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.

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“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.

Celebrating Ten Years Of JuJu

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JuJu @ Six Months. 2006. Nikon D1X. Cannot remember the lens, it just shows as 300mm on the exif viewer. A straight jpeg from the D1X, no treatment done. Although it was only 5mps, I really loved the D1X!

No “Tuesday Titans” today. Instead, we are celebrating a “titan” of our personal world. He is the first kid of the new generation of our family. Today, we celebrate my nephew JuJu who just turned ten recently. He was, in a way, my first beta tester for so many of the cameras that came into my possession in the years following his birth. Thanks for joining me in the celebration and for my fellow gear heads, take comfort in the captions which will reveal some the cool cameras used during this ten year period. Happy Birthday JuJu!! 🙂

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“Boy From NYC” 2006. Bessa R3a, CV 40mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic, Kodak BW400CN. I had just fixed the rangefinder on this camera, it was the first rangefinder adjustment I’d ever done. Shortly thereafter, I sold this camera, but now looking at the results from this combo, I kinda regret it!

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“Order & Chaos” 2009. Olympus Pen FT, Zuiko 35mm f/2.8 Pancake lens, Kodak Tri-X 400 developed in T-Max developer. Two frames from the half frame Pen FT camera showing how order can turn into chaos in a minute 🙂

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“My Brother’s Keepers” 2014. Nikon D1X, 35mm f/2.4 MIR Russian lens.

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“Rockabilly Ju” 2013. Fuji X-Pro 1, Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 Aspherical lens. JuJu rocks around the clock! 🙂

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“Happy” 2014. Panasonic DMC-GF1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7 ASPH lens. Go ahead people, clap along if you feel like a room without a roof! 🙂

 

Tuesday Titans: The Mighty Minolta XK Motor

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The Legendary Minolta XK Motor of 1976. Sorry for this funky Instagram pic, I’ll probably replace it 🙂

Hi everybody. Let’s start 2016 off with a bang with this ultra-rare Camera Legend, where info is scarce even on the best Minolta/Rokkor sites…

Somewhere in the deep, dark corridors of my camera memory lurks a giant. A giant that frightened and fascinated me at the same time. That giant is the Minolta XK Motor.

The XK Motor is a 35mm SLR introduced by Minolta in 1976. It was marketed as a professional camera and was Minolta’s answer to the Canon F-1 and Nikon F/F2.

The XK Motor is ultra-rare and hard to find in today’s market.

MY MEMORIES AND DREAMS OF THE MINOLTA XK MOTOR

As a kid, I still remember seeing this gigantic brute of a camera in magazine articles and ads. It was a camera that seemed frighteningly large, muscular, and complicated to a young boy. Yet at the same time, for a skinny young kid, this camera’s muscular build signaled “power” in my mind.

I wanted it bad, but I knew I’d never get one. Or so I thought…


HOW I CAME ACROSS THE MINOLTA XK MOTOR CAMERA

Fast forward some thirty plus years. About four years ago in 2012, I saw two XK Motors listed on KEH Camera in BGN (bargain) condition, priced at about $500 each. Right away, knowing the rarity of these cameras, I had to get one!

Fortunately, it was one of those rare times when I actually had enough in the bank. Sure it still hurt to part with $500, but hey man, this was the Minolta XK Motor! Gotta have it! 🙂

So I got one, and if I had the funds, I’d probably have gotten the other too, but I didn’t have any funds left and it quickly went to someone else.

Though I can’t check 24/7, I do check KEH’s site fairly often. I’ve never seen the XK Motor before or since on KEH’s site. My theory is someone sold these two from their collection to KEH and it quickly went up for sale.

THE XK MOTOR BODY

When I first got the camera, I was in awe. This thing was solid, heavy, and just as in my dreams, seemingly powerful.

The body feels blocky, much like other cameras of its time such as its slated competitors, the Nikon F/F2 and the Canon F-1.

Unlike those two cameras, the motor drive is permanently attached on the XK Motor. The motor drive was capable of a (then) “high” of 3.5 frames per second at its top speed.

The camera required two EPX-76 or S-76 alkaline or silver batteries for the body and ten, count ’em, TEN AA batteries for that motor drive. With batteries installed, this camera got heavy fast!

The camera had electronic shutter speeds of 16 seconds to 1/2000th of a second and mechanical shutter speeds of 1/100 and B.

