Friday, 6 December 2013

Wallace Heaton Blue Book - 1952

A paperback illustrated catalogue of the main items that Wallace Heaton sold in 1952. They issued it every year and they were the largest photographic retailer in Britain for many years. So, these are quite common (I do not really understand why people kept them once they were out of date, but they clearly did) and therefore quite cheap to buy.

Wallace Heaton Blue Book 1952

For the camera collector, these Blue Books have two separate appeals. One is that they show us just what equipment was available in a given year.  This is particularly useful where minor changes were made to a camera model and you can see from the photographs in the catalogue how the outside (at least) looked in a particular year. Each item also has a brief description including available lenses and shutters. Secondly, each item is accompanied by a price - or a range of prices for each variation available in that year.

What you cannot do is use this book to see what manufacturers were producing. This particular Blue Book dates from 1952 and the UK had legal limits on the quantities of imports allowed from various places. As most of these cameras were made in Germany, import quotas could be quite small, or even non-existent.

Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014

As a major photographic retailer, Wallace Heaton did not just sell cameras, they sold everything either a professional or amateur photographer could want. They even had a small range of OEM products - distinguished by the trade name 'Zodal' or variations on that.

The main headings in the catalogue are:

darkroom equipment
still projectors
cine projectors
tape recorders

There are a total of 144 pages and the books dimensions are 5 3/4 inches  by 4 inches (146mm by 100mm). An interesting little book.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Photographic Almanac

First, an apology. This is supposed to be an Old Camera blog, not a book blog but this book is about photography and dates from the same time as many of my cameras.

This book is a well-bound hard cover book - none of this Perfect Binding that falls apart after a few reads. The book has several sections, each of which is interesting in a different way. The book opens and closes with adverts from the main photographic businesses in Britain in 1957. There are 84 pages of adverts at the front and another 117 pages at the rear. 

This is followed by five fairly long and intense articles on photography and  then a selection of abstracts from the British Journal of Photography (which, incidentally, is still published) who are the publishers of this almanac. After this are a number of photogravure plates of photographs. Next are a number of reviews of equipment and materials a couple of which are also articles in this blog (Bewi and Ikophot exposure meters).

After the reviews comes a brief chemistry primer for those chemicals a photographer is likely to come across. This is followed by a nine page glossary of technical terms in photography.

For the serious hobbyist photographer there follows a long section of formulae for developers, sensitizers, desensitizers, intensifiers, reducers, toners, silver recovery, stain removal, varnishes, mountants, and a few other things. The almanac also covers state of the art advances - there is a fairly long primer of the use of flash, both bulbs and electronic, and three-colour photography.

The rest of the book is more technical.  Forty pages of tables for all manner of things is followed by brief outlines of legal issues - copyright, Factory Acts, Shop Acts, registration of businesses, purchase tax, and a few others. (This book assumes a British audience and is also, of course, massively out of date.)

I am going to go through the Almanac section by section and outline what I find interesting in each part.

Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014


These start with several pages of adverts from Kodak, which I suppose is fitting as the largest photographic company in the world in 1957 (I am guessing there but doubt I am far wrong). The ads start with colour film - still a new development in 1957 - and then equipment for colour photography, mostly cameras. Then on to black and white films and general cameras. My beef here is that Kodak do not include any pricing which would make the adverts more interesting although I do accept they were not thinking about a reader in sixty years time. The ads move on to chemicals, papers, cine equipment, darkroom equipment and industrial equipment.

The next few pages of ads (forty of them) are smaller ads aimed at professional photographers.  Then we come to Johnsons of Hendon who are more concerned with amateur enthusiasts. After Johnsons there are a few pages of Ilford ads - much the same array as Kodak but less of them.

This takes as to:


These assume an educated readership - the first article is titled Physics and Metaphysics in Modern Photography - not something I would image would appeal to a mass readership.  This article even goes so far as to touch on quantum mechanics and expects its audience to understand.

Next is an article on replenishing developer - still relevant to analogue photographers today. This is not quite as technical as the previous article but does assume the reader is au fait with basic chemistry.

This is followed by an article of the aesthetics of wild flowers.  In 20013 this reads fairly strangely as it assumes the photographer will be using black and white film which rather loses most of the appeal of flowers. If we remember that the article is a product of its day, it still reads well enough.

After this comes some cutting-edge stuff - television. It can be difficult to remember that in 1957 most people did not have television and when they did it could only be used during the evening - 24 hour TV had to wait for a couple of decades.

The article of the use of filters is still applicable, even to digital photographers.

The next section is called

Epitome of Progress

This section consists of abstracts from articles in two other places - British journal of Photography and Camera World. I will just give a few topics to give a flavour of this section.

Analysis of P.Q. Developers
Diffusion Transfer in Colour
Electro-optical Colour Separations
Wide Screen Systems

Again, these are not in the slightest bit dumbed down and end with a reference to the full article that has been abstracted.

Pictorial Supplement

There follows 32 pages of photogravure prints from "leading exhibitors". Photogravure is a technique for printing photographs with a printing press. This gives very good definition (the picture is not reduces to half-tone dots) and gives pictures that are very attractive.  The iconic photographic magazine Camera Work published by Alfred Stieglitz between 1903 and 1917 used photogravure as its reproduction technique and Stieglitz used the technique as his standard printing technique even if he was not wanting to produce the picture in quantity.  Done well, photogravure pictures compare well with normal silver bromide prints and modern giclee digital prints. In addition, photogravure uses different ink to the normal printing processes and these photographs are printed on thicker, slightly glossy paper. This gives the surface of the prints a certain tactile quality that I find very attractive.

What did surprise me, given the date of this almanac, is that four of the pictures come from the other side of the Iron Curtain - two from Poland and two from Hungary.  All are well worth your attention.

