No Spartan Here! The Spartus Roxmar

The great thing about having a hobby shooting film in classic film cameras, and making the world aware of it is that eventually, someone will come along and help you feed your sickness! 

Not long after posting my article on the rather cumbersome Samsung Maxima 105, Mike Novak, a fellow member of the Facebook Vintage Camera Collectors Group, offered to send me a handful of cameras to borrow to which I could give a try.  Though he sent along a refinement of the Samsung Point and Shoot series, he also sent along a particularly charming camera that piqued my interest the most: The Spartus Roxmar! 


Adventures in Sheet Film: The Conley Kewpie No 3

Some ideas take a long while to come to fruition, and by the time they do, they often take on a largely different context from their original context. 

Well over a year ago, as my enthusiasm for shooting cameras using film formats no longer made was hitting one of a few quirky peaks, I stumbled across an idea in a film camera forum to use 4x5 sheet film in a 122 Kodak "3A" folding camera.  At the time,  I was encountering only modest success with using spool adapters to use 120 film in these classic cameras, due in large part to some film plane alignment issues that resulted in soft images.  

The premise of "just laying the sheet of film in the chamber" to be exposed seemed like a really nice way to get the full image size of the 122 film format on film.  I rushed off to Freestyle and ordered a 25 sheet pack of their Arista sheet film.  

Turns out, this idea had its share of challenges.  Not only did my 122 cameras have some issues with focus collimation, but the film plane issues actually seemed to worsen by simply plopping the film in the film chamber with no way to keep the film taut.  Add to it that I hadn't yet embarked on developing my own black and while film, and this was turning out to be a pretty costly "Autographic Experiment."

Fast forward a year and change, and my enthusiasm for obsolete formats hits a new peak. Add in some newly found interest in antique box cameras, and my thoughts towards resurrecting a sheet film experiment are rekindled.

The most obvious idea that occurred to me was to find some sort of 122 box camera, and load it with 4x5 film, getting the most out of the sheet film and getting an image that almost encompasses all of the generous size of the 122 format.  The problem is that 122 format box cameras seemed all but non-existent, based on my searches.  I did stumble across a few listings for some Conley "Kewpie" 3A cameras at some very cheap prices, so I proceeded to snap one up.  

The only problem is that when my camera arrived, it was not a "Kewpie No 3A" but a "Kewpie No 3." That seemingly minor suffix letter makes a significant difference.  The "No 3" is designed to take 124 film rather than the 125 film whose image size is identical to 122 film. 

Not the prettiest of "classic" cameras is the Kewpie No 3, but this was a camera that was designed for affordability.


Point and Shoot Pity Party Part 4: The Olympus ∞ Stylus Zoom

This is Part 4 of a recurring series on basic point and shoot consumer cameras, the details of which can be found here.

To most bargain hunters, the term "As Is" can often be a deterrent, but to the savvy film camera bargain hunter, is is not often a deal killer, due in large part to the excess challenges for the average seller to find a battery and film, and to process it to test its functionality.  As such, I really didn't blink when I saw these words on the price tag affixed to the Olympus ∞ Stylus Zoom as I browsed through the downtown hospital thrift shop.  While its specs didn't wow me over, the price of this camera and the inclusion of the original box and manuals made it a pretty easy buy after a morning of jury duty.  It seemed a good candidate for this pity party! 

Front View (closed)

Front View (open)

Top View

Through the small viewfinder.  Note the centering focus marks and the close framing line near right top. 

Name: Olympus ∞ Stylus Zoom
Format: 35mm
Type: Autofocus Point and Shoot 
Year: 1993
Features: Weatherproof, Self Timer and Remote, Red Eye Reduction, Slow-sync Flash Mode.
Lens: 35-70mm, f/4.5-6.9 (6 elements in 5 groups).
Battery: 1 CR-123 cell.
Manual: http://www.derrybryson.com/manuals/Olympus/35%20MM%20CAMERAS/Stylus%20Zoom%20instruction%20manual.pdf


Oh Me Too? (What more can I add?) The Olympus OM2

Some camera reviews are easier than others for me.  Give me an overlooked quirky model and I can readily reveal the fun aspects of shooting one of these unique models supplemented with what little bits of interesting information that I can discover about the model and its maker.  It's a fun process that makes for a fun to write review that I always feel proud to share.

