Photo Of The Day: “Quiet Town” Contax T3

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“Quiet Town” 2018. Incheon, Seoul, South Korea. Contax T3, Kodak Gold 200

The businesses and buildings of Incheon are amazingly colorful. Yet, for some reason this part of town was very quiet even during midday. I believe this was a Saturday, though I’m not 100 percent on it. All I know is that most restaurants were closed and it was already past noon. Very few people were out. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone! ๐Ÿ™‚

If any of you guys out there know exactly where this area and why it was so quiet here, feel free to drop a comment. I’d love to hear about it!

This was shot last July as I wandered through this outskirt of Seoul, South Korea, on an unplanned layover due to airline delays. The camera in my hand was the Contax T3, loaded with Kodak Gold 200.

It’s funny, whenever I’m here in the States my preferred film stock is usually at ISO 400 or above but whenever I’m on an overseas trip, I prefer a film like Kodak Gold 200. The main reason is that I anticipate doing a lot of outdoor shooting in hot and sunny weather whenever I’m in Asia.ย In New York, I prefer shooting indoors or when the Sun goes down. It all makes sense!

I’d love to explore Seoul again, this time for an extended period. I want to try more of the food and photograph more of the sites, especially at night.

On the camera side of this article, which I know you guys have come to expect… ๐Ÿ™‚

You guys know how I feel about the Contax T2 especially in light of the dramatic price increases. I used to recommend the T2 over the T3 because only three years ago you could find the T2 for $300-500 but today, the prices for the T2 have gone so sky high that it is approaching T3 prices which is anywhere from $1500-1900.

At these prices I no longer recommend either. That’s mostly due to the potential electronic issues these cameras have demonstrated, both personally on my copies and from other accounts. The prices are too high now for such a risky buy!

But, if you have your heart set on a T2 or T3, today I will say that if you could find a T3 for not much more than a T2, get the T3! Why? Much sharper optics. Less finicky focusing.

Sure, I remember in my 2016 review, I stated that I liked the T2 better because even though the lens is softer than the T3, it was sharp enough and has “character.” Yes, I said that but it was more charming when the camera was like $300-500! ๐Ÿ™‚

At the prices the T2 commands these days, you might as well go for broke and get the T3 if youย mustย have one of these Contax cult cameras.

Happy shooting folks!

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Photo Of The Day: โ€œCold World Warriorsโ€ Nikon D1

Once in a while I like to use the “oddball” stuff. Now I don’t think anyone would consider the classic Nikon D1 from 1999 an “oddball” but at only 2.7 megapixels, I gather it’s not something most folks would be using everyday.

Heck I don’t even use it every day, much as I love this digital oldie. But once in a while it’s refreshing to see what old tech can do.

The lens used was a 50mm f/1.8 AF-D Nikkor. I did do some color processing to give it some extra funk ๐Ÿ˜Š

Cause and effect are never as we imagine. The result of global warming is an increasingly cold cold world. Here’s my warmth in these troubled times ๐Ÿ˜

Interestingly, I read it some years back that a Nikon executive once stated in an interview that the D1’s sensor was actually 10 megapixels but that the extra megapixels were used for improved color, noise, etc, but the actual resolution was still only 2.7mp. All this tech in 1999?! Interesting and possibly a topic for another day!

Happy Easter vacation good peeps! This is a great time to get your cameras and lenses out! ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ“ท๐Ÿ˜˜

Mystery Camera: The Great Wall DF Chinese Medium Format Camera

Today for your Throwback Thursday we will take a ride on the Time Machine and go back to the 1970s & 1980s to retrieve a mysterious camera from the Forbidden Kingdom Of China ๐Ÿ˜Š

In a world where almost every other camera is “Made In China” it’s still relatively uncommon to find a camera from China here in the States, especially a film camera that was actually manufactured in China and made by a Chinese company, for the Chinese homeland market.

Behind the vast Chinese Empire and behind the Great Wall originated a camera they actually called the “Great Wall” or more officially the Great Wall DF camera! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Today, we will try to unlock the mystery of this intriguing Chinese Medium Format camera.

I feel like Leonard Nimoy on “In Search Of” haha! And even though I’m getting older, I’m not that old! So how come it seems like nobody else remembers “In Search Of?” Did the show even exist? ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

INTRODUCTION

The Great Wall DF is a 6×6 medium format film camera produced by the Beijing Camera Factory. Although no information I could find list the exact years, they are stated to have been made during the 1970s and through the 1980s.ย It was marketed as a low budget camera for the masses.

