Category: Classic Camera Revival – Reviews

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CCR Review 76 – Pentax P3n

CCR Review 76 – Pentax P3n

There’s something fun about simplicity in a camera. Over the course of these reviews, I’ve shot cameras at every point on the spectrum from complex to annoyingly simple. But in the case of the Pentax P3n, it fits the perfect balance between sophisticated and simple. The P3n is a camera that you can take out, shoot from the hip and get outstanding results. The P3n is Pentax’s answer to that wonderfully strange period from the mechanical and manual 1970s and the automatic days of the 1980s a perfect blend of the old and the new. The camera is alternately known outside the USA at the P30n and fills in the gaps that the P3 (P30) had and ultimately produced a much more robust camera. While I initially held some doubts about the camera, in the end, it presented a pleasant surprise.

CCR Review 76 - Pentax P3n

The Dirt
Make: Pentax
Model: P3n
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable, Pentax K-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1988

CCR Review 76 - Pentax P3n

CCR Review 76 - Pentax P3n

The Good
The P3n features full auto-exposure, aperture priority, and metered manual and works with all Pentax manual focus lenses, which gives the camera a solid magazine of glass to operate on the camera. Of course, like the Nikon FA (which only allows full AE with AI-S Nikkor lenses), full auto-exposure only work with SMC Pentax-A lenses. The camera does support SMC Pentax, and SMC Pentax-M will only work in metered manual and aperture priority. Camera operation between the modes is easy to switch with just the use of your index finger. On your Pentax-A lenses but the aperture ring to “A” and the Shutter Speed Dial to “A” and you’re ready to shoot. Aperture Priority, move the aperture dial off A, metered manual, adjust the shutter speed dial. I find the size of the camera body, which fits nicely in hand, works best with the shorter Pentax-M lenses designed for, the smaller body M-Series SLRs. Despite the look, the P3N is mostly constructed out of metal with some plastic pieces but not as many as the P3t. But the construction does not add any weight, making the camera is a perfect compact carry around camera. The viewfinder is fairly bright, but the best part is the clear display of the shutter speed and indication of metered speed that makes operating the camera in manual mode easy. And loading the film is a breeze, it reminds me of the Canon QL system that you find in the FTb, just drag the film leader across, click and advance and you’re ready to shoot!

CCR Review 76 - Pentax P3n

CCR Review 76 - Pentax P3n

The Bad
There are only a few items that I take issue with on the P3n. The first is the lack of manual override for setting the film speed. The camera is fully automated in this case with contacts in the camera automatically sets the speed based on the DX code. To the average user, this might not be of concern, but I occasionally will adjust the film speed to achieve a certain look or compensate for too much or too little light in the area. If there’s no DX code on the film canister the camera defaults to ASA-100, something I’m not completely convinced on. The second item is the manual film advance. Now, if you’ve been reading these for a while I’m rather critical of film advance levers, and usually, enjoy them. But on the P3n it feels outdated. By this point, most cameras can have an internal film advance motor. I feel the P3n would benefit from such a motor, but it was probably left out to allow for smaller batteries and a smaller size. Either way, such a thing would have improved the camera. And finally, let’s talk about the film rewind knob/back door release. This knob is the only weak point on the camera’s build, it’s thin, it’s plastic and I was sure it was going to break opening up the back!

CCR Review 76 - Pentax P3n

CCR Review 76 - Pentax P3n

The Lowdown
The P3n is a strong camera despite its size and look. A great camera to start out using 35mm film if you’ve never used film before. I would think of it as a more advanced K1000, gives users a taste of what they can do with 35mm film without breaking the bank. Clean lines, solid build quality, and a K-Mount only adds to the draw of the camera. And if you don’t have Pentax lenses there is a huge inventory of lenses from Ricoh, Vivitar and more out there that will work perfectly with the camera. Unless you’re a completest, I would avoid the older P3 (P30) and just get the P3n (P30n), certainly worth a second look if you want to expand your Pentax collection.

All photos taken at the Libenzell Mission, Moffat, Ontario, Canada
Pentax P3n – SMC Pentax-M 1:2.8 28mm – Ilford HP5+ @ ASA-400
Kodak D-23 (Stock) 7:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 75 – Ricoh Diacord L

CCR Review 75 – Ricoh Diacord L

I’ve always found the TLR to be an enjoyable camera to operate. From my very first Lubitel 2, the Yashica-12, and my current Rolleiflex 2.8F. The waist level finder, the dedicated finder lens and near silent operation. Of course, for the average photographer, the two brands that come to mind when it comes to TLRs is Rollei (both flex and cord) along with Yashica. But if you just stuck with these two brands you just might miss out on several other options, one being the Ricoh Diacord. The model under review today is the Diacord L, L standing for lightmeter. While the Diacord could never stand up to the heavy hitters from Rollei, it certainly can hold its own against Yashica and Minolta. Thanks to Mike Bitaxi for loaning the Diacord out for review.

