5.01.2015

Film Rewind - A second take on some Film Cameras

If a look through the chronology of my posts is to be believed, I'm a "camera whore."  I get a camera, shoot a roll or two through it, and then stow it away as my fascination turns to the next novel project or acquisition in my repertoire.  

I am very proud to say that is not the case.

The story and interest in the machines does not end with the publishing of the article.  In fact, the article often sets about to be the springboard for even more new and novel fun with the camera once I have gotten a taste of its strengths and limitations.  As such, I thought it would be a nice idea to publish this follow up as a sort of "where are they now" feature. Enjoy! 


It's the very camera that got me interested in film photography once again, and after a little bit of trial and error, I got it working once again.  Since discovering the portability and fun of the folding cameras, I've used the Seagull less, but it is still a wonderful camera to use, though often maligned by "serious" photographers. Ironically, it is the medium format camera I've had the longest, and yet it is the newest in my collection, as every other 120 camera I own was somewhere in the world on the day I was born.  Below is a Provia 100F image taken with the Seagull.  I had to secure the camera on the rear of my car, causing the light bleed in the lower corner. 








When I made a commitment to renewed interest in shooting film, I made that commitment to the Yashica 12, a TLR camera I managed to win from ebay.  Yet, since discovering the portability of folders in 6x4.5, 6x9, and even other makeshift formats, the venerable yet bulky 12 has been relegated to more occasional use than I'd expected.  I feel like a horrible spouse.  However, when I have a project for which exposure and focus accuracy are critical, particularly at wider apertures, this twin lens classic is my go-to.  It was my camera of choice to test Rollei Infrared and Agfa Crossbird 200 films, and I've fed a few other rolls to it as well, including a roll of Velvia 50, whose results can be seen below.






Technically, the first folding camera I bought, even if it arrived behind the second one.  The Billy Record I is not a camera I'll readily turn to capture a wide range of settings.  It has just 3 shutter speeds, and is no faster than f/6.3.  Still, this early 1950's basic folder is very dependable at performing its limited functions dependably with accurate shutter and focus, and provides good images as long as you keep it clear of glare.  I elected to use this classic Agfa on my recent Cross Process experiment, a task for which it proved itself to be well suited, and it has come along on other photo expeditions as well. Below is a Velvia 100 image taken in Carroll County, Maryland.






One of the loveliest folding cameras I've ever seen or owned, this camera dates appears to date from 1949, and has a well renowned 4 element Solinar lens.  However, the image quality from the initial test roll was particularly disappointing.  I used some tape to test the focus, and found it to be OK, and ultimately ran another roll through it.  The problem is, I neglected to remove one of the pieces of tape after the focus test, and the roll came back with a "screen" over the right border of each image.  The results were better, though I still look at this camera as a better option for near placed objects, since infinity always looks mushy.  I've loaded a roll of Velvia 50 in it this Spring, and hope for some winners from this Art Deco beauty.  Below is an image from the roll with the aforementioned tape obscuring the right side of the image.






I got every bit of my money's worth from this ebay pickup.  This classic camera is quite likely the most dependable folding camera in my entire collection.  It's Novar lens exhibits a little bit of softness, but it still achieves some very good results, and I never worry about technical issues with either the lens or shutter.  It was a no-brainer to take this along on my Portland Neon adventure, and it came through with flying colors. It has seen a number of other rolls of film as well, and can manage some excellent results, even on Velvia 100F, as seen below.






My first 645 folder definitely impressed me with the image quality and portable size, leading me to invest more money to give it a fitting CLA treatment from a leading camera doctor.  As the color palette of the world narrowed over the winter, I fed it numerous rolls of black and white film, from TMAX 400 to Ilford XP2 to Ilford Delta 400.  Then I got back a number of the results and was admittedly disappointed.  Despite having a well regarded Tessar lens, shots taken wider than f/8 exhibited some severe problems with focus and sharpness. I elected to shelve the camera for a while as I tested a couple of other 645 folders acquired later.  Despite these disappointments, there were winners, such a shot below that was shot at f/9 on Ilford Delta 400.






