Category: Classic Camera Revival – Reviews

The Camera Review Blogs!

CCR Review 89 – Minolta XG-M

CCR Review 89 – Minolta XG-M

The first time I picked up the Minolta XG-M, it felt as if I were coming home. If you’ve been following along with these reviews for some time, you’ll know that my first real camera system came from Minolta, first with the SR-T 102 and then the X-7a. When I had the chance to get back into the Minolta cameras, I had no qualms about getting an XG series as they have plenty of good options, but out of all the XG line from Minolta, the XG-M is the one that suited me the best. A real camera of the 1980s yet carries on the legacy of both Rokkor lenses and Minolta quality before they joined up with Konica. Thanks to Trevor Black for this camera.

CCR Review 89 - Minolta XG-M

The Dirt
Make: Minolta
Model: XG-M
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable, Minolta MC Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1981

CCR Review 89 - Minolta XG-MCCR Review 89 - Minolta XG-M

The Good
First and foremost the XG-M is small, but not in a bad way, I should rather call it compact for an SLR, along with the same lines as a Nikon FA and Olympus OM-1. Combine the size with an equally compact weight you have the perfect camera to carry around no matter if you’re travelling light or attending a moving photo walk. While the XG-M lacks the full auto-exposure shooting of the X-700 or Nikon FA, the aperture priority is perfect and the fact the camera has the full manual mode which sets it apart from the rest of the XG series. The camera’s viewfinder is big and bright and has feedback on both your shutter speed as indicated with lights and your aperture through an under-prism window. Though in low light it is difficult to see both. Operation wise the shutter release is a soft touch one but doesn’t take away the mechanical release, which Minolta could have easily done. The release is located just by the lens mount. The film advance is short and allows for quick operation. Or you can add the Motor Drive 1, which I had with my X-7a but had no desire to add to my XG-M, if I need that, I have the FA. There’s a dedicated on/off button (more on that later), and everything is well laid out on the camera body. And I do have to make a mention of the sharp line of underrated Rokkor lenses available for the camera, though I do recommend sticking to the modern Rokkor-X models.

CCR Review 89 - Minolta XG-MCCR Review 89 - Minolta XG-M

The Bad
There are some things that I do dislike about the camera. First of all is the placement of the on/off switch, more specifically where the indicator on if your camera is on or off. That is covered up by the film advance lever when it’s placed flush into the body. You can pull it out part way (like turning on a Nikon FM/FE/FA), and then you can see it. At least the actual switch unit is on the opposite side. I feel it could be better placed for more feedback. The second item is the restrictive ISO/ASA ratings for the camera meter, running from ASA-25 at the low end and ASA-1600 at the high-end. It’s not so much the low-end rating it’s that the camera tops out at 1600. Sure I could use the EV adjustment (+2/-2) to adjust it higher and lower, but I tend to avoid using it as I often will forget to adjust it back and mess up the next roll of film.

CCR Review 89 - Minolta XG-MCCR Review 89 - Minolta XG-M

The Lowdown
The XG-M is certainly a camera I would recommend; they are inexpensive on the used market as are the lenses which makes it an easy way to get into manual focus, semi-automatic film photography without too much out of pocket. You could get a camera and lens for about 100$ and still have lots left over to get lots of films to run through the camera. Personally, I’m looking forward to using this camera at plenty of Toronto Film Shooters meetups when we’re moving as I can bring plenty of lenses along for the ride and still have space/weight for a medium format camera in the bag.

All Photos Taken in Milton, Ontario
Minolta XG-M – Minolta Rokkor-X 45mm 1:2 – Kodak TMax 400 @ ASA-400
Kodak D-23 (Stock) 8:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 88 – Wirgin Edixa II

CCR Review 88 – Wirgin Edixa II

When it comes to exciting cameras, there are plenty out there that I have never heard of before starting to review them. And I’ve come across some that are awesome and others that it came as no surprise why I had never come across them before. The Wirgin name is one that isn’t well known in North America; yet have produced a wide range of cameras that sold in the German Market. I first heard the name on an episode of the Film Photography Project where Leslie reviewed the older Edinex. So when I had a chance to try out the Edixa II, I figured it would be a decent camera. Well, I think I was wrong on that one. At least it has a rangefinder. Thanks to Mike Bitaxi for the camera!