ISSUES

Shortly after I got the XK Motor, I realized it is not without issues. While my first roll of film went off without a hitch, I quickly realized there was one glaring achilles heel (or heels in this case) with this giant.

That fault is…the battery clips that hold the epic ten batteries are brittle and worse, they eventually break rendering the great “motor” portion of the camera virtually useless. They broke off on both sides of my XK Motor and believe me I did not do anything rough to cause it.

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“Chipped Clips” The battery clip issue is the main thing that ruined my XK Motor experience. If seeking one of these cameras, be aware that this is an unfortunately common thing with these cameras.

And if that wasn’t enough, trying to find a replacement for these clips is harder than finding a needle in a haystack!

Sure, I have tried the old fashioned method of taping the broken clips. As you can see from the pics, that is exactly what I did but it didn’t work well. The tape would eventually come off and one time the battery compartment on one side got incredibly hot and I had to quickly remove the batteries for fear of fire.

If you think the broken battery clips were just my error, take a look at this link from KEH BLOG from 2011.

They had an XM Motor for sale in EX+ condition for $1950 with one catch…”battery door broken” 🙂

WHY I SOLD THE XK MOTOR

I recently sold this camera to a private buyer who was willing to buy it as is for the same price I bought it for. The great thing about these old legendary cameras is that you could almost always sell them without much of a loss.

It may seem unscrupulous to sell the camera in worse condition for the same price I bought it, but these babies are rare and the last one I saw was on eBay where it was sold as a parts camera. Bidding went over $500, so I definitely think I gave a fair price.

It became an unusable paperweight for me and the climax of a dream that became a nightmare.

This camera could have easily become one of my “Best Cameras I Never Knew” but it’s such a rare camera that I was honored to have had a chance to hold and use one in the flesh, fulfilling one of my childhood fantasies.

X-1 XK XM DIFFERENCES

There is actually a non motor driven version of this camera. The ones sold is the USA are known as the XK and known elsewhere around the world as the XM or X-1.

While the XK Motor is ultra-rare, the standard XK/XM/X-1 are not as rare. Many people mistakenly buy these thinking they are the XK Motor, but they are not, and they do not command the same high prices.

Cool you say, couldn’t I just buy an old motor drive and turn my XK/XM/X-1 into an XK Motor? In theory, you could’ve, but sorry there was no motor drive option for these cameras which is one of the reasons the XK Motor still holds its place among the Camera Legends of Minolta.

BOTTOM LINE

The Minolta XK Motor was a dream camera for a young boy that turned into hard reality for a grown man.

It was Minolta’s answer to the Canon F-1 and Nikon F/F2. Unlike the Canons and Nikons, the Minolta XK Motor had one glaring and seemingly incomprehensible fault…weak battery clips!

Despite their ability to make some of the world’s finest cameras and lenses, there IS a reason why Minolta never made it to the top in the world of Canon and Nikon pro bodies. A flaw such as weak battery clips is totally unacceptable for a professional grade body such as this.

If you search the internet for the XK Motor, you will find precious little information from actual users. You will not see much on the battery clip issue either. Why? Because there is not much info on this camera in general, it’s that rare.

In usable form, the Minolta XK Motor is a dream camera to hold and use. It was a culmination of Minolta’s dream to rule the professional camera world. It was a dream ruined by flawed execution, but that doesn’t matter in the end. The Minolta XK Motor represented the power of Minolta and what could have been. It is, without a doubt, a Camera Legend.

WHERE TO BUY?

If looking for an XK Motor, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, prices are very hard to calculate due to its rarity on the market.

I got mine for $500 at KEH Camera in Bargain condition. But they also had one five years back in EX+ condition for $1950. The last one I saw on eBay was an “as is” parts camera which went for over $500 in 2013.

So I would say in pristine working condition, these cameras could easily fetch anywhere from $1500-2000 and maybe more.

If you want a taste of the XK Motor without using a fine toothed comb, you could easily get the ‘regular’ XK/XM/X-1. Prices for these can go anywhere from $50-300. I would not pay more than $100 for one. In fact, I got one of these for $56 bucks! 🙂

Note: I do have pics from my test roll with this camera and the 50mm f/1.2 Rokkor. But it’s not on a hard drive, it’s on a photo CD and I can’t find it. I do not think these test pics are worthy of your time, but I am still looking for them and may or may not post them. But it is proof that at one time, the Mighty XK Motor worked and gave me some nice pics!

