2.06.2017

Kodachrome 2017 - In COLOR!

As dusk descended upon the historic town of Frederick, the man set his trusty 1947 vintage Kodak Bantam atop his tripod facing a scene of increasing darkness along Carroll Creek and fired off his last shot of the roll of Kodachrome 828 film, experimenting with a setting of 10 secconds at f/11 and drew his photographic day to a close.  The day had been a long one, starting off with delays and disruption from livestock on the B&O Railroad line linking Frederick with Washington, DC, but had managed to improve quite a bit, turning out to be an unseasonably warm Winter's day with vivid blue skies.  Returning home, he unloaded the film from the Bantam and prepared to mail the parcel off to be developed in the hopes he had made the proper exposure calls through his sojourn of the day so as to get some rich color slides back from the 828 Kodachrome.

Reading the narrative above, one might think it depicts a time long passed in settings vastly different in appearance than they are today, but this in fact a condensed retelling of the events I experienced on January 25, 2017.

Yes, you read that title right.  Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it is possible to shoot Kodachrome again and get results in color!


Just what is this you are looking at?  Read on! (Photo by Kelly-Shane Fuller)


2.03.2017

Svelte in Steel: The Minolta Vectis 300

It may be the three letters that the film photographic community wishes to forget the most, or at least the three letters that have been most forgotten...

A P S

Promised to be the next generation of film format that would be able to adopt all that technology had to offer at the time, the Advanced Photo System, which debuted in 1996, turned out to be much ado about nothing.  Largely aimed at the casual consumer market, the 24mm wide film format enabled multiple print formats from the same roll, title and data printing on print backs, mid-roll changes, and data exchanges for optimal print quality.

After a somewhat rocky start of getting the infrastructure in place to APS film across the country, the APS film format briefly made inroads into share of the film photography market in the late 1990's, before the full scale advent of consumer digital camera imaging, which tore deeply into its market share.  The film format officially held on to about 2011 before being discontinued.  

The reasons for the failure of APS are many, and since the internet has been around for its entire history, there is much written online to document the timeline of the rise and fall of the format. Today, there is little in the way of nostalgia for the format; in fact there is often downright resentment for it being a "gimmick" to which the camera and film manufactures placed their attention instead of the existing formats.  Still, some of the best features of the format made their way into the last models of 35mm cameras, or were adopted and refined in digital formats popular today.  

While a handful of consumers may stubbornly shoot their APS cameras and remaining stock, there seems little in the way of nostalgia for the format or the cameras which defined it.  The result is that for the savvy shooter, there are a nice mix of interesting bargains available in APS.  Film of still quite usable vintage can be had for under $3 per roll online, while some nicely featured APS cameras are a great bargain on the used market.  This is just one such camera...



1.30.2017

Tightwad's Trailblazer: The Taron Marquis

Battery powered exposure metering is something that the vast majority of today's photographer's take largely for granted.  Today's sophisticated systems can do matrix metering, spot metering, and often include older standards such a "center-weighted" and "evaluative" as well.  Simply put, there is often little need for one to give much thought to exposure when armed with a camera, and can elect to concentrate more on composition and or focus in taking photos.

But this wasn't always the case.  One need only go back to the early 1960's to find a very different world photographically.  In-camera meters were themselves hardly universal, and those cameras that did offer metering typically did so via selenium cells that had a somewhat limited life expectancy and didn't really function adequately in lower light situations.

Interestingly enough, the advent of "CDS" cell metering powered by a battery didn't start with a well known name in photography today such as Nikon or Canon or Fuji, but rather a lesser known Japanese maker by the name of Taron.  Their release of the Marquis in 1962 was a significant leap for photography, and one whose effects are all too well known today, even if their own significance regarding this milestone has since been forgotten.

There are a number of Japanese camera makers of the 1950's and 1960's that were unable to adapt as global marketplaces and the camera industry changed through the decades.  Aires, Samoca, Petri and Taron are four such makers.  Taron's specialty was in 35mm rangefinders, and offered models such as the JL, MX, Unique, Robin, and EyeMax.  None of these other models were quite as groundbreaking as the Marquis however, whose CDS equipped body was the first such camera in the world.




1.27.2017

Too Pretty for Pity? The Yashica T2

Too Pretty for Pity?  Well, not terribly likely, but it made for a catchy title.  The somewhat more accurate title of "Too Cherished for Charity" just didn't have the same ring. 

The evening's run home had all the hallmarks of my typical commute, and with it, the pondering of a stop off at the Goodwill a block off my commuting route, but almost always impeded by heavy traffic.  Given that my last few visits to this same thrift store had netted me absolutely nothing in vintage camera finds, I had more or less elected to skip the deviation, but left the slightest door open to the possibility, electing "if there is no cross traffic, maybe I'll give it a try."

