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!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

FINALLY! Ann Arbor Gets a Real Camera Store!

They are still stocking the store, but stop in, anyway.
A few months ago,  I had heard a rumor about someone opening a camera shop in Ann Arbor, but the details were somewhat vague.  Then a few weeks ago, I found out that a store with the name Camera Mall was going to open soon.  A week ago, I walked over to the store on East Washington, less than a block from N. State Street.  A few other fellow crappy camera club folks had already been there.  I walked in, and was greeted by the manager, Desmond Kolean-Burley, and it seemed a bit surreal to be standing in a store with lots of shiny new cameras and gear.  In Ann Arbor.  It has been a few years since we have had that opportunity. I had a great chat with Desmond, and he was busily getting the store stocked and ready for business.  Today, I went back down, and I wasn't the only other person in the store, and the stock was being shelved as quickly as they could do it.  You can bet I had a case of lens lust, seeing so many lovely new lenses in the glass case.  I bought some packs of film (and yes, they will be carrying Impossible Project film), and chatted for a while.  It's obvious that Desmond knows his stuff, and the location is great - close to campus, close to the heart of downtown, and parking is nearby.  I can only hope that folks go and buy their stuff their and support Camera Mall's effort!

Camera Mall is located at 518 East Washington Street, Ann Arbor.  You can reach the store at 231-218-3353.  Desmond indicated that the stock is still coming in, and I suspect that by the end of April everything will be in place.  However, you can certainly buy lenses, bodies, film, used film cameras, digital cameras, etc. right now.  I think the store will also be operating a photo lab.

To Desmond and the other Camera Mall folks (out of Muskegon, MI) -- Welcome to Ann Arbor, and thanks for taking a chance on us!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thrift Store Adventures

Today I decided to visit the Saturday morning Kiwanis sale in Ann Arbor.  I haven't been there is a few years, and a photography contact told me about a couple of Miranda SLRs that were in the glass case there.  So, Adrienne and I went downtown and I immediately head up to the second floor with Tom, one of the volunteers that works with the cameras.  Sure, there were two Mirandas (a brand which I have not previously used), and I picked up the more recent one, a Sensorex II. I also picked up some other items very cheaply.  A cheap Argus 35mm outfit for $1 and the original K-mart sticker on the back listed it for $24.99!    A neck strap for $2, some 1 GB CF memory cards, and a Bogen quick-release plate for $2.  Over a decade ago, my daughter and I would occasionally visit the sale, and like any operation of this type, it changed from week to week.  I know I got some bargains back then, and with many people abandoning their film cameras or seeing little value in them, they end up in places like Kiwanis.  Today's visit at least made me more aware of what they have -- and depending on what one is looking for -- there is something for everyone.  Light meters, expired film, plastic cameras, vintage Kodaks, modern and vintage SLRs, lenses, lots of flashes, books, etc.  It's certainly worth stopping in from time to time to check it out.
Lots of stuff to look over.
 Because the Kiwanis folks have volunteers that look over the items, you are more likely to find that things actually work.  It's a good place to browse, but since it is only open on Saturday mornings, it can be quite packed and busy, too.

The Miranda Sensorex II I purchased is in great shape. I put in a battery and turned on the meter, and it sprang to life.  It all looks very clean, so I am going to shoot a roll of b&w this weekend, to see how it works.

Later on, we stopped at the Ann Arbor Recycle/Reuse center, which is open every day, and things can come and go very quickly.
Tom Nighswander, local photographer and Kiwanis volunteer
 I have purchased many books there over the years, as well as some camera gear.  It's all very spotty though, and things don't sit around too long unless they are really awful.  All I saw there was a Dacora-Matic 4D camera from 1960.  Dusty and probably with a non-working Selenium meter, I left it on the counter.  It was interesting to see, though.  An instance where the push-button craze just went too far!

The fun thing about thrift stores is the hunt -- and finding something that you think is a bargain, versus the wait and see atmosphere on ebay.  Browsing is serendipitous, which can also lead to some very interesting finds.

We all have stories about great thrift store finds.  What's yours?
in the glass case

The Miranda Sensorex II is a beauty.

Dacora-Matic 4D.  An odd one.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Look at the Konica TC-X

Sometime last fall, I found a nice example of the  Konica TC-X SLR, which appeared in 1983.  It has been termed the first "all plastic-bodied SLR" and was manufactured by Cosina for Konica.  The one I purchased came with a gaudy Konica strap, which certainly is attention-getting!  The TC-X is typical of Konica's autoreflex line of cameras in that it features shutter priority operation, and much like the Autorflex TC it replaced, the shutter speeds range from 1/8 to 1/1000 sec., + B.  While the camera does offer DX-code reading to set the ISO, it can also be manually set for a range of 50 to 1600.  The on-off switch on the top deck next to the film winding lever is easy to use, and the shutter button has a threaded recess for a cable release.  There is a self-timer switch on the front of the camera.   That's pretty much it for features.  Oh, and it has a very plastic body.  I suspect it has a pentamirror rather than a pentaprism, as the image through the viewfinder is nowhere near as nice as that found on an Autoreflex T.   However, it does have a split image circle at the center microprism, which does aid in focus.

So far, I have only shot a roll of expired Tmax-100 which I recently developed.  The exposures look good, and with the 40mm 1.8 lens as pictured, the combo makes for a very light, fairly compact SLR.  The body uses 1 AAA battery for the metering and auto-exposure.  If power fails, you can still use the camera manually by setting the aperture and shutter speeds independently.

Like all the Konicas that I have used, the shutter-priority operation is an acquired taste.  I prefer aperture-priority, but it's not a big deal making the adjustment.  The Konica glass is very good, and the body very cheap.  I see no reason why this would not make a pretty good camera for street photography.  It takes up little space, and ought to give good results.

All of the images that follow were taken during the A3C3 photo meetup in Clinton, MI last November.