Cameras and bicycles, part 2 “Kodak box”

Here it is, the first part about the different cameras I used on my bicycle photo session and my thoughts about the cameras I used.

In this the first part I will talk about a an camera that are from the years around 1929-1931. It is a Kodak box camera, most likely to be an “No.3 Brownie”. Kodak made many different models of the “box” and  “Brownie” over the years. So I am not 100% sure what model I used so to make it easy I will only call it the “Kodak box” in the text. After all the model name is not so important, the important part is the camera itself.

It is made out of pressed cardboard with a sort of vinyl cover with a leather handle on top that got the brand stamped into it. The lens is a simple glass lens that is covered by the shutter. The shutter itself is a very simple made device. It is a sheet of metal that covers the lens and when pressing down the release, the metal sheet that is held back with a small spring simply slides pass the lens and creates an small gap for the light to enter the camera and be caught on the film making an exposure. This simple shutter got two speed settings. One is the time the spring loaded metal sheet takes to cross the lens when activated by pressing the lever. The other speed is what we today call “B” mode, or “bulb” as it is also known. To engage the “B” mode on the Kodak box you simply slide up a small metal hinge/stop that stops the shutter in fully open setting when pressing the release lever. It is open until you press down the metal hinge/stop. Very simple, very easy to operate, very fool proof.

To see what you are taking photos of there is the view finders. They are two small windows with an small mirror inside the creates an 90 degree angle, one on top of the camera and one on the side. They are constructed more like an “aim over there” windows. You line up the camera on the subject looks in down in the camera and sees what is in front of the camera. The you press the shutter release lever. A discrete click is one of two noises the camera makes. When taking a photo with the Kodak box there is no way of knowing of you have pressed the release lever or not. So the best is always as soon as you taken a photo advance the film to the next frame. Look at the red window in the back of the camera and wind to the next digit and that is where the next noise appears. The scraping sounds of the advance lever.

This version of the Kodak box camera uses the classic “120” film (120 is the Kodak number of the film, they introduced it in 1901). When loading the camera you simply pull out the film advance lever and releases the two hinges, one on top and one on the side. Then you slide out the front of the camera, on the front plate are the film carriers mounted, like a big cartridge. The camera is made in two main parts. The front part with the lens, shutter, viewfinders and film carriers. You load the film, the insert the entire cartridge in the box again. Fasten the hinges and press in the advance know. Then on the back of the camera there is an red little window where the information on the film is visible. You wind the advance lever until you see the digit “1” being visible in the red window. Then the camera is ready for action. Easy!

The loading and also the unloading of the camera is no major problems. Operating the camera is no problem either. After all it is one of the first cameras for the everyday person. The box cameras was made in huge amounts over a long period of time. I think it was close to 50 years, different upgraded models of course. But still the same general concept, a box. Anyone can use a camera like this. But back then in the early 1900’s there was only a few selections of films. They where often in need of a good light surroundings when taking photos. This 120 film I used was a ASA value 100. That was considered in the 1930’s to be an high speed film. The regular brands was down to ASA 25 and there about. When loading the 120 film it comes winded up on a spool and sealed with an small paper tag. First you remove the paper tag, then you take the end of the paper cover that is shaped as an arrow and slide in it to the receiving spool. Gently wind the receiving spool so the film is wounded up securely on the spool. Then you close the camera and wind it until there is a “1” in the red window. The Kodak camera exposes the negative in an 6X8 centimetres large frame. So there is only room for 8 exposures on one roll 120 film. You really have to think when taking photos with a camera like this. 8 exposures, that is it. Then you need to insert a new film. Film are expensive. So you have to make sure that every photo counts.

On the photo above we can see the Kodak box “No.3 Brownie” camera with the viewfinders visible as the two small squares on top and on the side of the camera. The two small holes in the front is where the viewfinders are “looking”. You can see the hinges that secures the two main parts together. One on top and one on the side. There is also the film advance lever on the bottom part of the camera, just below the hinge on the side. The shutter release in located in a slot in front of the bottom hinge. There is also a roll of 120 film beside the camera were the paper tag is visible. Beside the film is the original pick-up spool made of metal, today they are made of plastic.

