Tag Archives: fp4

CCR Review 46 – Nikon Nikkormat FT3

To be perfectly honest, I’m a sucker for mechanical match needle SLRs. They’re simple, elegant and great to learn on and even now still a joy to shoot. The FT3 is just that, an easy to use, fun camera that can if needed double as a self-defense weapon. The sad part is that the FT3 only was made for a few months before being superseded by the Nikon FM. A unique creature among the more consumer oriented Nikkormat lines the FT3 can use AI and AI-S lenses even if they don’t have the coupling claw. Sadly you won’t be able to use the Non-AI glass that many Nikkormat shooters love.

CCR Review 46 - Nikon Nikkormat FT3

The Dirt
Make: Nikon
Model: Nikkormat FT3
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Interchangeable, Nikon F Mount (AI)
Year of Manufacture: 1977-1979

CCR Review 46 - Nikon Nikkormat FT3

CCR Review 46 - Nikon Nikkormat FT3

The Good
The FT3 is a strong camera, hands down. The best part about it is that it can take AI/AI-S lenses, unlike previous Nikkormat models. Which means you have a solid lineup of glass available to you as well as inexpensive Nikon Series E which you shouldn’t dismiss out of hand. And while this is a slightly more modern camera it feels like one made in the 1950s or 1960s, but it still feels great in the hand. And as an added touch, I like the round film counter window adds a nice retro look to it. Combine the look, feel, and weight with a short throw on the film advance you have a comfortable camera to use. The FT3 is also built like a brick so you can easily take it into almost any situation and it will come out on top. And finally, there’s battery power, while not needed (thankfully) it takes a normal silver oxide cell, so you don’t have to worry about keeping the meter running.

CCR Review 46 - Nikon Nikkormat FT3

CCR Review 46 - Nikon Nikkormat FT3

The Bad
Sadly the FT3 will not accept the Non-AI lenses; the coupling pin is missing from the camera body. While not a big issue for me as I have all AI/AI-S glass, it could be for someone who is using it to replace an older Nikkormat body. There are a few usability issues that I have with the camera that could be just because of age and my unfamiliarity with them. The first is the shutter speed control. The shutter speed dial is located on the lens mount, and while there is a nice handle, it is still not visible in the viewfinder which makes it a little difficult to operate the camera. Additionally, the slider for setting the film speed is a bit awkward to use as it is connected to a locking section of the shutter control handle. And last is a jumpy meter which could mean the camera just needs a good Clean, Lube, Adjust, but I have gotten good at catching a right meter reading before it jumps around. But since the FT3 is mechanical I can always fall back on Sunny-16.

CCR Review 46 - Nikon Nikkormat FT3

CCR Review 46 - Nikon Nikkormat FT3

The Lowdown
The FT3 is the perfect camera if you want a solid mechanical camera that won’t break the bank, and already have a collection of AI/AI-S glass. And even though they don’t say ‘Nikon’ on the front doesn’t mean they don’t have the same quality. And if the older Nikkormats are just as good as the FT3 the whole series of cameras gets my blessing. Just watch out and get one that can use the lenses you have on the model as older Nikkormats require you to have the coupling claws present on the lens.

Photos taken in Toronto, Ontario
Nikon Nikkormat FT3 – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 6:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 45 – Minolta Minoltina-P

If you have ever used the Olympus Trip 35 then, you’ll be right at home with the Minoltina-P. The camera is a fixed lens, semi-automatic point and shoot from the 1960s and honestly before I saw it on the shelf at Burlington Camera I had never even known this camera existed. But don’t let that scare you, Minolta produced a lot of underdog cameras through the 1960s that often were as good as their competitors. The Hi-Matic went up against the Olympus 35 and Cannonet Series, and the Minoltina, well it’s an Olympus Trip 35.

CCR Review 45 - Minolta Minoltina-P

The Dirt
Make: Minolta
Model: Minoltina-P
Type: Point and Shoot
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Fixed, Minolta Rokkor 1:2.8 f=38mm
Year of Manufacture: 1963

CCR Review 45 - Minolta Minoltina-P

CCR Review 45 - Minolta Minoltina-P

The Good
I’ve always been a fan of semi-automatic cameras, and the Minoltina is no different and what a great camera to use. The Minoltina is a nice compact camera that easily slides into a pocket or a haversack. You can adjust the settings with a simple lens mounted dial then adjust to the match needle system on the top of the camera, and that will adjust the aperture and the shutter speed based on the readings taken by the front mounted selenium meter. Additionally, there’s a window on the lens barrel which shows an EV number so if you use an external meter should the selenium cell give up, you can set an EV number for exposure, and since it’s a selenium based camera, so no batteries required. The lens on the camera is a 38mm f/2.8 Rokkor, so the images it produces are sharp, and the fast lens means it works well in low light situations. And best of all it’s quiet so that it would make an excellent street photography camera.

