Monday, August 21, 2017


Through the clouds at Albuquerque.

derevaun's film splitter

So, I made a film splitter with a couple dollars in parts from the hardware store, an old 120 box camera and instructions from Flickr user, derevaun.  I don't recall where I got the old Falcon-Flex which forms the body of the splitter and provides the film holding and advance functions.  No damage is done to the camera in the process, so if I should ever get a yen to see what the camera can do, that possibility remains available.  Derevaun's advice to get the parts from ACE Hardware turned out to be excellent; they had everything I needed including a very helpful store clerk who helped me find the necessary nuts, screws and washers.

The parts include a long and a short machine screw, a long connector nut, two nuts and two washers.  The cutter is a No. 11 Xacto blade.  The nuts and washers which hold the blade are first screwed on the long screw.  Then, the long screw and the short screw are screwed into either end of the connector nut and adjusted to allow a tight fit in the body of the camera.

The blade holding nuts and washers are adjusted so that the blade is a little less than 46mm from the left side of the compartment.  The tip of the blade rests against the roller on the take-up side with just a millimeter or so protruding above the film plane.  The assembly took about ten minutes.

I had a junk roll of 120 film in my tool box, so I put it in the device, closed the back and rolled the film through the camera.  The roll came out perfectly cut with the wider section being just the right size to fit my 127 cameras.  So, I popped in a roll of Arista Edu Ultra 400 and split that.  I put the camera in my dark bag to remove the film roll.  After separating the film from the backing, I rolled it up and put it into a black 35mm film container.  This evening, I'll take the film into my bathroom/darkroom and roll it into some 127 backing paper.  I illustrated that process for creating 828 film in my 6/25/17 post entitled "rollin' , rollin', rollin...".

Sunday, August 20, 2017

nice rides

Saturday morning found me and my Foth Derby at a motorcycle swap meet near the railroad tracks on Central Avenue.

One block to the west was a long line of low riders, most on trailers, waiting to get into a car show at the Convention Center.

The overcast sky was a challenge for the expired Portra 160.  I lowered the shutter speed to 1/50, but most of the shots were still a bit under-exposed at f9.0.  I knew that would be the case, but a wider aperture would have given too little depth of focus for the subject.  I had to do some fancy PhotoShop work to get acceptable color and contrast, with variable results.

I'm mostly happy with interesting results from the expired bulk Portra 160, but it would be a nice change of pace to shoot some higher speed black and white film which would be better suited to the camera and its rather sharp Foth Anastigmat lens.  I'm trying to talk myself into making some sort of film splitter to produce 127-size film from 120 roll film.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

the best laid plans

teacher's pet
My plan was to try the combination of cheap Kentmere 100 and Rodinal 1:50.  That basically went ok.  The results were a little grainy, but not unpleasant.
    Then, about half way through scanning the roll my old XP desktop died.  That left me with my Windows 7 laptop running an old version of PhotoShop and Epson Scan which are much inferior to PS/CS2 and SilverFast on the old machine.  I guess I can live with it a few days until I figure out what to do about my hardware and software dilemma.


pine tree clouds

The camera was my Minolta Minoltina AL-S, my best ten dollar find, from an El Paso junk shop.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


The Mamiya C330 will never be a favorite shooter for me.  It is too big, too heavy and too hard to handle.  It does, however, have some unique capabilities , mostly in the area of close-up work due to the extending bellows.  Also, I have invested in several accessories for the purpose of taking full advantage of the camera's possibilities including an eye-level prism finder, a paramender for parallax correction, and a left-hand grip which frees up the right hand to operate all the right-side controls.  Recently, I loaded the C330 with a roll of Acros and took a slow stroll around the nearby botanic gardens.  Two hours later I had only managed to use half the roll of twelve frames, so I took the beast home and unloosed it on my our home's four-legged contingent.