After taking the last photo on the film. You wind the film until you feel there is no resistance when winding the advance lever. Then it is uploaded on the receiving spool. Then you gently open the camera and with a firm grip on the roll remove the film. There is a small paper tag on the end of the paper cover of the film, you fold a small bit of the paper cover and lick the paper tag, it has glue like an envelope on the back, to secure that the roll is kept together. When you glued the tag on place you can let go of the film. If you do not do that there is a possibility that the film will unwind and then the negative will be exposed by light and all photos you have taken is ruined. On that paper tag you just licked and glued on, it often says “exposed” or something like that. Just so you know what film that has been used or that is unused. You have not used your first 120 film in a vintage camera. Now you have to find a developer that can develop 120 film for you and possibly make some prints of the negatives. That is easier said than done.

Today the shops with develop service are few and far apart. It is not cheep to have a roll of 120 film developed and have prints, I found a place that charges  €24 for one roll of 8 photos, develop + prints + CD backup. I wanted to have the negatives scanned into a CD record as an backup. It is good to have backups in this digital world. After all I must get the photos into the computer somehow and the shop offered a CD service at an additional fee. The sad thing is that they printed the copies (photos) from the digital scanning, not a analogue print from the negative. So the images are flat and have no feeling at all in my opinion. I want to have developed copies, on dull paper with a white frame, having a small smell of chemicals. I use to make those copies my self in the bathroom in the olden days so I am kind of used to the smell of photo chemicals. That was a bit of turn down for me. But on the other side, it is the development of everything. No one use shops to develop and print copies today. Everything is digital and simple. So even the shops are digital and simple these days.

But can the digital age beat the feeling of standing there with a Kodak box camera and pressing the release lever to hear a small “click” from when the metal sheet rushes past the lens?

Here is the photo I took with the Kodak camera. Notice the unfocused photo due to the distance to the bicycle and the girl. The sharpness is focused on the grass behind the girl. If I had take 2 steps back the photo would be in focus. But over all, it is not to bad. It is a cheep camera made in 1930, never fixed never serviced. Last time it was used was in the 1950’s when my father and his brother used it as a toy. I took it out of the drawer at home, loaded it with film. I aimed the camera at the girl with the bicycle and pressed the lever.



Cameras and bicycles. Part 1, “prologue”

I was out and taking photos of a friend posing with Lady Blue a while back, as seen here.
Usually when taking photos like that I use my Fujifilm X100 camera. It is a good camerae for those kinds of photo sessions, small but very powerful. But this time I was going to do something special. I was going to take photos of an bicycle made in 1930’s with a camera made in the same era. The model was going to use clothes that was inspired of that era. It was a good opportunity to use my grandmothers old Kodak box camera that also originates from the 1930’s. It all could be a fun and interesting experience.

In the end it all ended up that I used 4 cameras. I got the idea of comparing the images and see what is to prefer, what is easiest and cheapest or even what camera got the most “feeling” in the end result. Some sort of consumer guide in a way. Not a valid guide in any way, since hardly anyone uses those old cameras today. In general, the persons that are using film cameras today they know what they are doing, they are using professional cameras. No one uses old Kodak boxes. But since it was an matter of keeping the originality and the spirit of 1930. Also to have fun while doing it I got some “120” films from a friend. He sponsored me because he thought it would be a fun project (120 film is the description of the kind of film that was/is used in old middle format cameras). We both used to take lots of photos back then with analogue cameras.

At this session I used the following cameras:
1, Kodak No. 2 made around 1930.
2, Rollecord IV from 1953
3, Fujifilm x100 from 2012
4, iPhone 5s from 2013

My intentions are now to write what my experience was when using these cameras. Advantages, disadvantages, thoughts and feelings. In short the general feeling of using them again after all these years. When I started to take photos I used those old cameras all the time because that was all that existed, then the digital era came along and put an end to the analogue era in one blow. Perhaps a bit like old vinyl records, a many years ago there was entire shops that sold vinyl records. But when the CD came along it all changed over a short period of time. Same with cameras. When the digital era came the entire usage of old cameras changed over a night. Of course there is people that says, whit cameras as well as vinyl records, that the digital era can never replace the “real” thing. I like to say yes and no at that statment. There is advantages with digital photography. As well there is disadvantages. Same with vinyl records. There are huge advantages, but also huge disadvantages it all depends on what you want to achive.

