Happy Father’s Day 2017

Happy Father’s Day to all you great fathers out there! While Father’s Day is generally a celebration of you, Daddy, any photographer/dad out there knows the best aspect of being a father is to be able to take photos of your greatest accomplishment life which are your kids. They are what makes you a Father in the first place 🙂

In celebration of this, here’s some photos of my beloved. While I have tried to shift to other subjects in recent postings in order to not “bore” folks who may not like kiddie photos, it’s the photos of my babies that inspire me most so please allow me today to indulge a little. In fact, it’s my tribute to these hard working kids because they are the ones who allow me to create reviews for you by being the main subjects for my camera testing 🙂

Thank you and once again, Happy Father’s Day to all you happy Papas out there and I hope you get some nice cameras and/or lenses today!!

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Any Father’s Day tribute should start with Dad! This is a shot of my late Dad with Baby Zoe from 2008. Pentax K10D, Pentax  SMCP-FA 35mm f/2 AL lens.

 

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“Munchkin In The Tree” 2015. Canon EOS-1D Mark III, EF 135mm f/2L.

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“Spring Fashion” 2013. Contax IIIa, 50mm f/2 Sonnar, Kodak Tri-X 400 deveoped in D76.

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“Cheeri-O” 2016. Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic.

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“Ho Hum Day” 2011. Nikon F100, Kodak Tri-X, 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX…yes, the APS-C digital lens!

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“Sunday Girls” 2015. Konica Hexar AF, Ilford Delta 400 in D76.

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“Nine Degrees Of Separation” 🙂 2016. Iphone 6s Plus.

GRD Love: The Original Ricoh GRD Revisted

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“Moose” 2017. Ricoh GRD 8.1mp 🙂

It’s hard to believe, but based on the stats for these pages the original Ricoh GR Digital 8.1mp digital point and shoot camera remains a favorite for those visiting this blog!

Despite me telling you of its issues, how it’s an old camera, how some of these cameras may not even be working any more, y’all ain’t having it cause it’s still one of the top two camera reviews visited on this site! 🙂

Here’s a link to my original review The Original Ricoh GR Digital Review.

That’s ok by me though because I still do absolutely love the original Ricoh GRD and still use it on a regular basis. Despite it coming into the market in 2005 and long discontinued, it still has a very loyal cult following largely based on the beauty of its black and white files.

Here are some recent and not so recent shots with it. The majority of the shots I’ve not posted before. When I used to post of photo sharing sites like Pbase or Flickr or 500px, you could be sure they’d have been posted but blogging kinda makes you lazy. Well me, anyway! The camera does have its quirks and is prone to acting up, but I still love it!

Thanks to those of you who have written to say you got one of these babies based on our review. It warms the cockles of my heart to know you shoot it too. Remember, it is you and I, US, who love this camera, who are keeping this Camera Legend alive. I call you guys the “Cult Of GRD” and I dedicate this post to you 🙂

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“The Razor’s Edge” 2015. Ricoh GRD 8.1mp

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“Black Building” 2016. Ricoh GRD 8.1mp with GW-1 wide angle converter (21mm equivalent), NYC. I don’t know the name of this building, hence I call it “Black Building” 🙂

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“Low-rider” 2017. Ricoh GRD 8.1mp, Queens, New York.

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“Quick Draw” 2016. Ricoh GRD 8.1mp, NYC. Whenever I walk the city streets, I’m always looking for characters. To me the street is much more interesting when you tie the culture with the characters that dwell or live there. I caught this cat as I was walking out of a stationary store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and I knew I had to get a shot!

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“The Dream Team” 2014. Two of my favorite photographers, these cats are better known as the “Dream Team.” Has it been that long dudes?! Shot at the Photo Plus Expo show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, NYC.

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“GR Noodles” 2014. Ricoh GRD 8.1mp, Queens, NYC. Ah, the wonders of Vietnamese noodles 🙂

***DEAL ALERT***

From time to time, we’ll pass along deals and news we are receiving from our partners. You hate ads? Skip this. But if you are in the market for any of this stuff, here are some great deals! Thanks for supporting Camera Legend, we do appreciate it!

If you’re in the market for a Ricoh GR of any flavor, click on the photo above and search accordingly. If you’re an Olympus shooter, now is the time to save up to $200 with Olympus Instant Rebates

Just some samples of what you’ll find and the amazing savings…

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Mirrorless Camera with ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R & ED 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R Lenses Regular price $799, now $599

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro Zoom Lens Regular price $999, get it now for $899

Need a laptop? Here’s a steal of a deal on a great laptop!

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 460 14″ FHD Ultrabook 2-in-1 Multi-Touch Notebook Computer with Stylus Pen Regular price $999, sale price $789. Save $210 on this hot notebook!

