Sunday, 8 November 2020

Nikon F2 Photomic

This is my fourth Nikon camera but my first professional Nikon. My first two Nikons - the F301 and the F601 - were made from plastic and were automated. These two were strictly amateur cameras. My third Nikon - the Nikkormat EL - was metal with automatic exposure if required. Again, an amateur's camera but a nicely made metal one. This Nikon - the F2 - is a strictly professional camera and it shows. The camera is metal, a cast aluminium chassis with brass top and base plates. The basic camera has no viewfinder but the buyer had a choice of viewfinders. This was basically a choice between a plain pentaprism finder for use with a hand light meter or the 'Photomic' finder with a built-in TTL light meter. 

My camera has the Photomic finder - the DP1 version - which Nikon calls the head. The Interweb tells me that this model camera was made between 1971 and 1980. The Interweb also tells me the date of this particular camera. The serial number starts with 7 5xx xxx and this gives a date range of between February 1975 and April 1975. (data from
  • lens: n/a
  • focal length: n/a
  • apertures: n/a
  • focus range: n/a
  • lens fitting: Nikon F mount
  • shutter: Titanium foil horizontal focal plane
  • speeds: 1 s to 1/2000 s plus B and T
  • flash: Hot shoe plus PC connector
  • film size: 35 mm 
When writing these articles, I frequently skim over the description of the top plate as they tend to be much of a muchness. The top plate on this camera has a number of idiosyncrasies so I shall describe it in some detail. On there far right is the film advance lever. This has two rest positions. When close to the body, the lever acts as a switch to turn off the light meter if the Photomic head is attached. At the second rest position, standing proud of the body by nearly a centimetre, the metering head is switched on and the advance lever is readily available to the user's thumb. The lever moves through 90º to advance the film one frame and is on a ratchet so the film can be wound on by a series of short strokes. The lever is metal with a metal cover.

Right in front of the film advance lever is the window to the frame counter. In usual SLR fashion, this is reset to S (-2) by opening the back of the camera. Even numbers are displayed in white, odd numbers by dots. 12, 20 and 36 are in red as these were the standard film lengths in the 1970s. The counter will count up to 40.

To the left of the frame counter window is the shutter release button. This is chromed metal as is the collar that it sits in. This button is not threaded for a standard cable release but the chromed collar is threaded for a Nikon proprietary cable. Around the release button is a second collar. This outer collar is black pained brass. This has two functions. If you lift it and turn it clockwise so that the notch aligns with the letter L on the top plate, the shutter is locked against accidental exposures. The second function is to set the shutter speed to
T - more later.

Left of the shutter release button is the shutter speed dial. When the Photomic head is attached, this is covered by the head itself. This dial has speeds from one second to 1/2000 seconds. 1/60 and slower are in white, 1/125 and faster are in green. Between 1/60 and 1/125 is a red line. This is the flash sync speed and is 1/80 seconds. Between 1/1000 and 1/2000 is a pin. This is to connect the Photomic head to the shutter speed dial.

Next to the speed dial is a largish hole in the top plate. This gives on to the focus screen which is replaceable. Normally, the viewfinder fits over this hole. On either side of this hole, towards the front, are two sprung electrical contacts to provide power to the Photomic head.

On the left of the top plate is the rewind crank. This is the standard folding crank seen on nearly every 35 mm camera. This crank will pull up six millimetres to make rewinding the film easier. When the camera back is open, the crank pulls up further to ease the insertion and removal of film cassettes.

What is entirely missing on this camera is a standard, Barnack style, accessory shoe. This prevents you using non-Nikon flash guns. In order to allow you to use Nikon flash guns, there is a Nikon specific shoe around the rewind crank. This has two long springs, one either side of the crank, to keep the flash gun secure. At the rear is a single electrical contact for the flash. At this date, there is no fancy flash control so no extra contacts.

This camera had options for the viewfinder - what Nikon called heads. I shall use the term 'head' from now on. My camera has the light-metering head - the DP1 - which gives the model name F2 Photomic. First and foremost, the Photomic head is a pentaprism viewfinder. The pentaprism adjusts the image on the focus screen so that the viewer sees the image the right way around. It also includes a light meter, a method of reading the set aperture and a method to set the shutter speed.

The head measures 68 by 70 by 41 mm and weighs 220 g - which is a significant weight to add to a camera. Looking down on the head, on the right is a film speed dial in ASA. This runs from 6 ASA to 6400 ASA and can be set in 1/3 stop steps. Setting this is achieved by lifting and turning the outer ring of the dial. This dial is also used to set the shutter speed. In this case, you set the shutter speed by turniung the dial without lifting. This dial connects to the shutter speed dial using the pin between 1/1000 and 1/2000 mentioned earlier.

On top of the head, there is a square window. The rear portion of this is translucent grey. This provides the illumination for the meter display in the viewfinder. The front part of the square is a very small meter read-out.

On the right hand side of the head, in front of the film speed/ shutter speed dial, is a small lever. Pushing this towards the head and down at the same time releases the front of the head for removal (there is a second release for the rear of the head). On the left hand side of the head, towards the rear, is a small metal pin. This connects to the Nikon flash when fitted and provides a flash-ready signal in the head.

Looking at the bottom of the head, the base is dominated by the base of the pentaprism. Behind this are two small pins which locate on the fastener on the body (this fastener is released by a small button on the rear of the top plate to the left of the viewfinder eyepiece). In front of the pentaprism base is a third pin which also locates in a fastener on the body and is released in the same way as the other two pins. In front of this third pin are two prongs which locate on two pins on the front of the body - these are released by the lever on the head mentioned earlier. Either side of the pentaprism base, towards the front, are two pointed pins. These connect with the two sprung electrical contacts on either side of the hole in the top plate already mentioned and provide the power for the light meter. Right at the front of the base of the head is a groove which contains a pin which locates on the rabbit ears prong on the lens. This pin relays the set aperture to the light meter.

The front of the head has the legend 'Nikon' in nice large letters. While looking at the front of the head, on the left is a small button. This is a test button - pressing this allows the meter needle to move across the meter window if there is sufficient battery power available and if the needle does not move much the batteries need replacing. On the lower left of the front of the head is a window which displays the maximum aperture of the lens. This gets set by the indexing process when fitting a new lens - more later. The rear of the head has the viewfinder eyepiece. This is circular and the eyepiece unscrews to allow the user to add a compensating lens if they find using the camera difficult when wearing glasses.

The front of the camera has the nice big lens mount. This is the original 1959 F mount. There is no screwdriver linkage for autofocus and no electrical contacts for automatic operation of the lens. This is where indexing the lens comes in - when fitting a lens, the aperture ring must be turned to the minimum aperture and then to the maximum aperture - the maximum aperture should then appear in the window on the front of the head. On the right of the lens mount (while looking at the front of the camera) is a button to release the lens. Above this, near the top of the camera, is a PC connector for off-camera flash.

On the other side of the lens mount, towards the bottom of the camera, is the self-timer lever. You set this by turn ing the lever to either 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 seconds. When you turn this lever, a small chrome button is revealed. Pressing this button starts the count-down. This self-timer also has another function. If you set the shutter speed to B, the collar around the shutter release button to T and then set the self-timer to 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 seconds then the shutter will stay open for that length of time. Example: shutter speed B, shutter release collar T, self-timer to 6 and then press the shutter release button (not the small self-timer button), the shutter will remain open for 6 seconds. Indefinite exposures can be achieved by setting the shutter speed to B, collar to B and then pressing the shutter release button. The shutter will then stay open until you return the collar to its normal position.

Still on the left of the lens mount, above the self-timer lever, is a combined button/lever. The button is a depth of field preview button. Pressing this closes the iris diaphragm in the lens and allows you to see how much is going to be in focus. The lever here raises the mirror before the exposure. This acts to reduce vibration during the exposure but has the side effect of blacking out the viewfinder, so a tripod is absolutely essential here. To turn this lever, you need to press the lever towards the camera body while turning the lever through 120º.

The base of the camera has six items on it. Starting at the right, there is a folding key marked O and C. This opens the back of the camera. Turn the key to O and then turn further against spring resistance and the back will pop open. When closing the back, you need to turn the key to C to lock the back closed.

Next along his the battery compartment. This holds two button batteries, either LR44 alkaline cells or A76 silver cells. This camera is entirely mechanical and works perfectly with no batteries fitted. The batteries are only required to power the Photomic metering head. Next to the battery compartment is the tripod socket. This is nearly in line with the centre line of the lens which is good for stability. I suspect that a this is the older 1/4 inch Whitworth thread rather than the ISO 1/4 inch UNC thread but I am quite happy to be contradicted.

Towards the other end of the base, near to the rear of the camera, is the button to disengage the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound. It is necessary to keep this pressed in while rewinding the film. In front of the button is a second button. This is a secondary shutter release button which is used by a motor-drive if fitted. Right at the end of the base is the mechanical linkage for the motor-drive advance the film.

The rear of the camera has a memo holder which takes the end flap of a film carton to act as a reminder as to which film is in use. I have never understood why every film camera does not have one of these.

Inside the camera, things are as you would expect in a 35 mm SLR. In fact, it is pretty much the same as the 1949 Contax S which was the archetypical film SLR. In one respect, this camera is more like a German SLR than a Japanese SLR. This is the complete absence of any foam light seals. Light tightness is achieved by deep grooves and flanges. So, no foam to go bad and no need to replace the gooey foam seals with new ones, whichNI was fully expecting to have to do. I have new batteries installed and a film fitted - Agfa Vista 200 ASA (sorry, 200 ISO) which is actually Fuji film.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Vivitar 35EE

This is a sturdy, well-made camera from Vivitar. It was not made by Vivitar but is  a rebadged Cosina 35 and was available under several other camera marques as well - Cosina, GAF, Argus, Prinz, to name a few. It dates from the 1970s and some Interweb sites suggest 1976 - I cannot date it anymore accurately that that.
P1010382The camera measures 115 by 78 by 33 mm body with the lens included it is 115 by 78 by 53 mm. It weighs a hefty 410 g. The body is all black - mainly covered with black leatherette with the top and bottom plates painted black gloss. The main body is cast aluminium alloy, the top and bottom plates are brass and the back is steel.

On the far right of the top plate is the frame counter window. This resets to 'S' when the back is opened - effectively to -2. The numbers are in white - just the even numbers are displayed - with 12, 20, 24, and 36 displayed in red as these were the usual 35 mm film lengths. After frame 36, the counter no longer advances.
P1010393 copyJust to the left of this window is the film advance lever. This is metal with a plastic tip and is fixed on the top of the top plate. In use, this lever sits just proud of the top plate allowing the user's thumb a good grip. When not in use, the lever will park out of the way over the top of the plate. The shutter release button is forward of and slightly to the left of the film advance lever. This button is chrome plated and threaded for a standard cable release. The film advance and shutter release are linked together so that film cannot be advanced without firing the shutter and the shutter cannot be fired without advancing the film.

To the left of these, the top plate is slightly raised to accommodate the rangefinder mechanism. On top of this raised part is the accessory shoe. This is X synchronisedfor electronic flash - signified by a red 'X'. On the left hand edge of the top plate is the film rewind crank. This is the usual small folding crank and doubles as the catch for the back - it opens the back by being lifted.
P1010385The back of the top plate has the viewfinder window. This measures 10 by 6.7mm which is plenty for ease of use. Inside the viewfinder, the screen is larger than the image - the image is delineated by bright lines. In the top left of the viewfinder image are secondary bright lines to account for parallax with close-up photographs.

In the centre of the viewfinder image is a yellowish-green square. This is the rangefinder patch. Any part of the image within this patch that is not in focus will be split into two images. To focus the camera, you turn the focus ring on the lens until the part you want to be in focus consists of just one image. There will be more about this a bit later.

On the right hand side of the viewfinder image is the light meter readout. There are two vertical scales - the left hand one is the shutter speed and the right hand one is the aperture. There is a needle which swings up or down to the selected shutter speed/aperture pair. The slowest shutter speed is 1/30 seconds which is always coupled with ƒ/2.8 as is 1/60 seconds. 1/125 is at ƒ/4, 1/250 is between ƒ/5.6 and ƒ/8 and 1/650 is always at ƒ/14. For a given light level, the user gets no say in either shutter speed nor aperture. The reason that the shutter speed and aperture are so firmly linked is that the shutter blades double as the aperture blades - opening the shutter further takes longer and gives a wider aperture.  The scales have a red portion at top and bottom to indicate that light levels are outwith the camera's capabilities.

The front of the top plate has two windows. The larger, 13 by 10 mm, is the viewfinder window. The other window has two functions. Mostly, it is covered with a translucent grey material. this provides the illumination for both the bright lines and the light meter display. In the middle of the translucent material is a transparent square. This is the rangefinder window which provides the yellowish-green patch mentioned earlier. The colour of the patch is the result of using gold to make the interior mirrors rather than silver.

The accuracy of a rangefinder depends mostly on how far apart the centre of the rangefinder window is from the centre of the viewfinder window. On this camera, the spacing is 25 mm which is rather close (for reference, my Zorki 4 has 40 mm, my FED 2 has 68 mm, and my Yashica Minister-D has 35 mm). This closeness means that this rangefinder will not be very accurate - but will still be better than most people guessing distances.
P1010388In the centre of the front is the shutter/lens assembly. The diameter of the assembly is 51 mm. There is no indication as to who made the shutter (but I have a suspicion that it was Copal). There are two control rings on the assembly. The inner most ring has an auto setting and five flash guide numbers. In normal use, this has to be set to 'auto' for the exposure system to work - there can be no manual operation of this camera. The outer ring is the focus ring. Normally, you would use this while looking through the viewfinder and using the rangefinder but you can set the subject distance directly on the scale on the ring.
P1010396 copyThe bezel of the lens has two important items on it. Just above the lenses the window to the light meter sensor. This is a CdS sensor and so needs a power source to work. This is provided by a mercury battery giving 1.35 volts. Unfortunately (or fortunately as far as the environment is concerned) mercury batteries have been banned world-wide and the modern alternatives give 1.5 volts. This is going to cause the camera to get the exposure wrong. I always find that the 'wrong' exposure is within the exposure latitude of film and so I just use an alkaline battery. People who are fussier than I am can adjust the film speed to compensate. This light meter sensor is within the filter thread so if a coloured filter is used, the meter automatically compensates.

To get the light meter to work correctly, it is necessary to set the film speed. The film speed window is in the bezel below the lens and displays the film speed in DIN (red) and ASA (white). This can be set from 16 DIN/32 ASA to 27 DIN/400 ASA. To change the set film speed there is a knurled ring around the lens. Also on the lens bezel is the information that the camera uses 46 mm filters, the lens has a focal length of 38 mm (slightly wide of 'normal') and has a max aperture of 1:2.8 (which is ƒ/8). On the b bottom of the shutter/lens assembly is a small chrome tab. This presses in to free the inner ring to allow the user to change from Auto to a flash guide number. There is a good orange index line for the auto position and an orange 'lightening flash' plus dot for the guide numbers.

To the left of the shutter/lens assembly is the delay action lever. To set this you turn it anticlockwise and to activate it you press the shutter release  button. This provides a delay of exactly ten seconds.
The base plate of the camera is brass painted black. In the middle is a standard 1/4 inch UNC tripod socket. Beside this is the battery compartment. This should contain a mercury cell as already mentioned but this camera came with a silver cell in place and I shall leave it there. Also on the base plate is the button to disengage the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound.

The leatherette on the back of the camera has a Guide Number chart. This just seems to be distances with no reference to actual guide numbers. Below this is the camera serial number - 048305795 - and the legend "Japan' to indicate that the camera had been imported.
P1010394 copyOpening the camera (by pulling up on the rewind crank), the back hinges well away from the body. This is a Japanese camera so there are foam light seals to keep the back light tight. This camera is over 40 years old and these foam light seals are well on their way to turning into sticky goo. They will need replacing before this camera can be used in anger. There is a groove top and bottom of the body which contains the thin strips of foam - the top groove has a small button in it at the right which resets the frame counter as the back is opened. There is also a strip of foam by the hinge and a large, thick piece of foam by the catch. This last not only provided light tightness but also keeps the film cassette in place and stops it wobbling about as the camera is used.

The film cassette goes on the left. In order to insert a new cassette or remove a used one, it is necessary to pull up the rewind crank. The film gateis nicely finished and smooth. There is a sprocket shaft just to the right of the film gate. The sprockets allow the camera to move exactly the right amount of film for each new frame. Next along is the take-up spool. This is wide so it will not tightly curl the film. There are four fixing slots around the take-up spool. The only other thing I can see inside the back of the camera is a small screw above the film gate, right on the left. This is a blanking screw. Removing it reveals a small hole which gives onto another, smaller, screw. This smaller screw is used to adjust the rangefinder for infinity focus.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Ihagee Exa 6 (or 1.6)

Exa cameras were a cut-down version of Exakta cameras. The first Exa version was just called Exa with no numbers – the second version was called Exa I. This first version Exa was produced in six varieties and my camera is the sixth variety – hence my title above of Exa 6, but the makers, Ihagee, never called it Exa 6 (nor exa 1.6), it was just plain Exa.
P1040209lens:  n/a
focal length:  n/a
apertures:  n/a
focus range:  n/a
lens fitting:  Exakta bayonet
shutter:  guillotine 
speeds:  1/25 to 1/150
flash:  2x PC sockets
film size:  35 mm
Exa, and Exakta, cameras are unique in body shape, control layout and internal mechanisms. If you are used to a Japanese style SLR, Exa take a bit of getting used to. The most obvious difference is the shape. It is rhomboidal rather than rectangular and a lot thicker than other cameras.  Another obvious difference is the shutter speed selector which is a lever. The last obvious difference is that the camera is left-handed. The speed selector is left of the viewfinder and the shutter release button is left of the lens.
As this camera is so unusual, I am going to give a very detailed description.
P1040221The camera measures 130 mm by 48 mm by 85 mm including the viewfinder but excluding the lens. It weighs 528 g.
Looking at the top plate, the viewfinder is central. Most SLR cameras have the lens and viewfinder somewhat left of centre. This camera has them centrally. The viewfinder is removable and can be replaced by various models. My camera has a waist-level finder but several eye-level finders were available (all viewfinders and focus screens for Exakta and Exa models should fit apart from those for the Exakta RTL1000). To remove the finder, it is necessary to move a slide downwards to release the fitting. This slide is on the front panel above the lens and just below the name plate. To fit the viewfinder, it just pushes into place.
When not in use, the waist-level finder folds down which makes the camera significantly smaller and prevents dust from falling on the focus screen. To open the finder, there is a small chrome button on the back of the finder which needs to be pressed in. The finder then snaps into the open position.
To use the waist-level finder, you look down into the finder at the focus screen. My camera has a plain ground glass screen (actually, it is a plano-convex lens with the plane surface ground to form the image and the convex part providing some magnification) but, again, other options were available including one with a split-image centre. The screen is easy to remove and replace – detach the finder from the camera and the focus screen is at the bottom held in place but springs but not very securely – a gentle pull and out it comes.
The image in the waist-level finder is reversed left to right but it is the right way up. There is no pentaprism here to correct the image. At first, this makes composing the image awkward but one soon learns to use it easily. Having the camera away from the eye changes the perspective of the image and looking down at the image also alters your reaction to it. I find that this makes a significant difference to my composition, and, talking to other photographers, this is quite usual.
The big drawback to having the camera away from your eye is focusing. To aid this, Ihagee have supplied a folding magnifier to enlarge the finder image. Raising the camera towards the eye makes focusing easy and you can then lower the camera again to take the shot.
On the right of the viewfinder is a nickel plated plate. Prominently, this carries the film advance knob. This requires one complete turn to advance the film one frame and to lower the mirror (more later as this part is seriously stranger). This knob is also nickel plated which I rather like. Nickel is bluer and softer than chrome plating and much more attractive in good condition. Unfortunately, nickel is prone to corrosion and on my camera is very corroded. When I cleaned the corrosion off, I was left with heavily pitted surfaces.
Beside the advance knob is the frame counter. The disc of this is also nickel plated and corroded. It is both hard to clean and cleaning has partially removed the numbers. This counter counts up and needs to be manually set to 1 when fresh film is loaded. There is a little serrated wheel to do this but this is hard to reach and turn.
Behind the frame counter is the button to release the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound.
On the left of the viewfinder is another corroded nickel plated plate. This carries the shutter speed selector. Unusually (apart from Exa being the only cameras I know with the speed selector on the left) this is a lever. Speeds are sparse – 1/25 to 1/150 seconds plus B. Asahi were offering 1/1000 on their Pentax cameras at this time. This speed selector is relatively stiff (my camera or by design?) and has very definite positions. Beside this lever is the film rewind knob. Again, a knob here was already old-fashioned at this time but I find it as easy to use as the more usual fold-out cranks.
P1040209If we move to the front of the camera – the lens mount is on a nickel plated plate in the centre of the front. At the top of this plate is the name plate. This is painted black with the name “Exa” in script and bright metal. Beneath this is the slide catch for the viewfinder – also nickel plated. Either side of the slide the words “IHAGEE DRESDEN” are stamped in the metal.
On the left side of this plate (as in using the camera) is the shutter release button. This is threaded for a standard cable release. Beside this is a swivel cap which functions to block accidental pressing of the shutter release.
Central in this plate is the lens mount. This is a standard Exakta/Exa bayonet with three lugs inside the throat that connect with the lens. With my Exakta Varex II and my three other Exa cameras, there are three extra lugs on the outside of the mount throat. These are to connect longer focal length lenses as using the internal lugs caused vignetting with lenses over 100 mm focal length. These are missing on this camera so using lenses over 100 mm focal length would be problematical. On the left side of the mount is the lens release lever.
This is probably a good place to talk about the lenses. The standard Exakta/Exa lenses are automatic in that the iris diaphragm automatically closes as the shutter release is pressed. The way this is achieved is very idiosyncratic. The lens has a shutter release button attached to one side which sits immediately over the shutter release button on the body.P1040222.jpg
When you press the release button on the lens, this pushes through the fitting on the lens and presses the release button on the body. It also closes the iris diaphragm in the lens at the same time.
On the right hand side of the lens mount are two PC sockets. These are chrome plated. The top socket is for F rated flash bulbs (F=fast) and will fire the flash bulb 12 milliseconds before the shutter is fully open. This is to allow the flash bulb to reach maximum brightness as the shutter fully opens. This requires a shutter speed of 1/25 seconds.
The lower socket is marked X and is for electronic flash (X=Xenon which is the gas which electronic flash tubes are filled with). With the X socket, the flash is fired as soon as the shutter is fully open and needs a shutter speed of 1/50 or 1/25 seconds.
The back of this camera is hinged – on my other Exa cameras, the back is completely removed together with the base. When you open the back, the ends of the base come away with it, leaving the middle portion in place.  The reason for this is to allow easy insertion and removal of the film cassettes. As you can see from the photograph, the back of my camera is rather tatty. Leatherette frequently comes loose – it was stuck on with shellac – and is easy to refit. Unfortunately, the previous owner of my camera used a plastic type glue and the solvent has reacted with the leatherette and shrunk it.
In common with a lot of German cameras, it is possible to remove the take-up spool and replace it with an empty cassette. This removes the need to rewind the film and speeds up changing the film – it is necessary only to cut the film and remove both cassettes. In order to  make use of this fast film change, you need your new film to be already attached to an empty cassette. Quite doable but it would require more organisation than I am  really capable of. The down side of this system is that the detachable take-up spool gets lost resulting in  second hand cameras being hard to use. The inner from a standard cassette will fit fine but unless you do your own developing, can be hard to find.
The base of the camera is plain apart from a tripod socket. This is a 1/4 inch Whitworth threaded socket.
Being a German camera, there are no light seals to deteriorate, the Germans preferring to achieve light-tightness by good engineering.
The shutter is worth describing – this is also unique to Exa cameras. This shutter is neither an in-lens leaf shutter nor a focal plane shutter. It is a guillotine shutter using the mirror as the first part of the mechanism. When the shutter release button is pressed, the mirror moves up through an arc, exposing the film. A curved blanking plate then swings up and finishes the exposure. Once the exposure is complete, the mirror stays raised until the film is wound on. This is the reason for the rather slow top speed of 1/150 seconds as it is not really possible to get the heavy mirror moving fast enough to get a faster exposure. Plus points are that it is cheap to make, keeping the cost of a new camera down, and has no need of lubricants and so can be used in very cold conditions.
My Final WordThe Ihagee Exa 6 (or 1.6) camera is a unique camera. Controls are simple and the idiosyncratic. Once you are used to it, it is a delightful camera to use although the slow top shutter speed can be restricting. I like Exa cameras!
ImagesHandlingFeaturesView -finderFeel & BeautyHistoryAge
Bonus +1 for the overall imaginative design.
Final Score22

Saturday, 11 February 2017

new blog address

I have moved my Old Camera Blog over to as I am finding their system easier to produce the results I want. The address is

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Yashica 230-AF SLR camera

This camera dates from 1987 and was not very successful commercially. It is at the transition from the ‘standard’ manual SLR camera that was usual at the time to the later fully automatic cameras that were usual by the end of the 1980s. Unfortunately for Yashica, their approach to automation was a developmental dead-end – the future lay with the concepts used by Canon in their EOS range of cameras (which also made their appearance in 1987).

Yashica 230AF
There are no manual controls apart from focus. Shutter speed, aperture and film speed can all be set manually but only through the automatic systems. This is much slower and less intuitive than having a shutter speed dial and aperture ring. There are no dials, knobs or rings on this camera. All adjustments are made with a combination of buttons and sliders.

Really, this was the main design flaw here. Where the Canon EOS range introduced the general-purpose dial just behind the shutter release button (which has subsequently been adopted by all DSLR manufacturers), this camera has a slider. To make an adjustment, you repeatedly slide and release – either to the left (to reduce a value) or to the right (to increase a value). Frequently, this requires the left hand to simultaneously press a button which is not as fluid a motion as Canon’s system (I am going to reference the Canon EOS system quite a bit).

Lens mount showing 'screwdriver on lower right
Focus is achieved by a motor just inside the lens mount – this engages with the lens by a small ‘screwdriver’ much as Nikon still use on some DSLR bodies. This ‘screwdriver’ retracts when the focus is set to manual.

Time for a description:

The right-hand end of the top plate is dominated by a LCD display. This contains all the relevant information – not all of which is displayed all the tie. At the front of this display is the exposure mode: Program, Av, Tv or M. In the middle is the frame counter, shutter speed and aperture. Behind this is the drive mode (single, continuous or delayed) and focus mode (AF, CAF or M)

Main LCD
In front of this LCD is the mode selector slider. This is not marked as to its purpose making the manual very useful. In front of the selector slider is the shutter release button. This is a soft rubber. Beside this is a small grey button marked ‘P’ – this small grey button will set the exposure mode to program and turn on the beeper. This is very slightly easier than using the ‘mode’ button and selector slider. Behind the LCD on the back of the top plate is a threaded socket for a standard cable release. This fires the shutter as you release the cable release plunger rather than as you press it.

Cable release socket
In the centre of the top plate is the pentaprism hump. The top of this has a groove on either side to locate the dedicated flash unit – more later. On the front of the pentaprism hump there is a translucent window to provide light for the viewfinder LCD display. When the dedicated flash unit is in place, this window is covered and the LCD is illuminated by three small lights.

Hot shoe with grooves for fitting flash unit
On top of the pentaprism hump is the accessory shoe. This is a hot shoe – it has the standard central contact and so should work with any hot-shoe flash gun. In addition, there are five more contacts used specifically by the dedicated Yashica flash unit.

On the left of the pentaprism hump are the remainder of the controls. Right up to the pentaprism is the on/off slider. This moves all the way forward to switch the camera on and half-way for the AE-L setting – more later. The other controls are buttons, these are used in conjunction with the selector slider on the right of the top plate. They are: mode, AF, drive, +/- (exposure compensation), ISO and beeper. The ISO button is an override for the DX system that reads film speed off the cassette and sets it automatically. This is useful if you want to set your own EV for the film instead of rating the film at the manufacturer’s rating. Also if you are using bulk film loaded into black cassettes.

main control buttons
Just in front of these buttons, on the side of the lens mount, is an unmarked button. This is used in Manual mode to help set the aperture. In manual, the selector slider sets the shutter speed, and in conjunction with this button, sets the aperture. This is quite a clumsy arrangement, to say the least.