First of all we must think of what kind of differences there are between analogue and digital cameras.There is of the camera it self, then there is the quality of the image and lastly the “mojo” or feeling of it all combined.

An digital camera can never replace the feeling of winding the film forward to the next frame. But the analogue camera can never be as easy handled as an digital one. With the old cameras you took a photo and hoped that it would be good. With a digital, you find out the result direct.
With an 120 film camera you got 8-12 espousers, or an 135 film camera 36 exposures. With an digital camera you can take photos until the memory card is full (and today the memory cars are enormous in capacity), at least 300 photos. Or until your finger gets sore.

With the digital camera you have pixels. Back then it was film grain. It all depends on what your intentions are for the image. If you want to make a HUGE blow up of your favourite photo, then you need as fine grain as possible or as high pixel rate as possible otherwise it all would look really bad, all grainy or big squares instead of fine lines. But for an everyday user, or as me an happy amateur photographer. I am totally fine with the average pixel level in a modern camera. The largest print I aver made was an A3 format, with that size a standard digital camera is just fine.
Then we can mention the iPhone, or any smart phone today (I use an iPhone so that is why I am keep referring to it). The camera on the phones today is really, really good. The lens is of an good quality, the sensor is good. Then phones of today take as good as, if not better photos than the digital cameras 10, or even 5 years ago. Speaking in an user friendly price range of course. I am not thinking of the professional equipment, but the regular cameras for us every day users and amateur photographers.  Today can take a photo with your phone. Then simply select from an enormous range of editing programs that made for your modern smart phone, some are free others costs a small almost symbolic amount of money. There is even a few basic editing possibility in the phone itself as default. But whit a rather simple and cheep program (or “app/application” as they are called) you can edit and tweak the photo as an professional laboratory or at home with your computer while standing in line at the bus stop.
In your hand you have a phone that has over 150 years of taking photos experience. You can swipe and pinch a regular photo until it looks simply amazing.

With an old vintage camera you set the exposure, set the shutter, the f. stop, compose the image, set the focus. Then press the release and “click”, that is an image, perhaps. You have to wait and see when you get back the photos after them being developed. Then the photos are as they are, out of focus, the person is blinking and so on. If you want to have a paper copy of the image, the you have to go to an developer with your negative and choose the size and glossy or dull finish on the paper. You can develop and enlarge at home to, but then you need all sorts of gadgets and things. Fluids, water rinse, developer machine, filters for different light effects, photo paper and so on. I know, because I used to do all that before.
Standing hunched over deep trays and breathing in chemicals in the red light of an dark room all nights long. It was fun to see your photo own develop.

With an digital camera you can compose the image and the just fire away. The result is direct, if the person blinks. You simply take a new photo or even 10 new photos. When you are done taking photos you connect the camera to your computer and transfer the images you like to the computer for extra editing or even sending them to the person you was taking photos of. If you want to make prints of the images you like, you simply send the images to one of many internet based developers, you pay a small fee. Then within a week you have your images in your hand in the size and format you chosen.

With an phone you can take a series of photos then while sitting on the subway you can choose the best image, edit and tweak it. Then you can text the image to friends, upload on social media or upload them to one of those internet based developers I mentioned earlier. There is even sites that are specialist on images taken with phones that have special formats on the prints. More of that later on.

Now, this will be an series of 6 sections. This, the first is only an introduction or prologue of it all. Next topic will be about the Kodak and my thoughts about that one when using and I will write about the results I got. Then I will talk about all 4 cameras I used during the photo session I had. The last section will only an epilogue to wrap it all up with final thoughts from me. Sounds that like something you like to read?
Part 1, prologue
Part 2, Kodak box
Part 3, Rolleicord
Part 4, Fujifilm x100
Part 5, iPhone
Part 6, Epilogue

Stay in tune for the first section of the series in “camera thoughts”.
As an teaser here is the 4 cameras that was used during the photo session.