New Goods

This section consists of reviews of equipment and materials available in 1957. There are 112 pages of these. They are worth reading to someone who is interested in old cameras (which I must assume anyone reading my blog will be). Not only do they contain descriptions of the equipment  but also comments on how they fit the expectations of a photographic reviewer in 1957. A further delight is that they include price information  - base price and purchase tax as separate amounts. Some of the cameras that I describe in this blog were very expensive new. They were certainly out of the reach of a normal working-class man and would have represented a sizeable investment for a middle-class man. That will  help to explain why they are usually still in very good condition after nearly sixty years.


Now we have sixteen pages of information about chemicals. This is basically a glossary, giving two to three lines about the most common photographic chemicals.

After this we have


This section both gives formulae for photographic solutions that you can make yourself and information about proprietary chemicals. This goes a bit beyond just formulae but I suppose there is a limit on just how many heading they could divide the book into. 

For the enthusiast who wants to take his analogue photography beyond the basics, this is well worth reading.

The next section is

Plan-copying and Recording

This is basically about blueprints and copying office records - this is before the days of photocopiers! Not much here for the photographer apart from adapting the methods to produce cyanoprints.

Flash Photography

Flash photography was still in its early days in the 1950s and you needed to match your flash to your film and set the camera accordingly.  There is much information here about methods of synchronisation and types of shutters. There is also an explanation on how to calculate the correct exposure, using flash with colour, bounce flash, infra-red flash, violet flash, electronic flash and developing film for flash. There then follows some tables of data on various makes of film used with models of electronic flashguns.

There are tables on Reciprocity Failure and how to adjust exposure for various films when using flash.


Here are five pages on amateur cine filming.

Three-colour photography

The next twenty eight pages are about colour films.  There explanations of how the various colour films available in 1957 worked - there were rather a lot of types of colour film that did not last long.

The second to last section is a collection of


These cover an amazing range of topics. For instance:

Daily variation in Light in different Latitudes.
Shutter Speeds for Moving Objects.
Colour materials for Still Photography.
Conversion tables Imperial to metric.
Optical Calculations (including how to calculate the focal length of a lens and hyperfocal distances).

Miscellaneous Information

This section has a number of useful (or would have been useful in 1957, it is rather out of date now) snippets of information for the budding professional photographer. Topics are:

Factories Act
Shop Act
Registration of Business Names

There is a list of photographic text books and hand books which runs to several pages. This section ends with a directory of camera repairers in Britain.

The Almanac ends where it started - with:


These adverts are more aimed at amateurs as opposed to the professional bent of the opening adverts. Many (but not all) of these include prices which makes them more interesting to the collector.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Balda Baldina

This is a very nice folding camera from 1930s Germany.  It is one of the first cameras to use Kodak's 35 film cassette - this was made soon after Leitz made the Leica (1925) and Zeiss Ikon the Contax (1932).  It follows Kodak's lead in producing a folding camera unlike Leitz and Zeiss Ikon who both made rigid 35mm cameras.  The camera is fairly small - it measures 120mm x 82mm x 35mm when closed and 120mm x 82mm x 85mm when open.  It is almost exactly the same size as Voigtlander's later Vito and Vito II cameras but a bit heavier. The covering seems to be leather rather than leatherette.  This is my second Balda camera - the other being a Baldessa from 1965.

lens: Schneider Radionar
focal length: 5 cm
apertures: 3.5, 4.5, 5.6, 8, 11, 16
focus range: 1 metre to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: compur leaf
speeds: 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/300
flash: no connector
film size: 35mm
Balda Baldina - front view

This camera had been stored somewhere not particularly dry before I bought it and the finish showed the results. The leather was very dry and dull, much of the nickel-plated steel has rusted and the moving parts were all very stiff.  I attacked the leather with Bestbeloved's leather restorer and it is now a bit more subtle and has a nice sheen. Moving parts have had a drop of oil/naphtha mix (I mix 2 parts clock oil with one part naphtha to produce a freely running oil. This flows into hinges and axles easily - and when the naphtha evaporates the part is left with a very small amount of oil) and now move easily. I have yet to deal with the rust but will do so when I have finished the test film. I shall rub down just the rust and then treat it with Loctite Rust Remedy. This leaves a durable black finish which I shall leave as-is. The last thing to note, condition wise, is the presence of 'Zeiss Bumps'. Zeiss Ikon cameras are notorious for these and this is the first time I have seen them on a non-Zeiss Ikon camera. they are caused by the manufacturer using a different material for rivets than he used for the body. A chemical reaction will then be set up in the presence of damp resulting in the build-up of corrosion products between the metal of the body and the leather covering. These 'Zeiss Bumps' occur on the lens door and in the leather by the take-up spool.

Zeiss Ikon and Voigtlander used die-cast aluminium for their camera bodies which made for strength and lightness with the added advantage that they were corrosion resistant.  This camera seems to be made from steel.

The outside is a mixture of leather and nickel plating and where the nickel has worn, the camera is rather rusty. My Zeiss Ikon Nettars from the same decade were leatherette and paint and where the paint has worn you can see the aluminium.

Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014

top view
Balda's use of steel and nickel plating would have made the camera cheaper to make.  I assume that this also meant that the camera was cheaper to buy but it would not have been cheap. With a Compur shutter, it would have been aimed at a serious amateur photographer.

The camera is quite well appointed.  It has a 'proper' viewfinder rather than the metal frames that Zeiss Ikon's Nettars and Ikontas had.  This is small (as was usual even on expensive cameras) and is a reverse Galilean finder (that means it is like a telescope backwards as it makes things small). This viewfinder has a remarkable addition - a parallax adjuster. When you have set the focus on the lens, you put the same distance setting on the viewfinder and the viewfinder moves up or down accordingly. For infinity, the viewfinder is fully up and as you dial in nearer distances, the viewfinder lowers itself. Apart from this camera, I have only ever seen this on expensive rangefinder cameras.

On the top plate along with the viewfinder is the film rewind key and the frame counter. This last is beneath a hinged cover and counts from zero to 36.  This is a count-up counter, the user setting the counter to zero when loading a film into the camera.

