Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Brownie

I took a walk by the river today with one of my old Kodak Brownies.  These folding Kodaks can be a challenge to shoot unless one spends some time becoming accustomed to the camera's features.  The weakest point for the user is the tiny reflex finder which provides only a dim suggestion about what is in front of the camera.  My answer to this is to tape a simple open frame finder from another camera on the handle side of the camera.

The other main barrier to overcome in using this No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie is the rudimentary distance scale with settings (in feet) limited to "8", "Fixed", and "100".   With a focal length around 90mm those values are adequate for bright lighting and small apertures, but dim light calls for some practiced guesswork.

The camera, however, does have a couple redeeming features which outweigh the inconveniences.  Perhaps the biggest strength is the 6x9 image format on 120 roll film.  Putting even a very simple meniscus lens in front of a piece of film that size produces and image that can rival that made with the best of  35mm camera glass that money can buy.  As it turns out this Brownie is equipped with an old but excellent lens, a Rapid Rectilinear, the design of which dates back to Civil War days.

Also known as the Aplanat, the Rapid Rectilinear lens has two cemented doublets in symmetrically opposite positions on either side of the shutter's aperture.  The result of that arrangement is an image that is very sharp across the frame and with no apparent linear distortion.   Many of the best quality Kodak cameras of the early 20th Century were equipped with a Rapid Rectilinear, and a lot of the early photography luminaries including Edward Weston used the lens on their view cameras.


Judging from the results I got from my recent outing with the Brownie, I'm clearly out of practice with this camera.  I thought this one picture of a footbridge over a side channel of the river did show some of the surprisingly nice qualities in the images which the camera can provide.


I'm hoping to find the time and opportunity to use this folder and several other old Kodaks more often.  I've never made any portraits with my folders, and I think they could be very interesting to attempt.  I would also like some time to have the opportunity to put a Rapid Rectilinear on a camera with ground glass focusing to enable further exploration of the unique character of this classic design.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Industar 61 L/D

We made a trip down to the river so Cate could collect some shells and the dog could run off some energy.  I took along my FED 3 with the Industar 61 L/D lens.  The camera performed well; the lens not so much.
    I cleaned and greased the helical and checked the infinity focus which seemed perfect. There is a little play between the lens and the camera's lens mount, though it doesn't seem enough to be a problem.
    Some of the river shots turned out ok, but the full enlargements don't show the crisp sharpness of my other FED and Industar lenses.  The Industar 61 L/D has a good reputation, but that doesn't seem to have rubbed off on my example.  I may try to find another.





Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thursday, January 11, 2018

THE UNDEAD

My Pentax K1000 came to me in poor shape.  I was able to revive it enough to shoot a roll of film, and then I put it aside for a long while.  There was still a small issue with the lens, and the through-the-lens meter looked dead.   Yesterday, I decided to take another look at the camera.


The 50mm f-2 Pentax-M lens was clean and sharp, but the rubber focus ring was loose and slipped at either end of the scale.  Looking at the lens more closely I saw that the rubber focus ring could be lifted up and off with a small screwdriver.  A couple drops of glue solved the slippage issue.
     The light meter problem was also easily diagnosed.  Removing three screws allows the camera's bottom plate to come off.  Taking out three more little screws frees the battery compartment.  Not unexpectedly, the wire to the battery holder was corroded and disconnected.  Splicing in an extension to reconnect the wire to the bottom of the battery compartment seemed an intimidating task because of the tiny diameter of the wires.  Really nothing to lose, however, so I screwed up my courage, picked up a little Weller soldering kit at ACE Hardware and tackled the job.
     Stripping the tiny wires is tricky.  If you try to use a knife or a wire stripper, the likely result is that the tiny wires will be destroyed.  It turns out, however, that you can just use a lit match to burn off the insulation.  I took a short piece of small-diameter wire from an old video card and joined it with my solder gun to the battery holder and the stub of wire from the camera body.  My soldering won't win me any ribbons at the county fair, but it was good enough to bring the meter back to life.









I like the uncluttered view through the K1000 finder, and the meter seems to give me the exposure I am looking for better than some of my more sophisticated cameras.  I only have a couple of normal K-mount lenses at this point as I gave away my previous K1000 kit with the wide-angle and telephoto lenses.  I guess I'll see if I can find a couple more lenses.  Even if I decide against keeping the K1000, I could use the lenses with the nice little Pentax ME which is just one step from being fully restored.

