Tag Archives: tmax

It’s a TMAX Party – Part II

The April TMax party happened to fall right into the perfect schedule with the Spring 2017 Toronto Film Shooters Meetup falling right into the shoot week! After careful consideration and having moved many of my cameras over the condo where I’ll be living before the month is up (actually next week once Heather and I get back from the honeymoon). I settled on my trusty Hasselblad 500c; it has been seeing a little less use this year after getting a lot of love with the 52:500c project.

TFSM - Spring '17
Downtown Camera where the meet started and the best spot in downtown Toronto to pickup anything film releated!

TFSM - Spring '17
A slightly sad wall, needs something more than just grey and white paint.

All through downtown Toronto, we went, taking in the various sites and sounds of the city’s core with a solid group of photographers from the little group I gathered together. This meet was the brainchild of James McFarlane. A long-time friend and the man who is going to be the photographer at the wedding in a couple of days!

TFSM - Spring '17
The man himself!

TFSM - Spring '17
St. Lawrence Hall from the park. Back in 2016 I tried to get a night shot from this angle, but failed.

Despite being a day of mixed lighting conditions with the bright cloud cover, it was great to get out with a 400-speed film so that no matter what happened I could shoot handheld which is important on a photo walk. Tracing along Queen Street and into St. James Park there were plenty of things to shoot, and because I wasn’t leading the walk, I could settle back and enjoy just shooting. And for a TFS meetup, it’s an oddity.

TFSM - Spring '17
One of the side doors of the St. James Cathedral. I would have gone inside but I wasn’t equipped for indoor shooting on the day

TFSM - Spring '17
But there’s still lots of shoot on the outside of St. James

As always big thank you to Emulsive for organizing this little party (and I look forward to the next film party, maybe a Tri-X Shindig?) and to Downtown Camera for being a big supporter of the TFS group!

Hasselblad 500c – Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 – Kodak TMax 400 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. B 5:30 @ 20C

It’s a TMAX Party – Part I

The fine folks behind the film photography promotion website Emulsive have done it again! In the footsteps of last year’s FP4Party, they have started to run a couple of different monthly participation events for film photographers around the globe through the use of Twitter. Sadly I didn’t participate much in the FP4Party mostly because of time conflicts; I decided to make a point to join in on this year’s film parties. Being free of most projects it freed my hand to keep up this time around. This year’s first party is a celebration of Kodak TMax. Tmax a modern film emulsion that was released in the late 20th-Century and use a tabular grain rather than a traditional grain like Tri-X or Plus-X.

While I figured the easiest way to jump into the TMaxParty was to dig into my box of 4×5 TMax 100. While TMax isn’t always my first choice, I’m more of a classic grain shooter. But hey sometimes it’s good to jump a little bit outside of your comfort zone. So into Hamilton, I went, and while I had planned to shoot all eight loaded sheets that day but the cold weather told me otherwise.

HMCS Haida
Pacemaker Crown Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Blazinal (1+50) 12:00 @ 20C

Craft Beers
Pacemaker Crown Graphic – Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar-S 1:5.6/210 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Blazinal (1+50) 12:00 @ 20C

Whitehern
Pacemaker Crown Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Blazinal (1+50) 12:00 @ 20C

Well in Canada, March can be a bit of a hit and miss, and while the weather kept me from shooting outside, my shutters tend to get laggy in sub-zero weather I again had to dive outside of my comfort zone. Usually, when I’m shooting large format I stick to deep depth-of-field, we’re talking f/32 and up on my aperture. Sure it makes for longer shutter times, but it gives the images incredible sharpness. Well, the temperatures stuck below zero so open up the lens I did.

Retention
Pacemaker Crown Graphic – Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar-S 1:5.6/210 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 9:30 @ 20C

Take Flight
Pacemaker Crown Graphic – Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar-S 1:5.6/210 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 9:30 @ 20C

The Lights Above
Pacemaker Crown Graphic – Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar-S 1:5.6/210 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 9:30 @ 20C

While I’m pretty happy with my results for this month, I hope next month’s TMax Party I’ll have some more outdoor shots. Of course, the big question is what format will I shoot, and in what camera! Current runners are my Contax IIIa, Rolleiflex 2.8F, or Hasselblad 500c. So we’ll see next month!

