A Breath of Fresh Air: The Airesflex Model U(T) TLR camera.

Though I have been familiar with their usage for the better part of 25 years, and have owned several, I can't say that TLR cameras have ever really been a mainstay of mine. Instead, these cameras have usually tended to supplement other types of cameras in my collection.  True, I've had occasions where TLR cameras were the ideal choice (at least on my budget) for specific projects such as portraiture and wedding photography, but I could never see where a TLR would be my primary photo taker given their bulk, shutter speed limitations, and the reversing of the image in the viewfinder.

All this negativity stated, did I mention that I love TLR cameras?  When it comes to a camera that delivers superb output and precisionate focusing onto a medium format negative at a modest price, nothing quite beats a TLR camera.

For the past couple of years, I'd been largely content to keep just two TLR cameras in my collection: namely the Seagull 4A-103 and the Yashica 12.  Both have rewarded me with some of my favorite images over the past three years, and are called upon periodically when I want to ensure that I can trust a camera to deliver excellent results.  I did have a little indiscretion last Spring when I picked up the Silverflex Model S, but was quickly dismayed by the results from that camera.

So with my TLR quota largely filled, one might wonder why I elected to purchase this one evening...

The Airesflex offers a basic, yet still somewhat elegant look to it, as an example of a well-built 1950's Japanese TLR camera. 

With a price tag of just $25 compared to a value that is at least three times that, I would think a more apt question would be "Why would I NOT add this camera to my collection.  It took mere seconds to arrive at the decision that the Airesflex would be coming home with me.


Agent Double-0-Thirty Five: The Minox 35ML

Just yesterday, I posted an article covering one camera that I'd hoped might be a 35mm version of my beloved Bantam, and here, a mere 24 hours later, I'm posting an article on another similar camera, at least when it comes to size, form factor, and country of origin.

Typically I deliberately try to keep my articles staggered.  An SLR camera review isn't followed with another SLR camera review, Rangefinders don't follow other rangefinders, and so forth.  However, in this case, two cameras of a different build type, but both offering some features to make them something of a 35mm Kodak Bantam, have managed to pace behind each other.  

In the case of this review, this similarity comes in the form of the Minox 35ML, a tiny and amazing piece of machinery in 35mm format that, for lack of a better descriptor, is best termed as a modern day compact folding camera. 

While not entirely spy-worthy, the Minox 35ML is an amazingly small device.

The Minox 35ML comes from a photographic icon famous in the photographic community for its smaller "Spy Cameras" utilizing tiny devices to record 8x11mm images on small size film.  The Minox name brings to mind the thrilling world of James Bond movies from the 1960's and 1970's, as a means to discretely take images of documents. These cameras still have a following to this day keeping the medium alive and well.

Less known however are Minox's 35mm offerings, which stay very true to the maker's tendency to create amazingly compact devices with a surprising amount of functionality.  I had never noted the presence of Minox in the sphere of 35mm film photography when I suddenly stumbled upon one for sale at a local Goodwill for a modest $25.  I picked it up and could immediately see what a unique gem of a camera this was.


Kwentisentially Kompact - Agfa's Karomat 36

For as long as I have successfully been able to use it, I have loved my Kodak Bantam Special 4.5. Its incredibly compact design and intuitive manual controls make it one of the easiest fully manual cameras I have yet to use. Add in that it is a family heirloom and this basic little camera that few employ today in their photo taking regimen sits uniquely as a favorite of mine.  
And while I do like the quirky and unique attributes of the 828 film format, even I can admit that I'm not always eager to cut down 120 film to respool to fit into my small cadre of 828 film cameras. Yet, with no Kodak-made 35mm equivalent to this trim Bantam model, I elected to look about to see if there was an affordable Bantam-like imposter made by anyone. So when this camera showed up on my radar for about $20, I knew I had found a contender for my 35mm Bantam. 

The look of the Agfa Karomat 36 is in some ways simple and elaborate at the same time. 
The Agfa Karomat's structural resemblance to the Bantam is certainly not just coincidence, as both cameras have their origins rooted in compact design practices of the era. With the Bantam, this came in the form of the 828 film, among the smallest of roll film sizes at the time of its introduction in 1938.  With the Karomat, the lineage reaches back to the use of Agfa "Rapid" cartridges, a spool free cassette using 35mm stock that was the basis for some of Agfa's earlier attempts at 35mm.  Coincidentally, Ansco, with which Agfa would collaborate, also used a similar cassette for their Memo box camera.  


Fun with Film: Kodak Supra 100

The world of Color Negative Film has gotten to be a bit dull to me - not dull as in "unsaturated," but more so dull in that there are not a lot of fresh options when I care to see if I can try out a new palette. 

Fortunately, there are, at the moment, a number of expired film stocks still found today, under 15 years old, that can still produce good results.  While these films may not be readily available, or even consistent from roll to roll, they can at least make for a fun new shooting exercise to throw into a trusted camera to see what you get.

