Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sears and Ricoh SLRs

Many years ago, when I was using K-mount cameras, I had a Ricoh KR-5 that I used in addition to my Pentax MG.  It was a robust camera that was not especially feature-rich, but it served its purpose.  I know that I purchased it on ebay and probably paid something like $40 for it.  That was before the digital deluge.
More recently, I have been buying a few Sears and  Ricoh SLRs.  All of the K-series Sears SLR cameras were made by Ricoh, and were certainly a good value for the time, and are still to be recommended if you want a K-mount SLR.  The Ricoh-branded versions are also good, of course, and compared with bodies made by Pentax of the same period, are, in my opinion, better cameras.
Sears KSX - with 135mm Takumar 
Take the Sears KSX, above.  It features manual and aperture-priority exposure with match-needle. +/- 2 stops exposure compensation by full stops, ISO 12-3200 film setting, X sync of 1/125 sec., shutter speeds of B, 4sec - 1/1000 sec.   I think it is the equivalent of the Ricoh KR-10. The KR-10 was a popular camera and sold well in the 1980-82 time frame.

Sears KSX Super with 50mm f/2 lens
The Sears KSX Super is the equivalent of a Ricoh KR-10X (Not the KR-10 as described elsewhere online).  It features a lock setting on the shutter speed dial, surrounding a flush-mounted shutter release, A and M modes, with shutter speeds ranging from B, and 16 sec to 1/1000 sec.  A self-timer switch is to the L of the prism on the top deck. Exposure compensation dial is +/- 2 stops in 1/3 stop increments. A PC socket for strobes is also located on the front of the camera.

Ricoh XR-7 with a the very good ACCESS 35-70mm F/2.5 zoom.
My latest purchase, the Ricoh XR-7 is very similar to the KSX Super, but also features a multiple exposure button on the back  of the camera, depth of field preview button, an AE lock button, as well as a meter switch button on the front.  That's pretty full-featured, and I paid 9.99 for it.

So, what does all this mean?  Basically, the Ricoh /Sears k-mount bodies are a bargain, and perform well, and while the Pentax logo may have more branding power, the Ricoh bodies often have more features and are better-made.  I have seen several K1000 cameras with de-silvered mirrors and wonky electronics in the Pentax ME and ME super.  You can frequently buy a Sears KSX or a Ricoh for less than a large pizza, including the lens.  They make great cameras for those wanting to use film in a reliable 35mm body.  All of the models take current silver-oxide or alkaline button cells, so no worry about that.  Based on my experience, I rate them a "best buy" and highly recommend them for the shooters out there. there are no lack of K-mount lenses from Pentax, Ricoh, Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and a host of other no-name brands.  If you need a manual, be sure to check out Mike Butkus' camera manuals site, and be sure to pay for his hard work.

I am way behind in developing and scanning in the negatives, so be sure to check my Flickr pages.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Finding My Way in Photography

Last night I was reading the latest issue of Lens Work (No. 115) and an essay by Brooks Jensen ("Those Who Inspire Me") featured comments about Ansel Adams and Josef Sudek -- two photographers that could not be more opposite in terms of recognition, subject matter, and methodology.  Yet, both were dedicated to their craft and vision.  Of the two, Sudek's work is more introspective, moody, but no less beautiful than prints by St. Ansel.   His subject matter is much more limited in scope, as many of his photographs were taken in his studio in Prague.  But to me, what I found interesting was that Sudek was no less dedicated than Adams, no less absorbed in realizing the quality of light was the key to defining an image, and no less productive, having a career that ended with his death in 1976, at the age of 83.
This morning, still thinking about Sudek, I pulled out my copy of the monograph of Josef Sudek that was produced by Sonja Bullaty -- a beautifully-printed volume that was published in 1980, and given to me by my mentor Bill Brudon in 2001 or so.  As I read the introductory text and turned the pages, I realized that I  have a better appreciation for Sudek's work now than I did as an emerging photographer in 2001.  I didn't know what I didn't know back then.  Photography is not about the gear, the lenses, the latest film, the latest megapixels, or the latest body from Canon, Nikon, or Sony.   Photography is about your vision, and how you convey it to others.  Just as painting isn't about the tools and paints, photography should not be about the tools.  It's the end result, of whatever technique and tools that you used to convey your vision.  Knowing HOW to use those tools to do your work IS important.  And that is the key in my mind -- achieving competency with the tools takes time, as does the evolving nature of one's photographic pursuit.  I first got serious about photography in 2000, after, using cameras since 1972 or so.  I wanted to be more proficient with macro photography because a) I was an entomologist and b) because I was unhappy with my results at the time.  I soon learned the techniques and the tools required to do what I needed, and along the way, I found myself drawn into photography not as a means to an end, but as a form of self-expression.    It's taken me a decade to figure out what my vision is, but I think I am getting there.  I recently explained my thought process about a series of images to a couple of people that wanted to know about how I shot my photos at my latest exhibit. I recall saying "Of course it doesn't look like this in reality, but this is how I feel it."
I think that sums up Sudek's work - he truly felt whatever properties of what he was photographing, and carried those feelings into his images.  He contact-printed almost all of his images, so he had to get what he wanted pretty much in camera.   There is a quote by him that I will end with:
"I believe a lot in instinct. One should never dull it by wanting to know everything."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Get Ready for 2105 with a New Calendar!

