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!
With a name that sounds more like an 1940's Art Deco movie theatre than a film camera, the Roxmar is an higher end build of the Spartus 35, theoretically equipped with all the tools to allow a far more versatile range of photography than its simplistic predecessor. Equipped with scale focusing as well as adjustable aperture and shutter speeds, the Roxmar is a distinctive notch above the typical Spartus camera of the era. The camera actually resembles the offspring between a Spartus 35 and an Argus A series camera.
Controls, while a bit understated, are easy to access and understand on the Roxmar. The shutter release is the protruding tab at left.
Usage of the Roxmar is a fairly straight-forward affair. As a scale focus camera, the user estimates distance to the subject and sets the estimated distance using the ring between the lens barrel and the body. Shutter speed and aperture are set using the pointers above and below the lens glass. From there, it's then a simple matter of framing using the tunnel-style viewfinder, and depressing the shutter release on the right side of the lens barrel. The camera is a rigid body style, and doesn't collapse for portability like some models of the era.
Top down view shows a very simple design, with only the frame counter to view, along with advance and rewind dials.
After firing, one simply depresses the large silver button on the camera back to release the film for advancing to the next frame, where this same process can be repeated. It has most of the elements typical of shooting a 120 format folding camera, but this camera is a 35mm shooter that doesn't fold. In so far as form factor, the camera is about average compared with other rigid bodied 135 cameras of the era. Though constructed of simple Bakelite, the camera does feel durable enough to withstand some light abuse, though I was not at all about to test this, particularly given that it was a loaner.
The embossing on the back simply points out which way is up, as the back is fairly non-descript.
Overall, operation of the camera felt reasonably nice, and certainly did offer a good bit of intrigue as to how its photos would turn out. I can actually say I liked the shooting experience, since after I polished off a roll of Rollei Retro 80S, I didn't hesitate to follow up with a roll of Imation HP100 film to see how the camera handled situations on color negative film, something not yet available when this camera was first released in the late 1940's.
As I began to view my results, I noticed a number of consistencies in the images taken with the Roxmar, particularly in relation to its flaws. Sometimes, these particularities would help the images I took, but in more than a few cases, they resulted in some problematic images. Had I really inspected the images taken on the Retro 80S, I'd have likely adjusted my compositions taken on the Imation film to accommodate for this camera's eccentricities.
A landscape scene begins to detail the quirks of this particular Roxmar, mostly to do with lack of parallelism in the film plane. Note how the left side of the frame is sharper than the right.
Even when stopped down, this discrepancy is noticeable. I focused on the distance of the fountain, and expected it to be sharp by the backdrop to be a bit muted. Instead, the subject is actually less focused than the parts of the frame that were intended to be soft.
But, on the roughly 30-50% of the times when I had a desired subject in the left part of the frame, the Roxmar's quirks worked to my advantage!
Tree and speed limit sign - pretty sharp, building on right half of frame, not so much.
Another fortunate winner. I did not know of this quirk when starting to shoot with the Roxmar, so this shot is dumb luck.
On verticals, either side could have the blur effect, since I'm not entirely consistent with how I rotate cameras.
A decent enough result.
On some subjects, the issues with sharpness were actually rather endearing.
It seemed that shots focused at more distant subjects often lacked sharpness in any part of the frame if shot wide open.
Very distinct difference in sharpness between left and right sides of this frame.
On some lower contrast subjects, the effect was less noticeable. An old building in Lisbon actually shoots well with the Roxmar.
I don't recall if I focused on the near fence or distant landscape, but seem to think the latter based on the fuzziness.
And then I take a shot like this on the Roxmar and ALL IS FORGIVEN on any previous attempts. I absolutely LOVE this image and how the fence literally stands out from the backdrop. Shot at about f/4, this one really shines!
Yet again, distant scenes only render with mediocre results.
Shot at a nearer distant, this one serves as another of the winners on the roll of Retro 80S.
Though a distant scene also rendered a bit soft, I can readily admit to liking the look of this one.
One of my favorite diversion scenes from the ride home. The stuff in the foreground renders pretty well, but the distant stuff - not so much.
This shot, despite being of a rather distant subject, actually rendered pretty nicely.
Equipped with what seems to be an uncoated lens, the Roxmar isn't designed for vibrant color rendition, but this shot on Imation HP taken in late afternoon shadows renders a lovely set of hues, and a muted rendition that reminds me of many of my 1940's era Kodachrome slides in similar light.
Soft focus or blur? I can't entirely tell.
The soft rendering of this shot as well as the color rendition remind me of my 1930's Hapo 10!
Few shots on the color roll were focused at nearer distances, so I didn't really get a chance to see a well rendered close subject. This one was likely focused at somewhere around 20 feet, and wide open.
Given the lack of much of anything in focus here, I wonder if the Roxmar was focusing to infinity and beyond!
A couple of time exposure attempts taken on North Market Street. Nothing of any success here.
Closing with this shot. You'd never know those were cows in the distance.
You would think that with its flaws and challenges, I hated my experience with the Roxmar. Not so. The camera has just enough quirk and charm to make it endearing to me, and I had just enough good results that made me forget about the bad ones.
If this camera were mine, I'd have likely figured out a way in which to use it - carefully composing left dominant compositions at closer focal lengths, and letting the camera's eccentricities provide me a fun result. The Roxmar made its way back to the Midwest, but not before I won one of my own on that addictive auction site. Sadly, the shutter on this example has yet to work despite a decent amount of Naptha applied to it. Perhaps, some day a follow up will be seen here in these pages for this odd little camera with this distinctively Forties name to it!