 

Camera Spotting Part I

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Spotted this Sony A6000 while walking around Best Buy. Wow, this camera looked so much better in silver/black than I thought it would! I personally find silver digital cameras a little cheesy looking, but this one is HOT! 🙂

I was going to do this one as a Flashback Friday post, but I really can’t because these are not “flashback” cameras. Instead, they are very current cameras that are riding on this “retro” trend that we have seen in the past few years. Anyway, I am not in the market for these cameras at the moment, but I liked seeing them.

Have you seen a camera at a shop or hanging on someone’s neck that really caught your eye? If so, I would sure love to hear about it or drop me a link to your photo pages.

I hope to expand this series in upcoming postings. Have a good weekend my friends 🙂

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Spotted a new Canon G9X is silver/orange trim. Cool and funky and indeed “dramatically different.”

SOME NEW CAMERA DEALS

Our friends at Adorama passed along some current deals they are having. Just quickly running through them, I said, wow wish I had the money. Especially on that G16, that’s a very nice price for a hot camera!

Some serious savings in here if you’re in the market for any of this stuff. I’m just going to pass along the information as I got it:

Canon PowerShot G16 Compact Digital Camera Bundle

$249 after $350 MIR

CANON G16.

This is quite a deal, every other place has the G16 for at least $379!

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Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

$399 after rebate

Canon EOS Rebel T5i and EF-S 18-55mm Kit.

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Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

$599 after Rebate

Canon T5i and EF-S 18-135mm Kit.

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Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

+ Canon EF 75-300mm lens

$399 after rebate

Canon SL1 with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 STM.

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Free Assassin’s Creed Syndicate & 32GB Evo+ MicroSD Card with the Purchase of Select Samsung SSD Drives.

Black Friday pricing is still active on the SSD’s!

Link to all:

Free Assassin’s Creed Syndicate & 32GB Evo+ MicroSD Card with the Purchase of Select Samsung SSD Drives.

Free Shipping. Expires Sunday 12/06

Hope some of you can take advantage of these savings!

Pocket Power Phone: The Nokia Lumia 1020 41mp Cell Phone Camera

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The Nokia Lumia 1020 cell phone from 2013. “Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” Mae West might have said of the yellow Nokia 1020 with all of its 41 megapixel glory 🙂

It may seem out of place on this site where classic film and digital cameras are profiled but as the first cell phone camera with a headline grabbing 41 megapixels, the Nokia Lumia 1020 is actually a perfect fit here.

The Lumia 1020 was introduced in 2013 as a modern day smartphone that runs on Windows 8. It has a touch screen and is capable of doing almost anything else a phone from 2013 could do. Its main distinction from the competition was that the phone held a 41 megapixel sensor inside. Yes, 41 megapixels in a cell phone! In 2013, that was more megapixels than almost any consumer camera on the market, point and shoot or DSLR.

To keep the record straight, the Nokia 808 Pureview was the first Nokia with a 41 megapixel sensor. However, it ran on the Symbian operating system which a lot of people don’t know about, and this probably kept a lot of people away. The 1020 aimed to go after the market that the 808 missed.

When I first heard about this phone, I was interested in it, as any gadget freak would be. However, as a photographer and lover of traditional cameras, I was more than a little skeptical.

AS A CAMERA

The Nokia 1020 has a 41 megapixel sensor, a 4.5″ display, and a 26mm f/2.2 Carl Zeiss lens and optical stabilization. Just on those specs alone, it sounds killer!

The camera does have a front facing camera as well, but that one only does 1.2 megapixels of resolution.

While the camera does have a 41mp sensor inside for the main camera, the actual highest resolution that the camera churns out is about 38mp. Due to slight cropping from the aspect ratios available, some pixels are lost. There may be more to this technically, but that’s how I understand it. However, 38mp is close enough to 41mp that you’d not likely notice the missing 3 megapixels 🙂

Hey listen, I won’t claim to understand all the thingamajigger behind this technology. Wiki has an excellent page on it and there are other reviews out there that can explain it much better than I can.

For easy file sharing, the 1020 uses an over-sampling technology where the 41 megapixel images are reduced to a 5 megapixel files without loss of quality. You can get the full resolution of the camera when using Nokia’s photo transfer app.

As a camera, it is very slow. The shot to shot time, the AF, the shutter lag. All slow. You will not be taking any action shots with this camera, even at low resolution.

