Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Samsung Evoca 90w Neo

EVOCA by Samsung

To be honest, I didn't realize that Samsung made 35mm cameras until this one showed up in a box full of point and shoots.  Samsung did, in fact produce some very good compact P&S 35mm cameras, as well as an APS P&S.  The camera's clean design, short zoom range, Schnieder lens, and LCD rear display intrigued me enough to try it out. 

The Samsung Evoca line

From what I have found so far, Samsung sold 35mm point and shoots from at least 1990 into the early 2000s.  Shutterbug's June 1, 2002 archived page has an article by Peter K. Burian reporting on P&S cameras from the PMA show.    There were several model lines by Samsung -- Maxima, Pronta, and  Evoca. The Evoca line was apparently their top line for "photo enthusiasts": 

"Samsung's Evoca line now includes a model with a zoom lens that includes a true wide angle 28mm focal length. The Evoca 90W Neo QD is a fully automatic model with a 28-90mm f/4.5-11 Schneider-Kreuznach lens and diopter correction eyepiece. In spite of the moderate price ($210) this camera is said to be housed in a titanium body. Features include continuous autofocus, two Program modes, Panorama Frame mode, and a remote control unit, plus an advanced flash unit."

It's quite possible that the Evoca cameras were the outcome of the purchase of Rollei by Samsung in 1995.  It's been suggested that the Prego cameras were the inspiration for the Evoca line, and I have to say that the lens choice may have been the result.  I have found the Prego cameras to be delicate things.  The Evoca 90 W Neo is not fragile. 

There are several Evoca models -

  • 70 SE, 35-70mm  Schneider-Kreuznach zoom (highly touted in 12/1999 Popular Photography as a travel camera)
  • 70 S, 35-70mm Samsung SHD lens ($129 in May 1999 Popular Photography)
  • 90w Neo, 28-90mm Schneider-Kreuznach Varioplan Zoom (Reviewed here)
  • Zoom 115,  38-115mm, (also called Fino outside of USA)
  • 140 S QD,  38-140mm f/4.6-12.2 Schneider-Kreuznach zoom 
  • 170 Neo QD, 38-170mm Schneider-Kreuznach zoom, passive (not active) multi-point autofocus, Panorama Frame mode, and backlight compensation control 

The Samsung Evoca 90w Neo
At first glance, one might think this was an early digital P&S, especially since there is a small rear LCD panel which occupies the left side.   However, this 2002 camera appeared at a time when a digital P&S could not compare in image quality to 35mm.  It was however, the end of the premium compact 35mm cameras, as consumers started buying the premise that digital was the new “best thing.
rear of camera 
zoom at 90mm

The 90 Neo is a bit unusual in that its zoom range is from 28-90mm.  There are not many short-range P&S zooms with such a good lens as the Schneider- Kreuznach Varioplan.  In use, I found myself shooting mostly at the wide end, as 28mm is a good focal length for a lot of street photography. 

Camera specifications

  • Lens- 28-90mm Schneider-Kruzenenach Varioplan, f/4.5-11.  
  • Focus – 2 ft – infinity
  • Shutter speeds – B, 1/3 – 1/400 sec
  • ISO - (via DX coding) 50-3200
  • Viewfinder – Real image, 80% coverage, adjustable diopter
  • Focus – automatic, can be preset for infinity
  • Film Advance – Automatic, power rewind
  • Exposure Modes – Automatic, Bulb, Program
  • Flash – Built-in, range 2 ft – 34 ft at ISO 400, 28mm, 8 sec recycle time, red-eye reduction
  • Tripod socket – yes
  • Remote control – optional
  • Self-timer – 10 sec
  • LED Info – focus, flash ready
  • LCD Display - battery condition, date / time, film advance mode, flash mode, frame counter, program, red-eye reduction, remote control indicator, self-timer mode, zoom; 
  • Features - auto power off, autofocus lock, captions imprint, panorama mode 
  • Power – 1 CR123A 3V battery
  • Weight – 8.1 ounces
  • Dimensions – 4.6 x 1.7 x 2.6 inches

Overall, a pretty good array of features that should appeal to the compact p&s crowd.  In fact, it compares very favorably with the Yashica T4 Zoom (made by Kyocera).   In hindsight, had Samsung just issued this with a 28mm f/3.5 single focal length, I think it would have been a highly desirable camera with the street shooting crowd, and would be commanding Contax T3 prices today.  Alas, the zooms were the thing in the late 1990s, but the Evoca 90w certainly is a very good camera if you can find one. 

I loaded the camera with a roll of Kodak T-max 100 film and took it with me to Columbia, SC.  It was easy to use, and of course, easy to goof up things without a manual.  In the course of using it, I somehow selected "print" with the multiple controls on the rear of the camera, and ended up having the date imprinted on most of the negatives (without having set the date and time, no less).  Subsequently, I loaded a roll of T-max P3200, and made sure that I had everything set properly. 

