Classic Cameras: The Rolleiflex 2.8C Xenotar

IMG_2657_111CCC_154

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.

10702092_10204128428843328_3417627392988374320_n

“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.

10906042_10205020179456536_5971510320610020381_n

“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.

IMG_3298

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.

96879068-voxnzv2r-elmopba-copy

“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.

12400599_10207492215135883_3702344514445128739_n

“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.

AutumnRollei

“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.

220070_1827617142546_4681203_o

“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!

540987_3777137519337_284751960_n

“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.

imgrolleimom265

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

imgrolleinakhonam2128

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

113563082-g8hyksrw-rolxzoebookiipbase

“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! 🙂

6a015391111a47970b017615e4d207970c

“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! 🙂

IMG_3306SC_38C_53

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.

Throwback Thursday March 9, 2017 Edition

SonyDE

In 2006, at the long defunct Circuit City checking out the new and highly promoted Sony A100, a 10.2mp DSLR.

Hey guys and girls? In 2006, were you already into photography? If so I’m sure you can relate when I say that 2006 was a very exciting year for digital photography gear.

One of the many items causing that excitment was the release of the Sony A100 (Alpha 100), the first DSLR to be marketed under the Sony brand after their acquisition of the camera division from Konica Minolta.

At that time, I remember opinions being split as to whether Sony’s attempt to become a big player in the camera world would succeed or fail. I was one of those who thought they might succeed. Why? It was a natural. Take Minolta’s experience and resources, as well as their manufacturing, take some of Minolta’s most brilliant engineers back it up with Sony’s money and vast electronics technology and you have more than a good chance of having a winner.

And for those who felt Sony’s venture might fail? I can see the points too; Minolta and later Konica Minolta weren’t exactly setting the world on fire with their cameras in 2006. There were some good, even great ones to be sure, but KM was sort of like a middle of the road camera company. They had their devotees, but they just didn’t have what it takes to win over the masses. Sony coming in seemed like it was a union headed for a heartbreak. And if that was the case, it would probably have dissolved fast.

It was uncertain, but exciting times for Sony’s camera division and for us gearheads. However, the A100 itself wasn’t all that exciting to me. Not saying this in a bad way, but the A100 and indeed many of the earlier Sony models that followed were pretty much a straight continuation of Konica Minolta cameras, save for the Sony logo and Sony support. Since I was already familiar with the Minolta DSLR’s such as the Konica Minolta 5D and 7D, I knew what to expect, thus it wasn’t as exciting for me being a mostly Canon/Nikon man at that time.

Oh yeah, I also had the Minolta 7D at that time and I thought it was a fantastic camera. Though the A100 bested it with its 10.2mp resolution, the 6mp was better built, had better ergonomics and provided superb results when used with a good lens.

The A100 is said to have the same or a variation of the same Sony sensor that was also used in a few of its competitors at the time, most notably the Nikon D200 and the Pentax K10D. The main internal differences would probably have to do with in-camera processing, of which each manufacturer does a little differently.

The A100 provided good files, though I felt the images were a tad on the soft side if not processed, and I felt it the images had a slightly cold/blue shift whereas the Nikon D200 had those warm Nikon tones. Please excuse me if my memory is a bit murky on this after ten years 🙂

Anyway, the camera was generally good, but not good enough for me so I returned it to B&H within their return window for a refund.

A little over ten years later, Sony’s big Konica Minolta purchase seems to have paid off. I don’t think they’re at their goal of being number three behind Canon and Nikon, but I do know they’re in the top ten and while cameras like the A100 inititally started as Minolta in a Sony badge, their cameras today are far beyond, carrying Sony into the forefront of camera and camera sensor technology.

Cameras like the A7R series, A7S, A99/A99II, A6000/A6500 have taken Sony and camera technology far into the future with the things they can do. I’ll have some reviews on some specific Sony cameras in the future, but for today I just want to appreciate how Sony’s cameras have evolved and to appreciate that, look no further than the Sony A100 of 2006. It was indeed the first shot in a long and continuing war for domination of the digital camera market. A shot that may someday lead to a win.