If you hit the “shutter” icon, it will sometimes miss its target while focusing. The best way I have found to get consistently sharp shots with the 1020 is to first tap the screen at your target to achieve focus, then hit the shutter. This will give you many more sharp shots than just hitting the shutter “button” and because the camera is slow anyway, you’re not really going to lose any more time doing it this way.

There is a definite lag between shots, reminds me a lot of the lag time in old digital point and shoot cameras.

AS A PHONE

Don’t ask. I don’t use it as a phone. I use my iPhone which is definitely more intuitive to me. I was going to say the Nokia “sucks” as a phone, but that might be unfair! Just so you know that I’m not an Apple fanboy and I don’t hate Nokia, fifteen years ago, in the early days of mass consumer cell phones, Nokia was my choice 🙂

The phone has a dual-core 1.5ghz processor, 32gb of mass memory and 4G LTE according to the official specs.

Battery life is not great and it seems to get worse over time. I’ve had the phone for over a year now and I find myself charging it more frequently. I can’t really give you numbers because everyone uses their phone differently. This is not my main phone, I don’t make phone calls or play games with it, I just use it as a camera. With sporadic usage, a charge will last about a day or so just to give you an idea.

IMAGE QUALITY

At its best, the Nokia 1020 gives an impressive output. At full resolution, images are very crisp and has amazing detail. But that’s “at its best” which means just like the Sony A7R or any high resolution camera, you don’t see the advantage all the time, especially if you’re just taking quick snapshots.

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“Baby’s Nest” 2015. Nokia Lumia 1020. This image shows some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Nokia 1020. On one hand it’s colorful and sharp. On the other hand, you can see the clipped and unrecoverable highlights on the sweater showing the camera’s limited dynamic range. I believe the casual viewer would not see anything objectionable with this image. As for the subject, I was walking around when I found a baby chickadee on the foot of a giant tree! 🙂

And unlike the A7R or its siblings, the images do not hold up as well at 100 percent, and I did not expect it to. Apples and oranges. You have to be realistic; I mean this is a cell phone camera with a small high resolution sensor. Not to degrade the 1020, it’s an amazing cell phone camera, but it is still a cell phone camera. The A7R is a true digital camera with a high resolution full-frame sensor. The Nokia costs roughly $180 give or take, the Sony costs $1800 give or take! Be realistic with your expectations and you will love the Nokia 🙂

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“Autumn Legs” 2015. Nokia Lumia 1020. The Nokia Lumia is capable of very colorful images. This one was tweaked and may be a little too funky! I am no longer using Photoshop and am still trying to hone my post processing skills on a new program, please forgive me 🙂

Ok, so it doesn’t hold up well against a high end full frame camera. How does it do against a high quality point and shoot like the Ricoh GR (16mp) or Sony RX100? I find that at 100 percent, the images from the two cameras mentioned look better than the Nokia. Tones look smoother, image definition holds up better on the high end point and shoots.

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This is a 100 percent crop of the previous image straight out of the 1020. No processing was done to the image. Please click on the image for a better view. Note the softness and almost “painterly” look at 100 percent.

Taken on its own merit, the Nokia makes a fine secondary camera or even as your main point and shoot camera. While the images can be very sharp, dynamic range seems limited which means you need to be careful with exposure and the files are not highly pliable which means they won’t take a lot of messing around with in your post processing. It doesn’t take a lot to turn the files bad fast.

The files, which can be beautiful, appear to have a distinctly ‘digital’ look, perhaps due to the limitations of putting such a high res sensor on a small 2/3″ sensor.

Some of you know that I had a hard drive crash recently that knocked out a lot of my files. I was able to recover most of them and will be adding photos I took with the Lumia 1020 in 2014, so this page will get another update soon.

A lot of the readers of this site also know that I’m a fan of that elusive “film-like” digital file and this is a subjective thing, but I don’t see that with this phone. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with it. It looks digital because it is digital and yes, digital files can be fine too 🙂

Low light shots are surprisingly good. Not 5D Mark III good, but very good for a phone camera. It may sound vague, but any experienced photographer will have an idea of what I’m saying.

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“In The Midnight Flower” 2015. Nokia Lumia 1020. An available light sample from the 1020. I tried to extract the exif info for you so we could see what ISO the camera selected, but no exif would show on the programs I used. Please click on the photo for a larger view.