WHAT IS THE GREAT WALL DF?

What is the Great Wall DF specifically? As mentioned it is a medium format camerathat shoots 120 roll film. But it was also marketed as being able to shoot 6×4.5 via the insertion of a mask.

The camera is a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) in that it uses a reflex mirror for viewing. The difference between this and most SLR’s is that the mirror is part of the shutter mechanism and thus it uses what is called aย guillotine shutter.

This is a similar shutter mechanism to the one used in the German Pilot cameras of which the Great Wall DF is based.

The lens mount is also interesting in that it is said to be a Leica M39 screwmount. Now this sounds good on paper but apparently due to technical issues, you cannot use the lenses the way you might think you could.

First of all those lenses are made for 35mm and this is a 6×6 Medium Format camera. If you could use it as a medium format lens, there would probably be vignetting, an image circle, etc. Secondly you probably won’t get infinity focus.

I can tell you that the few Leica screwmount lenses I have do not actuallyย screwย into the threaded mount of the DF. In other words, to use these lenses you’d have to use a technique called “freelensing” in which you hold the lens to the mount and just take the shot while holding the lens.

I have done this, especially in the good old days when adapters were not readily available. But trying this with a pricey lens, I’m not inclined to do! Don’t want to drop the lens or the camera!

I can alsoย attest that with a lens such as the 28mm f/1.9 “freelensed” in front of the camera, it appears I could get some nice macro shots but it would have to be really close!

YOUTUBE VIDEO

As part of my attempt to integrate video into your experience, here’s my YouTube video for the Great Wall DF. It is close to 15 minutes which it really shouldn’t be! This is a cheap camera that not many know and my “Mystery Camera” segments are usually five minutes tops. But I’m trying to give you guys my all so this might be my new norm. Sorry I haven’t gotten back to some of you guys like I usually do but the edits and reedits kill me! I just want to make sure all my information is correct.

Besides, as a huge Bruce Lee and Martial Arts fan, I’ve always wanted to star in a “Chop Socky” Kung-Fu flick and the intro to this video shows my MMA skills or lack thereof haha ๐Ÿ™‚

MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE GREAT WALL DF

As someone who has stated over and over again that I loveย allย cameras, I’ve always been fascinated with the very few Chinese film cameras that pop up on the used market here in the USA.

My very first China based camera is the Seagull medium format TLR that is much more common on the used market.

It’s strange that even though Communist China has been trading goods with us for decades, especially since President Nixon opened China’s doors in 1972, we still have seen precious little of their photography gear market, or shall I say their film photography market.

The few companies that stand out in my head for film cameras are Seagull, Pearl River, Great Wall and perhaps a couple more that I can’t recall at this time.

Today, we may have a lot more Chinese companies like Yongnuo, 7Artisans, for example, selling digital gear (mostly lenses) but the film stuff from even decades ago, it is harder to come by.

Perhaps it’s because they were intended for the home market? Perhaps the Chinese knew that most of these cameras were not high quality items? Who knows. That’s why it’s a mystery!

IS IT A CULT CAMERA?ย 

It might possibly be, but if it is a cult camera, the “cult” must be very small because there is just so little on this camera. In fact, my YouTube video posted today seems to be the only video I can find on YouTube as of this writing.

There is actually another video of this camera that has been on the internet for a while. It’s a short clip showing how to work the camera, but it is very short and only hosted on the author’s webpage not on YouTube.

The very little that’s on this camera is scattered through blogs and forum postings. But I give credit where credit is due and those guys who have used this camera before me, their information is GREAT! I’ve tried to put all I’ve learned here and on my video.

PRELIMINARY SAMPLE IMAGES

Here are just a few quick and dirty samples from my first roll. They are not intended to be artistic masterpieces. I was just testing the camera and was actually just happy and relieved that the camera was working properly.

“Saturday Morning” 2019. Great Wall DF, 90mm f/3.5, Ilford FP4 in D76.

“Zen Camera” 2019. Great Wall DF, 90mm f/3.5, Ilford FP4 in D76.

“Sunday Star” 2019. Great Wall DF, 90mm f/3.5, Ilford FP4 in D76. This might have been my best shot in the roll had it not been soft and off focus! Note the tiny bit of overlap from the next frame.

