Large Format Camera Pre-1906 (4×5 sheet)

Some posts are quick to prepare, process, and write. This post is by far the longest in terms of time and biggest in terms of effort, that I have written.

I received this camera over 3 months ago from a new friend. Soon after we started wandering and walking together she mentioned she had an “old” camera in her loft and I could have it, but it probably doesn’t work. Of course when I heard “old camera” I was hooked. I asked questions…

What kind of camera? What film does it take? Does it use batteries? Where did you get it? To all questions, I got a shrug and an “I don’t know, it was in the loft when we bought the house.”

So I just waited and one fine day she brought it over to my house.

*Gulp* It was not what I was expecting at all. I have no experience with this type of camera. I didn’t even know where to begin. These photos are after I dared to open it up and attach the lens.

Talking of the lens, can you see the big gap between the glass and the front of the cylinder? The front element had detached… is it an element when there are just two pieces of glass and a barrel? The front piece of glass was loose and moving around inside the brass barrel. I was going to give up on that altogether, then I looked at the prices of replacement lenses *gulp* and put the whole thing back in the bag/box and put it under my bed.

To be honest the whole project made me nervous and I tried to get rid of the responsibility and the camera. One of the people I offered it to said, “get a grip you can do it.”

So a few days later I took the camera out again and took a deep breath. The first thing I looked at was the bellows. If they were damaged then I was screwed, I could not buy or make a new one. I could possibly fix very small holes. Here is a great resource if you ever need to do that. Fortunately, the bellows seemed perfect, no holes at all. Great start.

Next was to use wood glue on any parts that were split. In my worry and haste, I did not take great photos of this process. The main part that needed fixing was the lens plate holder. That was in two parts.

Now one part with a previous repair on the left.

That part of the camera gave an obvious clue about its history. Ralph Cuthbert was a chemist in Huddersfield, you can read about one of his exploits in this article. And this entry states that he formed a limited company in 1913 and that he died in 1917. As the camera’s label doesn’t mention “Ltd” then I guess it is from before 1913. The Byram Arcade was first seen on a map in 1890, so the camera is probably from after that point.

Another clue was inside one of the film holders, it was a glass plate.

I rested it on my iPad to act as a light-box.

I used an app to turn it into a positive photo.

Either J.Wright owned this camera at some time or Mr. Cuthbert went on holiday.

I posted the photo online and one of my friends said there was an Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Blackpool. After a little search online I found this article. As you can see, the photo in the article is of the same building and if you read the text you will find out the building was demolished in 1908. Therefore, Mr. Watson, we can surmise this camera is probably from around 1900. Bloody hell…and it is now my responsibility. Just to confirm the date, here is a collection of similar cameras with details of dates.

OK, next issue, the lens. I had to put the front glass back in the right place. I know this might make a few people *gulp* just like me. But I unscrewed the only screw I could find and just superglued it back in place. There was no shutter mechanism and I stayed very clear of the aperture blades.

Just a bit of glue put it back in place.

Before I put the lens back together I waited for the glue to fully set to avoid any issues with a residue like I experienced with this camera. Then I screwed it onto the plate and slid it onto the camera.

But did it work, would it focus…I had no idea at this point as I did not know how to focus the damn thing, the lens only has apertures from f8 to f64. So more research was required. First I found articles like this one. Hmm, mine doesn’t seem to have a shutter release at all. This one seemed more likely.

So I need to move the rail somehow, I looked the camera over.

Found it!! This moves and the camera will focus somehow. I looked at the back of the camera and I couldn’t see anything on the glass plate. The image was too light, I needed more lightness and darkness. I took the camera outside but I didn’t have a blackout cloth, would a towel work?

YES!!!

First objective achieved, an image…an upside down image. Now for stage two, getting a negative.

The bag had three plate holders inside, one was missing the middle light shield.

Once the camera was focused you lifted the focusing screen and slid the holder into place. The holder had to be prepared beforehand by inserting glass plates coated in a light-sensitive material.

However, there was no way in the world I was going to prepare and use glass plates, so what is the nearest modern equivalent? 4×5 sheet film. Holy moly it is expensive, plus I need a holder. My heart sank. At the very least I would need.

  • Sheet film – the cheapest on eBay I could find was Shanghai ISO100 £25 for 25 sheets
  • At least one 4×5 sheet holder, about £10 from West Yorkshire Camera
  • Some way to develop the sheets, a 4×5 developing tank adapter around £20+ on eBay
  • And a loupe to attain a fine focus £10+

At least I already had a tripod and surprisingly the camera fit modern tripod screws 😦

I put the camera away and reviewed my out of work finances. Even if I could get all the things I needed, how could I fit the 4×5 cassette in the camera?

