Sunday, March 19, 2017

First Impressions - Minolta Maxxum 5

I have only used a Minolta auto-focus camera a few times in the past -- A neighbor wanted me to sell her Minolta Maxxum 7000 and lenses for her, so I tested everything out with a roll of film before I did so.  While that camera had something going for it when it first came out, it was slow and a bit clunky in the user interface, compared to modern AF SLRs.  I also have seen a plethora of used Maxxums of various types in thrift shops, etc., sitting there, forlornly waiting for a new owner.  As I recently tested a Maxxum QTsi and was quite pleased with the results, it is just a P&S camera.  Since then, I acquired a Minolta Maxxum 5 with a 24-85mm lens.  Once I put new batteries (2 CR-2) in it, it came to life.  It helped that it had a manual, since this is a feature-packed SLR.  It features eye-start, and just about every setting one might want to use in a film SLR camera.    I am not going to go into a full review of the camera's features and settings, since they are already online elsewhere. One thing that caught my attention right away -- this has to be the lightest, compact and full-featured SLR that I have used.  If you have small hands, this is a great choice for an AF SLR.  The controls are easily accessed, and the wheel in the front of the camera controls the aperture when you are in A mode, and other settings as you rotate the mode dial are managed via the wheel.   The lens focuses quickly and the camera is very responsive to the user.
The Maxxum 5 is the top of the line in the compact SLR bodies, and the larger, more professional-quality Maxxum 7 and Maxxum 9 remain at the top of the Minolta AF SLR bodies, with features that rival and even surpass Nikon and Canon's top models.  However, the sun was setting on Minolta as the digi revolution was underway.  It's too bad, but on the other hand, you can pick up these SLRs for a fraction of what they originally cost, and the A-series lenses are rather inexpensive.  If you are looking for a auto-focus SLR and have no current investment in a system, take a look at the Maxxum 5, 7, or 9.
I shot a few rolls of b&w film for my initial testing, and have no complaints.  The camera handles VERY well, and I enjoyed using it.

Eastman 5222 film

Eastman 5222 film

Eastman 5222 film

Eastman 5222 film

expired Delta 3200 at 1600!

expired Delta 3200 at 1600!

expired Delta 3200 at 1600!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Look Through the Konica EYE

Half-frame cameras are few - and while the Olympus Pen models usually come to mind, other manufacturers produced some as well.  There was the Canon Demi, The Ricoh Auto-Half, The Agfa Optima Parat, the old Univex Mercury II, Yashica Samurai, The Soviet-era Chaika-2, and then, there was also Konica, with several models to choose from including an SLR that featured full and half-frame settings. I used to own an Olympus Pen D, but I rarely used it, and sold it after a few years -- long ago. It was totally manual, and it seemed to take forever to finish a roll of film.  Of course, there are other half-frame cameras out there that I have not mentioned, but Google is your friend.

Half-frame cameras use 35mm film, but the negatives are 18x24mm, rather than 24x36mm.  Half-frame images are the same as the cine-film area.  So, a roll of 24 exposure-film will give you 48 half-frame negatives.  For cost-conscious photographers, half-frame is indeed a money-saver. If you had an Olympus Pen F SLR, you were carrying quite a good bit of photographic equipment.  It also allowed for making some quite compact rangefinders and zone-focus cameras.

I recently obtained a Konica EYE, and the logo on the front looks like a text emoticon.  The camera has a clean design, not unlike an Olympus Trip 35, and has some nice features.

  1. Dial on the back of the camera to set the ISO, with the setting appearing on the top deck
  2. Shutter speeds (auto-set) ranging from B (manual) to 1/30 to 1/800, with the 30mm lens having an aperture range of f/1.9 to f/16. 
  3. Selenium cells around the lens control the metering - just like the Olympus Trip 35.
  4. Cold shoe with a PC-sync socket on the front of the camera
  5. Zone/scale focusing, no rangefinder
  6. ISO settings from 10 to 400.

The model I have is the EYE version 2, produced in 1964. I quickly figured out its quirks and loaded a roll of Eastman 5222 b&w film into it.  You push a tiny button underneath the rewind arm to pop open the back.  Very interesting feature.

I took the Eye out with me on Sunday -- it was a cold and windy day, but I managed to shoot nearly an entire roll before I called it quits. I could sense that the winding was having some problems -- as in perhaps tearing sprocket hols and overlapping frames. However, I persevered, and it went back to normally advancing the film. Other than that, the only thing I had to remind myself to do was to set the focus to the proper range.

I developed the film in D-76, in a 1:1 ratio with water for a 10 minute developing time.   That usually works out well.  Looking at the negs, some looked over-exposed, and of course, there were a bunch of overlapped frames, just as I suspected.  Most of the images look pretty good, and I will try this camera once again with some different films. Since I roll my own cassettes, I will make them 30-frame rolls instead of 72!