But give me a well-known and well-loved model with oodles already written about it, and I will be crippled by a severe case of writer's block.  After all, what more can I add to a conversation that has already been so extensively covered from more or less every conceivable angle.  And that is just where I am in trying to pen a fitting review of the Olympus OM-2N.

A special thanks to my Minolta 5D for producing such a wonderful vanity shot of the OM-2

The Olympus OM-2 is perhaps the most well known camera for which I have in my stable and I've yet to write a post.  On its debut in the 1970's (arguably the prime period of manual focus SLRs), the OM-2 was very well received for its compact size and easy to use feature set. Forty years later, the OM-2 is still a darling of a camera for many of today's film shooters, and has any number of positive write-ups online.  Two of my film shooting buddies, Mike and James both have favorable reviews posted of the OM-2 that can relay more about the camera's history and attributes than I can ever hope to convey here.


All Weather Friend - The Nikon Action Touch

Confession time: I can't swim.  Throughout my younger years, I held a certain trepidation towards the water after falling into a river while fishing with my brother early on.  He pulled me from the cold waters of the Gunpowder River, but I never quite pulled myself from my aversion to bodies of water, despite trying to learn to swim in the years that followed.

And while I may not savor the feeling of swimming across a pool in a way that many people do, I do enjoy visits to lakes and beaches, and even can find a certain enjoyment in rain soaked days at times. Oh, and yes, as you may know, I like taking pictures.

In an earlier photographic life, I was admittedly guilty of trying to use a less than all-weather camera in all sorts of situations.  I held my Minolta X-700 under an umbrella as I took photos in a rain storm, or tucked it in a coat pocket as I wandered through falling snow to capture winter scenes.  Perhaps this abuse is what led the EV compensation dial to throw off the meter in this classic camera.  Who knows?  I'm not giddy about the outcome of the camera, but am at least glad to have captured some long lost scenes in less than fair weather.

If only I had elected to use a more weatherproof camera during these days for such scenes, I might still have the X-700 as a member of my arsenal to use in more optimal settings.  If only I'd had a camera like the Nikon Action Touch!


Innocuous and Impressive: The Konica I

The hobby of film photography on classic cameras is a road often fraught with perils and temptations, particularly when it comes to resisting expensive items with prestigious name plates.  Fortunately, my budget and sensibilities are right about in line with each other to keep this in check for the most part, leaving me to stay with more affordable cameras and options, rather than to splurge on fancy models such as those that begin with "L" and end in "ica."

However, the form factor of an early Leica is certainly intriguing, and has often been mimicked by other makers, particular in the 1950's and 1960's.  I found a stellar buy back in the Summer of 2016, in which I found a camera with the Leica form factor and which also ended in "ica" but started with "K" rather than "L."  And with a $22 splurge, I elected to become the owner of a Konica I Rangefinder!

The classic rangefinder look is handily accomplished by the Konica I, seen here in its "collapsed" state.

While the 1948 vintage Konica I is hardly a candidate for a complete doppelganger for a Leica, it certainly bears a favorable resemblance to early model 35mm cameras of Ernst Leitz.  It has a collapsible lens that gives it a very compact form factor when folded up, and a nicely polished set of finishes that evoke a very stately look.  Pulling out the compact Konica I, extending the lens barrel, and then getting a photo feels very satisfying photographically.


Point and Shoot Pity Party Part 3: The Kodak Cameo Motor EX

This is Part 3 of a recurring series on basic point and shoot consumer cameras, the details of which can be found here.