CCR Review 45 - Minolta Minoltina-P

CCR Review 45 - Minolta Minoltina-P

The Bad
The first thing I dislike about the camera is the focusing. Unlike the nice icons that you get with the Trip 35, there’s no such luck here. The focus is done by a click dial on the lens barrel (probably to prevent you from adjusting the wrong dial, each has a different feel). The focus is marked in distances only, meters on the top, feet on the bottom. So you do have to guess the distance. I only missed focus on two images which is not bad, but I was also shooting in bright light and was affording a wide depth of field. An external rangefinder would certainly be a useful accessory to carry around. Or just be able to guess the distance, stop down, and pray. As for flash photography, you won’t be mounting a flash on a shoe as there’s none on the camera you’ll want a flash bracket and a PC Sync cord. I’ve always been a fan of match needle metering, so I’m not ragging on this camera for having the system, it’s more a placement issue. Having the needle on the top of the camera makes it hard to meter on the fly with an eye level finder. It did not cause me too many problems but in mixed light or changing light or waiting for a shot where the exposure may change having to lower the camera to see the meter reading may bring about some issues. Also the placement of sensor cell means that I often would block it with my hands. You will also have to look out for ones with dead meters, but with a light meter that gives EV readings you can manually set the camera without trouble.

CCR Review 45 - Minolta Minoltina-P

CCR Review 45 - Minolta Minoltina-P

The Lowdown
The Minoltina is not a bad camera, although rare. As I mentioned in the introduction, I had never heard of the Minoltina line of cameras until I had seen one. But after using it I am pretty impressed with the results. The best part is that if you do find one they’re likely to be cheaper than your average Trip 35 as they don’t hold the same cult following. But don’t let the fact that this isn’t a Trip scare you away, it is a solid camera despite having a couple of what I would call design flaws. And I could even go as far as saying that I prefer the Minoltina over the Trip 35 because it does offer a much better manual functionality through being able to adjust the aperture/shutter speed via the control dial on the lens.

Photos take at Old Fort Niagara, Youngstown, New York
Minolta Minoltina-P – Minolta Rokkor 1:2.8 f=38mm – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock)

Project:1812 – Siege of Prairie du Chien

While one of the least known engagements during the War of 1812, the siege of Prarie du Chien, was part of the drama that happened during the entire span of the war and sealed British dominance in the northwest until the signing of the Treaty of Gent that ended the way. The battle was the only one fought on the soil of what would become the state of Wisconsin. Two hundred years ago the small fur trading post of Prarie du Chien was a part of the Illinois Territory. Founded by the French in the late 1600s, turned over to British control following the French-Indian War of the mid-1700s and became a part of the new United States of America until the Treaty of Paris in 1783. While officially the post and the small population of fewer than one hundred people were American citizens the post was British in all but name, and the population was mostly French.

The Mighty Mississippi
The Mississippi River as it stands today near the battlesite
Intrepid – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 (Orange) – Kodak TMax 100 – FA-1027 (1+14) 9:30 @ 20C

But the United States did see the value in the small settlement, but the start of the War of 1812 saw their energies focused elsewhere. But when William Clark (of Lewis & Clark Fame) became governor of the Missouri Territory in 1813 he started to see a problem with a very pro-British settlement to his north. Should the British decide to enforce their influence at Prarie du Chien there would be little to stop them from sailing south on the Mississippi and capturing St. Louis and gaining an even bigger foothold. Governor Clark became annoyed as the far-flung outpost received little support from Washington. Using his authority he spoke with two local leaders, Fredrick Yeizer and John Sullivan both captains in the local militia. Together they raised a volunteer force of 150 men on a sixty-day enlistment. The volunteer army gained strength by the arrival of 61 men of the 7th US Infantry under the command of Brevet Major Zachary Taylor (who would become President of the United States). Though destined for Fort Clark, Governor Clark presented his case, and Major Taylor agreed to head north to establish a garrison at Prarie du Chien. Three gunboats would provide transport north. Just as the expedition was to start, Taylor was recalled to Kentucky to attend a family member who was ill, in his place Lieutenant Joseph Perkins, who was in St. Louis recruiting for the 24th US Infantry was installed as the commander of the regulars. The expedition departed St. Louis on the 1st of May, with Governor Clark joining them a few days up-river. The flotilla saw minor action along the route but landed without resistance by early June. Using a local warehouse of the Mackinac Trading Company, Clark realized they would have to work fast as his volunteer force was already half-way through their enlistment period. Soon a wooden palisade fort with a pair of blockhouses rose on a mound to the north of the village proper. Governor Clark named the post, Fort Shelby, after Governor Isaac Shelby, the governor of his native territory of Kentucky. With the post’s construction well in hand, Governor Clark returned to St. Louis with much fanfare upon his return. But in the North Perkins realized that if he didn’t have the post done soon, he would lose a majority of his force. But by the 19th, the post was nearly complete.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
A reconstruction of a blockhouse that would have stood over Fort Shelby and later the first Fort Crawford.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Photographer’s Formulary Developer 23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