CCR Review 75 - Ricoh Diacord L
The Dirt

  • Make: Ricoh
  • Model: Diacord L
  • Type: Twin Lens Reflex
  • Format: Medium (120), 6×6
  • Lens: Fixed, Rikenon 1:3.5 f=8cm
  • Year of Manufacture: 1957

CCR Review 75 - Ricoh Diacord LCCR Review 75 - Ricoh Diacord L

The Good
Most users of TLRs are used to having a focus knob on the side of the camera, however, with the Diacord this has been replaced with a see-saw control that operates by an up and down motion to set the focus. While this works great for wide focusing, but is a bit tricky for fine adjustments, but I’m sure with some practice it can be achieved. The camera, despite having a meter does not require a battery as the meter is selenium based and the name badge flips up to reveal it, this means that even with the age of the camera most will have functioning cells as they’re kept in darkness. Weight wise, the camera is lighter than my Rolleiflex, and with a decent strap, it can be carried around without any pain or effort for a day’s worth of shooting. Plus don’t let the light weight fool you, the Diacord has a good build quality. Finally, let’s talk optics, I’ve reviewed several Ricoh built cameras and lenses, and the optical quality of the Rikenon glass is excellent. And even with a f/3.2 finder lens, the viewfinder is nice and bright even in the dim dusk light of the four o’clock hour.

CCR Review 75 - Ricoh Diacord LCCR Review 75 - Ricoh Diacord L

The Bad
Despite my enjoyment of TLRs, the Diacord has some serious points that turn me away from the camera. The first is the film advance; the press-release advance is something that I find annoying in all cameras. If you do it wrong, you either advance the film too far and mess up frame spacing or do damage to the camera itself. Either way, it’s a mechanism that is not needed as there were already several tried and true crank based options on the market. While the camera does have a solid light meter, the exposure settings are frustrating, as the shutter speed and aperture settings are not fully independent of each other, and the meter itself hand to read and understand. Even with using my Gossen Lunasix F, setting the camera is a troublesome task.

CCR Review 75 - Ricoh Diacord LCCR Review 75 - Ricoh Diacord L

The Lowdown
Both the good and the bad seem to balance each other out on this camera leaving me on the fence. I can remember my first exposure to the camera back on the first Mystery Camera Challenge for the Classic Camera Revival Podcast, where we ended up naming the camera the Ricoh DOAcord. The trouble is that the camera is of a certain age that a CLA (Clean, Lube, Adjust) is well needed to ensure proper operation. In fact, before I took the camera out I had to run the shutter several times before it could release. Despite the solid optics and easy use of the camera, I cannot truly recommend it. I’ll have to say you’d be better off getting a Yashica 124G or Minolta Autocord before a Diacord.

All Photos Taken in St. Mary’s Pioneer Cemetery, Oakville, Ontario
Ricoh Diacord L – Rikenon 1:3.5 f=8cm – Kodak Tri-X 400 @ ASA-200
Blazinal (1+50) 9:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 74 – Nikon FE

CCR Review 74 – Nikon FE

When it comes to classic cameras, there’s a specific look that will always be connected to Nikon. From the massive metered prisms of the F and F2 and the red strip that remain with the cameras to this day first introduced with the F3. But in the 1970s a certain touch of class entered the Nikon line, clean, simple, sharp. Pure photography as Nikon touts in their advertisements for the Nikon Df, which oddly enough is based around the camera under review, the Nikon FE. The design of the FE and it’s mechanical cousin, the FM, remained so popular the design lasted for several more models before production switched to Cosina where they took on a more modern Nikon look complete with the red stripe. The FE remains a solid shooter even today with a semi-automatic aperture priority electronic (hence the E in the name) camera with full manual function on top of it, and it fills in a small gap in my Nikon kit between the F2 and FA.

CCR Review 74 - Nikon FE

  • Make: Nikon
  • Model: FE
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
  • Lens: Interchangeable, Nikon F Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1978-1983

CCR Review 74 - Nikon FE

CCR Review 74 - Nikon FE

The Good
The strongest feature on the FE is in its simplicity, having on a few dials to run the camera operations in a well laid out manner. A dedicated on/off switch with a pull out on the film advance lever. And that film advance, nice and short that allows for quick shooting. And don’t let the small size of the camera body, it has a decent weight and balance. I’d put the FE up against an OM-2 for size and functionality. While the viewfinder isn’t the brightest out there, that honour goes to the FE2, but the viewfinder is one of the best I’ve seen. A clear display of shutter speeds along the one side that makes the automatic mode easy as the shutter speed is indicated by a needle. And when you’re in manual mode, you simply match a needle to the indicated shutter speed. A modern version of my favourite match needle system. And the camera has a good meter in it to boot, centre-weighted and dead accurate.

CCR Review 74 - Nikon FE

CCR Review 74 - Nikon FE

The Bad
There is one lone issue I have with the Nikon FE. It’s not that it’s an electronic camera that requires a battery to operate fully, I knew that when I got the camera. Like many electronic cameras of the age, they came with a mechanical mode with a single shutter speed. That’s not the problem either; it’s the selected speed to make the mechanically fixed speed, 1/90th of a second. It just doesn’t make sense to me. The camera would be far more useful in mechanical backup if the speed were 1/125th makes it easy to run with Sunny-16! Thankfully the camera is not a battery hog, and the spares are pretty easy to acquire so having a couple in the bag wouldn’t be too much of an issue.

