Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: The Nikon N5005

Looks can be deceiving.

This has proven itself to me on several occasions in film photography.  Some of the most basic cameras have delivered me some of my favorite images.  Kodak Retinette cameras have yielded some great photos for me, while I have a full size poster of a photo that I took using the basic Agfa Billy Record.  

This phenomenon works in reverse as well.  While browsing some bulk camera lot listings on our favorite online auction site, I happened upon a listing that contained photos of a camera that gave me the initial impression that it was built to be a professional workhorse, helped no doubt by the presence of bulbous analogue dials atop it indicative of a machine of professional standards...

Of course it didn't hurt that this camera carried a name broadly displayed vertically upon its grip that is considered to be the premier 35mm SLR brand for professional users...

My initial thought on this quick first impression that this was certainly a camera that would fetch a hefty price tag.  I dug in and looked a bit deeper at the model of interest to discover, much to my surprise, that it was readily available for under $20.  I did a modest bit of research and rather quickly discovered why this camera was so readily attainable, but yet, I was still intrigued enough to add this rather offbeat addition to my collection.  And with this, I became the owner of a circa 1991 Nikon N5005.


Capable but Complicated: The Samsung Maxima Zoom 105

The late 1990's brought us such bits of pop culture and technology such as the Furby, Pokemon, and the Sony Playstation.  This period also represented the final era of innovation in film cameras across the entire breadth of the field, with a digital revolution set to take hold in the new millennium.  The result is an interesting, but now often forgotten period which saw camera makers cram as much technology as possible into the range of their offerings, some of which were great, and some of which were gimmick. Still, shooting with a camera of this era that benefits from affordable advances in technology provides an interesting look into what could have been, had the progression of film camera development not been all but derailed by the advent of consumer digital imaging.      

I'm the kind of "Photo Geek" who admits to often liking a camera with little to no extra features, and have enjoyed shooting many rolls of film on cameras that lacked control of focus, and had no variability of aperture or shutter speed.  On the other side of the coin, I've also found any number of situations where I savored a shooting experience rich in control or extra features.  These have most typically been found on midrange or higher 35mm SLR cameras.  But not always.  Meet the Samsung Maxima Zoom 105.

Introduced in the mid-1990's, the Maxima Zoom is, at least on paper, a photo-geek's compact dream. In fact, I can clearly recall browsing issues of Popular Photography, and seeing the feature set of this camera and being astonished at all (including some features that I didn't even understand) that it was packing in the rather compact form factor of a zoom point and shoot.  This degree of functionality really only put a blip on the radar of the industry at the time, perhaps largely since this was a camera made by what was then a manufacturer on the periphery of the market, and looked rather pedestrian.


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. 

Univexed Again! The AF-5, a Jewel of a Camera!

It was a depression era story of the likes of David and Goliath in which a small upstart business with no previous experience in an industry emerges upon the scene to create a surprising splash, selling thousands upon thousands of units and puts forth impressive competition to the industry giant.

And nearly as soon as it ascended, one big logistical decision would lead to its rapid decline.

It is the story of Universal camera, documented in print as well as online.  Had its momentum not been upended by global conflict that cut off its supply line, it is anyone's guess as to how history would have played out for this once popular brand.

The "Univex" AF line was in many ways the bread and butter of the company, debuting in 1935 and bringing low acquisition cost and extreme portability to the masses.  Initially costing under a dollar, successive models that added improvements resulted in modest price increases over the following years, but these value priced cameras were merely a gateway to sell film and developing on Universal's "00" size film, the real cash cow of the operation.  Thousands of these cameras were made and sold, and within a few short years, Eastman Kodak had some serious competition to their value market from Universal folks, whose AF line had sold over a million cameras by the late 1930's.

Add in escalating conflict in Europe and this competition came to an abrupt halt.  Gevaert in Belgium, supplier of the film for the Univex lost their trade lines to the west as World War II began taking shape, resulting in a sharp dip in sales of both cameras and film.  By the time the connection was restored, the damage had been done and the "00" format faded away from view by the early 1950's.

