1.19.2018

Film Hacking: Instaxperiments with the Polaroid J66

I'm stubborn.

There's just no other way of putting it.  One would think that after several less than successful tries of trying to use Fuji FP-100C pack film in a handsome but otherwise obsolete Polaroid J66 camera, I'd simply toss in the towel and be content to hand this camera over to my wife to strictly be a display item for the house. 

"Not I" said the rabbit.

If nothing else, my increasingly frustrating experiments with this forlorn folder proved one thing: that film placed into its chambers was exposed in proper focus.  The main issue with the pack film was the film speed combined with an apparent reciprocity failure that left repeated exposures of the same scene to have little effect on the exposure.  After 14 repeated exposures of a sunny scene that still came out dark, it was apparent that 100 speed film was ill fitted for a camera whose design called for the use of 3000 speed film. 

But what about 800 speed? 

It was this thought that dawned upon me one bitter morning as I began to embark on a few different "Instaxperiments" as I like to call them. I'd managed to make Instax Wide film work properly in a Kodak Brownie 2C, but had to do some work to throttle down the higher speed Instax film.  As I had a decent supply of this medium, I figured I'd give the J66 one last try, and carefully placed a single sheet of Instax wide (puffy side to the front) into the film chamber under the veil of darkness. 

With bright sunny skies in seeming contrast to the frigid temps, I set out on an errand, and in the midst of it, made a quick stop Downtown to attempt this last ditch effort to salvage a decent image from the J66.  I set the focus to the "portrait" setting, found a close subject well bathed in sunlight, opened the aperture fully by using the lighten-darken dial fully to lighten, and fired away.  Scurrying home and returning to my fully darkened room, I then removed the film from the camera and gently fit it into an empty Instax film cartridge, inserting it into an Instax 210 camera I picked up a while back with a faulty lens but working film ejector, and fired away to see how the J66 fared.

Expecting little after all of the previous trials and tribulations with this camera, I approached this last ditch try with almost no fanfare or anticipation, so I was pretty much speechless to see this image develop before my eyes! 

My first try at using Instax Wide in the Polaroid J66 was actually a last ditch try to see if I could salvage an image from this camera.  I was in utter shock to see this develop before my eyes. 

1.10.2018

Film Hacking: Not Your Typical Polaroid

A number of months ago, I snapped a photo on Fuji FP-100C Instant Peel Apart Film, and was particularly pleased with the results that I obtained.  


Would you care to guess which camera model shot the photo?


12.28.2017

Dutch Date - Part 6: The Minolta Autopak 700 and the GAF Anscomatic 726

Every so often, I'll get really frugal and ask a couple of cameras to share a roll of film.  Though there are problems here and there, they'll usually agree.  I call these "Dutch Dates" and usually try to pair cameras with something more than simply the film format in common.  Below is a look at just one such pairing...


So would the two early Gen X'ers find that their classic American staple tasted like a finely aged Bourbon or stale beer?  Read on to find out!

Camera Models: Minolta Autopak 700 (ca 1966) and GAF Anscomatic 726 (ca 1969)

Similarities: Both are Japanese made 126 format auto-exposure rangefinders of early 1970's vintage with the capability of full manual control.  

Differences: The GAF has a higher top speed (1/500) than the Minolta (1/250) and, from limited previous experience, is much more accomodating to use of 35mm film spooled into a 126 cartridge. 

Film Shared: Expired Kodak Gold 200-126 expired in January 1992. 

It was just last May when I first elected to pick up and use a camera in the favorite format of my mom: none other than 126 cartridge.  Though it seemed my initial tries with this film and format encountered more challenges than conquests, I ultimately discovered a new love and respect for this largely forgotten film format, and some of the machines designed to utilize it.  With cameras in 126 format available for next to nothing, I snapped up a small sampling of various "Instamatic" type cameras to get a better feel of all that the 126 format once was. 


12.20.2017

Dutch Date - Part 5: Ricoh Singlex TLS and Ricoh 35 Flex

Every so often, I'll get really frugal and ask a couple of cameras to share a roll of film.  Though there are problems here and there, they'll usually agree.  I call these "Dutch Dates" and usually try to pair cameras with something more than simply the film format in common.  Below is a look at just one such pairing...


As they settled in to enjoy an English delicacy, the 35 Flex asked the Singlex if the battle wounds were real or self-inflicted. 

Camera Models: Ricoh Singlex TLS (1967) and Ricoh 35 Flex (1963)

Similarities: Both are 1960's Ricoh SLR cameras under their own brand name.

Differences: The Singlex is a conventional focal plane shutter SLR with interchangeable lenses, while the 35 Flex is a leaf shutter SLR with a fixed lens. 

Film Shared: Ilford FP4+, Fresh Dated 

The 1960's might be considered to be the prime period for Ricoh's camera models.  Though the Japanese camera maker certainly had a pretty lengthy run of producing some very capable, and often quite unique film cameras, the Sixties seem to be when Ricoh made a name for itself in a pretty crowded industry.  Though the maker continued creating some excellent cameras in the decades to follow, it seemed to be increasingly marginalized, at least in the US, as Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, and Olympus took the top spots in the remaining field.


