Tag: review

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:FRB – Review 03 – Film Ferrania P30

CCR:FRB – Review 03 – Film Ferrania P30

As happy accidents go, when you’re trying to come up with a new slide film, and you reinvent a classic film from the past, there’s nothing wrong with that now is there? P30 is, at its heart a motion picture film and probably make a great reversal film. While I would have loved to try a roll through Dr.5, the expense of the process and a possibility of it not working makes it hard to decide to send it to them. P30 is Rollei Retro 80s on steroids with a touch of Eastman 5363 thrown in for good measure. The images have a deep chrome feel like you are looking at the world through a red filter.

CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30
The Lowdown
Type: B&W Panchromatic
Film Base:
Film Speed: ASA-80, Latitude:
Formats Available: 135 (35mm)

Roll One – Kodak HC-110
For a first impression, I was initially disappointed, the negatives were very thin, there were images, but I would have to push myself in post-processing to pull them out. But when I did, wow, I’m a big fan of a well-developed roll of Eastman 5363. And the results I pulled out were exactly on point. But they also had the quality and feel of images shot through an orange filter, maybe even a red. And the image quality, sharp as a knife, beautiful separation of tones and next to no grain. Personally, I would add an extra 30 seconds to the developing time that might help clean up the negatives.

CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 01 (HC-110)CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 01 (HC-110)CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 01 (HC-110)CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 01 (HC-110)

Technical Details:
Nikon F2 Photomic – AI-S Nikkor 35mm 1:2.8 – Ferrania P30 @ ASA-80
Kodak HC-110 Dil. E 7:30 @ 20C

Roll Two – Kodak D-76
When a company says that a developer is ideal for their film stock, listen to them, I am rather impressed with the way P30 handled D-76, the tonality was dead on the money. But I did notice the loss of the orthochromatic feel that I had with HC-110, but it doesn’t affect my view of the film stock. The film retained its fine grain and sharp resolution even in a rather boring developer.

CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 02 (Kodak D-76)CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 02 (Kodak D-76)CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 02 (Kodak D-76)CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 02 (Kodak D-76)

Technical Details:
Nikon F5 – AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm 1:2.8G – Ferrania P30 @ ASA-80
Kodak D-76 (Stock) 7:00 @ 20C

Roll Three – Rodinal
While not my favourite, P30 does respond to Rodinal rather well. In fact, I find it knocks back the contrast inherent in the film. It shows off the sharpness and resolution of the film stock, however, it doesn’t make the film sing. I think it would do better with less time maybe drop it back to thirteen minutes rather than the given fourteen. There was something lost in this roll of film.

CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 03 (Rodinal)CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 03 (Rodinal)CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 03 (Rodinal)CCR:FRB - Review 03 - Film Ferrania P30 - Roll 03 (Rodinal)

Technical Details:
Contax G2 – Carl Zeiss Planar 2/45 T* – Ferrania P30 @ ASA-80
Blazinal (1+50) 14:00 @ 20C

Final Thoughts
I like this film, Ferrania P30 combines everything I like about Rollei Retro 80s and Eastman 5363. Rich contrast, sharp images, and a touch of orthochromatic response in the blues. I hope that the fine folks at Film Ferrania don’t stop producing this film and move it beyond an Alpha release and into full production along with their long-awaited slide film and maybe even a return of Solaris. But if you’re a fan of Retro 80s but can’t stand that polyester base, then P30 is the film for you. And in good news, P30 is once again available directly through the Film Ferrania store, you can pick up max orders of 10 rolls. Currently, only the US/Canada shop is open, but the European and Asian shops will open in 2-6 weeks, Europe first (2-3 weeks after North America) and then Asian (2-3 weeks after Europe)

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

CCR Review 79 – Kodak Retina IIIC

CCR Review 79 – Kodak Retina IIIC

Before Apple picked up the name Retina, it attached itself to a line of folding German Kodak cameras. Wait, isn’t Kodak an American camera brand you may be asking. And yes, you’re right but their German branch, Kodak AG, had a rather strong reputation in bringing inexpensive but solid performance cameras to market, and their iconic line, Retina. And while the camera is classified as a folder, it lacks the distinctive bellows that prove to be a weak spot in these cameras. Armed with German rather than American optics the cameras are solid performers if a bit fickle in their operation. A note to the reader, this review is for the Retina IIIC, not the older IIIc; there is a difference. Thanks to Mike Bitaxi for loaning the camera out for review.

CCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIIc

The Dirt
Make: Kodak AG
Model: Retina IIIC (028)
Type: Rangefinder
Format: Miniature Format, 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable (Front Element), Retina Bayonet
Year of Manufacture: 1957-60

CCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIICCCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIIC

The Good
There are a couple of items that make the Retina IIIC a strong camera. First and most important is the lack of bellows. This fact right off the marks clears off a major weak point for many of these cameras a solid all-metal construction from top to bottom, front to back means that is one less thing you need to worry about when picking up the camera. The second is that the camera has German optics, while many during this time clamoured for Kodak Ektar lenses, Germany was started to show off its optical prowess outside of Zeiss and Leica. And the Rodenstock Heligon lens is no underachiever, sharp and a f/2 max aperture is no slouch on a camera aimed at the consumer market. I would have prefered something a bit wider (say 35mm or 45mm), but I can’t complain. In hand the camera is small, and while I’m not too impressed with the general layout, the one part that makes sense to me is the placement of the film advance. It’s on the bottom of the body and if you hold the camera properly the placement makes a lot of sense. Not to mention it’s a short throw that also cocks the shutter, just be careful in managing the film counter, one wrong press and you’ll jam the whole thing up, but it’s easily fixed. You have a bright viewfinder with an integrated rangefinder and the all-important framing guide, so composing images is a no-brainer.

CCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIICCCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIIC

The Bad
Despite all the praise, the Retina IIIC is a camera well past it’s prime even when it was new. First, the style, making this camera a folder was a mistake in my view, the giant side open front door and folding option on the camera takes away from the compact design. Sure when you fold it up it’s sleek and compact, but when you open it up, you’re no longer a compact camera. The Retina could have maintained a compact design without folding up. Also, you have to put the lens back to infinity focus to close up the front section. As I mentioned this camera is small, everything is small on it from the exposure controls on the front of the lens, the shutter release, the exposure counter release, and even trying to find the focus knob is fairly tough. I mean I’d take the size and controls of the Olympus XA over those of the Retina IIIC. It’s just a rather cramped experience overall, and not in a good way, in an I’ve been stuck on a German U-Boat at the bottom of the ocean for several weeks. Watch Das Boot, and you’ll get it.

CCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIICCCR Review 79 - Kodak Retina IIIC

The Lowdown
I had high hopes for the Retina, I honestly did. I found a cramped camera that really should have been designed differently. The small size and finicky nature of the camera made for a rather unpleasant shooting experience. Despite so many things going for this camera, you really should try it first before you go out and buy it. I believe much of this has to do with the fact it was built by the German branch rather than Rochester (North America), the design philosophies are different and seen. I think the Retina would have been a stronger camera that lasted far longer had Rochester taken a heavier hand in its design. If you like one, you’ll get a nearly indestructible camera with a strong optical performance that will last you until the cows come home.

All Photos Taken at Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario
Kodak Retina IIIc – Rodenstock Retina-Heligon C 1:2/50mm – Kodak Tri-X 400 @ ASA-800
Kodak D-76 (1+1) 9:45 @ 20C

CCR:FRB – Review 01 – Kosmo Foto Mono 100

CCR:FRB – Review 01 – Kosmo Foto Mono 100

At your first glance, you see this Soviet Styled space-age packaging, and you know you’re in for a treat. Mono 100 is the new player on the block, a Panchromatic ASA-100 speed B&W Film. When I first learned that Kosmo Foto was working towards releasing a brand new film I jumped. While the Soviet-styled look will draw you in, the contents of the film itself will make you want to shoot more and more of the film stock.

CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100

The Lowdown
Type: B&W Panchromatic
Film Base: Acetate
Film Speed: ASA-100, Latitude: ASA-50 to ASA-400
Formats Avaliable: 135 (35mm)

Roll 1 – Rodinal
Before I start, I’ll have to confess I went completely off spec for this first roll of film. The trouble, at least for me was, it’s been drummed into my head that you get poor results for developing times less than five minutes (well I did soup Tri-X in HC-110 Dil. B for 4.5 minutes for many years before switching). So when the chart for Mono 100 noted the Rodinal time was 3.5 minutes for 1+25 dilution my brain screamed at me. I then sat down, did a bit of math, looked at another ASA-100 film and decided to use a 1+50 dilution, double the time and add thirty seconds. I honestly did not expect it to work, but it did. As for the results, well they speak for themselves. Mono 100 has rich tones across the spectrum, incredibly fine grain, something I wasn’t expecting.

CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 01 (Rodinal)CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 01 (Rodinal)CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 01 (Rodinal)CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 01 (Rodinal)CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 01 (Rodinal)

Technical Details:
Nikon F5 – AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4D – Kosmo Foto Mono 100 @ ASA-100
Blazinal (1+50) 7:30 @ 20C

Roll 2 – Kodak D-76
I never thought I would say this, but Mono 100 sings in D-76, I was again surprised at the short time for a diluted D-76, but in this case, the time is spot on. Not to mention D-76 shows off exactly what Mono 100 can do, smooth beautiful tones, and makes the world look right, the perfect monochromatic image. Especially with a deep yellow filter in front of the lens. There is some noticeable grain, but nothing that isn’t too bad.

CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 02 (Kodak D-76)CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 02 (Kodak D-76)CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 02 (Kodak D-76)CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 02 (Kodak D-76)

Technical Details:
Nikon F90 – AF Nikkor 35mm 1:2D (Yellow-15) – Kosmo Foto Mono 100 @ ASA-100
Kodak D-76 (1+1) 9:00 @ 20C

Roll 3 – Kodak TMax Developer
And the hits just keep on coming, Mono 100 responded perfectly to TMax Developer. As a developer, TMax and I have a hit-and-miss relationship. When I like it, I like it, when I don’t, I sort of use up the rest of the bottle reluctantly and then let it be for months. But in light of doing all these film reviews, it seemed only fair to give it a go. While I noticed a drop in contrast and a bit more of an uptick in grain it really is not a bad pairing.

CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 03 (TMax Developer)CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 03 (TMax Developer)CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 03 (TMax Developer)CCR:FRB - Review 01 - Kosmo Foto Mono 100 - Roll 03 (TMax Developer)

Techincal Details:
Contax G2 – Carl Zeiss Planar 2/45 T* – Kosmo Foto Mono 100 @ ASA-100
Kodak TMax Developer (1+4) 5:30 @ 20C

Final Thoughts
When it comes to new films these days I am a bit wary. When I first learned about Mono 100 I figured we’d get a polyester base grain fest. Of course, that is not the case, I’m not knocking polyester based films they just can be a bit hard to handle. The film reminds me of how Svema Foto 200 handles, with smooth realistic tones, excellent response to contrast filters and just makes the world look right. While I’m still not sold on a 3.5 minute time in Rodinal 1+25, I’m sure it turns out fine, just be ready with that stop bath! But for me the one thing I see as a problem is the lack of HC-110 times, in fact, you are dissuaded from using HC-110 with the film. Of course, if I had a couple more rolls I’d be souping it in Dilution B just to see what happens. But if I were to give two solid developers for Mono 100 I would say Rodinal and D-76 are the clear winners. Currently, the only way to get Mono 100 is to directly order it from Kosmo Foto, kosmofoto.com/product/kosmo-foto-mono-film/ current they’re out of stock but we hope to see some fresh product soon!

CCR Review 78 – Mamiya m645

CCR Review 78 – Mamiya m645

There are many cameras out there that hold iconic status, others that carry a cult status, however, when it comes to the Mamiya m645 the camera holds neither but remains an essential camera to many a wedding photography. The m645 is a workhorse, designed to take a beating and keep on getting photos, and there’s a strong chance that if you got married when medium format was king of the wedding market, or you’re of a certain age where school photos were still taken on film the m645 was the camera in the hand of the photographer. And while the m645 has evolved and changed over time many originals are even shooting strong.

