Lomo Smena 8M

It is a lovely Easter holiday and the sun is shining. I am sat in the garden with my computer writing this review…well, trying. The sun is shining and I am having trouble seeing the screen, but it is a small price to pay. Yesterday the weather was much the same so I took this little camera for a walk along the Leeds Liverpool canal. I walked until I ran out of film. I had intended to walk all the way to Kirkstall Abbey, but it was sweltering by UK spring standards, so I decided to wait for another day when I was more prepared.

There are many versions of this camera, but according to this site I have the PK3470. The Smena was first produced in 1970 and ceased production in 1995. This site says the first two digits of the serial number indicates the camera’s production date. Mine starts with 94, so it was one of the last made.

I got mine very cheaply from a Ukrainian seller on eBay. It came with the rangefinder you can see attached. I was actually looking for a cheap rangefinder attachment to try out. This one was much cheaper than some others I saw and had a camera attached to it too.

There is a lot written about this camera online. It is easily, cheaply available. So I will stick to the notes I made while using the camera. Yes, I made notes! That’s quite well organised for me, but as I said it was a lovely day, taking time to sit along the route and write was a welcome break.

I used a Fuji 200 film that was not in a box so I was unsure of its expiry date. Therefore I set the camera to 125 ISO as the choices were 16,32,64,125,250. These do not corrolate to ISO but are GOST. Therefore, they just about mean 250=400, 125=200, 64=100, 32=50, and 16=25. So phew, good guess by me.

The camera does not react to light and has no power of any kind. Setting the ISO is actually setting the default aperture based on the film choice, 125 ISO meant a default of f11. Then to change the exposure you move a dial on the lens between different weather symbols.

As you can see from this diagram found in the manual, changing the position does not change the aperture but changes the speed. That is important to know if you want to avoid camera shake. Another factor that can cause an issue is the location of the shutter cocking mechanism. To take a shot you have to cock the shutter on the lens barrel. When you press the shutter, this lever flicks back up…unless your finger is in the way. When I first used the Smena, my finger caught it twice before I remembered to switch finger positions. The sound the camera made indicated the shutter was also affected by it catching, the photos I got back proved it. By this cocking method you can take multiple exposures, which I completely forgot about and didn’t try. I will next time.

When you load the film you have to set the film counter manually to 0. My example’s counter didn’t really work and I gave up on it. To rewind the film you press the shutter release without cocking it and turn the rewind knob.

And that is it, simples. On the day I used mine it was very sunny so I swapped between the top two symbols. I used the rangefinder for closer shots, checking the distance then setting the camera to match. For everything else I set the camera to infinity.

The walk along the path was something I have wanted to complete for almost 30 years. I know, bit of a long time. I used to work in a photo lab right next to it and would sit on the wall during my lunch break. I always wondered where it went but being younger and not really interested in walking, I never actually did it. Here I am older and wiser and I finally found out. The photo lab is long gone with a hotel occupying the location, but the path and wall are exactly the same.

One thing I noticed when I saw the results, what I saw through the viewfinder was much less than I got on the photo. Many times I took a step back thinking I wasn’t getting everything I wanted in the frame. That was especially true where writing was included in the shot.

I simply love this camera. I love it doesn’t need batteries. I love the combination of the rangefinder attachment and the glass lens. How sharp are they? The rangefinder does slow you down, but it is worth it. The film is super too, nice colours and great latitude. Interestingly as I was preparing this post I got an email from someone about their post on different film types including Fuji200. Here is that post. The great performance of the camera reminded me of another post about the outdoor eight rule. Basically this camera followed the default setting and I didn’t change it much. Like the article says, the film could cope with the various conditions though he does say use black and white for the best results.

I am keeping this one, it is too cheap to sell 🙂

Workflow and Stuff

I posted a review of a camera today and that’s it…my draft box is empty! What to do??

Well I do have a couple of films to develop and two more cameras with film loaded, but I don’t have a set schedule or a workflow plan. That means I find myself without a review to post. Even without a workflow plan I usually post a new review once a week. That ain’t too shabby.

Being a teacher means that sometimes I am super busy and sometimes on holiday. Right now I am a little of both. I wake up, get dressed, and wait to see if I get a supply job for the day. If I don’t then I can play with a camera…but not buy any new ones due to the lack of funds.

So, my workflow is higgledy-piggledy. I don’t mind, as I have always said, this blog is for me.

I also get a chance to catch up on some reading. Today I read an article about post processing and film photography by Hamish Gill. Until recently I have not post processed my film photos very much, I felt it was somehow against the nature of film. And then I had an epiphany and thought, well that was dumb, what about burning and dodging. After that I started using Snapseed and other software more and more.

I also like to read Jim Grey’s articles, he often writes and posts about bridges. I love me a good bridge. Today I saw a super one in Huddersfield.