Please do not judge the technical merits of this camera based on these photos. There are in fact much sharper samples from this camera on the internet to look at.

This was a test roll from a first time user of the camera. The photos were every day photos taken around the house just to see if the camera was working and I’m happy to report it works!

I made some mistakes and encountered some issues with this camera. First mistake was using Ilford FP4 which is rated at ISO 125. This was disadvantageous when using a camera with a slowish f/3.5 lens but the reason I used the FP4 was because I had a problem getting film into the film chamber of this camera! This is addressed below in the “Issues” section.

Overall, I’m encouraged enough to try another roll in this camera!

MODEL DIFFERENCES

From all accounts on the internet, there may be as many as five or six different versions. Here’s my observations, not just from the scattered information I’ve read but from observing photos of the camera and comparing them to my copy. Feel free to correct me if any of this is wrong:

DF: Earliest model. No self timer, flash shoe, or PC socket.

DF2: “DF-2” imprinted on front name plate. No self timer, flash shoe, or PC socket.

DF3: Has self-timer, cable release socket, but no flash shoe, no PC socket.

DF4: Has self timer, cable release socket, flash shoe and PC socket.

DF5: ???

DF6: ???

Based on what I can tell, my model might be the DF4! In fact, I took the plunge on it because it was advertised as a DF-2 “Parts” camera and upon looking at the photos and the low price I said why not?! ๐Ÿ™‚

Now if you can’t find a DF-3 or DF-4 don’t sweat it, they’re all basically the same cameras. Unless you really need to use a cable release or need a flash socket, I wouldn’t worry about it.

ISSUES

This camera has all the FUNK you’d want! It starts with getting a roll of film into the film chamber. The main reason I used the Ilford FP4 in it, despite it being a slower film for indoor use, is the fact that it was the only roll of film I could get to fit in it! Even then, I had to slightly bend the edges to get it in.

From what I’ve read, some films fit in there better, easier, like perhaps Fuji films vs Kodak. But the Fuji roll I tried was also stiff to get in.

Next issue is I could not see any of the frame numbers through the window for the “frame counter” so I had to guesstimate the spacing.

Next issue is sometimes when pressing the shutter release, the mirror flips up but I felt as if the shutter was not coming down. Since they are both a part of that guillotine shutter, I felt the shutter should’ve come down. Hard for me to explain but when you’re holding the camera and shooting it, you can tell when the shutter has come down by the feel and the “clunk” and when it is not coming down.

Next issue was frame overlaps. I had expected some of this based on the reviews I had read and to be honest, it was not too bad for most of the shots but on one shot it seemed like I had three exposures on one frame! Perhaps it was me, but I can’t imagine shooting and not advancing the film three times.

Part of the reason I did not take the camera outside for prolonged shooting was I got the impression that I might be wasting my time, fearing nothing was getting exposed but I’m glad I was wrong!

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

The Great Wall DF is somewhat rare on the used market but that doesn’t not mean it should be pricey.

First of all, not many people are looking for this camera. Only someone “special” or weirdos like me haha ๐Ÿ™‚

Secondly, the build quality is not high. It feels solid enough but does not feel like it would take a lot of abuse. The seller even stressed to me it was on the flimsy side.

That said, it feels better in my hands than you would think based on people’s descriptions. Plus it’s one of the smallest and lightest 6×6 SLR’s you could buy.

I got mine for $75 but if you’re seeking one of these, do so carefully. Prices are trending at $60-160 USD. They usually come with the 90mm f/3.5 Great Wall lens. I wouldn’t pay over $150 for one of these.

The shutters have been known to fail so useย gently.ย I’m not trying to scare you. It’s possibly that yours could last years, but it’s also possible it could fail tomorrow. That’s one great thing about cheap cameras. If they fail, you’re not out for much. But if this was a $1000 plus camera, I’d worry about it!

BOTTOM LINE

The Great Wall DF may never be a Camera Legend. Perhaps it is in China, I don’t know, but in the overall annals of history I don’t think it is or ever will be.

That said, it’s one of the more interesting cameras I have tried in a long time! There’s something addictive about “Cheap Plus Results” as I say. If it’s a cheap camera that gives me decent results, and it seems like it could do even better than the results I got? I’m in!

In closing, I know there’s just a small group of people fanatic enough about cameras to be interested in this camera but I hope that I have helped to demystify the Great Wall DF a bit for you if you are one of those uncommon people!

