Tag Archives: camera

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

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

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

CCR Review 60 – KMZ Zenit E

Soviet cameras and I have had a rocky relationship. There’s only a handful out there that I like, and then there’s the Zenit E. This is a beautiful camera that is probably the pick of the litter from the Zenit line. One of my first SLRs was a Zenit B, the non-metered version of the E. And despite never getting a single frame from the camera. Because I had no clue what I was doing at the time, finding myself instantly familiar with the workings of the Zenit E and it certainly makes for a much better Soviet SLR than the other’s I’ve worked with in the past. Special thanks to James Lee for loaning out this camera for a review.

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

The Dirt

  • Make: KMZ
  • Model: Zenit E
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 36×24
  • Len: Interchangeable, M42 Screw Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1965-1968

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

The Good
There is nothing complicated about this camera. The operation, layout and general use of the camera make it easy for anyone to pickup and use. The only feature that this camera has is the uncoupled light meter, but more on that later. Despite the weight of the camera, it doesn’t detract from its use, although a nice heavy duty padded strap would be a good idea. A carbine style cross strap would be best. The M42 mount gives you a wide range of lenses to use on the camera both German and Soviet optics can easily mount on the camera. And as a bonus, most Soviet optics are direct copies of their German counterparts and often have their unique features that you don’t find in other lenses. Even though there is no automatic aperture on the camera that doesn’t detract from the operation, as you can easily set the aperture then open and close it with a simple twist ring that will stop at the correct aperture. The one thing to watch out for is the shutter speed dial; you can only set your shutter speed once the film has been advanced and shutter cocked, much like the rangefinders from the FED and Zorki line. Finally, there’s the sound of the camera, the noise the shutter and mirror make when in operation is substantial and pleasing, there’s no mistaking when you’ve fired a shot.

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

The Bad
Usually, if a camera has a selenium meter that tends to be a positive feature to a camera, no batteries needed, and usually still operates. In this case, however, the meter isn’t a handy thing to have on this camera. First, off the meter is uncoupled, this means that no matter how you adjust the camera settings the meter doesn’t react, there’s a second dial that you set to give you the camera settings based on the meter reading. Add to that the meter read out is on the top of the camera body only. It would be better to stick with Sunny-16 or an external meter. In addition to this, you’ll have a hard time ensure the correct film speed setting as the camera is calibrated more towards the old GOST scale with corresponding DIN numbers. Sadly these film speeds do not line up with most modern films, you do have options like GOST-130, but I’ve never seen that sort of film. There is also the matter of the long film advance crank, while a minor nuisance does make it difficult to fire off several shots in succession. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Soviet Bloc did not have the best quality control so there is a chance that these cameras can break easily or purchased in a broken state. At least there’s a high chance with the right tools and manual you can do the repair yourself.

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

The Lowdown
Out of all the Soviet cameras I’ve reviewed to date, the Zenit E is only one of two that I would recommend picking up, but I would lean someone more towards a Zenit B, the non-metered version. Both are strong mechanical cameras that have a nice look and feel to take out on International Communist Camera day and are better than most of the later model Zenit cameras. But there is one thing that you should look for if you are thinking of getting one and that’s the lens. Most of these cameras shipped with and still come with a Helios 44-2 lens, this 58mm f/2 is a copy of the Carl Zeiss Biotar. It has also become somewhat of a cult lens in the portrait market even I have one that I use with my Sony a6000. The reason is that when you shoot a subject at about 5 feet away with the lens opened to f/2 you get a classic Petzval style swirl. So even if you get a broken Zenit, you still get an amazing lens to add to your collection.

All Photos Taken in Hamilton, Ontario
KMZ Zenit E – KMZ Helios 44-2 2/58 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 9:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 59 – Canon FTb

While I have shot only a handful of Canon products during my reviews, they’ve all given positive results in my books. The Canon FTb is not bucking this trend as a solid match needle, mechanical SLR it is certainly a top pick for me as a student camera. Simple in its operation, and yet provides a good solid introduction to 35mm film photography. Special thanks to Bill Smith for loaning out this black beauty!