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

CCR Review 43 – Yashica Contax 137 MA Quartz

While I was not a fan of the last Yashica camera I used in the project, the 137 is a fun camera that is super easy and great to use right off the bat. With squat almost Soviet styling, this camera is certainly one that many people just miss because they never heard of it. And the only Contax camera I knew of for the longest time was the G2. Then I started learning about the older German models, and finally through the Film Photography Project of their SLRs. Special thanks to Chrissie Wu for loaning out this camera for a review!

CCR Review 43 - Contax 137 MA Quartz

The Dirt
Make: Yashica
Model: Contax 137 MA Quartz
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Interchangeable, C/Y Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1980

CCR Review 43 - Contax 137 MA Quartz

CCR Review 43 - Contax 137 MA Quartz

The Good
The number one high point that sets this camera above many of its peers is that fact that it has a built-in motor drive, and it doesn’t add a lot of bulk to the camera as well the weight is fairly light, I had no issues carrying around in the summer heat. This camera is super easy to use, even without having used a camera like this before I was able to get the film loaded at my first try. As for controls, the camera is well laid out; everything is where it should be, and the controls are easy to operate. The meter is accurate, with the exposure settings (Aperture and Shutter Speed) shown in the viewfinder. And probably one of the coolest parts of this camera’s viewfinder is that it has a film count reading. Something we take for granted in modern film cameras, but not something I’ve seen in cameras from the 1980s.

CCR Review 43 - Contax 137 MA Quartz

CCR Review 43 - Contax 137 MA Quartz

The Bad
I honestly spent a good amount of time thinking on what I didn’t like about this camera and I can’t think of any. So what I will say the only thing that is bad about this camera is how rare they are in the North American Market. I will also have to speak on the optics, there are some pretty bad Yashica lenses out there, but there are several good ones, and of course the Carl Zeiss units that are available as well. One thing I did notice was some light leaks along some of my film frames, but I don’t think this is a fault of the camera as a whole but just the indication that this particular unit needs the light seals replaced.

CCR Review 43 - Contax 137 MA Quartz

CCR Review 43 - Contax 137 MA Quartz

The Lowdown
If you can find one of these cameras get it, the camera can easily give any of the major cameras from the 1980s a run for its money, and I’m talking about the Canon AE-1 Program, Minolta X-700, and even hazarding a beat down, the Nikon F3. So this certainly is a camera that is a bit of an underdog in the market which means you can pick one up relatively cheap. There is also a fantastic range of lenses available for you in the C/Y mount, both Yashica and Carl Zeiss (built under license) branded units. But watch out there are some bad lenses for it as well, but the 50mm f/1.9 I used for this review is a real winner.

Photos Taken in: Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Yashica Contax 137 MA Quartz – Yashica Lens DSM 50mm 1:1.9 – Kodak TMax 400 @ ASA-400 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. B 5:30 @ 20C

CCR Review 40 – Mamyia RB67

There is a reason that this camera is nicknamed the fridge it’s big, heavy, clunky, and near awkward to carry with you. But if you treat it right it will give you big beautiful images that will give you a cheaper alternative to 4×5 with near the same quality and more importantly the same aspect ratio in your negatives! Of course, for those unfamiliar with the system, there are two models of 6×7 Mamiya cameras the one being reviewed is the RB version. Special thanks to Alex Koroleski for loaning out this camera for this review!

