Photo Of The Day: “Don’t Worry Be Happy”

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I said to Baby Girl here…Hey, could you at least TRY to look happy for the photo? 🙂

This photo was taken with the Nikon D1, 2.65mp DSLR from 1999. The lens was the even older 35-70mm f/2.8 AF-D Nikkor. I was out testing some new equipment, but the best shot I got that day was from this old school classic.

Looking on some of my own postings, I could see where some may think I lean more towards Canon, but in fact, I’ve always swayed equally between the two giants, Canon and Nikon.

I’ve loved the D1 since I first read about it in 1999. Since then, I must’ve had about five of these bodies! Nuts!

No, it’s not going to beat your 36mp or 42mp cameras, I’m not that crazy. All I’m saying is I have a soft spot for the D1. It is a true digital Camera Legend and I love it! Maybe one day I’ll do a write-up on it. Hope you enjoy the extra hour this weekend. Happy Sunday!

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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.

UPDATE: One of our readers kindly pointed out that “Rollei” still makes digital medium format cameras.

https://rolleiflex.us/blogs/news-tech-tips-updates/factory-visit-summer-2016-yes-they-are-still-in-business

I’m glad to know this, although I do stand by my statement of the Rollei “as we know it” being gone. However, if the folks running Rollei now can return it to its glory, I’ll be the happiest guy here! Thanks for the information!

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.

Happy New Year 2017!!

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

 

The Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim Film Camera

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The Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim and its virtual clone, the Superheadz Yellow Peace. Cult camera favorites of toy camera fanatics.

The Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim is 35mm point and shoot film camera made by Sunpet Industries of China and distributed by Vivitar under their own name. The camera has an almost exact clone from Superheadz in different colors and different nicknames.

The actual year of manufacture is unknown or undocumented. At least, I cannot find it in my research. I suspect it was made in the 1990s or late 1980s.

The Ultra Wide & Slim is an all plastic camera with a plastic lens and low quality build. However, the camera has achieved cult camera popularity primarily due to its 22mm f/11 “Ultra Wide” lens which is unusual for a fixed focus point and shoot, even today.

As a camera, the Vivitar “UWS” has only one aperture, f/11 and only one shutter speed, 1/125. This makes it primarily usable as a daylight camera using higher speed film.

This was and is intended to be a cheap camera. However, the camera has become very popular with the toy camera, Holga, Lomography, etc, crowd for whom lens distortion, light leaks, and imperfect photos are much desired.

If you love cameras as much as I do, you’re bound to collect some cameras that you have yet to use. This is one (or two) of them!

Actually, I did get a roll of film through the Superheadz but when I developed the film the whole roll came out black. I’m not ashamed to admit that it was probably my mistake in development. I added too much water to Ilford ID-11 which is not a developer I use often, though some say D76 (which I have used often) is the same. However, I’m can’t be 100 percent sure if it was me or the camera so I will try again.

Any camera with a 22mm lens is bound to give you some very dynamic looking photos and I don’t mind the flaws, especially for the price. If you know what to expect, you won’t be disappointed.

If seeking one of these, prices used to be very cheap, but now is trending at $25-50 for the Vivitar in used condition, and from $24-60 for the Superheadz version, price dependent on the model and seller. For example, the black version called the “Slim Devil” runs near $40 from most sellers. You may find a good selection of the Superheadz version HERE.

I got my Vivitar on eBay for under $10 and paid $25 new for my “Yellow Peace” Superheadz clone. These cameras probably cost a few bucks to make, so even buying it for $25 is probably too much in principle. But since we don’t make these cameras (and no one else does) we have no choice 🙂

Don’t go too crazy with these cameras. As I said, they were intended to be cheap and fun cameras, but now some may argue that they are Camera Legends in the toy camera department. Take that out of your head, they ARE cheap cameras. Try to find one cheap! 🙂

***DEAL ALERT***

One great thing about Spring, other than the weather, are all the photographic deals going on. Some great deals and savings on Nikon Lenses are going on right now. If you’re going to buy, please buy through the link and help support this site. I greatly appreciate it, thanks!

Fujifilm Instax Mini Instant Film, 10 Sheets x 5 packs

Olympus has a very cool Trade Up program where you can trade in virtually any used camera and get monetary value towards the purchase of new Olympus gear including the OM-D series and the awesome new Pen cameras.

Tuesday Titans: The Contax 645

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The almighty Contax 645 and 80mm f/2 Carl Zeiss lens. I took this shot when I had to sell this dream combo. Perhaps one of the greatest camera systems ever made?

