Tag Archives: vintage

Kowa H

This camera was not given to me, I did not buy it in Japan…shocking really as it is a Kowa. I don’t really remember buying it at all. But there it was on my “to try” shelf. It had been there for about a year. I think I left it there without really looking at it as I was sure the light meter wouldn’t work. I was sure the auto exposure wouldn’t work either, making it a manual camera only.

But it did work, even on auto.

You can find this camera very cheaply on eBay and other sites. It was produced from 1963 and as the stamp says, in Japan. Once I sat down and looked at this example carefully I couldn’t find a fault with it. Even the light seals were perfect. And here is the special thing…if you put your ear to the camera and press the shutter, you can hear a “chime” sound. I didn’t notice it at first, but then I read about it on this website and I had another listen. Sure enough there it was, like a clock or church bell. So I took the camera to Canterbury Cathedral.

Unfortunately, as I was walking around I bumped the camera and the back sprung open. This reviewer also had the same issue. I didn’t know when it had happened and thought the whole roll had fogged. So to finish the test I also took it to Headcorn Air Show and finished half a roll of an expired film there.

As it turned out many of the shots from the first roll were fine and the exposure choices were spot on. That is pretty amazing as this great review says it was the first camera with an electronic eye…and this one’s still works.

Using the Kowa was a delight. The viewfinder was super bright, the mechanics worked and the selenium cell powered everything perfectly. I tried the camera on both auto and manual mode. The only issue I had was the placement of the film speed dial. It is in the right hand thumb position on the back of the camera. That is usually where the wind on is. But on this camera the wind on is under the camera, so it is moved with the opposite thumb. That meant I naturally moved the film speed when I wanted to advance the film. The camera is slightly on the heavy side and there is no hot shoe. Those are my only niggles.

Keep or sell: no point in selling it just yet as they are super cheap. I might give it away or trade it with someone.

Voigtländer Vito B

I got this film developed before I went on holiday and I thought I had already written the draft, but you know what thought did.

This camera was a cheap eBay purchase well over a year ago and I never got around to using it. Too many other cameras I suppose. I have never tried a Voigtlander and wanted to add one to this blog, this was the cheapest I could find. Look how small and shiny it is.

My example has the small viewfinder which means it is an earlier model from 1954-57. There are loads of technical details on the net about this camera. Here is one. That link and this link mention the shutter is cocked by the advancement of the film. So without the film inside the winding mechanism just keeps turning making you think it might be broken. You can test it by manually moving the sprockets to cock the shutter, but I wouldn’t recommend it..just in case something happens and you blame me.

Mine came in a case with a paper manual. The case was useful as the body didn’t have any lugs to attach a strap or I don’t have the kind of strap that would attach. Having looked over the camera and noticed the markings in the lens barrel, I wrote this post about zone focusing. I decided to try a few shots with a rangefinder attached and some using the zone focusing technique. The camera uses an Exposure Value system. You set the speed and the aperture you want and then the system moves both at the same time. It means you need to change the setting if the available light changes. I do find this system annoying to use in the UK as the light it nearly always changing. I tried to keep the camera on the highest aperture possible, that would give me the widest depth of field for zone focusing. I also avoided setting the camera to infinity as the depth of field should be covered by the zone choice as well.

I took the camera on a bike ride along the Trans Pennine Trail which goes just passed my house. I have recently discovered how lucky I am in this regard. Summer is here, so expect more photos from this area. I also used it around a garden and Gawthorpe which has a large maypole, but I went in June. You can see a video of the festival from 1914 here, very interesting. I might try and catch it next year.

As for the new WordPress gallery, I have figured out how to avoid cropped photos. I upload all the landscape first and then the portraits.

The camera performed really well and the images are nice and sharp with a lovely quality. It was smooth to use and load. Considering it is a small camera, it is fairly heavy even without the case. These cameras are easy to find and many are in fantastic condition. If you want a cool looking film camera, then you can’t go wrong with this camera for the price. I might keep mine as it seems the price I would get would not be worth the hassle of selling it.

Konica S II

This was a bargain of a camera that I had no intention of buying. There I was in the junk section of a Japanese camera shop and I remembered someone asking me to look out for a Konica S2 rangefinder. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the label Konica, on further inspection it was an actual SII. It was only $10, a bit messy. I tried the shutter and it seemed fine. I looked inside and it looked clean. The selenium cell didn’t seem to be working, but it was a manual camera so that didn’t matter. It was worth the risk as a present for my friend.

