Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Review of the Takashi FX521 "Digital Diana"

If you are a follower of this blog, you know that most of my reviews are of film cameras, but I certainly do have a few posts on digital cameras. I just don't go through them the way I do with film cameras. Here is my review of the Takashi FX 521, available from Ultrafine Online.

The Takashi FX521

Sometime last year I read about a camera that was described as the equivalent of a "digital Holga." That camera was the Yashica EZ F521, a 5 MP camera that had minimal control, a classic look, and yet had enough pixels to create real prints. The Yashica EZ was apparently limited to Japan, as I never saw it for sale in the US. The manufacturer's approach to the camera was appealing, though, and I hoped that a model would become available here in the USA. Last month I saw that Ultrafine Online was selling the same camera, now branded as a Takashi FX521. I immediately ordered one - it was on sale for $99. That's a lot cheaper than many digicams, and I soon received it via UPS. The camera looks classically styled, alright - it has a real viewfinder as well as a decent-sized rear LCD. The only controls are a knob on the top deck to choose camera-review-video, and on the rear, with a menu system and navigation buttons. You focus by turning the lens a fraction of a turn for normal and macro. That's it. There is a built-in flash, a tripod socket, and a rubber lens cap. The front definitely reminds me of a Holga.
The menu system allows you to select white balance, EV adjustment, type of image (normal, b&w, sepia, negative, and several colors. You insert a SD card in the bottom by lifting up the battery latch -- the camera takes three AAA cells which last quite a while. There is also 32MB of RAM built in, but I suggest a 1 or 2 GB SD card, which will hold a lot of images. The camera does not retain date information if you change the batteries, so make sure that you enter the date info to avoid having your images all dated Jan. 2008.

After using the camera for nearly a month, I have to say that I like it. Yes, it's probably not as "holga-like" as some would demand, but control-wise, it is pretty similar. It fits easily into a pocket, and because there is no zoom or AF search, it's ready to shoot fairly quickly, and you can use the optical viewfinder if you want to. It runs a long time on one set of AAA cells, and with a 1 GB card, one can shoot for a long time before using up that space. The video is pretty decent - certainly good enough for YouTube and Facebook vids. The macro-mode is okay, and setting up the camera for different in-cam effects is easily done. The menus are simple and straightforward, and the control layout is thought out pretty well. By adjusting the EV, I could get more saturated images. I also like the b&w and sepia modes.
In a way, even though this camera is touted as a digital equivalent of a Holga, it's really a perfect little P&S camera for someone that does not want to have to fiddle around with a multitude of options - sort of like a bridge camera in getting a user from film to digital. The 5 Mp file size will be enough for 8x10 prints, something lacking in cameras sold as "toy digital" that are in the 1 MP range.

beep beep

It's a fun camera. doesn't cost much, and might be the perfect camera to keep in the car or a purse when a photo op arises. If you desire more holga-type results, editing the images in Picnic or Picasa makes it easy.

rays of golden sun

Sometimes the camera will give unexpected wild effects like this. I like that.

distant cousin
Post work done in Picnic

evening in the neighborhood

As the camera says, "bye-bye!"

Friday, July 29, 2011

Film Give-Away!

UPDATE (12/15/2011)! Gabriel Velasco got the roll of VR1000, and has posted his results on Flickr. He compensated for the loss of sensitivity by rating it at an ISO of 200, and his results are pretty darn good. It just goes to show that you have to think "outside the box" and rate an expired film appropriately to get the best results.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Goodbye, Borders

The End

I suppose the Rupert Murdoch scandals and other topics have taken top spot in the news lately, but for those of you that buy books, and especially books on photography, the news that Borders will liquidate and shutter all their stores is a big topic here. Here is in Ann Arbor, where Borders began as a small bookstore, grew larger, became synonymous with great service and wonderful selection, grew larger still with more stores, then had the original owners (Tom and Louis Border) sell the company, and from there began a classic case of over-expansion, mismanagement, and inability to seize opportunity. Summary - a classic case of rags to riches to rags. Of course, now, the people "going to rags" are the 10,000 employees throughout the chain. I imagine that the Borders brothers have long dissociated themselves with the thing they created, and are probably sitting back and enjoying their lives, and it's not about them. It's about the subsequent sale to K-Mart in 2001, having Amazon sell your books because you didn't figure out that the internet is a BIG thing, and you built way more HUGE stores and forgot to hire top management that understood the book business. Okay, enough of ranting, as it's over, and I will miss the Borders here. Or at least I should say I miss the Borders of about 20 years ago that was on South State.