Beside the viewfinder is a small button. Pressing this will release the hinged lens cover and the lens will spring forward automatically - it does so with a reassuring 'snap'.  The shutter leaves are between the lens elements so focusing is only front-cell focusing (i.e. only the front piece of glass moves when focusing, not the whole lens. This causes a slight degradation of the image with close-up work. For landscapes it makes not a jot of difference).

base view
The film advance is on the bottom of this camera - possibly to circumvent other manufacturer's patents, certainly not because it makes it easier to use. Advancing the film is not as straightforward as turning the knob (no lever advances at this early date).  Leitz, Kodak and Zeiss Ikon had 35 mm cameras on the market when this camera was designed and each had patented every aspect of camera design they could.  They also pursued patent infringement vigorously. The outcome of this is that manufacturers trying to bring new models to market had to find workarounds to avoid being sued. In this case, the film advance is locked until you press a button on the base of the camera. This must be released as soon as you start turning the film advance knob or you will advance more than one frame. To make this as hard as possible, you first have to push in the safety lever, then press the small button and then turn the advance knob.

Also on the bottom of the camera is a tripod boss.  This is the original 3/8 Whitworth thread rather than the more modern 1/4 Whitworth.  This is to one end of the camera - it seems to have taken camera manufacturers a long time to work out the point of balance of a camera.

Balda Baldina - folded
Inside is pretty much as you would expect even from a modern 35 mm camera - a sign that this layout was well designed from the start and not patented.

The hinged back has effective light baffles and so there is no need for foam light seals - nothing to go gooey and messy with age and nothing to start leaking light. In the centre of the back is the pressure plate to keep the film flat against the film gate. To one end is a nickel-plated spring to keep the film in place on the sprockets. Loading film is easy. There is a spring on the take-up spool under which the end of the film goes. No particular shape of film leader is required but the modern standard leader works fine.

When open, the door hinges on the left, leaving plenty of room for the right hand to have a firm hold. Many folding cameras hinge on the right leaving a restricted space for gripping.  Voigtlander's Perkeo and Vito cameras hinge on the right.

When holding the camera for use, the shutter cocking lever  must be moved upwards (this is a Compur shutter, a Gauthier shutter (Prontor) would need the lever moving downwards). The shutter release provided by Compur is hidden by the folding struts and cannot be reached. To overcome this, Balda have added an angled extension which can be reached by the middle finger of the right hand. There is also a socket for a standard cable release.
position of extension lever

Adjusting the shutter speed is easy - this is a rim-set shutter and you turn the outer ring until the required speed is aligned with the index mark. Altering the aperture is not so easy. The control is close to the door and between the folding struts. This is quite do-able but requires looking at the camera from the front.

I have finished the test film which raised a couple of things.  Firstly, firing the shutter. The extension lever that Balda have added to the Compur shutter release travels a long way before it fires the shutter. I found this rather awkward and difficult to hold the camera steady while doing so. Secondly, rewinding the film.  I have no instruction book for this camera and I have to work things out for myself. I assumed that the button that released the film advance mechanism would also release the rewind mechanism. Wrong! My attempt to rewind the film resulted in me pulling all the film out of the cassette. This meant a trip to Snappy Snaps to ask them to remove the film in their darkroom which they did. I now know that to rewind the film you have to lift the film advance knob and leave that other button alone. Oh well - this is all a part of the fun of collecting old cameras. Tomorrow, I shall collect the developed film and post a selection here.

OK. The test film is back - and none the worse for me trying to rewind it the wrong way - kudos to the staff at Snappy Snaps.  I am impressed with this camera. It was made in 1935 (plus or minus a month or two) and has worked flawlessly. The lens shows no sign of having been coated, which would have been very unusual in 1935, but is not particularly susceptible to flare. There is some flare visible in some of the pictures, but I have a habit of shooting into the light which would have been virtually unheard of in 1935 for the very reason that is causes flare.  The lens focuses well and produces high contrast colour pictures. The lens will have been colour-corrected to some extent as that is necessary for using panchromatic black-and-white film and the lens clearly has no problems with modern colour films.

There are marks on some of the negatives - basically, there are scratches which show up on the prints as black marks. I am putting this down to the damage caused when I attempted to rewind the film. It only affects a few of the negatives, most of them being fine.

The pictures:
Shooting to the south on a sunny day (that is, into the sun), hence the flare.

Shooting to the south again, but on a dull day - a small amount of flare.

Shooting to the north on a misty day. No flare but some mist visible in the upper parts of the picture.

Shooting to the south on a sunny morning - no flare as such.

Shooting to the east on a sunny day.

Shooting in a heavily shaded alley - good contrast and colours.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Perkeo I

This is a nice, medium format camera from Voigtlander. It is a direct competitor to Zeiss Ikon's Nettar 518/16 - that is, at the lower end of the enthusiasts' 120 cameras - and is a replacement for the Bessa 66. This is a folding camera which fits nicely in a (large-ish) pocket. It measures 125 mm wide x 85 mm high x 40 mm deep (closed) or x 95 mm deep (open). It weighs 483 g. In 1952, Wallace Heaton were advertising this camera at £22/11/6 for the model I have here (that is in old money and equates to £22.57 in new money. That is equivalent to about £1,400 in 2013 values).
Voigtlander Perkeo I

lens: Vaskar
focal length:  75 mm
apertures: f/4.5 to f/16
focus range: 3.5 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: pronto
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200
flash: F synch only
film size: 120

The lens is a Voigtlander Vaskar - 75 mm focal length and maximum aperture of f/4.5. The Vaskar is Voigtlander's cheaper lens (a more expensive Perkeo I came with a Color-Skopar lens) and has a triplet construction (again, comparable to Zeiss Ikon's Nettar on the 518/16). I have yet to see the result of using this camera, but it has a reputation for having soft focus in the corners. This is not a fatal flaw for me as I have no need for sharp focus in the corners although I am aware that others find this unacceptable.

