Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Sima Soft Focus Lens

Your basic plastic tube with a single lens, the Sima Soft Focus 100mm lens is a 1980s-vintage accessory that predates the Holga and the Lensbaby line. Nominally a maximum aperture of f:2, the lens has inserts with smaller diameter openings (much like the original Lensbaby) that allow for greater depth of field and less aberration. An additional bonus is that the lens also can be used as a macro, providing a different effect for those wanting to get close-up to the subjects. The Sima lens is a T-mount, meaning you use the proper screw-on adapter to fit you camera lens mount.

Years ago I saw these lenses for sale and didn't bother buying one because they seemed so cheap. However, preferences and approaches change, and when I saw one in Huron Camera in the bargain bin for $10, I snapped it up. It didn't have the aperture disks or the T-mount adapter, but I already had the adapters, and it's easy to cut out a black paper circle with an aperture.

Today, it's most likely that any users of the Sima lens will place it on a digital body. However, the problem with that is that on an APS-sized sensor, the effective focal length is 150mm, perhaps too narrow a field of view for portraits, etc., but really nice for macro. The other problem with using the lens on a DSLR, is that there will be fringing on any light-colored reflective subjects -- it does occur on film, too, but the effect is magnified by on a sensor.

I like using this lens with a camera like the Nikon FM, as it's a lightweight combination, and of course, there are no external lens adjustments, save for the focusing of the tube within a tube. The single element plastic lens is certainly capable of producing some very dreamy effects. I found that using it with a grainier 400 speed film, the effect is quite "pictorial"...
Magic Garden

dreamy tulips

In macro mode, the lens is a lot of fun, too:
Virginia Bluebells

Spring is Creeping Along
This one was taken with a Nikon D70s.

So, is the Sima Soft Focus lens something you should buy? If you like the effect in the images I posted here, you'll have a blast with the lens. I think it would be fun with portraits and nudes in black and white, too. You'll need to keep an eye out for it on ebay, or at a camera show. Expect to pay more than $10, though!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Bell & Howell Electric Eye 127

This is actually a very easy-to-use 127 camera that appeared about 1958-59. With its electric eye and automatic aperture control and large viewfinder, it made picture -taking relatively easy. Of course, the big problem is that 127 film is now fairly hard to come by, and that's really too bad, as there were some fun cameras and some very well-made cameras that used 127. I have sold off most of my 127 cameras, and I have this one up on ebay, just to clear out some space and rid myself of cameras that I am no longer using. The B&H EE 127 was actually a very well-made camera, and the Selenium cell has lasted far longer than cameras of more recent vintage. Just to show you that the camera can take some nice square images, here are a few from about 6 - 8 years ago that I shot on b&w film.

Bethel Church (2005) on Bethel Church and Schneider Roads.
Bethel Church

At the Produce Station in Ann Arbor, 2004:
What a Load

I think square format in 127 size really makes the best use of that format, and back when one could buy Ektachrome in 127, it was used to shoot "super slides" - that could be used in a 35mm projector. The 4x4 Rolleiflex, Sawyer's and Yashica TLR cameras are, in my opinion, the best cameras made for 127 film.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hipster, really?

I just saw a blog hosted by B&H and the latest -- "Signs that you are a hipster photographer." sort of ticks me off. Seeing that nice Pentax ME at the top of the page, says more about the lameness of the posting than anything else. A real hipster uses a damned iPhone with the hipstamatic app, not a film camera that requires some knowledge to use properly...

Maybe one is a hipster if that person never picked up a film camera before seeing some Lomo advertisement? But really, many of us have been using film cameras since when that's ALL THERE WAS at the time, and continue to use them - in natural light, no less. Maybe the post is tongue-in-cheek, but it sort of insults people that might actually want to buy from B&H. I guess Freestyle is the last bastion of non-hipster photographers...

What do you think?
Kevin and His Petri
Is Kevin a Hipster, or am I for using a Great Wall Camera?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A Tasty Pancake

...Lens, that is. The original Pentax SMC 40mm f2.8 lens is a classic lens with a well-deserved reputation. It's angle of view is not quite as wide as a 35mm lens, but wider than a 50mm normal lens. It's very compact - about 3/4" long in front of the body, making it a very compact package when paired with a camera like the Pentax ME. I have tried other "pancake" lenses, such as the Minolta 45mm 2.0 MD and the Konica 40mm 1.8.
Konica Cutie
I've not tried the Nikon 45mm 2.8 GN nor the 45mm P lens -- the original is a rarity, and the newer AIS version is out of reach. Both lenses command a premium price these days. I liked the Konica 40mm 1.8 -- it's the fastest of the pancake lenses, but I didn't really care for the Konica Autoreflex TC camera, as I am not a fan of shutter priority. I sold off all my Minolta gear a while ago, but I am sure I have negatives and slides shot with the 45mm Minolta lens, but none are scanned to show here.

The Pentax 40mm lens is highly desirable, as it's very compact, and the DSLR folks have been driving the prices up. I was able to find a nice example online at KEH for a bit over $100. I really like it on my Pentax ME -- it makes for a lightweight and very compact unit to carry around, and is perfect for street shooting. I've used it in a variety of situations, and mostly with ISO 100 film. A film like Tri-X or Ilford HP-5+ should be perfect for all-around street shooting with B&W film.

like a kid in a candy store

Michigan Union