Monday Mystery Camera: The Nicca 5L aka Nicca Type 5/ Tower 46

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The Nicca 5L/Tower 46 with the 5cm f/1.4 Nikkor in ltm mount. A rare combination!

The Nicca 5L is a rangefinder camera made by the Nicca Camera Company of Japan around circa 1957.

Nicca was one of several Japanese companies that brought Leica screwmount clones to the market. The most well known of these clone companies is Canon, but there were also many more companies from Japan and the USSR. Nicca is said to be the predecessor to the Canon company.

The camera pictured above is the Tower 46. It is the same camera as the Nicca 5L/Type 5, but was sold in the USA by Sears Roebuck under their “Tower” brand.

AS A CAMERA

The Nicca 5L like most Leica screwmount cameras has two separate windows, one for framing and one for the rangefinder. The shutter speed range is 1/25 to 1/1000, plus B.

The Nicca’s main claim to fame is the winding lever and the Leica M type back, easier film loading than Leica’s screwmount bodies.

Stephen Gandy has a much more extensive write-up on his Camera Quest website, the online authority on rangefinder cameras. In his article, he says it “outshines Leica’s own renouned IIIg.”

I don’t have any experience with the IIIg, but compared to the IIIf I have, it is indeed better. The film loading, the winding lever, the beautiful, large and clear rangefinder all add up to a more pleasant user camera.

PRICE AND COLLECTIBILITY

The Nicca 5L is rare, but not ultra rare. Well, the Nicca version itself is quite rare. As I read on Camera Quest it’s “never been seen.” The Tower 46 (the one seen here) is the one you will usually encounter. If you ever see the Nicca version, let me know!

The Nicca is one of those cameras I bought but sold before I could use it. As I already had the IIIf, I preferred to keep the Leica, despite the Nicca being a much better user camera, as I stated above. Sold it when I needed to pay the bills. Of course, I regret it! 🙂

I got the Nicca/Tower 46 for about $130 body only, which was a bargain. I don’t see them often, but when I do, I usually see this camera on auction sites, usually paired with the 5cm f/2 Nikkor sell for around $350-500. The 5cm f/1.4 Nikkor in ltm mount is more uncommon and sells for around $300-400 by itself.

Sometimes, people will try to pull for a lot more on that auction site, but as the Leica IIIg (the apex of screwmount rangefinders) go for around $400-700 at legitimate dealers like KEH, I can only say that the Nicca should not sell for more than that.

The Nicca 5L/Tower 46 is an awesome camera to add to your collection and I’m sure, to use. Someday, I will find another and this time, I’ll keep it!

Note: Sorry for the placement of the “cameralegend.com” logo. I now put it closer to the photos because I had found some of the content of my pages used without authorization. I usually hate copyright logos, but it only takes one bad apple to ruin it for everyone and it only takes seeing your work copied to make you think twice about it.

Flashback Friday Photos

Just a quick and random posting of photos that can now be filed under “Throwback” or “Flashback.”

The years roll by rapidly my friends! Let’s cherish every moment and photograph as many of these moments as we can. Before you know it, they’re all “throwback” or “flashback” photos! 🙂

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“The Beach” Part II, 2011. Bronica RF 645, 65mm f/4 Zenzanon lens, T-Max 400, Wildwoods, NJ. It’s been a mild winter so far, but with the cold weather forcasted to come soon, hmm, I think I’d rather be on the beach! Ah, I loved that RF 645, wish I could get another one.

 

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“White House” 2007. Sigma SD-14, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX. It’s hard to believe President Donald Trump has been in the White House for only a week! Ten years ago, I’d never imagine this man that I knew from “Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous” would be the President of the United States!

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“Bangkok Traffic” 1995. Canon EOS 10s, Sigma 28-70mm UC lens, Kodak Gold film. This is how Bangkok traffic was in the 1990s.

FUTURE FLASH

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“Holy Prominent!” 2017. This is NOT a Flashback Friday pic. This is a “Future Flash” of a camera we plan to review for you in the near future. What is it? Ho! Why it’s the legendary Voigtlander Prominent with the equally legendary original Nokton 50mm f/1.5 lens. This was a top system from the 1950s and 1960s and still highly desirable today for collectors as well as shooters.

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“Nik Cam” 2002. An old school type “selfie” with the Nikon N8008s 🙂

The Digital Harinezumi Guru (Final 2011 Special Edition)

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Here at Camera Legend, we don’t just love old, classic, and decrepit cameras, we love ALL cameras! Especially the strange, weird, and interesting. Today, we have one of the weirder ones. It’s a very small and strange thing in the shape of an old 110 film cartridge and it’s called a “Digital Harinezumi.”