The shutter is a Gauthier Pronto - four speeds being available of which only 1/100 and 1/200 are of any interest. This shutter has a delayed timer (Vorlaufwerk) which, unusually for a camera of this age, works well. Flash synch is provided for fast flashbulbs - I intend to try this camera with electronic flash to see if this works as well.

The shutter release is standard for the early 1950s - primary release on the shutter housing and a secondary release button on the camera's top plate, linked to the primary release by a lever.  There is also a cable release socket which is between the two - on the hinged door.  The secondary release has a double exposure prevention mechanism fitted requiring the film to be would on before the shutter can be released a second time. On my camera, this does not work very well at the moment. When I had a similar problem on my Franka Solida II, it sorted itself out after a few shots.

Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014

Being a folding camera, there needs to be a mechanism to bring the shutter/lens forward, ending with the lens exactly parallel to the film. On my camera this is defective - a small strut has snapped half way along its length. When I received the camera, this folding mechanism barely worked and then very badly - the lens ended up at quite an angle to the film plane.  This needed attention with naphtha to flush out dust and dirt, lubricating with clock oil and repeated folding/unfolding to free up the many joints in the struts.

Perkeo I - folded
It now unfolds easily and seems to put the lens parallel to the film plane, judging entirely by eye. The test film will tell me how parallel things actually are. The broken strut does not seem to matter here. What does not work too well is closing the camera. to close properly, the lens must remain parallel to the camera body otherwise it will not fit into the available space. I suspect that the broken strut is there is achieve this. Without this strut, my thumb has to do its duty. 

As an aside, I have tried a new technique with this camera. When lubricating small parts, it is quite hard to apply a small enough amount of oil to exactly the right place. Getting that small amount of oil into the linkage is a matter of working the linkage and hoping. This time I have diluted the clock oil two parts of oil to one part of naphtha to produce a very runny oil. Because the oil is diluted, once the naphtha has evaporated I am left with 2/3 of the amount of oil I applied. Also, because the oil is now very runny I am hoping that the oil will run between the surfaces of the linkages more easily before the naphtha evaporates to leave a very small amount of oil in place. So far, the only downside I have seen is that the naphtha is very good at wetting surfaces and has carried a small amount of oil over all the surfaces around the linkages. I am not convinced that this is a bad thing.

Perkeo I - showing top plate
Before loading the test film, there are two things I need to do. The first is to use compressed air to blow dust out of the inside. Moving film through a camera generates a small amount of static electricity and this will pull any dust onto the film. After that, I need to check the bellows for light leaks. To do this, I wait until dark (about five PM at the moment) and shine a torch onto the bellows at close quarters. Viewing inside the camera, any light leaks will clearly show.  I have found one very large one. That broken strut I mentioned earlier has scored the bellows material and created a line on pin-pricks. These will need sorting before I try the camera. Otherwise, the camera is good to go.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Comparison between Ikonta 520, Bob 510 and Nettar 515

Comparison between Ikonta 520, Bob 510 and Nettar 515:

These three cameras from Zeiss Ikon share the same aluminium casting for their bodies.  This makes them very similar cameras.  They all take 120 film and they all produce half-frame negatives of 6 x 4.5 cm.  The details, however, are different.  I shall give the differences between them one model at a time, starting with the oldest.
Ikonta 520
This camera was produced from 1931 and is using the old fashioned dial set shutter - the disc at the top with the word 'Derval' on it..  The adjuster for the aperture is at the bottom of the shutter housing and requires the user to turn the camera around so that the scale can be seen.  The lens is a Novar triplet lens.  There is also a leather hand strap on this camera and the catch to close the back is solid.

Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014

Bob 510
Next is the Bob 510 (sold in the UK as a Nettar 510).  This is a slightly later camera first produced in 1934 and has a more modern rim set shutter - the dial is now replaced with a ring around the shutter housing.  Shutter speeds and apertures are the same, but the aperture adjuster is now on top of the shutter housing, behind the speed selector.  This means that the user can adjust the aperture with the camera pointing at the subject.  Perhaps not a major advance  but will have been less frustrating to use.  The lens is now a Nettar rather than the Novar - still a triplet but a different design.  There is no hand strap on this camera and the catch for the back is less secure than on the Ikonta

Nettar 515
All three together, oldest on the left, newest on the right.
Last is the Nettar 515.  This is later again, 1937, and also has the rim set shutter.  The shutter is now a Klio (on non-Zeiss Ikon cameras known as Prontor) with more shutter speeds (up to 1/175 and a few slow speeds).  The aperture adjuster is still on top, behind the speed adjuster, and there is now a delay setting lever below the shutter housing.  As with the Ikonta, the lens is a Novar triplet.  This shutter requires cocking before use  and there is an ancillary shutter release button on the camera body.  There is also provision to fit an optional brilliant finder on this camera although mine does not have this.  This model also has no hand strap and it has the same catch as the Bob 510

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Canon EOS 5 (A2, A2e)

Canon EOS 5 - front view

This is an early model EOS camera dating from 1992 to 1998. All EOS cameras have the same basic shape from the first film EOS (EOS 650) to the latest digital EOS . The main way in which the various EOS models vary is in size. This EOS 5 is a large and heavy camera. It weighs 665 g (with no lens, battery or strap) and measures 154 by 120 by 75 mm.

The EOS 5 was aimed at what is now called the prosumer market - that is, the lower-end professional and high-end amateur market.

The outside of the camera is black plastic - I think polycarbonate but I am far from certain about that. The weight of the camera clearly says that the camera has a metal chassis. The battery holder on the right acts as a grip and is covered in a rubbery material. The battery is a lithium 2CR5.

For its day, it has a lot of controls but very few compared to a modern digital SLR. The controls are in two places. The most used are on the top plate and the less used on the back.