BOTTOM LINE

I got this phone over a year ago primarily to use it as a camera. Once I got over the frustration of using it as a camera, I’m able live with its weaknesses because I’m attracted to its strengths, which is a sharp lens and high resolution files.

In many ways, this is the same reason why people are attracted to Sigma cameras. They are slow as a turtle, but the image quality makes up for it. Some can live with that, some can’t.

If the 1020 was my only camera phone, I probably couldn’t live with it, which is why I use the camera on my iPhone 5 more often. However, as a specialty tool for static subjects, the Nokia is fine.

Cell phone photography has come a long, long way. It is the number one method of choice for most of the world’s population today. I don’t remember the numbers, but more people take and share photos with their phone cameras than any other type of camera by a wide margin. You don’t even need a poll to know this. You can see it every day!

To me however, cell phone camera quality still lags behind the best point and shoot cameras, but it is getting there.

It may be too soon to call the Nokia Lumia 1020 a Camera Legend, but if any cell phone camera deserves a spot on the list of legends, the Lumia 1020 should definitely be considered.

WHERE TO BUY

The Lumia 1020 is now easily found and the prices very affordable. If looking for one of these, prices are trending at $100-200 on eBay, with $200 on the high end. You may even find them under $100, but these usually have cracked screens and other flaws.

Your best bet for a safe purchase on the 1020 is probably through AMAZON. Especially since today is CYBER MONDAY I would definitely check for deals if I were in the market for this phone!


The Best Camera I Never Knew Part Four: The Exakta 66 Mod III Medium Format Camera

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The Exakta 66 Mod III. A dream camera of West German/Russian heritage and one of the best cameras I never knew 🙂

Sometimes your lust over-rides your head and clouds your better judgement. This was certainly the case with the next camera in “The Best Camera I Never Knew” series.

THE EXAKTA 66 MOD III

The Exakta 66 MOD III (model III) is a medium format camera introduced in 1997. Though the original Exakta 66 was produced by West German company Ihagee, the exact origins of the MOD II and MOD III are somewhat unclear.

The main thing you need to know is that all these Exakta models are a variation of the Pentacon Six, so they are all 6×6 mechanical SLR cameras that use 120 medium format film. They resemble, from afar, the Pentax 6×7 and look like a giant 35mm camera on steroids.

There is a great website http://www.pentaconsix.com that will tell you the differences between the models, and anything else you might want to know about them.

In the context of my story here, just know the MOD III was considered the “ultimate” as far as variations of the venerable Pentacon Six goes. It was the last model so it technically had all the upgrades and enhancements that was done to the basic Pentacon that it’s modeled after. One enhancement was the inclusion of a mirror lockup.

Another reason for its desirability is that the Exakta 66 Mod III is sometimes paired with the superb 80mm f/2.8 Schneider Xenotar lens, though the Exakta 80mm f/2.8 or 80mm Russian Volna or Biometar lenses are more commonly seen.

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME?

Ok, so in 2013 I came across the Exakta 66 Mod III body on KEH Camera’s website. A used body only for around $300.

I hesitated at first, knowing that it was basically a glorified Pentacon Six or Kiev 60, but the camera lust took over me and I thought I had to have it! That, despite the fact that I already had a Pentacon Six TL and a Kiev 60. Both bodies combined, cost me less than the Exakta alone!

I’m drawn to extremes…the best camera, the worst camera, the last model, the smallest model, the strangest one…you get the idea 🙂

Anyway, I said to myself…if I get the Mod III, I won’t need any other Exakta or Pentacon. And perhaps I could cut my losses by selling the Pentacon and Kiev once I got the Exakta.

Ok, this is getting too long, so to cut to the chase…

I got the MOD III. I press the shutter. The mirror goes up. Stays up. No big deal. If I recalled correctly, the Pentacon did that too. All that it requires is for you to wind the lever and the mirror comes back down. So I did that.

Surprise! The film advance lever won’t move so the mirror won’t come back down!!

So without damaging the camera, I was trying all the emergency remedies I knew. Tried to gently move the mirror down, it didn’t move. Tried to toggle the mirror lockup, no go. Tried to press the shutter release again, nothing.

I then took out my Pentacon Six and pressed the shutter release. Mirror goes up. Stays up. I wind the film advance, mirror came back down. Now I knew for sure something was wrong with the Exakta.

