The Worst Cameras Of All Time Part I: The Nikon N70

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The Nikon N70 film camera of 1994.

In this new series, we will take a look at cameras that somehow didn’t make the cut, but beyond just that, they had something about them or their design that made them less than pleasurable to use.

What separates this from “The Best Camera I Never Knew” series? I don’t know, it’s a thin line between love and hate as the song says! 🙂

First up…

THE NIKON N70 CAMERA

The Nikon N70 (also known as the F70 overseas) is a 35mm SLR film camera introduced by Nikon in 1994.

At the time, it was Nikon’s top enthusiast model. Indeed, I think this camera set the stage for future “Number 7”  enthusiast’s models from Nikon, such as the Nikon D70/D70s digital slr of 2004, the pro/semi-pro D700 full-frame DSLR of 2008 and the D7000 of 2010, just to name a few as the “7” naming scheme continues to this day with Nikon.

As a camera, the N70 is an autofocus film camera which offers a shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/4000 plus bulb. The camera has a built in drive capable of 3.7 fps in high speed mode. It has matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering.

The camera is powered by two CR123A batteries.

MY RECOLLECTION OF THE N70

I got one of these in 1995 and I remember being smitten by this new toy. It came at a time when my interest in photography had been renewed after using my Minolta X-700 for ten years previously.

The N70 looked and felt nice and feels good in the hand. But that’s where it all ends, ergonomically.

The N70’s claim to fame was its unique “fan” wheel of sorts. It is actually a control panel that has become known as the FAN. But this is also its achilles heel. Now before any N70 fans (yes, there are some) out there start bashing me, I will say that once you do get the hang of the FAN it works pretty well and some like it.

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The Nikon N70 is distinguished or perhaps cursed by its very unique, very funky electronic FAN control panel. Once you can figure it out, it will “allow” you to take good pictures 🙂

I remember being very happy with the results. The camera provided speedy AF and seemed to deliver perfect or near perfect exposures.

So why do I appear to be bashing it now? It all comes down to, once again, that FAN my friends!

Ok, yes, in 1994 I was twenty-two years younger and enjoyed fiddling around with electronic gadgetry trying to figure out how to work this camera. In 2016, I am twenty-two years older and have very little patience to try and figure this camera out again. Ok, that’s not the camera’s fault 🙂

And more so today, when you can get a camera like the Nikon N90s from the same era or even the older N8008s for the same price, anyone actually wanting to use the N70 I think has too much time on their hands!

I could try to break down how to use this “fan” shaped thingy, but that would take way too much time and I’d have to write a whole book on it!

BOTTOM LINE

Ok, it’s not the worst camera ever, I will give it that. It delivers great results, I will give it that.

I think the Nikon N70 came at a time when Nikon was facing some very strong competition from Canon’s all electronic EOS series and they allowed its designers some very liberal creative freedoms.

As I said a few times before (as in my Rollei A110 and Rollei Rolleimatic reviews), being creative is a good thing, but being too creative might not be such a good thing. And this time, I can’t even blame it on Heinz Waaske!

Nikon is known for cameras with great ergonomics that are easy to use and quick to figure out. This is one of the reasons pros love Nikons. The N70 is radically different from any Nikon economically. Its design was never seen before or since, which makes me think that even Nikon knew it was too funky!

I’ve said many times, one of my prerequisites for a good camera is a camera that you can figure out how to use without an instruction manual. Maybe not for everything, but for at least 80 to 90 percent of its functions. You will need a manual if you want to figure out all  the Nikon N70/F70 can do. That says everything!

The Nikon N70 is a camera that actually will allow its users, indeed reward its users with the ability to take a picture once you can figure it out. For that “FAN” design alone, I would call it a Camera Legend, but maybe not in a good way 🙂

It is one of my contenders for the “Worst Camera Of All Time” and indeed, it might be the worst designed Nikon ever, but being that I have a soft spot for Nikons, I don’t think it’s the worst camera I’ve ever used.