Getting an unexpected day off and spending time with friends is the silver lining. Being a teacher is pretty cool too. This week I was placed in a nursery and helped make bunnies and chocolate cornflake nests…cause having a bunny with a nest inside for easter is the done thing these days.

A conversation with one of the students went like this…

Student: When everyone has finished can lick the spoon?
Me: I am sorry that wouldn’t be fair to the other children.
Student: Hmm, you should get to lick it then, you helped everyone.
Me: I don’t think I am allowed to, the other teacher might be sad.
Student: But, you can hide in the cupboard, they won’t know.

Being taught how to cheat by a four year old 🙂

Ricoh KR-10

Sometimes, I am enough lucky to be given cameras to try or am offered great swaps. This camera was one of those swaps. It is a basic SLR from 1980. It has manual mode or aperture priority depending on the lens. Two regular button batteries can power the coupled light meter guide in the viewfinder, but does not control the camera.

As you see it looks like a classic SLR should. It would be perfect for a beginner or someone who is not bothered by bells and whistles. You can find a few technical details here. The camera is activated by moving the film advance to uncover the red dot. Without a battery the mirror can lock up if the shutter is activated, but the red X will release it. The film advance has one of the shortest movement I have experienced.

The first time I tried it I didn’t particularly enjoy using it. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Maybe I foresaw the test photos.

As you can see the lens worked fine, but everything was underexposed…and these are the best ones from the roll. At this point I was not sure if it was the camera or the film. I was using the light meter scale as a guide.

Everything seems to be working so I gave it a second chance. I loaded it with fresher film, Kodak Ekta 100, and tried a different lens. I also put on a shutter release button as I have not tried one before. I thought pimping the camera might make me like it a tad more.

It worked, I enjoyed using the camera much more this time. Ironically, it was only spoiled by the button. It made the shutter much more sensitive. When I wanted to get a light meter reading by a half press, the shutter would fire.

Anyway, here are some of the photos from the second test.

Well, much better. If you want to get into film photography this camera is simple to use and cheap to buy. It is basic, no bells and whistles at all. But it is a Pentax K fit so lenses are easy to get. It is slightly bigger than a Pentax ME Super which I prefer, but much smaller than some SLRs.

I have many cameras like this so I won’t be keeping this one.

APS Kodak Advantix Black and White

I recently received a package from a reader, I love it when that happens. He sent me two black and white APS film cartridges.

I said thanks of course and promised to use it somewhere “nice’. I ended up taking it to Castle Hill and Almondbury, Huddersfield.

As this was ‘special’ film, I decided to use it in my Canon IX7 as it has an ISO override feature. The film is rated at 400, I set the camera to 200. I think I will set the next roll to 100 as it still turned out a little underexposed.

I think the photos lack contrast, but considering the age of the film they are not so bad. In my opinion the grain adds to the shots. I did a quick search and the film is still available from various places including Amazon, Ebay, and certain film supplying sites.

As for the hill, gosh it was windy. The hill overlooks the whole region and catches every bit of wind. I can’t wait to go back on a sunnier day for a picnic. BUT there are no toilets nearby, I do miss the lovely toilets in Japan. Always clean, always present.

Adox Golf 63 S

The name on this camera had worn off and it took me a while to play around with combinations of letters to find the name. Then I took it outside to take some photos and the names popped under the sunlight.

After a quick search for Adox Golf, this version came up. The linked site said the shutter was designed to run dry so it had no lubricants. That meant it was not prone to sticking. I found this to be true as the shutter on this 1955 example worked perfectly. The lens was also clear of any haze or fungus. So far so good… and after that the fun began.

My first attempt at using it had disappointing results. My bottle of ilfosol 3 was almost empty and when I mixed had a weird colour. In my head I thought, oh that is depleted I shouldn’t use it. Then I thought, what the hell…I wonder what would happen. When I had finished the processing I found a very, very, very light set of negatives. I didn’t think anything would scan from them but I tried anyway. I ended up with these very grainy shots.

I also mistook the white lines for developer issues as I had never encountered them before. So I loaded up another roll of film and took it out again.

As I had to go into Leeds to buy new chemicals I took the camera with me. This time the results were better to a degree, but there were still issues.

What are those weird light leaks? So if it wasn’t the processing, it must be the camera.

I have tried a few cameras with bellows and have never had an issue with them being damaged. Even with the Victorian camera, the bellows were ok. I guess I have been lucky and ended up forgetting about them. But it seemed that this camera did have an issue somewhere and I suspected the bellows, Occum’s razor. I did a little research on how to check the bellows.

I turned off my room light and shone a torch through the outside of the camera bellows.