CCR Review 78 - Mamiya m645
The Dirt
Make: Mamiya
Model: m645
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: Medium Format, 120/220, 6×4.5
Lens: Interchangeable, Mamiya m645 mount
Year of Manufacture: 1975

CCR Review 78 - Mamiya m645CCR Review 78 - Mamiya m645

The Good
As a camera, the m645 is compact robust and easily operated in any situation. Without a grip, the camera can be carried in almost any camera bag without too much trouble. A side grip or motor drive will make it wider but doesn’t do much to add any weight. The controls are well laid out and are easy to operate with either an eye-level (ELF) or waist-level (WLF) finder. As a bonus, if you are using a WLF a secondary shutter release on the top of the body makes it easy to release the shutter. Even without a grip using an ELF the controls are easy to find and operate, but adding a grip (such as the Deluxe L-Grip) does make life a touch easier. The optical quality of the glass is decent, it’s no Carl Zeiss, but they aren’t too bad, the 35mm ultra-wide is soft at the corners, but the 150mm and 45mm are excellent lenses to get. However, the crown jewel is the 80mm f/1.9 a lens that is fairly magic. As for the cost of getting into the m645 system, it’s fairly inexpensive as there are plenty in good working order, but the best part is the cost of the lenses most of the optics are decently priced most under 100 dollars, of course, the 80 f/1.9 does carry a higher price tag as does the WLF accessory. The best part about the camera, however, is how easily it operates in the winter, I can easily shoot and operate the controls even with gloves on. Which, as someone who lives in Canada, is a big deal, even the electronic nature of the camera doesn’t seem affected by the deep freeze we’re currently under.

CCR Review 78 - Mamiya m645CCR Review 78 - Mamiya m645

The Bad
The big issue with the camera is age, the m645 is from the mid-1970s and is electronic. While you may never have an issue, if something does go wrong, finding someone to repair them could be difficult, and it does use a non-standard battery to power everything. If you’re on an extended trip, you might need to carry a spare and be sure to get the silver-oxide version of the battery as it lasts just that big longer though alkaline does work. The second biggest issue with the camera is the lack of a leaf shutter, though it may have helped keep the price of the lenses down having a fixed shutter speed of 1/60 for flash sync would be a hindrance for operating the camera with strobes. The biggest issue in my case is two-fold, the first is the lack of hot-swappable film backs, like the Pentax 645, the m645 uses a film insert. As a result, you cannot switch part way through which could be a problem for wedding photographers, and the second is that because of this you only get 15 shots per roll of 120. Both these issues were resolved in the next version of the camera.

CCR Review 78 - Mamiya m645CCR Review 78 - Mamiya m645

The Lowdown
The m645 is a polarising camera among photographers there are those who love them, and there are those who hate them. You’ll find both in many photography groups on Facebook. Because if a person is looking for an inexpensive way to get into Medium Format, many out there will roll out the parade for the m645 and immediately get flamed by those who dislike the format. I am neither of these, taking a firm middle-of-the-road grasp rather on the camera. If you have a chance to get an m645 go for it, but be warned, like that old Police Interceptor Crown Victoria the camera like the car probably saw heavy using in a previous life. I would not blindly go into purchasing the camera through eBay; you certainly want to have it looked over first and ensure it works especially the lens. The 80mm f/2.8 does have issues with oil on the blades and the aperture spring, at least you can get a new one for a low cost. Another note on the optics, stick to the newer lenses, those marked with N. I do have a good recommendation for the m645; it is a solid, inexpensive, decent quality camera to explore the world of medium format, just be a little cautious and make sure there are no major issues before you pay.

All Photos Taken in Belfountain, Ontario
Mamiya m645 – Mamiya-Sekor C 45mm 1:2.8 N – Bergger Pancro 400 @ ASA-400
Kodak D-76 (Stock) 9:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 77 – Zenza Bronica EC

CCR Review 77 – Zenza Bronica EC

Anyone who has read these reviews from the beginning knows I have a bit of a conflict with Bronica cameras. It’s not that they’re bad cameras, it’s just that for me there are too many small issues, minor annoyances that make me shy away from them. And the Bronica EC is no different, but it does come to the same point of almost earning a recommendation from me as the GS-1 does. At first glance, the EC has the look of an overgrown Kiev 88, a mechanical beast. However, that is far from the truth. As the EC in the name suggests, the camera is electronic, reliant on all operations on a battery. It’s big, it’s heavy, and continues the tradition of being a polarizing camera in my hands. Thanks to Donna Bitaxi for loaning it out for a review.