If you like funky cameras, you can’t do much better than a Nikon N70. Buy one if only for that FAN! 🙂

WHERE TO BUY?

If seeking one of these to use, and again I’m repeating to use, I’m not sure that’s a good idea, but prices are very good! They go anywhere from “free” to $50.

I recently picked up one for nostalgia’s sake for $3 dollars. I don’t intend to use it. I just marvel at the FAN 🙂

If you want one to use, you may find a good selection HERE.

***DEAL ALERT***

There are some great deals going on now on CANON gear. Interesting to me is the hot new Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 macro for the EOS-M series with built in ring-light! This is one lens that I’m interested in getting for myself. Check it out in the links for great deals and prices.

SPECIAL NOTE

I would like to apologize to my fellow bloggers and readers of this site. I know I come on sporadically and I know it’s slowed down quite a bit.

The truth of the matter is that I never meant this to be a daily blog. I wanted this to be a long term project, which is what it is. When writing about Camera Legends like the Polaroid 180 or the Canon T90 or the Nikon F5, for example, I realize this information will be out on the internet for a long time and with that in mind, I try to take care on what I write and what I say.

As the body of articles build up, these pages become more like a book on cameras, which is closer to my original goal.

I do want to thank the small, but loyal folks and friends who read this blog. I do this blog for me, and I do it for you too. Thanks 🙂

 

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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 Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic

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The Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic is an instant film camera introduced by Fujifilm in 2013. The Mini 90 Neo Classic uses Fuji’s Instax Mini film.

I first saw the Mini 90 or Neo Classic (whichever short name you want to use) at its introduction at the PhotoPlus Expo in the fall of 2013. After seeing it in the flesh and speaking with the nice Fuji representative, I knew I had to have one! What I didn’t think of was why? But we’ll get to that later on.

I got one as soon as they were released in 2013 and at Urban Outfitters of all places.

THE INSTAX MINI 90 CAMERA BODY

Upon first glance, you can see why Fuji named this camera “Neo Classic.” It really looks like an instant classic, literally and figuratively! It looks beautiful.

Upon first touch, your feelings may change a bit. Now here’s a camera that I would say looks better than it feels. It feels lighter and I don’t know how to say this nicely, but it feels “cheaper” than it looks. Maybe it’s better to say, it looks like a metal camera of yore, but feels like a plastic camera. It doesn’t feel like a cheap camera, but as I said, cheaper than it looks.

The Mini 90 has a very smooth power on. With the flick of the little switch, the lens protrudes very smoothly and quietly. I just love the way it works. The only negative might be that it’s very easy to hit the switch accidentally so be mindful of this if you have the camera in your bag of goodies.

Like most instant cameras, the Mini 90 has a slow 60mm f/12.7 lens making it hard to not use flash indoors or get any kind of bokeh unless you get really close. Fortunately, the camera has a built in macro mode which lets you get as close as around 11 inches from the subject.

The Mini 90 is probably the most full-featured of the current Instax camera line. In addition to the built in macro mode, it offers a stronger flash, the ability to turn off the flash (not available in some other Instax models), double exposure, bulb, brightness adjustment, kids mode (for moving subjects), party mode (brightens the background), and landscape mode.

For the most part, this is an automatic camera. You cannot control the aperture or shutter speed, except for bulb. Keep that in mind and feel good knowing that the camera generally produces good results without your help 🙂

IMAGE QUALITY

The image quality coming out of the Mini 90 and Fuji’s Instax Mini film is generally excellent. But here’s the pun…it is excellent for what it is.

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“Cheeri-O” 2016. Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. Macro mode used to get in closer for a more effective portrait. Baby Zay believes in the power of a good breakfast. She starts her day off with a healthy dose of Cheerios and works her way up from there 🙂

Remember when I wondered WHY I got one? Well, my main issue is with Instax Mini film in general. The 2.13″ x 3.4″ credit card sized prints are just a little too small for me to really enjoy.

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“Vanilla Fudge” 2016. If you’re a fan of that old vintage look, you can do it with the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. This was taken recently, but it looks almost like a print from the 70s!

