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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Not to be a camera snob

I was talking to a colleague at work today about cameras and was asked what camera brands and models I use the most and as I started listing "Leica, Hasselblad, Canon..." it struck me that I had ended up settling on some of the top, manual cameras around - without really planning on it.

These cameras are excellent picture taking machines but do I always need to carry a kit worth $1,000+ when taking a walk and snapping photos of whatever may present itself in front of my viewfinder? Of course not - but I am also honest enough to admit that I love the feel of a solid, well made piece of equipment and that enjoying the equipment I also tend to take it with me more often - and hence end up taking more photos. Call it...a joyous circle...

Now, I'm not a complete camera-brand snob...fact is most of my cameras cost under $50 each and I truly enjoyed using them - some of them I still take out for a spin now and then (more about 'Great cameras on the Cheap' coming up in an entry soon). One that really surprised me is the old Kodak Instamatic 500.
The production run of this camera was between 1963-1965 and it comes with a pretty decent Xenar 38/2.8 lens. Its main, modern quirkyness is that it used 126 film (producing square 28x28mm images) which is a bit harder to obtain and process than your regular 120/135 film but with some research I was able to find both film as well as places to have it developed here in San Francisco.

These cameras can often be had for less than $25 at eBay and I think I paid about $18 for this one.

Below are some sample photos from the first test roll I shot. It's a fun camera and very easy to use. Is it a Leica or Hasselblad? No, but if I drop it or lose it I will be very happy it wasn't..

(More information about the Kodak Instamatic product line here )


Anonymous Rob said...

Hi Rich.

I'm sort of at the other end of the spectrum as far as my camera selection. The funny thing is I used two cameras for over twenty years, with an extremely limited understanding of what it was I was supposed to do. I had a Kodak Signet 35 and a Diax L-1 that my father had given me. I was ok with the Signet 35 until I read a book and discovered what a rangefinder was (D'oh). It had an exposure table on the back cover (I had to find out on the internet what the different films meant). On the Diax, I simply taped a film box with the basic exposure listings, and went from there. Then, something snapped. Some friends from work started getting me interested in other cameras. Sure, they had Nikons and Leicas, but I found it more of a challenge getting results out of something allegedly inferior. I picked up a bunch of ten dollar or less bargains off of E-Bay (including a $5.99 Zeiss Ikonta). I've had nice results from a $10.00 Praktica, but I'm really thrilled at the rediscovery of that Signet 35 which I've already had since the mid '70's. Mind you, I've added a flash adapter (never knew I could use a flash with it), and a filter that really took the bite out of the sun's glare in some beach shots. Best thing about the Signet 35 is that I got it for $4.00 then. After I discovered the "rangefinder," I set out and adjusted it as the images lined up four feet away with the focus ring set on 20'. You can get them cheap enough on E-Bay, and for as ugly as they may seem, they give very nice results. I also picked up a Russian rangefinder and a Yashica TLR. They've all kept me busy (and in the doghouse with the wife).

October 10, 2005 7:20 PM  

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