Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy 4th Analogversary! (3/3)

(...continuing from here and here)

Without a doubt, this year's highlight has been the completion of my dearest camera project.

Two years ago, as I was celebrating my second analogversary, I told you about what was to be my most special challenge for the following year: the quest for a camera made in 1912, exactly 100 years before our son was born. Romantic as I am, I wanted to find one that was still able to take photographs.

One year ago, on my third analogversary, I told you about one Vest Pocket Kodak that I found here in Vienna. This camera was a good candidate, since the first production run of the original (non-autographic) model took place from 1912 to 1914. It was in surprisingly good shape, especially for a near 100-year-old camera that has seen two world wars. The camera body, though, was badly deformed and the shutter did not fire at all. I did not really see a way to make it fit for taking pictures. For a couple of months I left the VPK project in standby.

vest pocket kodak

Later this year I found another original Vest Pocket Kodak which turned out to be in much poorer condition, but had a working shutter and an intact camera body. The VPK project was alive again. After some hesitation I contacted Dr. White in the UK, whose website Collecting Vest Pocket Kodak Cameras is one of the best references that I could find about this camera model. I asked him for help in dating both of my VPK cameras. He was kind enough to recognize how meaningful this quest was to me, as he seems to share with me a passion for such endeavors, and promptly helped me with his ample knowledge. After some exciting e-mails he was able to confirm to me that, without a doubt, the first camera that I had, the one with the deformed body, came from the first production run in 1912. Square bellows, no "choke" to limit the maximum aperture and, crucially, no lettering on the front standard and no horizontal bar to help switch the waist level finder from the portrait to the landscape position were the features that pointed it to 1912. Again my deep gratitude to Dr. White for his help and for being such a key part in my 1912 camera quest.

I was very excited by this finding but still was not able to use the camera. I decided to build myself a working camera keeping as many parts of the 1912 one as I could. I exchanged the deformed camera body (in fact it is just the back: everything else, bellows, struts, front standard, shutter and lens completely detach in a block from the camera body) with the healthy one. Then I planned to mount the working shutter and lens onto the 1912 front standard but, in a touch of inspiration (with much trial and error and the minute bending of one crucially actuating lever), I managed to fix the 1912 shutter and to make its leaves open and close again. Which is fortunate, because both 1912 lens and shutter are in an almost pristine condition, contrary to the other one, which clearly shows its age. To sum up, I have now a working 1912 Vest Pocket Kodak with a back that, at the latest, was made in 1913 or 1914. This is not only the oldest but without a doubt the most special and meaningful camera that I own.

bubbles (43/52)
(Vest Pocket Kodak, Meniscus Achromat, Efke 100, ISO 100/21°)

It made me especially happy that the first pictures that I took with this camera were those of our son's second birthday, 102 years after the camera was built. After developing the film and looking at the pictures I was truly impressed by the performance of this very simple meniscus lens. The light leaks apparent in both pictures I am posting here are not the camera's fault, but mine: as I took out the exposed roll of film from the camera, the protective paper unrolled a bit and let a little light in. The camera bellows is perfectly light tight.

the photographer
(Vest Pocket Kodak, Meniscus Achromat, Efke 100, ISO 100/21°)

The 1912 Vest Pocket Kodak is not the most convenient camera to use, but still quite usable and, as its name promises, extremely easy to carry around. I used it again two weeks ago on 2nd Winter 127 Day (127 film was, in fact, introduced in 1912 specifically for this camera model!) and I am taking the 1912 VPK with me again this Christmas.

~ ~ ~ o ~ ~ ~

My plans for the next year are again collect less and shoot more. Well, not only shoot more but shoot better. I want to concentrate on using less cameras, my dearest ones, and try to take the most out of them. In this year I have the feeling I experimented too much: too long expired films, too extreme lighting conditions, too many poorly thought pictures shot hoping that they would come out fine. Most of them didn't. I wish to be able to take a little more time and consciousness in the picture taking act. I know I already have fine cameras and lenses, very capable of delivering quality. The weak link in the chain is now the photographer. I also want to concentrate on less films, the ones that worked best, and try to make the film choice a conscious picture taking decision at the same level as are framing, composition and depth of field.