That said, I think that’s kind of the whole point of it. It’s supposed to be small and fun, not some kind of “artistic” tool that we photographers always think we need. But sure, you can definitely put your artistic twist to the pics as with any camera. Me, I just use it as a point and shoot instant film camera for family fun snapshots. It is superb for that purpose.

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“Beauty & The Beast” Part II, 2013. One of my first shots from the Mini 90 Neo Classic. It wasn’t going to win me any awards, but I knew it was going to be a fun camera 🙂

All Instax Mini film at this time is ISO 800. There is also an Instax Wide format film which at 3.4″ x 4.25″ is more to my liking and closer to the size of packfilm. Unfortunately, Fuji does not make a camera currently in this format that is as sophisticated, spec wise, as the Mini 90 Neo Classic.

I find the Instax film to be very consistent, maybe clinical at times, but very consistent in color and stability. I cannot say the same for the Impossible film that I have used.

BOTTOM LINE

In the age of digital, analog photographers should be very happy with the success of the Instax Mini line of cameras. They are so popular that you can find them almost anywhere, from Target to Toys ‘R Us. I read somewhere that Fujifilm’s latest financial release apparently shows Instax sales growing, while digital sales have stalled or are declining. Don’t quote me on this, but do some research if you’re interested.

The funny thing is, while so many photographers (myself included) were raging over the discontinuation of Fuji’s FP-100C instant packfilm, there’s a general consensus that the Instax line is not as well loved by seasoned photographers.

Why? Well, camera selection is one thing to be sure. As I said, there aren’t many models, if any at all, designed for the photo enthusiast.

The second reason, and this is my own personal take, is that people just love retro and hard to find stuff man! The Instax cameras are not rare and they are widely available. People may cross it off their list for that reason alone.

As I said, people just love retro. In fact, it’s probably the Mini 90’s retro looks that caught my attention in the first place.

But yeah, people. You give them a high quality audio CD and they will find that the scratchy analog records sound better. You give them a modern car with all the amenities and they will say, “They don’t build ’em like they used to.” You give them 42 megs and the ease of digital, and they’ll want to shoot an old film camera and deal with the hassles of development and scanning dusty, scratchy negatives.

Sure, I’m being a little sarcastic, but not really because I am also one of those “nostalgic” folks 🙂

Anyway, again, I think all analog photography lovers should really be glad that Fuji is still even making instant cameras and instant film.

If you can live with the small sized prints, the Mini 90 Neo Classic is truly a wonderful instant camera that is full featured and fun to use. I do believe it will be a classic, and who knows, maybe one day a Camera Legend.

WHERE TO BUY

The great thing about Fuji’s Instax Mini cameras is that they are very easy on the wallet. Even the Mini 90 Neo Classic runs close to $150 new and around $90-100 used. For the small difference, I’d say just save your pennies and buy new unless you can get one for $50.

For a good selection, you may try HERE and HERE. Thanks for supporting CameraLegend.com!

***DEAL ALERT***

For you Canonites, we have a really nice deal on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III bundle from our friends at ADORAMA. Here’s what you get:

Bundle includes:

Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash, USA,
Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR Camera Body with EF 24-105mm f/4 Lens
Canon PIXMA PRO-100 Professional Photo Inkjet Printer
Canon SG-201 Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss, 13×19″, 50 Sheets
Lowepro Nova Sport 17L AW Shoulder Bag, Slate Gray
Sandisk Extreme 32GB microSDHC Class 10 UHS-I Memory Card -BULK IN JEWEL CASE

Damn, that looks like a killer package! If you were wanting to get into the professional photography business, ie, portraits, weddings, etc, or you just want the complete package and you have the cash to spend, this is it!

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.

The Lowly Vivitar PS-20 Point & Shoot Camera

Vivitar PS-20

We live in a different age, different time. Everything is better. Cars, television sets, cameras. Heck, even the camera on your phone is likely better than many of the high end cameras you once had. Here’s a camera I wrote about in 2009:

This is my Vivitar PS-20 from 1987. Bought it for $20 bucks at a now defunct chain store called “Caldor”. This camera took me through the late 80’s and half of the 90’s, providing some of the most memorable (if techincally poor) images of my life.

