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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.

Canon EOS 300 (EOS Rebel 2000, EOS Kiss III)

I was expecting to write a scathing review of this plastic camera from 1999 but I loved it. Another camera I love and a cheap one at that. I can’t even remember where I got this one from so it must have been really cheap. I think I got it in order to use the one EOS lens I have.

You can find technical details here. The first thing I noticed and liked was that it loaded all the film into the body of the camera and then counted down as you used it. I always like that, easy. It was also really quiet, barely a peep out of it. But the main thing I liked was the weight and feel. It is very light and surprisingly pleasant to hold. It won’t hurt your neck on a long walk. Also, you may think it is going to be very plasticky, but the two-tone material on the front of the body actually makes it feel nice in your hand.

In terms of modes, it has all the modes you might ever need. It has iso override, bracketing, presets, manual, aperture priority, speed priority and can take multiple exposures.

As you can see by the photos of the camera, I took it on a walk in the countryside and Bingley Five Rises Locks. I am going to try and take photos of the cameras I use where I use them. I might forget, but that is the plan.

Here are the shots I got using some donated Kodak Ekta 100.

I think I might keep this one, I need something to put on the lens.

Konica Pearl III

I was asked to use this camera by one of my students. He was a bit worried that it wasn’t working correctly and wanted some reassurance.  Sure I said, I have never used one before, or even seen one for that matter. I was a bit jealous as he is in grade 5 and he has this super camera.

I had helped him load some Shanghai GP3, but after a few shots, he thought something wasn’t right so asked me to finish the roll. I took it to Shunpuu Banriso a beautiful house and garden in Kasama, Ibaraki.

This is a coupled rangefinder from 1955. It has an auto-stop advance and takes 6×4.5 photos. The shutter release is on the lens door and the door opening button is where you would expect the shutter release to be, a bit of a reverse.  The lens is a Hexar f3.5, 75mm. The speeds range from 1 second to 1/500th. The rangefinder is operated by the indented slider on the lens. The indented button is molded and placed in order to be operated by the right index finger. This example’s worked so smoothly, perfect condition. I found loading the camera a bit tricky as there is a push-up plate which is hard to reach. Once we had loaded the camera I put some tape on the film door opening lever as the student is sometimes a bit impatient. When we had loaded the camera he immediately opened the back again. So the tape was a visual reminder. The actual switch also worked smoothly and perfectly.

You cock the shutter with the lever on the front of the lens, after setting the aperture and speed manually. The camera does not have a light meter. It is possible to take multiple exposures before advancing the film. Once you are ready to advance the film you have to press the switch next to the film advance knob, this releases the mechanism. Turn the knob clockwise to advance and it automatically stops in the right place.

Once I had finished the roll I thought I had advanced the paper all the way to the end, but when I opened the back I found part of the paper still covering the exposure space. The film advance was a little sticky so I manually finished advancing the film paper. There was only a little bit of paper to go, the film was already protected. I think the paper was really stuck to the original spool and there wasn’t enough ‘power’ to pull it off.

Then I developed it, in Kodak T-Max 🙂

Wow, what a bargain this student has found. I think he got it for much less than the few cameras posted on eBay. It is clean and works perfectly.

Keep or sell: I have to give it back 😦

Leica III with Canon Rangefinder 50mm f/1.4 Lens M39

I don’t usually post a camera twice unless I am testing a new film. BUT I decided to invest in a new lens for my Leica as I was unimpressed by the Summar. That lens seems to have a very light layer of haze. Though it is so even I am still only sure it is there due to the photos. I looked around and I could not afford a clearer Summar, not even close, so I plumped for this one. The Canon Rangefinder 50mm with a large f/1.4 aperture.

I loaded a film as soon as it arrived. Unfortunately, there is a typhoon on the way so it rained for days. Eventually, I thought sod it and took it out for a trial anyway.

The rain and the dark days meant I could only try it at apertures between f1.4 – f.2.8

I wasn’t expecting much as I had put in a 100asa film. I was pleasantly surprised.

The film and lens had managed to capture most things pretty sharply, with a good depth of field.

