Monday, May 16, 2022

Don't do this...

 I was recently processing a bunch of cameras for the FPP donation program, and brought back some problematic cameras to see if I could figure out what was wrong with them.  I often run across these Mamiya/Sekor DTL 1000 and DL500 SLRs in donations, and at one time, they were fairly reliable M-42 screw mount SLRs with spot and average metering.  Unless you have a manual,  you may never figure out how to turn on/off the meter (pull the film advance out towards you and to turn it off, press the top of the base of the advance lever and that retracts the lever back to the body).  Anyhow, about half of the time these cameras have non-working meters, although they work fine without a battery for fully manual shutter speed/aperture functions, and you can use sunny-16 or a separate meter. 

This particular camera is pretty much dead, with a seized shutter. However, as soon as I pulled it out of the box, I figured something was odd about it, as the Vivitar lens is a much later model that is commonly seen on k-mount cameras like the Vivitar V3200.  As I looked closer, I could see that the lens was epoxied to the lens mount.  Whoa.  I pried the lens off with a small screwdriver, and it lifted asway fairly easily. Yes, some previous owner had gone through the trouble of filing off the K-mount back end and then epoxied it to the M-42 mount face.  

The crazy thing is, M-42 lenses are cheap and plentiful, and I am not sure why anyone would go through all this trouble t put a cheap lens like the Vivitar on an old M-42 body.  Maybe it was a very specific hack to give that result, but I really suspect it was a mess to begin with.  Needless to say, this one is a parts camera.

I previously reviewed a DTL 1000 in 2012 - and you can read it here. These cameras are under-appreciated today, but they were quite good in their day.  As someone that appreciates the M-42 SLRs, I find the Mamiya/Sekor DTL 1000 to be not as well-built as a Pentax Spotmatic, and more similar to a Minolta SR camera in features and ergonomics, as well as build.  

Mamiya went through a series of 35mm SLR designs, but were never able to duplicate their success in 35mm as they did in medium format.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

A Visit to the Camera Heritage Museum

There are not many museums devoted entirely to cameras, and I have only been to less than a handful of photographic history museums: Eastman House in Rochester, NY; The Argus Museum in Ann Arbor, MI; The American Photographic History Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, and now, the Camera Heritage Museum in Staunton,VA. Two of these museums are dedicated primarily to products of a single manufacturer - Kodak  (and of course, so much more) for Eastman House, and Argus, of course, at the Argus Museum - which has the distinction of being also at the site where the cameras were made.  The latter two museums are of wider representation, and of these, the Camera Heritage Museum by far, has the most diverse and comprehensive collection of cameras that I have seen.  

I stopped in Staunton last year, unaware of there being a camera museum there, and because we arrived late in the day, it was closed.  However, I knew that I would be passing by Staunton again, as it is off Interstate 81, not far from Lexington, VA, and on my way to the Film Photography Project HQ in New Jersey. On May 2, I was able to stop and spend a good deal of time before I had to hop back on the highway to NJ.  I met David Schwartz, the curator, and the person who has amassed a mind-blowing collection of cameras starting in 1968.  Located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Staunton is a charming place to visit with a lovely downtown with lots of shopping and dining options.  The Museum, which started out as a camera store, is open to the public, and a small fee gets you a self guided tour of the collection, and an Andrew Jackson gets you the curator-led tour, by Mr. Schwartz.  I opted for that, which also comes with a packet of information.  At the outset, I informed David of my experience with the world of vintage photography and intentions of doing a review.

David Schwartz, curator

The Camera Heritage Museum houses close to 7,000 cameras as well as photographs, advertising materials, vintage products and supplies, and other ephemera. There are numbered stations that feature items of importance in the history of photography, and David was of course, well-versed in all of them.  I did learn some things that I was unaware of that had to do with local involvement in the growth of photographic technology, and to see certain cameras that were previously owned by famous photographers was a treat.   While initially overwhelmed by the sheer number of cameras, I soon saw the organization by type and era, and amid all the glittering chrome, I found many wonderful examples of cameras that I had never previously seen in person.  The whole gamut of the history of analog  photography is represented -- from Daguerreotype cameras and images to the end of the development of film cameras.  

My images show - every case is chock-a-block with cameras.  Among those I saw a beautiful, mint-condition Kodak Ektra - the most complex and expensive 35mm camera made by Kodak. American manufacturers were represented by Argus, Kodak, Conley, Ansco, Univex, Perfex, Graphlex, Ciro, Falcon, etc. The German camera makers -- Leitz, Zeiss Ikon, Rollei, Ihagee, and lesser-known firms was well represented, as well as the Japanese Nikon, Canon, Miranda, Topcon, Minolta,Pentax, Ricoh, Olympus, and others.  Stereo cameras from 16mm to 5x7, spy cameras of all sorts, miniature cameras, large format, medium format, wet-plate, dry-plate, Polaroid, folders, box, underwater, and toy cameras. About the only aspect that was under-represented was cine cameras.  However, aside from the Kodak Brownie 8mm cameras, they had an Arriflex that was used by Leni Riefenstahl to shoot movies of the 1938 Olympics and Nazi propaganda films.

