Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Voigtlander Brillant "TLR" camera

This is Voigtlander's attempt to cash in on the Rolleiflex design. As well as this cheaper model, they also produced a much more expensive model called the Superba. This camera looks exactly like a TLR (Twin Lens Reflex)  - and it is: it has two lenses and the viewing lens is reflex; it looks via a mirror. he big difference is focussing. Rolleiflex and their cousins focus by moving the front plate (with taking lens and viewing lens) back and forth and the user focusses via a ground glass screen which is missing on this model. Here, focussing is via a helical screw thread on the taking lens.  
Voigtlander Brillant, front view
This camera was produced in the early 1950s and the lens serial number dates from between 1947 and 1950 - and is probably from 1950. This camera cost, in 1952, £22/11/6 (old money) or £22.57 in decimal money. The case cost a further £2/17/9 (or £2.89). This was seriously expensive -  the UK average salary in 1950 was £100 per year which is £2.00 per week - the camera cost over ten week's pay for an average person. For comparison, the average salary in 2016 is nearly £28,000 which would make this camera worth £5,600 today.

This camera is made from Bakelite (an early plastic) which becomes brittle with age. My camera is in very good condition with no visible cracks. The only damage I can see is one of the strap lugs has snapped off.

My usual technique with this blog in describing cameras is to start with the top plate and work my way down. Right at the top is the maker's name 'Voigtlander' in Italic script. Below this in the front panel are two lenses. The top lens is the viewing lens (essentially the viewfinder) - the user looks down on the top of the camera and through this lens via a sloping mirror. There is no focussing screen and this lens is fixed (there was a more expensive version with a focussing screen).

Below the viewing lens is the shutter assembly with the taking lens. The shutter has the AGC logo telling us that this is a Gauthier shutter - in fact a Prontor II going by the range of shutter speeds.

Gauthier shutter (Prontor II)
As always with older clockwork shutters, it is necessary to cock the shutter before use. There is a lever at the top of the assembly for this purpose - the user pulls the lever down to the right (in use; to the left, in my photo of the shutter) where it stays until the shutter is fired. Just below this cocking lever is the shutter release lever. This release lever pushes down and in. Below this is a threaded socket for a standard cable release.

The shutter has two ranges of speeds operated by different parts of the shutter mechanism. The fast speeds - 1/25, 1/50, 11/100 and 1/175 seconds - are working well on my camera and seem to be close to the marked speed (test film will tell for sure). The slow speeds are usually hesitant or non-functional on old shutters. These are 1 second, 1/2, 1/5, and 1/10 seconds. These do not work  on this camera without the user forcing the cocking lever back to its normal position. In addition to the fast and slow shutter speeds, there are two more. B keeps the shutter open while the user keeps the release lever depressed (or more likely in practice, keeps the cable release depressed). T will open the shutter when the shutter release is pressed and the shutter will stay open until the shutter release is pressed a second time. B and T work well on this camera.

The taking lens is a Voigtlander Vaskar. This is Voigtlander's cheap triplet (a Crooke's triplet design as far as I can tell). Triplets usually perform very well if stopped down to f/8 - the test film will show for sure how well this lens performs. The focal length is 75 mm which is 'normal' for TLR cameras. The negative is square - nominally 6 cm per side. 'Normal' is the diagonal of the negative. Pythagorus gives us a diagonal of √(36+36) =  √72 = 8.5 cm so this lens is very slightly wide angle. Maximum aperture is f/4.5 (very respectable for a cheap camera in 1950) and the minimum aperture is f/16. The aperture is set by a lever on the shutter assembly on the photographer's left. At the base of the shutter assembly is the delay action lever. As with the slow shutter speeds, these rarely work well on old cameras and the standard advice is to never try them.

Below the shutter assembly is the camera's model name - Brillant (not Brilliant!).

The left side of the camera has a hinged door with space inside for two filters/close up lenses. My camera has one yellow filter in place - these are a push fit on the taking lens.