Photo Of The Day: “House On Greenwich Street”

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“House On Greenwich Street” 2009. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar lens, Kodak T-Max 400 in T-Max Developer in NYC.

About eight years ago I was down in Greenwich Village and just happened to walk by this amazing home that seemed almost completely covered in leaves. It caught my eye and it’s hard to miss. I grabbed my trusty Rolleiflex 2.8C and took a photo of it.

At that time I was posting to photo forums and I titled it “House On Mockingbird Lane” as a tribute to the spooky Munsters television show. That’s the first thing that came to mind since the eery house seemed to be in the process of being “eaten” by the growing leaves. I’m a big fan of these homes covered in leaves and this was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

It was many years later that I discovered the house actually belonged to the famous photographer Annie Leibovitz who was still the owner at that time! She has since sold the place, which I think consisted of three buildings and was called a “compound” by the local papers. As you may or may not know, Annie has photographed Kings and Queens, pro athletes and presidents. She has done it all in photography.

If you want to look at more pictures of the place, search for “755 Greenwich Street.” Quite awesome to see that place in person and then to learn that it belonged to a world famous photographer. That’s why I say…always carry a camera! 🙂

 

Photo Of The Day: “EyeZ”

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Always trying to improve my digital black and white images. Digital photography spawned from an attempt or desire to escape the giant shadow of film, but as they say “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” Lots of people genuinely miss the look of film, but not the work involved to shoot, process and develop it, thus since the early days of digital, people have been attemting to create “film-like” images on this modern platform.

I’ve shot film for a long time and I’ve come to accept that you just cannot duplicate film completely, it’s got its own special thing, but digital black and white can have its own charm as well. I’ve so far resisted the urge to use popular software such as Silver Efex Pro, instead I try to tune each pic to my taste by playing with the levels, curves, etc, in Photoshop. I’m not quite happy with my efforts on the whole, but I’ll keep trying.

One thing I can tell you that works well for me is to use old or older lenses on my digital cameras in this effort. I find it gives me a head start. This one was shot with the original Canon EOS-1Ds 11mp camera introduced in 2002 and reviewed on these pages. The lens used was a Contax 50mm f/1.4 MM  Zeiss Planar. If you like using “alt” lenses as I do, that’s cool and you know it’s incredibly fun! I’m going to try to do an article for you on this subject. And as I said, I’ll keep trying to find the best formula for filmic digital black & white, even if such a thing might not exist. If nothing else, it’s a lot of fun! Have a great day good peeps and get out them cameras 🙂

***DEAL ALERT***

From time to time, our media affiliates will send us deals they have going on and since I do not want to burden you good people with advertisement, I decide whether or not to tell you about it. And believe me, the majority of the time I choose not to plug it, much the chagrin of our media friends 🙂

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“Standing Strong” 2013. Fuji X-Pro 1, Canon 35mm f/1.8 ltm. I’ve used the Fuji X-Pro 1 for some time. It’s an outstanding camera with its native Fuji lenses, but is a pain to use with legacy manual lenses such as the Canon I used here. The Fuji X-T1 that I’m talking about in the article is a much better body for this purpose.

Just like you, I know no one likes it when you plug an ad or ask you to click a link, but you should know too writing and equipment reviews take a lot of time and cost money, most of which I spend on my own to give you the best info I can and I do this for free. No one ever sent me a piece of equipment to write about. But that’s ok, I love this thing, that’s why I do it and I can and will always remain objective.

If you buy anything through our links, I don’t get much, if at all, but every little bit adds to help this site grow. And it costs you nothing to do so. Especially if you’re planning to buy the stuff anyway, it’s a win-win.

Anyway, today we got some screaming deals!! Sometimes you get deals and sometimes you get duds. This is a real deal yes! Most of you will know that the Fuji X-T1 is an awesome and capable top end camera that produces amazing pics and it usually goes for $1299. For a limited time, you can now get it brand new for $799!! Ho! $500 off plus other savings through our partners. If you ever wanted to get the Fuji X-T1, this is it. Check out this and other Fuji Deals and if you do get one, drop back here and let me know how you liked it. I bet you’ll love it! Thank you very much, I appreciate your support.

Also a sale on the superb Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 HERE

And instant rebates on the hot new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Classic Cameras: The Rolleiflex 2.8C Xenotar

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The Rolleiflex 2.8C  is a medium format, twin lens reflex camera introduced in 1952 by Franke & Heidecke, aka Rollei GmbH of Germany. The camera produces 6×6 square format images on 120 film.