I want to keep on doing my own repairs. Working on my cameras not only makes me strangely happy but also makes me know them a lot better. I (begin to) deeply understand what happens as I cock the shutter, as I advance film, as I change shutter speeds, inside many of my cameras. And this knowledge is gold for the times when things do not work properly. I really wish I manage to make the shutter in my Contax II work, since I have the gut feeling this camera could be the one to which I will always be returning.

I want to extend my developing skills beyond black and white. I am going to research the feasibility of developing color negative (C-41 process) and/or color slide (E-6 process) film at home, because I keep reading that it is not harder than black and white development. And, yes, I still find this caffenol development thing very exciting... :)

And, of course, I want to find more time to write about my photographic challenges here in my blog. I hope you'll keep on sharing this journey with me! :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Happy 4th Analogversary! (2/3)

(...continuing from here)

One of my wishes for this fourth year was something in the lines of "collect less, shoot more". Well, the "collect less" part did not really come out very well, but I am happy to see that I did manage to shoot much more film than in the previous year. I shot 81 rolls/sheets of film in this year, which is almost as much as I shot in my first analogic year. Comparison with last year (32 rolls total) makes me quite happy. The cameras that I used the most have been the Kiev 4 in 35mm film (12 rolls) and a tie of the Bessa 6x9 and the Super Ikonta BX in 120 film (6 rolls each). This year I shot 5 rolls of 127 film, which is an all-time high. The Vest Pocket Kodak, one of the 127 cameras that I used, will be the main topic on my third and last analogversary post...

About the films that I used the most there are two old friends and a new kid on the block: in black and white I shot 4 rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400, most of them pushed even to EI 3200 (3 stops) which came out fine and contrasty, and in color slide again the winner was Fujichrome Velvia 50 with 6 rolls and 2 film sheets. In color negative I shot 7 rolls of an expired Porst Color-X 200, which I suspect is rebadged Kodak material, with a color rendition, especially in sunlight, that has grown on me along the year.

in the spotlight (20/52)
(Vitomatic IIa, Color-Skopar 50mm 1:2.8, Porst-Color-X 200, ISO 200/24°)

This year I shot a lot of sheet film using plate cameras: 6 sheets in 6.5x9 format (using both my Ideal 250/3 and my Bergheil 6.5x9) and 7 sheets in 9x12 format (with my Recomar 33). Again, there is great satisfaction in holding a huge 9x12 color slide sheet against the light and marvel at the level of detail that it can capture.

Another challenge that became a routine this year has been black and white film development. I developed 17 rolls/sheets of diverse brands of black and white film, all using the same film developer (Rodinal, in fact the oldest photographic product, still being produced after almost 125 years!) and mostly using stand development. There have been mixed results, the great part quite satisfying and some not so much. But I guess the not-that-happy ones were more about using very long expired film in poor lighting conditions than the development.

long toddler exposure
(Kiev 4, Jupiter-8M 50mm 1:2.0, Efke 25, ISO 25/15°, stand development 1.5 h in 1+100 rodinal)

I love the almost meditative mood one reaches on certain film development stages, especially in the final wash using the Ilford method: filling up the tank with water and performing slow inversions for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 times each round, spilling the water and filling up the tank again each time between rounds. After that, the magical moment of opening the tank, and slowly unrolling the wet film from the reel to reveal the pictures that were latent until the chemicalthes did their job, is every time a personal highlight.

