Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Yashica J-P -- a middle-aged SLR

Back in mid-September I purchased a bit ratty-looking Yashica J-P SLR when I was in Kenton, OH. I paid ten dollars, which I felt was a fair price, given it's condition. After I got it home, I cleaned it up, and ran it through some dry-firing. It seemed to work okay, although sometimes the mirror wanted to hang a bit after the shutter fired. Unlike the later Yashica SLRs, the early models such as the J-P had the "standard" M-42 screw thread lens mount. That mount was used in a variety of cameras in the 1960s and into the 1970s. Pentax, Praktica, Ricoh, Fuji, Cosina, Mamiya, Olympus (before the OM-series), Zenit, and a number of re-badged models, such as Argus, Vivitar, Sears, etc., all had the M-42 mount. While not exactly the swiftest mount for a lens-change, it was a stable mount that had a whole truckload of lenses and accessories that were pretty much interchangeable over a broad number of cameras. A number of manufacturers then changed to more proprietary bayonet lens mounts, and Yashica went to the Contax-Yashica mount (C-Y) in 1975 with the introduction of the FX-1. Yashica J-P
The J-P is a no-frills SLR with the maximum shutter speed at 1/500 second. It does not have TTL metering (that came out with the TL-Super in 1967), but it does have an attachment point for a clip-on external meter that couples to the shutter speed dial. The cloth horizontally-traveling shutter is pretty standard for its time. The lens is an AutoYashinon 5cm f/2. While there is no cold-shoe or hot shoe for the flash, there are two PC contacts for X-sync and FP flashbulbs. After I played with the camera a bit more, I realized that the frame indicator dial was stuck at 33, and the self-timer did not work. Oh well, I decided to run a roll of somewhat expired XP-2 film through it. It took a bit of getting used to having the shutter button on the front of the camera, but overall, the camera was fine after I got used to its few quirks. I took it to downtown Ann Arbor and also up to the UP in early October. Here are a few resulting shots:

Jorie at the shore near Christmas, MI.

The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor - a place for teens to hang out and be creative.

Things go better with Coke.

Rocks and water.

I basically used the "sunny-16" exposure guide for shooting with the camera, as I often did not have an external meter with me. Based on my experience with this Yashica, I am tempted to try a TL-Electro if I ever see one at a cheap price. The lenses in these Yashicas are excellent, and despite the seeming awkwardness of the shutter button (note that there is a reason why they are usually on the top deck of the camera), the camera worked fine for its age and condition. For those with a penchant for M-42 lenses and cameras, the Pentax Spotmatics are not the only game in town. There are a number of good to great SLRs from others that can often be had for the price of a meal at a fast-food restaurant. Scary. They were not cheap when they were introduced, and if you get one in good working order, it'll take photos just as well as anything else you can find.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Everett W. Kuntz exhibit at the Argus Museum

I probably should have posted on this a bit earlier, as the show opening is this Friday, October 21, from 6 - 9 pm. The official press release follows: The Argus Museum proudly presents Sunday Afternoon on the Porch: Reflections of a Small Town in Iowa, 1939-1942, photographs by Everett W. Kuntz. The exhibition runs from October 21st through November 18th, 2011. As a teenage farm boy in Ridgeway Iowa, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Everett W. Kuntz, using the Argus AF camera he purchased for $12.50, captured images of everyday life near and around his hometown. He did not have the money to have the shots printed, and eventually, as he went off to college and later settled in Minneapolis, he forgot he even had them. Some 60 years later, as he lay dying of cancer, he remembered. "He went to the basement and opened a box," said his son, David Kuntz. "And there they were." In 2008, The University of Iowa Press published the photographs, which are accompanied by vignettes written by Jim Heynen. The book, as well as matted prints of Kuntz's images, may be purchased at the Museum for the duration of the exhibit. Argus Museum
The opening will be held on Friday, October 21st from 6 to 9pm at the Argus Museum. The museum is located on the second floor of the Argus l building, 525 West William, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. The event is free and refreshments will be served. The musical performance of the Julian Allen Trio will add to the festivities. (The previously-recorded Ann Arbor-based group consisting of Marcus Elliot, Ben Rolston, and Julian Allen, finds relevance and inspiration through many musical forms and origins.) Kuntz's photographs will be exhibited October 21 through November 18th, Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm. For more information, please contact Cheryl Chidester at 734-759-0770 or email Cheryl at The event is supported by the family of Everett W. Kuntz, the Argus Collectors Group, Bill Martin, and O'Neal Construction.

In addition, there is more: Also on display will be artifacts from the Argus Museum collections. Products manufactured by the Argus Camera Company, including rare objects and prototypes, are featured, as well as military items and employees’ personal effects. Many of the artifacts on display were manufactured in the same building which now houses the Museum.

Former Argus employees and their families will be invited to the opening, giving those interested a chance to speak with them. Argus-related presentations are planned for Saturday, October 22nd, with an afternoon field trip to the Yankee Air Museum which will include a private tour and photography opportunities. (A $2.50 admission fee per person will be charged.) The Argus Museum Archives will open for research on Sunday, October 23rd. Reservations are required for Saturday and Sunday events. If you are interested in giving a presentation (it can be an informal one), please contact Cheryl Chidester.
yankee lady B-17

If you have any interest in vernacular photography, history, old cameras, and especially Argus, this will be a very fun event! I'll be there Friday night.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October Splendor in the U.P.

