Tag: camera

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

CCR Review 66 – Voigtländer Bessa R2M

CCR Review 66 – Voigtländer Bessa R2M

As someone who learned photography on a rangefinder, I have a soft spot for the style of camera. And as a student of history, being able to shoot on a camera made by the oldest photography companies in the world (sort of) is even better. Taking both these facts, the Bessa R2M is a joy of a camera. Joy in the sense that it is a very accessible camera, pretty much if you can shoot any film camera you can use this one, and without the gnashing of teeth that might come with a German rangefinder camera. Now as you may (or may not) know that Voigtlanders aren’t Voigtlanders anymore, the camera bodies are produced by Cosina. While some might take this as a slight, these are still fantastic cameras that live up to the historical name that they bear. Special thanks to John Meadows for loaning out his baby for this review.

CCR Review 66 - Voigtlander Bessa R2M

The Dirt

  • Make: Cosina
  • Model: Voigtländer Bessa R2M
  • Type: Rangefinder
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 24x36mm
  • Lens: Interchangeable, Leica M-Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 2006+

CCR Review 66 - Voigtlander Bessa R2M

CCR Review 66 - Voigtlander Bessa R2M

The Good
The R2M begs to be used, I mean I’ve shot a roll of film through it, it almost calls out for me to take it out for one more round. It fits well in hand, easy to load with standard open back film loading, a quick short film advance allows for reasonably fast shooting. And it isn’t too heavy so great as a carry around, travel, or photo walk camera. While it does have a meter, you have to set the exposure yourself. There is the R2A which has aperture priority auto-exposure. But if you’ve shot with a Nikon FM2, you’ll be able to navigate the R2M just fine. The meter display is in the viewfinder and gives good feedback with 2, 1, and 0.5 stops over and under exposed plus a circle to indicate a correct exposure and the meter is dead on accurate. The viewfinder is bright, and the focus assist square is clear, I never missed focus on any of my shots, even close up. The biggest challenge with rangefinders is composition because the viewfinder is offset from the lens. The R2M has built in composition guides to reduce parallax errors and help with image framing as you can adjust these lines based on the lens you have mounted. A selector switch allows for 35, 50, 75, and 90 lenses with the 35 and 90 focal lengths grouped, but it is easy to tell them apart. The thing that makes the camera shine is the fact that it has a Leica M-Mount. They produced two other in Bessa line that has a Contax RF mount (Like my Contax IIIa) and a Nikon S-Mount. But by including the M-Mount, they open up the camera to a wide range of lenses from several top optical manufacturers.

CCR Review 66 - Voigtlander Bessa R2M

CCR Review 66 - Voigtlander Bessa R2M

The Bad
If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while now, you’ll know that I can have a hard time finding fault in cameras, but I have yet to find a camera that is perfect. And while the R2M comes close there are a few things that I can’t ignore. While the viewfinder is excellent, I do take issue with a couple of things. First is the meter display, I’m not sure if it has to do with my glasses, or the environment I was in, but the metering display seemed to get lost in the frame on occasion, and I had to do some unusual tilting of my head to find it again. The second is the lack of a diopter, so if the ‘lost’ meter is because of my glasses I have no built-in way to adjust the viewfinder lens so that I can use it without my glasses. And finally there is the price, now this isn’t a Leica, so it doesn’t carry the same price tag. And you can pick up a camera and Voigtländer branded lens for around 1,500$ new. However, when you start to expand your lenses even under the Voigtländer brand, you’ll start to see prices climb. And if you want to go to other brands like Leica or Carl Zeiss you’ll start to feel the burn in your wallet. Of course, you can get some inexpensive options from Lomography if you’re into that. There is the used market as well, but even with those, M-Mount lenses hold their value.

CCR Review 66 - Voigtlander Bessa R2M

CCR Review 66 - Voigtlander Bessa R2M

The Lowdown
I’m glad I got a chance to try this camera out. I looked at getting one a while back now, and I’m somewhat glad I didn’t. The R2M and the other models in the line are dangerous cameras to own because they will become a bit of a money pit, and I’m talking about expanding your lens collection. It is, however, a great camera if you stick with one or two lenses that you can find on the used market. And the sad part is that they are rare finds on the used market. They are a great option to get a body only if you’ve become disillusioned with your Leica M series cameras but want to keep your lenses, or as a backup to a Leica body and you don’t want to drop the cash for a second. And while I may not plan on buying one, these cameras are worth a second look if you have a hankering for a Leica.