It was part of my two camera kit in my simpler (and poorer) days of the 80s when I had only the Minolta X-700 and one lens, the MD 50mm f/1.7 plus this camera, the Vivitar PS-20. Somehow, I feel like I was much more focused than I am now with the countless cameras I have used. I long for those two camera days, and who knows, maybe that’s going to be a project for me…get rid of everything, use two cameras, and be a happy photographer again 🙂

Ladies and gentlemen, this camera is the quintessential point ‘n shoot. It is what I would call a “SLC” or a “Super Low Class” camera. It is the ULTIMATE “Poor Man’s Camera!” It is poor, it is cheap, it is what people used to think of when they think of a point ‘n shoot camera. In fact, it says “Point ‘N Shoot” on the top of the camera! 🙂

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE CAMERA

Today, lucky us, we have point and shoot cameras that can do so much more than this old Vivitar. Yet in some way, these new point and shoot cameras seem to have lost track of what it means to be a point and shoot!

That’s why I love this old Vivitar PS-20. It can’t do 30 megapixels. It doesn’t have a Zeiss or “GR” lens. It can’t do HDR. It can’t do HD Video. It’s not a “luxury” point and shoot. It makes no pretenses about being anything other than a point and shoot camera 🙂

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“Joy Of Point ‘N Shootin” 2009. Baby Z gets a kick out of Papa’s old camera 🙂

While this article is about the Vivitar PS-20, it is really not about the camera itself. It’s a tribute to the lowly point and shoot cameras of yore. To the thousands of lousy, but charming old point and shoots out there. The ones that are worth next to nothing, but have more heart and soul than a $3000 point and shoot.

The Vivitar PS-20 “Point ‘N Shoot” may never be a Camera Legend, but taken as a collective with its thousands of peers, they all could be considered Camera Legends.

SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT THIS CAMERA

This is the funniest thing, except it’s really not funny. A few years ago, some seller on Amazon apparently decided to swipe (steal) this pic from my Flickr stream and use it. You can see the Amazon ad in this link HERE.

I never made a big deal out of it because it’s not an award winning picture or anything and this camera is worth next to nothing. In fact, before I wrote about this camera back in 2009, I don’t believe there was any information on it anywhere on the web because I always do a little research before writing about anything.

As I said, I’m not mad or anything, but I do find it humorous. But if I, by some chance, had an award winning shot and someone used it without my permission, sure I would be pissed.

But this, nah, it’s something I’ve accepted as part of the deal when you post pics on the internet. When you post something to the internet, remember this is part of your “contract.” I’m sure the person who used the photo didn’t know any better.

The main thing people should remember here is, just as Napster once opened the MP3 Pandora’s box, so too do you when you post pictures to the internet.

I’ve always accepted that once you post something, it’s subject to theft or anything by anyone. So please, if you feel you have an award winning picture, DO NOT post full sized images. Put some kind of watermark or something.

If it’s just an average, everyday picture no need to do anything, no one will care. I hate watermarks or copyright logos actually. The only reason I put them here is so that people can remember the website, which is always a wise thing when you’re running a relatively new site.

More cameras to come, have a great week! 🙂


The Best Camera I Never Knew Part III: The Contax Tix APS Film Camera

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The Contax TiX from 1997. Perhaps the most beautiful Contax point and shoot, but doomed by being born an APS film camera.

I have to admit I’m a big fan of Contax point and shoot film cameras from the 90s. There was just something special about the whole series.

While I stand by what I wrote in earlier articles about the fragility of Contax cameras and their brittle electronics, I loved the concept, the feel, and execution despite the feeling that I could never really rely on them completely.

THE CONTAX Tix

The Contax Tix (pronounced T…i…x as opposed to Tix, I think!) is a high quality point and shoot camera introduced by Kyocera in 1997.