WHAT IS A DIGITAL HARINEZUMI?

What is a Digital Harinezumi you might ask? Well, first let’s start with “Harinezumi” which means “hedgehog” in Japanese. Thus with the Digital Harinezumi we have a Digital Hedgehog 🙂

Ok before we go any further, just for the record, the camera we are looking at today is the “Digital Harinezumi Guru (Final 2011 Special Edition).” That’s the whole name of this camera!

The Digital Harinezumi Guru is a digital camera made by Superheadz of Tokyo, which is a branch of a company called Powershovel Ltd. of Japan. As far as I can tell, the “DH” series is now up to version 4. Please keep in mind I am only talking about the Guru, the “Final 2011 Special Edition.”

The company makes some unique and as they like to call it, “artistic” lo-fi cameras such as the Blackbird Fly, the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim clone cameras, and the Digital Harinezumi cameras among others. They are, to me, very much like a twin of the Lomography company and in a world ruled by the Big C’s, Big N’s, and Big S’s, I think we need companies like this to add some variety to life 🙂

THE DIGITAL HARINEZUMI GURU AS A CAMERA

The Digital Harinezumi Guru (2011) has 3 megapixels (2048×1536 resolution) on a tiny sensor. It features a 35mm f/3 fixed lens. Closest focus is 3cm (about 0.098 ft) when used in Macro mode.

The camera has no manual controls whatsoever. There is no viewfinder. There is a plastic “frame window” that acts as your “viewfinder” but I find it pretty useless. The tiny LCD is about 1.5 inches, not very high resolution, but usable.

There are only two ISO selections, ISO 100 and ISO 800. The camera can record video that some say is reminiscent of 8mm video. It can record video at 30 fps, 8 fps, and 1 fps respectively.

There is also a host of selectable filters for your photos or videos, i.e., monochrome, vivid, “old” etc. There is a switch on the bottom that takes you from “normal” mode to macro mode.

The camera runs on one CR2 battery. In my use, the camera eats batteries pretty quickly especially when using the video mode and CR2 batteries can be expensive. Best solution is to have some rechargeable CR2’s on hand.

IMAGE QUALITY AND IMPRESSIONS

I’ve only had this thing for a few months, although I’ve been interested in Digital Harinezumi cameras for years. First of all, let me say that it seems for most people, the reaction to toy cameras is that either you “get it” or you “don’t get it.” There doesn’t seem to be much of a grey area.

To be clear, when I speak of toy cameras I’m talking about “serious” toy cameras like the Harinezumi is supposed to be. I’m not talking about V-Tech or Fisher Price cameras, although I have seen cool results from some of these cameras intended for children.

However, for me, with the Superheadz Digital Harinezumi, I get it and yet I don’t get it. Let me explain. I have used other toy cameras before. My favorite one was the Yashica EZ F521 which I reviewed in 2011. I loved that camera, despite of and maybe because of its low-fi images. But at last, its flimsy build led to a broken SD card slot. But I really liked the images.

The Digital Harinezumi? Hmm, not so much. The color images are frankly disappointing. The b&w images will wow me one day and let me down the next. It’s not consistent. To be fair, perhaps it’s meant to be that way. I mean, just like developing a roll of film and not knowing what you’re going to get is part of the thrill of film, I think it’s supposed to be part of the charm of this digital camera.

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The photo above is a good representation of what you can expect with the Digital Harinezumi Guru at ISO 800, indoors with typical house lighting. To me, very reminiscent of old Sony Ericsson or Nokia phones.

In color, indoor shots have way too much color noise. I expected the noise, but it’s worse than I thought it would be and it’s not the beautiful “film-like” digital type. At its worst, it closely resembles old phone cameras of the late 90s or early 2000s. You remember those old Nokia or Sony Ericsson phones don’t you?

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“Wheel Of Fortune” 2017. Digital Harinezumi Guru 2011 Final Edition, ISO 800.

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“December Dusk” 2016. Digital Harinezumi Guru, ISO 100. Much cleaner than ISO 800, but noise still present.

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“Autumn Leaves” 2016. Digital Harinezumi Guru, ISO 800. The lighting was dimmer than it looks here and the shots I got at ISO 100 were shaky. I switched to ISO 800 and here you can see an example of the exaggerated colors that these cameras can produce and I think, some people want. For me, it reminds me of a still frame from an old video camera.