CCR Review 74 - Nikon FE

CCR Review 74 - Nikon FE

The Lowdown
Having shot the Nikon FM2n in the past I took to the FE immediately. It also reminds me of my third camera, the Minolta X-7a. For a first camera, this camera is great for anyone, style and class, second to none. With access to every Nikon lens out there from the early Auto-Nikkors to AI and AI-S (including AF-D), you have a solid camera that really won’t let you down. And while they carry a decent price-tag on the used market you can have one for between 80 to 200 dollars, and even in rough shape, the camera will still work. And while you can get a two-toned chrome/black, I’d go with an all black one; they look better in my opinion.

All Photos Taken in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Nikon FE – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4 – Bergger BRF 400 Plus @ ASA-400
Kodak HC-110 Dil. E 10:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 73 – Yashica 108 Multiprogram

CCR Review 73 – Yashica 108 Multiprogram

The 1980s were a weird time, both for the world as a whole and for the camera industry. We saw the rise of electronics in cameras and the strange merge between the modern era and style and a clinging to the earlier form factors. One of the iconic styles is the Canon T-Series, these were automatic cameras complete with auto-exposure on manual focus cameras. While these T-Series started off fairly boxy, but by the Canon T90, they had some streamlining. Enter the Yashica 108 Multiprogram (Yashica 108MP), like the T-Series Canon cameras the 108 features autoexposure (heavy automation in the camera) and a manual focus lens. Despite carrying the Yashica name, this is not a Yashica but rather a Kyocera. The same time the Japanese firm got their hands on the Contax name. They aimed the Yashica on the consumer market while Contax aimed at the higher end while maintaining the C/Y Mount. Now the 108MP is aimed at the middle of the line photographers and like other cameras from the 1980s provides a solid shooting experience for someone who needs a cheap and fast way into 35mm film photography but is only a stepping stone.

CCR Review 73 - Yashica 108 Multiprogram
The Dirt

  • Make: Kyocera
  • Model: Yashica 108 Mutliprogram
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 24x36mm
  • Lens: Interchangeable, C/Y Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: Unknown, guessing late 1980s or early 1990s

CCR Review 73 - Yashica 108 Multiprogram

CCR Review 73 - Yashica 108 Multiprogram

The Good
The strongest feature on this camera is the C/Y mount, or rather Contax/Yashica. This means that you have access to a pile of amazing lenses including Carl Zeiss (built under license) which match the optical quality of the German-built lenses. Trust me, I shoot these lenses on my Contax G2 which is also a Kyocera camera. And the camera itself is fairly easy to use and figure out even without a manual. One thing I always harp on with cameras is how it’s powered and in this case, the 108MP, despite being from the 80s/90s is powered by AAA batteries, four of them. This makes it easy to find batteries no matter where you are in the world.

CCR Review 73 - Yashica 108 Multiprogram

CCR Review 73 - Yashica 108 Multiprogram

The Bad
One of the first thing I recognised with the camera is how plastic it feels and bulky. Despite the streamlined look of the camera that looks like a T90 but this camera is little more than a T90 lookalike without the guts of that camera. The 108MP isn’t tall, and I found myself constantly looking for a better place to set my fingers. For a 35mm SLR that has a fairly normal look and operation, it’s awkward to operate. You have no feedback in the viewfinder when operating in Program and Aperture Priority mode (which is marked as Av on the dial, another Canon inspired mark) only a green dot and an icon to indicate you need flash. Now despite having some amazing lenses available in C/Y mount, there are plenty of bad lenses, truly cheap. And finally there’s no way to manually adjust the film speed, it auto recognizes the film canister’s DX code and if there isn’t one it defaults to ASA/ISO-100. And it doesn’t even do a good job with that, my film came out a touch over-exposed. While not a deal breaker, you will want to stick to DX Coded films.

CCR Review 73 - Yashica 108 Multiprogram

CCR Review 73 - Yashica 108 Multiprogram

The Lowdown
This is not a camera I would recommend for anyone looking to get into the C/Y system, poor build quality, awkward operation, and generally a poor man’s copy of a Canon T-Series. And the reason being is that it is a stop-gap camera, a save-face before the release of the Autofocus 230AF. But if you’re starting out, this might be an okay choice. Basic, no-nonsense, and little you can do. However, as soon as you use it you’ll want to start looking for another camera to move up to. At least there are better C/Y cameras out there. You’d be better off finding a Canon T50 or going with the Contax line of cameras from Kyocera, better quality overall.