Wow, what can I say about this one?

The Contax 645 is a Medium Format autofocus film camera introduced by Kyocera in 1999. It was part of their 645 system, an ambitious foray in the (then) professional portrait and wedding world where medium format was king.

I got the Contax 645 in 2008 and had the pleasure of using it for a few years, but eventually had to sell it. I’d always say that I would only sell this camera if I had to pay the rent. Guess what? I had to pay the rent 🙂

I had actually gotten the camera initially because I had done a couple of weddings, was thinking of going down the weekend weddings path, and was thinking of adding something different and unique to my wedding portraits. Looking back now, it was just another excuse for G.A.S. but man, if you have to have an excuse for another camera, the Contax 645 is IT!!

I apologize for not having more photos of the camera. When I sold it years back, I never thought I’d be writing about it one day on a blog 🙂

This is by no means a complete review of the Contax 645, just my memory and experience with it. I do have photos made with this camera and will be updating this article, once I can rescan and put them together. I couldn’t write enough to do the camera justice.

THE CONTAX 645 BODY

The Contax 645 is a modular system with removable backs, prisms, and lenses. You can even add a nice (but expensive) accessory battery holder/vertical grip (the MP-1).

The body when fitted with AE prism and film back feels very solid and is as beautiful to look at, as it is to shoot. The viewfinder is beautifully bright and contrasty. I believe there was actually a waist-level finder for this camera.

From the shooter’s perspective, the top right of the camera contains the shutter speed (32-1/4000 in AV mode) and exposure compensation dials. The mode (B/X/M/TV/AV) dial and AE lock is also located on the top right.

The left side does not have a top “plate” so to speak, but it contains the dial for drive (single or continuous at 1.6 fps). The camera runs on one 2CR5 battery, but can run on four AA batteries with the optional MP-1 grip.

The Contax 645 is still popular with wedding and portrait photographers today due to its ability to use compatible digital backs and if you’ve got this setup, this would be the ultimate digital portrait system in my view.

PERFORMANCE

Ergonomically, I had no complaints. It’s a Contax and all the controls are well laid out. It’s one of those cameras I could use without a manual and that to me is always a sign of a good camera.

The Contax 645 is an autofocus camera and unlike the Contax AX 35mm camera I wrote about, the AF on the 645 is quite good and definitely usable.

While there were quite a few lenses for the 645 system, I only used the 80mm f/2 Zeiss Planar so I speak only to my experience with the camera and this lens. I do not know how it performed with any other Contax lenses.

It was not an EOS or Nikon speed demon, but I did not remember having issues with it, except in very low light conditions. I think you’d be fine with this for those wonderful outdoor wedding portraits.

The 80mm f/2 Zeiss Planar is one of the fastest lenses available in the 645 format. I believe only the manual focus Mamiya 80mm f/1.9 was faster.

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The lens, as expected, made for wonderful portraits. The lens was beautiful wide open for portraits with bokeh that seemed much smoother than other Zeiss lenses I have used. Perhaps it was the extra shallow DOF that you can get with medium format, but the bokeh on this lens was not quite as “nervous” as the Zeiss lenses I have used in the 35mm format.


BOTTOM LINE

If you’ve ever read any of my articles on Contax, you will know that while I love Contax cameras, I’ve always blasted their electronics as brittle and unreliable.

I’m happy to report that in the three or four years that I had the Contax 645, I never had that problem. Oh, there was one time when the camera started focusing erratically, but it turned out that it just needed a new battery.

It seemed to me that Kyocera put everything they could into making the Contax 645 the best camera that they could make.

The Contax 645 is a highly desirable camera. With its usable AF system, and an arsenal of superlative Carl Zeiss lenses, it is an incredibly capable image maker. To this day, it is considered one of the premier systems in all of medium format photography. It is a camera that can take film or modern digital backs making it versatile enough for the old school film die-hard or the modern digital artist.

The Contax 645 is without a doubt a Camera Legend and perhaps one of the greatest cameras ever made.

WHERE TO BUY?

If you’re thinking about a Contax 645, I have to burst your bubble a little bit and say that with Kyocera out of the camera business, buying a Contax 645 is a bit of a risky gamble.

The reason for this is that if something goes wrong with the camera, Kyocera’s contact in the USA, Tocad, will no longer repair them. I’m not sure who does.

