April 27, 2016

Using Instax Mini in medium and large format cameras - plus hand developing Instax film

The image above may tell you all that I've been up to lately.

The thick white border at the bottom is a chemical pack. The narrow format indicates "mini." Yes, my dear Watson, he has been using Fuji Instax Mini instant film in his 6x6 Yashica twin lens reflex camera."

I learned how to get film out of an Instax Mini pack from the video below.

I don't have a darkroom. I have a bathroom. But loading the Yashica at night worked.

The real problem ended up being development. In the video above, J. Caldwell reloaded the film back into an Instax Mini film back and then processed the film through a proper Instax Mini camera.

I didn't have one. Instead, I went back to the dark bathroom and edged the film, pod first through rollers from a Fuji PA-45 4x5 instant film film back.

I discovered it was easier to remove the rollers when trying to get the film through the rollers. It's quite tight.

 Also, I took a while to get even a passably well developed shot. I have yet to get an even spread of the developer across the whole of the film surface. I found it worked best with the rolling unique on my belly and I pushed the film towards me. Working the top roller with your thumb can help ease the development pack through (it must go in first!).

All of this was practice, however. What I really wanted was a pic of the twins. For that, I loaded a 4x5 film holder with two Instax Minis. I put the development pods at the bottom so that when I put the film holder in they would be at the top (where the bottom of the image would strike as cameras see things upside down and mirrored [?]). Anyhow, this is how I loaded it. Note, the exposed side IS NOT the picture side. The exposure side is the purple and grey part. But we look at the image from the white border side. Which I suppose, takes care of the whole mirroring problem.

Also note, Instax Mini are too small to use the runners at the top and bottom of a 4x5 film holder. I had to tape the film down and make sure the dark slide did not catch on either of the Minis.

I exposed the film, put back the dark slide, dashed  into the washroom and hand-developed the film, ie jammed them through the PA-45 rollers.

Here's how they turned out. Not perfect, I took it this morning and I have a print.

I have to get a better roller technique. I tried a typewriter this morning. No dice. The roller puts pressure but there's no bottom roller.

Next step will be Instax Wide once I figure out a good way to develop the film by hand.

If you want to see a video of Instax Mini being load into a sheet back...this is a good one.

Interesting discovery, you can expose Fuji Instax film from either side. I think the white side is FASTER and has an ISO of 1000 or 1200. Pure eyeball guessing. It will be a mirror image. My self-portrait (very top image) was exposed on the white side. I'm sure of it though the lettering is still mirrored. Oh well, I'll have to double check it all.

The dark grey/purple, which I think of as brown side (probably me holding onto negative process film paradigms), shoots at the actually rated ISO 800.


Oh, and here's the camera I used to make the picture of the boys, a Burke and James 4x5 Press Camera with a Rodenstock Ysarex 127mm f4.7 from a Polaroid 110a camera.

April 25, 2016

Vancouver Camera Show find: my second Voigtlander Vito B

It's a bit of a bust.

As I rode home on the train, I opened the film door, cocked the shutter, and fired on B (bulb).

Looking through the usually wonderful 50mm f3.5 Color Skopar I noticed crazing or cracked glass near the edges. I hoped it was actually crazing, yellowing, or delamination of glues they use to assemble Tessar-formula lenses or maybe some dried lubricant and NOT actually cracked glass. But does it matter? It was way less than perfect. A lemon. A dud. In the end, the deal was too good to be true.

(Note, I don't blame the seller. It's always buyer beware.)

This evening, I was tempted to go into the lens assembly and see what was what. I thought maybe I could save the camera. I had cleared the table and had my tools out but stopped myself.

Let me say, before I go on, a Vito B is a brilliant camera. Really under appreciated because it can appear to be broken when you first look at it at the local thrift or camera show. The main reasons are Vito Bs are double stroke. You have to cock it twice to advance the film one frame (this may be why the camera is so compact).

ALSO, you have to have film in the camera to load the shutter spring. ie cock it. Or, you can open it up and roll the sprocket (not the winder spindle) but the toothy thing above the top film rail. It has to click TWICE to fully cock the shutter. (I suppose a picture would be useful.)

Because, lots of people don't know this, the camera can be sold as a broken item. I've bought a great one for $25 and it took one of my favourite images of my boys.

But I sold it. So when I saw this new Vito B on the table I snapped it up....and then I saw the gunky lens.

