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 😊

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! 😊

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? πŸ˜€πŸ˜ŽπŸ‘πŸ»

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.Β 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 aΒ 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 actuallyΒ screwΒ 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 alsoΒ 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 πŸ™‚

MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE GREAT WALL DF

As someone who has stated over and over again that I loveΒ allΒ 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?Β 

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?! πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 useΒ gently.Β 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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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! 😊😘

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?! πŸ˜€

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! πŸ˜ŽπŸ™πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»

“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! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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? πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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? πŸ™‚

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?

 

How To Scan Film Using Your Phone & Tablet Plus Low Budget Phone Scanning vs Low Budget Flatbed Scan

Just like many of you, I scan my film as a labor of love. It started as something I enjoyed to something that became more like work. Just natural when you have time constraints due to family and job. It can be time consuming but when the results are good, they’re definitely worth it. And sometimes when I get a really good scan I’m reminded of just good film can still be in terms of resolution and detail.

However those of us familiar with using a flatbed scanner for scanning negatives know that sometimes it really can take a lot of time going through even one roll of film if you want or need to make the necessary corrections to get the best out of the images.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with “alternative” scanning methods, primarily as a way of saving time. I’ve tried all the things people try, from DSLR to Mirrorless to Phone camera.

ContaxBuddha

“Big Buddha” 2005. Contax G1, 28mm f/2.8 Zeiss Biogon. The image was “scanned” with an Olympus E-1 and 90mm f/2 Zuiko Macro lens via adapter.

Above is an early attempt at “alternative” scanning. The original photo was taken with a Contax G1, and 28mm f/2.8 Biogon taken on Fuji Velvia film in 2005. I “scanned” this image in 2005 using an Olympus E-1 5mp camera with 90mm f/2 Zuiko Macro lens via adapter. The vibrancy and detail were amazing but setting up the tripod and getting the light right was somewhat cumbersome so I didn’t use this method much.

It’s funny that back in 2005, DSLR “scanning” didn’t really catch on but it’s very popular today, especially with today’s high resolution cameras. But in my opinion, 5mp was perfectly acceptable and I made a nice 8×10 print from the above photo!

CLZoeP

“Time Out” 2009. Leica CL, 40mm f/2 Leitz Summicron. Also “scanned” using the Olympus E-1 5mp and 90mm f/2 Zuiko Macro Lens.

Recently I tried a low budget scanning method using my iPad as a light box and using my iPhone to “scan” the images. You can find a few tutorials on YouTube on how to do this. It seems everyone does it a little differently.

Here’s what I did:

1) Use white background on iPad as a lightbox.

2) Use one roll of tape as a spacer so the film is not too close to the iPad. Too close and the brightness of the iPad or tablet may wash out details or show its pixels.

3) Put film on top of the first tape roll. I use the negative holder from my Epson scanner to keep the film flat. If you don’t have a holder you should find another way of keeping the film flat. Thin glass might help.

4) Put other roll of tape on top of the film and position the image you want to scan. This might require some moving around as most of the cameras on our phones are not placed in the center of the phone itself. The tape roll also acts as support to keep the phone steady.

5) Tap the image on your phone to focus and take a few shots to ensure that at least one is sharp

5) Import into editing program on your phone.

Below is a step by step photo show and comparison. The original image was taken with a Mamiya AF-D and 80mm f/2.8 Mamiya AF lens on Tri-X 400 in 2016! Yet another camera I’ve used but never profiled. It was a great camera system if you need to know!

My flatbed scanner is a now very old Epson V500. I reckon it must be at least eight or nine years old!

My low budget iPad/iPhone scanner! See details in the article on how to do it.

A closer view of a possible Medium Format scan.

An image scanned using the iPad/iPhone method then opened in the Adobe Photoshop Express app.

The final image using the iPad/iPhone scanner. The negative needs to be inverted to reveal the positive image. I then processed the image using the sliders and controls in PS Express.

A close up of the above image. This might be fine for a lot of people, and certainly for a quick preview. But as you’ll see below, it’s no comparison to a flatbed scanner.

Same image scanned using an Epson V500 Flatbed Scanner.

Close up of the Epson V500 scan. Note the details in the fabric of the ski hat, the eyes, the teeth. There’s really no comparison!

WHY DO THIS?

