Saturday, May 16, 2015

May Morning Musings

It seems that most of my recent posts have centered around the title of this blog – random cameras. While it is generally the focus here, I have not said a whole lot about what other things have been going on. Right now I am sitting on the front porch, listening to the gentle rain, and the birds starting their day, coffee at my side, and an HP mini laptop on my lap. May is my favorite month of the year, as it progresses from the anticipation of April to the promises of summer. The varied hues of green, and the progression of blooms in the garden are a tonic that nourishes my psyche. It's a serene morning here, and it brings clarity as well as energy. It's all to easy to be inundated with work and the negative things that are going on the world. Step out into nature – listen, look, and enjoy what is there. As a naturalist, I know an awful lot about the natural world. Photography has always been a way for me to become more engaged in nature, and when I am in the garden photographing, I always see some scene that is captivating. May is sort of the like opening presents. Every day is something new, and the growth of the plants, emerging insects, migrating songbirds, the entire landscape is alive with promise and rebirth. We plan for the the things we will do in the summer, and before you know it, summer is almost over. May is different. It goes by a little too quickly, and as I grow older, I am aware of the limited number of Mays there are ahead of me. All the reason to enjoy them even more.

Now, for some May images.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Postcards From Abroad

Back in March, I was contacted by a young woman on our Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club facebook page. She was getting into using film cameras, and wasn't sure if her exposures were as they were supposed to be.  Ariel had some questions about her Yashica Electro GN that she had recently purchased at a local resale shop.  She had shot a couple of rolls of color film with it and needed some assurance that it was working properly, and some photography tips.  It turns out that she was planning a hike across Spain and wanted to be independent of the digital world, shooting film to document her trip.  We met up at a local coffee shop and chatted for over an hour, discussing film photography, accessories, technique, and so forth.  It was clear to me that she had been reading up on her camera and film shooting, and it was a fun chat, as I had brought her some goodies to use.  It's easy to forget how exciting it was when someone gave me something as simple as a mini-tripod, some filters, and a cable release.  Some of us "old-timers" have lots of stuff sitting around that we aren't using, and I have always made a point to share and mentor when I can.  I have benefited a great deal from the generosity of others, and passing things along continues the good karma.

After I left the coffee shop I thought about Ariel's trip and it occurred to me that what she needed was a small, reliable 35mm camera that was pocketable.  Alas!  The Olympus Stylus Epic was the answer. I had one with the IR remote that would be perfect for such a trip.  I emailed her and we met again before she left for her adventure.  I showed her the basic camera functions, and told her the camera was perfect for that mini-tripod, as she could take self-portraits using the IR remote.  She was reassured by the camera's reliability and would be a good backup to the Yashica.
a postcard of Casa de Conches in Salamanca, Spain.

Yesterday, I received a post card from Salamanca, Spain.  I was at first puzzled and then realized as I turned it over to read it, that it was from Ariel.  She is doing well and using the Olympus Stylus camera every day. She made my day.  Good travels, Ariel, and we'll look at your photos after you return!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

KW's Praktina FX

About a month ago, I encountered a Praktina FX while at work.  It was being discarded, as it was time to clean out some storerooms.  K.W. is short for Kamera-Werkstatten, which became part of the VEB Pentacon group in 1964.  KW is better known for the Praktica line of cameras, which were produced to about 1990.  The Praktina, while an SLR, also has a separate optical finder.  Like other cameras of its type in the early 1950s, it does not have an auto-return mirror.  Since the camera is able to use a bulk magazine (450 exposures!) and motor drive, I think that might have made the extra finder useful in such instances.  The Praktina FX was manufactured from 1953-1958.  Unlike the Praktica series, it does not have an M42-type lens mount, but instead has a breech-lock mount, similar to the Canon manual focus cameras of the 1960s-70s.  It was also the first SLR to have a motor drive!

Using this camera was fairly natural, and the only oddity is the lack of a wind-lever.  The lens stops down automatically when the exposure is made.  This model came with a Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f/2 lens.  That design was copied in the Helios 44-2 lens used on many Soviet cameras.
I shot a roll of 100 ultra (Fomapan 100), developed in D-76.  Overall, the images were pretty good, though I should test the camera again with a color film.  There is a very faint haze inside the lens.

Here are a few images shot around town.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It's a Miranda!