Although the last remnants of Rollei as we know it vanished completely in 2015, it was and is considered one of the greatest names in photography. Rollei made many, many great and iconic cameras, but their TLR cameras are where they made their name. Today we look at one of their many standout models, the Rolleiflex 2.8C twin lens reflex camera.

ROLLEIFLEX 2.8C INTRODUCTION

If I could only have one camera, it would probably have to be my venerable Rolleiflex 2.8C with the Schneider Xenotar lens. Introduced around 1952-1953, it was the first Rolleiflex model to feature either the Zeiss Planar or Schneider-Kreuznach Xenotar f/2.8 lenses.

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“Red-e-Flex” 2008. Rolleiflex 2.8C, Kodak Portra 400 UC. The Rolleiflex is always ready to shoot…and it’s going to drive you insane man! 🙂

As far as I can tell, the very early versions are known as Type I and only offered the Xenotar lens. The latter version known as Type II offered either the Planar or Xenotar. Keep in mind that “early” and “late” for this camera was only from 1952-1955. I’ve read different accounts that the Planar was offered first and the Xenotar was just a “replacement” lens that were used when production of the Planar was in short supply. I really don’t know and at this point, does it really matter?

It might matter for camera historians, but for shooters either lens I think would be plenty fine regardless of which one came first on the 2.8C model.

Before I go further, I should say that Rolleiflexes have a large and passionate following around the world with many, many Rollei experts out there. I do not consider myself one of those experts. I am just an enthusiast who loves Rolleis and Rolleiflexes and have enjoyed using and collecting Rollei items over the years and doing so “under the radar” (until now I guess!) like I’m sure many of you out there.

The camera is over sixty years old and I think there are already some fine reviews out there. In fact, I’ve decided that I have much more fun giving you a “review” through my impressions and experiences rather than writing a long, formal review. I do try to give you everything I think you might need to know, but I might miss a thing or two. As always I encourage my readers to do more research if they’re really interested. That “search” bar will do you wonders 🙂

With that said, if you are new to TLR photography then I suggest you go and try one out. It doesn’t need to be a Rolleiflex. I could try and explain it, but it will be nowhere as helpful as actually handling a TLR.

This article focuses on the 2.8C model specifically. You will be fine with any of the Rolleiflex 2.8 series, A/B/C/D/E/F…you have lots of choices!

AS A CAMERA

Back to the Rolleiflex 2.8C…Why do I love it? Simple, it always delivers the goods. It’s got a great lens and doesn’t need batteries to operate. I got it used, in bargain condition in 2008. It has never had a CLA, though I think a CLA is long overdue. Keep in mind that the Rollei has a mechanical shutter and that is always going to be less accurate than an electronically timed shutter, so if you feel the speeds are way off, get a CLA.

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“Morning Fuel” 2009. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar. Can’t remember the film though it’s most likely Tri-X or Neopan.

The Rolleiflex 2.8C is well built, as are all the top tier Rolleiflexes. The camera weighs roughly 2.5 pounds. It will probably be heavier than a mirrorless with lens, but would weigh less than your mid-level or pro Canon/Nikon body with pro lens. The Rolleiflex is NOT pocketable 🙂

The focus knob is on your left side and the film wind crank is on your right side when the camera is in use. The shutter automatically cocks when you turn the winding crank and pull it back.

Right near the lenses, the aperture control dial will be on your left hand side and the shutter speed control dial on your right hand side. You depress in slightly, then turn. The Rolleiflex 2.8C does not have an EVS system and I consider this an advantage because you need not worry about those dials moving together and you’re free to choose whatever aperture/shutter speed combo you like.

The waist-level finder (WLF) is used for focusing and it snaps into focus nicely. As far as I know, this model is not compatible with the Rollei prism finder, though I never felt the need for one on a TLR. I suppose a skilled technician could modify this, but why bother? The waist-level finder is one of the thrills of TLR photography as far as I’m concerned. If you’re new to TLR photography, the WLF will probably have the biggest initial impact on you.

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A view through the Rolleiflex waist-level finder.

The camera feels good in the hand with a nice heft to it. I prefer it to the smaller Rolleicords. The camera is sure to get you some looks and maybe start a conversation if used in public enough, it is not unobtrusive or inconspicous in any way 🙂

The camera has a shutter speed range of 1 sec to 1/500 plus Bulb.

NO METER? NO PROBLEM

The 2.8C lacks a meter and I don’t miss it. Truth of the matter is, sticking to ISO 400 film and using meterless cameras for years now, I’ve instinctively come to figuring out the exposures I need without much thought. I do not say this in a braggadocious way. It becomes second nature with time and practice as many photographers can tell you.

