Modern cameras and old cobblestones

Back in the days when all photos were black and white. Well, not that far back in time, only to the time when digital cameras were rather exclusive and very expensive. Back in the end of the 1990’s when I was starting to take photos on a more regular basis and I started to develop and make my own prints in a darkroom in the basement. At that time I was using an old Zorki camera as my main camera. It was a Soviet made “Leica 2” copy made in 1955. The German Leica 2 cameras from 1930’s was considered to be one of the best cameras in the world at that time. They were developed to improve the Leica 1 camera that was a ground breaking design in mid 1920’s. The usage of 135 millimetre film, also the simple, but reliable functions along with the optics that was developed and made by Leitz (that founded the Leica camera company). Leitz lenses with and Leica cameras was top of the line back then.

After the second world war, everyone all over the world started to make copies of the Leica cameras because they were so well made and great working. But in Soviet they already had made copies of the Leica camera even before the war. The main manufacturer was the FED factory that was located in Kharkiv (Ukraine). They started to produce cameras in the mid 1930’s, but some years after the war the KMZ factory that was located in Krasnogorsk that is near Moscow, started to make FED cameras due to that the FED factory was behind in production. After a while KMZ developed the FED-Zorki model, but soon after that they changed the name to only Zorki. In fact even the “1” is an addition in recent years. In teh begining it was just “Zorki”. Then with further developments and designs then started to use the add on numbers. It all ended in 1978 with the Zorki 12.

Back to the story. When I was using my Zorki camera, I always used the Kodak tri-x film. It used to have a nice grain and good performance so it became “my” brand of choise. I got great results and it was fun to take photos and later on develop and print the photos in the basement. At one point I was visiting an old city in Germany when I by accident dropped the camera on to the cobblestone pavement! It was a rather high fall for the old camera, so of course I thought that the camera was absolutely smashed to pieces. But when I picked it up I could not find a dent, not a scratch anywhere on the camera! That was a surprise! The Zorki camera was simply built like a tank, robust, sturdy and almost indestructible. I just picked up the camera dusted off some dust and it was ready to take photos again.

Now, many years later and many different cameras later. I have been using a Fujifilm X-100 for the last few years. It is a good camera, the sensor captures the colours and details in a great way, the optics are really nice and the camera works like a charm. When I bought it I wanted to protect the lens. So I bought an UV filter so that the filter would take the first hit when the dust flies around. I also got a lens hood, just to catch raindrops, snow, any fingers or anything that an by accident can make a mark or an smudge on the lens. Both lens hood and UV filter? I hear you ask. Well, you can never be to safe.

When I attended this year Bike in Tweed event, about a month ago. I brought my Fujifilm camera along, there are lots of photo opportunities of the bicycles and the participants, I posted some of the photos I got in a post about the Bike in Tweed event here on Schneebremse. But at one moment when I trying to get a good photo, crawling around on the ground, disaster struck! While was trying to get some nice photos at the start of the event, I dropped my camera straight down into the cobblestone pavement. At least I was kneeling down when I dropped the camera so it was a short fall, at least that was I thought.

The impact was not dramatic or anything like that. But when I picked up the camera, the entire lens hood was smashed like the crash zone on a car. It turned out that the entire impact was on the lens hood when the camera fell to the ground.

The camera worked perfectly the rest of the day, I got great photos in total. But when I got home I tried to get the smashed lens hood off the camera. It was really tight and difficult to remove, all bent and crooked. But I finally got it off the threads. But I need to get a new lens hood now after all I think it is a small price to pay, since I rather pay £15 for a new hood rather than £150 for an new camera.
But remember the old Zorki camera, it was all metal and built like a tank, no electronic or plastic.

Instead of getting a dent, it dented the cobblestones.

(the Fujifilm X100 with the smashed up lens hood and extra UV filter, a cheep protection of the lens)

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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.

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Me and my cameras

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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