Left side showing the filter compartment

The right side of the camera has various controls. The most obvious is the film winder at the top. This winds the film on between shots. he lever to the right of that releases the frame counting mechanism while winding to the first frame.The lever in the middle sets the frame counter to 1 which is displayed in the small window. Detailed instructions on how these knobs and levers work can be seen in the instruction 'book' on my Google Drive (one small sheet of folded paper ).

Right side showing controls

On the back there is the ubiquitous red window that medium format cameras usually have. This is covered by an internal blind to prevent the film being fogged while not in use. This is opened by a knurled ring below and to the right of the red window.  The blind has a large white cross on it to make it clear that the blind is in place. This red window is only used to position the first frame. Thereafter, the internal mechanism will move the film the right amount.

Brillant back with red window
The bottom of the camera has a 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket. This sits slightly proud of the  base, presumably to give enough plastic for strength. On the front edge of the base are two raised spots. Together with the raised tripod socket, these provide a stable base for the camera to sit on for long exposures or self-portraits.

Base of the camera with tripod socket and place of manufacture
The top of the camera has the viewfinder. In this style of camera, you look down into the viewfinder to compose the picture. In storage, the viewfinder folds down out of the way (see top two pictures above). To open, you lift the rear of the top piece - the other three pieces then  rise under spring power. 

There is no focussing screen as there would be with a Rolleiflex (because the viewfinder is not used for focussing) - rather, you look through a large square lens via an angled mirror and through the top lens in the front. This is, basically, a giant brilliant finder. The image is very clear and bright but significantly smaller than the negative size. The image is the right way up but reversed left to right. This takes a bit of getting used to but soon becomes second nature. On the left side of the viewfinder panels is a depth of field table (referred to on the camera as a depth of focus table).
looking down the viewfinder

The front panel of the viewfinder has a fold-down section. This is to allow the camera to be used as an direct vision eye level finder. These were referred to as 'sport' finders as the direct view is not reversed left to right, making following motion much easier. this fold-down section is used in conjunction with a punch hole in the read panel.

The back of the camera is opened by pressing together two chrome buttons on the top of the back. The back then hinges down in one piece with the base. The new film goes in a recess in the base, held in place by a leaf spring.

inside the camera

The roll of film is a fairly snug fit in here. The film backing paper is pulled over a small roller, across the film gate, across a second small roller and into the take-up spool. On the right hand edge of the film gate is a recessed toothed wheel. This is rotated by the film moving over it and serves to measure how much film has been advanced between shots - the red window only being used for the first frame.

Film recess in the base
The take-up spool fits into a hinged carriage to make fitting easier.
raised carriage for the take-up spool

Test film to follow

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Cosina CSM

As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, Cosina have an undeservedly poor reputation. In fact, in addition to their own designs made under their own name, they make cameras for the big-name camera companies. The Zeiss Ikon rangefinder was made by Cosina as are many Carl Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses.

Cosina CSM
This camera is a Cosina design sold under their own name. It is fairly basic but with an electronically controlled shutter. I can tell that the shutter is electronically controlled because it  works without batteries but at the same slow speed regardless of the speed setting (a fully electronic shutter will not work at all without batteries). With batteries the shutter speeds are clearly variable.

The top plate is standard for a camera made in the late 1970s (introduced in 1978, I think). Far right is a small window for the frame counter. This is reset to zero when the camera back is opened. Next is the film advance lever. This is a metal plate covered with a plastic casing. It sits just proud of the back and is easy to use. It moves through about 210 degrees to advance the film one frame.It is not on a racket so just be moved in one motion.

In front of the advance lever is the shutter release button. this is chrome plated and threaded for a standard cable release. Below the shutter release is a lock switch. It has two positions - A and L. A is the working position and L is the lock position. I quite approve of shutter locks as over the years I have wasted many hundreds of frames of film by accidentally tripping the shutter. This lever is black.

