Me and my cameras

When I was a kid my father had an old camera that he took the family photos with, it was a big black block in a big brown leather case. Even today I remember the smell of the camera and leather. My father used to bring the camera out on special occasions, then he measured the light with an device, set the levers at the right numbers, sit still aaaaand “klick”. That was a¬†Rolleicord from 1952 he bought back in the 1960’s.

Later he got a more modern camera, but still the same procedure measuring the light and setting of all controls correctly. I saw how he worked with the camera and got interested. So when I was in school and got the possibility to try taking photos I tested it out and liked it very much. But sadly nothing came out of that because the school just wanted the kids to try, not lo learn. Then I got to borrow my mothers cheep instamatic camera that was only a “point and shoot” camera. Really useless photos, all blurred and of focus. But it was fun to take a photo of the everyday life back then. A photo that I could decide the motive on.

When I started to work I finally got around to buy me an real camera. I started to read about all sorts of models and makers. My choice was of course on the camera that my father used. An used Rolleicord 6×6 frame camera from late 1950’s. It was using film type that is called “120”, regular cameras uses “135”. The “120” film only had 12 frames per film, but the 135 film had 36 frames. So right from the start I learned to be economical with taking photos and on what. It was fun to use an old camera, it taught me a lots of other things to. Like how to looking at the light, deciding on what zone of light I would base my photo on. How to compose the photo, save frames on the film to the good photo opportunities. Learning to see the situations sop to speak. Not to just fire away and use all film at once. While I was walking around the city with this camera I became an regular visitor at the camera stores where I bought film, and left the rolls for development. In many of those shops they had an vintage shelf filled with dusty old cameras. Of course, the natural development for me was to get a new modern camera with all new gadgets to aid me in taking photos. But that was not the case, among all those dusty cameras was one standing that was looking really great. The design, the look. After I was allowed to feel it, I was hooked. The camera was an Leica M2 from 1959, the first type with a button rewind release. Now this might not mean anything. But it is one of the most sought after cameras, they where the natural choise for reporters and photographers back in the day. I bought it. It was mine! I bought some lenses for it and after a few weeks I retired the Rolleicord that I had bought earlier, I started to use the Leica everywhere. It was so smooth in operation, handling like a dream.

After some time I bought other cameras, older, more obscure brands. I found it relaxing to try and repair the cameras, and why not try them out after repairing them. There was a shop in town that sold old vintage science items, test tubes, gadgets, typewriters and he also had an entire shelf filled with old cameras and accessories. He had no clue of the value of things, he was just interested in making good money fast. He had bought up en entire photo store from the 1950’s. Old cans with film, filters, cable releases, cameras, lens caps and other things. I bought my cameras there cheep just to repair and service them. It was fun! It was at that time I met an old gentleman that collected cameras. He told me about the history behind some brands and he showed me easy tips on how to repair cameras. I bought an Russian camera from him, I thought it was so odd to have because it was an serial made copy of an Leica II from 1930’s. I was amazed by this copy and the entire process behind the development of the copying back then. It turned out that the copy was not an exact copy. It was more of an version that was heavily influenced by the German Lecia cameras. But after using the camera I found that it was so simple and fun to use so I started to look for different models but also to read the history behind them.

The Russians started to make the FED cameras around 1934 and they developed that copy into an new brand in 1948, the Zorki. There was a Zorki camera made in 1970’s that was an version, of an Leica M. But instead of the delicate design and operation, the Russian version was more build like an indestructible tank. But at the same time, precise in operations and handeling. Nothing like my Leica, but still. There was something special, something that I really liked with the Russian camera. I really started to like that camera both the idea behind it and the way it was made. I decided that I was going after a special model. One day I found one, the right model in good condition. The one I was found was an Zorki 4K mid 1970’s model. In my opinion the final and ultimate development. Neasy to handle but still has the things that are needed for a good reliable camera. I started to look after lenses that was made in the same era and looking like the camera just to get an complete set.

But then one day it happened. Digital cameras came along and over a period of 6 months, the old cameras became obsolete. Now you could take a photo with an camera and having it in your computer in 5 seconds. No more developing the film, rinse it, dry it, copy the negative to an photo with developer, fixer and drying, heat pressing semi-glossed photos. All that replaced with a press on a button. No need for huge photo developer machines. With in 2 years all small photo labs that you walked to and handed over your roll of film for development had disappeared. A few years later the mobile phones could take better images than my fathers old top of the line Rolleicord. The Leica I had was an dinosaur.