I am a firm believer that practicing on a meterless camera will make you a more proficient photographer. Plus black and white film is very forgiving, so unless you’re way off, you should be alright. All of the photos in this article were taken with on the fly metering, without the use of a light meter.

But you can certainly use a handheld meter or download a light meter app on your smartphone. I’m not against meters by any means. I use them on any camera that has one. But if a camera has no meter, I don’t bother using one, it adds to the fun and I learn. I generally do find that many times, manually metering old cameras yields better results for me. Just remember the reading from a meter is just your starting point, not the end word to your exposures.

I have tried the phone apps to check against my digital cameras and they work great. In fact, if you’re used to using a meter, get a meterless camera body, start out with a handheld light meter (old school or phone is ok) and then ween yourself off the meter.

THE XENOTAR LENS 

While I hope you can tell from all the cameras profiled here that I am no brand loyalist, you might and probably rightfully so, imagine that I would have preferred the Zeiss Planar. The Zeiss Planar is very well known and quite popular with the masses. In fact, the first Rolleiflex I got years before I got the 2.8C was the 2.8F with the Planar lens, based on reputation of the Zeiss Planar alone.

The truth of the matter though is that while I have used both the 2.8F Planar and the 2.8C Xenotar, I actually prefer the Xenotar.

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“Tickle Me Elmo” 2008. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar lens, Kodak Portra 400. The lens was probably stopped down in between f/3.5-5.6.

The above photo of Elmo may seem a silly way to demonstrate the Xenotar lens, but I think the image shows the vibrant colors and high image definition the Xenotar lens is capable of. Check out Elmo’s nose for a little bit of that micro detail/contrast. The image also shows a little bit of the Xenotar’s bokeh in a disadventageous situation. The Xenotar generally delivers pleasing bokeh, but this may seem a tad busy due to those alphabet tiles. In that respect, it’s actually pretty smooth. I know of many other lenses that would not do as well with that background.

One note, I would love to post larger versions here, but the server here no longer supports that. I did try linking a Flickr account to do that, but it ended up being a tedious process of me editing  the links for them to show up correctly. But maybe I’ll try again.

Anyway, while I love the Xenotar, I’m never going to hate on the Planar though so let me just say this was a personal preference based on the two camera samples I had as opposed to something technical about the performance of the lenses. But since I know we all love to read these things, let me say that with these two Rolleiflexes I’ve used, the Xenotar exhibited better perceived sharpness and contrast.

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“Mom’s Kitchen” 2009. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar lens, Kodak T-Max 400 in T-Max developer. This was shot in 2009, but looks like it could be a scene from any NYC kitchen from the 1950s and up. As a vintage photo fan, the Rolleiflex and b&w is vintage photo heaven.

The Planar was probably just as sharp, but showed lower contrast. This could have been due to sample variation or defects in the lens, ie, cleaning marks, haze, bubbles, separation, etc, though I did not detect any of this by eye inspection. Keep in mind though that both cameras were already at least fifty years old when I compared them.

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“Fall Back” 2007. Rolleiflex 2.8F, 80mm f/2.8 Planar, Kodak Portra 400 UC. Just a sample shot from the Planar. I would never hate on the Planar, I just like the Xenotar lens better based on my experiences with both lenses. But the soft out of focus areas from the Planar here look quite lovely I think.

Whatever it was, the better sharpness and contrast on my copy of the 2.8C resulted in images with that extra bit of snap to it. This is probably micro details, micro contrast or whatever “micro” you might call it. It adds an extra “pop” to certain images and accentuates that medium format look.

The funny thing is that this “pop” is usually attributed to Zeiss lenses, but in this case it’s not the Zeiss, but the Schneider lens. But Planar fans need not sweat it as the Schneider-Kreuznach (don’t you just love saying that?) Xenotar has been said to be a Planar equivalent or design copy. I have used plenty of Planar type lenses as well as many other Zeiss and Schneider lenses over the years and I can only confirm what others have said…you can’t go wrong with either. Both companies make top notch, world class, and yes, legendary lenses.

NOTES ON BOKEH

One interesting note on the Rolleiflex 2.8C is that the Xenotar on this model has the highly desirable ten aperture blades. That is one of the reasons I settled on the 2.8C. This should result in more rounded, uniform highlights in the out of focus area.

Generally, the Xenotar’s bokeh is smooth and very pleasing. It won’t be super buttery smooth like a modern lens though. You will sometimes get some coma shaped “orbs” in the background, which you see in a lot of vintage lenses. It may not be completely perfect, but I think it actually adds some character to the images. Even modern lenses such as the Canon EOS 85mm f/1.2L exhibit similar characteristics in the bokeh.

