A 1980’s 35mm Compact Camera

Yashica T2 testing the autofocus in Wisbech Park. Ilford HP5+ film. Developed in Ilford LC29. Scanned on Epson V500.

I don’t often get an urge for a camera, but just lately, I’ve had some kind of nostalgic desire to get hold of a half decent 1980’s 35mm film compact camera, and yesterday, I got one.

Back in the early 1980’s, I couldn’t afford a decent SLR camera.  My brother bought this knock out Canon AE1 35mm SLR.  I was bowled over by it, but there was no way that I could go without beer long enough in order to buy one.  My Bro recommended that I bought a “35mm compact camera”.  Until then, other than a brief flirtation with a Yashica TLR, I’d only ever owned 126 film Kodak Instamatics, a Polaroid, and God awful 110 pocket cameras.  So a half decent 35mm compact would be a step up!  A visit to a Norwich camera shop, and I purchased one.  I can’t remember which one!  It may have been a Canon AF35M.  Anyway, I remember a salesman trying to explain to me about lens quality.  As they usually did.  I do remember that this 35mm compact camera had state of the art gadgets, including a newfangled space age auto focus, and motorised film advance.  Wow.  I remember reading the user manual about this head screwing technology.

I continued to use 35mm AF compact cameras (with a brief flirtation with Kodak disc film) all the way until I discovered digital around 2003.  Digital came in, 35mm film compact cameras went the way of the dinosaur.  They cram boxes in charity shops and in car boot sales.  Yesterday’s technology.  Most of these 35mm film compact cameras were not anything special.  However, a small number of them were something a bit special.  The Yashica and Contax T series of compacts, were manufactured with highly reputable 35mm f/3.5 Carl Zeiss T* Tessar lenses.  Collectors and those in the know, stalk car boots looking for these treasures.  A VGC Yashica T4 or T5 fetches three figures from the collectors and hipsters on Ebay.  I kid you not, a good GBP £120 – £220 for a compact film camera.  These are not rubbish cameras.

My relatively old and lower status T2 (manufactured c1986) cost me considerably less than that, but just hearing that motorised film advance and rewind sends me back thirty years ago.  I only received it yesterday, I want to use up some Poundland C-41 film in it.  A fun camera to carry around.  I ran a test film through it yesterday, a spare 35mm cassette of Ilford HP5+ that I could quickly develop, then dry overnight.  It works (unlike the last T2 that I bought – see a few posts back).

The above photo is nothing special, except that it demonstrates the daylight flash function, the auto focus works (although this is not an action AF), and the lens does give good shallow DOF when required.

medium format

Lincoln in Shanghai GP3

Lincoln Cathedral. Street view. Bronica SQ-A. Zenzanon 80mm f/2.8. Developed in Rodinal. Scanned on Epson V500.

The above photo was taken on a recent short visit to Lincoln.  I took it in the Bronica on Shanghai GP3 film.  This film had become my favourite of the slower (ISO 80-100) medium format b/w films.  Not only do I like how it looks, but it was incredibly cheap – the cheapest fresh medium format film on the market.  It was marketed direct from China on Ebay.  It priced with delivery for around £2.10 per film.  Then a month or two ago, it suddenly disappeared.  One vendor has recently started offering it again, but they are UK based, with a higher price (including delivery cost) – I don’t know yet, if the stock is fresh, or old.

If Shanghai GP3 really has gone, then it’ll be a hit to us tight fisted medium format b/w enthusiasts.  A great shame.

Fingers crossed that it reappears.


Walk in the Park

Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Shanghai GP3 120 film. Developed in Kodak D76. Epson V500 scanned film.

I did warn you that puppy dog photos were on the way.  I took this yesterday in Wisbech Park, of Anita and her daughter with Loki, our new whippet puppy.  We are getting some nice light now, for the slower films, even if sometimes a bit sharp.  I had to run ahead of the three of them, and quickly capture a few semi-candid snaps with the Bronica SQ-A and PS 150mm f/4 lens.

I had already finished off a roll of FP4+ (still undeveloped), with an S-18 extension tube.  All that I had in my pocket was a roll of Shanghai GP3 film.  Now, I’ve published a few images from Shanghai here before – but let me reiterate what it is about.