The good (or somewhat good) news is that there are not many reports of these cameras needing repair, just do a search. However, as these cameras approach twenty years on the market, they are getting older and as with any camera, there’s bound to be many ready for retirement or in need of repair.

I would imagine that since the camera is incredibly popular with pros, there should be someone or some place out there repairing these cameras. But in my research, I haven’t found any. I believe they still repair them in Japan, but I will have to do more research.

When I got the Contax 645 in 2008, I paid $1200 for the whole outfit with 80mm f/2 lens, film back, and AE prism. A complete outfit in the same excellent condition today runs for $3000 or more. I’m glad I sold it when I did and made a little profit from the sale 🙂

A Mamiya 645 AF or AFD system is probably a better alternative if you are looking for a similar medium format system that will still be supported.

Now, if you still have your heart set on the Contax 645 Kit (body, 80mm lens, AE prism, back) is trending at $3000-3500. I have seen the kit on eBay with the 45mm f/2.8 Zeiss lens going for around $2300.

For this camera, with its delicate electronics, I would definitely recommend buying from a place with a good returns policy. For that you may try HERE and HERE.

INSTAX cameras on Sale

GoPro HERO on Sale

 

 

 

 

Breaking News: The Pentax K-1 Full-Frame Digital

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The K-1 full frame digital camera, the new “King Of Pentax.” Pictured with the HD Pentax-D 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM WR lens. Pure Pentax heaven! Picture courtesy of Ricoh/Pentax Corporation.

Ho! I thought I was on a week long sabbatical but this one is a must! Ricoh/Pentax has finally introduced their full-frame digital called, appropriately the K-1.

Just from looking at the specs, key features: 36.4mp CMOS sensor, no AA filter (better sharpness), built in 5-axis stabilization, ISO 204,800, 1080p 24/30fps HD video, rugged build and tilting screen. Of course, there’s a lot more to it.

All the cameras we have today are like super computers in many ways. They have like gazillion features and you know I’m not the kind of guy who wants to repeat all the technical specs. If you’re interest in the technicalities you can read them HERE.

I’m sure there will be a lot of Pentax fanatics who will be picking this thing up. In fact, I KNOW some fanatics who will be looking hard at this one 🙂

THOUGHTS ON THE PENTAX K-1

Everything seems right with this camera. Specs are great, however things seem familiar. 36.4 megapixels? Hmm, probably that Sony sensor we saw in the Nikon D800/D800E and Sony A7R. No AA filter? Cool, seems like everyone is doing away with that “wicked” AA filter that used to be so important for the first fifteen years of digital. ISO 204,800? Cool, but I never go anywhere near that ISO so I wouldn’t know.

I guess what I’m saying is…the specs are great, awesome even, but many of these things we have seen since 2012 so it’s not mind-blowing anymore (to me anyway). Nothing against Pentax, as I’ve said a few times before, it’s really hard for me to get excited about the latest and greatest these days. But I love the build and handling of the top Pentax cameras and this one looks to be the best of the best.

PentaxK01C

“Pentax Camera Art.” Before the K-1, we had a funky little thang called the K-01! Wow, what a close call with the names 🙂

Despite what I said about the specs, the main thing that we should remember is that while the rest of the world have seen these high specs before elsewhere, Pentax users have not had these specs till now so this is enough reason for Pentaxians to rejoice.

And heck, based the fact that all your Pentax lenses in the 35mm format can now be used as they were intended and even based on the specs as they are, this could probably be the only Pentax digital anyone could ever want or need! Here’s a cool and interesting video on the new K-1:

As I said in an article not too long ago, many have waited for this day since we heard about the Pentax MZ-D in 2000. The first full-frame Pentax digital that never was. Today, nearly sixteen years later they have officially announced the K-1. Whether it succeeds or fails this camera is bound to be a Camera Legend. All I can say is…Pentax, thank you.

Note: The Pentax K-1 was introduced with three new lenses. You can check out all the specs to the K-1 and see the new lenses HERE.

WHOA, WAIT A MINUTE, THERE’S ALSO THE CANON EOS 80D 

I didn’t put this in the headlines because I didn’t want to take anything away from the Pentax K-1, which many have waited so long for and is in a different league of cameras, but I’m sure many Canon fans will be happy to hear that there’s a new “enthusiast-class” body out, the EOS 80D.

Just quickly off the specs: new 24mp sensor, 45 point AF, updated dual-pixel AF, mirror vibration control.

I don’t really want to get too much into it, but I’m sure it’s going to be a killer little camera.

You can check out the specs HERE.