No breaks and a sticky chain

After having problems with the breaks on the red bicycle, the Greek god Hermes (you know, the god with wings on his feet). I decided the last weekend to take a look at the breaks condition on the bicycle. After all, when you think about it. Breaks can be useful sometimes when cycling in traffic or cycling in general. As I mentioned in a previous topic about the breaking capacity of the Hermes bicycle and that leaves some things to wish for. In short, the breaks on the bicycle were there. But were there only in a pure theoretical way. Physical, they were not so much there, or even not at all, to be honest.
The break was perhaps well used, old, worn or simply broken. Something was wrong with the break in the rear wheel hub and it needed to be fixed.

A while back I bought an very old, very worn, black metal box that contained vintage bicycle tools and parts at an internet auction. In that box there was among other things an old Torpedo non-geared hub, complete with an break cylinder. So I thought that I got the tools, I have dismounted and remounted Torpedo hubs before. Why not take a look at the hub, and see if I can fix or change the break cylinder. It could be a fun project a Saturday afternoon.
So I took out the bicycle out of the storage room in the basement. Put some rags on the floor to protect the wooden handlebar grips and the saddle. Turned the bicycle upside down and then I started to lay out the tools, almost like a surgeon before an operation. I had a small can of fine oil, one can of regular oil, one bucket of grease, a big bottle of cleaning agent, a regular slotted screwdriver and three special tools. One was a multi tool to loosen the bolts that holds the wheel in place. The second tool was a Torpedo multi tool, special made for the Torpedo hubs back in the olden days.  The last tool was to be able to loose the locking bolts on the front wheel hub.

With the slotted screwdriver I loosened and removed the four screws that hold the chain guard in place. With the same screwdriver I removed the chain lock and removed the chain, it was due to be cleaned anyway. After all, oil and grease from 1954 is not so lubricant these days. Perhaps more an stale layer of dirt and “stuff”. The chain needed to get cleaned then greased up with new fresh grease and oil. This fixing the breaks operation, turned out not to be an total cleaning of the rear hub only. But also a cleaning of the front hub and lubrication of the moving parts there. I took a look at the crank for the pedals, well… To be honest… I must save something to do this winter, I can not do everything now. I must save some work for those long and cold winter nights. After all, the pedals spins around rather well as they are. So they will stay so for a few more months. No need to tear down those parts just yet. But the front wheel needed new lubrication and a good cleaning since it was a bit friction in the hub.

Back to the rear Torpedo hub. After loosening the bolts to the rear wheel, removing the wheel. Loosening the bolts and washers with the special tool I started to clean the parts I took apart. The colour of the grease/oil/dirt that I wiped from the bearings and axle, well. It was not looking healthy to say the least. I started to clean all parts carefully. I put them in a jar of cleaning agent, then after a while I took the parts out one by one and wiping them clean, drying, re-grease and placed them on a cloth. After inspecting the parts so see if anything was broken. I found that on the rear cogwheel one cog was missing, broken off. That would explained the crackling chain noise when cranking before. I remounted everything together again,  it fitted well together and then I mounted the hub parts in the hub casing of the wheel. I noticed that the casing was worn inside, where the break had been eating away a little bit of the surface of the metal. I tightened it all together with the tools and then I put the wheel in the frame again. There I tried to see if the wheel was spinning in a good way. No problems at all. I added some drops of fine oil into the fill cap on the hub. There is a small cap for refilling oil on the hub, at the same place where all information about maker and year are located on the Torpedo hub. They knew what they did back then.

Then I did the same with the front wheel. Sadly no oil cap there. But still, new grease and a drop or two of oil. It was needed. Original grease since 1954.