Cosina CSM - top plate
Next along is the shutter speed dial. This runs from 4 seconds through 1 second to 1/1000 seconds. 1/60 is marked in red and I am sure will be the flash synchronisation speed. There are also positions marked in green - M and B. I have no idea what the M position is for and it is not mentioned in the manual (available from Butkus's website). B is for Bulb and is the standard of the shutter remaining open whilst the the shutter release is depressed.

Nested in the tangle of the film advance lever is a small chrome button. Pressing this disconnects the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound.

The pentaprism hump has the accessory shoe on it. This has electrical contacts (so a hot shoe) synchronised for electronic flash (indicated by a red X). Cosina made an automatic exposure device which sat on this accessory shoe and connected to the shutter speed dial - this dial has a raised pin to allow the auto exposure accessory device to turn the speed dial, giving the camera aperture priority automatic exposure.

On the left of the pentaprism is the rewind crank. This is the usual fold-out type. The crank pulls up - to the first position to release the cassette in the camera and to the second position to unlock the hinged back. Between the pentaprism humpand the rewind crank is a white painted circle with e white line through it. The Lin represents the position of the film plane.

The front of the camera is fairly plain. most obvious is the lens mount. This is a 42 mm threaded mount - frequently known as the Pentax thread mount. This was the standard lens mount for several decades and so there are a vast number of lenses still available for this camera. The mount takes automatic aperture lenses (as well as older manual aperture lenses). There is a plunger at the base of the lens mount, just inside the thread. When the shutter release is pressed, this plunger moves forward and depresses a pin on the lens to close the aperture to the preset value. This ties in with the TTL light meter (TTL = Through The Lens). You focus and compose with the aperture wide open (and so with a bright image) and as the shutter release is half-way pressed, the aperture closes and the meter reads the light level. You then either adjust the aperture or shutter (or perhaps both) until the centre greed LED in the viewfinder is lit. Pressing the shutter release the rest of the way releases the shutter and takes the picture.
Cosina CSM - lens mount

Next to the lens mount at the bottom is a small chrome button. Pressing this allows the aperture to open again while the shutter release is partially depressed. You might think it easier to just take your finger off the shutter release button but the plunger does not return to its rest position if you do. If you want to re-compose or re-focus, you need this button.

On the right-hand side of the lens mount is a self-timer lever. This is turned through 90 degrees to set the mechanism.It is released by the shutter release in the usual way. On most cameras, These self-timers are clockwork and you can hear them ticking as the lever rotates back to its start position. Not here. This is an electronic device and the lever does not move back. Instead, a small red LED above the lever flashes once a second for ten seconds. After ten seconds, the shutter fires and the lever snaps back.

On the left of the lens mount are what at first glance appear to be two PC (Prontor Compur) sockets. In fact, only the lower one is - it is marked with a red X. This is for attaching an off-camera flash gun by a cable and is synchronised for electronic flash (by the late 1970s, bulb flashes were no longer usual and not catered for). The top connector is not quite the same as a PC connector and is designed for the automatic exposure device I mentioned above. It is marked with a green A.

On either side of the front of the camera are strap lugs - a small but very important feature to me.

The base of the camera has a battery compartment. It takes two LR44 (or SV44) batteries (which are still available). These power the light meter and the electronic shutter. There is also a standard tripod boss - 1/4 inch UNC thread. This is quite seriously offset from the centre of the camera which means the camera is likely to slope when on a tripod, particularly if a cheap tripod is used - this is a cheap camera so I don't supposed anyone would have used an expensive tripod.

Cosina CSM - base plate
Inside the back of the camera there is little to note. The shutter is a horizontally moving cloth shutter - absolutely standard at this time. The take-up spool has eight attachment positions of a fairly standard design so attaching the film leader would be easy enough.

Being Japanese, the camera relies on foam light seals to keep the film compartment light tight. This camera is 35-odd years old and the foam has long turned to sticky dust. The remains will need to be cleaned out and replaced with new foam before the camera can be used. This is a simple enough job, even for me.