Thanks for reading and feel free to drop me a line if you have this camera!

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Sunday Shooter: Sony A7r & 35mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Biogon Samples

Somebody asked me the other day if I still shoot digital and I said of course Daddy! I always take both a film camera and a digital camera with me almost everywhere I go!

If youโ€™ll note most reviewers in my age bracket who grew up on film and were young enough to appreciate digital when it came out, we have no problem shooting both. Itโ€™s mostly the hipster kids who shoot film exclusively even though they were not around during the film era. Kinda funny I think! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Below are some examples from the original Sony A7r 36mp and the Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 Biogon in Contax RF mount. Please forgive the funky colors in some of these shots I just posted them as is for you to check out. The only ones I processed were the black and whites.

“Cold Cold World” 2018. Sony A7r, 35mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Biogon for Contax RF.

The Sony A7r was my last major digital purchase. I use it to test vintage lenses. For the past couple of months itโ€™s been the Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 Biogon.

All I can say is what I’ve told you guys before…the 35mm f/2.8 of any make is such a boring lens that I’d never consider buying one, except for the Zeiss Biogon of course!

Besides It’s the only decent normal/wide angle I can get for the Contax RF and fairly cheap. But optically, I’m not sure it’s any more exciting than any other 35mm f/2.8 lens ๐Ÿ™‚

“JuJu 13” 2018. Sony A7r, 35mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Biogon for Contax RF. Some of you who remember me from the photo forums might remember this kid. It’s my nephew JuJu! And he’s no longer a baby, he’s 13! ๐Ÿ™‚

“Wheels Up” 2018. Sony A7r, 35mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Biogon for Contax RF. A good dude raises a toast ๐Ÿ™‚

“Brave Bull” 2018. Sony A7r, 35mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Biogon for Contax RF. Something about alcohol knocked “Brave Bull” out ๐Ÿ™‚

“Razor’s Edge” 2018. Sony A7r, 35mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Biogon for Contax RF. You need to get pretty close to induce some bokeh out of the Biogon but the bokeh is fairly neutral and though not full of character, it’s not distracting either at least to my eyes.

“Funky Town” 2018. Sony A7r with Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 Biogon Contax RF mount. The kids said “Papa, take me to Funky Town!” ๐Ÿ™‚

This is not my final verdict on the lens by any means. I still need to see how it does on film. This is an old lens that was made for film.

As for the A7r I donโ€™t see myself upgrading to any of the latest and greatest. They can try to sell me all the #bs about why the newer models are better but honestly my only complaint about the old A7r is poor performance with ultra wide lenses which I donโ€™t use much on this camera. And I’ve yet to get a native AF lens for the camera.

Otherwise this camera gets the job done! Whatโ€™s your Sunday shooter? Happy Sunday good peeps! ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ“ท๐Ÿ˜˜โœŒ๐Ÿป

Flashback Friday: “Two For Two” Cameras & Kids

“Two For Two” 2015. Pentax 6×7, 105mm f/2.4 Pentax lens on Fuji FP-3000B.

From 2015, your Brother here with a Pentax 6×7 and my eldest Zoe with her CVS camera…we start ’em young in this family! ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜˜

My elder daughter today enjoys shooting with her iPhone but for some reason both my girls have grown to hate me taking their photos. Actually “hate” might be too strong of a word.

What they really don’t like is if I take too long playing around with the camera settings or focusing etc, which is to be expected when shooting with older manual focus gear, ie, rangefinders, TLRs, medium format, large format etc.

And when they complain my response is usually something like…you gotta have patience!!

And if I want to make a stronger point, I might say…you’re a photographer’s kid and you can’t sit still for a photo?! ๐Ÿ˜€

How about you folks with kids or even significant others like wives, girlfriends, boyfriends? Are they into photography? Are they willing to sit or stand still as you test your new gear on them? I’d love to know how you deal with it!

My philosophy has always been, if I can get a good shot of the kids using whatever gear I’m using, I can get a good shot of anything!

Happy Friday and have a great weekend folks! ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

“Two For Two” 2016. Playing around with the Fuji Insax Mini 90 Neo Classic while trying to give Baby Zay her milk. Cameras and kids can be fun until they start hating it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Throwback Thursday: “The Iron Sheik” 1985 Minolta X-700

This weekend will mark the 34th anniversary of Wrestlemania, the big wrestling extavaganza promoted by the WWE, aka World Wrestling Entertainment. Even though the next Wrestlemania is 35, the event began in 1985 which would be 34 years ago.