CCR Review 77 - Zenza Bronica EC

The Dirt
Make: Zenza
Model: Bronica EC
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: Medium Format, 120, 6×6
Lens: Interchangeable, Bronica S-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1972-1975

CCR Review 77 - Zenza Bronica ECCCR Review 77 - Zenza Bronica EC

The Good
Those who like Bronica cameras love ’em, those who dislike them, shy away pretty hard. But the Bronica EC does have some good talking points. The first is a feature that isn’t even made by Bronica, but rather it’s the optics. If you’ve seen the photos on Flickr or glanced at the technical details, the optics are still made by Nikon. This is before the Zenza/Nikon split in the 1980s. And what a lovely piece of glass, now I only tested out the massive 50mm lens, and I can say I am impressed but not surprised. If you have a set of AI-S lenses for your 35mm cameras, then you won’t be disappointed by the Nikkor lenses that come in the Bronica S-Mount. But what’s good glass without a good viewfinder? And I have to say, the waist level finder on the EC is certainly one of the better ones I’ve worked with, I would even rate it higher than that on my Hasselblad 500c, even with a f/3.5 lens on the front. Combine that with a magnifier loupe that has almost 100% coverage and big enough to shade any stray light. When it comes to camera operation there is a certain satisfaction with the camera, the WLF opens and closes with only one hand, the shutter speed dial is big, and the camera is far lighter than you’d expect. The film advance is smooth, and the shutter makes a satisfying noise. And if you’re familiar with how to load and unload film from a Mamiya m645, you can rock the Bronica EC.

CCR Review 77 - Zenza Bronica ECCCR Review 77 - Zenza Bronica EC

The Bad
You’re probably wondering at this point, why I can’t recommend this camera after speaking on several awesome points of the camera. Well, like all Bronica’s it’s the little things that get me. The first problem is age, I will always knock cameras from the 1980s that have electronics, but this is a camera from 1975, so it’s just that much older. And the older some electronics get, there’s more a chance of them failing. And many repair shops that still work on film cameras will avoid Bronica cameras like the plague. And yes, while I was out shooting, the camera conked out for a bit before coming back to life. The second big issues I have with the camera is the film magazine. I could not figure out how to take it off the camera body, and if you’re in a situation where you need to hot-swap, well there’s a chance you need more than two hands to achieve the goal, like many other actions that relate to the loaded film. I can understand the extra level of safety, but I can pop the magazine of my 500c on and off with one hand. The other issues I have are more along the lines of head-scratchers when it comes to the design of the camera. The first is the presence of a cold shoe, on the side of the camera. I cannot for the life of me figure out why it’s there. Personally, I wouldn’t mount a usual off-camera flash on it, with it sticking off the side it would make the camera rather unwieldy. The only thing that could work would be a slim radio transmitter. And speaking of flash, I can’t see why they would put a focal plane shutter, in the era when many such cameras operated on leaf shutters allowing for many different shutter sync speeds, rather than just one, in the EC’s case 1/60″. And finally, the battery compartment placement on the bottom of the camera, meaning you’d have to dismount any tripod foot to replace the battery.

CCR Review 77 - Zenza Bronica ECCCR Review 77 - Zenza Bronica EC

The Lowdown
The Bronica EC isn’t a bad camera; I mean that. But I still cannot, in good conscience, recommend it. While there’s a chance, you’ll get one in prime condition, and it will serve you well. But there’s still that chance it’ll fail and an inopportune time, and you won’t have a repair shop that can fix it. While I wouldn’t put this camera against a Hasselblad, it does provide a cheaper alternative to it, but again I have not seen many on the used market. And now you see my paradox with Bronica, I want to like them, tell people, yes this is a good camera, but there’s just enough wrong to make me go no, save the money and find a good deal on a Hasselblad.

All Photos Taken in Cheltenham & Limehouse, Ontario
Bronica EC – Nikkor-H 1:3.5 f=50mm – Kodak Tri-X Pan @ ASA-320
Kodak HC-110 Dil. B 5:30 @ 20C

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