CCR Review 88 - Wirgin Edixa II

The Dirt
Make: Wirgin
Model: Edixa II
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
Lens: Fixed, Isco-Gottingen Isconar 1:2.8/43 C
Year of Manufacture: 1953-7

CCR Review 88 - Wirgin Edixa IICCR Review 88 - Wirgin Edixa II

The Good
For a camera the size and construction of the Edixa II you’d think I’d be lugging around a bit of a paperweight, but surprisingly it carries rather well and doesn’t add too much to one’s pocket. And unlike the original model, the Edixa II has a rangefinder which does ensure quality in focus images. The viewfinder is bright and well in line with the lens, so no parallax error creeps into your image composition. The lens is a happy medium and is decently fast for the age, a f/2.8 lens you do pretty much everything. And the lack of a meter isn’t too bad as you can shoot sunny-16. Sadly the camera I have you’re stuck on single shutter speed, 1/100th which isn’t the end of the world but might be something I can look into fixing on my own. If there was one thing that surprised me about the cameras were the optics, for a lens brand and style I had never heard of before I found the images sharp, while having a pleasant organic softness to them, especially at wider f-stops.

CCR Review 88 - Wirgin Edixa IICCR Review 88 - Wirgin Edixa II

The Bad
It’s been some time since I’ve reviewed a camera that I could yell about for a bit and the Edixa II is one of them. There are several things on this camera that made me scratch my head going “what were they thinking” let’s start first with the focusing, rather than use a typical barrel. It’s a small lever at the bottom of the lens that you turn to focus, sadly the focusing lever feels a lot like, and is near the self-timer. There were a couple of times where I would go to focus and start the self-timer instead. The rangefinder, while nice to have, the way its setup is something I’ve never seen before. First, there are two windows, one for the viewfinder, the other for the rangefinder, which is tiny. An in the rangefinder window there are two other windows, in a T shape. You have the line up the images, which would not be too much of an issue if there wasn’t a black piece, rather thick for space, which made it rather difficult actually to locate a spot to make your focus. And finally we have the film advance, it’s a 1.5 stroke, I mean pick one, either go for a full double stroke like some Leica models, or do a proper one stroke, but the whole one and a half business is nonsense. And the size of the advance lever and construction left my thumb smarting a few times.

CCR Review 88 - Wirgin Edixa IICCR Review 88 - Wirgin Edixa II

The Lowdown
Thankfully this camera can sit as a shelf queen, it does look pleasing enough, and I can, as I mention see if I can run a CLA on it and maybe get it cleaned up a bit. And if I end up breaking everything and turning it into a pile of parts I don’t think I’ll be too let down. Another odd thing I noted on the camera was the negative frames; they were not sharp and well defined again a more organic feel to each frame. So unless you’re a big fan of West German cameras from the mid-century, then I would say pass on the Edixa II.

All Photos Taken at Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario
Wirgin Edixa II – Isco-Gottingen Isconar 1:2.8/43 C – Kodak TMax 400 @ ASA-400
Kodak D-23 (Stock) 8:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 87 – Bronica SQ-Ai

CCR Review 87 – Bronica SQ-Ai

The funny thing is, the Bronica SQ-Ai is the camera where I first developed a love/hate relationship with Bronica cameras, especially the black plastic ones. I got mine, back after the SQ-Am body kicked it (I do not ever want to see another SQ-Am). I figured the SQ-Ai would fill the need in my kit for an interchangeable lens, SLR for medium format 6×6. And for a while it did, but then a few things cropped up, mostly because of configuration, and design flaws that made me dump the camera. While not a bad camera, you need to be careful about which model and which configuration you get. Thanks to Mike Bitaxi for letting me borrow a former camera back for review.