Another highlight this year has been in camera repairs. I started with my Rolleiflex Original 611, whose shutter needed attention. I managed to recover the sticky slow speeds and make the old rim set Compur shutter purr again happily even at 1 second. I, too, cleaned the optical path (inner side of the viewing lens, mirror and ground glass) as well as I could, which made the camera again quite usable. At last, I managed to clean and polish its leather, realizing that the brown spots that I thought were permanent did, in fact come out and left a shiny, beautiful camera that shouts quality from all its four corners. The Voigtländer Brillant V6 was a camera that I almost recovered to working condition from the trash can. I got it as a cheap addition to a lot (together with a Rolleicord V). Being a Voigtländer, even with a bakelite body, it is a well built and extremely well thought camera that responded very well to a little care. I fixed the film transport with film counter and automatic stop, and cleaned the waist-level finder and mirror to a crystal clear state I still can not believe. The Skopar 75mm 1:4.5 lens and the Compur shutter needed cleaning and service, too. All in all, I got lots of camera repair fun and a portable, usable camera that delivers a quality that is difficult to beat, all for what you would pay for a lunch in a standard restaurant.

The Ihagee Parvola 1350 needed, as usual, a little service in its Compur shutter. In this shutter I braved removing the slow speed escapament for the first time for properly cleaning it. It was my first time because on reinstallation one needs to adjust the shutter speeds again, because the position of this escapement determines the duration of the slow speeds. It was not easy, but at the end all speeds sound and look good enough for me. The Schneider Xenar 70mm 1:4.5 needed a little cleaning, too, and I lubricated the focusing helicals to make them run smoothly. Another first for me was adjusting a rangefinder: my Kodak Retina II needed a little lubrication and cleaning in the rangefinder, and after that the infinity setting needed to be adjusted again. I am still not quite sure if I got it right, I still have to check with critically focused shots, but it looks now clean enough to be used.

happy 4th analogversary!

My biggest repair this year, though, is still a work in progress. The Zeiss Ikon Contax II, one of the best cameras ever made and one that I am really happy to own. As I got it, neither the self timer nor the shutter did work. The Contax has a metal curtain focal plane shutter, a quite different beast from the leaf shutters that I am now quite familiar with. I opened it carefully and disassembled to shutter block from the camera body. A little cleaning, a little help and I managed to make it run a couple of times, with a purring and whizzing sound from its multiple escapements that made me think for a moment that I was about to succeed. But then the bane of this camera model set off. The Achilles' heel of every prewar Contax, and in fact the only thing that ever fails with a Contax, are the silk shutter ribbons that link together the opening and closing curtains. The shutter design is such that the ribbons slide through tiny eyelets on the opening curtain that have enough friction to hold it up as the shutter is cocked but allow sliding through when the shutter is fired and both opening and closing curtains are reeled onto the lower drums. These ribbons needed to be replaced every ten or twenty years, cameras were guaranteed for around forty thousands shutter operations. A camera that was built in 1936-1937, like mine, and that probably has been sleeping for decades, has had plenty of time for these ribbons to become dry and fray. Two or three shutter operations in my hands after such a long time was definitely too much for the old silk ribbons, that broke and left me with a much more serious repair job to do. Because, of course, these ribbons can be replaced. I already got the replacement silk ribbons from Japan (it seems to be one of the few ribbon type and material that properly work on a prewar Contax) but I still did not find the courage to delve again into the job. The Contax II shutter remains my biggest camera repair challenge for the next year. And if I manage to fix the non-working self timer along the way, I will be twice as happy.

The last successful camera repair job this fourth year has been a Vest Pocket Kodak from 1912, my oldest and most significant camera so far. The whole story of the Vest Pocket Kodak, on my last analgoversary post, coming soon...

(to be continued...)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy 4th Analogversary! (1/3)

Four years ago, on December 11th 2010, I posted my first film picture on flickr. This fourth year has seen the greatest increase in my vintage camera collection so far, to a point where I am beginning to think for a while when I am asked if I am a collector. In my heart I am not a collector, but an enthusiastic admirer and user of vintage cameras, that happens to enjoy satisfying the curiosity about this one or the other camera by getting them, making them work and taking photographs with them. But I know that the sheer facts tell another story, quite ironic if we consider what I said about the user/collector issue one year ago (collect less, take more pictures). Perhaps every collector started this way. Perhaps I am becoming a collector that enjoys using all his cameras, or at least tries to.