The camera featured a Carl Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 Sonnar T* lens and used the infamous and now defunct APS (Advanced Photo System) film system. The camera was the smallest of the Contax film point and shoots.

The camera has autofocus, a shutter speed range of 15 seconds to 1/1000, and came with a data back for date imprint. It was powered by one 3V CR-2 battery.

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME?

The last two cameras I profiled (Rolleimatic and Rollei A110) didn’t jive with me because they didn’t work. That was NOT the case with the Contax Tix.

A little history…I got my first Contax point and shoot, the original Contax T, in 1997. That was a superb little manual focus rangefinder and I got some wonderful shots from that thing. Basically, after the Contax T, I was hooked on Contax for a while!

I got the Contax Tix some time in the mid 2000’s, mainly as a curiosity and to add to my collection. I did not expect to use it often because even at the time of the introduction of the APS film system in 1996, I was never really interested in that format. Even back then, I wondered why would anyone bother with this over 35mm?

The 35mm format already had its limitations vs medium and larger formats and I felt like APS was a step backwards.

The negatives were smaller and despite the stuff you were able to do with it, ie, the three image formats, 16:9, 3:2, and 3:1 aspect ratios, as well as the quasi-panoramic mode, I wasn’t into it. I just thought they were gimmicks, but even if they were useful to some, I would take the larger negative of the (already relatively small) 35mm standard over APS any day.

So back to the Contax Tix. Yes, the camera worked and worked well. I used it for two or three rolls of snapshots expecting good quality, but most of the shots from this camera looked excellent!

I’m sorry I have no pics to show you now because as mentioned in the last couple of postings, I am without my main working computer and using a 10′ Chromebook. I would still need to scan these prints.

My assessment of the 28mm f/2.8 Zeiss Sonnar on the Tix is this…The lens is excellent, as expected. It is very sharp. Not as bitingly sharp as the lens on the Contax T3, but still sharper than most point and shoots. But my favorite part is that the lens seemed to have more of a classic look, a soft/sharp kind of thing like the 38mm f/2.8 Sonnar on the original T or T2. So, in my opinion, the lens on the Tix was in between that of the T3 and T/T2. That’s almost perfection right there!

So the camera itself was never a problem. The fact that it used APS film was what didn’t jive with me and why I got rid of it.

If looking for one of these, prices have been trending steady for years at a low of $70 to around $150 with an average of around $90. The camera came in silver or black which is a bit more rare.

If I were to seek one out today, I don’t think it would take me too long to find one. And there are apparently places that will still develop APS film if you send the film out to them. But I’m already dealing with enough dead or outdated systems like Polaroids, 127mm, 110mm, etc that I wouldn’t bother with APS film right now.

BOTTOM LINE

The Contax Tix is a beautiful, jewel-like camera. I feel that this camera could’ve been THE best of all the Contax point and shoots, but unfortunately it was and will forever be hindered by the format it was born with, the APS film system, which is probably one of the biggest flops in film history.

Now before any APS film fans get mad at me, I want to say the concept, and indeed the quality of APS film was not bad. If I recall correctly, there were even some APS films that equaled or exceeded its 35mm equivalents in magazine tests.

In many ways APS was “pre-digital” film. It wasn’t designed for ultimate quality, but instead was made for easier development (with machines specifically designed to take APS film, of which one can guess the companies also hoped to make money selling) and promised smaller, lighter cameras. It foresaw almost all that we see in digital point and shoots today!

But APS wasn’t friendly for the home developer. I’m sure someone must have done it, but I haven’t met anyone who actually home developed APS film. You actually had to bring that film into the store as each film cartridge was locked and coded. The main problem for APS film was timing. It was introduced in 1996 right around the time the first wave of digital cameras were coming in.

In only a few short years it was killed by digital, but somehow managed to hang on till 2011 when Fuji and Kodak, the last two APS film manufacturers ceased production of this film forever.