On the far left of the top plate is a mode selector dial. This has the expected options for a serious photographer - Programme, Tv, Av and M. It also has DEP, x, CF and CAL - details later. On the opposite side of off ('L') are settings that declare this to be an amateur camera. Here are no words or letters, just icons. This offers four options: Portrait, Landscape, Macro and Action.

Next to the mode selector is a button to release the built-in flashgun. Once the flashgun is raised, this button allows you to set flash exposure compensation.

Towards the rear by the mode selector is the indicator for the position of the film plane.
Canon EOS 5 - top view

In the middle, as is usual with SLR cameras, is the pentaprism viewfinder.  This is an actual pentaprism - on lower-end EOS models, Canon used a penta-mirror which gives a smaller and darker image in the viewfinder. On top of this is the built-in flashgun. This is a sophisticated flashgun which has a zoom function to allow the best illumination of the subject. On top of the built-in flashgun is a Canon-specific hot shoe. I am not calling it an accessory shoe as I cannot imagine that anyone has ever fitted anything but a flashgun here.

The space to the right of the pentaprism is dominated  by an LCD screen. This displays various pieces of information depending on the set functions and the actions being carried out at the time. In front of this is a button to activate the self-timer which gives a ten second delay between pressing the shutter release and the shutter firing.

On the right, in front of the LCD screen, is the now ubiquitous selector wheel and in front of this is the shutter release. This last is a plain, smooth button - no cable release thread now.

On the back are more controls. On the top right are two buttons. The right-hand one allows you to set just one of the five autofocus points to be active - or all five. The left-hand one has two functions. Normally, it acts as the exposure lock. This allows you to point the camera at the most significant light source in your subject and then recompose without altering the exposure. Useful where too much sky will result in underexposure of the key elements. It is also used to toggle between 0 and 1 when setting the Custom Functions.
Canon EOS 5 - back view

In the centre of the back is a secondary selector wheel - this one has an on/off switch and it is not necessary to ever use it. On the left of the back are four more buttons. These are labelled 'Drive' (to select how many photographs are taken with one press of the shutter release), 'AF' (to select how the camera attempts to focus), '<icon>' (which selects the exposure metering system), and a multi-function button which allows you to override the ISO setting, set exposure bracketing, red-eye prevention, silence the beeper and, finally, allow multiple exposures on one frame. Right to the left is a window to allow you to see the cassette inside the camera. This is very useful to people with poor memory like me (although I prefer a holder for the film box end which allows you to add personal notes like pushed ISO rating).

On the front of the camera is the EF lens mount. As this is a 35mm camera, it is 'full frame' and will not accept the modern digital EF-S lenses. As is usual with EOS cameras, the lens release button is on the left of the lens mount.

To the right of the lens mount, towards the top of the camera, is an auxiliary light emitter for the autofocus system. This helps the camera focus in poor light.

On the right-hand end of the camera are three items - a button to rewind the film part way through, a socket for an electrical remote control and the catch for the battery compartment. The remote socket is of an older design - it has three electrical contacts - and is not compatible with the later remote controls with a jack plug.

On the left end is the catch for the back and a PC socket for a flash cable. The last (also known as a German socket) has become obsolete since this camera but its presence here means I can use any of my old flashguns as well as my Canon specific Speedlite.  The base has a connector for a motor drive and a standard (1/4 inch Whitworth) tripod socket.

Control details.

The mode selector has what has become standard (Tv, Av, M & P) but also has four extras. These are DEP, x, CF and CAL.

'DEP' is a system to optimise depth of field. It works by then user focusing on the nearest point of interest and pressing teh shutter release, then focusing on the furthest point of interest and pressing teh shutter release. At this point, the camera selects a focus point and aperture that will result in both these points being in focus. The user then presses the shutter release a third time to actually take the picture.

'x' allows for flash synchronisation with the PC socket. The user can select between shutter speeds of 1/200, 1/125, 1/90 or 1/60 using the rear selector wheel.

'CF' allows the user to set any of the custom functions. The only one of these I use is the custom function to leave the film leader out of the cassette when rewinding.

'CAL' is used to calibrate the eye controlled focusing system. I find this both useful and easy to use. The EOS 50e also has this system. I read reports on the Interweb about how poor this eye control focusing is but I suspect those people have not calibrated the system properly - or not at all.

In addition to these 'creative zone' settings (Canon's term) there are also 'image zone' settings. For anyone who understands the basics of photography these settings are unnecessary. Their big disadvantage is that they disable user control over shutter speed, aperture, focusing system, metering mode and flash. The only advantage to using image zone settings is that you can use the camera as a point-and-shoot camera with interchangeable lenses.  This also applies to modern Canon digital SLRs. The five image zone settings are full auto, portrait, landscape, close up and sport.

The button to release the built-in flashgun has two functions - it releases the flashgun and, when pressed a twice, it allows you to set flash exposure compensation. If an external flash is fitted to the hot shoe (rather than by way of the PC connector), the flash release button will not release the built-in flashgun but pressing it just the once will allow you to set the flash exposure compensation.

The built-in flashgun is rather sophisticated - at least when compared to the built-in flashguns on the EOS 650, EOS 50e, EOS 350D and EOS 650D. This flashgun has a zoom function and changes focus according to the focal length signal from the lens. This is supposed to optimise illumination for differing angles of view. You can hear this focusing of the flashgun taking place as you rotate the zoom control on the lens. I have not tried this out so I cannot comment on how well the flash illumination optimisation works.

This built-in flashgun also has a separate red-eye reduction lamp. The way this works, when set, is the subjects of a portrait are asked to look directly at teh flashgun and just before the shutter opens and the main flash fires, this small red-eye reduction lamp fires several times. Red-eye in flash portraits is caused by the pupil in the eye being dilated due to the low light level allowing the flash to enter the eye, bounce of the red coloured back of the eye and then going back to the camera. This red-eye reduction lamp causes the subjects' pupils to contract, allowing less light into the eye and even less reflected light to bounce out of the eye. So no more excuses for zombie-eyed portraits.