My commitment to the magic of film has not dwindled a bit. On the contrary, it is probably stronger than ever, especially now that I develop all my black and white films myself and I can witness the magic every time I open my daylight developing tank and pictures are revealed as I slowly unroll the film from the reel. In fact, I can hardly remember a single time that I photographed with a digital camera this last year. And not because I am one of those film nuts that see digital as evil: I do think that both are different tools and that each has its place, its strengths and weaknesses. I just happen to not have found neither chance nor the appropriate conditions to photograph with a digital camera.

In this fourth year I added many new old cameras to my stall. Most of them have a special meaning, they have certain historic or sentimental significance for me. In fact I am quite picky with my camera choice, there just happen to be too many interesting cameras out there to be discovered! :)

: : : (the honest collector's dilemma)

I got three TLRs made by Franke&Heidecke before WWII: the Rolleiflex Original 611 (1929), which is the grandmother and the cast of every single TLR that was to be produced in the following 60 years; the Rolleicord I Art Deco (1934), with its unusual and beautiful nickel cover, that brings one back to Midtown Manhattan in the late twenties; and the Rolleicord V (1954-1957), which combines convenience of use and remarkable contrast and sharpness from its Schneider Xenar lens.

minox b (open)

There has been another bunch of new old cameras that I got out of pure curiosity: the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex (1953-1959), having both the convenience of an SLR and the quirkiness and feel of much older cameras; the subminiature Minox B (1968) with its 8x11 Minox film format that I did not really manage to master yet (but I keep trying!); the Ihagee Parvola 4x6.5 (1933) that is so enjoyable to use on 127 days and is so radically different in design from every other contemporary camera; the Voigtländer Brillant V6 (1937) that I got for next to nothing and which I managed to bring back to working order almost from the trash can and whose pictures, like everything Voigtländer, never ever deceive; and the Voigtländer Inos I (1933?), probably the most battered camera that I own, but worth every pain just for that magical Heliar lens.

vitessa l

The camera family that has been definitely this year's highlight has been the 35mm rangefinders. It all started with a fascination for the history of the Zeiss Ikon Contax camera: the Kiev 4 (1962), which is a Contax in Soviet disguise has been, in fact, the camera that I used the most in this fourth year. Then came the Voigtländer Vitessa L (1956), for me one of the most elegant cameras ever made and one I am very happy to have not only because of its Ultron lens. A little later, thanks to patience and a bunch of good luck, I got a Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa (1952) well under its true value, without a doubt the camera that I enjoy the most. Then a Kodak Retina II (1949) because of the warm and wonderful Schneider Xenon lens and out of curiosity about the grandmother of our Retinette IA, the one with which everything began. The last addition this year, as it couldn't be otherwise, has been a wonderful Zeiss Ikon Contax II (1936-1937), which is still not working but which I hope I manage to bring back to life soon.

zeiss ikon contax IIa

Several of my new old cameras have interchangeable optics. That, of course, opens the door to crave for lenses. In Contaflex mount I managed to find the Pro-Tessar interchangeable front lens elements to extend the standard 50mm Tessar to 35mm, 85mm and 115mm. In Contax/Kiev mount I quickly fell in love with Ludwig Bertele's Zeiss Sonnar formula: first through the Jupiter-8M 50mm f/2.0 (1962) on my Kiev 4, then through the postwar Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/2.0 (1953-1959) that is the West German recalculation of the original prewar formula. A Jupiter-9 85mm f/2.0 (1963) came along to explore the short telephoto range (which I am still learning to deal with), and a Jupiter-12 35mm f/2.8 (1959), a fine Soviet version of the legendary Zeiss Biogon, covers the wide angle. The latest lens addition, and in fact the lens that I see as my analogversary self-present, is a prewar Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 (1937), an ultrafast lens that was the envy of every prewar Leica photographer, and that I plan to make the standard lens for my Contax II, if I manage to make it work. In the meantime I enjoy it on my Contax IIa.

happy 4th analogversary!

(to be continued...)