Resplendent and gleaming in its appearance, the Hapo 10 won me over to pulling the purchase trigger with its sharp looks and nice finishes. However, two rolls of film through this late 1930's folder left me less than impressed, and the Hapo spent much of the winter on a shelf vacation.  By March however, I elected it was time to give it one more try using a more forgiving medium: color negative film, while also trying to compensate for its slow shutter.  The results were improved, as there were some better shots in the mix.  However, the images still lack something, while having a noticeable vignette.  I'm still at a bit of a loss as to what a good purpose for this pretty camera will ultimately be. 






It doesn't quite have the dependability of the Ikonta 521/2, as it can sometimes hang open on the "B" shutter setting, and it needs its lens base secured to avoid a distorted image.  Still, this 1930's Balda, which I had essentially acquired in order to get its accompanying mask to use in the Hapo 10, but obliged to run a test roll through, is hands down the most endearing camera of the batch.  The images rendered by the Meyer Gorlitz Trioplan lens give off a certain "Je ne sais quoi" quality to them, with astounding color, clarity, and contrast, with no vignetting at all.  Though I've only made specific mention of using this camera again on the Portland Neon project, there have been very few times when there has not been a roll of film being run through this fantastic machine, as the results from it never cease to thoroughly impress me. Below is just one sample taken on Velvia 50.





My only 6x6 folder, the Solida surprised me with the image quality from its fast f/2.9 Schnieder lens.  As a result, it seemed the natural choice to sample super slow film Rollei RPX 25, and it gave some very impressive results.  I'd gotten some confidence in this little square shooter, only to have it become particularly temperamental about releasing the shutter once it was cocked, resulting in some lost frames in the field.  I tried to use a commercial lubricant to remedy this issue, but this only made things worse.  MUCH worse. Sadly, the Franka is mothballed at the moment awaiting some TLC to get it functional once again.  However, before my unfortunate actions, I managed to get one more roll of Rollei RPX 25 through it, with some success, one of the successful exposures of which can be seen below. 






Seemingly the ultimate folder to acquire, this vintage Zeiss only seemed to live up to the hype of the ultimate frustration on its initial roll, yielding a very dismal take.  Still, I was not ready to give up on this deluxe folder, and made an 11th hour decision to bring it along as a backup on the Portland Neon project, where it gave me a perfect 4 for 4 on my attempts to capture the classic neons.  And in fact, the other 4 shots on the roll came out exceptional as well, showing some stellar sharpness from the Tessar lens, such as in this Chicago shot below taken on Velvia 50.  It is a camera with idiosyncrasies that must be followed to the letter.  But provided you stay on top of its quirks, this camera provides some very satisfying results!






The camera that cost me less than a roll of Velvia definitely captivated me with its fun and oddball nature. My "experiment" of running a roll of 120 film through this 116 format camera was, by all measures a success. I was particularly enthused at how it managed to handle night time exposures stopped all the way down to f/45, yielding some incredibly sharp images.  After my initial roll, I tried a follow up roll, and was amazed at the results, leading me to take it along on the Portland Neon project, where it didn't quite yield results like those below, taken on the 2nd roll I ran through this 1929 classic.






So is it a Welta Perle or a Rodenstock Citonette?  I don't really care at this point.  The mysterious camera with the Rodenstock Trinar lens proved to be just intriguing enough for me to add to my collection.  And its results, while not quite perfect, were at least very encouraging, showing a lot of great character.  Combining this with my disappointments from the Ikonta A led me to take a chance on taking along this little camera instead of its distant German cousin to provide day time photos on the Portland/Chicago trip, as well as to be the conduit to test out some Fomapan 200, and it performed quite admirably in so many respects.  A shot on HP5+ taken in Portland on an overcast day can be seen below.




Any others?

My pace as acquisitions has slowed to quite a trickle from the initial spurt, due largely to me having more than I need as it is.  I have however picked up a pair of cheap 645 folders, one of which is usable.  I've also snagged a camera that uses 122 format film.  Stay tuned for some upcoming results from these old classics.