It is the kind of camera that was typical for most of us "Newbies" to try out the world of photography in the 1980's and 1990's: a fixed focus 35mm compact with a flash.  But the 1996 vintage Cameo Motor EX is a tad splashier than the Kodak Star that I picked up in 1989.  For one, it is small, streamlined, and easily portable.  The design actually reminds me of the a Bantam f/4.5 in some ways since the lens actually springs out when you open the clamshell.  A "bonus" camera that I picked up in a bulk lot that had a desired rangefinder model, the Cameo Motor EX offered just enough rounded 1990's styling to encourage me to give it a try.  

Front Views: Collapsed (above) and Opened (below)

Top View

View through the reverse-Galilean viewfinder.

Name: Kodak Cameo Motor EX (Olympic Edition)
Format: 35mm
Type: Fixed Focus Point and Shoot 
Year: 1996
Features: A Flash that you can't turn off but can force on should you choose, Self-Timer.
Lens: 34mm f/5.6 3-element lens typically shooting at f/11 in daylight.
Battery: 2 AAA Cells.
Manual: http://wwwca.kodak.com/global/en/service/cameo/motorEx/ownerManual/toc.shtml


Extraordinary in the Ordinary: The Nikon N60

Admittedly, there is much to be spoiled about for those who shoot today's digital SLR camera technology, permitting feature after feature that simply didn't exist in the heyday of film.  And while there are some film cameras from the later years that show some pretty remarkable uses of technological advances of their era, there are any number of other models that would seem to compete for the title of the most "plain vanilla camera" of their respective categories.  And if indeed such a contest would have existed for later model film cameras, Nikon's N60 would have certainly been among the stronger contenders for capturing the title of "Most Plain Vanilla SLR Camera Model."

Facing the reality of it all, the N60's feature set admittedly is a pretty short read rooted in the basic, carrying the usual suspects of a handful of "scene" modes in addition to the expected presence of Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes.  It seems that aside from an EV compensation button, the N60 offers nothing in the way of extras.  If the N60 were a car, it would almost certainly be the "base model" that lacks the panache of the deluxe trim package.


A Deal in Teal: The Vivitar 5500PZ

I call her Viv, and she's the 90's type!

Potentially insensitive remarks aside, some cameras make clear reference to the decade in which they were made. One look at a Kodak Bantam Special and it is rather quickly apparent that it is a product of the 1930's. A Kodak Brownie Hawkeye certainly exudes the postwar design of the 1950's. And then there is the Vivitar 5500PZ, a camera that more or less screams that it was made in the 1990's. 

Perhaps screaming is an overstatement. Perhaps a more fitting depiction would be to say that this camera strongly echoes its early 1990's origins.  And this embodiment is proclaimed in the simplest of forms: a few accents in teal. 

Teal was, perhaps more than any other, the official shade of the 1990's. The color spread through furnishings and fashions and seemed to be the mandatory color of choice for sports franchises born in the era. Fresh at the time, the tone gradually grew out of favor and presented a dated look. 

This Vivitar spotlights teal to contrast with its black body to present a look seemingly right out of the Jacksonville Jaguars uniform template. As a result, looking at it makes me crave a game of Super Street Fighter and a cup of TCBY.


Solida Success! Sorta!

A few years ago, I had the odd (OK, well now typical for me) fortune of having a mercy camera pick-up that I shot with only half-hearted interest, only to have it pleasantly surprise me with its image results.  That camera was none other than the 6x6 folder known as the Franka Solida.  

Of course, as soon as I became more enamored of this camera and its Schneider Radionar lens, the shutter began to get particularly flaky.  It hit the point where I developed a love-hate relationship with the Solida, in which each roll would prove a major pain to shoot, but the good shots from the roll mostly made up for this headache of a camera.  

I kept my eyes open for another cheap Solida with the same specs, particularly the f/2.9 lens.  By the dawn of 2016, I had found one, and elected to more or less retire the cantankerous Solida to focus upon its sibling, whom I'd christened as my "Solida 2.0."  