The local population was not too pleased with the arrival of the Americans and three days later two men showed up at Mackinac Island with news for the commandant of the post, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert McDouall. McDouall was disturbed at the news of the American garrison and was even more troubled with natives brought rumors of violence against their tribes at the hands of the Americans at Prarie du Chien. These rumors reached McDouall as the native allies cried out for revenge. The main reason that McDouall was concerned was for the extensive fur trade network, and without Prarie du Chien it would be difficult to maintain the supply lines. McDouall had his problems with a limited force and word of an American attack against Mackinac, but he could not ignore his allies. Giving local militia captain a field promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel, William McKay, would take a force from his unit, the Michigan Fencibles along with local traders that formed a group called the Mississippi Volunteers, a single 3-pound field gun with a Royal Artillery crew was attached to McKay’s force as well. The local tribes provided warriors from the Sioux and Winnebago tribes commanded by two captains from the British Indian Department Thomas Anderson and Joseph Rolette. Departing on the 28th of June, McKay would gather more militia and native troops at Green Bay. When McKay’s force landed at Prarie du Chien on the 17th of July it numbered 650 troops. For Perkins he only saw his numbers drop as a majority of his volunteer force left with Captain Sullivan, Captain Yeizer was willing to stay with forty volunteers to man the gunboat Governor Clark. But the sudden arrival of McKay gave the American garrison a start when Captain Anderson approached Lieutenant Perkins, who was out on a ride with the order of surrender. The garrison refused the surrender order promising to fight to the last man.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
The historic plaque on site outlining the battle.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Photographer’s Formulary Developer 23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

McKay realizing that his biggest threat was the gunboat on the river ordered his lone artillery piece to fire on it first. The Royal Artillery crew worked fast, moving the gun around to give the crew aboard the gunboat the impression they were under attack by multiple guns and after a few hours had taken massive damage. Rather than risk the boat and the crew Captain Yeizer cut his moorings and headed south. The fort’s garrison watched in dismay, trying to call them back, as most of their supplies and ammunition were aboard the gunboat still. Both sides managed to fight to a stalemate, with both McKay and Perkins running low on ammunition, McKay going as far as to collect the American round shots and fire them back, of course, neither side realized this of the other. Inside the fort was another story, the well had run dry, and in an attempt to deepen it, the whole thing had collapsed. And while McKay was preparing heated shots to set Fort Shelby on fire, Lieutenant Perkins raises the white flag of truce, after two days of solid resistance. Both Perkins and McKay agree to delay a formal surrender for fear of retaliation against the Americans by the native warriors in light of the rumors. McKay would use his Michigan Fencibles to guard both the American prisoners and the native troops before the formal surrender the next day and then has the Americans escorted down-river without any incident. With a British flag flying over the fort, now named Fort McKay the northwest was firmly in British hands. The Americans would twice send a force to attempt to retake Prarie du Chien both would be stopped first at the Rock Island Rapids and again at the Battle of Credit Island. The British maintained the post at Prairie du Chien throughout the remainder of the war, destroying it in 1815 when they marched out to conform to the terms of the Treaty of Gent.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
Probably not the original well from the battle, but I figured it would be good to have a photo of one anyways.
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Photographer’s Formulary Developer 23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

Today you can still visit the site of the battle, and while the town has moved over to the mainland, the battle site is open to the public as part of the Historic Villa Louis, a historic home built in the 1840s after the American Army abandoned the site completely for a mainland fort in 1832. But visitors can see the footings from the 1816 American fort (Fort Crawford) and a rebuilt blockhouse. The site also hosts a reenactment of the siege in July.

A special thanks to the volunteers at Villa Louis for helping me out and letting me freely wander the site for photographic purposes.

Written with files from:
Berton, Pierre. Flames across the Border, 1813-1814. Markham, Ont.: Penguin, 1988. Print.
Ferguson, Gillum. Illinois in the War of 1812. Champaign, IL.: University of Illinois Press, 2012. Print.
Collins, Gilbert. Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812. Toronto: Dundurn, 2006. Print.
Web: villalouis.wisconsinhistory.org/About/History.aspx

Kodak Day – Developer Review – D-23

Sometimes simple is the best way to go about things, and what could be easier than Kodak D-23. So with today being George Eastman’s birthday I figured I’d dig into this wonderful developer that is new to me and give some of my first thoughts on this developer. Now for those who have been in the photography field for some time you probably are wondering why I’m reviewing a developer that hasn’t been commercially available for many years now. While I can’t pinpoint when D-23 was released, all I know is that Ansel Adams used the stuff.