The exposure was also good, well-done smartphone light meter. The only issue I found was the cut-off point at the top. The camera seems to need me to aim above where I really intend to crop. This can be especially seen on the statue photos. I put the cherubs much closer to the centre.

I can’t wait to use the camera and lens on a brighter day.

Leica III Barnack

After spending years wishing for a Leica, any Leica, I happened upon an advert for a Leica III that caught my eye. Now, to be honest, I really wanted an M3 with the attached light meter as in King Kong Skull Island fame, but that was way out of my price range. I was almost as enthralled by the camera as I was by Kong himself. I have even bought a couple of Russian Leica copies, including the Zorki 1 to quell my desire, but still, I wanted one. If I actually was ever to own a Leica, it would have to be a thread mount like the Zorki, not an M series due to the price difference. And there was the advert, saying they had a Leica III in great condition with a lens, just serviced and with a 20% discount. The camera the Zorki 1 was based upon. I still thought about it for a couple of days. I looked at other listings and their prices, it just seem too good to be true. Finally, my sister said, “oh just do it!”

So I did.

So looking at this website and given the serial number on mine is 140686, it was made in 1934. That means it was made 10 years after the series was first produced, a very early model with only 1500 being made. There is so much history and information about this camera on the net and in books, I am not going to go into any of that now.

As soon as mine arrived I put a film in it and went to Tokyo, taking photos along the way until I reached a one-hour developing shop. I already knew how to use the camera due to my experience with the Zorki 1, they really are very similar. The feel, the action, the sound. I shot and then I waited. It was a dull, cloudy day.

When I got the contact sheet back I was a little underwhelmed. I had paid for a cd so I went to one of the shop machines and printed a couple of the shots. They seemed ok, but not what my heart was expecting.

So the next day I loaded a Rollei RX 25, the right speed for the camera’s era, and went for a walk around where I lived. Then developed the film at home as soon as I got back.

There are three similar shots that I tried at different speeds and apertures, none made a difference, still too dark. Again I was a bit disappointed, but I wasn’t sure why.

Maybe it was the lens, maybe it was my expectations, but I thought I would try a newly arrived Jupiter lens on the Leica body and see if that changed my feeling towards the camera.

So this time I tried JCH street pan with the Jupiter lens and Leica body.

I took it to my workplace, taking pains to avoid faces when taking shots. I wanted to see it capture moving people. This was really the first camera portable enough to capture life and people living it, moving in it. Then I walked to another camera shop, forgetting I had used a black and white film…so then I walked home and developed it in D-76.

Ok, so the Jupiter lens has a different quality to it…but still the feeling persisted. And finally, two books I had ordered at the same time as the camera arrived.

IMG_7533

I had been looking at this camera all wrong. I was comparing it to my other cameras. It is nothing like them. This camera is a piece of history, a trailblazer and the machine that started an industry. It is the Model T of cameras. Of course, cars would have come along without the Model T and cameras would have eventually become more portable without the Barnack. But this was it, this was the camera series that started it all……and it is still working. It is still working so well that I compared it to cameras 80+ years younger which I have not done with the other very old cameras I have tried.

The Leica III was much easier to use than the folding cameras and the results were far better. Even though I have yearned for a Leica for many years I just didn’t take to this camera and eventually sold it.

UPDATE: I did try the summar lens with a UV filter to try to reduce the haze. Here are the results.

It didn’t really help. Though I do like the photos. I looked at the lens and it seems really clear, so I am not sure why the haze persists. Maybe I am over exposing the negatives.

Update 2
I recently cleaned a couple of lenses, with my confidence boosted I decided to take off the front element of the Leica lens and attempt to clean the haze. In the end, it was just one tiny, tiny screw. It was more awkward than difficult. Once I got it all back together I retried the lens on this camera. Unfortunately, I had a little difficulty developing the film. It got stuck on the reel and I had to load it a couple of times. Even so here are a few shots from the cleaned lens.

Well despite the issues with development, I think the haze has improved. I think I still prefer the Canon lens though.