All Photos Taken In Unionville, Ontario, Canada
Voigtländer Bessa R2M – Voigtländer Heliar Classic 50mm f2 – ORWO UN54+ @ ASA-100
Kodak HC-110 Dil. H 7:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 65 – Jiffy Kodak Series II

CCR Review 65 – Jiffy Kodak Series II

There’s always a sense of wonder when working with cameras as old as the Jiffy Kodak. Despite the bellows, it is little more than a fancy dressed up box camera. And yet there is a strange draw to shooting with it; you can just shoot from the hip and hope it works out, and yet there are a few things in this dressed up box that creates a unique shooting experience. But first, I have to speak on how cool this camera is, despite lacking the art deco faceplate that gives the Jiffy Kodak an iconic look for the 1930s, like the Beau Brownie, the Series II does away with that but keeps the slow pop out bellows when you open up the camera. It certainly is a camera that can turn heads. Special thanks to my father-in-law, Dave McCullagh for this beautiful camera. This camera originally belonged to my wife’s great-grandparents and took many photos of her grandfather growing up.

CCR Review 65 - Jiffy Kodak Series II

The Dirt

  • Make: Kodak
  • Model: Jiffy Kodak Series II
  • Type: Point and Shoot
  • Format: Medium Format, 620, 6×9
  • Lens: Fixed, Kodak Twindar Lens f=10,5cm ƒ:8
  • Year of Manufacture: 1937-1948

CCR Review 65 - Jiffy Kodak Series II

CCR Review 65 - Jiffy Kodak Series II

The Good
If you’re looking for something to complete a costume or reenacting for World War Two, the Jiffy Kodak Series II would be the perfect addition. If you can pick up a working model, you can shoot some amazing images that will, with the proper film and processing give a look that if done right will make your images have that classic look about them. While the optical quality is not the best, it makes up for it in shooting in the large 6×9 format. The camera also has twin viewfinders for shooting in either portrait or landscape orientation which is rather helpful when shooting with such a large negative. Plus it makes the camera just that bit more usable, and the viewfinders are good and bright even for their age. There’s also a pair of aperture choices f/8 and f/11 with a fixed shutter speed around 1/25 so if you’re shooting on bright days stick to slower films ASA-100 is the maximum speed I use in similar cameras. There’s also a selectable focus for images from infinity to 10 feet and between 10 feet and 5 feet giving it an edge over some even newer box cameras. Another piece that sets the camera apart is that the lens is a Periscopic lens, that means instead of a single-element it’s a two element lens with the shutter and aperture between them, hence twindar. It’s this lens that gives the images that dreamy look. Of course, it could just be haze due to age.

CCR Review 65 - Jiffy Kodak Series II

CCR Review 65 - Jiffy Kodak Series II

The Bad
Despite how cool this camera looks and creates some beautiful images it is relatively awkward to use. It comes down to the placement of the shutter release. It’s located on the front plate of the camera in a position where it works great for shooting in portrait mode, but when it comes to landscape, you have to reach around awkwardly to find it. Combine this with an already slow shutter speed is a recipe for a lot of camera shake. I’d also be remiss to mention that these cameras are old, we’re talking about 70-80 years at this point so make sure everything works before you spend any money and be sure to check the bellows for any light leaks. And I’m talking major holes; smallish pinholes may even give you far more compelling images as I found with an old Polaroid Automatic Land Camera Model 240 back in 2011.

CCR Review 65 - Jiffy Kodak Series II

CCR Review 65 - Jiffy Kodak Series II

The Lowdown
Now I will mention that this is a medium format camera, but it takes Kodak’s 620 format. While some might group this in the bad category, 620 film is just 120 film spooled onto a different spool. And after a small break, the fine folks over at the Film Photography Project has started manufacturing brand new 620 spools and re-rolling fresh 120 film onto these spools for resale. Just watch out if you’re buying this camera as there are two different models, the Six-20, and Six-16, as the names imply the Six-16 takes the now defunct 116 roll film format, and actually cannot be used anymore.

All Photos Taken In Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Jiffy Kodak Series II – Kodak Twindar Lens f=10,5cm ƒ:8 – Lomography Earl Grey @ ASA-100
Blazinal (1+25) 8:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 64 – Kodak Pony 135 Model C

CCR Review 64 – Kodak Pony 135 Model C

At first glance, you may not be too interested in this mid-century camera. But if you look at the design, you can tell it’s mid-century, beautiful lines. But one thing that it does do, it takes excellent photos that have the feel of what we would today call a toy camera. Don’t get me wrong, when Kodak first started producing this camera they probably never thought that it would be called a “Toy Camera” by some blogger fifty-years later, but the Pony is a basic snapshot camera, the evolution of the box camera. I have to say; I was surprised by this camera. Big thanks to Dave McCullagh, my father-in-law, for this beauty. There is a bit of family history with this camera, as it was purchased by my Father-in-Law’s parents (my wife’s grandparents) in 1958 and served as the family camera for many years.