The lens does not really do “swirly bokeh” but once in a while, depending on the background, etc, you might see something reminiscent of a swirl I guess.

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“Schwing” 2011. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar, Kodak Ektar 100. This man was super chill in Batangas, Philippines.

I’m not making any excuses for it, though it might sound like that. This is a superb lens, but it is an old lens. It has character and I like it the way it is!

One other interesting tidbit to this is that while the ten blades are indeed desirable, most of the time when people are thinking bokeh, they are also using their lenses wide open in which none of the blades are making an impact on the images. Keep this in mind!

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“Gwapo On Grand Street” 2012. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar, Fomapan 400 developed in D76. Note the “micro” contrast/details in the hat of this man captured on Grand Street, NYC.

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“Madam” 2011. Rolleiflex 2.8C, Kodak Ektar 100, Manila, Philippines.

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“Nam Tan Wan” 2011. Rolleiflex 2.8C, Kodak Ektar 100, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. In Thai that means “Sweet Sugar” 🙂

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“Lots Of Opposites” 2009. Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar lens, Kodak T-Max 400 in T-Max Developer. Baby Z holding one of her first reading books. My friends, boy how fast the time flies. Take plenty of pictures and enjoy life for it passes right before your very eye.

As with any lens of this vintage, it would benefit from a lens hood. Rolleiflex 2.8 models take Bay III filters, hoods, etc. I have not generally had too many issues with bad flaring on the Xenotar, but it’s good insurance to have a hood, especially for a vintage lens older than fifty years. Plus the Rollei hood for this camera is just so damn cool! 🙂

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“Serene” 2012. Rolleiflex 2.8C, Fomapan 400 in D76. Here’s a closer portrait using the Rolleiflex 2.8C with the Rolleinar II close-up lens. The film used was Fomapan 400. This is a wonderful setup for close but comfortable portraits.

BOTTOM LINE

In the 1990s I read a book called “Medium Format Photography” by the late great Lief Ericksenn and he stated Rollei claimed back in the days of the Rolleiflex: “A roll of film, and our camera and you’re in business.”

With all the camera choices we have these days, that may not ring true on specific terms. But relatively speaking, I still think they could make a case for it. With the 2.8C, you have a well built camera that needs no batteries and has an absolutely stellar lens. You have no gimmicks to get in the way or distract you from the joy of picture taking.

Especially when shooting film, medium format can produce results that are often superior to most 35mm film cameras and make images that are a pleasing alternative to modern digital cameras.

I have profiled many legendary cameras here on these pages, all of which are carefully chosen, but not all of them are true Camera Legends. The Rolleiflex series as a whole are without dispute among the most legendary and respected cameras of all time. Thus there is no doubt the Rolleiflex 2.8C is a Camera Legend. It is my favorite among all the TLR’s I’ve ever used and I absolutely love it!

The last remnants of Rollei disappeared in 2015, and they famously auctioned off whatever was left of their factory in Germany. A sad end to one of the true giants of 20th century photography. But the legacy of their cameras, especially the Rolleiflex, is very strong in the hearts, mind, and eyes of Rollei fanatics around the world. I have no doubt the Legend of Rollei will live on for a good long time to come.

Although I love all cameras, any time someone asks me to give my opinion of the greatest camera of all time, more often than not I will say…Rolleiflex baby! 🙂

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PRICE & AVAILABILTY

The Rolleiflex 2.8C is an awesome camera and the great thing is that it is not really a rare or super expensive camera so you can always find one if you keep an eye out.

I got mine in 2008 in BGN condition from KEH for a little over $400. From what I can see, bargains can still be had but prices are trending from $400-900 depending on condition, accessories, etc. Sometimes you may luck out and get one for less than $400, though I’ve never seen a legitimate sale for under $300.

Keep in mind though that, especially when buying from auction sites, the camera will likely be in need of a CLA so try to get one for the lowest price possible, factoring in that you will need to have it worked on, which could well cost you a few hundred more.

A very helpful and accurate way to check your Rolleiflex model is to look up the serial numbers which you can find on this great Rollei site.

http://www.rolleiclub.com/cameras/tlr/info/serial_numbers.shtml

Makes sure the shutter fires and everything that’s supposed to move actually moves. Check the aperture blades to see if they move and check the shutter speeds. The blades may have oil on them, but that should not be a major problem. You may even be able to use the camera for some time as is, even if it does eventually need a CLA. Also make sure whatever should not be moving, isn’t moving!

The main problem I see on these cameras are “shutter speeds not accurate” which may be not the end of the world, especially when using b&w film. Other problems may include dirty or hazy lenses with scratches, fungus, etc, which may affect picture quality. Film transport issues and overlapping frames have been reported, but I’ve never had that problem with the Rolleiflexes I’ve used. All these problems are actually things to watch for in any vintage camera, not just Rolleiflexes.