This great blog says it is rare to find an example of this camera with a working meter, so no worries on that front. It was released in 1961 and sold mainly in Japan, exactly where I was and probably the reason it was so cheap. The only real fault I could find was a hole above the selenium cell, but that didn’t seem to have any affect at all. According to this website, that hole might be to allow extra light into the viewfinder which is indeed bright. The winder movement felt very short, barely over 90 degrees. In fact while using it, I thought it might not be fully winding the film on and expected overlapping images. The focusing second image was clear enough to use the camera comfortably, so if it worked I had found a nice little bargain. You can find lots of technical details on the first link of this post.

As I had found it in Japan, I put in some of original Fuji Acros Neopan 100. I am so happy to read it is being rereleased. Then I headed over to the Manchester Day Parade to use it up.

I used another camera at the parade as well, I will write about that in another post. I was feeling quite brave and asked many people if I could take their photo, only one person said no. Usually I am a bit more shy about these things, but I was with a film photography group and that always gives me more confidence. Everyone was so happy, I recommend a day out in Manchester if you like street photography.

As for the camera, it was a delight to use. It looked cool, it worked perfectly, and look at those images. The lens is super sharp, what a cracker!

It was a touch on the heavy side for me, only a touch though. If I didn’t have a million cameras, I would be happy to keep this one, but I am more than happy to give it to my friend.

Another Olympus Pen EE2

I know I said I didn’t like this camera, so I have no idea why I bought another one. I guess it was just sitting there on a shelf in a vintage furniture shop and my mind said, “you can’t just leave it there to be an ornament.”

So I bought it for $10. Everything seemed to work. The red flag worked as it should, the lens was clear. The viewfinder was incredibly dirty, but I cleaned that and then I tried half a roll of Fomapan.

Well, it worked as it should, but as Plop said about the dark….I still don’t like it and I sold it immediately for a small profit.

Japan, Jetlag, and Cameras

So the all important question, did I buy any new cameras in Japan? Well, durh!! course I did. I went to a couple of my favourite shops around Tokyo.

GT Cameras has a great selection of good quality used cameras and a super junk section. From there I got these.

I bought the Konica for a friend, the topcon because it looked nice and shiny and the fuji because it was $1. The fuji has a built in battery but it is easily accessible and I should be able to swap it for a modern equivalent.

The next one I made a point to visit was Shinbashi Ichi Camera. This shop was on my walk from the Tsukuba Express Station to Ueno Park. I often wandered in. Though it has a nice range of cameras, they were usually out of my price range. But, the junk section sometimes had real bargains and it was always worth a quick look. This time was no exception. I bought one camera there. If it works it will be an absolute bargain.

A Yashica T AF for $25. Ok it might not work, but it might?? I thought it was worth the gamble. When I tried a battery it worked for a few shots, then quit. There is a possible fix online so fingers crossed.

Finally, I went to my old haunts of Wonderex and Hard-off. These are second hand resell shops, which sometimes have good quality film cameras, but always point and shoots for $3. I ended up getting a couple of toy cameras.

These types of shops also sell SLR bodies and cameras from $3. I went with an idea to get a minolta auto lens as no longer had one in my collection and it would come in handy to test any bodies I come across. Of course you need a body to attach it to, to keep the lens safe. So I got this combination for $8

And finally before I went I bought a new camera from Amazon because I saw this post and though Tokyo would be the best place to test it.

All the holiday wombling reminded me of another Canny Camera post about crap cameras. Will any of these turn out to be utter crap or have I wombled well? I guess the next few posts will tell…once I get over the jetlag that is.

Oh and I forgot this little camera…

This was a surprise buy for a number of reasons. Firstly I have owned a few of them and it was never my favourite camera. Secondly it is a half frame. Finally, I found it in an antique furniture shop while waiting to visit a mini pig cafe. I was early and saw it on a table with a label saying $10 so tested it and it seemed to work perfectly. As I had sold all my other versions I figured it was a good investment. I might even start to like it??

Praktica LTL

I tried this camera out before I left for my holiday in Japan. It is the last in my draft box, then I am up to date 🙂

This should have been a post about a very different camera. At the vintage fair I attended I was given my first ever Miranda camera to try, but unfortunately the battery compartment was welded shut by corroded batteries. Never mind, I could use the M42 lens on another camera so I bought a Praktica LTL body as they were very cheap. On went the lens…it was broken too, bugger. So now I had a body and no lens. 😦

Off I trotted to West Yorkshire Cameras in Leeds to buy a lens from their junk pile. I just wanted a light, cheap one. There was a 35mm or lots of 200mm. And here is the final version, nothing left from or like the original I started with. Not a Miranda, but a heavy tank like Praktica.

To top off all the issues I have had, the meter on this example doesn’t work either due to a little more corrosion. TAKE YOUR BATTERIES OUT PEOPLE!

Luckily this camera from the early 1970s works without batteries. You can find all the technical details you might like here or even here. This camera would normally use stop down metering, but without the meter working that is a moot point for this example. Interestingly the lens I bought has a stop down dial on the front. You set the aperture you want and then use that dial to open the aperture to focus, then move the dial back to the required one. Or that is what I used it for anyway. The viewfinder was incredibly dark when set at a small aperture, so opening it up and allowing more light in made focusing much easier. Even so I still found it tricky due to the microprism focusing screen, I much prefer a split screen. Another quirk of this camera is the placement of the shutter button, right on the front panel, not on the top. For me that meant I had to remove my finger from the shutter every time I wound on the film. It didn’t make for a quick process. Combine that with the focusing issue and I didn’t find using this camera pleasant. I put in some film and tried to get to like it, tried to get through the film which usually isn’t an issue for me

In the middle of it all I read this post about a Zenit and I remembered my very first camera, a Zenit 11. I bet that camera is still working, but for someone else. I started to look on eBay for a new to me Zenit 11 (I got one). Reminiscing made me gain a new appreciation for this camera. Yes it is boxy, yes it is heavy, but even with the age and damage it is still working. It is a work horse of the GDR. Really it is very similar to the Zenit 11 in terms of looks, size, weight, and lens choices. So on a rainy day I picked up the Praktica again and finished the film around my house. It wasn’t easy as the weather made the insides dark too and the only lens I had went down to a pathetic f3.5 and the film inside was a Fomapan 100 which I had not been pushing.

Here are the results.

Well, would you look at that. They actually have a nice feel to them. It seems the junk lens and damaged body worked well together. If you want a camera to take on holiday that would work under most conditions, didn’t need batteries and could act as a weapon in the face of danger this might be the perfect choice. It could save your life and still be ok to take photos after. Plus they are so damn cheap it wouldn’t matter if it dropped down a ravine in the process.

I am not quite sure what to do with this camera. I probably won’t use it ever again. Maybe I will try it with another lens if I get one sometime….oh, the one on the Zenit 11 that has just arrived.

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.

Ricoh 800 EES

This is another swapped camera, I still have quite a few to go through from that pile of swaps.

This one is from 1974 and while searching for it online, the word rare came up a few times. It was quite tricky to find any information about it. From the information I did find, it has shutter speeds from 4 seconds to 1/800th. That is where the 800 in the name comes from. You can find all the technical details you need here..in French.

As you would have seen in the details I linked to, this camera uses an awkwardly sized battery. The person I got the camera from had a clever workaround which meant I could use the more convenient LR44. A pile of tinfoil wrapped in electrical tape. The other slot was a perfect size for 2 LR44, which are a slightly higher voltage. You might need to change the asa settings if you try this.

I took the camera to Bradford city center and Moses Gate Country Park. The weather, as usual, was rainy and cloudy. I used Fomapan 100 and pushed it to 400, though the camera does have a setting for 800asa film. I found the camera very quiet, but a little disturbing as there was no information in the viewfinder at all. The rangefinders second image was very faint so I added a piece of black tape to the viewfinder to aid focusing.

When I finally finished the film I developed it as usual and waited for it to dry. Then shock horror, my scanner would not turn on. SERIOUSLY!!! It is three months old and I haven’t used it often. I tried different cables, different sockets, but nothing I did would bring it back to life. I was left with the task of calling Canon. The guy on the line was very helpful, but it didn’t make it magically work again. I had to send it to their one and only service center in the UK. It came back in less than a week with a new power “thingy”. It was a bit of a worry as I am working part-time at the moment and scanners are not really essential or cheap. Anyway, I can recommend the Canon service center in the UK.

Moses Country Park

Bradford

I do also have a cheap portable 35mm scanner. Though the cheap scanner’s results are ok, it crops a lot of the image. Neither scanners are as sharp as I would like. Here are some side by side scans from the two ones I have.

Ok, my final thoughts. I love this camera. If you can find a good one get it but be aware, it will not work without batteries and the batteries might be an issue.

Sold.