Sadly in that depression and sense of being lost I sold almost everything of my camera collection, the German cameras, American, Japanese cameras with accessories. It all went away to other collectors. Including my old Leica that had been with me for so many years. Of some reason I saved the Russian Zorki 4k camera. Why I still have no idea. I regret selling the Leica, but the Zorki is a odd one. It still is there, looking as exiting as before. An monument over an era that never will come back. The era of amateur photography with film. Today everyone has a great camera in their phone, along with an entire photo lab with filters, and different setting for moods and colours. I do not say anything about that, quite the opposite. I love digital photos, I have taken over 20000 photos with my phone. I also have digital cameras that are almost professional. But the feeling of developing the photos in a darkroom. Looking at the white paper that develops an image in different fluids. Hanging the photos on a line to dry. Trying to get the right contrast, exposure. The feeling in every photo.

Not quite the same when sitting by a computer pressing a button. Or standing on the tube, adding filters to an photo and between two stations editing, cutting and developing an excellent photo. back then you had to wait for one good image. Today you can take photos all the, one of them is most likely to be great. But there is no digital camera that can simulate the feeling of loading up a camera with a new roll of film, the smell of chemicals. Feel of the film on your fingers, and when winding the camera. The action and sounds. That is an camera should sound. Not like my Fujifilm X100 where you can set the shutter sound from 3 different sounds. A shutter should sound like a shutter. The Leica M2 had a silent shutter, the Zorki 4K has an shutter that reminds of an car door being slammed shut (with some broken window glass inside).

Today I never use the old analogue cameras, only the digital ones. It is easier, quicker and with only one memory card you can take over 800 photos. Not 36 images as on the old cameras. Also on a digital camera you see the results right away no need to wait for 2 weeks.

But the Zorki 4K is still around. Waiting, waiting for the perfect photo.
The search never ends.




The tandem is ready

Yes! The Rex Tandem Duplex bicycle is finished. It has come out of the basement after all this time.

It was a long and interesting experience to tear it down to pieces and putting it back together again. As I mentioned in a earlier post the bicycle has really been used. Many miles along roads, paths and grass fields. The bearing shell for the crank in front was shattered due to enormous forces. During the renovation I noticed that even the rear hub was really worn. Made strange noises and did not spin smoothly. But where to find a replacement rear wheel to an 1940 Rex tandem? Rather impossible sadly. So I decided to fix it as good as I could. The front wheel was a real pain. It was missing an entire bearing. Only a bunch of loose marbles that rolled out on the floor when I took the front wheel apart. Then we have the front break. Well It was good back in the -50’s. With the original handle for the break. I have a regular handle now, comparing to the original handle that was a huge rod. So the amount of breaking needed way less with the original handle. In short, now there is no break on the front wheel. Almost.

The condition of the frame was as the rest of the bicycle. Well used, to say the least. In the long run that is nothing to think about. It is all put together, all parts are there. Only the double stand that are missing. There is one now, but it is wrong. It is to modern so I am looking for an vintage one. The all is set for bike in tweed 2015.

I could search for new vintage parts, like rear wheel and new hubs and so on. But I think it might be better to search for a Rex Tandem in a better condition all togehter is that is the case. This one is used, well used. It is to much things to mend and replace if I want it to be in some what original condition. It is better for it to be in the used and “real” condition. It looks genuine now. After all what use is a bicycle just standing still, and never be used?

One thing I am really proud of is the numberplate, a vintage one from Stockholm. Complete with a mount for it and all. I will keep that number plate no matter what. I am even thinking of tracking down, if possible, the original owner. Could be fun!

After filling the tires with air it was time for the test run. It went splendid! But I noticed a cracking noise from the rear wheel. It turns out that the chain is a worn so it is stale in some joints. I will try to fix a new chain and try if that helps. Then I got two used brow Brooks saddles. They match the bicycle perfectly and are a real pleasure to sit on. Even my grandfathers old bicycle bag looks like it belongs there. We took a ride, downhill at first. No problems, it is riding smoothly and breaks great (with the rear break). But it is heavy! 2 adults and a bicycle that is up there around the 40 kilo mark. Single gear. Now that is some weight you have to pedal. You can do it, but there will not be any racing along the delivery boys in the city. On the other hand, if a car crashes into us when riding the tandem. I am sure the car will break. The tandem bicycle is made of the same material as the first armoured tanks. Or at least railway rails. It would last riding around the world.