Miners Falls
Miner’s Falls — Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ – D-23 (1+1) 8:30 @ 20C

Munsing Falls
Munising Falls — Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ – D-23 (1+1) 8:30 @ 20C

Kodak D-23 is a semi-compensating developer, which makes it a favourite of those who use Adam’s Zone System to determine their exposure settings. The two chemicals that drive D-23 is Metol and Sodium Sulfite, both of which you can purchase in bulk from Photographer’s Formulary, or you just buy their “Developer 23” Kit. The kit was actually how I first started using this developer. I have used D-76 in the past and while I can see why D-76 is still around as it has a better shelf life, I much prefer D-23 after using it. I find that it produces the same grain and sharpness as D-76 but has way better contrast in my negatives.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
The Old Prairie du Chien Museum — Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – D-23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

Project:1812 - The Battle of Tippecanoe
The Prophetstown Historic Marker — Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – D-23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

As you can see with these images, the lighting conditions were pretty severe with lots of shadows and highlights especially when I was in Prairie du Chien thankfully my head was right in the game that day, and I was nailing my exposure (thanks to filters and my trusty Pentax Spotmeter V). The addition of D-23 into the mix was the secret weapon and brought these images to life in my opinion. I think I prefer to work with D-23 in stock dilution you can dilute it 1:1 which does help tame the contrast on films like Pan F, but I wasn’t 100% happy with the images the diluted developer produced.

In the Shade
A Quiet Spot — Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ – D-23 (1+1) 8:30 @ 20C

Bicycle Races are Coming to Town
Old School Bike — Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford Pan F+ – D-23 (1+1) 8:30 @ 20C

As I mentioned at the start Kodak doesn’t make D-23 anymore; it is super easy to make at home. For 1 liter of chemistry, you need 7.5g of Metol and 100g of Sodium Sulfite, I placed an order yesterday for a pound of Sodium Sulfite and 100g of Metol, so I’m laughing for the near future and can start to explore what this developer can do with films beyond Ilford stock. But the one thing that I will be using D-23 for in the future is to work as a historical developer with a WW2 combat photographer impression.

Project:1812 – Fort Shelby, Fort McKay, and Fort Crawford

The small fur trading post of Prairie du Chien was founded long before the British or Americans came to the old northwest. But rather the post was founded by the French in 1685 and soon became a small post along the Mississippi trade route. Even after the British gained the territory at the end of the French-Indian/Seven Years War in 1763 the population remained French, but the loyalties shifted to the British and remained there even after the Treaty of Paris ceded the territory to the newly formed United States of America.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
A reconstruction of one of the fort’s blockhouses

The first effort to fortify the town took place in 1814 when an expedition led by Governor William Clark (of Lewis & Clark Fame) established an American garrison in the small community. Governor Clark feared that the British may choose to enforce their influence in the community then march on St. Louis with nothing to stop them. While the community did nothing to resist the Americans they were not happy with the new garrison and alerted the nearest British outpost, Mackinac Island, of them. Clark’s fort; named after Isaac Shelby, governor of his native territory of Kentucky consisted of a warehouse annexed from the Mackinac Trading Company, two blockhouses and the northwest and southwest corners surrounded by a wooden palisade. The American garrison, under the command of Lieutenant Joseph Perkins of the 24th Regiment, was short lived in the fort. An expedition of militia and native troops dislodged the Americans after a three-day siege. The British were quick to rename the post after their commander, William McKay. For the rest of the War of 1812, the British remained watchful over Prarie du Chien from Fort McKay. The Americans would try, twice, to take the post back. Both efforts would fail far from the post. When word of peace reached the fort, and the terms of that peace the garrison was in shock. Everything was to return to how it was before the war. So the garrison followed the order to the letter and burned Fort McKay to the ground and marched out. The American army was quick to re-establish an outpost mirroring the original fort but this time naming it Fort Crawford in 1816. The garrison would serve the local population keeping the peace and enforcing trade regulations. It also served as the site for the signing of the Treaty of Prairie du Chien which would establish boundaries between tribal lands of the local natives. The fort was evacuated and abandoned in 1826 after the Mississippi River overflowed its banks. Two murders would see the army return to prevent the violence from turning into a full-blown conflict. And while it didn’t happen it was decided that the army would stay.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
Stone footings from the first Fort Crawford

The trouble was that due to the location of the old fort. The flood had done serious damage to the work. There was additional flood danger not to mention a cesspool where diseases would flourish among the garrison. But the garrison would have to remain there while a new fort was built to the south of the town on the mainland under the watchful eye of Colonel Zachary Taylor, future President of the United States and Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, future President of the Confederate States of America. The garrison at the old fort was in good hands, Dr. William Beaumont was in charge of keeping the men in good health and took the opportunity to conduct research on the human digestive system, the knowledge he gained formed the basis of our modern understanding of the system, much of his work was conducted at the old Fort Crawford. The old fort was finally abandoned in 1832 when the garrison moved into their new stone barracks. The site would sit empty for a decade or so before being purchased by Hercules Louis Dousman. Hercules was a business owner and son of Michael Dousman, the man who helped keep the population of Mackinac Island safe during the British capture in the opening action of the War of 1812. Hercules would begin to establish a family estate on the site in the mid-1840s. The site would be passed along to his son H. Louis Dousman and his widow after his death in 1868. Under the junior Dousman, an Italian Styled villa was constructed on the property and occupied by his mother until her death in 1882. The Dousman family would continue to occupy the home, known as Villa Louis until 1913. The villa was restored and turned into a museum in 1930s thanks largely to the efforts of Hercules’ granddaughters, Victoria Dousman Bigelow, and Violet Dousman Young. The site was taken over by the state’s historical society in 1950.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
Villa Louis as it stands today