Why use your phone to scan you might ask? I can think of a few reasons but probably most important is that it’s incredibly faster. If you just want to get an idea if the image is worth scanning on your flatbed scanner this will do it. It takes literally seconds to scan using the phone camera vs minutes using the flatbed. If you’re pressed for time this adds up!

Also using this method and a photo editing app such as Adobe’s Photoshop Express or Lightroom, you can do it all on your phone and not need to turn on your computer.

CONCLUSIONS?

Well, based on my initial testing the iPhone scans are surprisingly usable as a quick preview. Heck some might even be able to use these scans for posting to social media etc.

However, as expected, the scans from a “real” scanner such as my old Epson V500 are still infinity better. I’ve included crops from both the phone scan and the Epson for you to see.

Check for details in the fabric of the ski hat, and in the face and teeth. There’s no comparison really! But if you want to see images in a pinch, this works!

Now some of you might say, oh well, an optical scanner is evenΒ betterΒ than the flatbed and yes, I agree cause I had that covered too! Had an optical scanner in 2003 or 2004 and the scans were superior to the flatbed. To this day, I regrettably sold it but the flatbed is a good compromise. For the record, I’ve never used a drum scan so I leave it up to YOU to tell me about it! πŸ™‚

Next step is for me to do a comparison with the Epson flatbed scanner vs using a modern high resolution DSLR or Mirrorless with a macro lens. This should be closer!

Till next time happy Sunday good peeps!

“Happy Sunday!” 2016. Mamiya AF-D, 80mm f/2.8 AF, Tri-X in D76. Zayda doesn’t want to be left out! She wishes everyone a happy Sunday morning good peeps! πŸ™‚

Flashback Friday: β€œGimme Your Best!” πŸ˜€

This photo was shot about two, almost three years ago in 2016. I said to Zay, give me your best smile and this is what she gave me! Ah the baby’s already a natural in my biased opinion πŸ™‚

Sure yes I know it’s not a real “flashback” but hey when you’re a 3 year old toddler, yeah it’s a flashback! πŸ˜€

I wonder though, could anyone figure out the camera setup being used in the picture? Hint, it’s not something I ever alluded to on these pages before lol but perhaps this is the year for it! This is the year we go BIG…or is it not? Haha

Happy February good camera loving peeps! 😊😘

The Worst Cameras Of All Time #2: The Kodak Disc Camera

Ah man, I hate doing this! I hate doing this so much that it’s been almost three years since the last time I wrote one of these “worst camera” articles. Most of you regular readers know that I am proud and fond of saying I love all cameras right?

Well, I do, I really do! That said, we can’t always have winners, not even in the camera world! So today we have another candidate for worst camera of all time, and again, as a prerequisite for me, it is another camera I have used.

Our first recipient of this distinction was the Nikon N70 film camera with its “FAN” shaped thingy! The reason I feel bad writing this today is that when I first wrote the article on the N70 in 2016, I never expected that the article would still show up on Google’s front page whenever someone types in “Worst cameras of all time.”

How could I have known that nearly three years later it would still be there?! It makes me feel bad. It makes me feel like I have “wronged” the Nikon N70 in some way!

It’s not the worst camera ever, but it might just be the worst designed Nikon and so I stand by my writings.

Today, we will take a look at a camera that I think most camera nuts and historians would agree should certainly be on this “distinguished” list and that camera is the Kodak Disc Camera.

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INTRODUCTION

The Kodak Disc Camera system was introduced by Kodak in 1982. There were several different models, of which the best known was probably the Disc 4000, the cheapest model. Other models included the 4100, the 6000, the 8000, and even a telephoto model called the Tele Disc.

If you want specifics on any on these models, please do a search on them. It is not my intention to review each model here.

MY RECOLLECTION & EXPERIENCES WITH THE KODAK DISC CAMERA

The year was 1983. My Mom, perhaps noticing my budding interest in photography got me a Kodak Disc 4000.

Now I’m not sure if I was pestering her for it or she did it herself, but somehow she brought home a Kodak Disc 4000 camera one day.Β As Mom had no photographic inclination, I would imagine me and my brother nagging her about it!

I remember well, Kodak had a big television and print advertising campaign on this camera! They even used celebrities if I recall correctly. It was indeed their next big thing…or so they wanted us to believe.

Using the camera was the simplest thing in the world. You drop the film in and the camera did the rest! You press the shutter and the camera winds, rewinds, decides whether or not to use flash, etc. It’s a straight up point and shoot in the best sense of the word!