Again, in many ways, APS had some key concepts that made its way into digital such as switchable aspect ratio, smaller cameras and lenses, and of course APS lives on in our memories by the APS-C sensors which is approximately the same size as APS film. This is the lasting legacy of the APS film system I guess.

The Contax Tix was one of those cameras that I loved as a camera. It had a wonderful lens and beautifully small proportions. The Tix is probably at the apex of APS point and shoot cameras. It is no doubt a camera that added to the Camera Legend of Contax/Yashica.

It is a camera which was only held back by the APS format that it was created for and a camera of which I was never able to realize its full potential. The Contax Tix is a superb camera that unfortunately became one of…the best cameras I never knew 🙂

Note: Still waiting for my Mac in repair, but the show must go on! While I have created a workflow with this Chromebook, I have noticed it is becoming painfully slow the more I use it. Thanks to all who continue to visit, I appreciate it, and I continue to write about cameras for you my friends.

The Rolleiflex Black Baby 4×4 Camera

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“Black & Quack” 2015. With the “Black Baby” Rolleiflex 🙂

The Rolleiflex “Baby” models are twin lens reflex cameras made by Rollei. This particular model is the post war “Black Baby” and was made in 1963. The Rolleiflex “Baby” lineage goes all the way back to 1931 and ended around 1968.

The camera takes 127 film or otherwise known as 4×4 (cm) which is considered an obsolete or “dead” format because 127 film is no longer made, at least not in bulk or by major manufacturers.

You can find 127 film quite easily on eBay, but most of these are outdated and overpriced, and usually sold by Eastern European sellers. However, hang around and I’ll tell you where you can buy some fresh 127 film.

I have not used this camera extensively so this is by no means an official “review.” I initially got this as a collector’s piece knowing that I would not be doing much shooting with it.

THE CAMERA

The camera as is stated is pretty much a “baby” Rolleiflex TLR. You focus through the waist level finder using the knob on the left hand side and wind the film with the right hand knob. It’s basically a miniature Rolleiflex TLR.

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“Size Matters” 2015. The Black Baby Rolleiflex on the left, and the Rolleiflex 2.8C Xenotar for size comparison.

The shooting lens is a 60mm f/3.5 Schneider Kreuznach Xenar which is basically a Tessar type lens that should be quite sharp and contrasty.

In my experience, you can’t go wrong with either Zeiss or Schneider lenses and on these Rollei cameras, they are top notch.

The camera feels well built, but may be a little awkward to hold and use especially if you are used to “normal” sized TLR’s.

BOTTOM LINE

The Rollei “Baby” models are quite popular with collectors, with the “Baby Grey” being the most popular and abundant. These can go anywhere from $50 to $250 if priced fairly.

The Black Baby goes for a bit more. I personally find this one to be the most desirable model because it is the one that looks closest to a modern Rollei TLR.

I got mine for a little over $300, but I’ve seen sellers asking over $1000 for them. However, those over $1000 usually do not sell. Why? Because people aren’t stupid! They know that 127 film is virtually gone and you can get a 6×6 Rollei for that price. A fair price I would say would be from $300-450 for this particular model.

Even though 127 film is basically obsolete, you can now get 127 film, fresh, from…B&H! Yes, that’s right, good old B&H. The film is only available in ISO 100 speed and is called “Rerapan 100” and it is a little pricey at $11.99 for each roll. If you go in there, tell ’em Sam sent you 🙂

Although I would greatly prefer the added versatility of ISO 400 film and a lower price, I’m happy to have at least one source of fresh 127 film.

Some folks have taken the widely available 120 medium format film, cut it down and re-spooled it into 127 film. I have not had the time, the skills, nor the inclination to do that however, not that it seems that hard.

Needless to say, at $11.99 a roll, this camera will not be a daily shooter for me. As I said in the beginning, I basically bought it for my collection, and to be able to actually shoot it is an added pleasure.

I still have my first roll of 127 film in this camera. When I get the results, and if they’re good enough, I will update you on another posting.

While most of these “Baby” Rollei cameras are sought for collections, they are also great shooters, and they are an interesting part of the Camera Legend that is Rollei.