Univexed: In Color!

When Univex introduced the AF-3 in 1936, it was promoted as having a "Color Corrected Duo Achromatic" Lens.  This is fittingly ironic in quite a few ways.  Keep in mind the year is 1936, a time long before the time of color negative film and C-41 mini-labs.  The first incarnations of Kodachrome color slide film were near to hitting the shelves, but were only suggested for use in cameras with exposure controls and specifications that could work within the confines of their slow speed.  And truth be told, there never was color film offered in Univex's proprietary "00" format, either in 1936, or at any time afterwards.

Perhaps the verbage was a sign of things to come in the mind of the designers at Univex. Perhaps it simply indicated a lens that would portray better images on panchromatic black and white film. Perhaps it was over-inflated hype by the marketing folks.  One can only wonder.

Still, as rare as any shots are taken using Univex cameras of the "00" format, they are all but non-existent in color.  Or at least they were.

Ironically, acquiring the similarly named UniCOLOR (see what I did there?) kit this past Summer became something of an enabler for me.  For now, not only could I develop my own color film in conventional formats, but also in any UNconventional format as well, as long as I could get it into a usable tank.  I'd already determined how to do this with Black and White film cut down to the width of "00" film, so I jumped at the chance to attempt this in color.  I slit a roll of 120 Ektar 100 to provide me stock for both the AF-5 (that presumably should have as good or better "color correction" as its AF-3 predecessor) and the Iris, and took both out on sunny lunch time strolls in Washington, DC, to see just what life looks like in color through the lens of a Univex camera. 

My first shot taken with the AF-5 is a bit subdued in nature, with some slightly muted pastel hues. 

The AF-5 continues to simply stun me at times.  This image snaps with vivid color, crisp contrast, and decent sharpness.  It certainly looks like your typical image shot with a 35mm point and shoot. 

The next image is slightly more washed out, but still portrays well. 

A couple of images taken at McPherson Square shows the often challenging bit of camera movement in the above shot, but excellent sharpness and color in the second image below. 

Light green tones rendered a bit oddly through the lens of the AF-5, as seen here.  This could be color corrected in post processing, but my goal was to portray the portrayal on the film to a greater degree.

A quick grab shot taken in partial shadow actually came out pretty well, if a bit on the blue side.  Reds also rendered quite sharply through the lens of the AF-5, giving off a Kodachrome like hue. 

Another shot in partial shadow shows that the camera and film handle shadow detail fairly well, while still giving off a bit of a cast to the final image. 

My results with the Iris were a bit less successful.  Images on the 100 speed film tended to be overexposed, and required more post-processing to give off a marginally acceptable image.  Again, light hues of green render oddly, while reds are very bold.

Best of the batch on the Iris was this one, still suffering from some movement and sharpness issues, but indicative of the potential this camera has to shoot color in the right conditions.  Fortunately, the Iris allows a modest degree of aperture adjustment. 

Warts and all.  Developing and scanning the oddly sized negatives on my equipment was a challenge enough, so when I see that some of my results are marred by movement and still have some dust, I elected to pass up on retouching.  Still, some very vivid red and blue tones on this image.

Ektar carries less latitude than other color negative films, so this overexposed image results in blown highlights as a result.  In hindsight, Portra 160 would have been a better choice for this experiment based on its wider latitude, but I'm still happy to have given this a try.

Developing these color films in the plastic FR tank was admittedly a challenge and a headache, but I have no regrets whatsoever in trying this.  Given the effort involved, I do wish I had been more discriminating about my subject matter and more careful with the shutter to avoid camera shake, but I wasn't aiming for any award winners from these photos. That said, it may be a while before I load up color into a Univex, but I have a feeling that at some point I will, now seeing some of the possibilities from this combination!