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.

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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.

“click”

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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.

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Banks, money and local supermarkets

Hello! It’s me again. I am back, and I like to apologize for my absence the last months. The reasons why I haven’t been around are many and strange. But that will be saved for another post perhaps. I will get back when things calm down and I can yet again crawl up from underneath the stone I am hiding.  But until then, there is one thing I want to share.

A few days ago I got the silly, yes silly, idea of going to the bank who has had me as a customer since well over the last 20 years. I have a piggy-bank at home where I put all change received when doing some shopping. When I was young I was learned that “a saved coin is a coin earned”. So ever since then I put all my coins in a piggy-bank that was a present from my grandmother. Every time it was filled up, I took out all the coins and put them all in small paper tubes, different tubes for different values on the coins. Then we went to the bank to deposit the money in to my bank account. All was well. it was fun! My very own money, I even got an interest rate! By having money in the bank it became even more money by it self!! Amazing!

This way of saving continued among the years. The piggy-banks got larger and larger. Right up until a few days ago I was saving coins.

The first signs of problems was when they stopped handing out paper tubes to put the coins in. Then you had to bring your money in a sack/plastic bag/pockets/hat and pour the coins in a machine that eats the coins (that’s what it sounds like). Then gives you a receipt with numbers on that tells you what amount that was deposited on your account. The lovely game of searching banks that had one of those machines was a real challenge. Ever walked the streets of the city with huge bags of coins during a blizzard? The weight is just a pain when you get to one bank and they say “no, sorry we do not have that machine here any more, but try the bank at….”. The walk continues, the search goes on.

A few days ago I went to the only bank in the city that still had that machine (the one that eats your coins and gives you numbers on a receipt instead). As I entered the bank I right away got a feeling of something missing. The machine! It was gone!  It was replaced with a machine that only eats your paper money (in the same fashion as the coin machine). So I thought that the lady behind the counter had access to the machine for the coins. Of course I had to take a que note, with a number on it. Then I had to sit down and wait for that number on my note to be called out. After a long wait I finally got to the desk and asked the lady where I could exchange my coins to numbers for my account! She said that they (the banks) don’t do that any more. But she said that if I went to the supermarket they would have machines to change the coins to numbers on a receipt that I could exchange real money (not coins). So away I went. Off to the supermarket nearby and there I asked for a machine that eats coins. Yes, they indeed have one! Great!

Hang on a minute… “fee for exchange coins, 4% of the total amount”?!

The banks don’t accept coins any more, but they rather sends their clients to the supermarket with their coins. Only to pay a fee for a service that the banks don’t provides any more?! In today’s society the banks don’t handle money due to the risk of robbery, if you want money you have to use an ATM or equal. No matter of depositing or withdrawing money. There is a machine for that. “Nopp, we ain’t want your money, ’cause we’re a bank, see”?!

Now you only need to use your credit card that is connected to your bank for depositing, withdrawing, using, paying money. I understand that the future is happening now and we cant run around with the pockets filled with coins and banknotes. Or the old system of  bills in brown envelopes (old Swedish thing) every month.

Today everything is uploaded, megabits and text messages, SMS, MMS, BDSM, AOL and LOL or what ever it’s called. You can sit on the toilet and manage you entire personal financial disaster by some simple swipes with your finger on your smart phone.

But if you are an elderly person sitting at home with a piggy-bank you are totally lost. You need to take the money to a supermarket (in a bag), exchange the coins there, pay a fee for it and you get a receipt with numbers on it that you must exchange to paper money. That you deposit in a machine at the bank. I bet they are thrilled to pay a fee on the money that they paid tax on already just to deposit the saved coins on their bank account.

I accept the fact that the banks don’t want to handle money due to the risk of violence and robbery. But honestly, it must be a rather stupid criminal that want to rob a bank that only have coins in the vault.

“Stand and deliver! Hand ye swag”

“Sure do you got a fork lift for the 2½ tonnes of coins that we have in our vault, it will take you five men and three hours to shift that loot”.

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