If you’re in the blizzard zone and stuck home this weekend, I hope this will give you extra reading material 🙂
I’ve been developing film for quite a few years and although I don’t consider myself an expert at all, I’m familiar with traditional developers such as Rodinal, D76, T-Max, HC-110, etc, etc.
One developer that I’ve heard about, but never tried till recently was a home brew called “Caffenol.”
This is a process where you use instant coffee, washing soda, and vitamin C powder to concoct a mix that actually develops film.
When I first heard about this years back, I laughed it off thinking it was a big joke. When I investigated further, I was totally shocked that you can develop film with instant coffee!
The photo above is a result of my first Caffenol experiment. Now I know it’s far from an award winning result, probably not the kind of result anyone wants, but to be honest with you, I’m just thrilled that it worked! 🙂
Above is a 100 percent crop of the original scan. I adjusted the contrast levels to better show the details. I was quite amazed that the result, while messy, actually holds a lot of details!
The image was shot in 2015 with a Mamiya C330 and a banged up Mamiya 65mm f/3.5 lens that I got for $23. The film was Kodak Tri-X 400 which is my go-to for an easy to develop, classic film.
If you search the web, you will find many fine examples from Caffenol connoisseurs who have posted results much better than this.
As I said, I’m no expert at this. The hardest part is finding “washing soda” so I made it myself by heating up baking soda, not certain whether I did everything right. Also in the darkroom, I made the mistake of turning on the lights when I didn’t have cover on the tank with film in it, allowing for possible light contamination. Something I’d never done in all the years that I’ve developed film. Because of these issues, I was even more amazed that it actually gave me something at all!
I am now eager to experiment more and to perfect this process. However, that would mean I would have to waste a lot of rolls of precious memories so I have to be sure that each roll I process with Caffenol is really “disposable” to me, so to speak.
If you haven’t tried this process, take a roll of film that you think you could part with and try it out. It’s a lot of fun and could potentially save you money from buying traditional developers. It’s quite a kick to take the instant coffee on your kitchen shelf and turn it into a film developer, it really is! 🙂
Have a blessed day and I hope you stay safe in you’re in the zone of this major blizzard.
Note: I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong or something changed with WordPress, but people used to be able to click on the photos to see a larger version, but now it doesn’t give me that option. If anyone can tell me why, I would appreciate it!
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 🙂
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.
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.
It’s that time of the year again. Especially for those of us in the Northeastern part of the country, the autumn leaves are at or approaching their peak. In some parts, they may even be past their peak.
While I haven’t gotten my foliage pics yet this year, I hope to soon. Maybe this weekend or next.
Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to post some fall foliage from years past. Many with gear I no longer have, but how I miss them!
This is a great time to photograph and use some of those Camera Legends in your closet. Don’t miss it!
Update 10/17/15: I did get some shots today, but only have one to post so far. It is the top photo using the EOS-M I reviewed HERE.
Originally written in 2009…
Note: I done told anyone who would listen that my film cameras are far more interesting than my digital gear, and this camera might well be the ‘oddest’ in my collection. It is a Linhof 220, a medium format camera that shoots 6×7, and comes with a fixed 90mm f/3.5 Linhof-Technikar lens.
It’s ‘weird’ not only in its looks, but for a few reasons. For one thing, it’s set up for use mainly for vertical photos, hence it’s more of a portrait camera than it is a landscape camera. I believe it was meant to be a press camera. Of course, you can shoot horizontal if you’d like, but it’s quite cumbersome. It’s also ‘weird’ in the fact that the shutter is a trigger on the pistol grip.
It’s quite a rare bird, but I got her very cheaply (as in less than $100) because she’s got “issues” so to speak. The rangefinder is a bit touch and go, and the camera has a real problem with film spacing, both of which I am trying to repair in my spare time. The times when I can get a good shot out of it, I’m impressed with the sharpness and contrast from the lens, it’s tack sharp.
Prices for these in good working condition are usually around $400-500 USD. I was able to fix the spacing problem, but the rangefinder is still touch and go. It’s not the most fun camera to use which is why you haven’t seen me post a lot with it, but in my film camera collection it is a standout.
Your best bet to find one of these is on eBay. However, you may also find them through private sellers on Amazon while searching for Medium Format cameras.
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 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.
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.
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.
Koni-Omega Rapid 100 and 90mm f/3.5 Super-Omegon
Awesome and affordable brute of a camera.
This was my first medium format camera back in the 90s. The system itself dates back to the 50s, although the Rapid 100 was a later production model, maybe 70s or early 80s. There are numerous bodies including the Konica Press, Rapid, Rapid M, and maybe a couple older bodies. The Rapid 100 and 200 seem to be the later models and probably better buys than the older models.
In the 90s, I became interested in medium format photography after reading a book by the late Leif Ericksenn called “Medium Format Photography.”
He had some photos from the Koni-Omega that he used on a tv production and I began to seek one out.
The Koni-Omega is a rangefinder camera system that consisted of several bodies and interchangeable lenses. The lenses are sharp. They make for excellent images on 6×7 negatives or slide film.
They are not expensive, but big, bulky and a bit fussy to use, which is probably why I sold it. However, the Koni-Omega system is capable of excellent results at a bargain price. The lenses have built-in leaf shutters and the cameras do not need batteries to operate. But again, they are BULKY and I suspect that is the reason they end up getting sold by owners who sell them.
Prices are trending anywhere from $50-200, depending on body, lens, and other accessories.
If you want to get your feet wet in medium format photography without breaking the bank, this is it.
Note: Sorry I do not have any photos from the Koni-Omega to share with you. As mentioned, I got it in the 90’s and at that time, there was no such thing as a great economical home photo scanner, at least not one that could do medium format on a budget. However, I do remember having prints that were done for me by a photo lab, and if I can find them, I’ll be sure to scan them in and update this article. Thanks for stopping by.