CCR Review 40 - Mamyia RB67

The Dirt
Make: Mamiya
Model: RB67
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 120/220/Type 100, 6×7
Lens: Interchangeable, RB Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1970-1974

CCR Review 40 - Mamyia RB67

CCR Review 40 - Mamyia RB67

The Good
This is a beast of a camera like many 6×7 cameras it can easily be used as a self-defense weapon in a pinch. But it also means that it is a very solid camera, and Mamiya medium format cameras are no slouches. With the small but mighty m645 system was the mainstay of wedding photographers for many years the RB and RZ series cameras were king of studio work. Because honestly this is a studio camera but I have seen many people use these as their field cameras for the fact they don’t want to use a 4×5. The big 6×7 negative was perfect for many different applications and was for many years the standard for the fashion photography industry. And the lenses are fantastic as well, and probably the best part of the system is that you can get one with a back, lens, and finder for fairly cheap these days on the used market. But probably the thing I really like about this camera is the big bright finder I had no issues focusing without the lope and composing my images. The one thing I could see being an issue on the RB models is going into portrait mode.

CCR Review 40 - Mamyia RB67

CCR Review 40 - Mamyia RB67

The Bad
Okay so the biggest issue I have with this camera is weight in the field. Honestly, my Crown Graphic is lighter! So I can see after a day of lugging this thing around I would not be too happy with myself and probably my other body parts would begin to complain as well. Now if I had a studio I certainly would want to keep on there on a tripod. Now coming to the actual operation, loading the back is a pain in the butt, of course, this could just be that I had never loaded one before and was just randomly guessing at what I had to do. I’m sure with practice it would become easier but would still be a pain, I’ll take my Hasselblad and Pentax 645 any day. And finally, there is just general operation. While setting the shutter speed and aperture is pretty easy with the lens mounted controls, the mirror return and film advance that is a two-step process, mirror up, advance film, with two separate controls. Not exactly the best system out there, but this also is not a run and gun camera, nor is it meant to be.

CCR Review 40 - Mamyia RB67

CCR Review 40 - Mamyia RB67

The Lowdown
Honestly, I can see why people like these cameras and use them. They produce great images and can produce a good volume of images over say a 4×5 but for me, I just can’t see myself getting into 6×7 in general especially the Mamiya system. For the fact that I already have a good investment in two 4×5 cameras that produce a bigger negative and I have a solid lens kit for it, and secondly, I find the cameras a little t0o finicky to operate out in the field, especially the film loading. So while I would recommend this for someone with a strong back who does not want to get into large format but still wants a similar system using roll film, the RB/RZ67 is a winner. Probably the only way a Mamiya 6×7 would come into my kit would be in the form of the Mamiya 7 rangefinder, but the RB/RZ67 won’t be added to my kit.

All photos taken at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Rochester, New York, USA
Mamyia RB67 – Mamyia-Sekor 1:3.8 f=127mm – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100
Kodak TMax Developer (1+4) 7:30 @ 20C

The Grudge Match – 1950s German Style

These days the two big camera names that see fanboys (and girls) in both camps is Cannon vs. Nikon. But that wasn’t always the case. In the 1950s Nikon and Canon were still fairly unknown in the pro-market, both were producing rangefinder cameras stamped with “Made in occupied Japan” the real competitors of the 1950s was Contax and Leica. Since I have both a Leica IIIc and a Contax IIIa I figured I should do a side by side comparison and have these two heavy-weights of the mid-century fight it out. Before you continue, I suggest reading by reviews of each camera, first the Contax IIIa then the Leica IIIc. So let’s begin! In one corner we have the Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa, a 35mm Rangefinder with a Contax RF lens mount, manufactured between 1940 and 1951 equipped with a selenium meter! In the other corner we have the Leica IIIa also a 35mm rangefinder with a M39 thread mount, manufactured between 1951 and 1962! For the purpose of this match we have both running a standard 50mm lens, the Contax has a Zeiss-Opton Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 while the Leica is running a Lietz Summitar 50mm f/2! Each has been loaded with Kodak Tmax 100 film, rated at ASA-32 developed in Xtol (1+1) for 8:45 at 20C. Both metered with a Gossen Lunasix F.

grudge-match

Film Loading
So I’m not going to lie, the method of loading the Leica IIIc is a pain in the butt, and usually takes me a couple tries before I get it right. I’ve actually seen a fellow photographer fail many times to load his M6, which has the handy back door to see if you got it, the IIIc doesn’t have that. I’m sure with practice and some pre-cut rolls of film you can easily load it on the fly, but honestly, it would still be one that you’d want two around your neck and your assistant nearby to load and unload as you shoot. The Contax IIIa is a little easier as you can remove the entire back, which also slows down reloading and you have to juggle a bit but you’d have an easier getting the film loaded right the first time. But I do see why Capa carried two into combat, you don’t want to be juggling three things with bullets flying.