The new Fort Crawford on the mainland would continue to watch over the area through the mid-19th century. The garrison would participate in the Black Hawk War and the titular Chief Black Hawk would surrender and become a prisoner of Fort Crawford. With the force relocation of the area tribes to Iowa, of which the garrison would again be a part. The need for the post decreased with the last troops marching out in 1856. When the American Civil War began the fort was used as a recruit depot and training station. It was also selected as a site for a US Army General Hospital. The Swift Hospital opened in 1864 and would serve close to 1500 Union troops during its single year of operation. With the hospital’s closure in 1865, the fort would never see military service again. The land was sold off in parcels, the buildings were either sold as homes or simply torn down for building materials. The Swift Hospital building was turned into a Roman Catholic private girls school. When the twentieth-century dawned all that was left was the ruins of the fort’s old hospital. The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution started a fundraising campaign to purchase the ruins and the three-and-a-half parcels of land it sat on, and in 1925 they had raised all the needed funds. The old hospital was restored and rebuilt and in 1960 opened as a museum dedicated to the efforts of Dr. Beaumont and the fort’s history.

Project:1812 - The Forts of Prairie Du Chien
The second Fort Crawford’s hospital as it stands today as a museum

Today you can visit both sites. Historic Villa Louis features the 1868 Italian villa as well visitors can see a restored Blockhouse similar to the ones that once stood over Fort Shelby/McKay/Crawford as well as ruins and footings that were discovered during the restoration of the site. The Fort Crawford Museum was turned over to the City of Prairie du Chien in 1996 and has expanded to include all local history as well as the original exhibits about the fort and the work of Dr. Beaumont. The Swift Hospital building has long since been demolished in its place is a prison.

For more details on visiting these history sites, please check out their websites:
Fort Crawford Museum: www.fortcrawfordmuseum.com
Historic Villa Louis: villalouis.wisconsinhistory.org

Written with files from:
Ferguson, Gillum. Illinois in the War of 1812. Champaign, IL.: University of Illinois Press, 2012. Print.
Collins, Gilbert. Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812. Toronto: Dundurn, 2006. Print.
Web: villalouis.wisconsinhistory.org/About/History.aspx
Web: www.fortcrawfordmuseum.com

Photos: Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Photographer’s Formulary Developer 23 (stock) 6:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 37 – Agfa Box 50

Back to the boxes! There is something oddly satifying about shooting with box cameras. Take away all the fancy settings, lens choices, aperture, shutter speed and you’re left with, at least in Nikon’s words, Pure Photography. Point, Guess, Shoot, Enjoy. And that’s exactly what you get with the Agfa Box 50. One of many cameras in the “Box” line. This particular camera was one that belonged to my Opa Oosthoek, that is my mom’s father and has been passed down through my family. In fact we have several photos at home that were taken on this camera. Special thanks to my mom for loaning me this camera for review!

CCR Review 37 - Agfa Box 50

The Dirt
Make: Agfa
Model: Box 50
Type: Point & Shoot
Format: 120, 6×9
Lens: Fixed, Agfa Meniscus Lens 10cm f/11
Year of Manufacture: 1950-1951

CCR Review 37 - Agfa Box 50

CCR Review 37 - Agfa Box 50

The Good
When it comes to box camera this is probably one of the best ones I’ve used. With a solid lens (as solid as you can with a single element unit), and very easy to use. Don’t let the single aperture scare you, with the right light and film you can shoot some brilliant images on it, not to mention the camera has a built in green filter for contrast and even opens up the aperture to compensate for the filter factor. My favourite part of this camera is that it is a 6×9 so you get a nice big negative out of the camera, but being a box you might think you’re stuck in the portrait format, the Box 50 has a second view finder so you can easily shoot in landscape, and all the controls remain easily in reach.

CCR Review 37 - Agfa Box 50

CCR Review 37 - Agfa Box 50

The Bad
There are a couple points on this camera that I have some issue with. The first is the view finders, now this could be due to age, but they are next to impossible to look through and see clearly to compose your image. The big deal for me is the lack of being able to keep the tension on the film so the take up roll is pretty loose, so shooting multiple rolls over the course of a day can get tricky as you get some light leaks. While the optics are good you are dealing with a camera from the 1950s so there really isn’t much in the way of coating on the lenses so shooting colour film can get tricky as the colours end up being muddy and you really have to stick to slower films, mostly I’d stick to films at less that ASA-100 to get the best results.