All Photos Taken at the Bradley House Museum, Mississauga, Ontario
Yashica 108 Multiprogram – Yashica Lens Zoom MC 35-70mm 1:3.5-4.5 (Yellow-12) – Fomapan 100 @ ASA-100
Blazinal (1+50) 9:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 72 – Pentax 67II

CCR Review 72 – Pentax 67II

When in the past I’ve shot 6×7 cameras I’ve found them clunky and unwieldy. Think back to the Mamiya Universal and RB67. Even the Bronica GS-1 which is better than most. None of these cameras had the style and handling of the Pentax 67II. Now the 67II fixes what I would see as problems with the 6×7 and 67. This camera is a traditional 35mm SLR on steroids and worthy of the description. There are some cameras that I have an instant enjoyment of, and this camera certainly ranks among those. Thanks to James Lee for loaning out this beauty.

CCR Review 72 - Pentax 67II
The Dirt

  • Make: Pentax
  • Model: 67II
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: Medium (120/220), 6×7
  • Lens: Interchangeable, Pentax K67 Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1998

CCR Review 72 - Pentax 67II

CCR Review 72 - Pentax 67II

The Good
If you’re used to operating a traditional 35mm SLR of the more modern ilk, think Nikon F4, then stepping up to the Pentax 67II is easy. Everything is where you think it will be. Shutter speed control, EV adjustment, shutter release, even the film advance. As for handling the weight of the camera is no big deal for me, it’s well balanced even with the heavier lens on the front. The beefy side grip with the shutter release is perfect. Everything on this camera is manual, no menus to hunt through, everything is connected to a knob or dial. And then there’s the meter, I would pit the thing against the meter in my F5 with spot metering, centre-weighted, and matrix metering I don’t think there’s anything that could trick the cameras exposure system. And the optics available for the system are brilliant, and even if you get a 67II, all the original glass will work perfectly as the 67II remains a manual focus camera. So you have access to Super-Takumar, Super-Multi-Coated Takumar and SMC Takumar glass all work and are tack sharp. Now let’s talk negative size, while I’m a fan of 6×6 there are certain applications that the 6×7 negative applies itself to better. It’s the same image ratio as 4×5 (Large Format) making it ideal for print in magazines and even in the darkroom and inkjet printing. It’s big and beautiful.

CCR Review 72 - Pentax 67II

CCR Review 72 - Pentax 67II

The Bad
While the 67II is near perfect, there are still a couple of little things that can be annoying. Despite the ease of use, loading the film can be a bit tricky, having to unlock and pull down the two locking lugs for the film spools. It does slow it down, and when you only get ten shots per roll, you need a good 2-3 minutes for a proper reload. And with the lack of newly manufactured 220 film, which would yield 20 shots per roll you have to time yourself when at a job working with the camera. The second thing, which is a minor annoyance is the continuation of allowing people to mount the large wooden grip on the camera. This throwback to the original 6×7 and 67 isn’t a requirement on the 67II since it’s on the opposite side and the camera has a decent grip already. It also throws off the strap mount which when you hang the camera around your neck the lugs are on the one side only so when you pull the camera up to shoot; you twist it sort of. Just makes it a little bit awkward.

CCR Review 72 - Pentax 67II

CCR Review 72 - Pentax 67II

The Lowdown
I’m glad I only shot one roll through the 67II not because I hated the camera but because I took to it right off the bat. And if I had shot more there would be a strong chance I’d be hunting one down. Now, these cameras are rare on the used market, and while I’d jump on a 67, again the system is not a cheap one. But worth the money. And if I hadn’t invested in Hasselblad I’d go for one of these in a heartbeat. But these systems aren’t for the faint-hearted. They’re heavy, bulky, and designed for professional work. But they’re designed for being out in the field. But if none of these things scare you, the 67II will not let you down.

All Photos Taken in Elora, Ontario
Pentax 67II – Super-Multi-Coated Takumar/6×7 1:3.5/55 – Ilford HP5+ @ ASA-400
Kodak D-23 (Stock) 7:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 71 – Nikon Zoom 500AF

CCR Review 71 – Nikon Zoom 500AF

When it comes to reviewing a point-and-shoot camera, especially one from this era, you have to approach it differently. While many cameras of the era have earned a place in cult camera history, such as Olympus Stylus and Stylus Epic, high-end cameras like the Contax T2 and Nikon 35Ti. And then there are these cameras, the ones that more likely will languish in your family junk drawer or collect dust on the local thrift shop shelf. There’s a good chance that if you’re of a certain age, your parents used a camera similar to the Nikon Zoom 500 AF to capture family vacations and holidays. Released just before the digital storm, the Zoom 500 or Lite Touch 105 if you’re outside the North American Market, was a camera designed for just that. Simple, some zoom, designed to work best with consumer 200 and 400-speed colour films to be dropped off at your local one-hour photo lab. There’s a certain satisfaction to using the camera, simple to use, load, and shoot. Some features that would’ve made my life easier in those early days I was shooting with my family compact camera. Again, thanks to my Uncle Harvey for donating this camera, another one used by his father well after giving up on the Voigtlander!