Voila. These are only a few of the leaks, there were more on the other sides. Ok, so the lens seemed fine, the timer was working, the camera was in generally good condition and importantly, I liked using it. How can I fix these pin holes cheaply and easily. This camera is very cheap to buy so an expensive repair would not be worthwhile. I read a few places that a glue and paint mixture would work so I tried that first. It didn’t look great, but the light leaks were gone.

I shot another roll that I took at the beautiful Hardcastle Crags. Gosh, they would be nice if the light leaks were gone.

Also, as it was a lovely sunny day so I had some of this before developing…

Big mistake. Apparently I was drunker than I thought and when I poured out the used developer it looked like this…and the final film like this…

WTF??? Where are my beautiful photos from the Yorkshire countryside?? I checked the bottles again. OOOOOHHHH, apparently if you try to develop fomapan by using the stop bath first, then developer, then fixer…it comes out blue, like the gin.

Fourth film, really fourth?? I was determined to get a good roll from this camera. Weirdly, I still really liked it and hadn’t lost the plot with it yet. Why did I like it? It has no capacity for double or multiple exposures, it has no rangefinder, the lowest aperture choice was f6.3, and the fastest speed was 1/200th. I think my love started with the funky way you loaded or removed the film.

Look at that, what a cool, convenient thing. You pull it out and down and the film is then very easy to load. Then there is the button to open it, push and whop, it swishes open. And then, when it is closed it is nice and compact and fits into a large pocket. Plus it is so cheap you don’t mind whopping it and whapping it in a pocket. There is also a red indicator by the shutter and wind on wheel that lets you know if the camera is ready to be operated.

Before I loaded the fourth and I have to say final film, I decided to check the bellows again. There was still a small leak so this time I decided to use black nail varnish and no gin. (See comment section about this, nail varnish really doesn’t work well and is a quick fix only)

Here are the final test results.

The negatives still had a couple of tiny leaks evident, but except for the last shot they weren’t so bad. I used the film very quickly so the light didn’t have time to really spoil anything else. When using glue or varnish, you need to wait a long time for it to dry as the sticky consistency will do exactly that when the camera closes. It will stick together and the holes reappear when you open the camera again.

I will put another coat of nail varnish on the camera if I decide to use it again, but I doubt it as I have a few other medium format cameras without deteriorating bellows. As for recommendations, this camera can be found quite cheap so it would be a good buy. Just check the bellows before buying it or trying it with a film. Plus it looks nice on the shelf

Also, for a great article on breathing new life into old cameras, check out this link. You will find details of many kinds of repairs. Oh and I recommend the gin too 🙂

Boredom and Friends

Today I felt completely bored. I went into Leeds and got a few films developed, wandered the Minster and Canal area.

Whoa, first time uploading camera photos. Anyway, it was lovely, but didn’t take away the underlying feeling. What was causing it?

And then it hit me, I miss Japan. Bugger. I definitely miss the train system, the public toilets. I miss the camaraderie of a regular work place, having people who will pose for me, or go for a wander. Don’t get me wrong, I like my new life but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten my old one.

While looking for things to do I stumbled across this creative use of models. This article says embrace boredom in a positive way. But actually I don’t mind the odd day of boredom, because I know it is an odd day. Tomorrow I will be fine.

Yashica Autofocus

I bought this camera a while ago, it wasn’t expensive and it was a Yashica, yippee. Plus, I hadn’t tried or even seen it before.

There is very little on the net in English about this camera, but I did find one site in Japanese. That one stated that it was released in 1978 and has shutter speeds from 1/60 sec to 1/360 sec. After using the camera I can add, if it is too dark for the shot, a red warning light appears in the viewfinder and it will not fire. It accepts films up to 500asa, a bit of a weird top choice. As you can see from the photos it has a 38mm f2.8 lens.

You can also gather from the photos that it has autofocus, hence the name. Once you have taken a shot you can check the zone chosen by looking at the scale on the front of the camera. That is a cool feature if you want to learn about zone focusing. On the front, you will also find a focus lock button. The flash is activated by pressing down on the top where it says push. On this example, everything worked as it should apart from opening the back. It was a bit sticky and as I had just cut my nails, hard to open. The focusing mechanism was a little loud, but not overwhelmingly so.

I really liked the look of the camera and really enjoyed using it. I took it on a bike ride to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on another beautiful day. Then later I to it to Walton Colliery to finish off the film.

There are two very similar shots, I used the flash on one thinking it was too backlit and it would be underexposed. The camera and film were fine and it didn’t need that help. Wow, what a stunning little camera. The focus lock worked perfectly and produced a rather nice bokeh on some shots. It didn’t handle sky shots well as it probably confused the focusing system.

I will have to ponder this camera a while as I have a few similar ones. I might keep this and sell the Ricoh 800 I just tried. Not sure.