I like having the flash PC (Prontor-Compur) connector for using off-camera flashguns. For modern photographers this is obsolete as neither cameras nor flashguns have PC connectors, but I am not really a modern photographer.

I am not going to go over all the options available on this camera. As a computer-controlled camera, the options are legion, but there are a few things worth mentioning.

Film rewind is automatic at the end of the roll of film. This rewinds fairly slowly and retracts all the film into the cassette. This can be altered in two ways. Firstly, the rewind speed can be increased - useful at social functions where dead-time spent reloading the camera with film is not a good thing. Normally, slow rewind is better for the film (less scratches and less build-up of static to attract dust) but this is not always the most important thing. Secondly, you can set the camera to leave the film leader out of the cassette. This is what I was always taught to do as the presence of film between the velvet light seals of the cassette improves the blocking of light. It also makes it much easier to load the film into the spirals for developing.  It is also possible to force film rewind part-way through the roll of film. For an amateur, we are always going to finish all the film in the camera, but a professional is very likely to have a number of unexposed frames left at the end of an assignment.

Film speed is set automatically by the DX coding on the film cassette. If you are using Adox films (for example) with no DX coding or loading your own bulk film into reusable cassettes, you need to set the film speed manually. This is entirely as ISO (which I still think of as ASA) with no provision for DIN settings. Not a problem, really. If you are using DX encoded cassettes, you can still set the film speed manually - useful if you want to push the film speed.

This camera takes a single lithium 2CR5 battery. This is common with all my EOS film cameras - I have three currently and have previously owned three others. In normal use, this should last for about forty rolls of 24 exposure film. This battery life can be extended by not excessively refocusing the camera, not keeping your finger on the shutter release button too long, not using the eye-controlled focusing and turning the camera off if you are not actually using it. You can also seriously reduce battery life by doing the opposite of all those things.

test photographs:
Ivy flowers
 Field, Lincolnshire Wolds

Rockabilly Buskers, Lincoln.

Rockabilly Busker, Lincoln

Monday, 16 September 2013

Ihagee West - Exakta TL500

I do not intend to repeat the history of Ihagee here, suffice it to say that during the 1950s, 60s and 70s there were two Ihagee companies - the original Ihagee in Dresden that became absorbed into VEB Pentacon and a newer Ihagee West started by the original owner of the Dresden Ihagee (Johan Steenbergen) after he was unable to return to Dresden.  This camera is from Ihagee West rather than Ihagee Dresden. I say 'from' Ihagee West and not 'by' Ihagee West as they neither designed nor made this camera which bears their name.

Ihagee West Exakta TL500
In fact, this camera was designed and made by the Japanese company Petri. I am not saying that is a bad thing - Petri made some fine cameras and this camera is a fine camera - but it is not a German camera and does not carry any of the well-loved Exakta design concepts. The legend on the front of the camera says 'Exakta TL500' but in fact it is a re-badged Petri FT - the only clue to this is the stamp on the base saying 'Made in Japan'.

This camera is fairly heavy - it weighs 682 g with no lens - and measures 145 by 95 by 50 mm. This camera was made (or rather, marketed) in 1976 only (I have been unable to find much information about this camera or, indeed, Ihagee West other than neither maker nor camera were very successful). The layout is pretty much standard for the time.

Exakta TL500
Most controls are on the top plate. On the far left is the rewind crank. (the usual Exakta system of film cassette on the right and take-up spool on the left has not been maintained) and is the now usual small fold-out crank. This lifts to release the film cassette inside.

Next to this is the the film speed selector - the main scale is ASA and is printed in white, there is also a DIN scale printed in red. This selector moves in 1/3 stop click-stops - i.e. one degree DIN. The range is from 25 ASA to 1600 ASA (ASA being effectively the same as ISO). In the middle is the bump of the pentaprism with an accessory shoe on top. This has a central contact for flash and so is a hot shoe.

To the right of the pentaprism is the shutter speed selector. This goes from one second to 1/500 seconds in the usual sequence (the maximum speed of 1/500 gives the camera its name - its sister camera, the TL1000, had a top speed of 1/1000). Flash synch is marked with a red cross as 1/60. At the date of this camera, the makers will have assumed electronic flash.

On the right hand end of the top plate is the film advance lever. This is tipped in black plastic and moves through 180 degrees to wind on one frame.  Between the shutter speed selector and the film advance lever is a window for the frame counter. This resets to -2 (indicated by S) when the back is opened. This counter counts up from zero.
Exakta TL500 rear view

The front of the top plate, apart from the name, has nothing but the battery compartment. This holds a PX625A alkaline battery (still readily available). On the end of the top plate, on the left, is a PC connector for off-camera flash. Both the battery compartment and the PC socket are in unusual places. In fact, this is the first time I have seen a battery compartment anywhere but on the base plate. Unusual it might be, there is nothing wrong with it.  On the front of the camera there is nothing apart from the lens. There is no shutter delay lever on this camera. The lens mount has a standard M42 thread - Ihagee abandoned their Exakta bayonet mount right at the time that other camera makers were abandoning M42 threads. On the plus side, there were (and still are) a great many lenses available in M42 mount. Replacing the threaded mounting ring with an Exakta bayonet mounting ring would have been easy and cheap but it may well have cost more to do so while maintaining the correct lens-to-film distance. Regardless, Ihagee West went with Petri's M42 mount.

At the bottom of the lens mount is the TTL exposure meter switch. This is a stop-down system - pressing the switch stops the iris diaphragm down and switches on the electronics. To use, first you select your shutter speed, then press the meter switch and, while holding down the switch, turn the aperture ring until the meter needle in the viewfinder coincides with the white circle. It is possible to use this meter by setting the aperture and adjusting the shutter speed to match the needle-white ring but this is very awkward to do.  As the aperture stops-down to take the light reading, the viewfinder becomes very dark and it can be difficult to see the meter needle. 