CCR Review 64 - Kodak Pony 135 Model C

The Dirt

  • Make: Kodak
  • Model: Pony 135 Model C
  • Type: Point and Shoot
  • Format: 135 (35mm) 36x24mm
  • Lens: Fixed, Kodak Anaston Lens 44mm ƒ/3.5
  • Year of Manufacture: 1955-1958

CCR Review 64 - Kodak Pony 135 Model C

CCR Review 64 - Kodak Pony 135 Model C

The Good
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a magic camera, it’s pretty basic even for point-and-shoot cameras, but it holds a certain charm over the box cameras of the day. You have full exposure control on this camera and focus controls as well. But don’t expect any help from the camera aside from some hints on the lens and shutter assembly based on lighting conditions and several classic Kodak film stocks. But if you use Sunny-16 or an external meter you’ll be good to go. But the one thing that surprised me the most was basic shooting operation of the camera. I had a small sense of dread when I first looked at the camera; there was a wider lock-out switch. Something I’ve had trouble with in the past, and a separate shutter cock. And yet, the operation of this camera is smooth because everything is well laid out it all works and makes sense. And with the position of the viewfinder composing on this camera is simple. But let’s talk about my favourite feature of this camera, the lens. While the Kodak Anaston lens is not exactly top of the line relying on the triplet design it produces a unique image, that you often pay hundreds for from Lomography. You can see heavy vinette distortion around the corners of the image. While subtile at f/16 and f/11, you see it clearly even at f/8, I’d love to see what it looks like at f/5.6 and lower!

CCR Review 64 - Kodak Pony 135 Model C

CCR Review 64 - Kodak Pony 135 Model C

The Bad
I touched on the focus earlier, and it is my primary concern for this camera, being manual focus, and it is a point-and-shoot you have no easy way of setting the focus. And when I say manual focus, I mean, manual focus. The camera doesn’t even have zone icons, just straight up distances in feet. So you have to either use an external rangefinder (like what I used in a few cases) or be excellent at judging distances. Of course, if you’re close and shoot at f/11 or higher, you don’t have to worry. The one thing I did notice was that on this camera the focus helical is pretty loose and I’m sure the thing slipped on a few shots causing me to lose focus. The second major issue I have with the camera is rewinding the film. While shooting is a smooth operation, rewinding, not so much, the rewind release is a much smaller button that seems also recessed in the top plate, and you have to keep it depressed while turning the knob. The knob itself cannot constantly be turned as it is blocked on the one side by the viewfinder hump and cannot be pulled up to avoid it. So what usually is a quick procedure, often takes a lot longer than it should. The final thing is not so much a major issue, but more of an annoyance and that’s frame spacing. I’ll probably just chalk it up to age, but there were a few frames that had a separation no more than a razor’s edge between them. This makes cutting and scanning a bit of an issue.

CCR Review 64 - Kodak Pony 135 Model C

CCR Review 64 - Kodak Pony 135 Model C

The Lowdown
The Pony is a solid camera if you look at it from a toy camera perspective rather than one for everyday use in today’s film photography world. But I will leave you with one note of caution. If you are looking at picking up a Kodak Pony be careful of the model you get, as Kodak had several. You will want to get a Pony 135 model as they take the standard 35mm film, there are also Pony 828 models that take a small roll film like what you’d find in 120/220/620 cameras which are the same height as 35mm but operate differently. You can hack the camera to take 35mm, but you’d need to salvage some backing paper to make it work properly. Frankly it’s best to just stick to traditional 35mm, it makes for a cheap, easy to shoot toy camera, in fact I might even shoot mine again for world toy camera day.

All Photos Taken On Queenston Heights, Queenston, Ontario, Canada
Kodak Pony 135 Model C – Kodak Anaston Lens 44mm ƒ/3.5 – Efke KB100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. B 5:30 2 20C

CCR Review 63 – Ricoh 500 G

CCR Review 63 – Ricoh 500 G

I have and always will have a soft spot for compact fixed lens rangefinders since my first camera was one such camera. The Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. But the Ricoh 500 G is not a Hi-Matic, released at the end of the craze of that style of camera; it is an underdog for its time going up against the cult classic Canon QL17 GIII. And while the 500 G does not share the same spotlight at its Canon counterpart, the 500 G is a strong camera that fills the role of compact rangefinder that packs a punch but won’t break the bank. Special thanks to Mike Bitaxi for loaning this beauty out.