Cosina CSM - inside the film chamber
Inside the viewfinder is uncluttered. There is a ground glass focussing screen with a horizontal split-image spot in the centre and around this is a circle of micro-prisms. The split-image centre works by placing it over a suitable vertical edge in the image. This edge will be split - part to the left and part to the right. When you focus the lens, these two parts move and line up with each other when the focus is correct.

In the absence of a suitable vertical edge, you use the micro-prism ring. When the image is unfocussed, this ring has a very granular appearance. As you get nearer to good focus, the granularity gets less and disappears at good focus.

At the top of the viewfinder are three LEDs. The central one is green and the other two are red arrows. While pressing the shutter release halfway, you adjust the aperture/shutter speed combination until the central green LED is lit steadily. The left hand red arrow lights up when you have too much exposure and the right hand arrow lights up when you have too little exposure. Very easy to use in practice.

The supplied lens - the kit lens if you will - is a Cosina made Cosinon lens - 50 mm focal length and maximum aperture of f/1.7 (and why not the industry standard of f/1.8?). The lens is multi-coated as you would expect from the late 1970s. This lens has an aluminium barrel and appears to be very well made.

Cosinon lens with six sided aperture

Cosinon lens - lens barrel

Friday, 4 November 2016

Glossary of Photographic Terms (O to Z)