As you may know I am not a patient person when it comes to things like this and sometimes I actually “dream” an answer. The next day I woke up and went, “THE BROKEN HOLDER!!!”

If I could cut down the broken holder to take the 4×5 cassette it just might work. Sacrilege? Cutting a victorian glass plate holder? Don’t care, it is now mine to do with as I please…sorry. Really I am, but it had to be done.

I decided to sell a camera to pay for the things I needed. Bye bye OM2, hello saw and chisel.

I have never tried this kind of thing before, but would you believe it…the 4×5 cassette fit like a glove.

A bit of wood glue, nothing to see here.

Gosh this is turning into a very long post. Ok, onward and forward, loading the sheet film.

Simples. Plus…don’t forget to take off any movement activated watches with an LED display 🙂

We are getting there. The next issue, no shutter just a lens cap. That meant I would have to use the lens cap as a shutter by taking it off and putting it back on. So the exposure would have to be at least 2 seconds to avoid camera shake or suchlike. Luckily the lens cap was in good condition and attached to the lens when I received the bag.

So this is the sequence of events.

  1. Prepare the 4×5 cassette. Make sure the film shield are showing the white label (or black depending on your own choice)
  2. Find a subject for a photo. This might mean lugging the camera and a tripod to a location.
  3. Find the exposure setting using a light meter, make sure it is over 2 seconds for 100ASA film at f22 (or whatever ASA you are using).
  4. Put the camera together.
  5. Place on a very sturdy tripod.
  6. Set the lens aperture to the largest to let in more light, f8.
  7. Use the towel, coat or something dark to focus the camera on the subject and use the loupe to get a sharper focus.
  8. Reset the aperture to f22 or smaller depending on what is needed for a longer exposure time.
  9. Once focused and framed PUT ON THE LENS COVER
  10. Move the glass focusing plate and slide in the adapted holder with the 4×5 cassette
  11. Put the light cover, my towel or coat, over the back end of the camera and remove the light shield protecting the sheet.
  12. Remove the lens cover and count out the “elephants” needed
  13. Put the lens cover back on
  14. Put the film shield back in with the black label showing
  15. As a film cassette holds two sheets take out this holder and replace the glass focusing screen.
  16. Return to number 2 for the next shot or go home and develop the sheets.

All that effort for 2 shots. For my first test I stayed at home and tried to take a photo of a swan feather I retrieved the day before. That way I would not have to lug the camera anywhere. I worked out that I would need 6 elephants to get an image. I only managed to get one shot as I put the second light shield back in the first slot and jammed it, fogging the second sheet.

Putting the sheet on the developing holder was a pain in the butt. I was sure, even if it worked, it would be covered in finger prints. After the development process I could barely wait to see the developed sheet.

THERE IS AN IMAGE!!!!! Can you see the feather?

I almost cried. I didn’t care if it was out of focus, I could see a feather. I waited for it to dry and put it on the iPad and took a photo with my phone.

This is the first test shot.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Of course I tried again immediately. As my dad was engrossed in watching TV I took a photo of him. He had to stay very still for eight elephants.

You can see lines from the iPad, I think, but I didn’t care…I DID IT!!!!

I rushed into Leeds and bought three more cassettes and loaded them up. I was going to visit a friend for some cosplaying photos in an abandoned house, perfect for this style of shot. She could stay still, well the building could anyway. We lugged the camera up hill for a kilometer. I set up the camera.

…and then realised I left the film cassettes in the car, bugger. Lesson learnt.

To finally use the loaded sheets, I took the camera to my local park, double checking I had the cassettes.

And now finally the shots, it took a while to develop them as I can only do two at a time.

Just one didn’t come out, not quite sure why.

Done, completed, success. I have a few sheets left and I will probably take the camera to Blackpool to get a shot of the new Old Tom’s Cabin building. After that I am not sure I will ever use it again. It is a lot of effort. This part was a challenge and therefore fun, but I much prefer 120mm or 35mm.

Now this post is very long and picture heavy, it seems WordPress is having an issue and keeps losing my pictures. So I am going to upload it before it disappears again.

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Kodak Instamatic 304

I bought this camera so I could try a 3D printed 126 cassette that accepts 35mm film. So I needed a fairly clean 126mm camera. It took me three attempts to hit that requirement. One camera arrived and it looked like it had lived at the bottom of a garage where people did woodworking for 20 years…nope. Finally, this one arrived and there was a found film inside.