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who prefer watching videos, here’s our video on the Kodak Disc Camera. The only thing missing in this article that’s on the video is me explaining how I feel about Kodak in an era where a rap star “Kodak Black” is more well known than Kodak the film company! That’s nuts! πŸ™‚

THE KODAK DISC FILM

I don’t want to jack some picture off the internet so please do a search if you’re interested. I’ve always told people that the Kodak Disc film reminded me a lot of those circular slides they used in the children’s ViewMaster toys. You know, that classic red binocular looking toy that would illuminate slides of animals and such for children.

The disc/film itself was quite solid and thick. It didn’t bend like a 35mm negative would. It felt like a plastic disc. Apparently the thickness of the Kodak Disc film was comparable to 4×5 sheet film though it felt more solid to me, if I recall correctly.

The negatives were about 10mm x 8mm and you got 15 shots per disc. To get the best out of this film the labs had to utilize special Kodak lenses for printing, but apparently a lot of places did not use these special purpose Kodak lenses which may or may not account for lowered quality in the final print.

THE PICS

Here are just a few shots I took using the Kodak Disc 4000 circa 1983-1984. A lot of these images are like a 1980s time capsule! They are not artistic masterpieces. However, if you look at the photos you will see quite a few legends of the era in there! Plus I also think this camera helped me learn how to capture “the moment” so to speak.

Ed Koch, NYC Mayor, 1983. Kodak Disc Camera. I shouted “how am I doing?” to mimic Ed Koch’s famous slogan and he repeated it back to me! Haha!

You got to remember this was like a 13 or 14 year old kid with his first camera living in a time, pre iPhone, pre digital camera. I could not take a thousand photos and edit them to find the ones I liked best.

“Daddy Boombox” 1983. Kodak Disc 4000. Just like Archie Bunker, Dad sits on “his” couch and plays around with the new Panasonic Boombox he just bought us. The 1980s were an awesome time for electronics!

I was shooting not to post online because there was NO online! I was learning photography and shooting the moments in life, the “Kodak Moment” and I loved it! πŸ™‚

Science Fiction Legend Isaac Asimov, 1983. Kodak Disc Camera. I shot this at a little known event in Manhattan called the “Comic Convention.” Today I believe this has grown into a huge mega-event called “Comic-Con.”

“Roddy Piper vs Jimmy Snuka” 1984. Kodak Disc Camera. The Pro Wrestling boom started in the 1980s and here Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka is about to unleash on “Rowdy” Roddy Piper!

“JC & Hoss Funk” 1983. Kodak Disc Camera. Ah I miss the 1980s. Fun and friends, that’s what it’s all about!

“Brothers” 1984. Kodak Disc Camera. Do you know any of these guys? πŸ™‚

“Mom In D.C.” 1984. Kodak Disc Camera. The soft grainy image works well for this photo of Mom in Washington, D.C., I think.

WHY IS THE KODAK DISC CAMERA ONE OF THE ALL TIME WORST CAMERAS?

I loved the photos I got from the camera, I really did! But on a technical level, yes, I’d have to say the Kodak Disc Camera was one of the worst!

And it’s not so much the cameras themselves. The cameras were thin, sleek, automated. In many ways they were a precursor to today’s digital point and shoots.

Just like the APS Camera System, the main drawback of the Kodak Disc Camera system was the film. The 10x8mm was much smaller than 35mm film. You only got 15 shots as opposed to 24 or 36 shots with 35mm. Plus development costs were high, certainly no cheaper than 35mm.

All these factors added up to another thoughtfully designed but ill executed product. The images were soft and full of BIG GRAIN. They did not enlarge well.

And so most of the Disc cameras were off the market by 1990, though Kodak continued to produce the film until 1999. Personally, I cannot recall anyone past 1988 or so using one!

IN HINDSIGHT

The power of hindsight is a great thing. As horrible and grainy as those images were, I loved the shots I got out of the Kodak Disc Camera!

It may be part nostaligia; yes Mom gave me the camera. Yes, it was kind of like my first “official” camera that I used regularly.

But at the same time, living now in a world of beautiful, noiseless, grainless, homogenized digital images, I can appreciate the Kodak Disc Camera images more.

I would even say that if someone made this camera today, it would be a hit with a certain niche market. Lomography, lo-fi, Polaroid enthusiasts, etc. You know the crowd!

I like that stuff too but not all the time. But yes, I can appreciate it!