Then it was the chains turn to get cleaned. I let it soak in a cleaning agent for a while. Then with a old tooth brush I brushed away all the dirt and oil residue. Then wipe, clean and repeat again. After a few passes the chain looked really good and did not crackle or had any stiff joints at all. I used the thicker old oil and lubricated the chain. In the same style as my father did, and my grandfather did.
When I was going to mount the chain on the bicycle again. I noticed that the chain’s every joints had become worn during all the years of usage. The chain had become longer than it was from the start. If a joint adds 0.5 mm it do not seem like much, but when that happens  to 40-50 joints it is a becomes quite a bit longer. So, I needed to shorten the chain. Now days they use an special tool that is easy and quick, with a few turns you have shortened the chain. But since the methods I use and every tool available are from the 1940’s. I simply shortened the chain as they did back in the 1940’s. I used an steady bracket with an hole in it. I placed the chain flat on top of it with the joint positioned over the hole. Then grab a punch and a hammer. Find the joint stud that are the match for the chain lock link. Give the punch a good whack with the hammer and there you go. A shorter bicycle chain.

I fitted the chain to the bicycle after the adjustments, a perfect match! Now I can even adjust the chain tension by moving the wheel forward or backwards. Before I cleaned up everything the wheel was as stretched as could be, still there was a 5 centimetre play on the chain (it should only be about 1 centimetre flexibility). There is a  reason why only there should be an about 1 centimetre play on the chain. It is because the risk of the chain jumping cogs while riding the bicycle. When stressing the cranks-chain-cogs. Some thing is bound to happen, like the chain jumps a couple of cogs. Or worse the chain jumps all cogs or even jumps away from the cogs so suddenly there is no tension at all. If you are pressing hard on the pedals, perhaps even standing up in a up hill and the chain jumps. Well, it can end up really really bad. But also the wear on the cogs is greater with a chain that do not fit the cogs properly.

Now the chain was in place with good tension, the wheels where in place all cleaned and lubricated with grease and oil. It was like brand new bicycle! I tested to crank the pedals while the bicycle was standing upside down. Not a sound. I tried the break. It worked, everything was in place. Time to take the bicycle out for a test run. Out on the street I jumped on and tested it. Not a sound, squeek or crack from the wheels and chain! I even tried to hit the break hard. The rear wheel stopped at once and made a tire scream!

I have breaks again! Now I can use the bicycle in traffic again with out having the special feeling of bad or even non-existing breaks. After all, there is some advantages with breaks and having the choice to stop when I want.

Back in the basement again, I decided to also clean up the chrome/stainless steel mudguards and the other details while I where at it.
There is something therapeutic with a chrome polish a rag. Sitting and listening to jazz and polishing metal, seeing the before dirty and spotted metal becoming all shiny and clean again. I got carried away of course so I polished the handlebar, headlight and so on. Now it is only the frame left to clean. But as I mentioned earlier, I will save something to do for the long cold winter.

One thing that is amazing with this bicycle. That is the way how it is made. All parts and so on, there is a thought behind it all.
1955 is the perfect bicycle year in my opinion. For example, there is a handle on the frame placed so when you lift the bicycle in the handle it is perfectly balanced. Regular front wheels use to turn when lifting up the bicycle. But here they made a small spring loaded steering guide, that keeps the front wheel straight while on a stand or being lifted. Genius!
Then we have the tool box under the luggage rack. It contains tools and an air pump for the tires and got a small compartment for an tire repair kit. When you apply the lock on the bicycle when parked. Even the tool box is then locked in place by the lock. So you can not open the box with out the key! Also, the chain guard is mounted on special mounts that are pre drilled and welded onto the frame. No need for a nut or fiddly brackets, only the screw. Unscrew 4 screws and the chain guard is removed, easy as 1, 2, 3.
I got hold of some tools earlier. With these tools I can take the bicycle down in small pieces. Multi tools from an era where they used real grease, not the stuff you use in your hair or on modern mechanical parts. The tools are amazing. With those special tools, I can unscrew the most things.

I mentioned above in the text that I have an special key to the Torpedo hub. There is nothing I can not do with that key. Well, at least when it is about Torpedo single gear hubs from 1930-1950’s. But now I at least can mend and fix vintage Torpedo hubs. I am not to sure that is an skill that counts when applying for work today. Who knows…

But those simple tools made of metal works today as well as they did back then. It is fun to repair and fix things when you got the tools for the job.