sensitive to blue and green light. The name means 'correct colour'. Orthochromatic film can be handled with a normal darkroom safe-light.
sensitive all colours – the usual film that is currently available. Must be handled in complete darkness.
PC socket
Prontor-Compur. Named after the two most prominent shutter manufacturers from the mid-20th century. It is the standard connector for flash guns found on most cameras until the Hot Shoe became normal.
a cheap alternative for a pentaprism. It does the same job for a much lower price but does not produce as bright an image. Found on more modern and cheaper SLR cameras.
a glass prism inside a reflex viewfinder that turns the image the right way around for viewing. It is found in most SLR cameras.
plate camera
a camera designed to use glass plates rather than film.
Pressure plate
This is a sprung plate, usually attached to the back of the camera, that pushed against the back of the film and helped to keep the film flat against the film gate.
Pull developing
This is reducing the amount of time the film is in the developer to compensate for the film having been overexposed.
Push developing
This is extending the amount of time the film is in the developer to compensate for the film having been underexposed. This allows the user to use the film as if it had a higher DIN/ASA/ISO rating.
rapid cassette
An attempt by Agfa to compete with Kodak's 126 film cartridge. Film was held loosely in the cassette and needed to be wound into an empty Rapid cassette. Used between 1964 and the early 1990s. Almost identical to the Karat cassette.
Red window
A small, round window on the back of a medium format camera to allow the user to see the frame numbers printed on the film backing paper. There may be two windows on half-frame cameras (those taking 6 x 4.5 cm negatives).
Reflex viewing
This is viewing the image through either the taking lens (SLR) or by a secondary lens (TLR), the image seen being the exactly the same as the image on the negative.
Reverse Galilean viewfinder.
This is effectively a small telescope as designed by Galileo used backwards – it makes the view appear smaller so that a large scene can be fitted into a small viewfinder.
rewind knob
On 35 mm cameras, the means of winding the film back into the cassette.
rim-set shutter
On older manual cameras, the ring around the lens that is used to alter the shutter speed. Dates from around 1930. cf Dial set shutter.
rise and fall mechanism
A way of raising the lens so that a different part of the image circle is over the negative. It is used when photographing high objects to avoid tilting the camera.
Self-capping shutter
This is a type of focal plane shutter – the type used in all SLR cameras. In early focal plane shutters, the shutter would stay open when rewound meaning the film plate had to be removed first and it could not be used for film. A self-capping shutter will remain closed while being rewound so can be used with a plate in place and can be used for film.
A camera that unfolds with the lens in the correct position for picture taking at the touch of a button.
A device in the shutter that delays the shutter opening for ten seconds or so. Marked as ‘V’ on German cameras.
The means of letting light into the camera in a controlled way. Either inside the lens (leaf shutter) or in front of the film (focal plane shutter).
shutter cocking lever 
On older shutters (pre-1955-ish) a lever used to set the shutter ready for use.
shutter release
The button or lever used to fire the shutter.
some camera provide a visual signal that the film has been would on and the camera is ready to take the next picture. Usually takes the form of a dot by the film advance that turns red when the camera is ready.
Single Lens Reflex – a type of camera where the user views the scene through the taking lens to give very accurate composition.
Split image disc
This is frequently found in the centre of a SLR focussing screen. It will split a vertical line (occasionally horizontal or diagonal line) while it is out of focus, the line joining itself at the point of focus.
A wooden, metal or plastic holder for rolls of film.
spool carriers
The part of the camera that holds the spool of film either ready for use or once used.
sprocket hole
the row of hole along the edge of film to allow the camera to move it. In 35mm film there is a row on either edge. In 126 cartridges there is only one row of sprocket holes.
Standard lens
A lens that approximates the angle of view of the human eye. In 35mm photography, this is taken to be 43 mm (the diagonal of the negative). The ‘kit’ lens usually provided with 35 mm SLR cameras was 50mm. Fixed lens cameras were usually nearer to 40mm.
Stand development
This is a technique where the film is developed with no agitation and extending the development time to half an hour or even longer. This is useful where the speed of the film is not known or where the user might suspect exposure problems. It will usually produce a usable negative but not an excellent one.
Stereo attachment
These allow the camera to produce two images on one frame of film, each from a slightly different perspective. When the picture is viewed on a stereoscope, the image appears to be three dimensional.
Sunny 16
A rule of thumb for estimating the exposure where no light meter is available. The basis is to set the aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to the reciprocal of the film speed (ISO 50 = shutter speed 1/50, ISO 200 = shutter speed 1/200). Works well on a bright sunny day.
A lens that is shorter than its focal length. The term gets used (incorrectly) for any long-focus lens. A 300 mm lens will have the lens node 300 mm from the film. A 300 mm telephoto lens will have its node in front of the lens – the node will still be 300 mm from the film but the physical lens will be shorter than 300 mm.
Twin Lens Reflex – a type of camera that has two identical lenses, one above the other. Both are focused by the same mechanism at the same time allowing for accurate focusing but at the cost of some parallax error in near shots.
tripod boss
A threaded hole to allow the camera to be fitted to a tripod. On older cameras it will be either 3/8 inch or ¼ inch Whitworth thread and on more modern cameras 3/8 or ¼ UNC thread. For this purpose, Whitworth and UNC are interchangeable.
Through The Lens – a light metering system that measures the light that is coming in the lens. This gives more accurate exposures than using a hand-held light meter will.
Used of light meters and rangefinders where adjusting the meter or rangefinder gives a reading which the user must transfer to the camera lens or shutter manually. Cf ‘coupled’
Vorlaufwerk which is German for self-timer.
A darkening at the edges of the picture caused by the image circle being too close in size to the negative – Common with cheaper lenses.
Waist-level finder
A viewfinder that is used at waist-level rather than eye-level. Frequent on medium format cameras, particularly TLR cameras but also occasionally on 35 mm cameras.
Waterhouse stops
a sequence of holes of varying sizes either in a line or around a disc that can be moved in front of the lens to control the amount of light entering the camera.
Wide angle
Used for any lens that has an angle of view greater than the human eye – which is between 40 and 60 degrees. It is not possible to give a single angle of view for the eye as it depends on variable factors. With 35mm photography, wide angle starts at about 35mm focal length.
a device to automatically wind on the film
X synch
This is a method of synchronising the firing of an electronic flash with the opening of the shutter. As an electronic flash does not need time to reach maximum brightness, the flash is fired as the shutter is fully open.
Zeiss bumps
Bumps on the outside of Zeiss Ikon cameras caused by the rivets used to hold components together chemically reacting with the body of the camera. This causes visible bumps under the leatherette covering.
a lens that has an adjustable focal length