The “hard” monochrome mode has a cool and strong b&w look that I like. It appears very dramatic, very dark and contrasty. At its best, it can be quite “film-like” but most of the time, I think it might be too dramatic, so much so that it appears obvious that you’re using a special effect of some kind. But when the camera (or photographer) gets it right, it’s quite a good attempt at copying grainy film.

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“Ghostbusters” 2017. Digital Harinezumi Guru, ISO 800, “Hard Monochrome” mode. I think this represents about the best “film-like” grit and grain you can get out of this camera.

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“Mirror Baby” 2017. Digital Harinezumi Guru, ISO 100, “Hard Monochrome” mode.

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A 100 percent crop of the previous image. Note the grain structure, pretty nice and somewhat “film-like” I think.

I will say I did like the way it records videos, especially at the 8 fps setting and perhaps I’ll try to upload some video for you.

As mentioned before, there is a cool macro mode that you access by sliding the switch on the bottom of the camera. The problem for me though is that you have to get in close, and I mean real close like right near the subject for the image to be in focus.

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“Skull” 2016. Digital Harinezumi Guru 2011 Final Edition. Macro mode, ISO 800.

BOTTOM LINE

Right now, the Digital Harinezumi is an enigma to me. It has a real cult following, so much so that some say it’s iconic. It might even be Camera Legend to some, though I’m not so sure about that. I’m going to reserve judgement until I have worked it a little more.

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“The Dark Cat” 2017. Digital Harinezumi Guru 2011 Final Edition, ISO 800.

Consider an extra tool in your arsenal of cameras and it could work. It’s certainly something unique and while it doesn’t always take the greatest photos or videos, it can take great photos in its own way and the camera does take those photos and videos with character. Whether that “character” is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder I guess.

WHY?
Why would you get a Digital Harinezumi? Well, for one thing, you get one if you’re a gearhead like me 🙂

Secondly, I suspect most people who buy these cameras are looking for something different, indeed perhaps as an artistic tool.

Third, a lot of people would be interested in that lo-fi look which to me is really an attempt to recreate the look and feel of film. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you want the film look, shoot film.

Ok yes, I am a fair man, and in all fairness we know this is no longer the film era and not everyone has the time or the means to shoot film and have it processed.

A camera like the Digital Harinezumi can, to some extent, recreate the film look, but it’s not going to be consistently great like real film. Please understand the photos I have posted here, especially the b&w shots, represent my best attempts at capturing the elusive “film-like digital” look with this camera. However, it is not something achieved as easily as you can with other digital cameras, some of which I have reviewed on these pages. You’re going to have to work at it to achieve this with the Digital Harinezumi.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

As mentioned before, the Digital Harinezumi series is up to version 4 now and from what I can see, they’re asking $500 and up for these. Why anyone would pay that much for this kind of camera is beyond me.

The Digital Harinezumi Guru reviewed here can be had for $100 and under, if you can find one. If not, just try to find any of the older versions and I’m sure you’ll get similar results. These cameras are most abundant on eBay and Amazon.

These cameras can be a lot of fun, but take it from me and don’t spend too much on one. Get one on the cheap and then you can really enjoy it! 🙂

***NEW CAMERA NOTIFICATION***

The HOT new Fuji GFX-50S Medium Format Digital system camera is coming to your store really soon. In your quest for greater and greater, you probably bought tons of stuff just like I. It gets to a point when it’s all too much. If you ever thought of getting rid of everything and just going for that one “Ultimate” system, this might be it!! Here’s a link with all the details on the camera and how you can put yourself on the waiting list to be among the first to receive this HOT new camera. If you do get one, I’d love to hear about it!!

THE FUJI GFX-50S System

The Return Of Kodak Ektachrome

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“Sunrise” Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand, 1995. Canon EOS 10s, Sigma 28-70 f/3.5-4.5 UC, Kodak Ektachrome. The return of Ektachrome. Perhaps the dawn of a new day for film lovers?

I’m sure many of you hardcore film fanatics have heard by now of Kodak’s decision to bring their Ektachrome slide film back from the dead.

That is the best thing I have heard out of Kodak in the past ten years!! A snippet from Kodak’s press release: “Sales of professional photographic films have been steadily rising over the last few years, with professionals and enthusiasts rediscovering the artistic control offered by manual processes and the creative satisfaction of a physical end product…”

I used Ektachrome film mostly in the 1990s and early 2000s. It was a great slide film, but also considered a lower cost alternative to Kodachrome which was Kodak’s gold standard for slide film.