Even if the tools are over 60 years old.





Lady blue and the girl with the white dress

During a photo session I attended to a few weeks back. By coincidence one of my friends on that photo session and I started talking about taking a new sets of photos with her as an model. I mentioned the old bicycle I had been renovation during the winter and that I wanted to take photos of for this blog. The idea of an photo session with her as an model and having period looking clothes came up. We both thought it could be a great and fun idea. After all, I had my favourite place in the forest nearby, where it is a good place for photos in an neutral place regarding when era the photos are taken in. We decided a date when we would meet and take photos of her and lady blue. All just for fun.

The day had come. I made a quick service on Lady Blue, checking that all nuts and bolts where tightened and that the tires where filled with air after being standing unused for a few weeks. But now it was time for Lady Blue to see the sunlight again. To feel the road underneath her new tires rushing by. Feeling the fresh air and leaping forward like an deer. I took a ride to the meeting place on the bicycle. I was surprised on how smooth and quiet ride was. No rattling what so ever. Everything felt so perfect, like a brand new bicycle in a way.

I have mentioned this before, but I can mention it again. The things I have done so far on the bicycle is that I first had the bicycle down in small parts. They were cleaned and greased up with everything what that includes. I also  got “NOS” (new old stock) parts, to either replace the parts that where damaged or that were missing. First of all I got an very old and worn Brooks saddle along with a new made saddle post that fitted the bicycles old frame standard and the saddles mount. On an auction I found a 1930’s headlight made by the Swedish brand ASEA. I also found the dynamo that is from that era and the same ASEA brand on an different auction.

The brand new grey tires are really looking like they are from that period, sadly there is a yellow makers brand on them. But they are only visible from one side. So I decided to mount the tires so the maker brand was facing the opposite way as the chain guard. That was only because to get the clean look on that side. I also got valve caps in metal with an small chain that are fastened on the valve it self. It is an small and silly detail, but it gives a great touch and looks just so great in my opinion.

For pure decoration I got a spring that holds the electrical cord from the dynamo to the headlight. It was a very typical thing they had in the olden days.
An unused chain guard was won on an auction. The guard still had the price tag in place. I polished up the chain guard up so it matched the other polished parts on the bicycle. In an bicycle shop I found handlebars with the right curvature as in the 1930’s. One more auction gave me a set of NOS wooden grips for the handlebars and an bicycle bell from the same era. The sound and chime of that bell. It is out of this world, so crisp and clear. After all years, it still works and are no problem with not getting attention.

But that amazing skirt guard that I found long before. That I also have been talking about in earlier posts. It sure is looking really great on the bicycle! I must say that all the colours are really lovely in the sunlight, far greater than in the florescent lighting in the basement that I have been seeing it in so far. The net is shimmering in different colours and gives the bicycle a complete look. The frame, the mudguards and the polished parts, it all shines and have a depth in the colours. In short, Lady blue still got it. She is still a beauty, the grace and finesse is still there. The old bicycle rides as well as it looks after the renovation and are simply in great shape for being 80 years old.

The girl I met for the photo session, saw the bicycle and liked it a lot. She tried it and took the bicycle for a ride, she really loved it. We went to the place for the photo session and took  lots of photos. Included in this post is one of the photos.

It was great to see the old bicycle being used once a again as it once was meant to be. But not as back in the days with rain, snow and hard work. Now in 2014 the old bicycle will only being used on sunny days and going out for some nice rides. Lady Blue needs the rest. My intentions where to enter the Bike in Tweed race in Stockholm with Lady in Blue this year. Sadly I can not join the Bike In Tweed event this year due to reasons that I could not adjust in anyway.

But if there will be an Bike In Tweed event in 2015, I will ask the girl with the blue dress if she wants to borrow Lady in Blue and join the event. I honestly think it will be an great combination and an very appreciated display by the other participants and the bystanders. Also the girl in the blue dress like the idea of dressing up and having fun. Who knows, she might even have a tweed dress in her closet… That would make it simply perfect.

Fun in a tweed on a bicycle.