CCR Review 87 - Bronica SQ-Ai

The Dirt
Make: Zenza Bronica
Model: SQ-Ai
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: Multiformat, Back Dependent
Lens: Interchangeable, Bronica SQ Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1990

CCR Review 87 - Bronica SQ-AiCCR Review 87 - Bronica SQ-Ai

The Good
Don’t get me wrong the SQ-Ai is a functional, modern camera that does produce results and of the three ‘Black Plastic Bronicas’ the SQ-Ai remains the favourite. While not a Hasselblad killer, for those who are more budget minded the SQ-Ai is a good option. For the size and weight, the camera can be easily carried for a day with a good strap and not overly strain you. The body is mostly plastic and is a sleek black; everything is electronic which gives you an edge, as the shutter speed is on the body while the aperture is on the lens. It also gives you some long exposure without getting into bulb mode and manually timing it. And while Bronica could have easily used a proprietary shutter release, they stuck to a traditional mechanical setup. And the lenses aren’t bad either, while no Carl Zeiss they can hold their own against something from Mamiya. And the fact the SQ-Ai is a system camera if one part breaks, you can individually get parts a lot easier than a Hasselblad where you’re more likely to have to buy a kit before just a body as I was able to do when I ditched the SQ-Am.

CCR Review 87 - Bronica SQ-AiCCR Review 87 - Bronica SQ-Ai

The Bad
Now two items made me stop liking the Bronica, the first is going to sound silly, but it’s the battery holder. I was not sure if it was my body or if it’s a design flaw as a whole but the door that holds the batteries in is terrible. It wouldn’t stay closed, and often I would lose power because contact had been lost, or the door would open, and the batteries and holder would spill on the ground because the compartment is on the bottom of the camera. Now I would prevent this by using a tripod foot or tape, but still an imperfect fit. And finally, there’s the general issue of using the camera. If you have the eye-level finder, you’ll want to have a speed grip on the camera, without a grip using a waist-level finder. But don’t switch the two around or your camera will be difficult to use especially an eye-level handheld. And sadly in my case, I had an eye-level finder for the SQ-Am (which has a built-in motor drive with a grip), and the waist-level finders are hard to find, and if you do, they carry a hefty price tag.

CCR Review 87 - Bronica SQ-AiCCR Review 87 - Bronica SQ-Ai

The Lowdown
Of all the black body Bronicas, the one I would recommend the most would be the SQ-Ai, it’s not a bad camera, there are some flaws, but they can be overcome if you know what you’re looking for when you invest in the system. As for cost, they aren’t too bad if you get a complete set right off the bat and setup how you like it. Though I do recommend not getting a motor drive, and having both an eye-level and waist-level finder and the grip. It’s not better than a Hasselblad, but your wallet will be a little happier in the long run.

All Photos Taken in St. Mary’s Pioneer Cemetery, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Bronica SQ-Ai – Zenzanon-PS 65mm 1:4 – Bergger Pancro 400 @ ASA-400
Blazinal (1+25) 8:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 86 – Yashica YF

CCR Review 86 – Yashica YF

The iconic Leica camera, often cloned and duplicated by many, the Russians with their Fed line, and the Japanese by Canon, Nikon, and Yashica. Wait, Yashica? Meet the Yashica YF, a camera that I didn’t even know existed until fellow photographer and friend James Lee showed it off. The YF, based on the Nicca 3L, which Yashica bought up the whole company, is a wonderful combination of the Barnack Leicas and the M-Series. Combined in such a way to produced a spectacular camera that shows off exactly how a rangefinder of the era should look and behave. Big thanks to James Lee for loaning out this rare beauty for a review.

CCR Review 86 - Yashica YF

The Dirt
Make: Yashica
Model: YF
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 35mm, 36x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable, Leica Thread Mount (LTM/M39)
Year of Manufacture: 1959

CCR Review 86 - Yashica YFCCR Review 86 - Yashica YF

The Good
One of the biggest issues I have with the Barnack Leicas is film loading, it’s difficult to put it mildly. From having to trim the film, and load it up just right for everything to catch. Even in the M-Series, you have the same song and dance, but have a window to help you actually see if the film got loaded correctly. On the YF, you still have the bottom load, but this time around I nailed it on the first try without any trimming. Now the YF also has the backdoor to help ensure you have it loaded correctly. For advancing the film, gone is the knob and the long traditional leaver, instead, there’s a small thumb advance located between the top plate and main body, well placed to easily operate. The viewfinder is big and bright with a large rangefinder patch and bright lines for the 50mm and 90mm focal lengths. Take these items, the YF offers an enjoyable user experience, even for those who don’t have a fond view of the older Leica experience. And finally, you have the M39/Leica Thread Mount (LTM), this gives you a wide range of lenses including Leica, Canon, Nikon, Russian, and Yashica giving you a powerful camera that can be moulded to exactly how you want. And I wouldn’t look down on the native Yashica glass, the results I got out of the Yashinon 50mm f/1.8 are spectacular.