One such film is Kodak Supra 100, an emulsion that appears to have shown up on the market around 2000, just as the world of digital photography was about to take off.  The introduction of a slower 100 speed film during an era when compact point and shoot cameras (that tended to need faster speed films) had gained so much traction in the market is an interesting and refreshing thing to note.  I'd presume that this film was marketed towards serious amateurs using SLR cameras or similar equipment.  

Information on Supra's selling points today can be a tad scant given that many web pages contemporary with the period the film was sold, have since vanished into cyberspace.  It seems that this film's main strengths were a vivid color and fine grain in comparison to the Kodak Gold and Royal Gold products at the time.  Supra was discontinued in all speeds around 2003, and remaining stocks of the film appear sporadically on eBay and other sales outlets, often in quantities of 5 rolls or less.

I happened to snap up a small lot of expired film from an ebay auction that included one roll of Supra, and was curious to see what this film could do, though the most recent examples of the film I could find on the web were a bit too "Lomo" for my tastes.  I elected to set out close to home with this film loaded in my Exakta VX, swapping from the Domiplan 2.8 to the Primotar 3.5 lens, and then finishing the roll in the Minolta A5 in order to see what sort of color the latter camera might provide.   

At the onset of the roll, the Supra provides a look that certainly doesn't look like a roll of film that was likely 15 years old, offering up bright colors that embody the vivid morning on which I rambled about.  Grain increase is evident in the sky, but is by no means distracting. 


Five Dollar Deal : Canon FTb

Most film camera collectors may dream of hitting a yard sale or thrift store and finding a Leica priced for a nominal $5 or so.  I'm not even a Leica-phile, but would gladly welcome such luck in my sojourns through the various places in my area where I might spot film cameras for sale.

Still, I certainly can't complain.  I've been fortunate to encounter a few very reasonably priced acquisitions at some of my favorite local haunts.  These include the Tower 60, the Ricoh Five·One·Nine, the Olympus OM-2, and the Yashica T2.  Still, while all of these were great pick ups, I think one camera stands out as the most stellar deal that I've ever stumbled across...

Handsomely clad in all-black, the Canon FTb is a well built and handsome model for its time. 

On the way home one evening, I capriciously elected to stop in a Goodwill near me at which I had never previously seen anything film related, save a fixed focus point and shoot... once. My cynicism was obviously high, expecting it to be wasted time and effort, but as the entire effort would take no more than five minutes, it wouldn't be a huge loss.

To my sheer surprise, a pair of SLR cameras (one manual and one auto focus) were haphazardly tossed onto the shelf in the electronics section, both priced at $4.99, having just been placed there judging by the price stickers having been printed and dated on the same day.  I wasted little time in quickly snapping them up and getting in line to pay.


Point and Shoot Pity Party Part 7 - Nikon Lite Touch Zoom 80

This is Part 7 of a recurring series on basic point and shoot consumer cameras, the details of which can be found here.

It was in the midst of my point and shoot hysteria that I paid a visit to a favorite Goodwill one afternoon, determined to get my hands on nearly anything cheap to try.  The selection today was both good and not so good.  A little over half a dozen point and shoot cameras, most offering autofocus, awaited me, but nothing really jumped out as a unique addition. Not wanting to leave empty-handed, I picked what seemed to be the neatest, and most compact of the lot, and thought I'd give it a try. . 

Name: Nikon Lite Touch Zoom 80
Format: 35mm
Type: Autofocus Compact Camera
Year: 1998
Features: Infinity Focus Mode, Auto Slow Speed Flash Mode, Force Flash on and Off, Red Eye Reduction, Self Timer, Early Rewind Button, Panorama Mode.
Lens: 38-80mm asperhical Macro Zoom, f/5.0-9.6, 5 elements in 5 groups.  
Battery: 1 x CR-123 cell.
Manual: http://cdn-10.nikon-cdn.com/pdf/manuals/archive/LiteTouch%20Zoom%2080%20-%20LiteTouchZoom%2080%20QD.pdf


Glee with Gadgets Pentax ME Super Dial Data Back

I'm not a photographer.  Though I may occasionally use my "Spidey Senses" and put forth some wonderful results, I'm not a 100% true, dyed in the changing bag cloth, "photographer."

I'd best describe my make up as one part photographer, one part history buff, one part collector, and one part "gear head."  The result is a quirky guy who likes using multiple classic old cameras to take photos.

The "gear head" aspect of this takes me down a geeky path where I find myself drawn to things that some other true photographers could care less about.  I might pay attention in particular to something as relevant as the intuitive nature of a viewfinder, but then also put an extra level of attention to the typefaces used in that viewfinder.

As I'm also a "data nerd" of sorts, I find that I like to know and keep track of things such as dates or exposure data at times, and have often looked at specific camera models that can accomplish the data recording in particular.  So when I discovered that a model for which I'd already developed a great fondness actually had such a capability, I simply had to give it a try.

And this is the story behind how I acquired a Pentax Dial Data Back ME.

The "Dial Data ME" back works by manually setting the three dials to the desired values to print, or to null values to disable printing.