CCR Review 37 - Agfa Box 50

CCR Review 37 - Agfa Box 50

The Lowdown
When it comes to box cameras you really can’t go wrong. One isn’t any better than the other. But they are all getting older, most dating to the 1950s. Even this one is starting to show it’s age. But if you’re looking for a good box camera of all metal construction then the Box 50 is certainly a winner. Just double check to ensure that the camera is still light tight and the shutter still operates.

All photos taken in Hamilton, Ontario
Agfa Box 50 – Agfa Meniscus Lens 10cm f/11 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-125 – Blazinal (1+25) 9:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 28 – Nikon F

The one that started it all. The ultimate ansestor of all Nikon single lens reflex cameras, the mighty F. This big clunky beast grew out of post-occupation Japan and introduced the professional 35mm System camera. This is an endlessly modifiable camera (hence system) with drives, winders, prisms, and magazines to turn it into exactly what you needed in a camera. From the streets to the jungles, the Nikon F was the professional camera of the 1960s. The particular model in this review is the Nikon F Photomic FTn.

CCR - Review 28 - Nikon F Photomic FTn

The Dirt
Make: Nikon
Model: F (Featured in this review the F Photomic FTn)
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 35mm, 35x24mm
Lens: Interchangable, F-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1959

CCR - Review 28 - Nikon F Photomic FTn

CCR - Review 28 - Nikon F Photomic FTn

The Good
This is a beast of a camera. Seriously you could use it as a personal defense weapon then return to your photography without missing a beat. I mean these are the cameras that survived the hell of the Vietnam War, so what we can put them through pales. But despite the size and weight it’s a surprisingly easy camera to operate, with a short film advance throw and and really satisfying shutter sound and mirror slap. You know you’ve fired off this camera. As I mentioned before this is a system camera so once you have the base body, you can turn the camera into whatever you want. This means that you can remove a non-working Photomic prism and replace it with a plain non-metered prism, if you can find/afford one. Plus I really can’t complain about image quality because you have access to all Non-AI, AI, and AI-S lenses which are all really sharp and plentiful on the used market.

CCR - Review 28 - Nikon F Photomic FTn

CCR - Review 28 - Nikon F Photomic FTn

The Bad
Probably the number one bad thing about this camera is age and wear. The newest cameras you can find from this line are late 1960s and being a professional camera most have been rather beat up. And while many are still working the real question is for how long and could they be fixed. So if you got one use it! And even if the meter doesn’t work at least the camera still will. The second thing isn’t really a bad thing just really weird is the film loading, you remove the entire back of the camera, which makes it next to impossible to single hand load the camera, and requires a bit of juggling.

CCR - Review 28 - Nikon F Photomic FTn

CCR - Review 28 - Nikon F Photomic FTn

The Lowdown
Despite everything the Nikon F is a solid camera and if you got one, shoot it, you won’t be disappointed. And if you have the hankering for the grand-daddy of all Nikon SLRs or just want to complete your collection of Nikon pro bodies, then a Nikon F is certainly a solid camera. Another good application for getting one if you want to put a good authentic touch to your Vietnam War photographer historical reenactment impression or the finishing touches on your sweet Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now costume. You smell that? That’s fixer son, I love the smell of fixer in the morning.

All photos taken in Toronto, Ontario
Nikon F – AI-S Nikkor 105mm 1:2.5 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-125 – Kodak DK-50 (1+1) 6:00 @ 20C

CCR Review 27 – Zenit 122K

When it comes to bare-bones Mechanical SLRs, the Zenit 122K is as bare-bones as they come. This mostly plastic camera comes from the rather odd times right near the end of the Cold War and Soviet rule in Russia. I mean it’s pretty basic even for someone who just wants to learn how to use an all manual camera. But oddly enough the camera still looks cool, in fact at forty yards you might think it a Contax RTS III or similar camera with a squat prism and all black with white lettering, but don’t be fooled this camera is no Contax…not by a long shot.

CCR Review 27 - Zenit 122K

The Dirt
Make: Zenit
Model: 122K
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 35mm, 35x24mm
Lens: Interchangable, K-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1990

CCR Review 27 - Zenit 122K

CCR Review 27 - Zenit 122K

The Good
There are two redeeming features about this camera, and even finding two things I was pretty surprised. First and foremost is the lens mount. Unlike earlier Zenit cameras that used either an M39 (Leica Thread Mount) or M42 (Praktina) mount this camera used the Pentax K mount which immediately opens up many possibilities for using the plentiful and fantastic Pentax and Ricoh glass out there, not to mention all the clone lenses out there. On the flip side if the camera comes DOA or kicks the bucket in your care, you have a fun Russian lens to use with your good K-Mount cameras. I just have the Zenitar 50mm f/2 lens but they also had a Helios lens in K-Mount as well. The second good thing about the camera is that it’s mechanical, pretty sturdy construction, and being all mechanical even if the battery dies or light meter kicks it, you can still use the camera with an external meter or sunny-16 which may be best anyways.

