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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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.

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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…).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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)

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Cameras and bicycles, part 3 ”Rolleicord”

Welcome to part 3 of my series of camera tests.

This time we dive into the 1950’s. The German made Rolleicord camera. Really well made with good optics and very reliable. The Rolleicord is a bit less advanced and valuable version than the more advanced and expensive Rolleiflex. One of the main differences between the two is that the Rolleicord got a winding knob instead of a winding arm, less advanced lenses. But it is still very good quality camera.

This camera was made by Franke & Heidecke in Braunschweig south of Germany back in 1952 and was most likely to be exported to Sweden at that time. Round about 1967 my father bought it because at that time he was going to work as a photographer, so he thought. The idea never came true, but he used the camera on vacations and other occations. In fact he used the camera right up to early 80’s. So all early photos of me is taken with that camera. Then in the 80’s when he bought an East German Practica SLR camera of some sort. By then the old Rollei was put in a cupboard and was soon forgotten.
Many years later on when I started to take photos I asked if I could borrow the old camera. That was no problem. Sadly after all years in the drawer the had been a coating of “fog” between the lenses. But since I was repairing cameras for fun at that time I thought it was a fun project to get his old camera working again.

The camera got two lenses, one that takes the photo and one that you compose the image with. You fold the top up of the camera and looks down on a piece of glass (the view finder) where you see the motive that is in front of you like in a mirror. With the focus knob you adjust the image until what you see in the view finder is sharp. Then you simply take the photo, but first you need to cock the camera before you take the photo. That is done simply by sliding a small lever underneath the bottom lens to the right. Then you hear the shutter mechanics and springs work. To take a photo you press the lever to the left. There is also an mount for a cable release. Back then there was an accessory to the Rolleicord cameras, it was an small trigger that you could mount in the cable release mount so you could use an proper release button instead of sliding the lever back and forth (I had one of these buttons laying around so I mounted that on my fathers camera). Sadly the mirror inside the cameras view finder, the one that projects the view on the glass piece, is so bad that it requires a very bright sunshine to be able to see what you are looking at. Below is an example. I am taking a photo with my iPhone in the view finder. That is what you see on a bright sunny day.

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After fixing the camera up I took many great photos with that old camera, it was with that camera I discovered the fun in taking photos in a medium format. Since I developed and made prints myself it was also cheep and fun. I think I took over 50 rolls of the classic “120” film with my fathers old Rolleicord.  I always used the classic Kodak TRI-X film. In the previous post I mentioned that the standard film in the 30’s was at most ASA 100. The TRI-X was introduced in 1954 (60 years ago this year) and was a mind blowing ASA 400! It became reporters favourite film, it did not need bright sunlight or flashes to produce great images, it was easier to work with. Photos could be taken in low light settings, corspondents found the film very useful and forgiving in harsh enviroemnts. Then the artists discovered the wonderful feeling of the film, the slightly grainy look, the contrast and so on. It became one of the most used black and white films ever used. Sadly it was replaced by other brands and then Kodak changed the formula of the film. But I used TRI-X for a long time. Both in  the”medium” 120 format and the “small frame” 135 format.
Walking around in the city with some cans of TRI-X in my pocket and with my old Leica M2. Just take photos of everyday life. It was fun! But for portraits and more serious photos I used my fathers old Rolleicord until I one day placed the camera back in the cupboard.

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Here you can see the two lenses, the top one are for viewing, the bottom one is taking photos. The knob on the side towards the back of the camera is the film advancing knob. The knob in front of that one is the focus knob. Beside the bottom lens is a small lever, that one sets the shutter speed on the opposite side of the lens is the f stop lever. Just underneath the bottom lens is the cocking lever of the shutter and beside that one is the shutter release button. The round hole on the side of the front is an jack for the flash. The entire top of the camera flips forward and reveals the view finder. To change film you simply unhinge a locking device underneath the camera and flips the entire back of the camera open. Then you can load the 120 film and wind the film until the markings on the film displays the stop markings, you line up the films markings with the markings on the camera. Close the lid, secure the locking device. The advance the film until there is a small “1” turns up and it stops to wind. Set the shutter sped, f-stop. Cock the shutter, open the view finder and there you go. The Rolleicord is reddy for action.

After using the camera this time, about 15 years since last time. I find it a bit difficult to work with. Not that is is an old analogue camera. But I remembered why I stopped using it back then. The film advancing know is an menace. I have big fingers so every time I advance the film I scrape my index finger against the mount for the strap. One can get rather irritated after doing it 20 times in one photo session. Also the cocking of the shutter. After advancing to the next frame you need to also cock the shutter. When having a model in front of you that makes a move or an pose. You need to get a new frame reddy quick.
So to make a long story short. I bought a Rolleiflex. That was the best medium format camera I ever had, and I have used many different brands. All with their advantages and disadvantages. But the Rolleiflex was the best. Small, compact, accurate, quick to reload. Sadly I sold that camera to a friend. But that is a different story. But I still have my fathers old Rolleicord, but just like my father. It stands in a cupboard, in the case. I even got a set of filters and a lens hood in a case.

On the bicycle photo session I found the Rolleicord to be a good camera. Easy to operate and worked really well. Unforutunate I did not have the old TRI-X film. But as I mentioned earlier I had to get hold of some ASA 100 film with short notice from a friend.
The photos are good, but again like the photos that was taken with the Kodak box camera, the negative is scanned in and digitally printed. This time I only got the less quality JPG format on the images. I ordered an CD record as an backup on both occasion. On the Kodak box CD I got two sets of images. One set in JPG format and one set in TIFF format. But this time I got only the JPG format. That is a strange service attitude in my opinion. But I guess that is what happens when there is no services for development or printing of old photos for the everyday amateur.

On the day of the girl with bicycle photo session. I took the camera from the cupboard, took it out of the case, loaded it up. Went to the photo session. Brought out the camera out of the bag that I had all four cameras in, glanced at the light and then adjusted the shutter speed and f-stop as i estimated the light to require. I adjusted the f-stop after the ASA 100 film (I know the ASA 400 settings better). Opened the view finder, adjusted the focus…

“click”

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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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