Development of cameras, part 6 “epilogue”

There we have it.

Four different cameras used at one occasion. Four different ways to take photos, all with different results.
The Kodak box from the 1930’s with the minimalistic settings. The Rolliecord that took the photographing to a new level with adjustment availabilities with change of shutter speed and f-stop. Then we took a large leap into the digital era with the new Fujifilm X100. That is an camera also used by many pro-photographers as an great backup to their regular cameras. Or as an “back to basics” camera with the rigid lens and old style layout of the controls.
That leave us with the last camera, or phone, or computer or… Well, the iPhone 5s anyway. It is a camera/development laboratory and everything else that you might need for a great everyday photo, all in one.

Of course all cameras has their advantages and disadvantages. The old film cameras has the problem that you can not check the photo at once, if the model blinks, then the photo is ruined and you will find out that a week later. But the advantage with that, are thaty due to the limited frames you have. You really have to see and plan the photo in your head before taking it. Planning, explaining to the model and a lot of thinking of different light settings, pose of teh model, what might work and what might not work. Everything needs to be considered before taking that photo.

With a digital camera its just to get the settings right, set the f-stop to get that depth of field you like. Then it is just to fire away. You can take a photo and then show it to the model to explain what you are wanting from the model and situation. It is a great aid, also if the model blinks. Just take a new photo. Or even better take 3 photos at the same time. After all the roll of film in the digital camera holds about 400 espousers (sort of).

But with your smart phone, there is no settings, nothing. Just point and shoot. The quality are perhaps not so great comparing with the professional camera. But the images are great anyway, all cameras are individuals. The same photo do not look the same with different cameras, as we realized during this series. Here is an image I made (with an app in my phone) where I joined all four cameras photos from the same scene.


Here is one image with the four photos that I have been talking about the last topics. From left to right,
Kodak Box (1930) grainy but genuine.
Rolliecord (1952) the details are great crisp and nice.
Fujifilm X100 (2012) well, the colour and sharpness is fantastic.
iPhone 5s (2013) a good snapshot clear and nice.

The vintage cameras are about the same and so are the digital cameras about the same in style and quality. It all comes down to what you like and what you are going for. Using old vintage cameras with real film would be a great and fun thing if you had possibility to develop and print the photos your self. As an hobby it is just great! I know since I have been doing it. But the digital media is a huge advantage, you can sit by your computer and with a fairly good photo editor you can get really good results. Then the phone, well. If you are only taking photos for fun. For usage to take snapshots of the everyday life, the sunset at the vacation, that girl with the bicycle. Then you can tweak and adjust the photos in the phone it self and get amazing results. The question is, what do you like to get out of the photo? Now on those photos I have been showing you here, I have not edited them in any major way. Only putting my name on them and resize them, perhaps use a clearing up tool for compensating the loss of pixels in the down sizing process. That is it.

Just for fun I took out the phone while sitting on the subway going home from work one day. With an app I changed one of the photos I took with my phone. I started to change settings and colours. Just for fun making a “vintage” style photo. When putting it side by side with the “real” vintage photo like the one created by the Kodak Box. We clearly can see the differences. But when the photo are standing along by it self like below, it really has a feeling of an old photo. Made with a few swipes on a smart phone (that primary are a telephone…).


So what can we say with all this? Any camera is great as long as you get the results you want and captures the scene you see. All cameras has their advantages and disadvantages. For me, the feeling of really taking a photo with the Rolliecord is special. But knowing the amazing results I can get with the Fujifilm really boosts the urge to taking one more photo. But as for pure fun factor nothing beats the iPhone. The accessibility, the easy to take a photo. The way you can take memory snapshots in the moment and still have a great quality photo. That makes the smart phone photos really fun and great to work with.

Just for fun, the photos I have been showing here are just simply examples. One of the reasons for the photo session was to get photos for this post. But we did not only take one photo, there was an entire series. Diferent poses, dresses and settings. Here is one more from that session.