Friday, November 21, 2014

good luck [stranger 22/99]

good luck [stranger 22/99]
(Kiev 4, Jupiter-12, Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Color 100, ISO 100/21°)

My twenty-second stranger, fully equipped, was really committed to the business of bringing us good luck.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Series - burggasse

The last year and a half we lived in the Burggasse in Vienna. This summer we moved to a new flat. This weekly series is a very personal recollection of the flat that we just left.

burg gasse
(Super Ikonta BX 533/16, Kodak Ektar 100, ISO 100/21°)

(Kiev 4, Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Color 100, ISO 100/21°)

(Vitessa L, Agfaphoto CT Precisa 100, ISO 100/21°)

x-pro stars
(Rollfilm 5x8, Rollei Crossbird 200, ISO 200/24°)

(Contaflex IV, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

rainbow maker
(Contaflex IV, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

caseta vella (33/52)
(Rollei 35, Solution Super VX 200, expired, ISO 200/24°)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A dream come true - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa

After the bombing of Dresden in World War II, most of the Zeiss Ikon production facilities were destroyed. Everything was lost: machinery, tools, parts and plans. Gone was what had been Zeiss Ikon's 35mm flagship for the last 15 years, the Contax.

After the war, one branch of the story went to the Ukraine, where the Soviets took a rebuilt Contax production line for what was to become the Kiev camera. The other branch went to Stuttgart, where what remained of Zeiss Ikon in the West started anew in the old Contessa-Nettel production plant.

Zeiss Ikon Stuttgart soon started making finest and ingenious 35mm cameras (Contessa, Ikonta, Contina, later Contaflex, ...), especially thanks to Hubert Nerwin's genius. The Contax IIa (and its light metered sister IIIa) was a complete redesign of the prewar Contax II.

zeiss ikon contax IIa

My Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa was built in 1952 and belonged to a gentleman from Berlin, who was a professional musician and passed away only recently. The camera was found in his broom closet after decades of oblivion. Since in the eBay auction the word "contax" was nowhere to be found, it flew under the avid collectors' radars and allowed me to get it for a tiny fraction of its true value.

A little reluctant in the slow speeds at first, some exercise soon helped it fire more and more reliably, like the purebreed it is. Film transport and shutter tensioning has a buttery smooth quality to it that is a joy to operate. The lens, a coated Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm 1:2 shows pretty bad separation of the cemented glass elements (as revealed by the iridiscent reflections along the borders) but so far I haven't been able to see any serious impact on the pictures.

When it comes to vintage 35mm rangefinders, it hardly gets any better than this. I'm really happy :)

Zeiss Ikon Contax IIa
My Contax IIa flickr set

Maker Zeiss Ikon
Model Contax IIa 563/24
Type rangefinder system camera
Lens Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/2.0 (No. 1890778, 1953-1959)
Shutter Contax, 1 - 1/1250 + B + T
Film type 35mm 24x36
Year January-May 1952
Country West Germany

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Old-school engineering - Zeiss Ikon Contaflex IV

The Zeiss Ikon Contaflex IV is a dinosaur, a member of the now extinct family of 35mm leaf-shuttered SLR cameras, that were fashionable in the 50s-60s but which eventually had to surrender to the superiority of the focal plane shutter SLR concept, the one that was to dominate the photographic scene for the following decades.

Having a leaf shutter between the lens elements makes everything difficult: shutter has to remain open at full aperture for the viewfinder to work, and an additional shutter curtain must block the light path on the film gate. When pressing the shutter button a complicated sequence of events must take place quite fast: shutter closes, aperture closes to the desired f-stop, mirror and rear shutter curtain go up, shutter opens and closes to expose the film. In this camera, this means the viewfinder goes black after taking the picture (no instant return mirror), so you have to operate the film advance for the remaining operations to take place: advance film, bring down shutter curtain and mirror, cock the shutter and open it again at full aperture for the viewfinder to be available again. And all this must happen, mind you, by purely mechanical means.

zeiss ikon contaflex iv

In addition, the shutter between the lens elements prevents the use of fully interchangeable optics. In this model (the Contaflex IV), the front element of the 50mm f/2.8 Tessar is removable and can be replaced by one of the pictured dedicated Pro-Tessar lens for focal lengths of 35mm and 85mm (there was a 115mm Pro-Tessar, too).