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

The Dirt

  • Make: Canon
  • Model: FTb
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 36×24
  • Len: Interchangeable, Canon FD Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1971

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

The Good
The number one thing I love about this camera is the Quick Load function. Often with older cameras it takes a bit of fiddling to get the film loaded up, some cameras are easier than others, and then there’s the Canon Quick Load. It seriously makes it easy like my Nikon F5, lay down the film, close the door, advance fire, advance, fire and you’re ready to rock and roll. Everything else is fairly well laid out and in a normal place. A power switch to save on battery power, a short throw on the film advance and a pleasing weight in hand. And finally, it’s a match needle metering system very similar to my first SLR, the Minolta SRT-102, put the hole over the needle, nice and easy!

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

The Bad
By this point, reader, you will probably realize that there are some cameras that I try hard to find a fault in, and I normally will go for something petty, well the FTb is one such camera. And that fault is, of course, the battery. The camera does need a mercury cell to work, a power source that isn’t exactly easy to find these days. Now there are some alternatives such as an adapter to step down the power out of a current battery or an air-zinc battery. Then again as the FTb is a mechanical camera all the battery powers is the internal meter, so it isn’t that big of a deal.

CCR Review 59 - Canon FTb

The Lowdown
If you don’t want to spend a fortune to get a solid learner camera, then the FTb is certainly for you. With or without a working meter you get the most bang for your buck, and both the camera bodies and lenses are plentiful online and in reputable used camera shops. If I didn’t already have an extensive selection of Nikon cameras and lenses, an FTb would certainly be a welcome addition to my camera bag. So if you don’t like the idea of grabbing a cliche K1000 or FM, then give the FTb another look, it won’t let you down.

All Photos Taken in Guelph, Ontario
Canon FTb – Canon Lens FD 50mm 1:1.8 – ORWO UN54 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. A 7:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 58 – Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

At the very beginning of these review blogs I had laid out some rules, and now I’m going to break one of them and review a large format, sheet film camera. The Crown Graphic is my 4×5 camera of choice these days; it’s reliable camera that can take a hit and keep on taking photos. I mean that is what it’s designed to do, it’s a press camera. And when it comes to large format, I’m glad that my first experiences with the format were on a press camera rather than a field or monorail because I don’t think I would have taken to the format in the same way.

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

The Dirt

  • Make: Graflex
  • Model: Pacemaker Crown Graphic
  • Type: Press Camera, View/Rangefinder
  • Format: Multiple, Graflok Back (Roll film, or Sheet Film)
  • Len: Interchangeable, Crown Graphic Lens Boards
  • Year of Manufacture: 1955-1973 (This Model, 1968)

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

The Good
The number one thing I love about the Crown Graphic is that it’s versatile with a single camera I have both a handheld rangefinder based camera that I can just point, focus and shoot, at least when I’m using the Xenar 135mm lens, as I’ve calibrated the rangefinder for the lens. I much prefer to shoot the camera like a field camera, on a tripod, composing and focusing using the ground glass on the back. Using the glass gives me full creative control and use of some fantastic lenses, like the Symmar-S 210mm (which is the lens I use the most). Plus that’s the power of large format, your Crown will be able to use most lenses out there, and all the film holders and the Graflok back means you can attach all sorts of accessories such as roll film magazines and Polaroid Type 100 film holders. And finally, this camera has a nice fast setup, pop the front cover, drop the bed pull out the bellows. And if you’re using ‘pancake’ style lenses, you can keep the lens on the camera when you close the door.

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

The Bad
Like any large format camera, the biggest detractor to them is the size and the amount of stuff you need to bring to use the camera well. Tripod, multiple film holders, meter, and the lenses all mounted on their boards. It adds up after a while. But for me, it’s worth the effort. Another issue that only large format shooters will note with a press camera is the lack of movements, while the Crown Graphic gives more than the Speed Graphic, you are still only limited to movements on your front standard, and even then you’re relatively limited. But again this was a camera not designed for shooting that requires much in the way of movements. And finally there is starting to be a lack of spare parts for these cameras, so getting bits and pieces replaced or repaired is starting to become a problem, either you can grab ones that are already broken for spare parts or pray that you know someone who can machine the appropriate piece. Thankfully their rugged build means they are designed to last.