I was in Marquette from Oct. 6-9, in the midst of a heat wave. It was something having temperatures around 80, and for the first time, I wished I had brought shorts with me. I have been there in mid-summer when it was cooler. However, it was nice having such fine weather without biting insects, and the angle of the sun made for some awesome shooting. The leaves were almost at their peak coloration, but I think the prolonged dry spell muted the colors. I was able to get out and do a bit of shooting, and mostly used my recently-acquired Nikon F100 and my Hasselblad. The Canon G11 got a pretty good workout, too, as it is prefect for hikes in the woods when I don't want to be burdened with a lot of gear. I always like to visit Presque Isle Park in Marquette, and I am never disappointed with the potential for good shots there. The more I visit it, the more interesting angles and viewpoints I see.

The Black Rocks -- the oldest rock in Michigan.

The last time I was there in late August, I photographed a wonderful sunset, and that's one of the really attractive aspects of being on the shore of Lake Superior - the skies are often just plain awesome -- whether day or night. It's a real change being away from the city lights, and the plethora of jet trails that we have downstate. Sunsets can seemingly go on forever, when you have the lake as the horizon. This time though, I captured a sunset while walking the trail back to the place we own in Harvey. It was a delightful sight.

Adrienne and I explored a bit E of Harvey, on DNR land off Kawbawgam Trail -- there you'll find some pine plains with lots of blueberry, which was turning scarlet - making for some scenic roadsides. I shot that area with my F100, and will get negaatives scanned in this weekend from that trip. On Saturday, my daughter Jorie and I drove over to Christmas, which is just W of Munising. There, we met up with a bunch of APUG photographers, and explored the sandstone cliffs that are just off 5-mile Point Road. The drive in on the dirt road was a little wild, and when Jorie and I finally reached the parking area, we were stunned by the landscape along the shore.

Of course, just as I wanted to shoot more of the scene there, the G11 battery died, and I had forgotten to charge the second battery. Therefore, most of the shots taken there were with the Hasselblad and the F100. Good for film! The 'blad does not need batteries. I'll know what I got from the hassy this weekend when I develop the film. The rocks there often slope very subtly into the lake, and as a result, there are many really accessible places that let us get right down to the lake, and we saw some really neat little "pools" in the rocks that were filled with crystal-clear water.

clear as glass

It's definitely a place that I want to visit more than once.

On the way back home, Adrienne and I stopped at AuTrain Bay, which has a great sweep of sand between the outlet of the AuTrain River and Lake Superior. It's the first time that I have shot there, and the light was again, really nice. AuTrain River at Lake Superior

It's always a creative boost for me when I visit the UP. It's hard to leave for home.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

A Little Nikon FM Love

Back in April I blogged about buying Jeff Lamb's Nikon FM and have been using it periodically since then. I have been pleased that it works smoothly, and meters as it should. Back in mid-August, I did some night shots with it, as well as a variety of shots with different lenses - all on expired Kodak Gold 400 film. I expected things to be a bit grainy, and they are. I might as well put some shots up here to give you a feel for the expired film, and some decent results from this camera, too.
This table scene was early evening at Mike and Sarah's place, and I was using the Series E 50mm 1.8 lens. Obviously it does not close-focus as much as I would like, but it does a pretty decent job, and was wide-open here. One of the things for you new digital to film converts is to remember that manual focus cameras like the Nikon FM are harder to focus in dim light, and that's where AF systems are often actually helpful.
This night scene was taken from the roof of a parking structure in downtown Ann Arbor. As I was also using my Nikon D90, I estimated the exposure based on the D90 readings. A bit grainy, but that's what to love about film being film, right? If I had used slide film, it would probably would have been "cleaner", but not as much dynamic range would be possible.

Inside my garage, 24-50mm AF-D lens, and of course, a tripod. That 24-50 lens is quickly becoming a favorite, as it covers the wide quite well, and ends at "normal." Shot here at the wide-end, of course. That older bike is a Canadian-made CCM bike from the 1970s that I picked up ath the Recycle/ReUse center in Ann Arbor for $40.

And here is the sign in front of the ReUse center... a place where I love to shop, and have picked up a few camera bargains, many books and things for the house there. They have a frequent buyer program, but I never joined it, as I figure that I am already getting a bargain when I buy things there.

Last -- here is a shot of an umbrella sedge in a planter in front of the UM Museum of Art. I finally found an angle to show the plant structure without any extraneous background clutter. Again, this is the 24-50mm lens. The thing to remember in these shots is that I did use expired 400 ISO film, which will give less than optimal results. I try and stick with Kodak Gold 100 if I am shooting color, or if doing something special, Ektar 100. I have some Fuji Reala and Superia for a trip up N next week, so expect some good fall color shots from those. The thing I like about the Nikon FM is it's simplicity and durability. It really does not get in the way of making a photograph.