Exhibit 13 - Arriflex

It was interesting to see how many different models of the same Kodak camera, such as the Holiday Brownie, were made in the USA, Canada, Brazil, England, France, and Spain. Of course, the many colorful examples of the Art Deco Kodak Beau Brownie were on display, as were the multitudes of Kodak folders, box cameras, Instamatics, and two examples of the fantastic Kodak Ektra 35mm rangefinder.  If you are interested in Twins Lens Reflex - there are plenty to see.  I really got a thrill at seeing an actual Graflex KE-4 combat camera, which took 70mm cassettes.  It looks much like a GIANT Contax II camera, and was sometimes referred to as "Gulliver's Contax."  A Folmer Graflex "Big Bertha" is on display - and at 40 inches long and over 30 pounds, it's hard to imagine using it to photograph baseball games, but it did.  I could go on - there are many examples of famous cameras, and anyone with a love for things photographic will find their favorites at the Camera Heritage Museum.  

I think their exhibit of miniature cameras -spy cameras, such as the various Minoxes, Ricoh 16, Riken Steky, Secam Stylophot, Suzuki Optical Echo-8 (KGB spy camera), Minolta-16s, and a Tessina - is quite comprehensive, as is their collection of stereo cameras.  Whether your interest is in large wooden bellows cameras or the smallest spy camera, or anything in between, you'll enjoy the Camera Heritage Museum.

The Camera Heritage Museum is a 501 C3 non-profit corporation, and while the collection has been growing since the late 1960s, it became a non-profit museum in 2011.  Its location in Staunton, VA meshes with the local history of photography, which goes back to 1847.  There are a number of other historical museums in the area, and of course, the Shenandoah Valley is full of history.  The current building certainly is filled to the brim with photographica, and as a former museum professional, I can see that it will take some money to make the exhibits more attractive to a wider range of visitors.  I really enjoyed talking with David Schwartz, and hope that the museum is able to secure funds to ensure its perpetuity.  It's more than a small regional museum, as it encompasses the history of photography, and has a world-wide collection.  If you have any interest in photography, the museum is definitely worth the visit. The museum accepts donations of photographic items as well as monetary donations. Excess inventory, duplicates, and items that don't fit with their mission are sold on their eBay store - camera-and-palette, which is definitely worth looking up.

The Camera Heritage Museum is located at 1 West Beverley St., Staunton, VA. Take exit 222 off I-81 into the historic downtown. Museum hours are M-F, 9-5, and Saturdays, 9-2.  Phone number is 540-886-8535. Its web address is  Admission is $5 - $20, depending on whether you want a self-guided tour, or a curator-led tour.   

Sunday, May 01, 2022

May 1 Musings

Taken today, May 1.

Well, here we are on the first day of May, and I am getting ready for a week away from home.  I'll be visiting the Film Photography Project HQ for a few days to record some sessions, and to also help with unboxing/checking of gear that has been donated to the FPP School donation program.  Then it's off to Amenia, NY, where I'll be for a few more days to visit family.  The drive from home this time will include a stop at the Camera Heritage Museum in Staunton, VA, which I saw last year, but it was closed by the time we stopped in Staunton.  I'll be giving a review of it here and on the podcast.

I love the month of May because of all of the rich variations in the color green, and as I drive up the Shenandoah Valley along Rt 81, I look forward to enjoying the scenery.  Of course, the various green shades don't look as good in b&w film, but there are so many interesting textures of unfurling leaves and patterns that to see them in monochrome is a different experience than in color.  

Rhubarb Leaf

Japanese maple

Speaking of color, people are still having a difficult time finding C-41 color film in stock.  I know that there is some excitement about Kodak Gold 200 being available in 120, and it's good to have that choice.  However, I remember when it was exciting to actually see a NEW film stock from Kodak.  It's anyone's guess about what's going on with Kodak and Fuji, and whether it really is supply-chain problems, worker shortages, or accumulating inflation effects, the prices of film have really shot up.  I'm glad that I jumped in and bought a 50 roll case of Fuji Superia 200 in 2018, when I paid $2/roll.  Last fall, as I was getting ready for a trip to the SW, I bought a bunch of Kodak Profoto 100, so I am pretty much set for any color film shooting.  I buy most of my black and white film in 100 ft rolls, and whether it's Arista 100, Kentmere 400, Fomapan 100, or Kentmere 100, I pay far less than I would for Kodak Tri-X (which I really don't like), or Ilford HP-5 (which I prefer).  The Kentmere and Foma films give me good, consistent results that I can trust.   However, the oddball films like some of the low-ISO films from the Film Photography Project (such as the Yeti and the Blue-Sensitive) and the films from Rollei always have a place in my camera bag(s).  

