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Batteries Not Included

A blog focused on cameras with no batteries - and the photos they take

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Don't abandon hope yet!

I know a number of us participated in Kodak's film give-away when their new Porta film was introduced.
The 20,000 rolls that Kodak put up were all spoken for on November 13 of last year - and finally this week, after having almost given up hope, this arrived in the mail:

The canister contained;
- One roll of Kodak Portra 160VC,
- One roll of Kodak Portra 400VC,
- One roll of Kodak Porta 160NC,
- One roll of Kodak Portra 4ooNC
- A mail-in rebate certificate worth $25 if purchasing $125 worth of film, and
- some marketing material.

The rebate offer expires on 1/31/07 so I won't get much use of that - BUT I am really looking forward to trying out the new film and am hoping to put it through my Hasselblad already this week.

So for those of you out there that are still waiting for your film..don't abandon hope quite yet...

Monday, January 29, 2007

Frans Lanting

A week ago I attended a session in San Francisco, hosted by the ASMP, where Frans Lanting showed his latest work - LIFE - A Journey Through Time.

Lanting, most known for his stunning nature and wildlife photography such as this one;

(c) Frans Lanting

faced a new challenge with his latest project.

As he explained himself - 'Photographers obsesses with the 'now' - to capture a moment in time before it vanishes. This project led me to try and take photos of scenes that existed thousands and millions of years ago'.

In pursuing photos that would accurately - or as accurately as we can assume that they can be - depict a world now long gone, Lanting traveled the world and collaborated with scientists from a number of fields.

The resulting images are impressive and in the end maybe the value from his work is not to show what the world once looked like - but rather what it still has the capacity to be.
If we let it.

(c) Frans Lanting

(c) Frans Lanting

Sunday, January 21, 2007

SeaWood Photo - an old time camera store

To quote SeaWood Photo from their homepage:
"It is hard to find a true "camera shop" anymore and we take pride in the fact that we are."

(c) SeaWood Photo

After having visited their store in San Anselmo, California for the first time this weekend, I can honestly say that I agree wholeheartedly with their description of themselves.

I wanted to try out a 19mm deep-dark red screw-in filter for my Elmar 50/3.5 LTM lens and I thought it would be fun to combine that with some hiking in the San Anselmo hills. Walking into the store I must admit my hopes were not too high for finding some Infrared film but I soon realized that this was not your regular Ritz-Wolf-[insert generic-camera-store-name-here]-camera store.

On the counter was a MF Bronica camera used as a pencil-cup, on the shelves behind it were row upon row of classic 35mm cameras for sale. To mention a few: A nice looking Olympus PEN FT, two black OM-4's, an OM-1n, three Canon F1 (at sale for about 200 dollars each), more Nikon F-cameras than I could count along with countless lenses in various mounts. Speaking of lenses there was a nice looking Nikon 20/2.8 for 240 dollars and Olympus OM 50/3.5 for 100-something dollars.

Turning the attention to the glass shelves under the counter one could spot such cameras such as an Canon 7 in excellent condition, a Leica M6, five-six Exakta cameras and a couple of Hasselblads.

Another room contained MF and LF cameras in various condition (mostly in so-so condition to be honest) and development equipment. A somewhat out-of-date list of their used equipment can be found here and will at least give an indication of the kind of items you may find here.

As impressed as I was with the cameras - and their reasonable prices - I was even more impressed with how knowledgeable the young salespeople were about the cameras they were selling and how they treated their customers. Waiting to be serviced they tended to two other customers and they really took their time explaining features and helping them take educated decisions. One man was buying a new digital camera and was considering a 4-500 dollar lens to go with it. The sales man picked up on that he was not quite sure what he wanted and suggested that instead of going for the more expensive lens he could buy a 100 dollar kit-lens as that would be good enough to get him started and allow him to figure out what he wanted down the road.

I had a great experience at this store and I will make it a point to visit them again when I find myself in the area the next time - and I recommend you doing the same if you enjoy camera stores with great, classic cameras and a very friendly, knowledgeable staff.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

ELDIA - interesting and quirky..but is it useful?