 

 

 

Time Machine Part I: Portraits Then & Now

photo

From left, Zoe in 2008 vs Zay in 2016.

For your Throwback Thursday, we take a ride in the Time Machine.

First we go back to 2008. At the time I was smitten by the Leica 50mm f/2 Summar, an old Leica ltm mount lens. I had just gotten it off ebay for under $100. The glass was advertised as having some light haze, but otherwise ok.

When I received it, I was not expecting much as the Summar is known to be a “soft” lens in the Leica lineage. I know Leicaphiles are a passionate bunch and I can hear some say, “Oh no, my Summar is not soft, it is very sharp!”

Hey, I am not debating you. When I say the Summar is “soft” I say that in relative terms. It may be sharper than other lenses of that era or it may be sharp stopped down, but that’s not the point. In general use, wide open or shot near a strong light source, the lens does not have modern coatings/corrections that would prevent abberations from showing up. And as a Leica fan myself, I actually like the fact that it’s a “soft” lens.

But the fact that it was a near seventy year old lens at the time I got it, I had realistic expectations. However, when I tried it on my Epson R-D1, I was awestruck by the beauty of the images it provided.

Sure, if you’re not careful, the lens can flare and produce a soft veil of haze around your subjects, but if some care is taken with regards to your light source, it can produce images that I would say had that distinct but undefinable Leica “glow.”

Since that time, I have come to rely on a 50mm f/2 Summicron as my go to lens for Leica. However, I will pop the Summar every now and then for portraits.

Flash-Forward to eight years later, 2016…

The photo of Zay was taken with…an iPhone 6s Plus! The baby smiles instinctively, unaware of any camera, regardless of brand or type, and even unaware of the Gerber baby food all over her mouth 🙂

While I will admit that the iPhone 6s is perfectly capable of much better images than this one, nonetheless, I will stand by what I’ve told people for a long time. If you want to make nice portraits, and you want to do it cheap, all you need is a good 6mp camera and a 50mm lens. It doesn’t have to be a rangefinder like the R-D1. Just get a Nikon D70 or Canon Rebel and a 50mm f/1.8 and you will have a very fine portrait machine.

So what have we learned in eight years? Well, for one, the phone cameras today are amazingly capable. In 2008, I don’t think I’d rely on my first generation iPhone for anything but snaps. Heck even today, I just use my 6s for snaps, but I do know if I needed better than snaps I can do it with this phone. But my main use of the iPhone today is to take HD videos for my own records.

So many wonderful things you can do with today’s phone cameras! However, the one thing they can’t do well, due to the laws of optics, is they can’t produce a lot of good bokeh, simply due to the smaller sensors inside. However, it seems the new iPhone 7 aims to change this by “creating” Bokeh in their “Portrait” mode. I’ve seen some samples and some look great, some so-so. I’m not sure though if I really like the concept of fake bokeh. Not that it wouldn’t be useful to some, but for me I think that once you have fake bokeh as a norm, what’s next? Fake backgrounds? Fake locations? You get my drift? Soon the whole photo will become fake and what’s the point then?

Anyway back to the topic at hand, I’ve also learned that I still love my old school gear such as the R-D1, which today would be considered “Classic Digital” and of course a Camera Legend.

I’m fascinated with time, time travel, “Time Machine” and anything else having to do with our perceptions of time, so look out for more “Time Machine” installments.

I’ve also learned that two babies can definitely be very different from each other! Sure we all know that as kids grow up, they become their own people with unique personalities. What I didn’t think of was that even at the baby stage, my two girls are as different as night and day, but at the same time, beautiful and similarly sweet.

Have a great Thursday folks, the week is almost over. If you’ve gotten something for your tax returns, maybe time for some new toys 🙂

Recent Items February 2017

img_2864niccac_33

I know I work at a snail’s pace and maybe slower than a snail, and I apologize for that, but as you can see I’m certainly not in it for the glory. As I said many times, there is no glory to this blogging thing! Well, at least not for me anyway 🙂

As you can see from the photo above, I’ve managed to find another Nicca 5L / Tower 46 rangefinder. This time I have paired it up with a 5cm f/2 Leica Summtar that I’ve had for a long time. I have film in it now and the results from this combo will be interesting for me to see and hopefully the mystery camera will not be such a mystery any more.