As if almost by intervention, Urbana Pike was completely free of the usual southbound traffic, so on a resigned whim, I elected to give the pit stop a try since there was very little time or gas wasted by the effort.  I wholly expected to breeze in and breeze back out with no net gain, and even after perusing the electronic offerings of the day, had almost determined that the trip was another lost effort when, mixed among a box of remote controls and other small electronic apparatus, I found this little gem for $1.99.

The Yashica T2 definitely embodies the decade that produced it. 

1.18.2017

A Speedy Trip Back to 120: The Ansco Speedex

828: a forgotten format... 
116: a forgotten format... 
127: A forgotten format... 
00: a forgotten format... 
120: a forgotten for..., wait WHAT?!?

I've turned a lot of attention to what is often referred to as "obsolete formats" in the past year, referring to film sizes that are either commercially scarce or completely out of commercial production.  In the process of this interest, I've sort of lost sight of one of the main points of interest in my own film resurgence: the 120 format folding film camera.

In the Fall of 2014, 120 folders were my bread and butter, and I produced many photos with these surprisingly capable compact cameras that I'm still quite proud of, but my use of them had begun to dwindle, as 35mm began to make inroads into my shooting queue for its expanded film selection, while the other mothballed formats began to take more and more of my quirky side's attention. Meanwhile, some of my folding camera favorites began showing signs of their age: the Balda Pontina had an odd light leak, the Ikonta A didn't quite seem to focus properly, and neither my original Franka Solida nor its replacement were working as they should. Further, I'd pretty much stopped looking for additions to my collection of this genre to complement my collection, though I knew I still had some interest in rekindling the time in which my interest in shooting 120 format flourished. 

My budget however was not what it was when I first started shooting.  Where I'd once been OK with spending $60 for a single camera, I now found myself peeking more and more through thrift stores to see what I could snag for under $10.  Times had definitely changed, but indeed for the better, as I became more scrutinizing of spending any money towards new pickups.

The general outcome of these modified shopping habits tended to put most of these deluxe folding cameras out of reach, and yet I still didn't have a 6x6 folder that I could depend upon, but then luck happened upon me.  



1.12.2017

Point and Shoot Pity Party Part 1: The Olympus Infinity Zoom 200

This is Part 1 of a recurring series on basic point and shoot consumer cameras, the details of which can be found here.

Olympus is a camera maker known over the decades for engineering some of the most compact cameras of their types.  Among the most well known of these are the svelte OM series of SLR cameras, but also the PEN half-frame cameras, XA and 35 series rangefinder models, and the modern micro 4/3 mirrorless digital cameras.  Thus, the rather blocky Olympus "compact" camera below caught me by surprise when I spotted it for sale in the thrift shop display case.  It was certainly among the earlier of autofocus point and shoot cameras, but was it any good?  I was about to find out. 


Name: Olympus Infinity Zoom 200
Format: 35mm
Type: Autofocus Point and Shoot 
Year: 1989
Features: Multi-Flash, Spot Focus, Auto Portrait Mode, Date Back, concealed removable remote trigger, Limited filter use possible with optional proprietary attachment.
Lens: Olympus 38-90mm f/4.5-6.4, 7 elements in 7 groups.
Battery: 2 CR-123 Cells.
Manual: http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/cpg_support_manuals.asp?id=972

The Point and Shoot Pity Party Project

There have been times when I have felt like the proverbial "cat lady" of Vintage Cameras. These instances have occurred when browsing a Goodwill or seeing an auction lot of a handful of cameras online, only to take pity on a rather ordinary camera passed along for very cheap sale, on the expectation that I might somehow find a use for it. 

This tendency offers a quick cheap fix for the perils of GAS that pervade the photographic hobby and is relatively harmless, except that I make a point of shooting any camera I acquire as long as it is possible. 

The result is that I am now often saddled with taking along an extra camera or two to work through a roll to get some results from these adopted cameras to see what they can do. As the bulk of these cameras aren't coveted by collectors and have since been shunned by consumers, there is often little online to document them and of what they may be capable.  Therefore, I shall be featuring periodic posts with mini write ups of these cameras to spotlight them and their results, offering at least a small online glimpse at what they can do. In the interest of economy, film choice is likely to be "whatever I have laying around." 


Cameras that ideally fit the mold of this sort of feature should fit the following criteria:
  • A point and shoot, focus free or AF consumer targeted camera, of compact nature.
  • A camera with few if any special desirable features aside from flash settings and zoom. 
  • A camera that cost me no more than $5.25 total, including tax or shipping. 
  • A camera that wasn't anything I had an interest in an acquiring prior to me seeing it. 
I will continue to feature many point and shoot cameras in their own more comprehensive articles, but such cameras will break one or more of the criteria above. Hopefully this will prove to be a novel way to document some basic camera models that have been largely forgotten since digital cameras (and smart phones) took over the vast majority of the consumer photo business. Enjoy!