Here are some of the images - all taken on the UM campus. Overall, I am pleased with the results, and maybe I'll try some TechPan another time for nearly grain-less images.

the overlapping frames!

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Filmtastic Fun at the FPP HQ

I had a long weekend in NJ last week, as I drove out with Leslie Lazenby Hunsberger to the Film Photography Project HQ in Fair Lawn, NJ.  Mat Marrash arrived just a few moments after we did on Thursday, and Mike Raso met us at the door. John Fedele and Mark Dalzell showed up in Friday to be part of the recording sessions.  I'm not going to go into any details, as I'll "save it for the show."  However, we did manage to take care of the huge number of boxes of donated cameras, accessories and film that were sent to the FPP donation program, and were quite pleased with what we had accomplished by the time we finished Saturday afternoon. We recorded a lot of podcasts, and they will resume March 15 (yay! I like listening to them as well.).

While there, I had a lot of fun shooting film in the studio, doing the podcasts, and of course, checking out the donations. Mike made sure that we ate well, and those NJ diners are amazing. The time flew by and I had to head home on Sunday.  All I can say is that I am touched and pleased at how many people are getting back into film, and how others are trying it for the first time and enjoying the process.  The FPP is a conduit for our love of film to the world at large, and it seems more and more folks are enjoying shooting with film.

One thing that we discovered while doing the shows (what show?) is that B&H lists the FPP as a place to donate your film cameras.  That was a great surprise to us, and if you find yourself with more gear than you need or want, the FPP Donation Program is a good place for your stuff. It gets cameras in the hands of students in elementary, high school, and community college photography programs.

Much to my surprise, Al Roker had a segment on the analog processes in yesterday's TODAY show! Watch it and enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Magic Square... The Bronica SQ-B

There is something about shooting in square format - whether it's 35mm or medium format.  While one can crop an image to be square, it's the composition in camera that makes the difference.  For one, you don't have to worry about an image being in portrait or landscape mode -- it's all the same. I think the first camera that I owned that shot square format may have been an Ansco folder. Then, I acquired a Rolleiflex for $75 back in 2002.  There are a lot of fun little square-format cameras out there, too. Some use 127 film. Getting used to the advantages as well as limitations of a TLR was quite educational and opened up a new way of seeing for me.  In 2004 I bought a Mamiya 645E that was new at Adray Camera in Ann Arbor, and while I owned it for 6 years, I never was comfortable with it -- the boxy body was cumbersome for vertical shots. I also owned a Kiev 60 for a while, and that SLR was quirky, as the frame spacing wasn't predictable.  However, i did take some decent images with it. I bought a nice  Kowa Six, and that lovely camera was nice, but a bit fiddly. Later, I acquired a Hasselblad 500C, back when they were selling used for really cheap, and people were ditching their film cameras for the latest DSLR.  I sold the Mamiya 645, of course. I enjoyed using the 'blad and had a number of lenses for it, and for some reason, sold it all after I acquired a like-new Mamiya C330 Pro with 80mm and 135mm lenses in March 2014.  The Mamiya is a bit of a beast, but I do enjoy shooting with it, as it close-focuses, which is something the Rolleiflex could not do without a special diopter , etc.   Having full control of my exposure and focus is important, but then, a camera like the Great Wall SLR from China is pretty much the opposite -- I owned one for a few years, and while I got some images from it that were somewhere between a Holga and an Argoflex, I found that it sat on the shelf a lot, so I sold it for a bit more than what I paid for it. While I sometimes regret selling my Rollei, the Yashica A that I have had for quite a while takes satisfactory images, and I paid $30 for it. The Mamiya C330 is a great system camera, and I use it regularly. How many TLRs does one need? (Don't answer that!).
At this point, you are wondering "When is this guy going to get to the topic in the title?" I'm getting to that. Really.  What this all leads up to is over time, I realized that I sometimes have a camera crush, and what I really want is to be able to use a certain camera for a bit, not necessarily own it.  I have had a sort of revolving door when it comes to square-format cameras. Last fall, I realized that the one camera system that I had NOT tried was a Bronica SQ (I have no interest in shooting any more 6x4.5).  I didn't really want to go and buy one, only to find that it wasn't for me, or it was okay but quirky.  I mentioned that I would just like to borrow one for a while on the Film Photography Podcast, and certainly never thought that anyone would take me seriously.  After all, the FPP gives cameras away, right?