I started thinking about about vision and limitations. I wondered how this camera would see. The great thing about viewfinder cameras in general is you really don't know what you have until you develop the film. Vito Bs-even when they are mint and perfect by nature of their design (great lens on affordable, extremely compact body) just do their thing.

We often think of the photographer as the one who sees and envisions and captures. The camera is merely a conveyance for the photographic seeing. This is especially true in the digital age, when the shot, the image making, and the image viewing shares nearly the same moment.

But with this film camera I could not possibly know what it could see. Would it create flaring or softness at the edge? Would it be entirely out of focus? Whatever caused the cracks may have been violent enough to hold the whole lens assembly out of alignment.

This camera had its own sovereignty. It could take in the world only on its own terms. It could only take the picture the way it was able to.

I no longer had the full range of creative flexibility. It could only do what it was capable of doing. I was merely the conveyance of what was already there in the camera and lens. I felt I should surrender to the camera. Suddenly I wanted to load it and shoot it.

Of course, anyone can say stuff like this about any piece of sh*t gear.

But it reminded me how unique each camera is and how much personality and mystery an older piece of kit has.

It could never take a perfect picture but it could take one that completely surprises me.

June 22, 2014

Hyack Festival 2014 with Olympus Pen-F and Konica Auto S3

There are those days I eagerly await during the year. The Vancouver Camera Show and Swap-Meet is one. Another is the Hyack Festival.

For the last eight years I have documented the Hyack Parade. Attracted by the costumes and the idea of catching participants before the parade begins, I set out hours before the official start of the event to take portraits as they are marshaled.

This year I shot with two recent purchases: the Olympus Pen-F and the Konica Auto S3. With both cameras I used a cheap Vivitar 16M manual flash. It just flashes. It has auto nothing.

I used rolls of Kodak 200 (Olympus in the half-frame) and Fuji 400 (Konica in full-frame). Both were expired.

March 29, 2014

Bonus Nikon L35AF door swap mod, actually it's for the L35AF 2 aka Nikon One•Touch

The cool part of finally biting the bullet and cannibalizing a broken Nikon L35AF is it offers an opportunity to improve all my other Pikaichi's.

My first L35AF was actually the One Touch, the scan above.

Though both versions of the L35AF have plastic shells, the Nikon One•Touch also sported a plastic film door. Unfortunately, mine started to bow outwards. I worried about light leaks and I pretty much mothballed the camera.

But last night, after fixing an on/off switch on one of my L35AF's, I decided to switch the plastic Nikon One•Touch for a nice, straight METAL film door from a donor version one Pikaichi.

It may not seem like a big deal but I'm surprised how much the film door acts as a spine for the whole camera.

The body feels more rigid. When closed. There is a hitch. The hinges between the two models are different. The door, when opened, kind slide on the hinge pin. But once it's closed, it snaps tight and firm. Far better than taping down old plastic door, which is what I used to do.

As for the donor camera, this is what it looks like now.

The lens on the donor is still a peach. It's a tiny thing and I'm going to find a way to mount it on another body.

Nikon L35AF shutter release and on/off switch repairs

If you visit Flickr's Nikon L35AF group, you will find lots of discussion about the camera malfunction.

One of the most common malfunctions is a stuck shutter release or a loose on/off switch.

Here's how I fixed these problems in one of my cameras. You do have to open the camera up. But don't try to remove any of the shells until all the screws are out. Follow all three steps before attempting to pull it apart.

BEFORE beginning, I recommend you setting the ASA/ISO dial to the highest setting. It will be either 400 on earlier models and 1000 on later ones. This will make putting things back together easier.

1.BACK/SIDE SHELL FIRST.  I started with the back panel. It is held with by four screws. They are different lengths. I recommend you lay them in an orderly way on a cleared table so you can get the right ones in the right place.

2. FRONT/BOTTOM SHELL. You will find three obvious screws on the bottom. They too are of different lengths. Take note.

3. BUT WAIT. There are also four MORE screws inside the film chamber. And ONE under the front's flash-side rubber grip. See the next three images below. They too must be removed.

There are two screws on the cannister side.

There are two more deep inside the film take-up side. They are hard to get to and you will need a long thin Phillips screwdriver.
There is only one screw to loosen on the front (yellow circle). On some cameras a lower screw may be visible. Do not attempt unscrew it. It is an adjustment screw and does not fasten the front panel.