Heritage Farm

Buckboard Wheels




Sunday, August 06, 2017

Acros; Day Two

I used the second half of my roll of Acros in the Retina I during a walk through the riverside woodland.  The sky was hazy and produced nice light in the cottonwood forest, but presented a challenge for the little viewfinder.  Most of the shots required an aperture of f8 or f5.6; that worked ok for subjects at a range of ten or fifteen feet, but anything closer got rendered sharply mostly by luck.  The Retina I has a very smoothly operating shutter release, so I was comfortable shooting it as slow as 1/25, but that still did not get me acceptable and predictable depth of focus. 

Had I given a bit more thought to my equipment and where I was taking it, I could have brought home quite a few more good shots.  For instance, I have a couple of accessory rangefinders that could have given me sufficient precision in focusing on my subjects.  An even better solution would have been to mount the Retina I on a tripod, allowing the possibility of shooting at the smallest aperture of f16.  At a focal distance of three feet that provides a depth of focus of about a foot, while at a distance of six feet the sharp focus zone has a depth of over four feet.   All of that information is made available on the dof scale on the bottom of Retina I.  Next time, I'll pay closer attention.

All of which is not to say that I considered the experience a failure.  I learned something, and I spent a couple hours wondering through the cottonwood forest admiring the lush mid-summer vegetation, oblivious to the cares of the world.  Then, I went home and spent about six hours processing the film, scanning the negatives, editing the pictures and writing up my ideas about the experience.  All good.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Old Town

I decided recently that I would like to shoot some 100 speed black and white film in 35mm, which I have not done in some time.  I bought several different brands from B and H Photovideo including a couple rolls of Acros, and I loaded one of those into my Retina I.   I devoted the first half of the roll to a sunny day walk through Albuquerque's Old Town.

The Retina I is the smallest and simplest of my Retina cameras.  It has a reliable Compur-Rapid shutter and an excellent 3.5/50 Kodak Ektar lens.

My Retina I is a post war model. There are many small variations in the viewfinder types, but the features are essentially the same as the first one produced in 1934 which was designed to accommodate the 35mm cartridge developed by August Nagel. The history of the long Retina line is thoroughly presented in the Kodak Retina Wikipedia page.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Bilora Bella

I've always liked the sporty style of the Bilora Bella.  Since I have a good supply of 127 film available now, it seemed like a good excuse to indulge my interest, and I found one easily on ebay for twelve dollars and shipping.  The Bella line of cameras made in Germany from the mid-1950s to the mid-'60s included models that used 120, 127 and 35mm film formats.  My 3c model produces an image measuring 4x6.5cm on 127 film.  There are two apertures, probably f8 and f11, and a self-cocking shutter with speeds of 1/50, 1/100 and B.  The lens can be focused by estimation from 3.5 feet to infinity.

I did a poor job of loading the film in the camera and managed to fog several of the frames, but the ones toward the end of the roll of eight exposures were ok.  I don't think the lens is coated, but it seems about as sharp as that on other simple cameras and the choice of apertures, shutter speeds and full focusing does offer a bit more versatility than the average box camera.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Portra Adventures

We are having afternoon clouds and some thunder, lightning and rain at night as the monsoon season sets in.  I shot a roll of 127 Kodak Portra 160 in my Foth Derby today at 1/50 and f-9.0.  I'm happy with the results, but they don't look much like the low contrast, rather pastel images I see other people making with Portra.  My bulk roll of Portra shows no expiration date; I've had it in the refrigerator for about five years, so it is at least that far along.  I used some freshly brewed Unicolor C-41 today for processing, so the expired film and the uncoated Foth Anastigmat lens seem to account for the unique color signature.

I'll likely use up most of my 127 Portra in the Foth Derby.  The camera's compactness and consistently good performance makes it a pleasure to shoot.  I did try one roll of Portra in my Brownie Reflex, and I will probably shoot a roll soon in my Brownie 44A which also makes square images.   I'm hoping too to make some full-frame vest pocket size images in a Bilora Bella which is on the way to me now. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


A hazard of shooting old film cameras is that the variables that determine success or failure tend to proliferate over time.  It gets hard as a result to determine the cause of certain problems that arise, and I find myself sometimes questioning the effectiveness of my developers.  The only thing to do at that juncture is to load some film in one of the cameras in which I have a lot of confidence and see what comes up in the developer.  I chose recently to do that with my Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 35.