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa
Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc
Leica IIIc

Optics
This is where both cameras stand out is the optics. While some might hold Leica glass over Zeiss glass. I really cannot tell the difference between the two. The only real difference is the aperture on the Summitar and the Sonnar that gives different effects with the out of focus area, but both produce a pleasing Bokeh. But when it comes to the optics I’ll give the edge to Leica, not for the glass but for the mount. Going with the M39 (aka Leica Thread Mount) was probably the part that wins out because there is a lot more glass available for it and it remains adaptable easily for compact digital system cameras. The bayonet mount on the Contax IIIa is a bit finicky and with the lack of a focusing helical on many of the lenses makes it difficult to use this wonderful glass on my a6000 (which is a big selling point for me).

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa
Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc
Leica IIIc

Usability
Both cameras are solid performers, easy to handle, not to heavy, not too light, great for carrying with you for a long time. The one draw back to the IIIc is the twin window rangefinder. And it’s really tiny so I’ve often found I’ve missed the focus mark. The Contax IIIa on the other hand has a single window view/rangefinder and it’s pretty bright so I’ve been able to focus with ease. Of course the Contax isn’t perfect, the way I hold the camera and use the focus dial (as opposed to the focus ring), I find that I block out the second rangefinder window at the front of the camera making it near impossible to nail the focus. This is where the Leica wins with the focusing handle on the bottom of the lens preventing this from happening. Similarly both cameras have an infinity lock, but the Leica’s is much easier to operate than the one on the Contax. When it comes to the shutter speed the Contax has a much nicer layout of the control dial with only a single dial to control all shutter speeds (and you can adjust without having the shutter cocked like the Leica), so if you are shooting at speeds under a 1/30″ you aren’t fiddling with a much smaller dial. The rest of the camera functions, shutter release, film advance are pretty similar is style and function and really aren’t worth mentioning overall. Both cameras are easily to use really with the functions easily accessed while holding and nothing really super out of place.

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa
Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc
Leica IIIc

Final Words
Like Cannon and Nikon these days I really cannot find anything that makes one camera better than the other beyond my own personal preference. I’m sure Contax and Leica fanboys of the time would be able to point out things that I failed to or didn’t want to notice. Like anything in photography these were the top dogs of their day, both operated in a similar manner, produced similar quality images, and both were handled and used by the greats of their day. Is one better than the other, no. Do I like one better than the other, yes. But as I said, the only major points that make the Contax stand out to me more than the Leica is the rangefinder window and the film loading. But that’s just my personal taste, as both are amazing cameras and worth looking at if you want a mid-twentieth century rangefinder with some class and style. So in my view the results of the match, is a tie.

CCR Review 36 – Leica IIIc

Before the infamous red-dot there were the Barnack Leica’s. These compact rangefinders were designed by Barnack to take motion picture (35mm) film so that he could carry them around without giving him trouble with his asthma. The Leica III was the companies World War 2 camera and was the direct competitor to the Zeiss Ikon Contax line (which is why the Contax IIIa was featured earlier this month). I do like this camera but it really is one I like to hate so I don’t want to get rid of it really, it’s an excellent camera mostly due to the lens and it is small enough to fit in any sort of pocket and of course has the cache of being a Leica with everything that entails.

