Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Yashica Electro 35 CC

Yashica produced quite an array of 35mm rangefinder cameras. In the early 1950s, they manufactured only twin-Lens reflex cameras, but expanded to 35 mm after they purchased the Nicca Camera Works in 1958. It wasn’t until about 1959 that Yashica produced 35mm rangefinders of their own design, starting with the Yashica YK.
Yashica YK, circa 1959

The early 35mm rangefinders were all fully manual, with the Lynx and Minister lines manufactured to about 1970. The Lynx and Minister cameras featured uncoupled meters and full manual operation, early models had selenium cells, and later models have CdS meter cells.

Yashica Lynx 14E IC - circa 1969

Yashica Minister III, circa 1966. Note the Selenium cells around the lens.
 With the Electro 35 series, starting in 1966, the cameras featured  CdS exposure metering, relatively fast 45 mm lenses, and electronic aperture-priority auto-exposure.  My early experience (between 2000 and 2012) with the Electro 35 series was not favorable.  All too often I encountered a camera that required a battery I could not find.  In some cases, a camera looked really great cosmetically, but was dead as a doornail mechanically.  In addition, I thought the cameras were bulky and finicky.  In the ensuing years, I learned about the PAD of death problem and the Yashica Guy that made battery adapters.  I think my biggest hangup with these cameras is that while they are aperture-priority, I have no indication of what the actual shutter speed is, and unlike a camera such as the Konica Auto S2, there is no manual mode available.  Yes, the Electro 35 series have a following, and many people liked them, but I was never a fan.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, post-1975.

 There has been a lot written about the Yashica Electro 35 series which I am not going to duplicate here. Over the years, many of the cameras became unusable due to lack of a proper battery and the PAD of death affecting many of them. Mike Elek has an excellent post on the PAD of death.  As for battery replacement, visit the Yashica Guy and order a battery adapter that will make your Electro 35 camera usable.

As I previously stated, I was not a fan of the Electro 35 series.  However, in December, a very minty Electro 35 CC came my way that seemed to work. It doesn't need any battery adapter, allowing me to use a single 6v 4LR44 battery.  Now, the Electro 35 CC is a bit of a different beast compared to the Electro 35 GSN.  Stephen Gandy's Camera Quest site has an excellent review of the Electro 35 CC, and I have always been intrigued about this camera, but never saw one until now. 

It sure is a pretty camera!
What sets the Electro 35 CC apart from the rest of its line is the 35mm f/1.8 lens.  The Electro 35 series typically feature a 45mm f/1.7 lens, though the Electro 35 MC has a 40mm f/2.8 lens.  The 35 CC is also more compact the the rest.  I found an interesting error in McKeown's Cameras (page 1026) that lists the Electro 35 CC as having a 50mm f/1.7 lens.  The Electro 35 CC was sold from 1970-75, and is apparently one of the rarer models.  The original Electro 35 appeared in 1966, and the Electro 35 GSN was possibly the last model, as it appeared in 1975 and was sold into the early 1980s.

Electro 35 CC features:
  • Lens: 35mm, f/1.8, 6 elements in 4 groups.
  • Shutter: between-the-lens, electronically controlled two-leaved type.
  • Shutter Speeds: 8 sec - 1/250 sec.
  • Exposure Meter: CdS cell located above front lens element, allowing metering with filters attached.
  • Exposure Value Range: EV -1 - EV 16.
  • Film Speed Range: ISO 25-500.
  • Flash: PC socket, and only a cold shoe (why?).
  • Focusing:  rangefinder-type.
  • Viewfinder Information: Overexposure and slow speed indicator
  • Film Advance: Manual, lever operated, single-stroke.
  • Self-Timer: Mechanical, 10-sec. delay.
  • Filter Mount: 52 mm.
  • Battery:  6V PX28, or 4LR44 . Battery check illuminates frame counter if battery is good.  Lock button around shutter release to avoid accidental exposure.
  • Dimensions: 120 x 74 x 59 mm
  • Weight: 550 g.
  • Finish of body: black only, no chrome models.
My experience  with the Electro 35 CC was satisfactory, overall.  The rangefinder focusing was easy to see, and the relatively compact aspect of the camera made it a joy to use.  I think one has to use one of the Electro series for a while just to get used to the way they work with the over-under exposure arrows.  Since the maximum shutter speed on the Electro 35 CC is only 1/250 sec, I think using it with slower films is a good idea.  Of course, an ND filter could be used for high speed films.  It's certainly a camera deserving of some praise, in part because it does not require a battery adaptor, its compact size,  35mm focal length, and ease of use. I still wish the camera had a fully manual mode, but I will just have to accept it the way it is. It's about the size and weight of my Canon QL-17 GIII - in other words, compact and easy to carry around. It's also very quiet.