The good thing is that the Rolleiflexes are well built, durable, and many owners do take very good care of them because they inspire love 🙂

Anyway, if you do come across or own one of these awesome cameras I’d love to hear from you!

***HOT LENS DEALS***

From time to time our affiliates will pass along current deals to us and we decide to post them if we think our readers would benefit.

Today we have some special deals on the hot new Irix 15mm f/2.4 lenses. Irix lenses are high quality lenses designed in Switzerland and produced in South Korea. This ultra-wide angle is fast and (best, for me) is that it’s not a fisheye because I am not a fisheye fan! The few reviews so far seem to indicate excellent optical performance across the frame.

The lens comes in two choices of build quality, keeping economics in mind, while not compromising on image quality. The lower priced lens is called the “Firefly” and it cost $399. The lens is built from lower cost but durable high grade plastics. The “Blackstone” holds the same optics in a magnesium alloy and alluminum housing and goes for $599. I think this is a great notion to sell the same high quality lenses to meet different budgets.

You may check it the out here Irix Lenses

Just a note, if you are going to buy, please do so through our links. It helps to support Camera Legend grow and it helps me to give you the very best I can. Thanks.

Photo Of The Day: “The Beach”

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Oh yes my friends, Summer is now officially here! If it sound a little late, it’s because I actually started this draft on June 20th! Almost a week late and seven dollars short 🙂

Anyway, this is the time all kids look forward to. Do you remember your summers as a kid? Parents, while they may not happy having the rowdy kids home full time, they too will enjoy the summertime as an excuse to bring their kids somewhere that they too may have wanted to go to.

I used to love summers as a kid, but now as an adult I much prefer the spring time. I don’t really enjoy hot weather and from a photographic perspective, I also think the spring is prettier.

Anyway, this is a shot from 2010 taken with a Bronica RF645, 65mm f/4 Zenzanon lens on Kodak T-Max 400 film and developed in T-Max developer. The Bronica Rangefinder or RF (as most people call it) was one of those cameras that I did not expect to like, but ended up loving.

Why did I not expect to like it? As some of you may know, I love fast lenses. The fastest lenses for the RF start at f/4. Of course, you can still get shallow DOF and that medium format look, but f/4 is still f/4 as fas as light transmission goes and I’m always shooting in less than ideal light conditions.

On this shot however, it was in the late afternoon sun and it was good enough for the Zenzanon lens to do its thing.

Also there aren’t many lenses for this system. You’re limited to about three lenses, I think. Having used a Fuji GA645 before, I also was not fond of the default “portrait” orientation on these cameras even though I do a lot of portraits. I’ve gotten used to tilting the camera vertically when I want to do a portrait.

The Bronco RF645 was made during the period when Tamron owned the company so I’ve always wondered if Tamron made the lenses since they are also a well renowned lens manufacturer. Tamron has always made great lenses, most of which were sharp with a modern look. I was concerned that if Tamron made these lenses, they would be sharp but perhaps lack character.

The only reason I got this camera was because I got a very good deal as part of a trade with a photo forum member. I also remember being impressed with some portraits from this camera from some talented shooters on Flickr. I wouldn’t have bought this camera as an outright purchase, but buying and selling works if you want to try other stuff!

I ended up loving the camera and Zenzanon lens because they gave me that “look” that few cameras deliver consistently. The camera and lens, especially when shot on Kodak T-Max 400 always delivered for me.

To me, the shot above has a good balance of sharp focus and just the right amount of bokeh to show the environment. In this case, you can see the hotels on the left side of the picture, in the bokeh zone. If you look hard enough, you may also just barely make out the famous Wildwoods roller coaster in the far distance to the right of the baby. See how the  Zenzanon lens’ focus “melts” from the foreground to the background without getting too “nervous” like some lenses can get. This was shot on Wildwoods Beach on the Jersey Shore.

While I love super shallow bokeh, it is somewhat overplayed in my opinion. The Bronica RF645 and 65mm f/4 Zenzanon is great for environmental portraits which show your surroundings while still giving a very nice and smooth transition from sharp to soft.

This is one combo that I regret letting go! Well, there are quite a few I regret, but I will say again that this combo gave me very consistent results that I loved. Consistent is the key word here! I have a large print of this image on my wall an it looks just as it does here, maybe even better as details are more apparent.

If funds permit and I can find the right one, I may give it another go in the future. I also plan to do a more in depth review of this camera so keep an eye out if you’re interested in the Bronica RF645.

Thanks for looking and enjoy your Summer weekend everybody!

