Tag Archives: home

Contax RTS III

While taking part in my first vintage fair I was contacted by a reader of this blog who made me an offer I could not refuse.

“Would I like to try a Contax RTS III with a lens of my choice?” he asked.
“Erm yes please!” I replied without much delay.

So at the fair he brought in said camera as promised with a 28mm lens as I already had a 50mm. He also brought in a box of other items including a 500mm mirror lens with a Contax adaptor.

Here is the camera with the wide angle attached.

My goodness this is a heavy camera, but as you can see in perfect condition. I think if I had owned this camera it would have been a lot more scratched up as I carried it and swung it around. Mr Generous really did look after his stuff. Everything in his box of goodies was in its original box or a bag and labelled.

This camera was first introduced in 1990 and you can find all the technical details you like on this page. Really far down on that page you will see details of a ceramic film pressure plate. This other site also mentions it as a starred feature that ensured a flat film plane as it was enhanced by a vacuum. Well, that is impressive. This reviewer said it felt and looked like a Porche of cameras. I have to agree. Even though it was heavy it was surprisingly comfortable to hold, the hand grip being just the right size for my tiny hands. The diopter adjustment made the already bright viewfinder a delight to look through.

As I had this camera for “as long as you like” I decided to put a few films through it and experiment a bit. So for the first film I put in some Kodak EPH P1600X slide film that I had been given by another reader. In fact he gave me a fair bit of this now unavailable film. I wish I had read that link before as it mentions it is a rare 400asa film that can be pushed to 1600…oh I think that is what the ‘p’ indicates before 1600x.

And it says it right there on the tin! Push once for 800, twice 1600, thrice 3200.

Well, I really should start reading instructions and reviews before I use things, but where is the fun in that. Anyway, nowhere does this film have 400asa written on it, not even on the box, you just have to be clever enough to know it??

So as I thought the film was 1600asa and it was from 2002, I set the camera to 1250, moving the dial two places lower on this camera. First I tried the 500mm lens, as it did not have an aperture dial I used it at various settings. I tried aperture and speed mode hoping the camera would figure it out the aperture of the lens. I also tried manual, guessing the lens was an f8 as I had seen other lenses with the same sized aperture. I took ten shots then changed to the 28mm lens.

Then I made some calculations. Sending the E6 film off to be developed would take at least a week and cost about £15 with postage. I have at least 12 rolls of slide film. Gosh that would be expensive.
An order of Tetenal Colortec E6 would be about £50, arrive the next day, and possibly develop 30 films if I could do it. And there is the rub, I have never done E6 processing before. In Japan you could only get black and white chemicals due to government restrictions on the chemicals needed. So I had next to no experience with colour processing. How hard could it be?? Be brave I thought, chemicals ordered!

I found this site and followed it to the letter. I followed the mixing ratios and timings with a quick glance at the pack instructions. If I had known about the pushing element I would have also followed the film guide which I found later. That would have meant adding 5 minutes to the first development stage.

I boiled a kettle to use as topping up water for the tub which I had filled from the hot tap. I put all the chemicals in the tub and took constant temperature readings to check it stayed at 38C. The main issue I had was the wash process, because the sink was full and I have a small kitchen. But in the end it was not as hard as I thought it would be to keep the temperature fairly stable, even on a cold day. I agitated the developing tank every 15 seconds by using the agitation stick rather than taking the tank out of the warm water and inverting it. Then I waited very impatiently for the film to dry.

So the first part of the film was from the 500mm mirror lens.

Well, they are a bit crappy. Underexposed and fuzzy, focusing was quite hard due to the very small depth of field and darker viewfinder. I don’t like the lens very much, though I am glad I tried a free one as I always wanted to buy one for bird watching. The slides were obviously underexposed which enhanced the blue tint.

Here are some of the ones from the 28mm lens.

At first I was disappointed with the results, but then I remembered…Hey, I developed these slides! The film was 17 years out of date and I used it at the wrong settings on the camera and wrong timing of the film processing. So actually, they are not that bad 🙂

These slide also have a blue tint. The ones in the link I shared to before were also blueish. I wonder what the slides will look like when I try another roll and set the camera to 400asa.

As for the camera, it is a bit awesome. I have put a fresh roll of C41 film in it which I will not be processing myself as I want to see what it can do without the hit and miss of my own processing skills. For a Contax camera these can be found for sale at quite reasonable prices. If you are looking for a good quality, manual focus SLR, they don’t come much better than this.

Update: I tried another roll of the slide film today, this time taken at 400asa. I tried a few settings and a yellow filter. I found the yellow filter definitely was not needed and the blue colour cast was probably due to the underexposure of the first film. Some of the new roll were still blue, but some were relatively ok. Either way this roll came out better.

Here are some more from the second roll. It is not my favourite film at the moment, but I will try it in another camera for another comparison test at a later date.

Developing Issues and Darkroom Courses

I recently switched from using Kodak D-76 to Ilford Ilfosol 3 to develop my films. I tended to reuse the D-76 and got used to that process. What I didn’t know or read was Ilfosol was a one use only developer. So when I started developing my own film again, the first one was great. The rest got lighter and lighter, tremendously so. I was increasing the developing time, thinking it was my fault. It was, but not in the way I thought. After the 3rd roll, I went back to the bottle and read the instructions…one use. Crap.

I managed to get images from all the rolls with a fair amount of post-processing, but they were obviously not the best negatives I have ever seen.

It was disappointing as I had just come back from Iceland and had been to a gig in Manchester.

For the busy negatives, they are OK. But the ones with sky you can see a definite issue.

The gig film was the last one I developed before checking the instructions. I actually thought it was blank and didn’t take too much care of it once I took it out of the wash. When it was dry, I saw a reflection of a faint image. To be fair the location was very dark and the singers were wearing black, but still, I expected more.

The first person with the drummer is from Hater, and the lady in the hat is Jennifer Castle. I actually liked both artists though they were quite different. I used my Nikon F2 for both locations, the gig used Ilford Delta 3200 pushed to 6400.

Luckily I did take a medium format and a digital camera to Iceland. I read the instructions again before I developed those…no development needed for the D750. If you want to see more results from that trip you can check out the iBook.

Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 13.57.44

 

Download it on iBooks. (There are some errors in the description which I have corrected, but the new version has not updated yet.)

 

 

 

 

While I was contemplating the development issues I received an email from an outfit in London. A darkroom! Or rather a Bright Room. They run courses on developing and have darkrooms to hire. I am thinking I might take a trip to London and include this location as a stop. You can never stop learning apparently. But wait, they have a pop-up van…maybe they can visit me and some friends??

Delving into their website more, there is an Artist series, where you learn directly from an artist to see how they work. That is just up my street. OK time to save or sell more cameras to try one of those.

They did tell me they will be starting an online gallery on the 30th November 2018, but I haven’t been able to find a link online for that. Sounds interesting though as I love looking at other photographer’s work. I will look back at the end of the month.

I am glad I can develop my films again, I am relieved I know what the issue I was experiencing actually was.

Contax 137 MA Quartz

Believe it or not, this was a junk find. A seller in Japan was selling it for junk as the skin had disintegrated and there was a dent on the bottom. Apart from that, they said it worked fine. So I got it for less than £8 plus postage. Then the fun started. I knew what I wanted to do with it so I ordered the covering material which arrived in a few days. But the camera took well over a month to arrive. A few days after I ordered it there was a massive typhoon in Japan which damaged Kyoto airport, and where was my camera…at Kyoto airport according to the tracking information. And there it stayed. I was just about to give up all hope when new tracking information arrived. But what state would the camera arrive in? Did it get damaged in the typhoon? Well, the package was perfect. Inside was this camera. It came without a lens, but I put one on from another camera to test the viewfinder and operations.

Actually, I almost forgot to take photos before I got stuck in recovering it. These were taken with my phone when it arrived. And the covering? Japanese stamps!!

This is what it looked like once I had finished.

The strap was made in Okinawa and was a gift from a friend when I left Japan. I also put on a lens hood. Even if the camera didn’t work, and I hoped it did, I already loved it.

The camera was produced from 1982 for around 5 years. You can find all the technical details you like on this website. I left the camera on automatic for my test shots, but you do have the options of full manual, aperture, and shutter priority modes. I found the camera very easy to use and quite responsive. It was sturdy without being so heavy that it became uncomfortable. The strap helped with that. The length of the strap meant I could move the position of the camera over my shoulder like a bag.

I put in a roll of Street Candy with the original thin film base. I developed it by adding a leader, in ilfosol3 using the same process times as I would use for Ilford HP5+. I still found it difficult to thread it on the holder though.

I tried the camera around my house as it was raining quite heavily. Once it had died down a bit I went for a walk. Here are my results:

I was really impressed with the camera and film. I spent a little more time post-processing these photos using Snapseed on my iPad. I don’t usually alter film photos in this way, but why not? It is just another form of photography I suppose.

I think this might be the subject for my next zine.

In my film pile, I had a very expired E6 film. I didn’t trust it for anything I cared about so I put it in this camera and wandered around Leeds. I was right about the film, the photos came back in a terrible state. I used Preview to change them to black and white, then increased the contrast. In the end, they came out ok. I just love this camera.

 

Keep or Sell: This is by far my favourite camera. As I am reducing my collection it has persuaded me to sell nearly all the other SLRs I have and stick with Contax. Yeap, I love it more than my Olympus cameras due to the lenses.  This other reviewer came to the same conclusion.

 

Minolta Capios 25 and Home Processing c-41

I can find nothing about this camera online. The few bits and pieces are in Japanese, the only English sites were about selling one. The prices range from $1-$100. I paid $3 for mine and I think it is worth so much more. I have an Olympus Mju and that is always lorded as an awesome point and shoot, which it is. This camera worked just as well for me with comparable options and for a fraction of the price. It also feels smaller and lighter.

 

According to this website this camera was released in 1995 for a suggested retail price of 45,000 yen, which even today is a very big price for a point and shoot. The lens zooms from 28mm – 70mm with apertures from F3.5 and speeds up to 1/500 (at 28mm). The focusing system is 3-point multi-beam infrared active autofocus 0.5m ~ ∞ with macro mode 0.4m ~ 1m.

That means the aperture is not as wide as the olympus, but for the price difference I would be happy. Anyway, thank goodness for Google Translate. I think this is an awesome camera.

For this film I decided to try processing the film at home. I have already processed black and white, so why not colour. I found a kit on eBay which said I could process at 24 degrees C. The usual temperature of 38 degrees is supposed to be hard to maintain. I find this a bit odd as the developing time is just 3.5 minutes. at 24 the developing time is 13.5 minutes…much longer to maintain it.

I felt this camera was working well, it made the right noises, so picked this film to try it out. Here are the results.

Well, the camera worked very well. I love it. But I am not too sure on the processing. The photos are ok, but the tint is an indication that all was not well on the processing front. On the other hand they came out better than the local shop I used last time. So I think I will have another go at some point. As the chemicals do not keep for a long time unlike the black and white ones, and they cannot be bought in regular shops in Japan…it will have to be soon.

So keep or sell? Well I doubt I will get what I think it is worth so I am tempted to sell the Olympus Mju and keep this one. I will ponder this for a little while before deciding.

Oh and these photos were taken in Tsurumi at Sojiji.