CCR Review 71 - Nikon Zoom 500AF

  • Make: Nikon
  • Model: Zoom 500AF/LiteTouch Zoom 105
  • Type: Point-And-Shoot
  • Format: 35mm, 36x24mm
  • Lens: Fixed, Nikon Zoom Lens 38-105mm f/3.5-9.2
  • Year of Manufacture: 1995

CCR Review 71 - Nikon Zoom 500AF

CCR Review 71 - Nikon Zoom 500AF

The Good
The cameras of the era, especially those of this time aren’t exactly designed to give one a shooting experience that is exciting. The Zoom 500 is purpose built, to allow everyone to take snapshots without fuss or muss, and this case the camera works perfectly! Easy to shoot, easy to load, controls are well laid out especially the zoom and shutter release. And it’s hard to forget which is which. Another point on the handling of the camera is that there’s a slight lens barrel making it more difficult to stick your finger over the lens. The viewfinder gives you feedback on the zoom of the lens, which doesn’t have a bad range for a point-and-shoot. And the one thing that stands out to me with the viewfinder is the framing lines to help with composing your shots. The one thing I was afraid of when working with the camera is that I kept on turning off the flash as I was outdoors, it was a sunny day, and I was only shooting 100-speed film. To my surprise the results were sharp, some underexposure but not surprising but overall well-exposed images and the quality of the images at every zoom, point surprised me. While chatting after the fact with John Meadows, he noted that Nikon Point-And-Shoots had good optics for the cameras of its type.

CCR Review 71 - Nikon Zoom 500AF

CCR Review 71 - Nikon Zoom 500AF

The Bad
It’s straightforward to blast this camera for the lack of feedback and manual functionality I simply cannot because this isn’t a high-end camera, it’s not designed to be used in that way. So I cannot fault the camera for that. However, the one thing I did find annoying is that it kept asking me to turn on the flash, even though looking at the negatives the exposure seemed perfectly fine. Now while the optical quality of the lens is excellent, it isn’t the fasting glass on the block, nor would I expect it to be. Sure at the 38mm end, the maximum aperture is f/3.5 which is nothing to sneeze at, but when you have it at the full 105mm you’re looking at only f/9.2, I have faster lenses with my 4×5 setup. I also think the placement of the viewfinder could be a little more towards the centre of the camera body to aid in full composition with the aid of guidelines. The way it’s placed now you’re losing a good chunk of your lower right side of the frame. And finally, it suffers from the same problem that many cameras from the 1990s suffered, the CR123A battery. While easy to find in both camera stores, once you get out of major population centres you’ll struggle, at least they have a long life.

CCR Review 71 - Nikon Zoom 500AF

CCR Review 71 - Nikon Zoom 500AF

The Lowdown
You’re better off with a modern digital point-and-shoot camera than shooting with any 1990s point and shoot camera. But if you want something dead simple to get a child or a digital shooter who has no experience with an SLR, there’s something to be said about the Zoom 500. The viewfinder, while not placed ideally has the guides to help with composition, and the hands-off controls make it simple just to get the shot. It lets the shooter figure out composition first and worry about exposure later. In shooting with the Zoom 500, I realised that maybe my family should have looked at Nikon cameras more so than Minolta when we were replacing our old 1980s family camera.

All Photos Taken in Toronto, Ontario
Nikon Zoom 500AF – Nikon Zoom Lens 38-105mm f/3.5-9.2 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100
Kodak HC-110 Dil. B 6:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 70 – Voigtländer Bessa

CCR Review 70 – Voigtländer Bessa

When it comes to folding cameras, not all cameras are created equal. Many are simply box cameras dressed up with some bellows, while others have full on rangefinders and exposure control. While the Voigtländer Bessa is not top dog, it certainly is a little more usable than a simple box. The Bessa is a step up from a simple box but lacks a rangefinder to couple the manual focus. Couple this with a solid lens, with a full range of aperture and shutter speeds, makes this a solid choice if you’re looking for a folder. The Bessa is a long line of folding cameras that began in 1929 and lasted until 1949 with several changes over the course of product manufacture. This particular model dates between 1935 and 1937. It came into my collection through my Uncle Harvey, brother-in-law to my mother, it belonged to his father who used it well into the 1950s before switching to motion picture film to capture family memories. Special thanks to Uncle Harvey for trusting me with a family camera.

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

  • Make: Voigtländer
  • Model: Bessa
  • Type: Folder
  • Format: Medium, 120/620, 6×4.5/6×9
  • Lens: Fixed, Voigtländer Anastigmat Voigtar 1:4,5 F=11cm
  • Year of Manufacture: 1935-1937

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

The Good
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past reviews is that age doesn’t always mean poor performance. In fact, I’ve had successfully quality images from cameras far older than the Bessa. And the Bessa certainly delivers, the Voigtar lens, based on the Anastigmat design, provides quality sharp images at any aperture, I mostly shot these at f/11 or f/8, the reason will come in the next paragraph. While not exactly the fastest lens on the block at only f/4.5 I only found this to be a problem once and only because I was shooting the film at ASA-50. When it comes to handling, the Bessa is a decent shooter. Probably top on my list is that there’s a shutter release on the lens door, makes it nice and easy to shoot either landscape or portrait. By default the camera shoots in the big and beautiful 6×9 format and produces fantastic images as such, the 11cm (110mm) lens is perfect for the format with no vignetting or fall-off in any corner. But you will only get eight frames per roll. However, you can add a mask to the camera and use the second frame counter window and produce 6×4.5 format images that double the number of exposures per roll to 16. Of course, you need to add a mask to the camera, a mask I don’t have but can be produced I have yet to create such a mask. And finally, the camera is designed to accept both 120 and 620 film rolls, while less of an issue today such compatibility between Kodak Films and everyone else certainly helped the average photographer.