It arrived in a small red box...

Opening it up one can make out some knobs on a Leica sized body...

Once out of the box a Leica screw-mount shaped body is revealed - with a red window through it and with no lens mount.

Is this an early, forgotten Leica camera prototype that never saw the light of day?
A highly specialized scientific piece of equipment custom made for some secret project?
Looking further (and well, reading the text on the box) it becomes clear that it is neither of things - but rather a humble filmstrip copier.

Introduced in the 1930's is this gadget now just something destined for the 'shelf of hopelessly useless items' - or can one actually find some use for it now seventy years after it was put on the market?

A few weeks ago I purchased some Leica close-up equipment and 'thrown into' the deal was this film copier and it turned out to be the more interesting item of the purchase. I knew very little about it - and film copiers in general - and why would I as I live in a world where film scanners and digital projection occupies much of the role that these items once held. But being fascinated with older camera equipment I tried to find out as much as I could about it in hopes that I would be able to give it at least one more time in the limelight (or red-light as it may be).

What is it used for?
Imagine you have some 35mm b&w negatives and you want to project them for an audience. Also imagine that this is decades before computers, scanners and digital projectors became common utilities. In this world - queue the Film Copier that can turn your favorite Tri-X photos into bright slide projections.

How does it work?
A roll of undeveloped film is loaded into the film copier and then a roll of developed negatives is fed through the copier and exposed frame by frame (a simple lamp will do) creating 1:1 contact prints onto the positive roll. As simple as that. It is also possible to feed a strip (or single frame) or photographic paper through the copier to create a strip of paper contact prints.

Illustration showing a negative strip being copied in the ELDIA

What else do you need?
Film - and this is where it gets hairy. According to the old instructions one is to use an orthochromatic film for the 'receiving' film in the copying process but readers have emailed me and let me know that there are alternatives.

Michael, writes:
"In my use it was a trial and error experience using Tmax 100 film in the ELDIA to make B&W slides from my negatives.
I used it under an enlarger, when exposed correctly it makes really beautiful slides (going from your original negative film to negative film gives a positive).
Dust is only an issue if one is careless. I will add the results seemed so much richer than those I usually get from making copy slides with tungsten slide film and a copy stand. And a lot easier in many ways. Give it a spin, you might be surprised"

John, writes;
The appropriate film still exists: Kodak's Eastman Fine Grain Release Positive 5302 - used for making 35mm B&W movie prints and sensitive only to blue light. There's also 2302, on polyester base, hard to find in anything but huge quantities.
I once made a slide using a long-expired roll of microfilm, it came out fine developed in Dektol.

Richard K
, writes:

"Actually, I've never used mine although I have all the materials.
The film I would use, if you can still get it, is
Eastman Kodak Fine Grain Release Positive, a film originally meant for making motion picture prints.
Its an extremely
fine grain, blue sensitive, emulsion with about the same speed as fast enlarging paper.
The contrast is varied by
choice of developer and to some extent by developing time.
It can be developed in Dektol or other print developer for relatively high contrast for projection transparencies.

Exposure is done using an enlarger. Kodak used to recommend
finding the approximate exposure by using Grade-2 Kodabromide but that's discontinued.
I think you would be in
the ball park by using something like Ilford VC paper without a filter.
Of course final exposure must be judged

The Eldia appears to be very simple to use. The red
window on the back appears to be for aligning the negative with the thing on a contact printer. As you can see the instructions are minimal. I think I will have to try mine
soon, maybe next time I fire up my darkroom."

Apart from film you would benefit from having
a dark room, a 25w light bulb and some developer. That and a couple of hours.

How are the results?
I can't personally vouch for how well this works but from what I have read on the internet (and from comments above) - the ELDIA has the capability of providing some very nice contact prints with excellent tonality and sharpness. I am hoping that I will be able to post my own impressions in the near future.

I need one - how do I get my own ELDIA!?
As with so many other obscure photographic equipment the easiest way to track something like this down is through google and/or eBay. Expect to pay about 15-30 dollars depending on condition, box and manual.