PRICE. AVAILABILITY.Β 

If seeking one of these Kodak Disc Cameras, they are plentiful on auction sites and elsewhere for very low prices. The prices are trending anywhere from $3-25 and the films are averaging $8-10.

I wouldn’t pay any more than $10 for either. This is not a product that’s likely to increase in price or regain any appreciation, which is good for us camera geeks!

CAN YOU STILL USE IT? WHERE TO DEVELOP?

Assuming you find a camera in working condition and you’re inclined to take a chance with film that’s been expired for over 20 years, chances are good that you can still get pictures out of this thing!

The development part is a little harder but apparently a few places will still develop Disc film! The one I know off hand is Dwayne’s in Kansas. The shop that famously developed the last official roll of Kodakchrome.

I’ve heard of others developing the discs themselves. I’m not sure if I’ll ever shoot Kodak Disc film again, but if I do, I’d probably try that route.

BOTTOM LINE

The Kodak Disc Camera system was an enthusiastic attempt by Camera Legend Kodak to introduce a new film format along with new cameras to take this film.

It offered conveniences such as autoload, autoexposure, and autorewind, all packaged in (then) new and slick looking cameras that explored the wonders of the electronics boom of the 1980s.

It was ultimately let down by poor image quality and high cost per shot. It gave people convenience over quality.

It was yet another example of a big company making a calculated move, assuming they knew what people are willing to accept and in the end they were dead wrong.

People want convenience, but they want quality too. The Kodak Disc Camera did not deliver the latter and eventually became one of Kodak’s biggest photographic flops and earning it a distinction as one of the Worst Cameras Of All Time!

COUNTERPOINT. COMMENTS?

How do you feel about it? Were we too hard on the Kodak Disc Camera?

Did Kodak try their best to deliver a product that offered a good compromise between convenience and quality?

Or was it yet another example of Kodak’s lack of vision and big company greed? Did they not learn from their attempts to sell and capitalize on the proprietary films (and cameras for them) they developed such as the 126mm or 828mm films?

What do you think? I’d love to know! And please don’t be mad at me for bashing Kodak. I did say that on a personal level, I LOVED the Kodak Disc Camera!

 

PhotoPlus 2018 Quick Observations

I attended the annual PDN PhotoPlus Expo at the Jacob Javits Convention center in New York City last week.

Just to get it out of the way so you’re not disappointed, I am NOT doing a full throttle report on everything I saw.

It may be bad for some but it’s good for me because I simply was not all that excited by the latest and greatest gear!

Ok, I’ll admit, I enjoyed trying out the new. Nikon Z and Canon R series full frame mirrorless cameras. But unlike in 2013 when I saw the Sony A7R for the first time, I did not feel the need to want to have them. Wow, am I free? πŸ™‚

Ok again, lenses such as the HUGE 58mm f/0.95 Noct Nikkor (above) for the new Z Mirrorless system was exciting to see but now I say…Samster, even if you could afford it (which you can’t!) would you ever carry that thing out in the real world 😊

I thought mirrorless was about making things smaller and more compact. Perhaps it’s not possible to make a full frame lens that fast and make it smaller but I just think the big two Camera Legends Canon and Nikon are still obsessed with BIG as ever.

Anyway back to everything. I mean, I’m not going to lie. I loved it all, but now I feel it’s all for YOU to try. Not me. I think I, and perhaps some of you too, I’m at the point of gear exhaustion.

And I’m thinking realistically. What, really, is the Nikon Z or Canon R going to do for me that I couldn’t do with my “old” A7R?

By far, my favorite moment was catching up with my good man, the great Louis Mendes. If you don’t know, Lou is famous for shooting and selling portraits in the streets of NYC with a Speed Graphic large format camera.

In the past he used packfilm such as the discontinued Fuji FP series, but as a sign of the times (and because you know I’m interested in this stuff!) I found out that Mr. Mendes is now shooting with Instax Wide!! I can now say packfilm is officially DEAD if Lou stopped shooting it!

No he hasn’t given up his Speed Graphic for one of those horrible Instax monsters. He had his modified to take the Instax Wide film. It appears to me to be one of those hard to find, discontinued Belair Instax Wide backs.

It also seems he had a couple of acolytes with him learning the craft from the master.

The last shot is for all of you to see what you missed out on! Everybody loves a beautiful model! Is it ok if I call her “Sweet Sexy?” If not I’ll take it back 😊

Anyway that’s it for today. If any of you were there I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment!

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