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

The Bad
The Bessas are old cameras, with the earliest models being 88 years old and the youngest dating to 68, not exactly spring chickens. I was lucky that this particular camera is in great working shape. The first thing is that the bellows can get damaged. While some might let in just a bit of light and give a distressed look to the images, others might leak like a sieve and ruin any film run through the camera. Lenses haze over, shutter stick, so if you are looking at one, try and sort out the general shooting capacity of the camera before purchase. Let’s move on, there are two serious issues and two minor issues I have with this particular camera. The first and most severe in my mind is the film winder. Being a dual 120/620, it’s a pretty substantial piece of metal, and I found that it chewed through the plastic take up reel. Thankfully I was able to run through the eight frames before it stopped advancing and I was able to extract the film with a change bag. But for future use, I’ll probably want to stick to either a 120 or 620 spool that is metal. The second issue I have with the camera I eluded to in the previous paragraph, and that has to do with focus. The camera is a manual focus lens without a rangefinder, so you have to give a rough guess on the focus or use an external rangefinder, realising this I made a point to shoot mostly to infinity and stop it down to at least f/11 to get a decent depth of field. The only shot I made at f/8, I missed focus by a touch. If I take this camera out again, I’ll be sure to pack the external rangefinder; it worked great with the Pony 135. The two remaining issues are minor, first is that the lens is uncoated, so you only want to shoot black & white film through the camera to get decent results. And secondly, the shutter speed maxes out at 1/125 of a second. So you don’t want to go shooting Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5+ through the camera unless you plan on seriously pulling the film in development and exposure.

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

CCR Review 70 - Voigtlander Bessa

The Lowdown
When it comes to folding cameras this one, despite the issue with focusing, is a real winner. Certainly would be a good choice if you frequent World War II reenactments, even if it’s just a prop but kudos if you use it to shoot. And if you do find a camera in good working order, it certainly won’t let you down. If you do shoot with the camera, remember when this camera came out Ilford had just released HP (the great-grand daddy of HP5+) and rated at ASA-160. You’ll mostly want to stick to Ilford FP4+, Kodak TMax 100, Ilford Pan F+, Fomapan 100, Ultrafine Xtreme 100, or Rollei RPX 25 to get the best results out of this camera. And the best part is shutter speeds are perfect for Sunny-16 style metering (1/125 to 1/25) and if you’re lucky enough you might even find one with an original metal reel inside. Just remember to save the reel or simply remind you lab to return it.

All Photos Taken In The Distillery District, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Voigtländer Bessa – Voigtländer Anastigmat Voigtar 1:4,5 F=11cm – Ultrafine Xtreme 100 @ ASA-50
Blazinal (1+50) 9:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 69 – Holga 120N

CCR Review 69 – Holga 120N

When you think of toy cameras, certain models come to mind almost instantly. Names like Diana, Debonair, Lomography, and of course Holga. I have in the past reviewed the FPP Debonair, a solid toy camera but the first toy camera and the one that stuck the most is the Holga. Sadly my camera broke several years back, and I never bothered to replace it. While I did mean to replace the Holga with another one, the sad fact is that in 2015 Holga nearly vanished if not for the quick actions by Freestyle and the Sunrise company. The two managed to recover one mould and restarted production. The Holga is the iconic toy camera if you’re looking for any high-quality performance you’ll want to look elsewhere but if you want something fun, this is your camera.

CCR Review 69 - Holga 120N

The Dirt

  • Make: Sunrise
  • Model: Holga 120N
  • Type: Point-And-Shoot
  • Format: Medium, 120, 6×6/6×4.5
  • Lens: Fixed, Optical Lens 1:8 f=60mm
  • Year of Manufacture: 2003 – Present

CCR Review 69 - Holga 120N

CCR Review 69 - Holga 120N

The Good
As toy cameras go, the Holga is incredibly accessible; you don’t need much to start shooting and enjoying this camera. It’s fun, easy to use, and produces a unique image that I’ve only seen in one other camera, the FPP Debonair. Far from perfect, the soft plastic lens has a fixed 60mm focal length with several zone focus options, and two aperture (f/8 and f/11) means if you’re close, your photo will be in focus. And the slightly wider than the normal focal length and smaller than required image circle produces a heavy vignette. All these things make for a unique image quality. The 6×6 negative size gives you plenty to work within regards to cropping or just leaving it as a square format. The camera does come with a second mask and slider to shoot in the 6×4.5 negative size, but you’ll be forced to shoot portrait orientation rather than landscape. I prefer landscape, but that’s just me, so I tend to leave the 6×6 mask in place. And having it take the standard 120 film makes for easy loading and shooting, just point, guess, and shoot!