I am working on the next issue of Monochrome Mania - "Strictly Botanical" - which of course will be back to images and not gear, and I hope to have it ready by mid-summer.  I really appreciate the good comments that I get from readers of the latest issue - 35mm Toy Cameras, Issue No. 7, and copies of that are still available, though my Etsy store is closed until after I return on May 9.  

Here in the mountains of Western NC, spring seems to last for months, and if I drive 20 minutes, I can go back in time a week or two, and see flowers in bloom at 5200 ft. that have come and gone here at 2200 feet.   I feel fortunate to be living here.  I still have a lot to explore in NC, and hopefully, some short road trips are in order in late May/early June.

I hope that this month goes well for all of you!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

PhotoWorks 200 film - 20 years later


Last year, I picked up a few odd rolls of long-expired color film, and most of it was labeled Seattle Film Works with expiration dates from 2000 to 2002. At one time, Seattle Film Works (SFW) was known for their line of SFW-XL films that were actually Kodak and Agfa cine film with a remjet backing -- and SFW was the only place that would process that film.  I wrote briefly about Seattle Film Works in a previous blog post on ECN-2 process films.  Until the 1990s, SFW films were all ECN-2 stock, but in the mid-late 1990s, the company started switching to C-41 film stocks and did not change the process used on the film canister.  By the year 2000, SFW had morphed into PhotoWorks, with a change in the canister colors and design -- and indicated that the film was C-41. The other change was going from 20 exposure to 24 exposure rolls. Typically, when you sent your "SFW-XL" film to SFW, you received a "free" roll back with your set of prints. In the late 1990s, I used a fair amount of the SFW film and received prints, negatives and slides + the roll of film with every order.  In 2000, a lawsuit claimed that SFW engaged in deceptive practices by claiming the film, now C-41, could only be processed by SFW.  That lawsuit ended with PhotoWorks having to send out thousands of free rolls of the C-41 film to customers.  By 2011, PhotoWorks was gone, its customer list sold to Shutterfly. 


The roll of PhotoWorks 200 was manufactured it Italy - hence it's Ferrania (Solaris) 200 film, and its expiration date was 05/2002.  That puts the film as being made around 2000.  Given its age, I figured that I would rate it at ISO 64.  I loaded the roll into my Ricoh ZF which I reviewed previously in my post on the Tucson Police Dept. camera. After I finished the roll, I developed it in the FPP C-41 kit.  Some of the images are presented below. Overall, I was pretty happy with the results, and the 64 ISO rating was really on target.  

One of the unknowns with any long-expired film is how the film was stored for the past 20 years. More than likely, the film was in a camera bag in a closet, which at least means a relatively stable thermal environment. My experience with expired color films is that to never expect perfect results, and the higher the ISO, the less sensitive the film is over time, as dyes oxidize.  Without making a 1 stop loss/decade for adjusting the ISO, you'll definitely end up with poor results.  If this was the 400 ISO SFW, I'd probably shoot it at ISO 80.  

For expired E-6 (slide) films, it's even more critical to test a roll, if possible,  before shooting anything serious. If the film was stored in a freezer or fridge for most of its life, then low ISO films such as Fujifilm Velvia 50 can often be shot at box speed, or at ISO 32-40. Ektachrome 400 should be rated at least at 200 -- if it was cold stored.  Again, part of the fun with long-expired films is to see what you'll get - but don't use them for once-in-a-lifetime shots.  With the access to color film seemingly restricted at this time, expired films are selling for a lot more.  Don't overpay!  

Monday, April 11, 2022

More Slow Color - EASTMAN 5244 - ISO 1

You know if there is a low-ISO film out there to try, I will do so.  Ultrafine Online has the Motopix line of color films that are ECN-2 process cine films that are repackaged in 35mm cassettes for your still camera.  A while back, I purchased a roll of the Eastman 5244 from them. Rated at ISO 1, it's a tungsten-balanced film that was manufactured in the 1990s for use as a intermediate film for making master positives from Eastman color negative films and making duplicate negatives from those master positives.  To do this, the film has to be very fine-grained, have high sharpness and resolving power.  The film is on a clear acetate base, and has a remjet backing.