In short I would like to say like this. The best camera is the one you got with you.

The search for the perfect photo is making us wanting to take more photos.
After all the next photo you will take might be the perfect photo. Or the next, or the next after that…


Cameras and bicycles, part 4 ”Fujifilm X100”

It is time for part 4 in my series about cameras and bicycles.

After using old analogue cameras at the bicycle photo session. I started to use my main camera since 2 years back. The first version of the Fujifilm X100.
The X100 was introduced in 2010 at the Photokina show in September 2010 and become a huge success, both because of the amazing image quality. But also because it was one of the first “retro” cameras that combined a modern thinkiong with a stylish design. But they started to make the camera in larger series first in 2011. I got mine from England in early 2012, it came in a great looking box with original strap, some cables, charger for the battery and so on, of course the camera itself was included.

Now, why did I choose this camera? There are other cameras out there that are equally good or better, more “camera” cameras, with changeable lenses and all that extra everything. For me first of all, the X100 has a fixed prime lens (digital 23mm, that equals to about 35mm in the AOV system). So there is no zoom or anything like that. Second it uses the range finder system. That is when you are taking a photo, you are not looking at the object via the lens. But there is a separate window where you need to adjust the focus in and can compose the image in. It is just like my old Leica M camera, and other earlier 135 small frame cameras (including the Zorki 4K ).

The X100 has a unique feature of being able to mix the view finders real optical vision with a electronic information/frame that also creates a frame for the image, just like old the Leica. So you get all information of the digital camera, but you see the objects in real. Like a heads up display on fighter planes.
There are 2 settings for the view finder:
1, optical and digital. You see everything as a old camera but with the extra digital information
2, pure digital on the screen that pops up in the view finder when flicking the lever on the front of the camera. The extra screen shows the image that the information from the lens gives it also adds the histogram and , just like the regular back display on a digital camera battery status and remaining space on the memory card. With that view you see exactly what you get when pressing the release button.

There is settings for different classical Fujifilm films programmed into the camera. You can choose normal, black and white, different versions of Fuji colour films. For example I have always used the settings in digital cameras that gave me more richness in the colours. In the X100 settings there is an option to simulate the “Velvia” film that Fujifilm developed as an alternative to Kodaks Kodachrome 25 film back in the 1990’s. With this setting the colours are becoming richer and there is more power in the photos. To be honest I am not a big fan of pre-production/editing of photos. Once there was a famous photographer that once said that” he crops the photo in the view finder instead of cropping the photo in the development process”. That quote got stuck with me since I started to take photos and I always tries to take photos like that. What I see, is what I want the image to look like. With the possibility of different colour settings in the camera I most rarely need to adjust the colour tones in the post production.
I only edits the photos when I want a black and white photo. Then I convert the image to black and white, raise the contrast quite a bit. Just to get the feel of grainy b/w photos. The old Kodak TRI-X feeling (witch is impossible to mimic).

Back to the X100. One of the other main advantages with the camera is that the aperture and shutter speeds are placed on knobs that are just like a “real” camera. That is the shutter speed is set with a knob beside the shutter release button. The aperture are set with a ring on the lens, like a real camera. I can very easily choose the settings as I like them and also change then in a quick manner. Both on the aperture and the shutter settings there is an “A” mode, so I do not have to think as much. Of course there is also the other digital advantages like menus, settings and a digital display on the back of the camera.
But for me that have been using a Leica M camera for many years, I used a Pentax SLR camera for a short period. But I used mainly the range finder cameras Leica, Zorki and others. I am used to how they works and all that. It feels comfortable for me.

I remember when using the X100 for the first time, realizing that the zoom is in your feet again. The way I had to bend my knees and crawl on the floor to get the image I wanted. It was just like the olden days, except my knees hurts now, must be of not using them. It can’t be the age showing?
It was a way of taking photos that I had forgotten, but quickly got back to. Sometimes I wish there was a possibility to change lenses. Or even be able to fit my old Russian lenses on the camera, it would be fun. But a classical 35 mm lens is good for so many different things, portraits, landscape, everyday life.
I like the X100 very much, but there is a X100s out there that is even better so I heard. It even got the old focusing prism style range finder so I am told. Did I mention that you can focus by turning on the focusing ring on the X100 lens? It is a great camera!