CCR Review 69 - Holga 120N

CCR Review 69 - Holga 120N

The Bad
When I first started using toy cameras, I had to give myself a bit of a mind-shift. I knew I was not going to get perfect exposures, tack sharp images, or even in focus images. You don’t even have much control over this camera, focus, aperture, and flash. If you can’t handle that much guess work, then this is not your camera. The cameras have a poor build quality, light leaks even out of the box will be standard. At least you know you can repair it quickly with duct tape or gaffer tape. Another option is just to leave it and embrace the unknown.

CCR Review 69 - Holga 120N

CCR Review 69 - Holga 120N

The Lowdown
For the sake of transparency this is a review of the new Holga 120N, and from what I’ve found is that in my particular model the new maker has taken all the quirks of the old Holga and cranked them up 50%. Toy cameras are not every photographer’s cup of tea; even I have to be in the right mood to work with them. But if you find yourself in the right mindset you can produce art. Photography doesn’t have to be about perfection in any sense of the word. All the rules can be thrown out the window and in the end, if you produce an image that you love, then you’ve done it. Sure if I need high quality I’ll go to my Rolleiflex or Hasselblad, but if I want fun, I’ll grab the Holga. Remember, life isn’t perfect, sharp, or in focus, sometimes just let your photos reflect that.

All Photos Taken in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Holga 120N – Optical Lens 1:8 f=60mm – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – SPUR HRX (1+20) 9:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 68 – Zenza Bronica GS-1

CCR Review 68 – Zenza Bronica GS-1

If you’ve used any of the modern Bronica cameras, you’ve mostly used them all. And that is the beauty of them because of they all act, behave and feel the same in both operation and general, cosmetic details. The only difference is the size of the negative. And while I’ve reviewed the smaller of the three, the ETRS earlier this year, I now switch up to the largest of the three the GS-1. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of Bronica cameras, but I like the GS-1 and would easily rate it higher than the Mamiya as it stands up easier on field work when comparing similar bodies, the Pentax 67 out strips both for ease of use in the field. Sadly the camera is a rare beast to find these days even on the used market, but if you can find a full setup, you have a keeper. Special thanks to Mike Bitaxi for loaning out the beast.

CCR Review 68 - Bronica GS-1
The Dirt

  • Make: Zenza
  • Model: Bronica GS-1
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: Medium, 120/220, 6×7
  • Lens: Interchangeable, PG-Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1983-2002

CCR Review 68 - Bronica GS-1

CCR Review 68 - Bronica GS-1

The Good
Despite being a 6×7 camera the GS-1 if properly equipped with a good neck strap and action grip is designed for use in the field, when compared to a camera like the RB/RZ67, even with a waist level finder the action grip makes the camera easy to use. While this is no Mamiya 7 or Pentax 67 I found that even the weight is acceptable for walking around, it actually would be a difficult camera to use in the studio. If you’ve used other Bronica cameras of the same period you’ll instantly know how to operate the GS-1 with all the same controls; even the accessories mount in the same fashion as the smaller cameras. And the camera is designed for speed, a familiar crank or double-stroke will advance the film and cock the shutter, and return the mirror. The GS-1 is also a fully modular system so you can customise it to however you need it from finders, backs, grips, and lenses. It also impressed me how quiet it was, of its size and weight I expected a mirror slap that would wake the dead and rattle even the steadiest photographer at 1/60 of a second. And finally, having the large 6×7 negative makes the camera ideal for wedding, travel, landscape, and other situations where the print is king, and you don’t want to lug along a 4×5 large format camera. But my favourite part, the camera has a functioning built in, on/off switch, helps to save that battery, and that battery is pretty standard and can easily be purchased online or at a camera/electronics shop.

CCR Review 68 - Bronica GS-1

CCR Review 68 - Bronica GS-1

The Bad
The camera does have the trouble with weight, while less than an RB/RZ, and with a good strap it is not much of an issue, but if you have back troubles this might not want to be a camera of choice. Now I’ve handled cameras with hair triggers before, the Olympus XA comes to mind, and so does the GS-1. I had barely laid my finger on the action grip shutter release and bam; I had taken the shot. I was just glad I hadn’t changed the frame composition. Then when it comes to changing the camera to portrait orentation, you have to hall the whole thing 90 degrees, with the action grip and eye-level finder it’s not too bad, but if you have the waist-level finder, good luck buttercup. However, the biggest trouble with this camera is the rarity of it. I had not even heard of the system until Mike first mentioned he was collecting the parts to make one up. And I find that odd given the near twenty-year life of the GS-1. So why is this a bad thing, well the trouble is that if something breaks or goes wrong, it makes it hard to find replacement parts or accessories and being an electronic camera from the 1980s something will break eventually? And given this rarity and lack of gear on the used market, anything you do find will be relatively costly.