At this point, I should offer a caveat to any new user of an Exakta TL500 (or TL1000). The exposure meter is automatically switched off by taking a picture. If you cannot get the meter to respond, wind-on the film. This is a good system as leaving the camera without winding on the film will prevent the battery from running down.

The base plate is uncluttered, having the rewind button and a 1/4 inch Whitworth (i.e. standard) tripod boss.  The catch for the back is on the left end and is pulled up to release the back.

Inside is as we would expect. On the left is the space for the film cassette, in the middle is the image window (24x36 mm) and on the right is the toothed sprocket that allows the film to be advanced a set number of sprocket holes. Right on the right is the take-up spool. This rotates in the opposite direction to the film advance lever. The lever moves counter-clockwise while the take-up spool rotates clockwise. This means that the film is stored emulsion side outwards..
Exakta TL500 - internal view

The edges of the back have black light-seal foam to prevent stray light getting in the join and fogging the film. This became normal in the 1960s but has the disadvantage that the foam eventually goes gooey and ceases to act as a light seal. I suspect that the designers of this camera would be surprised that their creation was still in use after forty years. I would imagine that cameras of the time had an expected life well within the useful life of the foam. Replacing light seal foam is both easy and cheap. I have a sheet of suitable self-adhesive foam bought on Ebay which only cost two or three pounds. The old foam can be removed with a cotton bud soaked in naptha (aka lighter fuel) and the new foam cut into suitable sized strips with scissors and then stuck in place.

I don't know what lens this camera came with when new but my TL500 came with an Auto Optomax. This lens is a 28mm lens so it is unlikely to be the original lens. Actually, this lens (which is in very good condition) makes a useful addition to my (small) collection of M42 lenses (this collection consists of a Helios-44 manual lens, Helios-44M auto lens, Vivitar 2x converter and this Optomax lens).

In use:

I had a spare half hour this morning and replaced the gooey light seals with new foam.  The camera should be good to go, so I have loaded it with Agfaphoto Vista + 200 ISO film (£1.00 per cassette from Poundland) and spent the morning taking photos of Lincoln. This camera came with no lens. I have been using my Soviet Helios-44M lens that came with my Asahi Spotmatic SP1000.  Tomorrow I am going to use my Optomax 28mm lens to finish off the roll of film.  Any M42 screw threaded lens will fit.

The first thing I have noticed using this camera is the weight. Over the last few weeks I have been using my Pentax ME Super and Olympus OM 10 - both of which are about as small as a film SLR can get and both are very light.

Not being made by Ihagee, all the controls are in the right place - i.e. both shutter release and film advance are on the right which makes using this camera fairly intuitive to use.

The camera is designed to use automatic lenses - which I am doing - but will still work with manual lenses (by 'automatic' I am referring to the diaphragm not the focusing).

To set the exposure, I need to choose a shutter speed, press the meter lever at the right side of teh lens mount base and while doing so rotate the aperture ring until the needle in the viewfinder is in the centre of the ring.  this sounds harder and more complicated than it is. The only problem I am having with this is finding the aperture ring by feel - this is not an issue with the camera, it is just that I am used to the aperture ring being on the outer edge of the lens barrel. 

The shutter/mirror action is quite good - not a lot of jar.

All in all, I am quite enjoying using this camera. there is one problem which is to do with the camera/lens combination. Focused on infinity, everything is fine. Focused on 0.6m. everything is fine. But if I focus on the hyperfocal distance (6m @ f11) the mirror will not return after the shot. Nor will the lens unscrew. To return the mirror I am having to re-focus to infinity, wind on the film and fire the shutter.  This has resulted in several wasted frames.  [EDIT: this happened over the first few frames of the first film. At exposure 16 it is no longer happening.]

When the film has been developed, I will post a selection of the test pictures.


Here are a selection of pictures from my test film.  I am quite impressed.  All are exposed well so no problems with the exposure meter.  Exposure is even so the shutter blinds are moving smoothly.

Bridge over the Witham, Lincoln

High Street, Lincoln

Swans on the Witham, Lincoln

Housing estate road, Lincoln

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Contina IIa

Zeiss Ikon's Contina camera was a long lived and varied series of cameras.  The series started as the Ikonta 35 which was a post-war version of the 120 format Ikonta adapted to take 35 mm film.  This camera became two series of cameras - the Contessa and the Contina; the first Contessas and Continas were folding cameras. The Contessa version was more up-market than the Contina version. I have already written about one of the Contessa line - the Contessa LKE. The Contessa line have better lenses (Tessars) and coupled light meters and rangefinders. The Contina range have cheaper lenses (Novar, Novicar and Pantar) and the light meters, where present, are uncoupled. I have also written about the Contina line elsewhere - the Contina Ic.

lens: Novicar
focal length:  45mm
apertures: f2.8 to f22
focus range: 1m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor-SVS
speeds: 1 second to 1/300 seconds
flash: PC connector
film size: 35mm

Contina IIa - front view, meter window closed
To make identifying and placing Contina cameras as difficult as possible, the Contina series split into two lines of cameras simultaneously.  The original Contina folding camera  became the Contina II folding camera with a light meter and then a series of derivatives. That original Contina folding camera, at the same time, became the Contina I rigid camera - no light meter or rangefinder - and then a series of derivatives.
Front view - meter window open

So, at any one time after 1953 there were two different Continas available, both just designated Contina. I have been referring to Contina I, Contina II, Contina Ic, Contina IIa but I don't think those were names offered by Zeiss Ikon, rather us collectors use them to make sense of the mish-mash of models.

Daniel Jiménez has produced a 'family tree' of the Contina series which he has given me permission to use here:

Copyright Daniel Jiménez
Daniel has a useful camera blog which can be found in an English version here. He also has a much larger Spanish version here.