Here are some sample images taken over the past few months. Black and white images were shot in Columbia SC on expired Plus-X; color images were taken in Columbia SC and Ashevill NC on Fuji Superia 200.

I'll have to do more shooting with this cute, compact, and "ever-ready" camera.  I believe it has earned a place in my camera bag.  

Friday, May 15, 2020

One Roll Review - Jazzy Blues

 Ultrafine Online  (aka Photowarehouse) has been selling some really off-beat films lately. My curiosity was piqued a while back, and I ordered a couple of rolls of their Jazzy Blues C-41 film.  From their online information - yes, everything would be rendered as a shade of blue, and the intensity depends on the exposure.  From their description:

"Based upon the premise of our popular Ultrafine Colouruption Films, comes a new hue, done in Blue. Another experimental Color Print Film that we have been shooting and having fun with here. Enjoy creating your own slow blues medley with this fine grain, standard C-41 process color print film. Very Slow. Can be shot at ISO 6, 12, up to 25.  C-41 Process. Fun and Experimental"

So, as an "experimental film" what should I shoot with it?  I loaded my Nikon FE2 with the Jazzy Blues film, and set it at ISO 25.  I carried it around while doing my normal shooting and eventually finished the roll.  I sent it into The Darkroom Lab for standard C-41 processing, and scanned the film myself on my Epson V700 scanner.

First of all, the film appears to be on a Mylar base, and there is no orange C-41 masking as you would expect from a typical C-41 color film.  The negatives were yellow, so the emulsion appears to lack cyan and magenta layers.  It seems very fine-grained, so I am guessing that the film was originally used for some process in the cine industry. It's unlike any film that I have shot previously.

While I shot it at ISO 25, I think that ISO 12 may have been a better idea, so my next roll will be shot at ISO 12.  It definitely is contrasty in direct sum, which is okay. One image from Ivy Creek Falls looks pretty darn good for a long exposure. 

When I played around with the histogram in post, I could achieve some VERY wild results. I did some histogram improvements before the scans, and some looked pretty good, others, not so much.  As an experimental film, it is a lot of fun to see what I got for the results.  It's pretty slow, so I suggest a tripod for the best results. 
trippy post effects can be achieved!

Here are a bunch of images from my first roll. It's certainly an odd-ball kind of film, but if you are looking for something that's really outside the norm for shooting, you should give it a try.  At less than $5/roll for 36 exposures, it's a bargain for experimenting with.  It certainly ought to make portraiture interesting.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Send in the Clones

Many people are familiar with the Diana Camera, that cheap 1960-70s plastic camera that was made to be a promotional gift/prize. However, as we now know, the camera became an icon of photographic artistry, as seen by David Featherstone's The Diana Show (1980, The Friends of Photography, ISBN 0-933286-17-1), and Nancy Rexroth’s book, Iowa (1975, reprinted 2017, University of Texas Press, ISBN 978-1-4773-1041-0).   The vignetting, aberration, and peculiarities that varied from camera to camera made the Diana a cult camera. While the Diana does feature some modest controls, its overall construction is fairly flimsy, and certainly not as well-constructed as the much-later Holga. To remedy some of the aberration from the cheap plastic lens, the film mask was made to be about 4 x 4 cm on 120 film. The bonus was that gave us 16 negatives from a roll. You’d think that such an inexpensive camera would be ignored for what it was, but instead, several companies made clones of the camera.