The cassette was showing the number 10 so there was still some shots to be taken. I had no doubt that the film was fogged, damaged or just old beyond salvaging. So I took some random photos just in case and then sent it off for develop only.

When it came back I was surprised to see images on the film, some from me, some from the previous owner. But now I didn’t have scanned images. Never mind I just taped the negs to my scanner. They scanned ok, but were very hairy. I didn’t bother fixing them, you will see why.

Here are the found shots.

Cool, no naked shots, looks kind of Greek to me. Do you know where it is?

Here are my shots.

They are not too bad considering. They are fairly sharp, well exposed. That meant this camera would be perfect for the experiment.

I followed the instructions for the adapter to the letter, please check the first link, and took two shots. Then the camera jammed. So I took the cassette out, fogging the film, unjammed the camera and took two more shots. Then the camera jammed. So I took the cassette out, fogging the film, unjammed the camera…can you see where this is going.

Here are my shots recovered from the cassette…er nope. I gave the cassette to a friend to see if he could get it to work. I know I gave up easily, but I had already bought 4 cameras and didn’t think it was worth more effort and money when I have so many other cameras to try. Sorry Fakmatic, super idea, but not for me. Honestly, I think it is because many 126 cameras are old and cronky, I don’t think it has anything to do with the Fakmatic. If you have a good 126 camera it is well worth a try. As I did give the cassette to a friend I don’t have it to take photos of it. Check the website 🙂

Oh but what about the camera? What about 126mm film?

Well, the film ceased being produced in 2008, so like APS all film is now expired, if you do happen to have some. The camera itself was introduced in 1965, has a selenium meter which you can see on the front. You can find more details here

I sent this camera to the friend who I also gave the 3D printed cartridge too, maybe he can get it to work.

Canon IV SB2

My first camera post of 2019. I saved this one in my draft folder for ages.

I have now been back in the UK for 5 months, to be honest, it seems longer. During my last couple of weeks in Japan, I met a friend to give her some film cameras. I couldn’t bring home all the ones I had, so I gave a few away. When we met she asked me how I chose the cameras I buy. So I took her to a little shop I knew in Akihabara and looked in the window. I pointed to a couple of cameras I thought were a good deal, they were both Canon IV SB2. One was slightly more expensive than the other. I asked to look at the more expensive one and cocked the shutter. It sounded clunky and the movement was stiff. So I asked to look at the cheaper one. Now, to be honest, I had no intention of buying either…until I tried the cheap one. It felt smooth and everything worked. It was less than £30. Plus, I had a Canon f1.4 LTM lens that would fit it nicely.

Hello Canon IV SB2, surely I could fit one more camera in my luggage?

This camera was released in 1954 and you can find lots of technical details on the linked site. When you load the camera the leader of the film has to be cut in the same style as the Leica Barnacks. It felt super to hold, a piece of quality machinery. I loved the viewfinder with the magnifier built in. I put an expired film in as soon as I could as I only wanted to take fresh film back with me.

Not too bad for a dull day in Minami Senju. As soon as I got back to the UK I tried another roll. The rangefinder’s second image was a bit light so I put a little square of tape on the window which helped.

Oh dear, this time the shutter seemed to be less smooth and the photos show the curtain was sticking. This was beyond my fixing abilities and I am out of work. Hmm, is it worth paying for a CLA?? Only if I sell some cameras to pay for it, so I did.

I took the camera to Newton and Ellis in Liverpool and waited, and waited, and waited. I am not patient, but this was different. I had never had a camera CLAd before this, I have now, but this was my first and it was going to be expensive. Would it be worth the wait and expense?

Finally, after a near 3-month wait and a few camera sales, I got the call. I rushed to Liverpool and picked it up. As soon as I did I could feel the difference. The shutter was so quiet. I could see the second image. The film advance moved like a hot knife through butter. They said they replaced the shutter curtain as it was crispy. They cleaned the rangefinder among other things. After a brief chat, I loaded some pre-cut film and not just any film. I tried my first roll of Kosmo Foto and wandered the area.

I didn’t quite finish the film as I had to head to Manchester to meet a friend. I love that, how English am I? I was in Liverpool and drove to Manchester 🙂

As I am from Yorkshire, I decided to finish the film in Haworth, because I can. This is a beautiful village and the former home of the Bronte Family.