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

The Dirt
Make: Leica
Model: IIIc
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Interchangeable, Leica Thread Mount (LTM)/M39
Year of Manufacture: 1940-1951

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

The Good
Despite my personal issues with this camera which I will discuss in the next section this really isn’t a bad camera. It’s small, fairly light, without feeling cheap. Add a collapsible lens like the Summitar or Elmar and you can easily toss this camera into a pocket and go out onto the streets. And as for the camera it’s pretty low key, low profile and I can really see why street photographers and combat photographers would use them. Along with the simple construction comes a simple and easy to use design, remember these were designed by a man who had aesthma and needed something small and compact. And finally…I can’t let this go without mentioning the amazing optics that you can get for this camera!

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

The Bad
Despite this camera holding pretty high status among photographers there are two things that for me really keep this camera more on the shelf and the lens mounted on an M39 to E-Mount adapter for use on my digital camera. The first is the loading, drop in, from the bottom. Yep and it is really difficult to master and get it working as you also have to pull out the leader and re-cut it so that everything catches…if you’re lucky (I was lucky this time around and it worked the first time). The second is the dual window rangefinder/viewfinder. The rangefinder is incredibly small and hard to work with I have missed the focus several times because of this.

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

CCR - Review 36 - Leica IIIc

The Lowdown
I like this camera, I really do, but because of the two major sticking points, I tend to leave it at home in favour of something a little easy to use on the go. Not to say you shouldn’t get one, they are really well built cameras with top notch optics that are equal to Carl Zeiss. So if you like this style of camera and want to fashion yourself after Henri-Cartier Bresson and do B&W street photography in Paris by all means. On the plus side these are the cheaper of the Leica cameras on the used market. But if I had a choice, I’d spend the extra money and pickup a Leica M2 or M3 body and mount Voeitlander glass or use an adapter to mount the Summitar I have.

The one thing I will point out is on the used market there are a tonne of copies out there that are branded Leica but really aren’t. Probably the easiest way to tell is if they are marked with Third Reich (yes, Nazis) military markings you’re actually holding a Ukrainian copy by Zorki. If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area and have a Leica III series camera and need it identified I suggest North Halton Camera Exchange, one of the owners is a former Leica Employee and will gladly give you a hand!

All photos taken in Oakville & Burlington, Ontario
Leica IIIc – Leitz Summitar f=5cm 1:2 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-32 – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 8:45 @ 20C

CCR Review 35 – Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

There have been many photographers of fame that have inspired me, people like Ansel Adams to really pay attention to the details, be precise and to think first then take the photo. Stanley Kubrick for his composition and then there’s Robert Capa. Capa was the delfacto combat photographer of World War 2 in Fortress Europe, and after reading his WW2 book, Slightly Out of Focus I wanted to put together a historic impression of a WW2 combat photographer. And while many cameras of the era are in the realm of the collector and in poor functionality I wanted to go with something newer or similar. Capa had three cameras with him during the war a Rolleiflex (I got one a 1969 Rolleiflex 2.8F so check) and a pair of Contax II rangefinders. So when I was offered the chance to buy a really nice Contax IIIa kit, I jumped at the chance. This camera just clicked (sorry) for me, it’s easy to use, heavy in the hand and is a nice easy no-nonsense mechanical rangefinder that also takes amazing photos. I will be getting along rather well with this beauty!

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Dirt
Make: Zeiss Ikon
Model: Contax IIIa
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Interchangeable, Contax RF Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1951-1962, This model was produced in late 1953

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Good
This is probably one of the best 1950s rangefinders that I’ve had the pleasure of using, it’s built like a tank and fits nicely in my hands without being bulky. There’s two focus options a dial up on the body or the lens itself, the actual focus helical is mounted on the camera body. So most of the shorter lenses are just that, the aperature and the optics (this of course causes issues with adapting the lenses to mirrorless you need an adapter that has the helical built in). The trouble comes when you’re using say a Jupiter-9 which is a dual bayonet mount (pain to mount but worth it). It also is thankfully a single viewfinder with a split image focus indicator. While calibrated for the 50mm length you can mount an auxiliary viewfinder on the cold shoe. And probably the bit about this camera that I like the best is that it is a full removed back for film loading, none of this bottom loading that Leica used (still!). But overall this camera handles like a dream, good weight without being too heavy and plenty of good optics to back it up!