CCR Review 63 - Ricoh 500 G

The Dirt

  • Make: Ricoh
  • Model: 500 G
  • Type: Rangefinder
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 36×24
  • Len: Fixed, Rikenon Lens f=40mm 1:2.8
  • Year of Manufacture: 1972

CCR Review 63 - Ricoh 500 G

CCR Review 63 - Ricoh 500 G

The Good
If you’re into compact rangefinders, this camera is certainly worth a second glance. This camera is small; I mean tiny. Easily fits in your pocket but I wouldn’t recommend it. When it comes to using the camera, it’s a natural fit for anyone with any experience with Minolta, Olympus, or Canon cameras of the same style. Good layout, short throw on the film advance, and an aperture priority meter to boot. But you don’t need to power this camera to get it to work and runs well as a mechanical camera, but I would still stick to aperture priority, set your aperture and run the shutter speed around it. I’ll go into that more in the next section. Optically the camera stands well on its own with the Rikenon Lens pulling off sharp images that suit the focal length perfectly. Add to this the compact size of the camera you have very little in the way of parallax error when composing your images, out of my whole roll shot I only missed the composition on one image and it was out of focus also so it was not a big deal.

CCR Review 63 - Ricoh 500 G

CCR Review 63 - Ricoh 500 G

The Bad
The main issue I had with this camera is that all the controls along the lens barrel are too close together! The aperture control is narrow and tight to the body, and you need two hands to control it. The shutter speed dial is a little better but feels too much like the focus control with the extra grips. The focusing is smooth, but again you’d think it was the shutter speed control at first as it lacks the usual grip pieces. As an automatic aperture priority camera, it wouldn’t be so bad, but I did not have the proper battery for the camera, so I was running it full manual, as you guessed it the camera uses a mercury cell to operate. And finally, there’s the issue of light seals. The entire back door of the camera is one big light seal, every square centimeter of it is covered. Thankfully it’s easy to replace with craft foam, but it makes for a very messy job.

CCR Review 63 - Ricoh 500 G

CCR Review 63 - Ricoh 500 G

The Lowdown
If you’re looking for a camera to work as a compact low-profile street photography camera but don’t want to spend the cash on a camera give the 500 G a solid look. If you find one in good condition, you’ll be laughing. While I’m one to stick with cult cameras, it seems odd that this camera didn’t acquire one. It’s a real sleeper like the Minolta Hi-Matics, and they often don’t command a higher price like Canon or Olympus but quickly give you the same performance of the well known shooters.

All Photos taken in New York, New York
Ricoh 500 G – Rikenon Lens f=40mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – SPUR HRX (1+20) 9:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 62 – Canon T90

CCR Review 62 – Canon T90

The Canon T90 is a camera since I first laid eyes on it during the first season of the Classic Camera Revival Podcast, I think it was even at the first recording session we did. While the T-Series of cameras are not well viewed, many of them cheap and looking more like that 1980s VCR look you find with the early Minolta Maxxums, the T90 is the odd-man out in the series. Big thanks to Mike Bitaxi for the loan!

CCR Review 62 - Canon T90

The Dirt

  • Make: Canon
  • Model: T90
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 36×24
  • Len: Interchangeable, Canon FD Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1986-1987

CCR Review 62 - Canon T90

CCR Review 62 - Canon T90

The Good
If you’ve read through many of these reviews, and if you’re still around, thank you, but the biggest thing I can be overly critical about is the physical feel of a camera. The T90 is no slouch, while the majority of the T-Series are boxes, the T90 is a sleek killing machine. Boxy angles are replaced with smooth lines, something you would see in a modern SLR. This makes the camera comfortable to handle and use even for an extended period. And despite the added weight from the larger size and the six AA batteries that power it, the camera is well balanced. Speaking of the AA batteries, the camera can be powered no matter where you find yourself. General use is spot on, with automatic film loading that seems to come out of the Quick Load system. Then there is the meter, even in the appalling weather I was shooting the camera in, and rain spotted lens the meter was spot on with the exposure, and that was running it in full auto-exposure. I’m sure the same power would be brought for semi-automatic and manual modes. And finally, you can get one relatively cheap on the used market not to mention a broad range of inexpensive glass in the FD mount.