Holy moly, I can quite honestly state…

  1. I love this film
  2. I love this lens
  3. I love this camera
  4. It was worth getting it CLAd
  5. I might have paid more for the CLA than the camera body is worth, but I don’t care
  6. I am keeping this camera
  7. Oh and England is lovely

Plus, now I have well and truly decided to sell most of my cameras. Soon I will be putting notices on my camera review posts for ones that are up for sale. I will no longer put them on eBay. That means if they sell, great. If they don’t, I get to keep them a little longer.

I will still write new reviews, especially as I have a shelf of about 10 cameras to get through. But I am going to move towards getting to know a few cameras better.

This is definitely a keeper.

Top Ten Viewed Posts of 2018

After reading Dan James’ blog about his posts of 2018, I thought I would look at my own stats. I don’t really do musings as such so I can’t do a full list like his, but according to the stats, these are the top ten most viewed posts. They are not ones I posted in 2018, but the most viewed this year out of all the posts.

  1. Minolta Hi-Matic AF-D
  2. Olympus AZ-1 Zoom
  3. Fuji HD-M
  4. Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 MD
  5. Two Nikon TW Point and Shoots
  6. Nikon TW Zoom
  7. Olympus Pen EED
  8. Ricoh XR 500
  9. Fuji TW-3
  10. Konica Z-up 80 super zoom

Pentax ME F

I saw this camera for sale on eBay for parts/not working. The description said the battery cover was stuck. I knew the ME F was very much like the ME Super and thought, I think I can fix that! So I bought it, for a bargain price.

When the camera arrived the battery compartment was indeed stuck. I unscrewed the bottom plate and there were batteries in the compartment. Luckily they weren’t leaking and the compartment showed no damage. I took them out and replaced the plate. Next, I tried pressing the battery open button and voila, the compartment opened without an issue. I am not sure why the cover got stuck, but it seemed fine now. I put in fresh ones and the lights came on. Maybe one had swelled and was due to burst. I got there in the nick of time.

I had come into contact with this model before, but it didn’t work. I then became a little obsessed with finding another. Finally, here I am with a seemingly working model. I researched it and found it is basically an improved ME Super with a focusing assistant for the very first autofocus lens. Without the lens, it is an ME Super with a focus indicator in the viewfinder. That made me think, sometimes we really want something, like a newer model. Something bigger, better, faster. I have lost count how many times I have upgraded something or bought a new digital camera and then realized the old one was perfectly fine.

Without that all-important lens, with the autofocus built in, this one was exactly what I already had. I didn’t need it at all. You can read more about it here, with technical details galore. 

Oh well, now I have it I might as well test it as I have a few Pentax K lenses. The camera works in aperture priority mode or manual mode. The “A” for auto on the lens I chose did not work on this camera, which was tricky when I accidentally went passed f22 by mistake.

Here is the test roll. It was very underdeveloped, I am still having issues adjusting to Ilfosol 3. I corrected the shots in Preview, well the ones I thought were worth it.

As a point of note, I do not like the new WordPress gallery. The old one would arrange the photos in a much more pleasing manner. The new one leaves big gaps unless you choose to crop the images for the thumbnails which I did for the camera shots and will do for the next test roll. I wanted to try the camera again after finding out about the auto issue.

There were taken on a lovely December afternoon around St.Aidens. The light went away quite sharply throughout the roll. The well-lit shots are fine, but the backlit ones caused this example to struggle. I took a similar roll with another camera and that coped much better with backlight. This camera, with both rolls, seems to underexpose a little.

Even though I love my Pentax ME Super, I just did not take to this version or example. I say example as it might just be this one, another MEF might be perfectly ok. I am going to give this to a geocaching friend with the remit to overexpose by 1 to half a stop.

Chinon CP-7m

This camera from 1986 is another donation. I also took this one on a trip to Manchester. I looked it over and everything seems to work, but I forgot one thing. A basic thing. The seals. The first rule of junk camera use is to check the seals. I didn’t notice these ones until I took some photos of the camera for this blog. Then I saw them.

How could I not have noticed that. The film window seal, really the only seal, is disintegrating in front of my eyes. How would that affect the photos I took in Manchester?

A massive reoccurring light leak.

Bugger. Oh well, more on that later. Did you see the battery compartment? This camera takes either four AA batteries or one 2CR5. How convenient is that? Plus there is a switch for multiple exposures. Not only that, you can attach a cable release and set the timer for interval shots. Pretty impressive.

Apparently, this is also the only Chinon that uses the K-Mount lenses in fully automatic mode. I used this one in P mode with a Chinon 28-50mm lens for the test film. I have not seen a 28-50mm lens before, it is a really useful choice. I hope it is sharp. The grip was covered in a white leather due to the original owner covering a sticky patch. It made the camera more comfortable to hold. 

