The return of the old camera

Many years ago I bought a camera in a shop in central Stockholm.

It was back then when digital cameras was something only used in spy shows on TV. The shop I was a regular customer at was owned by a old man. He collected old cameras and was very kind, he had many regular customers that just went there to talk and look at cameras, new and old. On the shelf behind the counter was his collection of old and obscure cameras and photo equipment, it was cameras from 1890’s up to 1950’s. All covered with a thick layer of dust. But in the window facing the street he had two separate displays. One display was with modern cameras and lenses of all the best brands. The newest gear and gadgets. But the other display was with top end vintage cameras. There was Leica M2 and M3’s standing along with Hasselblad 500/CM and 500/EL cameras, lenses and bodies. Vintage Nikon F cameras with all lenses and accessories. It was in that shop where I bought my Leica M2, that I used very much and regrettably sold many years later. There where also Rollei cameras on display, Rolleiflex and Rolleicord of all models.
After using my fathers old Rolleicord for some time I decided that I would like to have my own camera. After all if I was to drop or damage my fathers camera it would be a great shame. So, after looking and trying some of the cameras he had on display I decided to buy a Rolleiflex 3,5 series with Tessar lens (a bit cheaper than the more expensive Planar version). The camera in my hands was made back in 1955 or so, so it was a used camera but still in great condition for  a old camera. I got it with some filters and a lens-hood “on the house” from the old shop owner. I think he was happy that a young person was buying the camera for using and not because it was a cool gadget. Today that shop is gone. Even the building it was located in is gone.

I used the Rolleiflex a lot! Since I developed the film myself and made photo copies in the bathroom I could buy really large boxes of 120 film at a good price. After using these old manual cameras I learned to measure the light without any light meter. It was fun to take photos, looking for good angles. Reading old books from 1950’s on “how to learn photography” and so on. I shoot many great photos back then with all kinds of motives. There was many really bad ones to, as it should be when learning and developing you skills.

There was one former photographer that once told me “if one image is good on a entire roll of film. Then it was a good session”. That is the kind of quotes that stayed with me, even today I remember that and takes photos like that. But with a digital camera and a memory card that holds 300 photos it is a bit more than one good photo ratio. But it actually makes sense. Not every photo turns out good. But it also is a practise thing. After a while the bad photos are getting fewer and fewer. The good ones starts to pop up more and more. You train your eye to “see” a photo. When you know the camera you are using, how it works and how it behaves. Then you might get along well. Some cameras are a real pain of some reasons. You do not get along at all. The camera is not your friend. The best is when the camera becomes a part of your senses and you feel connected.


Back to the Rolleiflex 3.5. I used it a lot but there was a friend at my work, that also used a Rolleiflex for that great middle format photos. But his Rolleiflex was older than mine and bit more worn. We talked about them and it all ended up with me selling mine to him. He was very happy with it, it was more modern than his old one. During the following years he took it around on different locations and was taking really great photos. For example he was in the northern parts of Sweden and shoot some really nice nature/landscape views. He also brought it to New York and got some classic black and white photos of “the big apple”.

But with the introduction of the digital cameras, the old camera was used less and less.  Earlier this year he decided to sell his old analogue camera gear that he did not had any use for anymore.  One day he asked me if I would like to buy back my old Rolleiflex that he had been using for all these years. I was reminded of the old camera that I had almost forgot about. So, I replied yes of course. I would buy it back since he was not using it any more, for me it would be a great item to have. But also to use again.

In short, about 15 years later I got back my first own middle format camera. The same camera I bought for the money I determinately saved from work. With the lens covers, lens-hood and filters. Just as when I used it. I remembered when I was getting some covers for the lenses and not finding the original Rolleiflex. So I used a Rolleicord cover instead. It looks great, but it fits not so great. But it a classy look with that metal cover.