CCR Review 27 - Zenit 122K

CCR Review 27 - Zenit 122K

The Bad
Probably my least favourite part of the camera is the build. The camera certainly looks cool, but it’s really hard to hold with ease, often times bits and pieces will stick in my hands and it really gets annoying even after holding the camera for even a short time. Add to that a really long throw on the film advance and a heavy shutter release, it’s not the most user friendly camera. This leads up to the second issue, the light meter. First off I think that the meter in my copy does work, as I’ve compared it to known working external meters and just can’t get a proper reading off the camera, or I’m reading the lights wrong. And that’s the kicker, the over/under/proper display inside the view finder is a couple red LEDs, later models had a green middle one but mine just has the two. And finally the operation of the meter is such that you have to drop the camera to adjust the settings as the meter is stop down only and with no setting indicators in the viewfinder makes it pretty hard to operate this camera quickly.

CCR Review 27 - Zenit 122K

CCR Review 27 - Zenit 122K

The Lowdown
This isn’t a bad camera, it really isn’t. It is however a victim of the era in which it was made. The USSR was close to collapse, things from the west were starting to creep in and the people wanted things similar to what everyone else had. But there was no real control over quality. So the 122K is a camera I wanted to dislike, and I do stand by that it’s not a comfortable camera to hold and the meter is pretty shoddy, but it’s still a good camera, solid optics, and does take excellent photos as a result. But it wouldn’t be one I’d be quick to recommend to someone and you really do need to know what you’re doing to be able to work around the limitations of the camera itself.

All photos taken in Oakville, Ontario
Zenit 122K – Zenit MC Zenitar-K2 2/50 (Yellow) – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-125 – Kodak DK-50 (1+1) 6:00 @ 20C

Exploring Ilford – Part 4 – Microphen

Another new developer for me and when I find a new developer I’m usually excited to see how different films react to it. And to make it even sweeter the Kodak equivalent, DK-50, is a developer I had never even heard of until now! According to the Ilford Product page this is a fine grain developer designed for push processing faster films. So for slow and medium speed films I chose to shoot at box speed, while faster films I went and did some pushing.

With Ilford FP4+
In all honesty you really can’t go wrong with FP4, this is one of those films that just always looks good in almost every developer I’ve run it through and the same can be said about FP4 and Microphen. Producing next to no grain and a pleasing grain at that and amazing sharpness and contrast. While it looks great in 35mm I would love to see what it does in Medium and Large formats…but that the topic of another set of blogs coming next year!

CCR - Review 24 - Nikon F3
Nikon F3 – AI-S Nikkor 105mm 1:2.5 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-125 – Ilford Microphen (1+1) @ 20C

CCR - Review 23 - Argus C3
Argus C3 – Argus Cintar 50mm f/3.5 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-125 – Ilford Microphen (1+1) @ 20C

With Ilford Delta 100
I actually found that Microphen pretty much produced a level playing field with the tradition FP4 and the modern Delta 100 films (and actually both take ten minutes in the soup). You get again contrast on point, no grain, and just overall a very pleasing and very printable negative as a result.

CCR - Review 25 - FPP Debonair
FPP Debonair – Super Lens 1:8/80MM – Ilford Delta 100 @ ~ASA-100 – Ilford Microphen (1+1) @ 20C

Hitchcock Would be Proud
FPP Debonair – Super Lens 1:8/80MM – Ilford Delta 100 @ ~ASA-100 – Ilford Microphen (1+1) @ 20C

With Ilford HP5+
Okay so I’ll admit I’ve been giving HP5 a bad wrap through the first three parts of exploring Ilford’s chemistry line. And that’s mostly because I’ve been shooting it in 35mm format. So I’m going to even the score a little and give the medium format a shot. Now this, this is what I like my B&W films to look like, smooth grain, even tones and good strong blacks and whites. HP5 even at ASA-400 in medium format really sings especially in Microphen. It really helps smooth out the grain and gives really good contrast.

TFSM - Summer '15 - The Streets
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford HP5+ @ ASA-400 – Ilford Microphen (1+1) 12:00 @ 20C

TFSM - Summer '15 - The Streets
Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Ilford HP5+ @ ASA-400 – Ilford Microphen (1+1) 12:00 @ 20C

With Kodak Tri-X
I’ve always been a fan of Tri-X and will remain a fan of Tri-X to my dying day. And while I’m usually wary of taking this film out of Kodak/Pyro chemistry when I shot it and developed in Perceptol I got some great results. So with Microphen being a developer good for push processing, and I do enjoy Tri-X at ASA-800 I gave it a shot and was rather pleased with the results!