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

CCR Review 58 - Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic

The Lowdown
If you’re like me and shoot on a mobile basis, then the press camera is certainly the best option, and often a Crown Graphic kit can be had for an inexpensive out of pocket cost. Being highly adaptable to multiple shooting situations and with a quick setup and tear down it’s a great camera for learning on. Of course, if you’re a technical shooter who needs movements then I would avoid press cameras altogether and go for something a little more expensive. Intrepid, Shen-Hao, Takahara, Linhoff, and Sinar are all excellent options. But for me, I’m sticking to the Crown.

All Photos Taken in Georgetown, Ontario
Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic – Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:4,7/135 – Kodak Tri-X Pan @ ASA-200
Pyrocat-HD (1+1+100) 10:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 57 – Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super (Old)

If you think that you’ve seen this camera reviewed before, you’re right, in a certain way. I have written about the newer version of this camera, the Contaflex Super B before. Despite this, I figured it would be good to compare it to the battery-less version of the Contaflex. Despite the troubles I mentioned in the Super B review, the Super remains a strong camera and one I would take over the Super B any day. Special thanks to James Lee for loaning out this beauty for review.

CCR Review 57 - Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super (Old)

The Dirt

  • Make: Zeiss Ikon
  • Model: Contaflex Super
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
  • Len: Interchangeable, Breach lock
  • Year of Manufacture: 1958/li>

CCR Review 57 - Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super (Old)

CCR Review 57 - Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super (Old)

The Good
The Contaflex Super is a strong camera right out of the box. Like the Super B, the camera body is bulky and has a trapezoidal shape which makes it easy to hold for extended periods of time, as you’re not just carrying a box. Then there’s the meter, selenium based so if you have one in good shape you don’t need a battery to get a good exposure. And you have a wonderful easy to read match needle right in your viewfinder. But one thing that I feel sets the Super apart from its battery-powered counterpart is the aperture dial on the camera body. This dial made shooting the camera easy because you just have to spin the dial to make sure the needle is in the notch! Add this that all the controls from the aperture dial to the focusing and shutter speed are well laid out making it a very comfortable camera to use.

CCR Review 57 - Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super (Old)

CCR Review 57 - Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super (Old)

The Bad
Like the Super B, my biggest issue with this camera is that it lacks automatic mirror return. The result is a heavier than normal film advance as it both cocks the shutter, advances the film, and returns the mirror. The second issue is setting the film speed, you need to know DIN, thankfully most film boxes do have that number on it so that it won’t be much of an issue, but you still have to think a little different. And finally there’s the loading of the film, I never got the hang of loading up the film by removing the entire back, it does slow down the use of this camera. I have to remember that the Super came into being in the days when photography was still a luxury, so one-handed loading was not something manufacturers thought would be an issue.

CCR Review 57 - Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super (Old)

CCR Review 57 - Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super (Old)

The Lowdown
The Contaflex Super is certainly a better option than the Super B. Not needing a battery, full mechanical operations, and that wonderful aperture dial just makes it that much better. Of course being a selenium powered meter, you can run across the Super with a non-functioning meter, but you shouldn’t let that stop you as there’s plenty of options for checking your exposure.

CCR Review 57 - Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super (Old)

A little side notes about the film. I’ve used Kentmere 100 on a couple of occasions before this and have never liked the results. However, this time I enjoyed my results, I guess the developer of choice for Kentmere 100 is now HC-110 Dilution B, but following a different agitation pattern than I normally do, first 30 seconds of constant agitation then 5 seconds every 30 seconds following.

All Photos Taken in Bellfountain, Ontario
Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super – Carl Zeiss Tessar 50/2,8 – Kentmere @ ASA-100 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. B 5:45 @ 20C

CCR Review 56 – Leica R3

It’s the red dot special, but not the red dot you were probably expecting. While Leica is best known for their rangefinder cameras, both the older Barnack and the iconic M-Series Leica produces a line of single lens reflex cameras in response to the cameras coming out of Japan. While the early cameras were strictly manufactured by Leica, by the mid-1970s, they had teamed up with Minolta. The agreement produced the Leica CL/Minolta CLE both rangefinder cameras, and the Leica R3/Minolta XE! The first time I picked up this camera, having never used a Leica SLR before I was hoping for something special, but I soon found out there’s a reason these cameras aren’t that popular. Special thanks to James Lee for loaning out this beauty for review.