I found the '50s era Ikonta about fifteen years ago in a Las Cruces pawn shop.  A little cleaning turned it into a solid performer; the Synchro-Compur shutter is very reliable, and the coated Tessar lens always yields sharp images.  I loaded a roll of Kentmere 100, shot most of it on a walk through Albuquerque's Old Town, and then dunked the film in HC-110, dilution B for six minutes.  As little as 9.4 mL of HC-110 will do for a roll of film, so a bottle of the stuff takes a long time to get through.  I was pleased to see that my half-bottle looks good for quite a few more rounds.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sorting out 828

I shot my second roll of Konica 160 in my Kodak Flash Bantam.  I gave the expired film a couple stops extra exposure and got good density in the negatives on this roll.  With no sprocket holes in the film which I would have with the 35mm I have shot in the past, the images take advantage of the full 828 format as shown in this full-frame scan.

Those bumps in the upper right of the image are produced by actual notches in the camera's framing mask.  I've made numerous inquiries about the purpose of this feature in the Bantam cameras, but have never received a satisfactory explanation about what purpose it might have served.

Using the 35mm film holder in my Epson scanner chops a bit off the long sides of the image.  I take that into account when framing my images in the viewfinder, but I do get somewhat panoramic proportions from the scans.

I was pleased with this roll of film to have gotten the film strip properly placed in the backing paper to be able to get the expected number of images from the strip with a little extra at each end.  The framing numerals were easily visible in the window on the camera's back and I got perfectly spaced images as a result.  There were some light leaks on the image at the beginning of the film strip and again toward the end.  I'll try adding some extra space to the backing paper at the beginning and end of the roll the next time.  So, still a bit of work to get everything just right, but using the properly configured film and backing paper makes shooting my 828 cameras a lot more predictable and enjoyable.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Classic Experience

I get out with my Contaflex I several times a year.  The camera always produces some nice pictures for me, but it also provides a hands-on opportunity to experience the culmination of a half-century of small camera design and production by Zeiss Ikon.  High precision craftsmanship combined with the finest available materials permitted the implementation in 1953 of a single lens reflex camera with a uniquely compact form that would not be surpassed for another decade by Japanese camera makers..

The Contaflex I did not have the interchangeable lenses and light meters of later models, but Zeiss did offer a large selection of accessories for the camera including microscope and stereo adapters, and most importantly perhaps, the add-on telephoto lens known as the Teleskop 1.7x.  The telephoto and several of the other accessories were attached to the camera in front of the fixed 45mm lens with a slide-on bracket.

The bottom 4 elements are the fixed 45mm camera lens
The Teleskop 1.7x produced the equivalent focal length of about 75mm which could be focused as close as four feet and which was likely intended primarily as a portrait lens.  As shown in the lens diagram the Teleskop 1.7x was a massive six-element design which could only be expected from Zeiss.  I think I have only once used the telephoto on my camera, and I would be hard put to find the photos now.  I'll try to remember next time I get out with the Contaflex to make a few shots that show the capabilities of the lens.

The Contaflex I can frequently be found offered on ebay in the $25 to $45 range, which seems extraordinary for such a finely made instrument.  The reason for that is that any Contaflex which has not been recently serviced is not likely to be ready to make pictures.  Nearly all of them will require cleaning of the shutter and the aperture stop-down mechanism.  This basic servicing of the camera is not really very difficult, but it is a great help to have some idea of the camera's unique construction features, including the three tiny screws holding the front lens element in place which are hidden under the distance scale of the front-focusing lens.

Here are some recently made pictures from the Contaflex I made during a walk along the Rio Grande: