Friday, 30 November 2012

Six-20 Brownie D

Kodak SIX-20 brownie D
This must be the simplest camera that I have.  It is a box camera from Kodak made between 1953 and 1957 in London.  It was also made in the USA.  It comes with two controls besides the shutter release.  First control is a choice between "I" (instantaneous) and "B" (bulb).  I would guess that Instantaneous is about 1/30 seconds - bulb is for as long as you hold the shutter release in.  The second control is a close up lens which allows focussing between three feet and six feet.

Side view showing both control options
The camera has two viewfinders, both 'brilliant' finders, one on the top for portraits and one on the side for landscapes.  Given that the close-up lens allows focussing up to six feet, it is fair to assume that normal focussing range is six feet to infinity.

This camera takes 620 film which is no longer available.  However, it is the same as 120 film but on a different spool - so if I wanted to use this camera, I could re-spool some 120 film onto one of my 620 spools.  I shall not be bothering.

To load the film, the back is opened, the winder knob pulled out, and the insides of the camera come away in one piece.   The film is wound onto the inset and the inset replaced into the camera and the back closed.  Now the film needs to be wound on until the number "1" appears in the red window.  Negative size is 6 x 9 cm so this camera will take eight photographs on one roll of film.

I can date this camera to within five years by the plastic winder knob and plastic shutter release.  These were introduced on the Six-20 Brownie D in 1953 and production ceased in 1957.  Kodak also offer flash contacts on the Six-20 Brownie D but these are not present on my specimen.  I can refine the date a bit by the fact that the catch for the back was also changed - from a more-or-less rectangular shape to a triangular shape.  My specimen still has the rectangular catch so will date from nearer to 1953 than to 1957.

As tiis is such a simple camera, there is not really any thing I can add other than to say that the camera still works well - the shutter mechanism (which is very simple) is as free as the day it was made.  For sixty years old that is more than I can say for myself.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Balda Baldessa F-LK

This is a nicely designed and made  cheaper camera from 1965.  This camera has a number of idiosyncrasies that would quickly became second nature with use.  It measures 120mm by 87mm by 70mm and weighs 441g.  This is my second Balda camera, the other being a Baldina from 1935.

Balda Baldessa F-LK
lens: Color-Isconor f2.8 45mm
shutter: Prontor 250 LK
aperture range: 2.8 to 22
speed range: 1/30 to 1/250
focus range: 1m to infinity
ASA/DIN: 11/12 to 800/30

The shutter is the lower spec. shutter Gauthier produced for coupled light meters - top speed is 1/250, the higher spec version went to 1/500.  Only four speeds are available (1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/250) but this is enough if you stick to 100 to 200 ASA(ISO) film

With built-in flash gun extended
The lens is a Color-Isconar made by Isco Gottingen and is a triplet.  These lenses have a very good reputation (they certainly sell for a high price on Ebay).  The blueish tint says that they are coated as was normal by 1965.  The focussing range is normal for a viewfinder camera - one metre to infinity - with the focussing scale in both metres and feet.  Superimposed on the focussing scale  are three zone focussing icons - portrait, group and landscape.

The diaphragm will produce apertures from f2.8 to f22 which, coupled with the range of shutter speeds, gives a very useful range of possible exposures.  This camera has a built-in coupled light meter.  This is the match-needle type  and is not TTL - again, usual for this level of camera at this time.  On my camera the light meter does not respond to light.  Even when decrepit, there is usually some response so I suspect a mechanical fault - perhaps a broken wire.

The shutter release is on the right-hand front  of the camera which I do not particularly like but it works well enough.

The film advance is on the underside on the left which is very unusual.  The film loads back to front from normal cameras - the cassette goes on the right and the take-up spool is on the left.  Unusually (I said this camera has a number of idiosyncrasies) the advance is neither a knob nor a lever.  It is a key that needs to be turned exactly half a turn to advance the film one frame.  Again, this will soon become second nature even though it feels very awkward to me.

The film rewind is also on the underside and is the same as on a Zeiss Ikon Contessa.   Sliding the rewind release causes the rewind lever to pop out and rewinding is easy as the lever is much larger than is possible when placed on the top plate.

This camera has a built-in flash.  It uses flash bulbs so is M synchronised.  A lever on the back releases a spring-loaded flash reflector and a red lever on the side ejects the used bulbs.  The built-in flash is powered by a 15 volt battery.

There is also a PC connector for an independent flash gun.  As there is no synchronisation lever and bulb flash is built-in I assume that this PC connector is X synchronised for electronic flash.

The base also has a tripod bush.  The basic bush is 3/8 Whitworth and has a removable 1/4 Whitworth slug in it to suit the more usual tripod spec.

The only part I do not like on this camera is the back.This is made from a softish plastic.  Actually, it fits well and seems to seal properly, but it still feels cheaper than necessary.

Monday, 29 October 2012

King Regula Ip

King Regula Ip
 This is a quite well designed and cheap 35 mm camera from the 1950s. On looking at the Interweb to research this camera, it seems never to have been made.  This highlights a problem with the Interweb articles - they all rely on the same sources and then repeat the mistakes they find.  I have an actual example of a King Regula Ip in front of me and I am quite sure that they made the configuration of this camera.  Therefore, the Interweb articles that exclude this particular configuration are wrong.

The inside of the camera is engraved Regula Ip (not I-p), the shutter is a Prontor SV (not a Prontor S), the lens is a Cassar f2.8, 50mm, and the film advance is a knob (not a lever).

The shutter is still a manual cocking shutter made at a time when Voigtlander's cameras were self-cocking - I assume that Gauthier were still offering both options.  Similarly, the shutter release  is a lever on the shutter housing with an indirect linkage to a shutter release on the top plate.  Again, Voigtlander cameras from this time  have a direct  internal linkage between the shutter release on the top plate and the shutter mechanism.

The SV designation tells us that the shutter is synchronized for flash (s) and has a delay mechanism (V for Vorlaufwerk).  In the SV version there are separate levers for flash synchronisation (either M or X) and for delay.  In this particular camera, the delay is marked on the shutter bezel as 'M' rather than 'V'.

There are eight shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/300 seconds  and apertures from f2.8 to f16. The lens is a triplet and appears to be coated ( there is a blueish sheen to the lens).

Prontor shutters, although the poor relation of Compur shutters, are very good pieces of kit - witness the fact they are still working after (in the case of my oldest camera) 75 years with no attention or servicing.   All other parts of this camera are clearly cheap - or at least built down to a price.  The general feel of the camera is tinny especially when compared to a Zeiss Ikon or Voigtlander  equivalent.

The top plate contains the film advance knob, rewind knob, frame counter and accessory shoe.  It also has the King logo embossed in the metal just in front of the accessory shoe.  There is also a fairly crude serrated lever to free the mechanism for rewinding the film.

Inside, the take-up spool  is permanently attached and there is a toothed wheel  which engages with the film sprocket holes to advance the frame counter and free the double exposure mechanism which has no effect on the shutter itself but prevents the secondary button on the top plate from being  depressed.

The base plate is completely clear apart form the tripod boss which is the 1/4 inch Whitworth thread.  The camera back is hinged and fits without light seals which is always a plus on an old camera.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Ihagee Exa 1a

Ihagee Exa 1a

Exa 1a, front view

This is a German SLR camera made by Ihagee of Dresden, Germany.  Ihagee (short for Industrie- und Handelsgesellschaft) was started in 1912 by a Dutchman in Germany.  Until the mid-1930s, Ihagee made more or less standard folding film cameras.  In 1933 they introduced the first Exakta, an SLR which used 127 film (the roll film equivalent of 35mm).  Using 127 film enabled them to make very small cameras.  In 1936 they introduced the Kine Exakta, an SLR which used motion picture (35mm) film (hence Kine).  The Exa range was a smaller and simpler version of the Exakta.

lens: Carl Zeiss Tessar
focal length: 50mm
apertures: 2.8 to 22
focus range: 0.5 m to infinity
lens fitting: Exakta bayonet
shutter: Exakta mirror shutter
speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/175
flash: PC connector, bulb or electronic synch
film size:  35 mm

The Exa 1a was introduced in 1964 and was produced until 1977.  In some markets it was called Elbaflex 175, Exakta 100 or VX 100. The Exa II range were made concurrently with the EXA I range.  The camera can be dated by the origin engraved on the top plate.  This ranged from 'Ihagee Dresden' to 'aus Dresden', the Pentacon tower, to 'Dresden' to no engraving.  Mine has 'aus Dresden'.  The back of the camera has 'MADE IN GDR' stamped in the leatherette as well as '1' in a triangle.  The '1' in a triangle is a quality mark indicating the finished product is of the first quality.   (There were briefly two Ihagees - the original Dresden Ihagee in East Germany and a new Ihagee formed by the pre-war owner in West Germany - this camera was made in East Germany.)

This is an idiosyncratic  camera in some ways.  The camera is rather wide front to back (150 mm) in the middle and narrows at each end with the typical Exakta trapezoidal shape.  The shutter release is on the left side on the front and presses in rather than down.  The shutter release continues through a lug on the lens which shuts down the iris diaphragm just before the shutter is released.  The shutter itself is idiosyncratic  - it is neither an leaf shutter in the lens nor a focal plane shutter next to the film.  Rather, the mirror acts as the shutter in a way that I do not quite understand - but see here for details.  The viewfinder and pentaprism are removable, the focussing screen replaceable and the whole thing can be replaced with a waist-level finder.

Ihagee did not make lenses so the Exa 1a was supplied with various lenses. My Exa 1a has a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar (as opposed to a Carl Zeiss Opton Tessar from West Germany) dating from 1970.  It is a f2.8 50mm lens with an Ihagee bayonet fitting.  Any Exakta or Exa lens should fit although I am told that long lenses (i.e. 100 mm) will cause vignetting.  There is an idiosyncratic aspect to the Ihagee bayonet - it is, in fact, two bayonets - one inside the mouth (for most lenses) and one outside the mouth for larger lenses.  The lens focusses from 0.5 m to infinity and has apertures from f2.8 to f22 available in 1/2 stop click positions.  As mentioned above, the shutter release acts through a lug on the lens and stops the lens down as it releases the shutter.

Shutter speeds are 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/175 (+ B).  Because of the way the mirror is used as the shutter, faster shutter speeds are not possible.  On the shutter speed dial there is a red dot for synchronising the shutter  for flash.  For electronic flash this is 1/60 seconds and for bulb flash it is 1/30 seconds but the actual setting is against a lightning icon for electronic flash and against a bulb icon for bulb flash.  There is a lever to the left of the viewfinder that will lock the shutter to prevent accidental exposures - a feature I wish more cameras would have.

There is no accessory shoe for a flash gun but grooves around the viewfinder eyepiece suggest that an optional shoe might have been available.  This does not matter to me - I never use flash - except I usually put a film type reminder in the accessory shoe to remind me that there is a film loaded and which type it is.
Exa 1a, top view

The film advance lever is rather small but moves the film on with one movement.  In the centre of the film advance is the frame counter   A wheel under the the film advance sets a reminder for the type of film in use - DIN, ASA, negative or reversal.

The viewfinder gives a 1:1 view of the scene and with the focussing screen supplied is clear and bright.  As is usual with a new old camera, near the end of my test film I am beginning to use the camera automatically.  I also have a waist-level viewfinder for this camera.

Waist-level finder, closed
The viewfinders snap out of position fairly easily when you want to change them (but are firmly held in place normally going on) and both the finder and the focussing screen can be replaced.  Both my focussing screens are plain ground glass.
Waist-level finder, open
 It is fairly easy to use from waist level but critical focussing is difficult from that distance.  Using zone focussing, this viewfinder is certainly ok for composing the shot and is much more discrete than holding the camera to your eye.  For critical focussing, there is a built-in magnifier but to use this, you need to raise the camera to face level and you then lose the advantage of having a waist-level finder - but still better than changing finders mid session, I would think.
Waist-level finder with magnifier

I think this camera will be a user if there are no shutter problems or light leaks.


I have just bought a 2X teleconverter for this camera.  It cost me £7.00 including postage.  It was described on Ebay as a Pentax teleconverter and only attracted one bid - mine!  I could easily see it was an Exakta fit converter by the offset shutter release on the lens body - a feature that I have only ever seen on an Exakta (or Exa) camera lens.  It is excellent condition - there are no moving parts to go wrong - and just needed a good clean.

2X teleconverter, Exakta fit
 Unfortunately, I cleaned it with ROR lens cleaner and sprayed directly onto the glass instead of on to a tissue and I now have condensation between the lens elements.  I am thinking that if the moisture got in that easily, it will dry out again fairly easily. When it has dried out, I will try it and post the results here.
2X teleconverter, top view


I now have my test film developed so here are some of the test pictures.  They disclose a slight fault as many of the pictures have a dark wedged shaped line at the top of the picture.  It is present on the negatives so is not down to the scanning.  I suspect the shutter is slightly out of line.  Bearing in mind that this camera has lain unused for many years before I bought it, I am hoping that the fault will rectify itself with the camera being used.
Lincoln High Street through the Stonebow

Lincoln Corn Exchange

River Idle at Gringley Carr

Lincoln High Street


I now have finished my second film on this camera and the shutter is working fine.  Those black wedges have gone from the tops of the frames entirely.  Many old cameras that are a bit 'hesitant' just need to be used for a couple of films to be alright.

The Trent, viewed from the Nottingham-Lincoln train

Canal in Nottingham

Friday, 28 September 2012

Minolta Uniomat (Ansco Uniomat)

Minolta Uniomat
Minolta Uniomat

This is my first Minolta (ignoring my Minolta Dimage digital camera). The Uniomat is a semi-automatic exposure rangefinder camera. It takes 35 mm film. It is not a particularly large camera for a rangefinder but it is heavy. It measures 230 mm wide by 170 mm deep and 185 mm high. This makes it too large to be considered a pocket camera – quite apart from the weight (745 g with a short test film loaded).

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Light (or exposure) meters

Light meters (which are also called exposure meters) are a modern invention and early photographers had to guess their exposures and rely on experience to get it right.  An early system used to make guessing easier was to use the Sunny 16 rule which says:
  • "On a sunny day set aperture to f16 and shutter speed to the [reciprocal of the] ISO film speed [or ISO setting] for a subject in direct sunlight." 
 (from Bernhard J. Suess (2003). Mastering Black-and-White Photography, Allworth Communications. ISBN 1-58115-306-6)  So, if you are using Ilford FP4 film, which is ISO 125, on a sunny day you set the aperture to f16 and the shutter speed to 1/125 seconds.  This will generally give you a usable picture even if not a perfectly exposed one.  You do need to be aware that the amount of light on a sunny beach will be more than the amount of light in a sunny field - entirely due to the amount of reflected light.  You can easily adjust either the aperture or the shutter speed to compensate.  You also need to be aware that the amount of light present on a sunny day depends on how close to the equator you are.  A photographer in Norway using the Sunny 16 rule will get a very different result than a photographer in Nigeria would.  I have been trying this Sunny 16 rule out in Lincoln this week and in the middle of the day it produced the same exposure as my Ikophot exposure meter suggested.  By four in the afternoon, the Sunny 16 rule was a whole stop out.

A better system was the extinction meter.  This used a piece of translucent celluloid that was painted black apart from a series of grey numbers.  Each number was printed in a darker shade of grey than the last number.  So, in my Braun Paxette, the number 1 is nearly white and the number 16 is nearly black.  In use, the user looks through the extinction meter and notes the darkest number that is visible.  This number is then looked up in an exposure table to get suitable aperture and shutter speeds.  This picture of my Braun Paxette show one of these tables.  It is set up for 50 ASA (ISO) film and tells you to halve the exposure for 100 ASA film and double it for 12 ASA film (films were much slower then than we are used to now).  This chart refers to 'diaphragm' rather than 'aperture' but it is the same thing.

Extinction meter table on my Braun Paxette

These, although simple and not able to go wrong, had their drawbacks.  They depended on the quality of the eye sight of the user and that is very variable.

The next development was the electronic light meter.  Initially, these had a cell made from selenium that produced a small electrical voltage on exposure to light.  This voltage was then used to move a needle across a scale.  This needle would then point to an arbitrary number that has to be set on a scale.  The scale then indicates a range of appropriate aperture and shutter speeds.  It is tempting to think of these as EV numbers but they are not - at least are not on the three light meters I own.  These worked very well in reasonable light but were poor performers in poor light.  These fell out of fashion and were replaced by CdS meters.  The advantage of selenium meters is that they do not need a battery to work.  A big disadvantage is that they lose sensitivity with time.  Towards the end of their useful life they give a low reading which will eventually cause over-exposed photographs.  For this reason, some people will not use old selenium meters but my old (fifty years old, plus) meters all agree with my modern light meters.

 I suspect that the rate of deterioration depends on how the meter has been stored over the years.  If the meter is in the dark inside a case apart from when actually taking a reading, the deterioration doesn't seem to matter over a period of sixty or so years.

The next development was the CdS meter (Cadmium Sulphide).  These do not produce a voltage on exposure to light but act as a resistor that changes its resistance to electricity on exposure to light.  These always need a battery to work to provide the voltage.  Most modern light meters work this way.  These work in much lower light levels and do not significantly deteriorate with time.  The draw back with these is that battery technology changes and it can be hard (or impossible) to find batteries for older CdS meters.  In particular, mercury batteries are no longer made and the modern equivalents produce a different voltage which alters the accuracy of the meters.

A lot of meters from the 1950s used what are called Exposure Values (EV).  The idea is that you set your shutter to the indicated EV and this sets a combination of shutter speed and aperture.  As you then alter the aperture, the shutter speed will alter in unison - and vice versa.  I like the system but many people do not.

Here is a table of EVs and their associated aperture/shutter speeds:
Table 1. Exposure times, in seconds or minutes (m), for various exposure values and f-numbers
EV f-number
1 1.4 2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22
−6 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m 256 m 512 m
−5 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m 256 m
−4 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m
−3 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m
−2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m
−1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m
0 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m
1 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m
2 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m
3 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60
4 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30
5 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15
6 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8
7 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4
8 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2
9 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1
10 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2
11 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4
12 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8
13 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15
1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30

1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60

1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125

1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250

1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500

1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000

1/8000 1/4000 1/2000

1/8000 1/4000
EV 1 1.4 2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22

To my light meters:

I have four old meters, each of the selenium type.  They are a Weston Master III, a Leningrad 4, a Ikophot and a Bewi Automat.  The Weston does not work - I tried to adjust the zero setting and managed to wreck the meter.  The blame for this lies entirely with me, not Weston’s design or manufacturing standards.

First, the Weston.

This is a Weston Master III

Weston Master III
It is the most complicated meter of the three I have - presumably it will do more than the other two.  The draw backs for me is firstly there is no ASA or DIN setting, it uses instead Weston values which are their own proprietary system. As films do not come with a Weston speed marked on them, it makes it unnecessarily difficult to use.  Secondly, I find the plethora of black and white marking difficult to distinguish.  As I mentioned earlier, I managed to break this meter, so my complaints about it are moot.

Secondly, Leningrad 4:
Leningrad 4
This is much simpler in layout than the Weston and much easier to use.  The needle points at red numbers, these red numbers are then set against a large pointer on the other end of the meter and the aperture/shutter speed combination are read off a black and white scale.  The film speed can be set in either ASA or DIN and will work with modern films with ISO speeds as they are the same as ASA.  A note of caution:  these red numbers are NOT Exposure Values - they seem to be arbitrary numbers and are different to the equivalent numbers on the Ikophot meter.

Thirdly, Zeiss Ikon Ikophot:
Zeiss Ikon Ikophot
This mirrors the Leningrad in as much as the meter needle points to red numbers and the red numbers are then aligned against a red pointer.  The aperture/shutter speed combination is then read off the scale - aperture in black and shutter speed in white on red.  Again, film speed can be set in either ASA or DIN.  A note of caution:  these red numbers are Exposure Values but only for 50 ASA/18 DIN film (I expect 50 ASA/18 DIN was seen as standard by Zeiss Ikon).  It is possible to use them directly on cameras with a EV scale on the shutter, but you will need to adjust for the speed of the film you are using.  This is simple enough - for 100 ASA, 21 DIN film, subtract 1 from the EV; for 200 ASA, 24 DIN film subtract 2 from the EV and for 400 ASA, 27 DIN film, subtract 3 from the EV.

The DIN/ASA scales on this meter are a bit unique.  DIN 21 SHOULD be ASA 100, but it is ASA 80.   I use the DIN exclusively and that works just fine.  I suspect using the ASA scale would also be fine as the difference between 80 and 100 is fairly small (1/3 of a stop).  As DIN is a German standard and Zeiss Ikon are a German firm, I would expect them to get DIN right.

Not cheap - it cost £10/13/5 in 1957 - which was just over an average man's weekly wage (so about £500 in 2013 values).

This is the meter I most often use as it is nicely made, feels good in the hand and produces satisfactory results.  A scanned copy of the Ikophot manual is available for download as is a scanned copy of Zeiss Ikon's 1930s exposure guide.

Lastly, my Bertram Bewi Automat.

Bertram Bewi Automat
This is a German meter (made in West Germany).  Bertram have been making light meters since 1928 . This meter works differently from the meters above.  For one thing, it has a digital read-out rather than an analogue needle pointing to a scale. 

The meter is rather larger than is usual for analogue meter - it measures 90 x 65 x 25 mm not including the activating button.  It is encased in ivory plastic.

 The only control is a ring to set the film speed.  This is calibrated in ranges. For instance, the DIN setting is a range of three numbers - 11-13, 14-16, 17-19, 20-22, 23-25.  That is one stop difference between each range.  Given the exposure latitude of film that is plenty accurate enough.  There are also ranges for ASA and Weston (ASA is the same as ISO and Weston is a defunct film speed system devised by the makers of the Weston series of exposure meters.

Using the meter is also different to analogue meters.  If you point this meter at the scene you intend to photograph, nothing happens.  You need to point the meter, depress the activating button for about three seconds and release.  Once you have done this, the shutter speed scale lines itself up with the aperture scale and you can read off suitable combinations of aperture and shutter speed.

The read out also has exposure values indicated - under L on the aperture scale.  These are adjusted for film speed and can be set directly on an EV enabled shutter.