Eastman 5244 (image from Ultrafine Online)

The roll of 5244 sat around in my film box for a few months before I finally loaded it up in my Pentax Spotmatic F.  Here's the thing - of course my Spotmatic F does not have an ISO setting even close to  ISO 1.  Because the camera is all-manual, I could shoot it sunny 16 in full sun handheld at F/2 and 1/30 sec shutter speed. Here's how you can figure this out:

If the reciprocal of sunny-16 for an ISO of 1 is 1 sec at f/16, then:

f/11 = 1/2 sec, f/8 = 1/4 sec., f/5.6 = 1/8 sec, f/4=1/15 sec, f/2 = 1/30 sec., f/1.4 = 1/60 sec.

That of course, is in full sun.  I also used an external meter and set my shutter speed and aperture accordingly when I used the camera on a tripod for some of the later images.

You may think that one might want to use a warming filter over the lens as the film is a Tungsten-balanced emulsion.  That would only decrease the light, and make for longer exposures. I can always fix the colors post-scan if necessary. That said, the beauty of these odd films are the sometimes serendipitous crazy results that convince one that using these films presents a different avenue of exploration.

I shot some of the roll two months ago and finished it up at the end of March, when our daffodils were coming into bloom.  I used a tripod for many of those shots, but the early ones were hand-held - hence the shallow depth of field, as you'll see.  I developed the film in the FPP C-41 kit, but first used a sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate pre-bath at 102°F for one minute, and then after pouring out the pre-bath, poured in several changes of water at the same temp, shaking that developing tank like a cocktail shaker. The first pour out will be really black, and subsequent rinses will go from gray/brown to light pink.  At that point, you are ready to do the  C-41 or ECN-2 developing.  The initial carbonate prebath is essential in removing 99.9% of the carbon remjet and not contaminating your developer. After hanging the film to dry, I used a photowipe on the base side of the film to remove any remaining remjet, of which little remained.  

The film was scanned on my Epson V700 scanner, and files were opened in Corel PaintShop Pro, which has been my image editor for over a decade.  

Hand-Held Results --

Upper photo before adding a filter post-scan.
Lower photo, after an 85B equiv. filter

As you can see, the film is extremely fine-grained, and in the photos below, I'll point out any that have been altered by filters.

85B post-scan filter

Tripod-mounted results

Just a bit of filtration

This was pretty much a test of this film, and I should get more of it to shoot some colorful city scenes.  Shooting it indoors would be crazy, as it is so slow, and for photos of people - well in bright sun you could go f/4 at 1/15 sec if you dare.   However, it could be nice for shooting a 1 sec (or longer if not sunny) on a tripod to achieve a series of ghostly movements of people in a city landscape.  

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Paul and Reinhold 640 film - One Roll Review

In 2020, Rollei films (MACO) introduced a film to celebrate 100 years of Rollei, which was found by Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke in 1920. Last year, I bought a two-pack of this film, which was marketed with an unusual 640 ISO rating.  Of course, as always, there have been numerous theories as to what this film really is, and to be honest, I have no idea, and I don't really care.  The label on the package says "Made in Italy." Perhaps Maco has contracted to Ferrania to do the film cutting and packaging.   I'm sure someone with more knowledge has details, but everything so far has been conjecture.

What I do care about is the film worth a repeated use?  Since the film comes in an attractive 2-pack container, the first roll was my "test roll."  I'll add that I like the idea of the plastic snap-lid 2 roll container, which Adox also used for one of their films, the CMS 20.  Walking around with 2 in the can and one in the camera certainly makes it easier to not lug around more stuff. However, I digress.  Back to the roll of the P&R 640.

I loaded the roll into my trusty Nikon F100, and did some photography in downtown Asheville and around Weaverville, NC. After finishing the roll, I developed it in Kodak HC-110 dilution B for 8 minutes.  I appreciate that the film lays flat and scanned very nicely.  

Obviously a single roll doesn't always tell us much about how a film will perform in all situations.  The P&R 640 seems to have very good latitude, a bit speedier than a 400 ISO film, and very acceptable grain. I do think it's a very good choice for street photography, and really looks good from what I shot.

From the Rollei film site:

  • Nominal Sensitivity - ISO 640
  • Fine-grain and natural contrasts
  • Exposure latitude from ISO 320-1600
  • Excellent for available light, action & street photography

Since the P&R 640 is a "special edition" film, it's probably sold out at the bigger stores, but I found that Blue Moon Camera has it in stock, so I have ordered more.  At other sites and on the Rollei film pages, it's out of stock, but should be available after the end of April, 2022. I consider it a good film for the types of photography that I do. It scans well, has great tonal range, and low grain.  What's not to like?

Now, for some results: