The Power of the Dark Slide

A friend of mine told me about a month ago that his Linhof Kardan Super Color 4×5 as feeling neglected and insisted that I was the right one to give it some much needed attention. Next thing I know UPS has dropped a very large box on my front porch and I started unpacking, examining and cataloging the contents.

The camera had been stored in a very nice aluminum case since he traded for it seven or eight years ago and he just never got interested enough to try it out. It’s in beautiful condition except for the bellows which looked like Swiss cheese. Shining an LED flashlight inside it made me think of the last time we were at the Planetarium – galaxies of tiny points of light. If I was going to use it the first order of business would be to do something about the bellows. A little browsing and eBay searching convinced me that at the minimum it would cost at least $150 for one that was made either in China or the UK and at the max around $900 for the real Linhof item.

I found that several resourceful types on the forums had contrived different ways of coating the bellows and applying spot patches in such a way as to make them reasonably light tight. I chose to use Plasti-Dip black spray rubber coating – three coats on the outside and two on the inside. This took care of about 95% of the leaks and I was able to plug the rest with some latex rubber paint I found at a craft store. It took a week or so to dry properly and the smell is just now getting to the point that it doesn’t give us headaches when we’re in close proximity. Bringing the Linhof back to life was a little more difficult than most of the tiny in comparison 35mm and medium format cameras that I’ve revived over the years but I think it was the most exciting and rewarding project of all.

I’m still learning the tricks of the trade but I’ve managed to master most of the procedures involved in taking it afield. Having had a Graflex Century Graphic helped a bit with the concept of using a ground glass for focusing, the purpose of dark slides and etc. My friend included a hundred sheets of expired Kodak Plus-X film and I found a super deal on some expired Fujicolor NPS 160 at our friendly local camera store – $5 for a box of about 15 sheets. Much to my surprise both the films are very much usable. I’m developing my own b&w and color and I’ve found doing 4×5 and getting even development is a challenge. I’m trying different methods that won’t involve investing a lot. Tray developing works but is a pain and using the ‘taco method’ with a Paterson tank has promise. I’m sure I’ll eventually find something that works consistently before long.

I’ve taken about half a dozen pictures so far and have been pleased with the results. In fact I’m more than pleased. The quality and resolution of a 4×5 negative is so much better than anything I’ve tried before that I consider myself hooked on Large Format. Like Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker, “If only you knew the power of the Dark Slide!”. Come with me. It is your destiny!

 

 

The Times They Are A Changing

This is another post along the lines of my ‘Flea Market Walk About’ for the Random Camera Facebook group. My interests in camera collecting are changing with the times and the article by James Szylobryt hits the nail on the head. We must be on the same wavelength.

===== A Flea Market Walk About Mini Post ===========
Here’s a good one in line with my weekender posts. It’s not only a good review of the Kiev 4am but also offers some insight into finding a ‘keeper’ instead of buying of cameras and selling them after the new wears off. I’m finding myself becoming less interested in finding old cameras to test and more interested in taking the time to become familiar with the ones Cheryl and I already have and finding the ones that give me pleasure in the using.
I think my ‘flea market walkabout’ is going to become more of a personal experience review of all the cameras in our collection and whatever new ones come our way. We just don’t get out that often anymore to scrounge for cameras and the supply of thrift store finds is starting to dry up. I think they’ve been ‘over fished’. I belong to “Vintage Camera Collectors” and have seen in the forums that overall it’s getting harder to find decent cameras without putting some extra effort into it and changing your methodologies. Good finds can still be ‘the luck of the draw’. VCC is a good group for rubbing elbows with folks who love vintage cameras and there are already a goodly number of Random members that I know who are members of both groups.
https://www.35mmc.com/20/05/2017/kiev-4am/

Making the Most of the Mundane

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I can’t remember the last time I used the word ‘mundane’. It’s one of those terms that’s a part of our vocabulary but for most of us doesn’t float to the surface very often. The only reason I dusted it off and trotted it out is because it’s the only description that really seems to fit one of my thrift store finds this last week.
I often stop by the ARC store a few blocks from my office during my lunch break just to take a peek at the glass case in the back to see whether anything interesting has turned up. At first glance I didn’t see much that would pique my curiosity. One last sweep turned up an odd looking leather box with an attached strap in one corner next to a pile of DVDs. My ‘Spidey Sense’ started tingling and letting me know that unlikely as it was this had to be a camera.
When I picked it up I found that it was not only a camera but an exceptionally heavy and unusually homely, awkward and boxy camera. It’s a one of those things that only a mother could love. It makes an Argus C3 look downright stylish. It manages to out brick the brick. In fact it’s an Argus C3 disguised as an automatic exposure camera with an implementation that went terribly wrong.
I’ll admit that I have an affinity for unlovable technology and it went home with me. The Autronic 35 is a child of the 60’s. The Cold War was in full swing and Suburbia a reality with thousands of identical streets lined with identical boxy little houses that inspired folk singer Malvina Reynolds to pen the song that described them as “all made of ticky-tacky” and “all look just the same”. In Ann Arbor, Michigan the Argus Corporation was busy designing, building and selling hundreds of thousands of cameras that were unattractive and mundane but were also sturdy, inexpensive and capable of taking decent photos. From the late 1940’s through 1960’s these nearly indestructible little wonders introduced many thousands of Americans who could never afford a Leica to the joys of 35mm rangefinder photography.
One of my old friends told me that he still had hundreds of slides he’d taken with a C3 during the 60’s as he traveled not only all around the US but many places overseas.
As with every flea market/thrift store camera that I find this one deserved to be given the chance to open it’s eye and expose a roll of film and prove it’s mettle. I quickly found that even though the selenium cell meter was inoperative it was possible to manually set the aperture. There’s a chart in the manual that translates the odd Argus exposure numbering system into F-stops and the ‘flash/scene/action/500’ shutter markings into real speeds. The iso settings on the bottom of the lens only go to 200 but are basically worthless since the automatic exposure is kaput. I also found that there’s no stop for the film advance. After you snap a picture and advance the film once it’s easy to forget that you already wound it and do it again, leaving an empty frame in the middle of the roll. Double exposures are possible by flipping the rewind lever down on the bottom and cocking the shutter again with the film advance lever. The rangefinder is not bright but adequate and is set using the knob which surrounds the shutter release. I found the focus to be quite accurate.
I loaded it up with my usual Fujicolor Superia Xtra 400 and applied the Sunny 16 rule and started finding some unusual things to photograph. I work at a government facility and had no trouble at all finding some mundane, blocky and very 1960’s & 70’s buildings that would make ideal subjects.
The results were pleasing in an average way and I found that there are indeed ways of “Finding Beauty in the Mundane”. The Autronic 35 may not win any beauty contests but it’s OK in my book. Hope you enjoy my mundane photo collection. I’m not using that word again for a long, long time.

Pictures Like Mom Used to Take

This is an update to my “Flea Market Walk About” Weekly post on “The Random Camera” Facebook Group


===== Kodak Tourist Update =====

Got the negatives I took this weekend back from the lab and all things considered they’re not too bad. Almost ‘Pictures Like Mom Used to Take’.
This was Ilford Pan F Plus 50 ISO expired in 1999 so push processed one stop.The general cleanup and especially cleaning the lens and the protective glass helped a lot with the overall picture sharpness. They’re still not going to win any contests but are much better than the first roll I put through it. I think using 100 ISO and keeping the lens stopped down to F22/32 will help too. I’ll try that next go around. I have a feeling the black dots on the film are artifacts from my attempt to shoehorn a roll of 120 into a 620 camera. I cut the rims of the 120 rolls even with the paper backing and sanded them smooth as well as sanding off a microscopic layer of plastic on each end of the roll. It fit but just barely. I should’ve been more careful about making sure all the dust particles were removed, maybe by a little application of a vacuum cleaner hose. With my luck it would’ve sucked the roll in and I would’ve had to start over. Next time I’m going to use my changing bag to respool the 120 onto 620 spools. The Film Photography Podcast store has the spools so I ordered some a year or so ago. They’re pricey so make sure you let your lab know to return them with the negatives and prints.
Here is hopefully our last snowstorm of Spring (Hah!) courtesy of the venerable Kodak Tourist.