As a result, perhaps more than any other single camera model aside from the 116 format Kodak Vest Pocket 1A, the Univex AF may hold the distinction as the most common camera model seen today for which film in its format can not be reasonably acquired.

Today, the five models of the AF line are coveted by many camera collectors who enjoy their art deco styling and miniature footprint.  But it seems that these sleek little cameras are too often relegated to being display items partially as a result of the film availability issue.  Go ahead and try to "Google" for images taken with a Univex AF camera model.  I have the feeling you'll come away empty-handed.  I know I had no luck at all.  There is no Flicker group for shooters of Univex AF cameras, and no Lomography feature page.

Big camera, small footprint in what the gilded box states as being a "jewel of a camera." Univex AF cameras were all simple and cost effective folding cameras that emphasized portability.  Folded down, a Univex AF model camera carries a very modest footprint, as can be seen when compared to other relational items in scale. 


Film Fun Folio #28: Kodak Autographic 1A and Long Expired Kodak Verichrome

Periodically, I'll be posting scans of some complete rolls of film on here, showing both the good and the bad, and giving some basic information as well a little write up of the shoot as well as the reasons why I selected each camera and film.  Enjoy the trip! 

Feature #28:
Camera: ca. 1929 Kodak Autographic 1A with Kodak f/7.9 lens.
Film: 1954 vintage Kodak Verichrome (orthochromatic version)
Locale: Frederick and Sharpsburg, MD

I've sort of taken my "Autographic Experiments" with the Kodak 1A and upped the ante with this roll.  I realized that I greatly enjoyed shooting the 1A as the 116 format camera that it was designed to be, and wanted to try it again.  At the same time, I had been challenged to try again with true "old school" ortho film that is more in line with the type of film used in these cameras in their heyday.  Since I'd not too long before gotten into developing my own black and white negatives, and since I had a tank and reel that could accommodate 116 format, I elected to give it ta try.  Below are the results.  

I developed this long developed film in a "cold brew" of HC-110 at a rather high concentration of about 1 part direct developing solution with 9 parts water, refrigerated for about 45 minutes before developing, and developed for about 9 minutes of nearly constant agitation.  The results rather pleasantly surprised me, as some show effects that would be largely impossible to replicate from a digital starting point. 

I started this roll with a shot taken in early Spring of a stone bridge near Boonsboro, MD.  As this was the outermost exposure on the roll, it suffered from the highest degree of fogging over the 60 years it sat dormant, but there is certainly a discernible result that gives off a wildly vintage feel.


The Minister is My Friend: The Yashica M II

Friendships are always a mixed bag.  Some are marked by a certain sense of overreaching influence, where a person tries to give you guidance, whether solicited or not, and then that person all but expects you to follow their guidance to the letter.  Then there are those aloof friendships that lack any real involvement or guidance whatsoever, in which either party just does as they please without any mere mention of what might be best.

The best friendships however, in my humble beliefs, are the happy medium of the extremes listed above; those in which you are given some gentle guidance that is clearly spelled out, but are still given the latitude to make your own decision, knowing you are ultimately responsible for the outcome of your decisions.

Cameras can often run this same sort of gamut of influence.  There are those that are overbearing and force you to set exposure settings as they choose, or even to focus upon what they see as the focal point, with little to no latitude to change this up as you see fit. Conversely, other models offer you little or no assistance in your photographic mission, having no assistance in focusing, composition, or exposure settings. 

And then there are those which also strike that perfect balance between helpful and obnoxious, handily giving you all the information you need to make a great photo, and allowing you to choose what bits of these vitals you elect to implement in composing and shooting your photo, and letting you relish or revile the outcome, while patiently ready to give you that guidance again whenever you call upon it.  And to me, there are few which do this as successfully as the Yashica M-II rangefinder camera.

Three extremely similar cameras in build and specification, though only one truly carries the "Minister" moniker.