A few weeks ago I purchased a really nice example of a Miranda Sensorex II SLR at the Kiwanis sale. At $25, how could I not do so?  Miranda has always been an outlier in my world of 35mm SLR cameras, and I have only seen a few in the flesh, but never have I shot with one until now.  The Sensorex II appeared in 1972, when I was 15.  I certainly would have gone onto becoming a star photographer, if I had that camera then (ha!).  It wasn't until a year later that I received an Exa IIa SLR, which of course, was primitive by comparison. I blame my lack of photographic ascendancy to that turn of events.

Once I got my new to me Miranda home, I checked it out more closely.  Besides the bayonet mount, the camera also has a 44mm thread for the early Miranda lenses.  The shutter button is on the front of the camera, and shutter speeds go from the usual B, and 1-1/1000 sec.  I won't go into the unusual   aperture coupling methodology, but it works.  The power for the meter was supposed to be a mercury cell, but I used a hearing aid (Zinc-air) battery, and the meter is spot on. Everything about the camera was clean and operational.  The next day i took it for a stroll to the N side of town.  Every frame of the roll of expired Fuji Provia 100 came out quite good.   You can find out more about these cameras here. 

In use, it took a little while to get used to the placement of the front-mounted shutter button, but once I did, using the camera was a breeze.  It handles very well, and the match needle and circle on a stick to gauge the exposure works nicely.  The all-metal body seems fairly robust, too.

Here are some examples from the camera on Provia 100 and on Arista 100 ultra b&w film.  I'll have to look for a few more lenses to turn it into a nice kit.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Some Cameras Don't Age Well

The beauty of film cameras is that there are thousands of models that have been made over the years.  If one were limited to 35mm SLRs, well, there are still many hundreds of models, and it's likely that a 50 year old SLR may work just fine, even if the meter does not.  Pop in a roll of film, and you can get high-resolution images without much effort.
Now, forward (or backward, if you prefer)  to 1999. Kodak introduced the DCS 315 Professional SLR. Based on a Nikon Pronea 6i APS body with Kodak digital guts, the camera shot 1.5 megapixel images on a sensor that was a 2.6 crop factor (similar in size to the Nikon 1 sensor!).  Why am I bringing up this camera? Well, we have an area at work where we are accumulating digital detritus to be taken away.  Today, I saw the DCS 315 with some accessories and manuals, so i thought I would give it a try and photograph it before it gets sent away.

I plugged in an AC adapter because the battery tray was missing.  It originally took 6 1.5 v AA batteries.  Sure enough, it powered up.  I attached a Tamron 28-80 AF lens, and shot a few images with it.  The images are stored on a full-sized PCMCIA card of 160 MB.  The other outlet is a firewire port.  Well, none of my computers have firewire, so that was out. My Dell Inspiron laptop runs Ubuntu Linux 14, and has a PCMCIA slot, so I inserted the card (many times the size of a CF card, by the way), and....nada.   So, I could not get any images off the camera.    End of experiment.

As I said, some cameras do not age well.  Just about any digital camera at the dawn of the digital photography explosion is pretty much useless now.  1.5 MP's are nothing to write home about, even then, but because it was DIGITAL, it was cool.  Guess what, it would have been better to shoot slides and scan them in than the images  those cameras produced.  I remember shooting with an Apple Quicktake 200, and regret using the damn thing now, as the 640x480 images are worthless.  Yes, things have progressed, and today, any current DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera will produce bigger images than most of us will ever have a use for.  I suspect the turning point on SLR sales was when 6 MP cameras became the entry-level for the consumers.  You can make a damn nice 8x12 prints from 6 MP (which I have done many times with my D70s, which I still have).  The DCS 315 didn't age well, and was surpassed by better cameras in a short time.  Like some of the other film/digital hybrids, it was too early, too clunky, and expensive.  Early adopters get screwed, don't they?

Meanwhile, the Nikon Pronea 6i used APS film, which of course, had its own set of problems, but good photos from the film was not a problem.  That was a pretty nice body for an APS SLR.  So, there was no feeling of loss as I put the DCS 315 back into the box of junk.  It served its purpose 16 years ago. Now, if that had been a Nikon F5...!

The PCMCIA card is huge, and it's next to an old CF card of only 16 MB!