Flea Market Walk About – Random Camera – 04/29/2017

====== Flea Market Walk About ======
====== Collecting for Nostalgia ====

On the way home from work this evening my mind started it’s Friday evening offloading of all the week’s events and sorting out the things still left undone. I realized I hadn’t started on the ‘Flea Market Walk About’ and had probably been putting it off because Cheryl and I haven’t had much of an opportunity to get and make our usual thrift/antique store circuit.
When I got home I was still mulling over the fact that I didn’t have a clue what I was going to write about this week. Sitting on the sofa with Cheryl and talking about dinner plans I happened to look over at her camera shelf and saw my Kodak Tourist perched forlornly on the bottom with some of her old folders. The look it was giving me was that of a neglected puppy. I realized I’ve been ignoring it for quite a while. Here comes the ‘Nostalgia’ part of the post.
I bought the Tourist because it’s identical to the one my mom had when I was young. She used it to record every cute thing my sister and I did from the time we were toddlers until we got to be just annoying pre-teens and wouldn’t sit still for pictures anyway. It was the camera that taught me about photography. After watching Mom using it and seeing that envelope full of pictures come back from the drug store I decided this was kinda cool. I sweet talked her into letting me take some pictures under her supervision and kept pestering her to buy more film so we could take more pictures. Funny how addictive that can become. Eventually I decided I didn’t want to share the Tourist anymore (or maybe it was the other way around) and scored a little Kodak Reflex 127 camera in a ‘junk store’ near where we lived in Clovis NM. I used that for a long time and can still remember vividly taking pictures during a New Mexico winter of the snow and the the trees and just about freezing my fingers off.
I’ve lost track of how many cameras I’ve gone through in the last 60 or so years but I’ve never forgotten Mom’s camera. Every once in a while I’d see one for sale but never could quite bring myself to buy it. Maybe it was because it wasn’t really Mom’s Tourist. Since she passed away a few years ago I’ve come to realize that her camera is lost and gone forever and I doubt if my sister will ever find it in Mom’s stuff.
Last summer when Cheryl and I were doing one of our antique store walks I saw this particular Kodak Tourist. I looked it over and it was in great shape. Just holding it and unfolding brought back a flood of memories. It was only $20 so I took it home.
The next time Cheryl and I went out for photo walk we took old cameras with us. We stopped at the visitor’s center for the Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs (Colorado USA) and took some pictures looking west towards the foothills of the Rockies. It’s a great view and I was hoping my shots would come out the way I remembered the ones from Mom’s Tourist did. When we got the prints back I was disappointed. The colors were muted and everything was hazy and slightly out of focus. When we got home I put the camera on Cheryl’s shelf to keep company with her Foldex and Kodak Vigilant Jr and that’s where it’s been ever since.
When I saw it sitting there this evening I was somewhat ashamed of myself. I’ve repaired all sorts of point and shoots and rangefinders but hadn’t even thought about trying to figure out why the Tourist wasn’t up to snuff. I found my toolkit and removed the two screws that attach the shutter and it lifted off with no problem at all. I cleaned the simple old meniscus lens and removed the shutter’s front plate and took a look through the round glass that protects the aperture blades. Guess what? It was filthy and was like looking through a dirty window pane. I wonder what was causing the blurry pictures? Duh…
Collecting for nostalgia’s sake isn’t such a bad thing. Every time I use Cheryl’s grandad’s old Canon Ftb I see him in my mind’s eye and remember how much he loved photography. The Kodak Tourist brings up a picture of my mother in her twenties or thirties. Young, happy and vivacious.
One of my cousins sent my sister some pictures she’d found of our family while she was going through her mom’s belongings. It brings tears to my eyes to see that the pictures in my mind are the same ones my Aunt Alynn captured of us more than half a century ago.
After I finished cleaning up the old Tourist I modified a roll of 120 to fit and we’re going to take it down to the Springs this weekend for another outing. With any kind of luck the pictures will be stellar. Even if they aren’t it doesn’t matter. It’s going to have a place of honor on my camera shelf anyway.