A few weeks ago, I got the question from the girl at the bicycle photo session. She had some ideas of photos now when it is fall in Sweden. I thought it was an great idea and packed up the digital gear. But in the cupboard along the Rolleiflex was some rolls of 120 film. Just for fun I brought the old camera with me. When bringing out the vintage cameras on a session these days it makes a great success. It looks like a “real” camera also it sounds like one when taking photos and winding the film. The entire loading the film is an procedure that are quite odd today. But for me it is a moment of nostalgia. The tearing of the paper tab on the rol, feeding the film into the guide rails and cranking the film to square “1”. It is is all familiar things to do. But for me, I must rethink and think in  a different way when taking photos with the vintage camera. The tempo slows down right away. Focus need to be adjusted, the shutter speed… what is the light reading? Composing the photo, stand still…….. “click”

Even when taking the smart phone and taking a photo in the view finder of the old Rolleiflex creates great photos.
So, look here all you Lomo users, smart phone filter lovers and Instagram users. This must be the original vintage filter look.
It is fun and at the same time a cool look, yet so simple to create.



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 5 ”iPhone 5s”

It is time for the last presentation in the series about the cameras that I used on the bicycle photo session a some weeks earlier.

This time I used my own regular mobile phone, an iPhone 5S. It is not only a simple telephone that you can make calls with. It is also an minicomputer, organiser, media player and flash-light. But there is also an very good camera in the phone. The iPhone, or lets us say smart phone since almost every smart phone today got these possibility, got excellent editing possibility with in it self for some after editing.
But with a few simple touches on the screen you can find a large selection of different programs/applications (apps) for photo editing. More of that later in this text.

At the bicycle photo session, after I used the 3 other cameras I mentioned in the earlier posts, the old Kodak box, the Rolleicord and the modern Fujifilm x100. I took out my phone out of my pocket and wiped the lens clean from fingerprints and dust. That is one small but very important thing to do. Grease or smudge on the lens always creates effects that bad. Such as lens flares or an “foggy” look on the photos. The best starting point are a clean image. Then you can let loose you creativity and add what effects you like and create artistic and fun photos later on.
Even lens flares and fog if you like.

Well, there is no knobs or levers on the “camera” to be honest. Only a few buttons and an touch display. One of the ways you can activate the camera is by pressing the home or sleep button then swipe the camera symbol upwards. There you have the camera all running and reddy to shoot. In that mode you can swipe on the screen at the sides to get video mode or a square frame for the photo. There is other options to. But for now we will go with the standard camera settings. By looking at the screen you compose the photo, the press either the button on the screen (big red button, the shutter) or you press the volume up/down button, remote shutters releases. Then you have taken a photo. As simple as that.

Now when you have taken an photo that you are pleased with. The fun part of editing begins. With almost every smart phone today you have many different options of editing tools and helps. You can choose either with the smart phones own built in effects/filter options. Or you can download for free or buy an app for editing photos. I use the “camera+” app. It costed me a few dollars. But it works for me, I get the results I like.
Beside it is an easy and fun program with many pre set filter options to choose from. There are options for exposure adjustments, tone, colour, contrast and so on.

I will show a few settings how you can change the photo in the smart phone, just for fun.

Here are some filter options to choose from, there are a few categories of filter styles. Colour, retro, Special, Hollywood and more.

You can change the tint of the photo, highlights, shadows and even more light settings.

There is a cropping tool, that make you either choose the crop yourself or use one of the many pre sets crops.

It is fun to take photos with my smart phone! After  The time just runs away and you will end up with even stranger results than intended from the start. Of, course it is a phone. Not a primarily camera. But for all those “on the go” photos and photos for social media like facebook and instagram the smart phone is a really good option. After all, instagram was designed to be used for smart phone photos. There is almost no end to what you can do with the photo. It is like having the entire film laboratory with all skill of the personnel at your finger tips. You take the photo, develop it and then you can get it to any style you like. Things that 20 years ago took many hours of skills and learning to create. There is an entire new way of creating images today. If you with the smart phone connects it to a printer made for phone photos and prints the image you have edited. You only delay is how fast/slow you work with your editing. No more waiting for a developer to do their work for a week or more. Here you got instant result!
Of course the charm of the old cameras has gone in a way. There is perhaps just a matter of simply changing focus. Perhaps there is charm in the modern way of creating photos? After all, everyone is using smart phones today and the best camera in the world “is the camera you have with you” as they say.

In this case, I had my bag with cameras. But when I was going to use the smart phone. I simply picked it up out of my pocket, started the camera, composed the image and pressed on the volume button. Because I use my phone on silent mode, there was no shutter sound (sound playback) As I wrote in last post about the Fujifilm X100 shutter sounds must exist. But here in Europe we can turn it off. So I pressed the shutter release button and…

“……” (no sound at all)


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.