It is not a bicycle for everyday usage it. More of a fun thing to have, to ride on special occasions. Like bike in tweed for example.


A ride in the night

It is summer over here. The nights are long and bright. It is the perfect time to ride around on a bicycle and just feel the warmth of the summer night embracing you. No need for a tweed jacket or an cap. Besides soon it is winter and we all need studs on the tires not to slip and slide along the streets on all snow and ice. But that is not the case now. No, only the breeze and I on the road.
But after riding for a bit I noticed some strange sounds from the rear of the bicycle. A sort of squeaking and rattling. It turned out that I need to adjust the rear wheel, the hub has become a little un-tight after all rides I have made this year. It is an easy fix, and a sign of usage so nothing to be concerned about. Old bicycles are like old cars and motorcycles, it is an need of constant maintenance, tightening, adjusting and fixing.
If you got the tools and the know-how it is not a big deal.

So now I got plans for the weekend, repairing and adjusting an old bicycle. A nice weekend!
The question is, should I clean it too? I have not done anything to it since I got it. It still have dirt on the mudguards since the previous owner used it. The previous owner was an elderly gentleman how really was strict with things. It was really interesting to look over the bicycle the first time. The owners little personal things and ideas are clearly visible. I tried to keep so much of the original as possible. Let me explain.

The bicycle in question is an Swedish made Hermes, made in the town of Uppsala. It is made about 1956, at least that is what the rear hub says (German made Torpedo). The bicycle over all is in fairly good condition. All parts are there, they are used and fixed along the way but not abused. The frame has been repainted in some sort of rustproof colour at some point in time. The bicycle has been used daily for a long period of time, standing outside in all weathers. The handlebars is rusty, the original grips where missing and replaced with typical 1970’s plastic grips. The stand was broken and was held in place with a piece of string. In the late 1950’s there was a law in Sweden that said all bicycles must have a rear light. This one have an after market tail light mounted, with the typical “let us make this work” cable montage. That includes lots and lots of electrical tape. The glass on the head light was broken. But the tires where good and kept the air good.

First thing I did was to take a look at the stand. I guessed it was the spring that holds the stand in place where either gone or broken. Sure enough, it was broken. So I simply extended the spring one loop more, adjusted it with a pair of pliers. Removed the string that hold the stand in place. That was fixed. The broken headlight glass, well I had a replacement. Fixed. The headlight brand is Robo and was mounted with a Robo dynamo, they still work perfect. The electrical cord that was hanging around on the frame to the rear light. Removed and saved. Now it looks better, cleaner. Still need to remove the rear light casing and all the traces of the tape. The wheels where turning fine. It seemed to work just fine. The bell on the handlebar is an original “pearl” Swedish invention, they use to be loose and rattle. Not this one works perfect.Last thing I did was to remove the plastic grips. They came of easily only to show that the ends of the handlebar was badly rusted. I removed the rust as well as I could. In my drawer with old parts I had a pair of original grips, the kind that sits with two studs/nails and one screw. Amazing that a pair a grips can do such a huge change. Now, even in the used condition, the bicycle looks much more original and vintage. It is just having polished shoes. You can be dressed in top hat and tails, but if your shoes are dirty it makes a sloppy appearance. If you have polished shoes and regular pants, the look improves plenty. A small trick we learned in the military. Back to the bicycle.

After fixing all the small things I decided to take it for a spin. What a nice ride it was, quick and smooth. But suddenly a girl on a bicycle on the road appeared in front of me. I applied the breaks to lower my speed not to crash in to her. I applied the breaks! THE BREAKS!!! BREAAAAK!

The old bicycle had no breaks. It had been standing so long that the break in the rear hub was not in so good shape. It all turned out well, a couple of hard cranks of breaking. The break slowly started to work again. It is at 50% strength now. No need for more actually, you have to plan the ride more now. Besides you are not supposed to ride full speed into crossings and so on.

I am thinking of tearing it down in to small pieces and having an professional painter refinish the frame. Perhaps paint it black, an black frame with chrome details. What a looker! Hunting down parts to replace all parts that are rusted and so on, it is a fun detective work. It could be a really great looking bicycle after that. But on the other hand, it is in a good shape as now. It is only in need of some road service. I will fix the rattling rear hub and change the saddle (the original one is a bit to squeaky). After all I have an old Brooks B67 saddle in the drawer for bicycle parts.

Riding a vintage bicycle is a ride of style, not speed. While riding along in the summer night, there is no rush at all. You can always stop and take a photo.