Continuing down the side of the lens mount, there is a large button with a red dot. This is the lens release button – when this is depressed, the lens can be rotated anti-clockwise 45 degrees and then removed. Below this is the auto/manual focus selector. Twisting this slightly anti-clockwise retracts the focus ‘screwdriver’ and allows the lens to be focussed manually.

The only item on the front of the camera is the lens mount. This is a three blade bayonet mount – pretty much standard from the 1930s to the present day – with the auto-focus ‘screwdriver’ on the lower right. In 1975, Yashica had joined forces with Zeiss to produce a series of Contax cameras with a new bayonet mount called the C/Y mount (not to be confused with Zeiss Ikon’s 1936 Contax cameras with a totally different bayonet mount). With this camera, Yashica decided to produce a new mount which is not compatible with the Contax mount and is only used on this camera.

Just inside the mount at the bottom is a lever which sets the required aperture on the lens. There is no aperture setting ring on the lenses for this camera – as is now usual for nerly all new cameras. At the top of the lens mount are five electrical contacts. As there are no electrically active components in the lens, I assume these contacts allow the camera’s processor to read zoom and focus positions.

Also worth noting is the fact that the focus screen is replaceable. There is a small catch at the front of the focus screen and when this is released, the frame holding the screen in place swings down and the screen can be pulled out. I am not aware of other screens being available but this facility might be for future development if this camera had sold well (it didn’t).

I only have one lens for this camera – a35-70 mm zoom. This is a fairly useful range on a 35 mm camera. It has a 52mm filter thread at the front. It claims to be a macro lens – many lenses falsely make this claim – and it certainly focusses down to about 200 mm at the 35 mm focal length and a bit closer at 70 mm. This does not give true macro (image size on the film/sensor the same as the subject size) as the smallest subject that will completely fill the 36 mm film frame is 180 mm but it certainly gives close close-ups.

bayonet on lens showing contacts
The lens has four focus indexes (yes, that should be indices) – one in white for normal focusing, one in red for focusing infra-red images at 70 mm, one for infra-red at 50 mm and one for infra-red at 35 mm. The way these indexes work is this: first focus the object normally and read the distance scale by the main white index mark. Next, move the focus ring until that distance is against one of the red infra-red indexes. The image will now appear to be out of focus to the human eye, but the image on infra-red film will now be in sharp focus.

Infra-red focusing indexes

The last item is the dedicated flash unit. This slides onto the hot-shoe from the front (the opposite way to usual). When it is in position, you depress and slightly turn clockwise the red and black button on the rear of the flash unit. This locks it in place firmly and pushes all six of the electrical contacts down onto the corresponding contacts in the hot-shoe. There is a grey slider on the top of the flash unit – sliding this to the right turns on the unit. It is powered by the camera’s battery. At this point, operation is entirely automatic. There is no need to worry about the synch speed for the shutter or which aperture to use. This photo of the kid’s bike was taken with this flash unit with the camera set to Av mode (aperture priority mode).
dedicated flash unit

If you wish to use the camera in manual mode with this flash unit, there is an aperture guide on the top of the flash unit. To use this, you guesstimate the distance to your subject and read off the corresponding aperture. Even in manual mode, the shutter speed is automatically set to the synch speed which is 1/90 seconds.
flash unit in place
cassette chamber with DX contacts

Inside the camera holds no surprises. There is a vertically travelling metal focal-plane shutter. The cassette space is on the left. There is the standard row of six sprung electrical contacts to read film speed and length of the DX code on the cassette. To load the film, you pull the leader to the red line and close the back. When you switch the camera on, the film automatically advances to the first frame. When you want to rewind the film, there is a button and slider on the base – press the button and slide the slider to the right and the film will rewind.
yashica 230AF insides
What else? A couple of things. There is a clear window by the film cassette to you can both see if a film is loaded and if so, what type. On either end of the camera is a strap lug allowing the attachment of a neck strap - but what I have never seen before, there is a third strap lug on the left near the base. This will allow the camera to hang sideways or you could attach a shorter hand strap.

Test film

I have run a roll of Agfa Vista+ colour film through the camera with no hassles at all. The camera turns out to be quite easy to use even if not intuitive. I am quite impressed with the results.

hand-hells close-up in artificial light

Child's bike taken in dark using the dedicated flash unit

indoors hand-held