One of the huge advantages with an digital camera is the storage for the photos. As I mentioned the the 2 earlier parts in the series. The Kodak box had space for 8 photos on one roll of 120 film. The Rolliecord had 12 photos on the same type of film. The digital camera uses a memory card, if you use one with 8 GB space and the settings on the camera are set to medium image quality. Then you can fit 4000 images or there about. There is no need to look at every photo you take, just fire away. Take 3-4 photos more than just one, then save all. You never know when you are going back and looking at the ones that was bad at first look, they might be really good at a second look or when looking at them in the computer. That brings us to the second huge advantage, that is the possibility to look at the images at once. Just press the play button to watch what you just took a photo of. Perhaps when having a photo session with a model, you can show the model straight away the look and your visions of how the result would be. After all, the model never knows what you “see”. With a digital camera you can show in a easy way. So the model understands you and can help you to get that perfect image that all photographers are searching for.

The “old” look of the Fujifilm X100 is very genuine, especially after I added an twinned leather strap and my soft release button (the big red dot on the top fo the camera). Also on the top you can see the shutter speed selector know, there is a compensation knob to. That ones allows you to force the camera to create darker or lighter photos. Back in the old days you had to calculate that by yourself. On the front of the camera is the lens and a small lever. That lever controls the digital display in the view finder. But it looks like a old rewind lever. On the back there is buttons for the digital menus and an large display.  As an option I bought an UV filter so the lens would be protected against dust and fingerprints. I do not want to cereate scratches on teh lens, so I have always used UV filters. Some say that using a filter like that is distorting the image. If it does, I do not know. But I am not selling my photos, so for me it is no big difference. Then I bought an lens hood. That is one more thing that I always have used, also to prevent scratches and accidental damages to the lens. The camera looks way more cooler too with a lens hood….

After using the vintage cameras I brought out the X100 camera out of the back. The girl was standing by the bicycle waiting. The camera was set to auto on everything. Now there is a silly thing with the camera. I think it is because of a thing I heard a while ago. In Japan it is illegal to take photos with out a shutter sound. So in the menu of the camera there is an option of 3 different settings of shutter sounds. It is not the shutter itself that makes a sound. It is a pre-recorded sound than mimics a shutter. So there are three sounds, all slightly different. “click”, “clock”and “clack” sort of. Very strange. Since the digital camera has no shutter in that way. The only sounds you can hear with taking a photo is the silent whisper when the aperture sets. But it is so silent it is silly, I think a flies cough is louder.

Anyway, I started it up, looked in the view finder and composed the image and pressed the release button.

“click”, or something like that.


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.


Old taperecorders and new phones

It is not all about old bicycles around herein Schneebremse world. No, it is even about old tape recorders.

I had an dream for many years. Ever since I first saw a Nagra reel to reel tape recorder I wanted to own one. All those dials and buttons was very impressive to me and it was a rather good looking machine. Later on with internet, I started to do some research about the recorders and found out much information that made me even more curious about them. There was only two small things that was stopping me from getting one. First, the availability. They are rare. Not an item found in your local supermarket. Second, when finding one in working order, the price is rather expensive. But one day I saw an Nagra 4.2 reel to reel tape recorder for sale in an auction. I placed a bid and waited.

I won!

There I had it! My very own Nagra 4.2 tape recorder. Made by Kudelski SA in Switzerland in the 1970’s. The one I won at the auction also came with a large carry bag.  Sadly there was no adapter for the Nagra to work on the electrical grid. So I bought 12 (twelve!!) batteries. Not the small AA ones. No no, the large “D” ones was needed. I mounted them in the recorder, flicked the switch for power, tested the power level and started it up. It worked like a charm! Playback, recording, everything. The machine itself was a piece of art. Clear plastic cover on top, protecting the tape and reels. All metal chassis, knobs, dials and an large VU meter with scales all over. Impressive!