Zeiss engineers were not known for scaring away of almost unsolvable mechanical problems. They did it, yes, but this camera represents a Darwinian dead end in camera design evolution. But what a joy it is to use it, in spite of all its shortcomings. How surprisingly small and well balanced it feels in your hands. How precisely machined it is, jewel-like, how reassuringly easy it is to operate the film advance, considering all that is happening inside.

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex IV
My Contaflex IV flickr set

Maker Zeiss Ikon
Model Contaflex IV 864/24
Type single lens reflex camera
Lens Carl Zeiss Tessar 50mm f/2.8 (No. 1571850, 1953-1959)
Lens Carl Zeiss Pro-Tessar 35mm f/4.0 (No. 1627658, 1953-1959)
Lens Carl Zeiss Pro-Tessar 85mm f/4.0 (No. 1883566, 1953-1959)
Shutter Synchro-Compur MXV, 1 - 1/500 + B
Film type 35mm 24x36
Year 1957-1959
Country West Germany

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

sofortdienst [stranger 21/99]

sofortdienst [stranger 21/99]
(Rollfilm 5x8, Rollei Crossbird 200, ISO 200/24°, cross-processing)

My twenty-first stranger was talking on the phone.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The honest collector's dilemma

As I stated before, I do not really see myself as a vintage camera collector but as a vintage camera user.

I enjoy taking pictures with old cameras, marvel at their ingenious designs and elegant shapes and never cease to be amazed by the optical quality they are capable of delivering even though many of them are well past the 80-year-old mark. This enjoyment has a consequence: I research and read a lot about cameras, the history of camera makers and the lives and achievements of the key persons that brought camera and optical design to the point where it is now. And this consequence has a side effect: For many of the cameras I read about (and that I do not own), I develop great curiosity about how they feel like in the hand, how it is to operate them, what kind of pictures they are capable of rendering.

Out of this curiosity, and also for the sheer enjoyment of looking at pictures of vintage cameras, I use to scout vintage camera listings on eBay, online and offline camera dealers and other platforms where people sell stuff. It is usually a void exercise, since I rarely buy anything, but it helps develop a sense for the sale prices of many cameras and related photographic gear. And, every once in a while, a listing pops up where the price asked is only a fraction of the true value of the article.

One of the standard scenarios for such a bargain to be found happens when the seller, typically knowing very little about vintage cameras, finds herself with a camera in her hands, usually left by someone else (typically a parent, grandparent or friend) and does not know what to do with it. Old cameras tend to be regarded as useless paperweight by many people, especially if their condition is not very good. Since the advent of digital photography, even a 35mm camera (for which film is easily available) is seen as something obscure and obsolete, with little chance to be used again.

voigtländer vitomatic IIa

I have been lucky (or watchful) enough to have scored a number of such bargains. The first one was my Voigtländer Vitomatic IIa. The seller found it in a closet. It belonged to her grandfather and she had no idea how it worked (in fact, the ad described it as a single lens reflex camera). She was sure that it had rested there for the last twenty years. Complete with its leather case, first it did cost 15€. I silently watched the listing for a couple of weeks, after which the seller cut the price down to 10€. This was an offer I could not ignore anymore. I really wanted to have another Vitomatic, even more one with a rangefinder, and this one was being sold for approximately one eighth of the price indicated by reputable sources. Upon camera arrival, sure enough, the slow speeds did not work properly, but this is a repair that I think I will be able to manage. In the meantime I can live quite comfortably shooting over 1/25. And, of course, in case I botched the repair, not much (economically) would have been lost.

voigtländer bessa 6x9

In a similar way I got a Voigtländer Bessa 6x9 medium format folder, a Rolleicord I Art Deco 6x6 twin lens reflex, a Kiev 4 35mm rangefinder, a subminiature Minox B and a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex IV leaf-shuttered single lens reflex, all well under one fifth of the collector's price. I already exposed many films with them. The Kiev might, in fact, be the one I'm going to use the most in this 2014, because I really love using it and the way it feels in my hands.