Shanghai GP3 is rated at ISO 100 (some say that it is closer to ISO 80).  It is a b/w negative film made in 120 medium format.  It is made in China.  It is sold on Ebay, and if you buy ten at a time, you can usually get it here in the UK for around £2.00 – £2.30 a 120 roll.  I bought my last ten for £21, but prices do vary on the Ebay markets.  I’ve just ordered another ten for £20.45 including postage from China.  Yup, that works out at just 5p over two quid per roll.  Find cheaper, because I can’t.  For example, I just took a look at a well known UK film distributor’s website.  If I ordered ten Ilford FP4+ 120 films, from them with postage, they would work out at £4.47 per roll.  Over double the Chinese price.

A quirk with Shanghai GP3 – there is no sticky tape at the fully exposed end of the paper!  You might want to carry a roll of sticky tape.  The other quirk – you think that Foma is curly?  Nahhhh!  This stuff is curly.  Hang a lead weight on the end during drying – it’ll still probably curl when you cut it.

Otherwise?  I’m just a pleb, but I think that it is bloody beautiful – the ridiculously cheap price just makes it better.  I wish that the Chinese made something closer to ISO 400 for poorer light and street action.

Another image that I’ve also published here earlier:

As above, except developed in Ilford ID11 rather than D-76.  Shanghai GP3 film.

35mm, and scans, Film

35mm film to 120 size converters from Ebay

35mm film converters to 120 size. Fitted here onto a Poundland film. Taken with a Nokia Lumia 1020 phone camera.

I haven’t tried them out in the field yet, but a few readers have asked for more information on these 135 to 120 canister converters that I purchased on Ebay.  Link to the Ebay listing here.

The seller is manufacturing them on his 3D printer.  Simple, but apparently an effective little design.  They simply plug into either end of a 35mm film canister, and hey presto – the 35mm film now fits into a 120 medium format film loader.

The seller does state that they haven’t been tested with many films or film loaders.  Still, they are a neat little product.

For those of you that might be interested in “sprocket hole” scans, just be aware, that these don’t come straight out of many film scanners including the Epson V500.  The masks cover the sprocket holes either side.  You need a bit of ingenuity.  Newton glass mounts, or, modified masks, simply trying to peg them into a 120 mask, or old school – use a digital camera and light box set up instead of a scanner.

As above image – but mounted in the film loader of a Lubitel 166B camera.

Cameras and equipment, Lubitel 166B, Uncategorized, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

On Medium Format…

It’s a Big World. Taken on Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film, using a two quid Soviet TLR camera – the Lubitel 166B, and developed in Microphen.

I just seem to be increasingly drawn to 1) film photography, 2) home developing, and 3) medium format.  Even though those bloody 120 rolls refuse to smoothly feed onto my Paterson tank spool, and leave me cursing, even though they greedily slurp away at my developer and other chems, even though they give me a measly 8 – 12 exposures per roll, there’s something about them that allures me.  Digital is great when I want a shiny, easy, instant image.  35mm film compacts fit so snug in a pocket, and their sexy sprocket holed 36 exposures just ooze productivity.  But those big negs pull me in.

I’ve been trying to master the Lubitel better, especially it’s focus.  The above photo I quite like, and that below:

Bonnie. Merv’s GSD x Malamute dawg. As above – Lunitel 166B TLR camera and Ilford HP5+ developed in Microphen.

Not bad for the under-rated economy class Lubitel are they?  As the Lubitel were made in the Leningrad Lomo factory, they’ve become associated entirely with the Lomography scene – even with Chinese toy cameras.  It’s an easy mistake, they do have plastic bodies, and they were marketed as cheap medium format cameras for the masses. However, with their glass triplet lenses, they are capable of far more than their low prices (I paid GBP £2.00 for mine) suggest.  Don’t write off the Lube as a toy.  They really are an incredibly cheap route into medium format photography, better than trying to use old folders with leaky bellows, or Chinese toys with plastic lenses.  They are fully manual, with a variety of apertures and shutter speeds.  They do need some effort to operate, they do teach skills to their users.