Monday, January 08, 2018

On the way to Zuzax

I installed a new beam-splitter mirror in my Leica IIIa with hopes that would enhance the brightness of the viewfinder.  The operation went pretty smoothly thanks to some good on line instructions.  Aside from adding a slight yellow tint to the rangefinder spot, there was little improvement. So, the view through the Leica is still about on a par with that in most of my other old rangefinder cameras.  Fortunately, my surgically enhanced vision makes using any of them more practical.  After slightly readjusting the camera's rangefinder I took it for a photo walk into Old Town.  Mounted on the Leica was the collapsible Industar 22.  The film was Tri-X rated at ASA 200 in anticipation of PMK Pyro processing.


I found the nice old Chevy Wagon parked in front of the church in the Plaza Vieja.  It was one I had not seen before and it looked like it just came off the showroom floor.  Since there is always some nice light in the Museum's sculpture garden I stopped off there too, as I always do when testing any new gear or techniques.


The next day I decided to stick with the vehicle theme and made a short road trip East on I-40.  Leaving Albuquerque, the frontage road is actually a long stretch of  the old Route 66 highway.  There is a big collection of unrestored cars and trucks on the South side of the highway which I have gone by many times, and I decided the time had come to pay it a visit.  This time, I mounted the 35mm Jupiter 12 on the Leica along with the accessory viewfinder.


The yard full of old trucks and cars is on a dead-end off the old highway between Tijeras and Zuzax.  It turns out to be attached to a well regarded East Mountain repair shop, Charlie's Fleet Service.  Charlie and his dogs greeted me at his front door; he said I was welcome to make some pictures so long as I did not open any doors or hoods. 




Part of my plan for the day was to compare Tri-X in PMK with HC-110 semi-stand processing.  After finishing off the roll in the Leica I shot a roll of Tri-X at box speed in the Nikon FE.  The Nikon Series E 50mm and the Rokunar 28mm performed nicely,  but Fate's fickle finger poked a hole in my strategy.


After an hour in the highly dilute HC-110, I fixed and washed the Tri-X from the Nikon.  When I pulled the film off the reel I was dismayed to see that it was a nearly opaque gray color with the images barely discernible.  It looked like a problem with the fixer, so I stuffed the strip of film back in the tank and soaked it for another ten minutes.  The gray was cleared and the negatives looked normal when I took them from the tank again.  I don't know if I just misjudged the time, or if the fixer was near exhaustion.  So, I got some reasonably good pictures from the Nikon after all, but the comparison test was mooted.


Still, a good day.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Getting there is half the fun

I took a walk through our neighborhood with two objectives.  One was to test my Industar 50 lens after I had re-lubed the focus threads with white lithium grease.  The other was to pull together my conclusions about how to get the most from the combination of Kentmere 100 film and PMK Pyro processing.


I thought the lens performed very well.  Focusing had none of the previous jerky, grinding movement.  The black finish with white numerals make for nice contrast and the resolution seems as good as any of my Soviet-era lenses.  Based on the first two digits of the serial number the black Industar 50 was manufactured in 1971, while the silver one dates back to 1957.


My understanding of the combination of Kentmere 100 film and PMK Pyro processing has been greatly enhanced by Rick Drawbridge's generous email responses to my inquiries about how he gets such consistently excellent results with the film and chemistry. Rick said that he follows the PMK processing instructions in every respect except one: he starts with the recommended 30 second continuous agitation, but then proceeds with just " two gentle inversions at the end of each minute thereafter."

 
That is quite a departure from the PMK instructions which everyone else seems to strictly adhere to of two tank inversions every fifteen seconds.  Rick's time and temp in the PMK is eight minutes at 75F.  Like pretty much everyone else, Rick shoots his Kentemere 100 at less then box speed; he rates "the Kentmere at 75 ISO for development in the PMK Pyro, and 400 ISO films such as HP5 or Tri-X at 200 ISO."

 
 Based on my experience and the results shown by other users of PMK Pyro processing I think there is quite a lot of latitude available in regard to processing technique, but consistent and satisfying results likely depend on some careful experimentation.  Choices in film speed rating, subject lighting, and scanning parameters all enter into the equation.


My own shooting style tends toward rather darker tonalities than Rick uses and I was happy in some respects with my intial guestimates of twelve minutes at 20C and fifteen second agitation intervals.  So, I'll likely try some intermediate values between what Rick uses and the good results which others have come up with.


There are also some other film and processing combinations which I look forward to exploring.  I have seen some very nice pictures made with Kentmere in Xtol, and Tri-X mated with PMK also looks very promising.