If you look at the "vintage" Borders bookmarks above, note that it says over 65,000 titles in stock, art posters, maps and sale books. It does not say coffee shop, toys, candy, games, videos, CDs, or stuffed animals. That was the Borders that many of us loved. They had a fantastic selection of books on photography (though at the time, I was probably buying computer books more than anything else in the early 1990s). The Borders then moved to Liberty Street (their "Flagship Store") and had a very good photography book selection until the past few years, and in the past 6 months, it was dismal. The closing of a big chain will have repercussion in the publishing world, for sure. The advantage of a real store is that I love to browse books, and look at them before deciding what I am going to buy. You can't really do that with Amazon. Photography books - especially those that are not about "how to use your DSLR" usually have lower sales than any trade paperbacks, and are certainly more expensive to produce than a text-only novel. The browsing experience is important with them. Maybe it's better to be content with being relatively small and very good, but in the business world, it seems that nobody's happy with that.

Hopefully, another large bookstore will find its way into downtown Ann Arbor. But the sad reality is Borders is gone - forever. I won't be at the liquidation sale that starts today. Maybe not ever.

Let me know your favorite memories of Borders.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Ansco No.2 Folding Buster Brown

I have only put one roll of film through this camera so far, and having bought it a few years ago for $10, it's about time that I showcased it here. Produced by Ansco in Binghamton, N.Y. the camera differs from the typical "Buster Browns" in that the front drops down and the bellows travels along a rail and the lensboard locks into a fixed position. The typical Buster Brown cameras are box-camera style. The tiny reflex viewfinder is missing, but they are hard to use, anyway. I just mount this on a tripod and estimate the field of view and fire away. The shutter actually is in front of the lens, so if you have never seen one, don't think that the lens is missing. The camera dates from between 1918 and 1925 or so.
The camera takes 120 film, making it quite useable. Shutter speeds are T,B, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100th sec. Apertures are from f8 to f64! No doubt that a tripod is required for anything below f/16 @ 1/100 sec, using ISO 100 film. It's a fixed focus camera, meaning that it focuses from about 10 feet to infinity. I am including one shot I took back in May,along the flooded area of Fleming Creek by Parker Mill. I think it was probably at f/64 for 10 to 15 seconds.
Fleming Creek

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A little love for the Pentax ZX-5

Before I left for Photostock last week, I picked up a used Pentax ZX-5 at Huron Camera for a bargain price. I decided to bring it along at the last minute and shoot with it (which obviously violates the common-sense of never bring an untested or new camera on a trip). The ZX-5, unlike some of the later models of AF K-mount cameras, has a real dial on the top for Aperture priority and shutter speed selection, not some twiddly LCD screen. I didn't have an AF lens for it, but it worked fine with manual lenses and center-weighted metering. It's lightweight, has a dial for exposure compensation, and is a nice alternative, in my opinion, to the metal-bodies of the Pentax ME, ME Super, etc. With the 40mm pancake lens on the front, it becomes a wonderful street camera with a quiet shutter and auto film advance.

I carried the ZX-5 along during my trip and throughout Photostock (more about that in another post) and shot color film with it. The ZX-5 also has a "Panoramic" setting that masks the 35mm frame to a pseudo panorama. While not really panoramic in size, it nevertheless creates an opportunity for creative framing.


Overall, the ZX-5 is a good addition to my stable of cameras. It offers the simplicity that one expects in a film camera, but yet offers some nice advancements over the earlier Pentax models - auto film advance, pop-up flash, matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering, auto ISO or user selectable settings, panorama mask, +/- expsoure compensation in 1/2 stop increments, AF if you use an AF lens, and the ability to use all manual K-mount lenses.

Hessel, MI
Hessel, MI

Hessel, MI
Hessel, MI