A few months ago, I received an email from an FPP listener, and he offered to loan me a Bronica SQ-B.  It had belonged to his sister, and he needed to have some work done on it, and after that he would send it to me to use for a while.  It arrived on February 18, and after unboxing it and checking it over, I looked online and found a manual. I had a 6V battery for it, and after getting used to the controls and layout, I loaded a long-expired roll of film and shot it at various settings, just to acquaint myself to the camera.  I tossed the exposed roll in the garbage, and loaded a roll of Verichrome Pan which I shot last weekend, along with a roll of Tri-X.  Those were developed the next night, and I am quite pleased with the results.
First of all, the SQ uses an electronic shutter, so unlike the Hasselblad 500C that I once owned, you need a battery for the camera to work (so does my Pentax 6x7).  There is no metering with the SQ-B, just like the 'blad 500C. The SQ-B that I now have is fitted with a waist-level finder, which I do like, and of course, one can add a prism finder, just as with the 'blad.  The controls on the SQ-B remind me of the Mamiya 645E, which is fine.  I wasn't a fan of setting the shutter speed on the lens with the 'blad.  The SQ-B goes from 8 seconds to 1/500, and no B or T.  That works fine for me.  It fits easily into my canvas messenger bag with a compartment insert.   The film loading is familiar, and the use of the dark slide is also familiar, though sometimes results in a  "doh!" moment when I forget to remove it.   Using the camera with an external meter or just using sunny-16 (or the Black Cat Exposure Guide) is fine.  If I were shooting something complex, I might use my Pentax Spotmeter.  In any case, this is a fun camera to use, and I look forward to doing a lot of photography with it over the next few months.  Thank you for the loaner, David Lyon!

A few images from my Sunday afternoon outing last week. All shot in Ann Arbor, MI.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A P&S SLR- The Minolta Maxxum QTsi

A few weeks ago, I posted about my thrift shop purchase of a Nikkormat FTN and a Minolta QTsi. Since then, I have shot one roll of film in the QTsi, and can now say a bit more about the camera.
If you are looking for a camera that you can control to whatever level you need to allow your vision, this camera is not it.  BUT, if you want a P&S camera that has the ability of an SLR to accurately frame an image and focus on the subject, the Minolta QTsi may be the camera for the job.

The Minolta Maxxum series of cameras started with the Maxxum 7000 in 1985.  It was the first AF SLR with an in-camera lens motor, and started the A-mount series of lenses with contacts in the lens mount to control the lens from the body of the camera.  Other manufacturers shortly followed up with their own models.  It was also the end of Minolta's manual focus SLRs, with the last model being the X-700.  As Minolta progressed with the Maxxum line, they also changed the hot shoe flash connection from the ISO standard shoe to a proprietary Minolta mount.    In Europe, the Maxxum line became Dynax, so the Maxxum QTsi is the Dynax 303si.  Minolta made some great Maxxum camera bodies, as good or better than anything from Canon and Nikon, and certainly better than Pentax. However, their lower-end models were mostly plastics, just like the Canon Rebel series, and over time, Maxxums were never as popular as the big two.  The Maxxum 9 and Maxxum 7 models are amazing SLRs that never achieved the hoped-for market share, as Nikon and Canon were getting most of the business.  That brings us to the QTsi, which appeared in 2000, just at the dawn of the DSLRs.

The QTsi was an attempt to produce an SLR that your grandmother could use, if your grandmother had only used an Instamatic, that is.  But rather than belabor its target audience, I'll look at what makes this an ideal camera for anyone that wants to get a photo without fiddling with controls. Compared to the typical P&S with a small aperture, and slow zooming, the QTsi came with a 35-80mm zoom with a variable-max aperture of f/4- f/5.6, which is certainly comparable to the kit lenses on cameras from the big two.  You can control the flash setting, the program mode, self-timer, and AF or M focus, and that is about it. No aperture or metering shows in the viewfinder, just a green dot for focus confirmation.  A perfect camera for the kids, by the way.  It's lightweight, easily handled, and accepts any Alpha (A-mount) lens.  So, I guess if you could pair the body with a 50mm  A-mount lens, it would be one of those cameras that would be great for street photography.  Just whip it out and shoot.  You can find the manual for the camera here.

I put a roll of Kodak 200 color film in the camera and shot the roll within 24 hours.  I processed the film in the Unicolor C-41 kit (sold by the FPP store), and herewith are the results from the scans off my Epson V700.

I can find no fault with the metering or the focus, and every shot was as good as I could expect.  Like any p&s camera, you do give up some creative control in terms of depth-of-field, aperture priority, etc.  However, if those are not of concern to you, this camera deserves a look.  Yes, I paid $4.50 for the one I found, and there are lots of them around, often without lenses.  They take an easily found battery, and require 2 CR-2 cells.