Conclusions -

The Samsung Evoca 90w Neo is a great little camera.  The zoom is fast and quiet, and I liked being able to preset the camera for infinity focus and no flash.  To me, the 28mm focal length was my preferred setting.  I also liked the Panorama masking mode.  The images at 28mm had a definite panoramic look when the Panorama mode was selected via an easily-found switch on the back.  The adjustable diopter in the viewfinder was a nice feature, too.  The body of the camera feels comfortable in the hand, with nothing protruding when the camera is shut off.  It is easy to use, and apart from my mistake with the date stamp, the camera modes are easily adjusted via the mode dial on the back.  Note, I am not a fan of date-stamping an image. It has no place in serious photography, and it certainly does not indicate that one can verify when an image was made.  According to my images, I was there in 2015.

This seems to be one of the less-seen models on eBay.  The 70SE 115, as well as the 170 are typically in the $5 to $60 range, but the 90 does not show up.  Given that it was sold at the end of the compact 35mm P&S era, probably not as many were sold as the earlier models.  I would say that if you were to find one, $50 would be a good price. 


P3200, selfie

P3200, All Souls Cathedral, Biltmore Village, NC

P3200 living room light

P3200, Biltmore Village, NC

P3200, Biltmore Village

Columbia, SC State House steps, Tmax 100

Tmax 100, Panorama mode, Columbia SC

Tmax100, ca. 90mm, Columbia, SC

Tmax100, ca. 35mm, Columbia, SC

Tmax100, 28mm, panorama mode, Columbia, SC

Tmax 100, Columbia, SC

Tmax 100, Columbia, SC

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

What Is it?

What is it?

It is easy to take certain things for granted. Almost everything we use daily probably has a patent associated with it.  Someone had to invent something, and in doing so, wished to profit from the invention.  In the United States, the 1790 Patent Act was the first Federal patent law of the United States, although patents were granted within the colonies prior to the federal law.  If you have a patent number, it is easy to find the patent online.

Any item that has been patented has a patent number and date associated with it.  So, what does this have to do with photography, and specifically, this item?  The item you see here is a small wood box with a sliding steel cover that was used to mail 2x2 photographic slides.  It was patented on June 25, 1957 by Edward Grosz, of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I have not been able to find out much more than that his address was listed as 1704 Jackson Avenue, Ann Arbor.  However, the U.S. patent and the entry in the Patent Gazette were easily found via Google.

I don't even know where I picked this item up. It may have been in a box of photography "junk" or maybe I found it at work, but I know that I have hung onto it for about 10 years for the sole reason that it was made by someone in Ann Arbor.

Upon close examination, It's obvious that this is a hand-made item.  The box is constructed of hardwood plywood and held together with small brads.  It's been fine-sanded and lacquered and has held up for at least 60 years.  I looked up the address on Google Maps and see that Edward lived in a small bungalow on Jackson Avenue just past the little cluster of shops and gas station where Dexter road and Jackson Avenue diverge from Huron Street.  I passed by that place often, and who would have guessed that 50 years ago Mr. Grosz had a small business making and distributing these slide mailers?  "Used the world over" no less!

Of course, Ann Arbor is no stranger to photographic industry, as Argus and later, Vokar cameras were manufactured in the city and surrounding area. Photo Systems Inc., is based in Dexter, MI, just a few miles down the road.  PSI manufactures the photographic chemicals that are used by many of us.

While we rarely mail out photographic slides these days, it's interesting to note that there was a small cottage industry in Ann Arbor manufacturing slide mailers that were used the world over!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Half-Frame Interlude - the Olympus PEN EE

I interrupt this typical stream of full-frame cameras with a short review of the Olympus PEN EE (Electric Eye) half-frame camera.  Olympus is well-known for its line of PEN 35mm half-frame cameras.  From the lovely PEN F SLR, to the various flavors of PEN rangefinder and zone-focus  bodies, the PEN cameras were well-built, dependable cameras with metal bodies and excellent Zuiko glass.  I think the original intent was to make these cameras as ubiquitous as a pen - carried everywhere, ready to use when needed.  The half-frame of 18 x 24mm on a roll of 35mm film allowed one to double the number of shots on a roll of film versus a full frame camera.  That kind of economy appealed to thrifty shooters, and those that used a PEN as a sort of documentary device.  Imagine going on a trip with just a few rolls of 36 exposure film -- a PEN would give you 72 images per roll. Now, imagine carrying this PEN EE with you. No batteries, no adjustments needed, just point and shoot.  With its 28mm f/3.5 lens, everything was in focus from 6 feet to infinity. Back in the day, you could shoot Kodachrome with this little camera and get your slides back, properly mounted in half-frame masks on regular 2x2 slides.

The specifications for the PEN EE

Introduced 1961
Lens 2.8 cm f/3.5 D. Zuiko. It takes 43.5mm screw-in filters.
Aperture f/3.5 - f/22
Shutter speed 1/40 and 1/200 sec  auto-selected.
ASA settings - 10, 25, 32,50, 64, 80, 100, 160, 200
Focus - Fixed
Weight - 12.5 ounces (350 gm)
Flash - PC connector for flash, no built-in flash shoe, but a screw-on flash bracket attaches via the tripod socket.
Manual is available at

flash bracket attached with tiny flash unit

There's lots of information about the PEN series via the web, so I'm not going to reiterate what's already been put out there.  My first foray into half-frame cameras took place over 15 years ago, when I purchased a PEN D, which was a lovely little rangefinder half-frame camera that was built like a tiny tank.  I shot a few rolls of film with it, and it sat in a drawer until I sold it a few years later.  I had other cameras that I shot with far more, and I didn't appreciate the camera as much as I should have.  Since then, a few other half-frame cameras have come my way, such as the Konica EYE and its Soviet-era copy, the Micron, as well as a Canon Demi S (which I have yet to shoot).  Then, this PEN EE recently came my way, and I knew that I had to test it out.

Not much smaller than the Olympus Trip 35!

While the PEN EE is small, it's not a whole lot smaller than my Olympus Trip 35, which works pretty much the same as the PEN EE.  The Trip 35 however, is full-frame, and is manually focused.  The PEN EE is tiny enough to fit in a shirt pocket though, and is pretty much as point and shoot as you can get.  I only have to set the ASA (ISO) to the proper film speed.  I have kept in one of my camera bags and taken it out on various short outings to see how it performs with a roll of Eastman 5222 (Double-X), which is a 200 ISO black and white film.

The PEN EE selenium cell that surrounds the lens provides the metering and power for the exposure system. In dim light, the shutter defaults to 1/40 sec, with the apertures ranging from f/3.5 to f/8, and in brighter conditions, 1/200 sec from f/4.5 to f/22. So, for a 200 ISO film, pretty much any normal situation.  I did test out a flash, which the camera sets the shutter speed at 1/40 sec.  The flash result seemed pretty satisfactory.

Overall, the PEN EE is easy to use, as you might imagine.  Note that in half-frame cameras, the vertical (portrait) orientation is the default, and you must turn the camera 90° for horizontal (landscape) shots. 

Here are a series of scans from the Eastman 5222 film. It was developed in D-76, diluted 1:1 for 7.5 minutes.  I think that with half-frame, it is best to shoot as fine-grained a film as possible, and there are slower films such as T-max 100 that would be perfect for this camera.  The negatives were scanned on my Epson V700 scanner.

indoors with window light

drive-by shooting

indoors with ambient light

with external flash unit

Marshall, NC

Marshall, NC

Marshall, NC

French Broad River, Asheville, NC

French Broad River, Asheville, NC

French Broad River, Asheville, NC

Does the PEN EE live up to the idea that a camera could be as easy to use and ubiquitous as a pen?  It pretty much does. Before the age of smartphones and tiny digital p&s cameras, the PEN cameras would have been great to always have with you. Yes, the Rollei 35 was about the same size, but it is fiddly compared to the PEN EE. The PEN EE and EES (pretty much the same, but with adjustable focus and and an f/2.8 lens) would have been easily carried along, ready for a snap on a moment's notice. However, I think that you really have to have a mindset that half-frame is right for you.  For me, it's a curiosity to play with, and as I noted earlier, my Olympus Trip 35 is full-frame, and gives me results that I am happy with. I am not knocking the cameras -- they are wonderful gems.  I just am not the happy half-framer!  I think that if you want full-frame with a camera even smaller than the pen, the Olympus XA series is exactly fitting in with the idea of the PEN. 

Monday, January 06, 2020

Announcing Monochrome Mania No. 1

A few months ago I decided that I would start working on a photo zine dedicated to b&w photography, and especially film-based b&w.    It went through several iterations before I was happy with the final result, and I am pleased to announce that MONOCHROME MANIA issue #1 is available.  I am really pleased with the printing and quality of this zine, and if you are at all interested in b&w, I think you'll enjoy it, too.  Issue 1 is all about slow-films -  b&w films with an ISO of 50 or lower.  I don't review every film, but they are listed in the text, and it should be seen as a starting point if you have not yet shot slow films.    I also include information of developing, and use my photographs as examples for the films I write about.  It's 40 pages, with thicker covers, saddle-stitched, and 8.5 x 11 inches.  The cost?  Cheap.  TEN BUCKS, which includes US postage. Overseas shipping would be for a 9x12 envelope weighing 7 ounces, which adds $8.  Canadians pay $3.54 postage.   You can go to this form for ordering info.

My aim is to publish Monochrome Mania at least twice a year, and while the focus will be on my own photography, I haven't ruled out something like an issue featuring the contributed work of others.   You can see my promo video on YouTube.