12.18.2017

Innovation Station: Medium Format Macros for the Frugal

Shooters of the 35mm format seem to get all the perks cheaply.  For under $20, one can easily pickup any of a wide number of choices for a competent used shooter taking 135 stock that will pretty much do about all that one can expect, including a wide range of shutter speeds and the ability to close focus on even some of the most basic of cameras, allowing for some great shots with wonderful separation of field.

In the world of medium format however, this wide array of choices quickly vanishes.  For those of us who love working with the larger negative sizes that 120 film offers, securing a decent 120 camera for anywhere under $100 often seems like something of a challenge.  And whether one's 120 camera of choice is ultimately is a TLR, a guess focus folder, or a something more along the lines of the "Texas Leica," the ability to get close can be especially elusive on medium format altogether. 

However, with a little bit of ingenuity and some stubborn determination, one can pretty readily be up and about shooting macros in medium format after having spent less than $20 in equipment for camera and accessories, while having a tremendous amount of fun and involvement in the process! This is the hobby of photography at its most enjoyable and affordable. 

So let's start with a shot taken on Ilford HP5 with focus around infinity.  Pretty decent stuff, though this gate in foreground is completely out of focus.  It'd be great to pull the focus a bit closer...

Hey, now we're getting somewhere, though the ornament is still a bit shy of the sweet spot...

Now that's better!  Any chance focus can be pulled in even further?...

Now this is closer than one typically sees from medium format cameras.  Just how close can we pull in focus?

All the way to the nearest bar in the gate!  By now that once crisp backdrop has been wonderfully muted in the distance.

The camera used to produce these images cost me just $15 in a second hand shop, and is readily found in antique stores or online auction sites at around the same price in ready to use condition.  So what did I use for these medium format macro photos?  This! 

A simple Kodak Brownie Number 2 was used to create all of the images above, by means of a pretty simple technique.

12.12.2017

Dutch Date - Part 4: The Minolta 460Tx and the Minolta-16 MG

Every so often, I'll get really frugal and ask a couple of cameras to share a roll of film.  Though there are problems here and there, they'll usually agree.  I call these "Dutch Dates" and usually try to pair cameras with something more than simply the film format in common.  Below is a look at just one such pairing...


As they devoured their Chinese fare, the lively discussion between the two often turned into heated exchanges, as both tried to best each other. 

Camera Models: Minolta Autopak 460Tx (1979) and Minolta-16 MG (1966)

Similarities: Both are Minolta made products that shoot a 16mm wide film stock, albeit using different cartridges.

Differences: The 460Tx uses perforated 110 film, has adjustable focus and aperture, but a seemingly constant shutter speed.  The 16 MG offers fixed focus, with an integrated sliding filter for closer focus.  Aperture and shutter on the 16 MG are both adjustable, albeit on a scale resembling a program exposure.

Film Shared: Lomography Orca 110BW, fresh dated. 

As the popularity of film photography increased, and the capabilities of photographic film improved, the decades from the 1930's onward increasingly sought ways to improve on the portability of cameras while still providing versatility and good image quality.  The miniaturization of cameras hit a certain stride in the later part of the 20th century, with many cameras easily fitting into pockets to have at the ready at any time.  


12.05.2017

Dutch Date - Part 3: Minolta Freedom Dual C and Minolta Freedom Zoom Explorer

Every so often, I'll get really frugal and ask a couple of cameras to share a roll of film.  Though there are problems here and there, they'll usually agree.  I call these "Dutch Dates" and usually try to pair cameras with something more than simply the film format in common.  Below is a look at just one such pairing...


They scarfed down their British fare with reckless abandon, and remarked, how of their contemporaries coming up in the 90's, they were some of the few who could really see the "big picture."

Camera Models: Minolta Freedom Dual C (1991) and Minolta Freedom Zoom Explorer (1999)

Similarities: Both are Minolta made point and shoot models with multiple focal lengths that have the fairly rare ability to shoot at the 28mm focal length on the wide end of their focal length range.

Differences: The Freedom Dual C, an earlier model, is actually a dual lens camera rather than a zoom like the Freedom Zoom Explorer.  It offers special buttons only to turn off flash or to use a self timer.  The Explorer however has a burst mode, night portrait mode, red-eye reduction flash, and macro mode among its options. 

Film Shared: Ilford Delta 400, fresh dated, developed in TFX-2. 

As the 1990's progressed, point and shoot cameras continued to try to reach new and impractical levels of focal length, as the typical 35-70mm range began to expand ever upwards with each successive year.  As the decade closed, and a consumer digital era crept imminently close, the longest of these super zooms stretched to a 200mm focal length! 

Far fewer camera models in this age of length inadequacy crept inward, typically leaving 35mm (or more often 38mm) as the widest focal length offered, and in effect leaving snapshooters in close quarters with few comparative choices.  Minolta was one of the few makers to crack the semi-wide ceiling on some of their models, with a couple of models reaching inward to be operable at a wide 28mm focal length.