 

 

Tuesday Titans: The Polaroid 180 Land Camera

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“Cat’s Meow” 2016. The Polaroid 180 Land Camera with Portrait Lens kit attached, is an instant film Camera Legend and to me, the Cat’s Meow! 🙂

I was debating to myself whether this camera belongs in the “Tuesday Titans” series. Half of my mind says no, but the other half says, well, this IS a rather big and awkward camera to use, once unfolded out of its protective shell. However, it is not heavy, where most of the Titans reviewed before are. Ah well, what’s done is done I guess.

I’ve wanted one of these for a long time. I’ve played with them, seen prints from them, but never owned one till recently.

I got one through a trade deal which involved me getting rid of some digital gear and a lens. Now it would seem perplexing, maybe even dumb to get rid of digital gear which I could use for a long time for an instant film camera whose main “food” is the recently discontinued Fuji FP-100C, which was the last remaining production instant packfilm made.

But most of you who follow this blog already know I have a habit of doing things that you, nor I, would ever expect. Not that this is something to brag about, it’s just the way I do things.

THE POLAROID 180 LAND CAMERA BODY

The Polaroid 180 is much like other Land Cameras that came before it. It’s a simple but delicate mix. The bellows is probably the most delicate part of these cameras.

I used a Polaroid 360 that was given to me by a friend in college many years back, but I never really liked it. The fiddly operation, the slow f/8.8 lens was disadventageous to me as someone used to 35mm, medium format, and digital cameras.

Plus I have to admit, I was never a huge fan of the Polaroid lo-fi look. I think it only works well for certain subjects, and for a select group of artists of which I am not one of them.

I started enjoying instant cameras more in the late 2000’s when I got myself reacquainted with the medium through the Polaroid 600SE which is probably one of, if not the most desirable packfilm cameras. I really enjoyed the prints I got with this camera and Fuji FP-3000B, also now discontinued.

The Polaroid 180 is also very high on the list of desirable Polaroid cameras. The camera body is genuine Polaroid unlike the 600SE which is really a Mamiya Universal clone, but with an incompatible lens mount to the 600SE.

The 114 f/4.5 Tominon lens on the 180 however was made by Tomoika of Japan. It is roughly the equivalent of a 35mm lens on  full frame camera. At f/4.5 the lens is one of the fastest available for instant packfilm cameras. Only the f/3.8 Tominon on the Polaroid 190 and 195 is faster. Needless to say these lenses are still no f/1.2 speed demons, but in the Polaroid world of f/8 and up, yes these lenses are “fast.”

While many see the 195 as the highest model, I prefer the 180 due to its integrated rangefinder and Zeiss finder. The 195 has separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows, much like the old Leica screw mount cameras, which to me makes it more inconvenient, certainly less speedy to use although I’ve heard some people say they prefer the 195’s arrangement because framing may be more accurate.

The 190 is probably the ultimate because it combines the 180’s finder with the 195’s faster lens.

All these cameras are fully manual and do not need a battery conversion, which a camera like the heretofore mentioned 360 Land Camera does.

The 180 offers aperture settings from wide open at f/4.5 to f/90, shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/500 plus bulb. There is a lever near the lens for M (bulb), X (flash), and V (self-timer).

IN USE AND ISSUES

As mentioned earlier, the 180, while well built has a bit of a delicate feel, but this is due to the nature of the beast, as with many folding cameras. To open the camera, you need to pull out and extend the top “arm” until it makes a noticeable click. You need to be careful not to poke or damage the bellows in any way or you will have light leaks.

The Polaroid 180 uses rangefinder focus and many of you are probably familiar with this, but for those who are not, you simply move the sliding focus bars on the camera until the image in the center is aligned to achieve focus. You cannot focus by physically moving the lens on this camera.

Especially if buying from eBay, you should right away upon receiving the camera, check the overall structure of the camera to ensure that there is no physical damage. Next check the rangefinder and see if it’s aligned. It should give you a good idea, although the real test is with some film in the camera. Check the aperture and shutter speeds, make sure they’re working properly. And check that bellows for any pits, holes, or wrinkles.

It’s a simple camera to use, although somewhat awkward at first if you’re not familiar with the Land Cameras.

As I completely forgot about the way these cameras worked, I lost a couple of shots due to film jamming in the camera back. That seems to be the main issue with this camera. If you run into this issue, this remedy works nearly all the time…

After you take a shot and pull the film tab, if there is a lot of tension, do not force it or you will most likely break the tab and lose the first and/or second shot. Instead, if you pull hard and it does not seem to be moving, open the bottom of the camera very slightly, then pull again until you feel it move. Once you do feel that movement, close the back again and pull until the film comes out. You need to close the back because the film has to come out through the rollers to “distribute” the chemicals that will develop the film.