In 1985 they were known as the WWF or World Wrestling Federation, a company which was universally known until they had to change it to the WWE in 2002 due to a lawsuit by the other “WWF” or World Wildlife Fund. To this day, I still think the WWF sounds better than WWE for wrestling!

The above photo was taken in 1985 in Madison Square Garden, NYC. I was a geeky kid who was just blessed with a Minolta X-700 a few months earlier and I took it nearly everywhere. Sure, it’s not the best photo you’ve ever seen but I was a geeky teen with a new camera and cheap lens. Cut the kid some slack! ๐Ÿ™‚

I was usually in the bleacher seats but this time I got a little closer. I still however, needed a zoom for this shot and I used a super cheap Zykkor 80-200mm zoom. If you want to know how bad it was, we bought it from one of those horrible “electronics/luggage” shops right near 34th Street. It’s the kind of shops people warn you not to buy from! Still I don’t remember that it cost us much more than $40-50. Then again, in 1985 maybe that was like $300? ๐Ÿ™‚

The Zykkor is the kind of lens you can find today used for like $3.00 or even “free” with a camera. But it’s the kind of lens you probably wouldn’t take even if it was free! ๐Ÿ™‚

I tell you man, I was just starting out in this wonderful world of photography and I didn’t know any better. In some ways, I like the innocence of those times. And I did get some decent shots out of the cheap Zykkor lens!

My brother and I were just teens but we did attend Wrestlemania. However because Madison Square Garden was sold out we had to watch it via closed circuit television at the Felt Forum which was part of MSG but that doesn’t count cause it’s like watching it on pay per view!Anyone remember the Felt Forum? Or even closed circuit television? ๐Ÿ™‚

The above photo was not taken at Wrestlemania but at another WWF card in MSG also in 1985.

The wrestlers were the Iron Sheik and Big Swede Hanson. Swede was a “jobber” as they might say. He was there to lose.

The Iron Sheik was a transitional character in the world of professional wrestling. He was the man chosen to take the WWF Championship from six year champion Bob Backlund and then he would also lose the title a month later to Hulk Hogan setting up for Hulkamania, and eventually Wrestlemania. And the rest is history as we know. Wrestling became a billion dollar industry some years thereafter but the moment Hulkamania was born was the catalyst.

I was in the Garden for both Bob Backlund’s title loss and Hulk Hogan’s title win. And both matches involved the Iron Sheik.

It’s funny how time changes things. Back in those days, I never saw the Iron Sheik as anything more than a somewhat “goofy” villain. I knew he did the job by losing to Hulk Hogan but he wasn’t one of those villains who really got me excited despite the fact that he is a very good wrestler, apparently with a true amateur wrestling background.

Today, he has resurrected into a Twitter icon! He regularly spews out vile profane stuff that’s funny as hell at times. And he’s held in higher regard in the wrestling world than I would’ve thought.

Well, I was a teen! But when you’re living through the actual times you don’t think that twenty, thirty years from now this might be a historic event or maybe this wrestler might become a Legend.

And I’m not just talking about wrestling! It could be anything. For example, the late great George H.W. Bush is getting a lot of love these days, in the years before and now after his passing. However, when I was growing up I couldn’t shake off the “wimp” label that was given to him. I didn’t see him as a strong leader like Ronald Reagan, even when he went after Saddam Hussein in Iraq. I just thought he was trying to be tough. Today, knowing his history and military service I know he’s anything but a wimp and I have greater respect for him and his legacy.

Sorry for the long write-up. This was not meant as an article that reflected so much on the photography. It was meant as a trip down memory lane.

And yes, I KNOW wrestling is fake!! Even then I knew, but it was more raw back then that it could almost fool you into believing. Today, I no longer watch wrestling. I will not be watching Wrestlemania on April 7th unless it was free haha. But whenever I think of my younger years, pro wrestling and the boom it experienced in the 1980s will always be a part of my memories.

“The X-Man” 2009. One of my last shots with the X-700! People I knew used to call me the “X-Man” but it has nothing to do with the comic book characters. It has everything to do with me carrying around my X-700 everywhere. Can you believe it’s been ten years since I’ve used it?