>M adapter so I could use the Industar-61 50mm f/2.8 lens from my Fed 5, and it works very well on the M2.

It takes a little while to feel how a camera works in one's hands, and become less conscious about the controls to the point where making a photo is more about what in in your head than what is in your hands.  I get it.  The M2 does this very quickly.  I bought a new Sekonic light meter - Twinmate L-208 which is lightweight and can be attached to the flash shoe on the the camera.  I tried that, and it makes the camera bulkier, so I use the meter on the lanyard.  For sunny-16 lovers like me, I only need to use the meter in tricky lighting situations, or indoors.  I am getting better at loading the film, which I think has been a sore point with the Leicas, but I understand it now.  No film doors flying open.  Oh, and this camera is soooo quiet!

I have always said that I am not a rangefinder guy.  I much prefer the feedback that I get from an SLR and the ability to change lenses, do macro, etc.  However, there are a lot of things I shoot that a 35mm or 50mm lens is all that is required, and the ergonomics and sharpness of the M2 have convinced me that this is the carry-around camera to go to for road trips, etc.  It fits easily into a small bag, and doesn't need batteries.  A few rolls of film, a filter or two, and the meter, and I am set.  Living light?  I think so.  This camera does make me think about light.

So, to close, here are a few photos thus far.  Some are still waiting to be developed.
Mason, MI

Portland, MI

Mason, MI

Charlotte, MI

Michigan League, Ann Arbor

Portland, MI

Lyons, MI

Ann Arbor, MI

basement of the League, Ann Arbor

rural SE Michigan.