CCR Review 86 - Yashica YFCCR Review 86 - Yashica YF

The Bad
The two biggest complaints I have about the YF are actually two rather small features, both in what they are, and their physical size. The first is the shutter speed dial, in addition to having two shutter speed dials (normal and slow), which is something you see often with cameras of this era, and it a minor annoyance. The dial is rather small given the area on the top of the camera. You could easily have put a single shutter speed dial on top, and make it a little more normal size. The second is the rewind release, it’s a tiny button on the top, if it wasn’t for the red dot, I would’ve missed it, and I nearly had to use the point of my pocket knife blade to depress it. At least it doesn’t need to be held down to allow for rewinding. And speaking of rewinding, it ended up being a rather awkward method as you can’t lift up the rewind knob for easy turning. I ended up having to spin the camera body like a noise maker for an effective rewind. And finally, there’s the PC socket, I got a couple small jolts from it as it sits rather close to where I put my finger when shooting.

CCR Review 86 - Yashica YFCCR Review 86 - Yashica YF

The Lowdown
If you can find a YF in working order, you’re in for a treat. Of course, you’ll also have to shell out a great deal of money for it at the same time. Unless you are lucky and come across one that needs a great deal of TLC to get it up and running and is being sold at a deep discount. But no matter how you get your YF, it would be worth the effort. This is a photographer’s camera, well designed, and well made. If you can find one with the original Yashinon lens, all the better, but I think, no matter what glass it on the front, it will give you a solid performance.

All Photos Taken in Oakville, Ontario
Yashica YF – Yashinon f=5cm 1:1.8 – Kentmere 100 @ ASA-50
Blazinal (1+50) 9:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 85 – Pentax MG

CCR Review 85 – Pentax MG

I don’t mean to knock a camera right off the bat, but honestly, Pentax could have done far better than the Pentax MG. Built as part of the compact M series of Pentax SLRs following the release of the Olympus OM-1. Designed as an entry level camera and it shows, bare-bones, simple, and so small it hurts. But you have to take the good with the bad in these reviews, and it’s been a while since I found a camera that I immediately disliked the moment I picked it up. Thanks to James Lee for loaning out the MG for review.

CCR Review 85 - Pentax MG

The Dirt
Make: Pentax
Model: MG
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 35mm, 36x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable, Pentax K Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1981-1984

CCR Review 85 - Pentax MGCCR Review 85 - Pentax MG

The Good
Probably the best part about the camera is the fact it has a K-Mount, you have at least access to a set of fantastic lenses that you can easily mount, and you may even get a solid Pentax-M lens attached when you get the camera. Operations are simple, a pull out to turn on with the advance lever and that has a great short throw. You have your shutter speeds displayed along the edge of your viewfinder which is far better than the MV which was the original entry-level camera of the M-Series. But in this case, as soon as I took the camera out the battery died, thankfully the manual override speed of 1/100″ I could at least using the Sunny-16 technic to keep going. And the camera has next to no weight so it can be carried in any bag or even a large pocket if you must especially if you have the 28mm Pentax-M lens.

CCR Review 85 - Pentax MGCCR Review 85 - Pentax MG

The Bad
As I mentioned in the introduction, the camera is so small it hurts. I can barely wrap my hands around it comfortably. Which is, what the designers were going for, but honestly even though it’s light I couldn’t imagine using it for a whole day and actually enjoying it. Despite being easy to use, the camera itself feels cramped. I’ve had the chance to use both the ME and ME Super, and while they are designed to be semi-automatic cameras, they at least have a little more space around the controls. And finally the viewfinder is fairly dim, even with an f/2 or f/2.8 lens and the LED readout for the shutter speeds works great in daylight but in low light situations can be hard to read.

CCR Review 85 - Pentax MGCCR Review 85 - Pentax MG

The Lowdown
The small form-factor Pentax cameras are excellent choices, they provide a less-expensive option and if you already have a set of K-Mount lenses, you can easily move between the larger models like the K-Series and the M-Series with ease. But you want to avoid the entry-level options. If you are considering a purchase the ME Super or MX will be a better choice than the MV, MV1 and especially the MG.