This camera - is a Contina IIa. It is derived from the Contina II which was a folding camera but this version does not fold - that is, it is rigid. It is a compact and solid camera measuring 120 x 65 x 85 mm and weighs 567g. It offers a built-in but uncoupled light meter and an EV enabled shutter. It was not a cheap camera - it cost £43/15/1 in 1957 (in old money, or £43.76 in new money) which, given the average male wage in 1957 was £9.00 means this camera cost the equivalent of £2,500 in 2013 values. The version with a Novar lens only cost £36/12/7.

The top plate of the camera has a number of  items on it. On the left is a small rewind knob. I prefer these to the small folding cranks that became ubiquitous in the 1960s. When you first turn the rewind knob, it raises itself by one cm. This is above the height of the centre of the top plate and makes it easier to hold and turn.

rear and top view
Next to the rewind knob is an accessory shoe. At the time that this camera was made (1956/58) this was more likely to be used for a separate rangefinder than a flashgun. There are no electrical contacts in the accessory shoe so it is a cold shoe.

Next to the accessory shoe is the light meter window and the light meter control knob. Visible in the window is a needle connected to the light meter. The brighter the light, the more this needle moves towards the rear of the camera. Also in this window is a white circle which moves in response to the user moving the control knob. When the white circle is over the needle, the correct exposure can be read off the scale around the control knob. This is mostly in EV values - more later. In the centre of the control knob is the setting for the film speed. This camera was made in 1956/8 and uses the film speed standards in place at that time. A few years later (1960), the American Standards Association (ASA) revisited their film speed standard to produce the later ASA standard now known as ISO. The German DIN system remained unchanged so on this camera 21 DIN = 40 ASA rather than the later standard of 21 DIN = 100 ASA (ISO) - I always use the DIN standard with old cameras to make sure I do not get it wrong.

On the far right of the top plate is the film advance lever. This moves through about 200 degrees to advance the film and cock the shutter. The lever is all metal and only curves a very slight amount which I find makes it uncomfortable to use. In the centre of the film advance lever should be the frame counter. I can make no comment about this as a prior owner has removed it. Looking at the state of the metal that is left, I suspect a very amateurish attempt at a repair.

The front of the camera has four items - meter window, viewfinder window, shutter housing and flash PC connector. The meter window contains a two cm by one cm lens covering a selenium photoelectric cell.  This does not need any batteries, which I always reckon to be a good thing.  Most camera electrics from the 1960s to 1980s use mercury cells which are now illegal in just about every country there is. This window has a hinged cover - to open it, you lightly press the right-hand end (as the camera is to your eye). Selenium meters get a poor press as the photoelectric cell will deteriorate with time. However, if the cell is kept in the dark it only deteriorates very slowly, so this cell being covered, it has not yet (in 57 years) deteriorated enough to worry about. This is a single scale meter - an earlier version of the Contina IIa had a dual scale meter with a small window in the hinged cover.

Next to the meter window is the viewfinder window. This has quite a small eyepiece and a plain view with no bright lines. I find I cannot use it while wearing my glasses.  The Contina Ic, which I also own, has a much larger eyepiece - this was made just a few years later in the early 1960s.

In the centre of the front is a square chrome bezel containing the shutter.  This is a Prontor-SVS from Gauthier. This works on the EV system.  The light meter gives you an EV value from between  three and eighteen and you transfer this number to the shutter - you have to press a small tab on the shutter housing to get the EV ring to turn. Each EV number gives you a small range of shutter speed and aperture settings.  If you turn the EV setting ring without pressing the small tab, different speed/aperture combinations will present themselves to the mark at the top of the housing. For very low light levels, the shutter speeds are in green - you cannot set these, but you can read them.  To use them, turn the control ring on the shutter housing to B and read off a speed next to the aperture you want to use.  You then need to time the exposure yourself - the speeds are from four seconds to sixty seconds and you can count this quite accurately without a watch.

The lens is a Novicar lens (a Novar lens was also available) which I have found to be excellent if stopped down to f5.6 or f8. It is threaded for 27mm filters.  Maximum aperture is f2.8 and its focal length is 45 mm. Focusing is from about three feet to infinity (one metre to infinity). The throw of the focusing is only about 120 degrees, so very accurate focusing is not possible, but with no rangefinder, this camera was always going to rely on depth of field.

On the lower right of the shutter bezel (looking at the camera) is the flash PC (Prontor-Compur) connector.  This is the only means of connecting a flashgun. On the side of the shutter housing there is a selector for M or X - Magnesium or Xenon  - flash. M is for flash bulbs and X for electronic flash. With M, the flash is fired slightly before the shutter opens to allow the burning of the flash bulb to reach its maximum while the shutter is fully open. With X, the flash is fired as the shutter blades are fully open as electronic flash does not require time to reach its maximum intensity. This selector also has a V setting. This means Vorlaufwerk and is German for self timer. Moving the selector to this position causes an eight second delay between pressing the shutter release and the shutter firing. It is never a good idea to try this facility on an old camera as it might well cause the shutter to stop working permanently.

Rear/internal view

The back opens by pulling down a small catch on the lower right-hand edge. The back is hinged and there is a single light seal - a piece of velvet right by the hinge. The back itself has the pressure plate and a tensioning roller that goes by the take-up spool. Around the film mask are two machined film guides - showing as bright lines in the photograph above. The pawl for the rewind mechanism can be raised to enable fitting a film cassette and then lowered to secure the cassette.

24-December 2013

I have now finished my test roll of film - Agfa Vista+ 200 ISO from Poundland (yes, £1.00 per roll!). As expected, the camera works well. The only awkward thing was setting the EV values on the shutter as the mechanism is rather stiff.  I definitely would not want it too loose but it would be nice for it to be a bit easier to alter. The frame counter is missing on this camera - I assume due to a botched repair by the previous owner. It does not affect the camera's functionality at all and got me the camera at a bargain price. Below are a selection of pictures from the test film.

Pottergate Arch, Lincoln

Fountain in Lincoln Arboretum

Rockabilly Buskers, Lincoln

Lincoln Shoppers getting ready for Xmas

Foreign Buskers, Lincoln