The 2015 Flower Calendar is now available!
I have been producing these calendars for several years, and as most of them were gifts, I often was asked about how to buy another copy. This year, I am ahead of the holiday season with a supply of my flower-themed calendars. Most of the images are from flowers in our yard, which seems to offer an endless parade of beauty. The 2015 calendar features mostly spring flowers, breaking away from previous versions which tended to reflect the chronology of the seasons. 

These calendars are printed on quality semi-gloss paper stock, and are easy to hang. Each month features a different flower.  Each page measures 8.5 x 11 inches, with enough room to write down notes. 
A single copy is $18, which includes postage. Each additional copy is $14 on the same order.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Svema Redscale 25

image courtesy of the Film Photography Project
A while ago, the Film Photography Project sent me a trial roll of their Svema Redscale 25.  It's a low-ISO film that has lovely muted tones.    It's basically the Svema 100 color film, which I have already tried out, and liked.  The orange mask is lighter than the typical Kodak and Fuji offerings, so by turning it backwards and shooting through the film base, we get the redscale version, which is why it is ISO 25 -- 2 stops of exposure lost due to the orange base.

I loaded up the film in my Sigma SA-7N camera, set the ISO to 25, and over the course of a week or two shot the roll of film.  With an ISO of 25, you probably should shoot this with lots of light or use a tripod for heavy overcast.  Anyhow, after shooting, the film went to Blue  Moon Camera for development, and they sent back perfectly-developed film cut and placed into standard negative sleeves from PrintFile, the kind that I use.  I scanned them in my Epson V700 scanner, and did not alter them except for removal of dust spots.    Here are a few for your viewing.

I am not exactly a fan of redscale in general, because much of the time it is too contrasty and too red. However, the Svema film holds up well in sun, as well as in overcast conditions.  It gives a more "vintage" look to images, and is not grainy.  I suggest giving it a try if you want to shake up your photography a bit and have some fun with it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The show goes on!

Last week I blogged about preparing for my latest one-man show at the Argus Museum.  "Recent Black & White Work" was put up last Thursday, and other than information cards falling off the wall, it went very smoothly.  The opening also coincided with the beginning of an Argus Collector's meeting, so I am sure the turnout reflected that.  However, there were a lot of people jammed into the narrow viewing space, and I really enjoyed talking with the attendees.  For the first time ever, I sold more than one print - five, actually, and it was clear that I made some good choices in my selection of images.  I also got a lot of good feedback.  I asked some people what their favorites were and why.  Some found that a certain image really resonated with them, and there were emotional connections to a few images, as well.    To me, as a photographer, those were really good reinforcement to my own judgement, and the unsolicited praise from people was gratifying.

I shoot for myself, unless it is a paid assignment from someone.  My subjects vary, my choice of tools varies, and the medium varies.  That is one way for me to keep "fresh" and try things.  If you have read through this blog, you will obviously see that.  I don't think I could be content with just ONE camera and one lens.  I am sure I could do a much better job than I did 30 years ago if that is all that I had.  However, being creative for me means being able to use a variety of lenses to achieve a desired result.  Sometimes it is purely serendipitous, but other times, I know what a certain combination will do, and I set out with a goal in mind of getting a desired result. My images of Fayette State Park were  just that.  I knew that the CCTV lens on my Olympus EPL-1 gave me a Petzal-like effect when wide open, and shooting in monochrome gave just the look I wanted...a homage to a late 1800s appearance.  Some people were curious about how I got the effect, and we had wonderful discussions about "getting it in camera" vs. post-processing.

I did shoot some crowd shots at the reception, but they are all on film cameras and I have yet to get them developed. For those, I went simple-- Olympus Infinity and a Nikon One-Touch 35.  I did photograph the setup before it opened, so some of those images are here.   I really was very pleased with how it all turned out.  The exhibit runs until December 5, and the Argus Museum, at 525 West William Street, Ann Arbor, is open from 9-5, M-F.