Do not be afraid that you will ruin the film by opening the back slightly. If you do it right, there won’t be any issues. Admittedly, this requires some practice so be ready to lose a few shots. I know it’s not easy as packfilm is now so expensive! For extra safety measures, you can try to do this in the dark or subdued light if you’re really worried, but I’ve done it in daylight with no light leaks or film fogging.

The problem with film jamming apparently has to do with the metal clips inside the film back putting so much tension on the plastic that Fuji’s packfilms are encased in. Some have had success by pushing the clips in and in some cases, completely removing the clips. I really didn’t want to butcher the camera.

Also, when pulling out the film, I prefer to collapse the bellows back into the camera before proceeding as it keeps the bellows safe during a potentially “violent” experience of pulling out that film 🙂

A good practice is to clean the rollers with a napkin before loading each pack of film. No need for super wet cloth, just a dry or slightly damped napkin will do. This should keep film coming out smoothly.

When folded, the camera is very compact for a camera of this size, and it’s not a heavy camera the way the 600SE is.

IMAGE QUALITY

I’ve been shooting the 180 with expired FP-3000B. I have yet to put FP-100C in it. I find the lens quality of the Tominon to wonderful for what I want, probably very good to excellent if you want a more magazine friendly description.

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“Baby Is Here” 2016. Polaroid 180 Land Camera, 114mm f/4.5 Tominon wide open. I did add contrast to this image, perhaps too much. The original image is of much lower contrast, but this is just to give you an idea of how you can adjust contrast to your tastes.

The lens has a good soft/sharp quality wide open and becomes very sharp as you stop down, as with most lenses.

The Tominon seems to have lower contrast than many of you may want, especially when compared to modern lenses, but this actually works very well for black and white images. Plus you can always add more contrast during your post processing workflow if you’re planning on posting your images online or just like a higher contrast look.

The results on FP-3000B have that classic look that I’m a big fan of. Again, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I fell in love with photography by seeing black and white prints from my parents photo albums back in the 70s and 80s and a camera like the Polaroid 180 is capable of giving me that look straight from the camera.

BOTTOM LINE

Why did I get rid of digital gear for the Polaroid 180 which could be a camera living on borrowed time? Because I have other digital gear which makes it redundant.

Plus, I have hope that even if packfilm goes extinct, these cameras are too good not to have someone come up with something to keep them running.

As many of you know, Impossible film’s co-founder Mr. Florian Kaps (who is no longer with the company) recently met with Fujifilm’s representatives in Japan trying to save Fuji FP-100C. While I don’t believe there is a definitive answer yet, I’m not really holding out for Fuji. I thinking of new companies and new films for the future.

The Polaroid 180 Land Camera is an instant film Camera Legend and as I said, this camera is too good to let die.

Just like the innovative Cubans who drive around in classic American cars of the 50s and 60s, I do believe someone will come along with a solution to keep these cameras running. Whether it’s new packfilm or modifying them for convenient use with Instax film, I believe it may take some time, but it’s going to happen. Fingers crossed, of course! 🙂

WHERE TO BUY

If seeking one of these prices are trending on eBay at $200-600, with $600 being on the high end, and $300 being average. On the low end of the price spectrum, it seems to be for body only. On the high end, it seems to be the complete kit with the add on portrait and close-up lenses, plus case and extras. I’m talking about a genuine Polaroid 180 Land Camera, not one of the many modified “tribute” clones you see on eBay.

The most abundant place for these cameras is eBay. You may also find them from time to time HERE.

The gear I traded for this camera comes down to under $300, and for that price I got the whole shebang, portrait/close-up lenses, case, so I’m very happy with this trade. I could easily make this money back if and when I sell it.

But make no mistake, this is not an easy camera to sell as it serves a niche, but very dedicated market. I know of camera dealers who slashed prices on these cameras the week that Fuji discontinued FP-100C film. On anonymous dealer told me: “It’s very hard to sell a camera that they don’t make film for.”

So unless you’re foolish and a hopeless romantic like me, this is actually a very good time to SELL your Polaroid 180. Even as I hold out for hope, there is still the very real possibility that there will be no film left for these cameras in the not so distant future.

If that happens, well, I got my stock of packfilm and I will use it with reserve until it finishes. That means no test shots of brick walls, no focus test on trees or nearby buildings. I will most likely use the camera for portraits of my kids because they are my most precious gifts in life and I would like them to someday look back on these prints and know their images were made on something classic and historic and hopefully relive the magic of instant photography. And if you’ve got one of these babies, don’t forget to stock up on that film before it’s all gone!