Rather like professional medium format cameras when you think about it.  The Lubitel has paved the way for my next stage in amateur photography.  I’ve gone and bought a bloody Zenza Bronica SQ-A medium format SLR camera!  Complete with Bronica 80mm f2.8 lens, an SQ-A body, waist height viewfinder, standard focusing screen, and a 120 film back.  I paid a whopping (by my cheapskate standards) GBP £180 for it on Ebay.  Not my normal supply of cameras, nor my usual budget , but I could spend several lifetimes of hunting at local car boot sales to see one of these come along. Ok, spending a whopping 180 quid on a camera, maybe I should give up my title of the tight-fisted photographer.  I couldn’t help myself.  Still, it’s tight fisted compared with those togs that ooze out their hard earned cash on four figure so-called full frame (your sensors are tiny next to my 6 x 6 negs ha hah ha!) Canikon DSLRs.  I bet that they spend as much on their bleeding brand name camera bags.

Here she is, being blessed by a statuette of the Goddess:

The New Member of my Camera Family. My Zenza Bronica SQ-A medium format SLR camera. Taken using my Sony DSLR A200 with Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 lens.

I’m working long shifts, other than RTFM (read the f***ing manual) time, a bit of taking apart, cleaning, putting together, and playing with that clunky sexy reflex mirror, I’ve only had time to load a film.  Made in the 1980s, these cameras were the bread and butter of many professional photographers and studios before the evil DSLR took over – at least for those that couldn’t afford the elite Hasselblads..  The studios are finally dumping them onto the markets, as they switch to full frame DSLRs.  Fully manual, with the usual medium format issues of focus, focal length, and square composition, and like the Lube – no light meter.  First impressions?  It’s a freaking beast!  I’ve never lifted such a heavy and bulky camera.  They are built like a tank.  Honestly, if you’ve never handled a medium format SLR – go and try it.  A beautiful monster.

I can’t bloody wait to shoot with her, my Precious…

Jessop Macro kit, Sony DSLR A200 and Sony DT 50mm F/1.8mm SAM prime lens

Something New from the Car Boot Sale

Jessop macro kit – 2 x tele-converter and three extension tubes with Sony DSLR mount. Taken with the Sony DSLR-A200 and Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

Well, not as ancient as my usual purchases at the car boot sale.  I bought something for one of my digital cameras at yesterday’s sale!  What are the chances of bumping into something with a modern Sony DSLR mount at a local car boot sale?  Pretty slim I’d say.  I don’t see much modern gear for Canon or Nikon at the local sale, never mind for Sony / Minolta.  My usual purchases are classic film cameras.  But yesterday, I did just that.  A Jessops macro-kit, consisting of a Jessop MC 2x Mx/AF tele-converter, and three Jessop M-Xi extension tubes – 31mm, 21mm, and 13mm.  All with a Sony / Minolta Alpha-mount!

The seller explained that he had bought them for his Canon, not understanding the difference in mount.  He said that he had seen similar sold on Ebay for £60.  Well, I’ve checked them out, and I’d guess Ebay price for the kit might go £40 – £80.  The Tele-converter is still listed new on the Jessop website at £80.  How much did I pay?  I knocked him down to £23 (well, £25 with two movie DVDs in the price) for the whole kit.  A wee bit more than I’d spend on vintage camera equipment, but a nice buy still I feel.

Using them behind the Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens?  Focus has to be manual – even with just the tele-converter (although it gives me the option now to use the 50mm prime as a 100mm MF prime when I need it.).  The auto focus just doesn’t find it’s target with the tele-converter behind the nifty fifty, despite claims to be AF.

With the extension tubes added, it turns the 50mm into a macro lens.  I’ve not had time yet, to experiment with different extensions or the tele-converter, nor using them with my 35mm prime lens.  D0F is incredibly shallow at macro with all tubes and tele-converter, making hard to focus anything but a flat surface (see the 20p coin below).  I’ll try for better results when I have better light and more interesting subjects, but for now I achieved the below results.

Test One. The Feather. Jessops 2x tele-converter plus all three extension tubes behind a Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM prime lens

The 20p UK coin. As above, tele-converter, three extension tubes, 50mm prime lens on the A200.