All Photos Taken in St. Jacobs, Ontario
Pentax MG – SMC Pentax-M 1:2.8 28mm – Fomapan 200 @ ASA-100
Pyrocat-HD (1+1+100) 8:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 84 – Polaroid One

CCR Review 84 – Polaroid One

Polaroid, the name itself implies instant photography, and in this case, you would be 100% correct, the Polaroid One is probably the best Type-600 camera I have used. It’s also the most modern being the last one built before the company went bankrupt in the early 21st-century, and while Polaroid Originals does produce brand new modern instant cameras in the form of the stunning OneStep2 and the I-1. But if you have a desire for a classic Polaroid then look no further than the Polaroid One.

CCR Review 84 - Polaroid One600

The Dirt
Make: Polaroid
Model: One
Type: Point-And-Shoot
Format: Type-600 Instant
Lens: Fixed, Polaroid 100mm f/11.5
Year of Manufacture: 2001

Building On UpSCAET

The Good
The primary and only reason the Polaroid One is top of the game for classic Polaroid cameras and by extension the Image/Spectra system is that they are the newest out there. You don’t find many people out there, outside of Polaroid Originals, who service the cameras and most of the cameras are starting to get old. This instantly shoots this 2001 beauty to the top of the list for cameras to last. Secondly, the One uses the same optics as the Polaroid Spectra, so we’re talking a glass lens, not the plastic that they were using up until the 1990s. But you still have the classic Polaroid look with the soft edges and blown out highlights. Not to mention a plethora of other functions, such as a self-timer and ability to turn off the built-in flash, but that isn’t advisable unless you’re under bright light. And finally, the camera itself just looks awesome, with a more streamlined look of the Spectra, and the pop-up style it does look unique to the type-600 cameras as gone is the classic clamshell look from the 80s and 90s. Plus it makes it a lot easier to handle than the older ones.

Burlington CameraPolaroid Week - Fall 2017

The Bad
While one of the better choices of all the classic Polaroid cameras out there, this is still a Polaroid and when it does die it’s dead. Plus these cameras were not produced for long, so they are rare on the used market. In fact, I never even knew they existed until I got the one I own from my good friend Marcia. And there is, of course, the quality issue as well, the camera itself won’t produced the best quality image, but it certainly is fun! But one of the biggest downsides to these cameras is the cost actually to use them. While the cost of the film has gone down and the quality improved from the very early days of the Impossible Project. These are not cameras that you can just shoot on a regular basis, or your wallet will not be happy with you.

Polaroid Week - Fall 2017Polaroid Week - Fall 2017

The Lowdown
While the camera is not the iconic rainbow oneStep or folding SX-70, it is your best bet for actually going out and shooting classic Polaroid gear. You might even be able to find new-old-stock or new-in-box with this camera. And with the improvements from the fine folks at Polaroid Originals, I do intend to keep working with the format, if only for special occasions such as Polaroid Week or Family events for something different that you cannot duplicate easily with a digital camera.

All Photos Taken in Ontario, Canada
Polaroid One – Polaroid 100mm f/11.5 – Polaroid Originals Color and B&W
Impossible Instant Process

CCR Review 83 – Fuji GSW690II

CCR Review 83 – Fuji GSW690II

The Fuji GSW690ii is not a camera you need, but it sure is fun to have. That being said, a lot is going for the camera and if you’re like me, and are a wide-angle junky who loves to shoot big and wide than a GSW690 is certainly a camera that will make you very happy. There’s a reason they have the nickname Texas Leica because everything’s bigger in Texas, and what’s better than a superb rangefinder, a magnificent rangefinder that shoots 6×9 and a wide angle lens that covers everything. Special thanks to James Lee for loaning out this beauty!

CCR Review 83 - Fuji GSW690II

The Dirt
Make: Fuji
Model: GSW690II
Type: Rangefinder
Format: Medium Format, 120/220, 6×9
Lens: Fixed, EBC Fujinon-W f=65mm 1:5.6
Year of Manufacture: 1985

CCR Review 83 - Fuji GSW690IICCR Review 83 - Fuji GSW690II

The Good
There are several points about the camera that stand out as being the number one reason this camera is awesome. But honestly, given the size of the camera, I’m amazed at how light the beast is and how easily it fits in hand. You could easily spend a whole day shooting with the camera and not have it weigh on your neck at all. And along the same lines how easy is to operate, I didn’t even have to read the manual, and I had it mostly figured out. Not to mention on a cold winter’s day, the camera works great when your hands are in gloves. Another factor that helps the camera out on a cold day is the fact it’s mechanical, no batteries at all in this camera. The viewfinder is big and bright, with clear framing lines to help with image composition. And finally, the optics are superb. I’ve shot Fujinon optics on my 4×5 almost since I started working with Large Format and have never complained about it. And while the lens is only rated to f/5.6 at wide open, trust me, this isn’t a problem as even wide open and given the 65mm focal length everything in the frame will be in focus.