Knowing that I would probably have to return it to KEH, I stopped myself from messing with it further. I did some research online and found the email of a noted authority on repairing these cameras. For the sake of privacy, I will refrain from leaving a name, but if you need one of these cameras repaired drop me a line and I will give you his contact.

Anyway, his advice was to first try to gently bring the mirror down with my fingers which I had already done. I don’t remember everything else he told me, but he tried the best he could to help me through email and I appreciated that very much, but nothing worked.

Finally, he told me I should return the camera because they were well known to have “issues” and he had seen a fair share of them for repair. He said these cameras go bad quite easily and parts are no longer available and/or are hard to find.

I believe him, though I wished I had seen something online about that before I purchased it. I did not find much negative on this camera in my pre-purchase research. Indeed, I did not find much positive feedback either!

I recall finding only a few nice shots of the camera on Flickr from some proud owners, but other than that there wasn’t much as far as real world users. In fact, if you did a search now you will see a few of the pretty pictures I’m talking about 🙂

THE REVELATION

Ok, so I really wanted to keep this camera! Never mind that I didn’t have the elusive 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar. I could use the Biometar and other Pentacon Six lenses I already had first.

So before I wrapped it up to return to KEH, I decided to take one last shot at making this thing work. I played with the advance lever. I felt that this was the root of the problem. I had a thin nail file and I poked it in the thin sliver underneath the film advance lever. It hit something and wallah…

The film advance moved and the mirror came down! 🙂

But, this does not have a happy ending. When I pressed the shutter again, the mirror became stuck once again. The nail file worked once again,  but there was no way I was going to use the camera if I had to do this for every shot!

So back it went to KEH, and before I shipped her off, I took this shot. I should’ve taken more, but I took this at a Fedex Kinko and making a review of this camera two years later was the last thing on my mind.

To show you how much I wanted to keep this camera, I even told KEH if they could repair it, I would take that over a refund. They tried, but in the end they gave me a refund.

Just want to put in a good word about KEH Camera. They are the best used camera dealer out there, I even prefer them over eBay because of their great products, prices, and return policy.

Even though this Exakta 66 Mod III turned out to be a dud, I cannot blame them. Things happen and especially so when you’re dealing with the kind of photographic volume that they deal with on a daily basis. I’ve been buying from them for maybe twenty years or more and over 90% of my purchases have been satisfactory or better. They took this camera back with no hassles.

BOTTOM LINE

If looking for one of these, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, prices are trending at over $1000 for the body and Exakta, Volna or Biometar 80mm lens and probably quite a bit more with the 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar lens.

I am certainly no camera repair expert and I am sure it’s a good possibility that I just got a bad sample and there’s a lot of good working models out there.

However, based on the information I got from the veteran Pentacon/Kiev/Exakta camera repair man, I would have to say Exakta 66 cameras are not a good buy in my opinion.

You are better off with a Pentacon Six or Kiev 60. They are not without issues either. Many have the same problems with film advance, film spacing, etc. However, they are much cheaper than the Exaktas and parts more readily available should you need a repair.

The Exakta Mod II and Mod III may be cooler, prettier than the brutes that the Pentacons or Kievs are, but they are in essence the same cameras.

I knew this before I made the purchase. However, I went ahead and bought it anyway. I should’ve listened to my head but as Emily Dickinson and Woody Allen said…”The heart wants what it wants” 🙂

If you’re looking at the Pentacon Six or Kiev cameras, then the Exakta 66 Mod III is the ultimate medium format camera from that West German/Russian/Eastern European heritage.

However, it gave me nothing but headaches and wasted time and became one of…the Best Cameras I Never Knew.


Fright Night Special: Friday The 13th

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“Black Cat” 2011. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 85mm f/1.2L in Bangkok, Thailand.

Yes, it’s Friday the 13th. It is a day that causes fear, hesitation, and all sorts of other anxieties in people. Heck, they even made movies and a tv series out of this! Here is a little tribute to Friday the 13th. I hope it is full of good luck for everyone! 🙂

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“Bad Asses” 2011. Ricoh 8.1mp GRD in Chinatown, NYC. It’s “Child’s Play” for Chucky, Scarface and the entire badass crew 🙂

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“The Camera Monster” 🙂

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“Flashback Fri…” No, no, wait a minute. This is NOT Flashback Friday. For Samuel J. Voorhees, every freakin’ day is FRIDAY!! shh…shh…shh…shh…shh… 🙂