The Pencil tip. As above. 2x tele-converter, three extension tubes, 50mm prime lens.

I’ll play more when I get time.  As I stated above, the tele-converter alone can double the focal lengths of my prime lenses should I need that.  I want to try the kit with my 35mm prime, and to experiment with and without the tele converter and various tubes to see if I can improve that DoF with less magnification.  I also need good light!

I don’t think that macro photography is going to be me, it’s done far better by others with better gear, but it’s worth £23 to play with that option.

Pentax ME Super 35mm film SLR, Street and Protest

The Ten Quid Pentax ME Super SLR Camera

Recent photographs from the Pentax ME Super

On the way to the Bus Station, Norwich. Pentax ME Super SLR camera. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 35mm film from Poundland. Scanned negative, a little post scan enhancement using free open source Gimp 2.8 software.

Quite pleased with some developed negatives from the Pentax ME Super.  Shows promise.  I bought this camera on Ebay for a tenner (GBP £10.00), as a sold as seen, untested.  I noticed that it had at sometime been dropped, and the film loading spool was on the huh (Norfolk for unlevel or bent).  The light seals were perished, but I the shutter mechanism still looked good, so I changed the light seals, and here are the early results.

Head in the Clouds, the oldest head shop in the UK. Pentax ME Super – as in above photo.

It is a nice camera to carry, very typical of Japanese semi auto (the Pentax ME Super auto exposure mode is in modern terms ‘aperture priority’, although unlike the Olympus OM10 of the same era, it did come fitted with full manual controls as standard), of its period some thirty years ago or so.  However, smaller than most other 35mm film SLRs of its period, small, light, and looks good.  Sporting the ‘kit lens’ of it’s day – the brilliant Pentax-M 50mm F1.7.  These photos were taken using Poundland colour 35mm film, but I have plans to use it with Ilford soon.

Both photos taken in Norwich – the city of my birth.  The Head in the Clouds is claimed as the oldest head shop in the UK, spreading love and peace since 1971.  Hasn’t changed a lot since I was a boy.

Cameras and equipment, Pentax ME Super 35mm film SLR

Pentax ME Super For A Tenner

Pentax ME Super SLR Camera. Taken with a Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT 35mm SAM F/1.8 lens.

I blogged last about my woos with my beloved Pentax ME Super 35mm film SLR.  The light seals had perished including the mirror pad.  I changed them for new, but unfortunaly, a glue like substance seems to have leaked from the perished mirror pad, down into the shutter curtain mechanism.

Well, after blogging, I took a look on Ebay.  I found a ME Super, body and manual only.  It was advertised as to be Sold as seen, as the seller claimed that although it looked all good condition, the batteries were flat, and they were selling it as seen only – untested.  I won it with a bid of GBP £10.01.  No doubt, other buyers were put off by the sold as seen tag.

I recieved it within  two days.  Very clean – a bit dusty inside.  Light seals were much better condition than they were in my old ME Super.  All as the seller stated, looked good.  Tried a pair of batteries.  It works!  All I need to do is give it a try with a cheap film.  I’ve loaded a Kodak ColorPlus 24 exposure in it (from Poundland).  I’ve fitted on of my excellent Pentax-M 50mm F/1.7 primes on it.  These were often the original kit lens on these old Pentax’s.  Beautiful lenses.  I’m not trusting the light seals again.  I’ll blog about this learning experience again – but I have learnt now.  Use an old 35mm film, change the light seals and give it a service first.

So, a ten quid SLR (Maybe thirty five quid if I’d had to buy a lens).  Ok, the light seal and mirror pad kit cost me seven quid something – but it’ll extend the life of this camera by years,  Budget photography, see how it goes, what future results I get from the scanned negatives.  I’m going to review the Pentax ME Super in a later blog.  I was distracted by the two quid Kodak Retinette.  Let’s hammer this one next.

Anita in Ilford. Pentax ME Super film SLR. Pentax-M 50mm F1.7 prime. Orange filter. Ilford HP5 Plus 400 35mm b&w film. Canoscan 5600f 35mm film scanner