CCR Review 83 - Fuji GSW690IICCR Review 83 - Fuji GSW690II

The Bad
There are of course a few small items that do detract from this fantastic camera. The first being the rangefinder patch, given the size of the viewfinder the patch itself is rather small for the size and can easily be lost in low light or complex scenes, but it does have good contrast. Secondly, there’s the film loading, while easy given the camera’s size and style, and the film loads quickly, it is, however, the alignment of the starting line of the film that is hard to determine. I mean, if you’ve read the manual you can get it right, but in the camera itself, there’s no indication on where to put that line. Now if you mis-load the film you can still operate the camera, and shoot all eight frames on your 120 rolls, you do however lose that first frame. And finally, there are the exposure controls. While I can see the wisdom in making the controls for aperture and shutter different, the aperture control have two nice handles making it rather easy to adjust, the shutter control is recessed into the lens barrel and can be troublesome to operate.

CCR Review 83 - Fuji GSW690IICCR Review 83 - Fuji GSW690II

The Lowdown
Now, the camera doesn’t do anything automatically, so you will need to either use the Sunny-16 rule or carry around a meter, and if you’re shooting landscapes, a tripod might help also. I really should have used a tripod the two days I was out so I could see what the camera could do beyond f/5.6 (and I should take it out for one more spin). But the camera also handles wonderfully hand-held! Fuji did release three versions of the GSW690 cameras each of them would make an excellent choice, although some out there will say the original and the ii version are your best choices.

All Photos Taken in Oakville, Ontario
Fuji GSW690II – EBC Fujinon-W f=65mm 1:5.6 – Ilford HP5+ @ ASA-400
Kodak TMax Dev (1+4) 6:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 82 – Mamiya 645AF-D III

CCR Review 82 – Mamiya 645AF-D III

It only makes sense that the iconic Mamiya m645 grew up, and ended up being a perfect camera that blends the traditional film and modern digital photographic market. I am of course talking about the Mamiya 645 AF-D III. The AF-D III is by far the newest and most advanced camera I’ve had a chance to review in these blogs and well worth the wait. The camera is the medium format camera for the 21st-Century hybrid shooter as it can accept both traditional medium format film and digital backs. The penultimate iteration of the classic wedding photographer workhorse that will pay for itself if you care to invest in the system and a joy to work with. Thanks to James Lee for loaning this beauty out.

CCR Review 82 - Mamiya 645 AF-D III

The Dirt
Make: Mamiya
Model: 645 AF-D III
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: Medium Format (120/220), 6×4.5
Lens: Interchangeable, Mamiya 645 AF Mount
Year of Manufacture: Post-2001

CCR Review 82 - Mamiya 645 AF-D IIICCR Review 82 - Mamiya 645 AF-D III

The Good
Like the Nikon F4 bridging the divide between auto-focus and manual focus professional 35mm SLRs, the 645 AF-D III bridges the divide between film and digital in the professional medium format market. The camera features few menus, opting for buttons or dials operations of all the major functions and the camera controls are well laid out and easy to figure out what does what without too much referencing the manual. The camera has an amazing metering system and autofocus that is snappier than I expected. While the optics aren’t anything special, they are decent for the job. And the camera is well balanced and fits well in hand and handles well; I could shoot the camera all day at a wedding and not get tired. But the one thing that sells me on the camera is that it uses proper magazines, you can swap out mid-roll, you could even go right from shooting film to shooting a digital back without blinking. Plus when shooting film, you get the full 16-shots on a roll unlike the m645, and the magazines accept both 120 and 220 film with just switching around the pressure plate. And a final bonus feature is the imprinting of the exposure data in the rebate area of the film, you can also find this on newer Pentax 645 cameras.