CCR - Review 22 - Canon EOS-1n
Canon EOS-1n – Canon EF Lens 35mm 1:2.8 – Kodak Tri-X 400 @ ASA-800 – Ilford Microphen (1+1) 12:00 @ 20C

CCR - Review 22 - Canon EOS-1n
Canon EOS-1n – Canon EF Lens 35mm 1:2.8 – Kodak Tri-X 400 @ ASA-800 – Ilford Microphen (1+1) 12:00 @ 20C

With Ilford Pan F+ There are some films that just look great with all developers and others that only look good in one or two. Then there is the odd case where you find a film and developer combination that just looks like pure magic. Pan F remains hands down my favourite film from the Ilford line but when you pair it with Microphen it just goes to a whole other level of film nirvana. Throw on a contrast filter and you probably have the perfect film at least for me.

CCR - Review 22 - Nikon F5
Nikon F5 – AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4D (Green-1) – Ilford Pan F+ @ ASA-50 – Ilford Microphen (1+1) 6:00 @ 20C

CCR - Review 22 - Nikon F5
Nikon F5 – AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4D (Green-1) – Ilford Pan F+ @ ASA-50 – Ilford Microphen (1+1) 6:00 @ 20C

Like Perceptol this developer only comes in 1L kits and when I’m using 500mL of chemistry 1 to 1 it does go through a bottle fairly quickly so this time I bought two kits right off the bat. Overall I was really happy with this developer, and will certainly use it again especially if I do a project that would be best done on Pan F. And while this brings us to the end of exploring Ilford’s film chemistry line. Stay tuned for Part 5 where I go over the best and worst in the way of Ilford products at least in my humble opinion.

CCR Review 14 – Contax G2

Don’t let the top fool you, the Contax G2 isn’t actually made by the famous German camera manufacture that produced the same cameras that Robert Capa took with him during the Operation Overlord landings at Normandy, better known as D-Day. While proudly saying Contax, it’s actually manufactured under licence by the Japanese firm Kyocera. But the Contax G2 does hold one thing above any other rangefinders out there, it is one of two autofocus rangefinders ever produced, the other one is the previous G1 model. There are some out there that say that the G series aren’t true rangefinders, and they do have a point. But the general style of camera screams rangefinder, and it is one of my favourite systems to work with when size and space is an issue.

CCR - Review 14 - Contax G2
The G2 looks great when on a patio with a tasty European beer

The Dirt
Maker: Kyocera
Model: Contax G2
Type: 35mm Autofocus Rangefinder
Lens: Interchangeable, G-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1996

CCR - Review 14 - Contax G2

CCR - Review 14 - Contax G2

The Good
If you love the rangefinder format but just can’t get the knack of the focusing system than the G2 is for you. While the autofocus isn’t perfect, it still is better than the older G1 models. Not to mention the size is perfect for tucking in a small shoulder back, or in a camera backpack is a great second camera if you’re shooting a large format system because it takes up very little space, even with a lens attached. It also feels great to hold and can be fairly quick in bright environments. And this camera is a solid piece of metal, very little plastic in the construction of it, so it can be bounced around a bit. For operation the camera has a good meter in it, with aperture priority or full manual mode. And finally the optics, against Japanese made under licence from Carl Zeiss, and when compared to the actual Zeiss made optics there is no difference in quality. The key is to the stick to the prime lenses, the zoom is a bit iffy. To go along with the optics, the viewfinder will automatically adjust its zoom range to match the lens you’ve mounted, from 28mm to 90mm. There is a winder lens that the viewfinder cannot accommodate so you’ll need the shoe mounted viewer to help with composing your photos.

CCR - Review 14 - Contax G2

CCR - Review 14 - Contax G2

The Bad
Oddly enough the one thing that makes the camera different is also the weak point on the camera, the focusing system. While better than the G1 the camera’s autofocus can be slow in lowlight and a bit unpridicatable. And when it comes to manual focus, don’t even bother, it becomes little better than a guess focus camera with a distance scale being displayed in the viewfinder, best to pack along and external rangefinder to help out if you’re doing manual. Another issue is that the command dials are very sensitive, make sure to check the EV, Focus Mode, and Drive Mode dials if you’ve pulled the camera out of the bag or had them bouncing against something because they have a tendency to move on you. The camera is also a bit of a battery hog taking 2 CR2 batteries (which aren’t cheap), so best to pack a spare set (or two).

CCR - Review 14 - Contax G2

CCR - Review 14 - Contax G2

The Low Down
Despite the drawbacks, the camera remains one of my favourites for travelling when space is an issue or for travelling light at photowalks. It remains today a very polarizing camera, those who love it love and those who hate it hate it. And despite that remains the one camera in my collection that photographer friends of mine always want to borrow. It’s a camera that is certainly worth a try, but try it first, see if you like it before you go out and buy the camera.

All Photos shot in the Historic Center of Antwerp, Belgium
Contax G2 – Carl Zeiss Planar 2/45 T* – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-125 – Ilford Ilfosol 3 (1+14) 7:30 @ 20C