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...)

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