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Bad
Not every camera can be perfect and there are a couple things that aren’t exactly ideal with the IIIa. First off is the lenses, they are hard to come by these days so watch out with your glass. I was lucky and got a kit that came with three lenses (the Sonnar, a Jupiter-8, and a Jupiter-9). But even on the used market KEH/B&H and local shops the RF mount is hard to find. Another thing that isn’t so much a totally bad thing, just an annoyance to me is the infinity lock on the focus, it seems a little un-necessary to me and can ruin a good shot because I locked the focus. And finally there’s the selenium built in meter, this is actually the first camera I own that has a dead meter, at least it’s uncoupled so it doesn’t affect the camera, the read out is on the top of the top of the camera so it makes it a little difficult to meter set and then shoot. But since it’s dead it’s really a non-issue for me.

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

CCR - Review 35 - Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa

The Lowdown
Okay so the simple fact is that this camera isn’t really for everyone. But if you’re looking for a good mid-twentieth century rangefinder the Contax or Russian cousin the Kiev-3. They make a great choice if you’re going for a historic impression and want a solid camera that will actually take excellent photos or just as a prop (if you are going for a prop, get a non functioning unit). They make for great conversation pieces and if you use Sunny-16 they are a really fun camera to run and gun with.

All photos taken in Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee, USA
Zeiss Ikon Contax IIIa – Zeiss-Opton Sonnar 1:1,5 f=50mm – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-32 – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 8:45 @ 20C

CCR Review 32 – Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

The bakelite beast, the snap shot camera of the 1950s and a staple camera in most every antique camera store I’ve visited. The Brownie Hawkeye flash was one of many cheap Kodak snapshot cameras that was a staple of plenty of families and still stands up today as a solid starter 620 camera because you can actually use a 120 spool in the camera providing you have a 620 spool in the take up! But although it works, I really don’t recommend it, as you’ll often damage the film itself.

CCR - Review 32 - Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

The Dirt
Make: Kodak
Model: Brownie Hawkeye Flash
Type: Point and Shoot
Format: Medium Format (620), 6×6
Lens: Fixed, Kodak Meniscus Lens f=75mm f/14.5
Year of Manufacture: 1950-1961

CCR - Review 32 - Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

CCR - Review 32 - Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

The Good
Probably the best part about this camera is the ease of use, no need for any sort of clunky zone focus, strange exposure settings, just point and shoot. As the old Kodak slogan says, you press the button, we do the rest. And the lens on the camera produces some of the best dreamy and nostalgic images I have seen. Even more so than the plastic lens Holga. And one of the best features of this camera is the fact that even though it’s a 620 camera you can still use with some success a 120 spooled film providing you have a 620 spool as take up. This does cause some bulging so keep the film in the camera after you’re done and take it out in a dark/dim area and load into a light-tight container for process and be sure to get your lab to keep your spool! You’ll need it again.

CCR - Review 32 - Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

CCR - Review 32 - Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

The Bad
The camera is far from perfect. Honestly, you will have to deal with dirty lenses, slow/erratic shutter speeds, light leaks and similar issues. Also if you’re a fan of sharp images, this is not your camera, a single element lens isn’t the sharpest on the planet and with a fixed aperture and shutter speed you won’t be doing any professional work in the long run. This is by today’s standards a toy camera. But they are cheap and plentiful.

CCR - Review 32 - Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

CCR - Review 32 - Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

The Lowdown
If you’re looking for something a little different than your Holga this would be an excellent camera for you. You can find working ones in almost every antique store across Canada and the United States and even as a 1950s photoshoot prop this is perfect. They also make great decorations if you find a non-working one. But they are a joy to shoot if you’re going for that soft toy look. And they run cheaper than most of the toy cameras that are new on market today.

If you’re looking to purchase re-spooled 620 film look no further than the Film Photography Project, they have a wide range of fresh and expired 620 film in their wonderful online store!

All photos taken in Downtown Milton, Ontario
Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash – Kodak Meniscus Lens f=75mm f/14.5 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-50 – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 8:45 @ 20C