If memory serves me correctly, I remember Ektachrome to produce neutral colors with perhaps a shift towards cool, strong on the blue and greens.

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“The Sun Never Sets” Krabi, Thailand, 1995. Canon EOS 10s, Sigma 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 UC, Kodak Ektachrome. Colors shifting a bit, but this photo is almost as vibrant as that day I took it twenty-two years ago. The two beloved family members, on the far left and far right are gone. And so too did we think Ektachrome was gone. But Kodak is bringing it back from the dead. Unbelievable news in many ways.

The reasons I didn’t use Ektachrome more was because I was and am a negative shooter rather than a slide shooter. And when I did shoot slides, I always went with either Fuji Velvia or Kodachrome. I tried Ektachrome just because. Not because I wanted to, or didn’t want to, just because I had to try it.

But with Kodak’s announcement of the return of Ektachrome, I’m itching to try it again. It was an iconic film in its own right.

Again, this is the best news I’ve heard out of Kodak in ten years and it is awesome news for film in general. With the demise of Fuji’s FP-100C packfilm, this was certainly unexpected.

People, including myself, have been quite hard on Kodak in recent years. This time, let me say that they are doing something amazing. Now if they would concentrate in this direction, they might have a chance of not only reclaiming their legendary name but maybe even be the king of the hill for film again. Kodak is doing what they do best…make film. Kudos Kodak, wishing you the best of luck on this!

 

Photo Of The Day: “The Dark Cat”

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Just taking test shots with a Digital Harinezumi Guru, a 3mp “toy camera” that has a cult following, but probably not well known by the mainstream.

I’ll have more on this camera soon. All I can say for now is I wasn’t liking this camera, but the monochrome mode is growing on me. However, all this digital b&w stuff is really an attempt to emulate film and for that I should probably be shooting real film, shouldn’t I? 🙂

Happy New Year 2017!!

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“Countdown To The Future” 2016. Samsung NX1, 30mm f/2 Samsung NX lens.

Just want to wish everyone a wonderful, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year 2017!

Just like the babies above, we’re just counting down the time. While waiting, I just want to thank all friends, fellow bloggers, and readers for their visits and support, really appreciate it! Yes, I know it’s been a bit of a slow drag at times, but I do appreciate you being there. Readership is up despite not doing daily postings.

I did state somewhere that my original goal was to make these pages like a book or something that people can come back to. I think it’s working out like that. I’ve notice our pages coming up more and more when searching for certain cameras. That was the goal and I have to thank all of you camera lovers for it. THANK YOU. Can 2017 be better? It sure can, but it’s a one man crew so we’ll see 🙂

See you in 2017 and bring your cameras and lenses good people!

Monday Mystery Camera: The Polaroid X530 Foveon Sensor Camera

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The Polaroid X530 is a 4.5mp digital point and shoot camera introduced by Polaroid Corproration in 2004. It is the first point and shoot camera to feature the Foveon sensor.

Founded in 1937 by Dr. Edwin Land, the creator of the famous Land Camera series of instant cameras, Polaroid has over the years strayed far from the original company and became known more for selling items they imported/distibuted and rebranding them under the “Polaroid” label, rather than actually making the products themselves.

The actual maker of the X530 camera is somewhat of a mystery which we’ll try to solve today. At its heart, and the thing that distinguishes the X530 from any other low budget point and shoot camera is the tiny but powerful 1/1.8″ Foveon X3 sensor. The official specs say the camera has 4.5mp, but compared to Bayer sensors, it is something more like 1.5mps. I suspect most of our readers will already know about the Foveon sensors used in popular Sigma cameras.

If not, just know that the Foveon sensor is laid out differently from the well known Bayer sensors found in the majority of digital cameras. The difference, as is often said, is that the Foveon sensors can, pixel for pixel, deliver higher clarity, color fidelity and resolution. So a Foveon sensor with for example, a 5mp sensor delivers almost 15mp’s in Bayer terms. That is the theory anyway. As always, if you’re interested in this technology, I recommend my readers to do a little research with that “search” bar on your favorite web browser 🙂

Back to the camera though, while it has the Foveon X3 sensor, the 3x optical zoom lens was made by Ricoh and the camera body itself, apparently made by a company called “World Wide Licenses Ltd” which according to Bloomberg’s company description: “World Wide Licenses Ltd. designs, develops, and markets digital imaging products.”