Note: Leitz also produced a copier named ELDUR for contact printing the older lantern slides (3.25x4 inches).
See below for a comparison photo between an ELDIA and ELDUR:

ELDUR (left) and ELDIA (right)

Finally some more detailed instructions on how to use the ELDIA from the original manual:

Page 1/2

Page 2/2

If you've made it this far you may already be using, or have used, one of these copiers - or you may be interested enough to invest thirty dollars in trying one out. Regardless I would love to see or hear about your experiences.

It may not be as convenient as a scanner or as slick as a digital projector - but it could be a cheap and fairly interesting way to spend a few hours traveling back in time and to a process now mostly extinct. Who knows - it may trigger an interest in the world of slides and analog projection which is a topic better covered in a completely separate post...

Friday, January 12, 2007

International Camera - a colourful past and present

After so many camera stores and labs closing their doors lately here in Northern California (Brook's, Reed's, etc) it was good to visit one institution that is still alive and kicking: International Camera.

International camera has a very colourful past and one that has left more than one imprint on the history of cameras.

It all started back in the 1930's....
35mm photography was really taking off when a German company Leitz introduced their Barnack camera. It had a number of companies racing to put out their own version of this popular high-end product and one small radio parts supplier company in Chicago decided to change their direction and funded the "Candid Camera Corporation of America".

In 1938 they started producing a line of cameras named "Perfex" and the first one out the door was the Perfex 'Speed Candid' that was the first American full frame, 35mm camera with a focal plane shutter. It was a camera that was met with mixed reactions. It sported features rarely - or never - seen in 35mm cameras before but at the same time the quality and reliability was often questioned. To add pain to injure the camera also later came to be known as potentially the ugliest camera ever made.

An original ad from 1938 below.
The company continued to produce another seven cameras in the Perfex line (along with at least one D8 movie camera) and was groundbreaking in incorporating a synced hot shoe in their later cameras. Were they great cameras? Well, maybe not..but they do occupy their rightful place in camera history and from a collector's perspective you should be able to collect them all without breaking the bank.

In 1949 the company changed its name again to what it is know as today - "International Camera Corp" and in 1959 the company finally ceased the production of the Perfex cameras.

The company is still around today though - in Chicago and Oakland - and at my first visit to their Oakland location a month ago I was equally impressed and shocked (read: thrilled) at the number of film cameras being sold and repaired there.

Below are some photos taken at the store using an Olympus 35SP and Kodak Tri-X 400 film.

The owner at International Camera, Oakland, CA

Lots..and lots..of cameras along the walls of the store...

Many simply hanging off hooks - in or out of their cases. It's a treasury hunt there

Some of the more valuable items behind glass

Rolleiflex, Minolta, Fuji and lenses...lenses..lenses...

The repair room

If you find yourself in Oakland do yourself a favour and pop into this place - but make sure you got a few hours to spare there is a LOT of cameras and lenses there. A LOT....

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Another one bites the dust

For 27 years Reed's Camera in Walnut Creek catered to the photographic needs of their customers in Northern California. Last month, after months of financial difficulties, the store closed their doors for good.
An interesting article about the store and their struggles can be found here.

The challenges that Reed's Camera faced are by no means unique to them and are very real to any camera store these days. So if you do have the opportunity to support your local retailer please do. As much as I like the option that the internet provides - it would be very sad if that one day becomes the only option.

Monday, January 08, 2007

What a Trip - Part #2

I finally had the roll of Tri-X, that I put through my Olympus Trip 35, developed and scanned (more about the camera here: "What a Trip - Part#1") - and here are some of the frames from that film.

For being a fairly 'modestly' equipped camera I think it performed very well.
The built-in non-battery dependent meter seemed to be spot-on in almost every frame and it was quite fun to guesstimate the focusing distance when taking photos. In essence 'all' that was left was to compose and snap photos.
I will absolutely bring one of my Trips out again in the very near future - and if you have 10-15 dollars to spare so can you :)