One roll in this replacement camera and my thoughts began to change.  This Solida seemed to not only suffer from some lens fungus, but it didn't seem to render with any sort of pleasing tonality. Even worse was that the focusing distances didn't seem to match up to the rendering of the lens, indicating a need for a lens collimation. Finally, the film rollers tracked muck onto the film surface, resulting in gritty lines across some exposures.  

While some of its issues could be addressed, this Solida was not one that I was quite ready to putz with.  I briefly considered if I could transfer the lens from the original Solida to the "2.0" version, but the camera essentially sat next to the other one for the better part of a year.

And then a few months ago, I just happened to stumble upon this in a nearby antique store, priced at a very modest $25.  


Point and Shoot Pity Party Part 2: The Rolls Camera

This is Part 2 of a recurring series on basic point and shoot consumer cameras, the details of which can be found here.

It's a Genuine Rolls Camera proclaims the original box.  I guess that was supposed to be special for some reason?!?  Though it lacks much in features as it has in advertising bravado, the Rolls is among the earlier "Point and Shoot" cameras aimed at the casual photo market. With just two settings: for time exposures and normal exposures, the Rolls is certainly simple to use.  But what sort of photos can it take on 127 size roll film.  Have a look! 

Front View

Top View 

Through the Viewfinder

Name: Rolls Camera
Format: 127
Type: Fixed Focus Point and Shoot 
Year: 1939
Features: Time or Instant Settings.
Lens: 50mm f/16 Rollax.
Battery: None.
Manual: http://www.butkus.org/chinon/rolls/rolls_camera.htm


Third Time's The Charm: The Mamiya MSX-500

Way back in my initial film days of the early 1990's, I subscribed to a number of photographic magazines that helped enlighten me to a world of photographic possibilities, most of which were beyond my photographic reach as a result my finances.  Little did I realize at the time that the current information in these magazines would foster some false assumptions on my part that would only be disproven decades later.

Consider this: at that time, 35mm was about the most capable film format that a person of modest means could afford.  The 120 format was much more of a pie-in-the-sky for a college student at the time that I eventually broke in 1993, but even then at a modest level.  The majority of the format was in a "professional tier," and magazine ads of the times for cameras well beyond my means ran through a lineup of brand names that seemed to be namesakes only in professional medium format: Hasselblad, Bronica, and Mamiya.  

Fast forward several decades and a somewhat more grey quirky guy is peeking through camera listings, when he stumbles across an cheap and attractive Tower 20B.  In a bit of a rangefinder mood, I snapped it up, and upon digging into its history and mysteries, to discover that this camera was made by none other than Mamiya, a name I'd previously associated as a "medium format brand."

Turns out, Mamiya had a robust business in the 35mm format as well, not nearly to the level of popularity as big names like Canon and Nikon, but still quite respectable, before electing to concentrate the entirety of their efforts on professional grade 120 format cameras.  The realization of this caused a needed shift in my paradigms, but helped me put Mamiya products on my radar as an option for 35mm shooting. 

This interesting historical facet however was not enough to make the Tower 20B's shutter work, despite some of my best efforts to restore some glory to the old Mamiya product.  The camera was one of the first of mine to be relegated to the field of the "Cameras of the Dead." Strike One.

A couple of months later, while at a Goodwill, I spotted yet another Mamiya product: An Auto Lux 35, a rather unusual fixed lens SLR.  Upon testing out the shutter and seeing that it worked, I took it home for an extremely modest price.  It was only when I got home that I realized there was no consistency at all with the shutter.  It would fire at what seemed to be 1/125 of a second on one shot, only to fire at "B" on the very next shot with the same settings.  While technically, the camera could record images on film, unlike the 20B, it was certainly only good for experimentation until I could find the time to see if I could fix it. Strike Two.

Fast Forward to the more recent past and another Goodwill visit.  On entering the store, I could readily make out an SLR camera among the small electronics offerings on the distant wall, and upon approaching, I could see it was yet another Mamiya-Sekor product: The MSX-500.

At last, a fully working Mamiya for me.