Later on, a friend who wanted to record a podcast, asked if I could bring the recorder along so we could try it out. “No problem” I replied. I packed a microphone in the bag along with the Nagra recorder (with it’s 12 batteries). Then we went out on the town to record “on-the-go” podcast episodes. We walked around, looking at things, recording along the way. It felt just as the good old days or reporters.
We recorded some episodes for testing. They sounded great! The feeling of an real reel to reel tape recorded working, while recording. It was a fun and “cool” feeling. It was a “genuine” reportage and recording. Later when I came home I realized a big disadvantage with recording with the Nagra. That was to get the recording up on internet, I needed first to record the recording again. That is record the recording into my computer so I could get a digital copy. It felt like a bit of double work there.

Some months after the first recording, the friend asked if we should do a new recording. But this time he had bought a small microphone made for his smartphone that he wanted to try out. We met again in town, did some recordings. Again we walked around recording things, talking and describing the town. When we stopped for lunch, he simply uploaded the recordings right away into my email. So when I came home, I simply edited the results adding theme music and so on.

I must admit, digital recordings are simple, effective, not depending on so many thing as length of tape, working electronics in the same way. But one of the heavy argument (no pun intended), a smartphone do not use 12 (twelve !!) “D” batteries . The Smartphone can easily fit in you pocket, so can the microphone. I would like to see anyone put a Nagra 4.2 tape recorded in their pocket. Or even more so, I would love to the the pocket that fits the tape recorded, also the microphone. Hey, the smartphone is smaller than the microphone to the Nagra. So now I am leaving the Nagra to a new auction. Now it is up next person who wants a piece of history and Swiss quality craftsman ship. I have owned own, so I am pleased now. After all, there is no usage for an Nagra 4.2 today, not as a recording device. Not as a play back machine either. Even that is better on the smartphone. On the Nagra there is some 30 minutes of recordings, on a smartphone you can have music for months… non-stop!

I am forced to say that the technology is advanced. Today it is simpler, lighter. It is so easy to create recordings with excellent result with an endless possibility to edit and change effects in an easy an accessible way. A recording with a smartphone is simply a small click away for the world to listen to.

But still. Nagra 4.2 is such a good looking recorder, there is no smartphone that has an analogue vu meter or shiny metal panels today.
It was perhaps not better in the old days, but they sure knew how to create great looking tape recorders.



Small update about “Lady Blue”.

The bicycle is now in parts. All the parts has been inspected, cleaned and checked. The most damaged parts, has been replaced. The saddle, sadly the original one was in really bad condition so it had to go. I found a worn old Brooks saddle, they look vintage and are good for comfort. The handlebar was repainted in an industrial colour. There I found a good replacement from the same era, the handlebar grips, bell, lamp, dynamo, skirt-protectors to the mud guard in back. The mud guard stands, tires, tubes and rim protectors. All is parts now just waiting to be assembled.
It will be a great looking one when its done. The girl who wants to use it is looking forward to see the bicycle.

I learned some history of the bicycle from the co-worker I received it from.  He told me that the first owner was born in 1927, in the town of Kalmar in sothern Sweden. She was given the bicycle on her 8th birthday. Then she had the bicycle all her life until she became old and did not want to cycle around more. The the bicycle was handed to a friend of the old lady. Nowdays the friend never use the bicycle so I was given them instead.
So the bicycle was made in the same town as the girl grew up in and most likely to be from 1935. Only 78 years ago.

Oh, about the old enamel cup in the photo. It is good for drinking beer, water, hot coco, tea, lemonade. Not all at once of course, but it is a good cup, very usable. You can even put it on the stove, fireplace and heat food, soups, drinks.
Beside all that, it looks vintage to.