rolleicord I "art deco"

kiev 02

But perhaps the most spectacular camera deal, and the one that made me think about writing this post, has been a 1929 Rolleiflex Original 611, the first mass marketed twin lens reflex camera, the one that started the Rolleiflex legend and the long TLR golden age. Every TLR model that was to be built in the following 60 years, and there were hundreds of them, was basically an Original Rolleiflex in disguise.

rolleiflex original 611

I paid 30€ for this Rolleiflex. Collector prices start at around 300€ for a moderately battered exemplar, because of their historical significance and also because not many of them were built. The seller, a soft-spoken elderly gentleman living in the outskirts of Vienna, got it from the estate of a recently deceased acquaintance. He was genuinely fascinated by the fact that I planned to put this camera into use. The camera came with the original leather case, lens caps, lens hood and yellow filter. I could sense the loveliness and care of the original owner in the way how the yellow filter was protected by a cloth wrapped inside the lens hood, all neatly stuffed in a leather pouch attached to the camera case. This camera was used and loved for a long time. Although it is the early model (the detachable non-hinged back reveals it), a focusing knob with distance scale from the later model replaced the original one. The flash synchronization contact (on the upper right of the front standard) was obviously a much later upgrade.

The shutter, as usual, is a little reluctant on the slower speeds, and one of the brackets supporting the viewfinder hood needs minor fixing. All in all, nothing that scares me or makes the camera unusable. Glass and mirror are clean and film transport works smoothly. The seller was very happy to see that I was going to use the camera ("Sie wollen damit wirklich fotografieren!", "You really want to take pictures with it!", he kept saying). He was happy with the money he got, and I was happy with the price I paid. In fact, on my way back home I could not believe my luck.

And yet, on the next days and weeks I started thinking about how the seller could have easily got at least 200-250€ for this camera, had he brought it to any of the specialized vintage camera dealers in Vienna. He obviously did not know that, he did not know the real value of the Rolleiflex, and I did. And somehow, I began to feel bad, I began thinking if it had not been dishonest of me to pay him just the amount he asked out of ignorance. Would it have been better to tell him: "Look, here's 200€, which is much closer to what this camera is really worth"? And yet, he was happy and I was happy. Is it not the definition of a win-win situation?

This thought comes to my mind every time I find such a deal. The honest collector's dilemma. Be honest and teach sellers about the true value of a camera? Or keep the knowledge to yourself and obtain valuable cameras at a fraction of their price? What do you think?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Series - b&w week march 2014

And yet another black&white week on flickr with the usual suspects and a couple new contributors. The b&w week is starting to be a solid tradition, and participating on film is, for me, a very exciting challenge. This time, for the first time, a home developed picture made it into the selection.

our window
(Uniflex II, Kodak T-MAX 400, ISO 400/27°)

baby carrier reflection
(Contessa 533/24, Kodak T-MAX P3200, EI 3200/36°)

crooked view
(Icarette 6x6, Kodak T-MAX 400, ISO 400/27°)

dark rolleicord
(Rollfilm 5x8, Efke 100, ISO 100/21°, home development)

natural flare
(Vitomatic Ia, Agfaphoto APX 100, ISO 100/21°)

(Vito I, Ilford Pan F Plus 50, ISO 50/18°)

akh (08/52)
(Kiev 4, Rollei Retro 100, expired, ISO 100/21°)

Take a look at all contributions in this flickr group.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A German camera made in the Ukraine - Arsenal Kiev 4

Back in 1932, the giant Zeiss Ikon conglomerate decided to bring a 24x36 rangefinder camera with interchangeable optics to the market, not wanting to loose customers and reputation to Ernst Leitz from Wetzlar. This was the birth of the legendary Contax, which some sources say it was designed to be superior to the Leica in every way.In fact, most features implemented in the Contax are natural extensions of Zeiss Ikon's gathered know-how, ranging back to the pre-merger companies.