Hong Kong was the place where all the cheap cameras were made before China opened up to the World, and the Diana and subsequent clones, made in Hong Kong, represented the then lassiez-faire attitude towards copyright and trademarks. It’s possible that the same factory turned out most of the clones, but we’ll probably never know. The Great Wall Plastics Company in Hong Kong produced the Diana at least until about 1980, and it's safe to say that the concurrent clones probably lasted into the 1980s.

While not at all in the same league as the collectible fake Russian Leicas, there are a number of people that do collect the Dianas and the at least 70 named copies provide a lot to explore. Being cheap plastic, the cameras don’t sell for a whole lot. Of course, there are modern Dianas, the Diana +, made by Lomography, that took the original design and improved upon it, and these should not be confused with the Hong-Kong variants. Until the Lomography-made Diana + came out, vintage Dianas were selling for over $50. I remember an estate sale that I was helping with in 2007, and the deceased hoarder had plastic bags of unopened original Dianas that he picked up at flea markets, etc. We thought that was quite the find at the time.  A few years ago, my friend Marcy Merrill sent me a box of Diana clones that she picked up at a camera swap.     Not all of the clones are identical in performance. The Lina and the Pokey have only a shutter button, with molded plastic tabs on the lens barrel that are there only to give the appearance of other controls, taking the craptastic quality to an even lower level.

The original Diana (lower center) and clones. The 21st century Lomography Diana+
is right above the original.

What prompted this essay was my use of a Banier camera, so similar to the Diana, that it’s pretty much an exact copy. I had started a roll of vintage Verichrome Pan on it in 2018, and pulled it out of the drawer the other day and finished shooting the rest of the film. I developed the film in D-96 for 8 minutes, and the negatives came out very well. A few examples are shown below.

Bill Schwab (center), Photostock 2018

Saluda, NC 2020

Saluda, NC 2020

Fairview, NC, 2020

Saluda, NC 2020

If you are out shooting with a Diana or a clone  nobody will ever take you to be a serious photographer. However, as we know, it’s all in how you use the tools, and the Diana can be used to take some quite memorable and engrossing images.  The original Dianas are even better than the Holga if you want to pursue low-fi photography. As in "better", I mean more aberration, light leaks, and more “atmosphere.” The Diana + is certainly a better made and more reliable camera than the original, but it lacks the craptastic plastic uniqueness of the original.

There are still many of these clones on eBay, and because of the Lomography Diana + and Diana-mini (which can make 24mm square negatives on 35mm film), the prices of the clones vary greatly.  New Diana+ cameras sell for more, and the older clones and original Dianas sell from $10 and up.    To get an idea of the names of Diana  clones, check out

In short, there is a reason to use the Diana, and the results may be something that will lead you to explore how the camera affects not only the images you take, but the subsequent interpretation of them.  It's not always clarity of image that we  seek, but clarity of ideas, and the toy cameras can lead one down a path where reality is bent and shaped by a plastic lens.

Michigan State Fair, 2006

Protest, 2006

Black Rocks, 2007

flag, 2018

King Cone, 2006

Greenfield Village, 2008

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2020

Fostoria, OH, WPPD 2016.