 Apart from the now obvious seal issue, I really liked this camera. It has enough features to make it interesting, but not too many that is is confusing. Plus the layout is really easy to understand. And the test shots?

Due to the resulting fogging, I cropped some of the photos to a square format. That way you can observe the photos without being distracted by the light leak. Shame though as I really like some of the shots I got and I met some interesting characters. The guy in the hat standing quite proudly was someone I approached and asked to pose for me. I have done that before, but it always leaves me a little surprised by myself. Surprised I did it, surprised they said yes. He was great and super polite. He really owned the alley 🙂 I took a photo on my phone just to be sure I got the shot as I had not used the camera before. I am glad that I did that. Though, my phone camera glass was cracked too…super photographer I am, everything is falling apart.

The lens cover on my phone camera is cracked, but I still managed to get this shot. Thanks random guy,

As for the Chinon shots. I used Fuji Acros 100 pushed to 400. The exposure settings are spot on for the most part, but the lens is a little soft for my liking. So after fixing the seals, I tried another film. I used a film I thought was damaged as I still wasn’t sure about the film door seal. I don’t like using lots of tape on a camera, they should just work without too many fiddly adjustments. The film I used was a Fomapan I had tried in a 126 adapter. I suspected it had been covered by my fingerprints or scratches, but as this was a light leak test those issues didn’t matter.

Here are the results of that test.

What is it!! I changed the seals, where is that light coming from??…let me check.

As you can see the light from the torch shines through the edges of the seal material I chose for the film door. This must be where the light gets on the film. So I tried the camera one last time. I usually don’t try a camera 3 times, but I like this one. I am not giving up on you mighty Chinon. This time I put a lot of tape on that section and around the back of the camera.

Nothing is getting through that. If there are more light leaks then it is coming from somewhere else, somewhere from the depths of Mordor.

And the final film results.

Yes, finally. Ok I will change the seals on the film door again with thicker material. This film was an Agfa 200 that I got from Poundland when they used to sell it, I miss that cheap film score. The camera and lens performed really well this time and the back lit nettles are particularly well exposed.

I have seen this camera for sale really cheaply on eBay. If you are looking for a motorized SLR, this is a good choice due to all the cool features.

Halina Smile

As of writing this post you could still buy this camera on Amazon. I put in half a roll of expired film from another toy camera.

This is a cheap plastic camera with very basic specs. A single aperture, a single speed, and a fixed focus lens. 

28mm lens
F/9.5 aperture
Fixed focus
Shutter Speed: ~1/100th / sec

I don’t know why anyone would buy this camera. You might as well get the simple use camera, at least then you will get a decent film with it.

Loading the film is a little awkward as there is no slot for the film end, only some bumps for the sprockets, as with the simple use. I found after loading the half used roll, the winder became stiff. I recommend only using a 24 exposure film, of 400asa of course.

After a few shots, my example seized and I gave up.

Here are the few shots I got.

Not the best camera, not the sharpest of lenses. Not recommended by me at least. The colours are nice though 🙂

Pokemon 35mm Camera

I didn’t actually know what to title this post, should I write souvenir camera, tiger camera as it says it on the front, or toy camera. It really is a unique camera, purely a fun camera. You can find the manual here.

I love toys and I love pokemon. So when I read about this camera from 1999 my inner child clicked on and I decided I must try it. See I said “try” not keep. I already knew when I bought it that I didn’t want to keep this camera. The manual recommends 400asa, like most other toy cameras. The second article says it puts all 150 pokemon around the photo. As of writing this post, there are over 800, so the catchphrase of “gotta catch ’em all” is no longer true. How can you catch them all when they just keep designing more?

I love the look of this camera, with Pikachu, Diglett and some pokeballs incorporated in the design. The on/off button locks the shutter. As it is a very basic camera, it will still work if there is no battery in it. On my example the flash was a little hit and miss. I had to add a piece of tinfoil to make it more reliable. The flash fires each time it is charged and the camera is turned on.

If I was using it to take photos of children, they loved it. Even adults had a giggle. Children tended not to understand that they could not see the photos straight away and kept grabbing at it to see the back. But at the end of the day how many photos do you need with a Pokemon border? I took the film out mid roll and put it in another toy camera.

Here are the shots I took. I put in an expired roll so was nowhere near the 400asa suggestion. 🙂

Well, it works. It was fun while it lasted. I think if the Pokemon was a choice you could make, I would like it more. But the border is built into the camera, Pokemon galore, constantly.

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