The Contax, though, has a fascinating history after WWII, which saw entire production lines, machinery and experts from the original Zeiss Ikon factory in Dresden taken by the Russians to the former military arsenal in Kiev, Ukraine (then Soviet Union) as war reparations.

kiev 4

The cameras made by Arsenal Kiev are, in fact, neither Russian plagiarisms nor low-quality camera, as is the reputation of many Soviet cameras, but much more "a German camera built in the Soviet Union". Although quality standards and craftmanship levels decreased steadily along the Kiev's extremely long production run (1949-1984), this Kiev 4 exemplar from 1962 seems to work smoothly after more than fifty years. The lens, a Jupiter-8M is a fine copy of the legendary Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/2 from the original Contax.

kiev 02

I acquired this camera because Kievs still have a moderate price tag and my morals prevented me from paying the ridiculously high prices that a Contax can reach. In fact, I got a pretty good deal on this camera, considering its condition.

Let me introduce you to my first rangefinder system camera :)

Arsenal Kiev 4
My Kiev 4 flickr set

Maker Arsenal
Model Kiev 4
Type rangefinder system camera
Lens Arsenal Jupiter-8M 50mm f/2.0 (No. 6222704, 1962)
Lens KMZ Jupiter-12 35mm f/2.8 (No. 5911210, 1959)
Lens LZOS Jupiter-9 85mm f/2.0 (No. 6303583, 1963)
Shutter Contax, 1/2 - 1/1250 + B
Film type 35mm 24x36
Year 1962
Country Soviet Union

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A year of film Sundays 2014

Although I didn't directly participate on it, I have a number of flickr friends in the group Camar[•ⓐº]das. One of the (many!) challenges that they are doing is to take a picture each and every Sunday through a whole year: A Year of Sundays.

This year, Mar and I decided that we are going to try the challenge, but we are going to do it on film: A Year of Film Sundays. 52 pictures taken on film every Sunday. Today I posted the second one already.

(Voigtländer Bessa 6x9, Ilford FP4 Plus 125, ISO 125/22°)

(Kodak Recomar 33, Kodak Ektachrome 200 EPD, ISO 200/24°)

I think it will be really a challenge, especially for not repeating too many topics and trying not to be too boring. On the other side, I plan to use it as a chance to do more experiments, like shooting on sheet film (like 02/52).

The whole set can be seen (growing!) here. Stay tuned! :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My first home b&w development!

Last Sunday I developed my first black&white film at home. And I must say that it was not as complicated and messy as I thought it would be. I develooped a medium format roll of Ilford FP4 Plus 125 that I shot with my Voigtländer Bessa 6x9 (with a 6x4.5 mask in place).

First I loaded the exposed film into the reel. This step needs to be done in complete darkness, so I used a changing bag. It was surprisingly quick, I was a little concerned it would be difficult, I read some "horror stories" about loading a medium format film into an AP reel, but it was not at all that hard. Then the reel went into the developing tank and the rest happened again in the light.

(Bessa 6x9, Ilford FP4 Plus 125, ISO 125/22°)

Since the developer that I got is one of the modern formulations of Rodinal (having been patented in 1891 by Agfa, Rodinal is, in fact, the oldest photographic product in the world), I chose stand development, which basically consists of letting the developer slowly do its job without (almost) any interference for a long period of time. In my case, I inverted the tank for a minute each 2 seconds at the beginning (it should have been only 30 seconds), and for fifteen seconds after one hour. In total I let two hours pass before I applied stop bath and fixer.

double exposure
(Bessa 6x9, Ilford FP4 Plus 125, ISO 125/22°)

I am quite happy with the results. Well, the roll was not at all so well exposed (some overexposures, many out of focus shots, some accidental double exposures), but the development results are very promising, and I found the whole process quite easy and pretty much manageable for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

(Bessa 6x9, Ilford FP4 Plus 125, ISO 125/22°)

Stay tuned, there will be more home development in the next months! :)