Tomorrow, April 26, is the last Sunday in April, also known as Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD).  There seem to be a lot of photo events on the calendar -- 'Roid Week, Toy Camera Day, Argust Day, World Photography Day, etc.  However, WPPD is a lot more organized, as it has a web site devoted to the day. I have participated off and on over the years, and this year, I definitely will be making some pinhole photos.  Unfortunately, the pinhole community lost Eric Renner, who died on April 9.  You may not know his name, but his book - "Pinhole Photography - Rediscovering a Historic Technique" (Focal Press) is an amazing book, and great resource for anyone wanting to know more about pinhole and zone plate photography.  He started pioneering work with pinhole cameras in the 1970s, and from the Freestyle Photo page -

"Mr. Eric Renner is the founder and co-director of Pinhole Resource, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing information about pinhole photography. He is also founder and co-editor of Pinhole Journal, published three times a year, and gives educational lectures and workshops internationally. Renner has worked in pinhole photography for 32 years. Some of his recent work in assemblages are made in collaboration with his wife Nancy Spencer. His photographs are exhibited in major collections throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, the California Museum of Photography, the National Gallery of Canada, and Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris, France. Renner is the author of "Pinhole Photography: Rediscovering a Historic Technique"

That short summary only tells a part of the story. Mr. Renner's work  is in many museums and collections, and his pioneering work with pinhole photography wasn't just about the mechanics and technique, it was also because he could tell a story with his photographs. I know that the first time anyone uses a pinhole camera, that person is truly amazed to get an image from something so primitive and non-technological as an oatmeal box with a tiny hole.  To take it to the next level - actually making an interesting photo and not that the photo is interesting because it was taken using a pinhole is a great achievement.  To be fair, the same argument can be made for a lot of photography.  Do you like a certain photo solely because of the process used to make it, or it it because of the intrinsic qualities of the image?  Most of us like a certain image because of what we see in it, how it affects us, or that we relate to it in some way.  The mechanical process of normal photography used to make the photo is far less interesting.  The thought process leading to the making of the image, however, is often of interest to us.  With pinhole photography, there is not only the making of the image, there is the making of the camera in a way that affects the image, so the entire process from the camera design to the final image is part of the thought process. 

I will say that pinhole photography, because of its mechanical attributes - long exposures, great depth of field, never fully sharp, but detailed images, and the odd effects that are a result of making almost any dark container a camera, can lead us to make photographs that are unlike any other process.  In that pinhole reality, people can accomplish amazing works that transcend time and physical constraints of the normal camera with a lens.  Eric Renner took pinhole photography from the status of a clever classroom exercise to an artistic photographic genre that is still relevant and exciting.  In Renner's book you'll see the work of a number of photographers, and I think that it can inspire others to try something new.  Yes, pinhole photography can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it, and it can show a "reality" that is not done with any other process. 

Pinhole photography may be the perfect medium for this COVID-19 mess that we are in. Social distancing, shuttered stores and restaurants, closed off parks and natural areas, and those stay-at-home suggestions could result in some creative spark that a pinhole camera image is the perfect for. 

Good luck tomorrow, and may your pinhole images be memorable!

I'll be using my Hamm Camera Pinbox camera - a cardboard camera that uses 120 roll film.  So, I'm hoping for no rain. 

Here's an image from my first roll from the Pinbox, using Ultrafine's Extreme 100 film.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Argus C-3 Follow-up.

My recent post about the Argus C-3 generated a lot of interest, and comments both on the blog and on social media.  There's no doubt that the C-3 was a popular camera into the 1960s, and for some young photographers, it may have been a hand-me-down from a parent that had probably moved to a better camera.  Nonetheless, an Argus C-3 can be used to take pretty good photographs, and to show that I can still use one, a shot a roll of Eastman 5222 a few weeks ago.  I developed the film in D-96 and the results are excellent.   One thing that I quickly found out is that one has to be careful about holding the camera.  A finger in the wrong spot gets hit by the cocking lever when the shutter button is pressed. Definitely not an ergonomic camera, but yet, it does work pretty well.  Also, when rewinding the film, hold the film catch button down while rewinding - which takes forever, because there is no crank, just a thin knurled knob.

You can watch my Photo Notes Episode 2 on D-96.

Here are some photos of Asheville, NC, during our COVID-19 shutdown.