11188258_10204194442997457_9145581437923328529_n

Flashback Friday: Baby Zay at two months old. Canon EOS 5D Classic, EF 50mm f/1.8 II.

The photo above was Baby Zay’s first sit down portrait attempt at two months old in 2015. In a couple of days, she will turn two years old. My friend, does the time fly or what? Allow me to post just a few more of her photos in the next few days in celebration.

I can totally understand if you have “Baby Burnout.” You see, before I became a father, I was never a fan of baby pictures. I thought they were cute but boring. After I had my children, I’ve found beauty in the photos from a father’s perspective, but I can certainly remember my pre-father days 🙂

I can also appreciate more now what it takes to get good shots of your infants, toddlers, and tweens. It requires timing, patience, and practice and coming from a street photography background I truly believe taking photos of the kids has honed my street skills.

At first they seem to have nothing to do with each other, kids and street photography, but in reality they complement each other well just as Country and classic Soul music seem a world apart, yet they are so similar in many, many ways.

imgklassewzfzc125cc

“Pool Sharks” 2016. Fuji Klasse W, 28mm f/2.8 Fujinon, Arista EDU 400 in D76.

Right now I’m looking at images from a Fuji Klasse W, which is the “wide” 28mm version of the Klasse film camera in preparation for some kind of review on this beautiful point and shoot. The above is a crop from a larger, wider image and the Fujinon lens is very sharp, retaining fine details.

r0014885

“UGG Enviable” 2016. Ricoh GR Digital 8.1mp. Yes, I still use my original, from 2006, GRD. This was shot using the 21mm add on lens. Sure there’s some distortion. Still love it though!

Found a new “ugly” building off the West Side Highway in Manhattan. Why do they build these things?! Will we ever get new classics in the shape of the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building? I’m afraid this is the new face of NYC.

dsc_0886

“Happiness.” Nikon D700, 60mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor. Baby Zayda is all smiles as she approaches two years of age.

I recently procured another D700 which was had very cheaply because the camera had over 200K shots on it. In 2008, I had a D700 when they first came out which I later sold to fund a D3 which was also sold. Both cameras used the same 12mp sensor.

Though Nikon has released numerous full-frame models since that era, I’ve always loved the sensor in the D3/D300 cameras. The new models are better to be sure, but I’ve never felt the need for anything more from a DSLR than what I got from the D3/D700 sensors. It was a sweet spot for full frame I think.

The Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 Micro has got to be one of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever used. Mine was had cheaply in “UG” condition from KEH, which means there’s some defect they found in it, but if there were any optical defects, I certainly didn’t see it. The above image looks like it was shot with flash, but it wasn’t. That was the beauty of the D700 sensor when mated with a good lens, it’s alive and vibrant just like Baby Zay here. Happiness is a Nikon D700!

With Nikon’s recent financial woes, I would say, go out there and buy some Nikon right now! Support Nikon. After losing Rollei, we cannot let another one of photography’s greatest names go down! And no, I get no kickbacks from Nikon though I wouldn’t mind if they did give me some, but I know they cannot afford superfluous spending at this time 🙂

Alright, I wish you all a great weekend!

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

img_2191_77niccac

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! 🙂

imgbroniwwzoe1832_222c

“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.

 

78021490-rigc1bxn-whousepba

“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!

bangkok-traffic1

“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

imgprominentsamnokton103c

“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.

6samnikonmirror

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

The Digital Harinezumi Guru (Final 2011 Special Edition)

cldigharinezumicc

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.

Degi Hari

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?

cdigharinezumizc

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

Degi Hari

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

Degi Hari

“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.

cdighargbc

“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.

pict0155zayc_237

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

cdigharinezumizayc

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.

Degi Hari

“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.

Degi Hari

“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