CCR Review 62 - Canon T90

CCR Review 62 - Canon T90

The Bad
Just don’t forget that we’re talking about a thirty-year-old camera, and the biggest issue that the T90 suffers is the electronic failure. If you’re a shooter of the T90, you have heard of the dreaded EEE error. Of course, that means that you’ll need to either get a repair done on it or simply replace the unit. At least there’s still a camera shop out there that can do a full refurbishment on the camera. Despite how well the camera handles it suffers from the one big issue that I have with all Canon cameras, the lack of a second command dial. Now most later EOS cameras have a second thumb dial on the camera back; the T90 lacks this. I guess I’m just used to that on Nikons, but it does pose an issue when shooting outside of semi and fully automatic exposure modes. And finally the buttons are difficult to understand what they’re for without a manual, it took the help of Mike to figure out how to put the camera in Auto-Exposure and Matrix/Average metering mode.

CCR Review 62 - Canon T90

CCR Review 62 - Canon T90

The Lowdown
The T90 is an odd-duck of a camera, and I’m surprised it was never marketed to the Professional market, like the T-1 to bring a sleeker camera to the market with all new features than keeping the old F-1 line going. I mean the camera itself has your favourite parts of the Nikon F3 and the best parts of the F4, and you have something close to the T90. It’s a camera that is perfect for anyone who has a large selection of FD mount lenses. The trouble is that shortly after the T90 came out, Minolta released the autofocus system with the Maxxum line of cameras and Canon was quick on the take and released the EOS system shortly after the T90 rendering the camera and the entire manual focus line of cameras and lenses obsolete.

All Photos taken in Acton, Ontario, Canada
Canon T90 – Vivitar Auto Wide-Angle f=28mm 1:2.5 – JCH Streetpan 400 @ ASA-400 – Blazinal (1+50) 22:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 61 – Exakta VX IIa

CCR Review 61 – Exakta VX IIa

You don’t have to break a leg to get a kick out of using the Exakta VX IIa, but if you’re not careful if you drop it on your leg, it just may break the bone. I was a little wary of this camera at first. All the controls are on the left side. Thankfully it didn’t take much to get used to the odd layout, and luckily it didn’t take me 39 steps to get used to the machine. And I found it fairly intuitive after a while; there was no throwing this camera out the rear window, I’d by a psycho for doing such a thing.

CCR Review 61 - Exakta VX IIa

The Dirt

  • Make: Exakta
  • Model: VX IIa
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 36×24
  • Len: Interchangeable, Exakta Bayonet
  • Year of Manufacture: 1956-1963

CCR Review 61 - Exakta VX IIa

CCR Review 61 - Exakta VX IIa

The Good
There are a few things that the genuinely awkward Exakta has going for it. The first item is the optics, beautiful sharp Carl Zeiss lenses, like the iconic Biotar makes this a camera worthwhile for the simple reason of image quality. Along the same line as the lens is the aperture opening lever. On the bottom of the lens barrel, there’s a pull lever that will open up the aperture as the camera doesn’t have an automatic aperture or TTL metering. So having the ability to set the aperture, open it up for focusing, then with a half push on the shutter release the lens stops down before tripping the shutter, gives the VX IIa somewhat of an easier operation. Then there’s the wonderful option of using a waist-level finder. Yes, you read that correctly, you can put a waist-level finder onto the Exakta. It does make for a different shooting experience with the camera and certainly makes using the left-handed controls a bit easier in the long run.

CCR Review 61 - Exakta VX IIa

CCR Review 61 - Exakta VX IIa

The Bad
Throw out everything you know about shooting SLRs; when you pick up an Exakta. I’m not sure of the reason behind this radical departure from the norm, but it certainly makes for a unique shooting experience. And it doesn’t stop there, nothing on this camera is quick and easy. You have to cut down the film leader to load the camera, and there’s little to no feedback on if you’ve loaded the film correctly. The film advance pulls down the meter and cocks the shutter, so it has the longest pull in any camera I’ve reviewed, it’s almost a full 180 degrees. Even rewinding the film, what should be the easiest task of them all is awkward, I lost about five or six frames because when I though I had rewound the film, I hadn’t and opened the back…twice. And finally, the shutter release takes a bit of an effort to push down. All these points combine to a rather awkward shooting experience, even more so than the Leica R3.

CCR Review 61 - Exakta VX IIa

CCR Review 61 - Exakta VX IIa

The Lowdown
If you want a serious challenge, with some great results, the Exakta VX IIa is the camera for you. Everything is mirrored, everything takes a lot more of an effort to operate and use. This isn’t a camera for quick and dirty operation. So I can see why a wheelchair-bound photographer would use the camera for spying on his neighbors in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. But if you do run with the camera, you won’t be disappointed in the images you get out of it.

All Photos Taken at Westfield Heritage Village, Rockton, Ontario
Exakta VX IIa – Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 2/58 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 9:30 @ 20C