THE POLAROID X530 IMPRESSIONS

The X530 body itself, to me, looks like it could fit right in with the cheap Vivitar, Sakar, and yes, even Polaroid point and shoot cameras that you might find at CVS, Walgreens, and Best Buy. You know, those really cheap, under $50 cameras that you see while you’re waiting on line in those stores. Let’s face it, we sometimes get curious about those cameras, but since we are more “serious” photographers, we could never get ourselves to buy one of those cheap cameras, could we? 🙂

Anyway, as I said before, the main thing that distinguishes the X530 from those pharmacy store cameras is the Foveon sensor in it, and to its credit, that’s a biggie.

If it sounds like I’m cutting down, aka “dissing” the X530 body, I’m not but maybe I am! For me, I was actually attracted to its low budget looks. I’ve always loved cameras that looked like underdogs, but had monster sensors under their covers. That’s why I loved the Ricoh GR series. That’s why I wanted to love the X530.

The zooming action was smooth, albeit slow. The AF was moderately slow, but perfectly adequate for stills I would imagine.

IMAGE QUALITY

Now right here is where I have to stop. I have to tell you image quality remains a mystery to me. Why? Because the damned thing is not working!!

Well, the camera itself works fine. Everything seems to function, but the sensor itself is dead or seems dead. All I get are black frames. I have tried everything I could to resurrect it, short of taking it apart, which I’m tempted to do.

But most of what I have seen on the very few X530 links on the web shows this camera to have very good to excellent image quality, at its best. It does seem to show that Foveon “pop” that I have seen in the Sigma cameras. This is probably as much of a testament to the talented photographers who used the X530 as it is for the X530 itself.

THE X530 URBAN LEGEND

Legend has it that the X530 was recalled before it was supposed to go to market, but that some shipments were sent without this knowledge or without approval, thus making it into the hands of a few lucky photographers. At least, that’s what I’ve read on the web.

At the same time, I also read a press release from 2005 saying that Polaroid was announcing the X530’s availability in the U.S. through Circuit City and Walmart.

My opinion is that it was indeed available, but only for a very short time before Polaroid pulled the plug on it.

This is not unprecedented. It has happened very recently with a Polaroid product called the Polaroid Socialmatic. The Socialmatic was an Android based camera with a cool “Instagram” look to the design and what appeared to be a working tablet on its LCD screen plus an onboard printer for quick prints.

This product received a lot of hype prior to its release in 2014, but Polaroid quickly pulled the plug on it shortly after it came to market. As I had been curious about the Socialmatic myself, what I gathered by looking at sales and auctions was that the camera had some reliability issues relating to its battery and operations. Most of the ones for sale had dead batteries and could only be used while plugged in using a charger.

The apparent replacement for the Socialmatic is the Polaroid Snap which is still on the market and seemingly doing well. The $99 or under Snap seems to be what Polaroid had hoped the Socialmatic should have been. For me though, I wanted that on board tablet and the Socialmatic’s cool looks so I’ve passed up on the Snap for now. And I’ve stayed away from the Socialmatic too because of its issues.

And I would’ve stayed away from the X530 except I got it for $30 and because I collect old, weird and decrepit cameras 🙂

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

The Polaroid X530 is scarce. At the same time, it’s not like there’s a lot of people looking for them, save for hardcore Foveon fanatics.

I like the Foveon concept and its images, but I don’t think I’m what you would call a hardcore fan. I was a very early Foveon enthusiast in 2003 or 2004, I greatly enjoyed the Sigma SD14 in 2007, and have used several DP models. However, there was always something that kept me from crossing the line into fanboy territory. That’s a subject for another time, another post.

Again, I did not seek out the X530. I was actually looking for something else entirely when I came across this one. I did have a passing interest in the camera many, many years back, but I could never find one when I was looking, plus there was and still is very little info on it.

I got the camera with box and everything for $30. It looked mint, the functions performed smoothly, but as I said the sensor is dead. I use it now as a decoration in my homemade camera “museum” 🙂

It’s hard to put a value on this camera, but I would say a fair price would be, maybe $30-50, certainly under $100.

Do remember that you can get a Sigma DP1 for a little over $100 these days and the DP2/DP2s for a little more than that and they will do everything better than the X530 could.

BOTTOM LINE

The Polaroid X530 is an interesting camera. But as they say, “Pics, or it didn’t happen!” For me, it didn’t happen.

I would not call the X530 a Camera Legend, but certainly an interesting model in the legend of the Foveon sensor with an interesting history behind it. If you can find a working one under $100, consider yourself lucky and I’d love to hear from you.