CCR Review 82 - Mamiya 645 AF-D IIICCR Review 82 - Mamiya 645 AF-D III

The Bad
I always try to come up with a couple of poorer points of a camera but in this case, I can only a few little tiny annoying feature. First is setting the ISO settings on the film magazines it a bit fiddly with the small buttons that you need to use a fingernail to operate and the fact that the film back requires a battery as well it a bit annoying. I also think the placement of the strap lugs could be moved to be parallel to the darkslide so that the camera hangs on the chest with the bottom flush instead of having the back fo the film magazine against the chest with the camera sticking out awkwardly. But if that’s all I can come up with, then you have what I like to call a near perfect camera.

CCR Review 82 - Mamiya 645 AF-D IIICCR Review 82 - Mamiya 645 AF-D III

The Lowdown
If I did a lot more professional work, or photography was my primary source of income, then this camera system would be one that I would certainly invest in. First off the system is still supported by Mamiya/Leaf/PhaseOne and a 22 megapixel digital back is more than enough for anything you need to do these days, plus the option to still shoot film makes the camera very attractive. While rare on the used market, when you do come across them, the price is reasonable, a kit might set you back about two grand, which is certainly cheaper than a Hasselblad digital system. Which makes it a camera system that will last you for a while and keep on pumping out quality images with the right person behind it.

All Photos Taken in Milton, Ontario
Mamiya 645AF-D III – Mamiya 645 AF 80mm 1:2.8 – Fomapan 100 @ ASA-100
Kodak TMax Developer (1+9) 8:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 81 – Leitz Leicaflex SL2

CCR Review 81 – Leitz Leicaflex SL2

In the past, I’ve described the Bronica SQ-Am as the camera used by Darth Vader, I’d like to revise that statement, the Leicaflex SL2 is the camera of choice for the Dark Lord of the Sith. While my previous experience with Leica SLRs has been lacklustre, the SL2 makes up for that experience without question. The camera is a mechanical beast and shows off exactly what makes a Leica, a Leica. From amazing optics to precision mechanics. And yet of all the Leica cameras, I’ve used the SL2 is the first one I’ve picked up that felt instantly familiar I didn’t even have to check out the manual to know how to use it. Special thanks to James Lee for loaning out this beauty.

CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2

The Dirt
Make: Leitz
Model: Leicaflex SL2
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable, Leica R-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1964-1976

CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2

The Good
The number one thing that the SL2 has going for it is the fact that it’s all mechanical, battery or no the camera will operate and will probably operate in any weather condition. And if you’ve used any mechanical camera from this era then the SL2 will be instantly familiar from the Nikon F2 series into the early FM and FE cameras, with the meter being powered on by flipped out the film advance lever. Metering is fairly accurate and with a match needle system and a full readout in the viewfinder, you get instant feedback and know where all your settings are without having to take your eye out of the finder. While a heavy camera, the weight isn’t too much of an issue even on extended use, and the camera controls are well laid out and easy to pick out without having to look too hard. But you don’t buy a Leica just for the camera, you get one for the optics. And the R-Mount lenses stand up to the iconic M-Mount lenses as both are built to the same exacting standards. And while for the review I had to shoot mostly wide open, I took the opportunity to shoot a second roll in better conditions and both wide open and stopped down the optics are tack sharp and produce incredible results.

CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2

The Bad
There are still a few issues with the SL2, the first being the size of it. As much as the Retina was cramped U-Boat, the SL2 seems like a Battleship in comparison. And it doesn’t have to be, everything on the camera could have been combined into a smaller package without compromising build quality. While the camera can be carried the whole day, it wouldn’t be too comfortable by the end of it. The second issue I have with the camera is the film advance. Now, film advances are something I’ve been critical about from the beginning but the film advance is fairly funky on this one. First off the draw is too long and the sudden spring return threw me and while I did get into the habit of putting the brakes on the advance I also found that it sprung back to the off position, meaning I’d have to pull it out before getting the next shot metered. While I know this might be to conserve the battery it just seems over-engineered. And finally I couldn’t talk about a Leica without covering price, while the SLR cameras from Leica are generally pushed aside in favour of their rangefinder counterparts the R-Mount lenses and even the SLR bodies still go for a premium price on the used market.

CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2

The Lowdown
Of the few Leica cameras I’ve reviewed, the SL2 is probably the only one that I’d actually go out and buy for myself, but again the price will keep me at bay. But don’t let the price scare you, if you have the money and want one of the best mechanical SLRs out there in the premium category then the SL2 should be your choice. From start to finish the camera outputs quality images and in the right hands with the right strap will take care of all your photography needs. In fact, if it had been at an affordable price point the SL2 might be among the choice system cameras with the Nikon F2 and Canon F-1, and it like these two iconic cameras show what an SLR should be, simple, quality, robust, and optically sound.

All Photos Taken at the Terra Winter Market in Milton, Ontario, Canada
Letiz Leicaflex SL2 – Leitz Wetzlar Summicron-R 1:2/50 – Rollei Retro 400s @ ASA-200
Pyrocat-HD (1+1+100) 14:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 80 – Minolta SR-T 101

CCR Review 80 – Minolta SR-T 101

I’ll be the first to admit I have a soft spot for match needle mechanical SLRs. And the camera that created that soft spot is not the SR-T 101, but rather it’s cousin the SR-T 102, but it’s the 101 on the review block today, and with little between the two, it seems only fair to apply the same level of familiarity. The SR-T line is the cameras that made me love photography, simple in their design and operation the cameras are near perfect for students and those who are learning photography. And despite being decades separated from the camera, going back to them is like revisiting a friend and a welcome respite from the more advanced gear in my collection.

CCR Review 80 - Minolta SRT-101
The Dirt
Make: Minolta
Model: SR-T 101
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: Miniature Format, 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable, Minolta MD Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1966-75, this model is post-1970

CCR Review 80 - Minolta SR-T 101CCR Review 80 - Minolta SR-T 101

The Good
The SR-T is one of many different cameras produced through the 1960s and 1970s designed to offer simple single-lens reflex cameras to the masses. The K1000, FTb, OM-1, FM all come to mind. From the match needle metering where you simply adjust your shutter speed and aperture to move one need to intersect with the metering needle to get your exposure. The full mechanical operation means the camera will function perfectly without a battery. And since the camera’s meter relies on a mercury cell finding one that has a dead battery should be of no concern. While the camera is heavy and bulky, it isn’t that heavy in general. The controls are well laid out from the heavy shutter speed dial and shot throw and the well laid out design. Not to mention the camera can take several hits and keep on shooting. Also, an on/off switch means you can conserve battery power. But the thing that makes the SR-T standout is the metering; it uses dual photocells. One in the prism that meters through the lens in a centre weighted model and a second cell mounted on the external body just above the lens mount. Marketed as the Contrast-Light-Compensator (CLC) it gives the camera an early form of average or matrix metering we enjoy today and gives the camera with a functioning meter accurate exposure!

CCR Review 80 - Minolta SR-T 101CCR Review 80 - Minolta SR-T 101

The Bad
Some cameras I had a hard time even talking about the poorer aspects, and the SR-T is one of them. My biggest concern is the lack of an aperture display in the viewfinder. Adding in such an item would have been helpful back when I was first learning how to shoot, and even today having a visual display is a big help still. The addition of an on/off switch is great, but being on the bottom plate, you’re more likely to leave it on by accident and drain the battery and having to use the pad of your finger to twist it makes it a bit awkward to operate. And as always, these cameras are starting to get old, so it is important to try before you buy and should get a service job done on them. But if you get one in good shape or get a CLA done, they will not let you down.

CCR Review 80 - Minolta SR-T 101CCR Review 80 - Minolta SR-T 101

The Lowdown
As a student camera, the SR-T line is an excellent choice that won’t break the bank. K1000s and FMs still maintain a strong price point on the used market, but like many Minolta cameras the SR-T often goes unnoticed so you can get a body with a lens for around 100$, and extra lenses will cost less even the good ones! And the Rokkor optics are amazing, especially the modern Rokkor-X line. And while the battery it takes is mercury there are many modern alternatives to power the camera meter, the one I use has a Wyne cell installed, and the exposure is accurate. But I rather prefer shooting the camera with Sunny-16 just because it’s an easier way to run things for me.

All Photos Taken in Niagara Falls, Ontario
Minolta SRT-101 – Minolta Rokkor-PF 1:1.7 f=55mm – Kodak Plus-X @ ASA-125
Kodak D-76 (Stock) 5:30 @ 20C