CCR Review 68 - Bronica GS-1

CCR Review 68 - Bronica GS-1

The Lowdown
Like any other 6×7 camera I’ve reviewed, the GS-1 is certainly a winner, but as a 4×5 shooter, it just doesn’t fill a need in my toolkit. Also, two frames into my second roll, it stopped working for me, it must know of my loathing of Bronicas. When it went back to its owner, Mike, started working again. If I ever stopped shooting the 4×5 format, I would probably go for a 6×7 camera, but given the rarity and cost attached to a GS-1 and my general distrust of Bronica cameras, my two 6×7 cameras of choice would be a Pentax 67 or Mamiya 7. While I would hazzard reccomending the GS-1, it’s not a bad camera, it’s just there are better options for 6×7 shooting out there. Heck, I’d even run with an RB/RZ67 over a GS-1. Worth the massive back damage if it provides a little more reliablity.

All Photos Taken in The Beach, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Bronica GS-1 – Zenzanon-PG 1:3.5 f=100mm – Delta 100 @ ASA-80
SPUR HRX (1+20) 9:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 67 – Canon EOS A2

CCR Review 67 – Canon EOS A2

When Canon started up their autofocus EOS system in the 1980s, they immediately made obsolete plenty of classic manual focus FD Mount cameras. And in some situations, they began to release modern EOS versions of some of these. For example, the Canon F-1 became the EOS-1. And when the EOS A2 came out, there was no doubt that this was the modern version of the prosumer or advanced amateur Canon A-1. And while the A2 is a solid camera, an excellent way to get into 35mm film photography for a Canon Digital Shooter (Providing you have a line of EF Mount Lenses), the A2 is another ‘k-car’ camera. It does the job, but it’s just boring. It takes great photos, but it does nothing else of note. If you’re curious, the A2 is also known as the EOS 5 outside of the North American market (sort of). Special thanks to Mike Bitaxi for loaning this camera out for review.

CCR Review 67 - Canon EOS A2

The Dirt

  • Make: Canon
  • Model: EOS A2
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 24x36mm
  • Lens: Interchangeable, Canon EF Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1992-1998

CCR Review 67 - Canon EOS A2

CCR Review 67 - Canon EOS A2

The Good
Just because a camera is boring, doesn’t mean it’s a bad camera. The Maxxum 5000 is both boring and bad, but the EOS A2 is boring, but a solid machine that produces decent cameras. Despite looking like a Minolta, the A2 is solid in hand, excellent ergonomics in landscape orientation (more on that later), with all the controls well laid out and easy to operate even for a Nikon shooter. The camera also solves my biggest issue with Canon EOS cameras, and that is that the camera has two command dials, well one dial and one thumb wheel but it addresses the issue with manual exposure settings you now have two distinct controls for aperture and shutter. The camera operates how you would expect it to and produces fantastic images, with a great meter, and a solid line of EF lenses to back it up. And as an accessible camera the A2 shines, if you shoot a Canon digital EOS camera and have EF lenses you can grab an A2 and run with it, and it won’t let you down. It also makes for a great second fiddle to your pro body.

CCR Review 67 - Canon EOS A2

CCR Review 67 - Canon EOS A2

The Bad
Like many SLRs of the 1990s, the A2 suffers two of the biggest problems that every camera of that era does. The first being the biggest, that is the power source. The EOS A2 requires a 2CR5 6V battery to operate, and you have little else to power it. The battery is expensive and hard to find outside of specialty stores or online. And while it does last, it doesn’t make it any better. Even adding a vertical grip on the camera doesn’t help. Your only option is to get a belt mounted battery pack that takes D-Cell batteries, which is little consolation. The second issue is that the body coating gets sticky over time. While not a deal breaker, it’s more a minor annoyance especially on hot summer days your hands just feel gross after using the camera. And then there’s a vertical grip; the grip does little more than adding a vertical shutter release, but you know the camera itself could have improved its portrait orientation ergonomics, there’s plenty of room to add a vertical shutter release. And my final beef with this camera is the on/off switch. The switch is not as obvious as you might expect on first seeing the camera. There’s a switch on the back of the camera, but that controls the thumbwheel. The power is on the camera mode dial, off is the Lock position, any other spot will power on the camera.

CCR Review 67 - Canon EOS A2

CCR Review 67 - Canon EOS A2

The Lowdown
If you’re looking for something a little better than a basic SLR than the EOS A2 is a solid choice. It makes for an accessible camera for those who want something with a bit more functionality or only need a backup EF mount body. It will deliver but don’t expect anything more out of the camera. Compared to other cameras of this mid-range, semi-pro line, the A2 is a ho-hum choice. But at least compared to another K-Car camera, the Maxxum 5000, the A2 shines. I will mention the difference between the EOS A2 and the EOS 5, while essentially the same camera, the A2 lacks a solid meter readout in the viewfinder, relying on a simple +/- display while the EOS 5 has a full numbered over/under stops. This difference is because Canon didn’t pay for a patent of such a meter in North America, while that wasn’t an issue in Japan and Europe. Personally having this function would make the A2 just a touch better in my mind. At least the EF Mount lenses compensate for any dull operation of the camera.

All Photos Taken At Crawford Lake Conservation Area in Milton, Ontario, Canada
Canon EOS A2 – Canon Zoom Lens EF 28-105mm 1:3.5-4.5 – Efke KB100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 7:45 @ 20C