CCR Review 56 - Leica R3

The Dirt

  • Make: Leica Camera AG
  • Model: R3
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
  • Len: Interchangeable, Leica R-Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1976-1979

CCR Review 56 - Leica R3

CCR Review 56 - Leica R3

The Good
There are two good points about the R3, first and foremost it’s a tank, but it’s a tank with balance, it just feels right to shoot, short throw on the film advance, and all the knobs and that thrice-damned stop down lever. The viewfinder is big and bright, and the needle-on-shutter-speed metering system is clear and visible. And of course, there’s the optical quality which is what we’ve come to expect from Leica. And this is despite the lenses being much larger than their M-Mount cousins.

CCR Review 56 - Leica R3

CCR Review 56 - Leica R3

The Bad
The R3 is not an easy camera to operate; it took me about three rolls of film to finally get the hang of it. And it all has to come down to how the camera meters. Despite having a decent TTL meter, you need to manually stop down the lens to get it to pick up on the correct shutter speed, then half-press the shutter button, release the lever then press the shutter release down the rest of the way. I gave up by the third roll and switched to metering with my Gossen Lunasix F and running the camera in full manual. And finally there’s the weight, this is a well-balanced camera, but heavy. It’s not one that I would enjoy carrying around all day and shooting with, especially with the 135mm lens on mounted, even the shorter 50mm is still a pain.

CCR Review 56 - Leica R3

CCR Review 56 - Leica R3

The Lowdown
The R3 is not a Minolta, it may be Minolta on the inside, but it certainly isn’t on the outside. And while you can purchase the bodies for a reasonable price, don’t expect the lenses to be on the inexpensive side. The R3 is not a camera for the beginner, or for someone who is unfamiliar with the operation of Leica SLRs, there’s a steep learning curve, and it takes away from the decent “feel” of the camera. Despite the image quality and certain cache that comes with shooting a Leica, my honest opinion, do yourself a favour and get a Minolta XE-7. You’ll get an easier camera to operate, with comparable optics and you won’t break the bank building a lens system.

All Photos Taken in Oakville, Ontario
Leica R3 Electronic – Leitz Canada Elmarit-R 1:2.8/135 – Kodak Tri-X 400 @ ASA-400 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 7:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 54 – Zenza Bronica ETRS

I have a love/hate relationship with Bronica cameras. If you listen to the Classic Camera Revival Podcast, I railed against the Bronica SQ-Am in episode 22, and I gave away my SQ-Ai because of ergonomic issues I had with the camera. But putting all that aside I went into shooting the ETRS with an open mind and discovered a rather fun camera. When it comes to 645 cameras, the ETRS is the real underdog while the Mamiya m645 and to a lesser extent the Pentax 645 get most of the glory. Which to people looking to crack into medium format the ETR line of cameras offers you the most bang for your buck if you’re just getting started. Big thanks to Mike Bitaxi for loaning out this beauty for review.

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

The Dirt

  • Make: Zenza Bronica
  • Model: ETRS
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: Multiple (Back Dependent), 6cm x 4.5cm
  • Lens: Interchangable, Bronica ETR Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1979

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

The Good
The strongest aspect of this camera is that it is a system camera, you can change, adapt, and modify the camera into whatever configuration is most comfortable for you and your shooting style. Another plus to it being a system camera if a part breaks, you just have to buy that one section and put all your parts back on it. The configuration I was shooting in was one that was most familiar to me, with an eye-level finder and grip. Of course, the camera operates just as well with no grip and a waist level finder if you’re used to shooting with the SQ-A or Hasselblad cameras. And for volume shooting the camera is great, you get 15 shots per roll, and interchangeable magazines allow you to load up a handful of magazines in the morning and go out shooting without needing to sit down and reload after each roll. And don’t sneeze at the optical quality either the ETR line of lenses are beautiful. Combine all these with being an often unnoticed camera line means you can build up a decent kit without having to break the bank.

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

The Bad
The trouble with being an underdog system is getting the system repaired. When Roger (may he rest in peace) was operating his storefront in Hamilton, you couldn’t even darken his doorstep with a Bronica. These cameras are hard to get fixed and do rely on electronics to operate and battery power. At least in the case of the ETRS the battery door is better designed that the SQ line of cameras, but the battery is not a common one. Best bet is to carry some spares if you’re out on a big trip in an area where there aren’t any specialty stores.

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

CCR Review 55 - Zenza Bronica ETRS

The Lowdown
While Bronica does not remain my first choice overall, I can see the draw of the ETR line of cameras. These are inexpensive cameras and if all you want is to shoot in the 6×4.5 format go for it. Just make sure like any electronic based vintage camera that you know it works before you pay for it. Just know that with the ETR line you will be stuck with the 6×4.5 format, if you want more image versatility, pick up an SQ-A body. You get the same quality of optics, and with appropriate backs, you can shoot 6×6 and 6×4.5 with ease. If you do go with the ETR line of cameras, make sure that you get a kit that is setup the way you like it. System cameras are unique creatures, they are amazing with no grip and a waist level finder or eye-level finder and a grip, but start swapping stuff out and you’ll run into ergonomic problems.

All Photos taken in Downtown Milton, Ontario, Canada
Zenza Bronica ETRS – Zenanon-PE 1:2.8 f=75mm – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (stock) 9:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 54 – Minolta Maxxum 5000

Sometimes a camera sings, sometimes a camera just sucks, and then there’s the Maxxum 5000. It’s a meh camera, K-Car of cameras, the Maxxum 5000 isn’t the bell of the ball, and it is a little meh on the handling, but for basic, no-nonsense SLR photography, the 5000 is a cheap option with an A-Mount. Let me explain a little bit more. Some cameras are amazing that they grab your attention as soon as you pick it up, for me that would be the Nikon F2, F3, and F5. Also the Rolleiflex 2.8F and several other cameras. Others are so downright terrible that you want to light them on fire. The Maxxum 5000 is one that you know it’ll take pictures; it’ll take decent pictures with good lenses, but it doesn’t excite you. Just like a K-Car, it’ll get you from point a to point b without hassle, but it won’t be an exciting ride.

CCR Review 53 - Minolta Maxxum 5000

The Dirt
Make: Minolta
Model: Maxxum 5000
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 135, 35x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable, Minolta A-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1986

CCR Review 53 - Minolta Maxxum 5000

CCR Review 53 - Minolta Maxxum 5000

The Good
I’ve been sitting and stewing over what to write about this camera for its good features, and it’s hard with a camera that is just ‘meh’ there’s nothing wrong about the camera. It’s a cheap option to get into film photography if you have some A-Mount full-frame lenses for a digital camera, a nice easy way to learn without going into a fully featured camera that could cost more. The camera’s meter is accurate; controls are easily accessible and straightforward to identify as there isn’t much in the way of using it. The camera is powered by four AAA batteries so you can easily power the camera even in the middle of nowhere.

CCR Review 53 - Minolta Maxxum 5000

CCR Review 53 - Minolta Maxxum 5000

The Bad
The Maxxum 5000 isn’t an impressive camera, it looks and feels like a VCR from the 1980s, the first stumbling steps if you catch my drift. Sure it’ll take good photos with a good lens attached, but you won’t have to do any thinking beside composition. There are no options besides Program and Manual, and the manual control is difficult to operate. The Autofocus is slow and not very accurate I would often have to wait for the camera to lock onto where I wanted it to focus.

CCR Review 53 - Minolta Maxxum 5000

CCR Review 53 - Minolta Maxxum 5000

The Lowdown
Nope, Nope, Nope. I would not recommend this camera really to anyone, while a cheap way to get into film photography there are much better options out there. Yes, the 5000 will get you there, it’s not a camera I would choose. Look at the Maxxum 7000 or even the odd duck 9000 to get rolling into Minolta Autofocus cameras. The 5000 is a cheap camera, but I would recommend an inexpensive one.

All Photos Taken in Oakville, Ontario
Minolta Maxxum 5000 – Maxxum AF 35-70mm 1:4 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-64 – Pyrocat-HD (1+1+100) 9:00 @ 20C