4. Phew. The back panel is easy to remove. The front panel holds the troublesome shutter release. Take care in taking it off as a stuck shutter may mean it is fouled with mechanical components. Gentle.

5. If your problem is a stuck shutter, find the shutter release shaft (yellow arrow) which moves up and down through the centre of the on/off cam (ie the part that turns). Often, a stuck shutter is caused by a fatigued, less-springy return spring. But I haven't attempted to replace the spring. Instead I added the smallest amount of lubricant to the shaft. That worked for me. See below.

6. LOOSE ON/OFF SWITCH. If that's your problem, you will have to take another step. See the pink arrow pointing to the silvery C washer? Remove it by prying it. I used an Exacto to lift it and then a tweezer to pull it. Don't bend it or break. You'll need it. Once off you'll be able to take out the on/off cam. We're nearly there.

7. LOCKING SPRINGS. They are made with very thing strips of metal (see above). If you are lucky, they won't be overly fatigued and you can reshape them so they have a bit more bite into the cam. Not too much or you will have difficulty turning it off and on. Mine simply crumbled when I took it out to bend it. I had salvage parts to swap in. You may have to fashion a spring.

If I had to do that, I would use the soft silvery metal from a spent Fuji Instant Film case. I would cut the strip with box cutter to the appropriate width. Then snip the right length with scissors and then shape a new spring with the edge of a ruler or even pliers.

And that's it. Good luck.

March 19, 2014

Big find! Olympus Pen FT

Nearly too good to be true.

I had come to the point that I needed a half-frame camera.

I mean NEED. I had a vision of producing images not created by individual frames but continuous images unrolling from a single piece of film.

I had decided the images needed to be produced with the portrait orientation of the half-frame camera. The vertical proportions spoke to me of humanism (the same way that Classical or Renaissance columns do) and even the 3X3 grid found in comic books (especially The Watchmen and lots of Kirby).

I had this idea of vertical figures unspooling from a continuous sheet along a gallery wall...a parade of people. One frame but not one frame like a Chinese figurative scroll painting.

I needed a half-frame. Or so I told myself.

And today, I found it!

February 10, 2014

Unkind rewind of the Nikon L35AF series

Last week I purchased a Nikon  L35 AW AF aka Action Touch. It is the underwater version of the L35AF Pikaichi.

I love the series but it has a consistent problem that pops up: malfunctioning rewinds and frame counters.

A good part of the discussion at Flickr's L35AF group focuses on jams.

Well, my latest L35 indeed have a related problem. The film advanced and rewound BUT the film counter remained at 36 and would not reset back to 1 or "S."

Good news, and this is a consistent part of how to bring an L35AF back to life, I was able to fiddle with it to get the gear back into good order.

There are important pointers on how to get the L35AF back into alignment.

Film advance won't work, shutter release stuck, rewind button jammed, counter not counting??? Fear not. An L35AF CAN BE FIXED through simply fiddling without opening up the camera OR sending in for repair.

You only need three things to get started:

  • good batteries
  • a roll of film which you are able to pull out of the cassette
  • a paper clip to push down some of the sensor pins in the film chamber (I didn't need to this time but it's good to have)
  • patience

Like many point and shoots, good functioning relies on a number operations to take place in the correct order. WHEN you turn on a camera, when you put in the batteries, whether you put the film in the camera when it is ON or OFF, can sometimes have an impact on the start up of your camera. Often, jams occur when it falls out of sequence as was the case in my stuck film counter.

I'm happy to say it is fixed.

What I did but note film rewinding can't occur without film in the camera:

  1. Started with the camera off.
  2. Removed the batteries.
  3. With the camera OFF, put the batteries back in.
  4. Turned ON the camera.
  5. Loaded the camera with the back door open but with the pressure plate down (this is unique to the L35 AW AF).
  6. Exposed frames with the film door open. This prevented the film counter from advancing.
  7. Closed the film door.
  8. Rewound the film, the counter counted down to 1 but would not go to "S".
  9. Pulled out the film from the cassette to get some lead and put it in the camera.
  10. Turned the camera OFF.
  11. Rewound the film again. It rolled to "S."
All this to say, don't give up on your camera in a jam. The camera just has to reset and will simply function again. It's just a matter of undoing all the dry fires and misuse the camera suffers while in the hands of less caring individuals.

I've done this three times with three different models of the L35 series (original L35, the One Touch, and the Action Touch aka L35 AW AF) and have brought all the cameras back to life.

So keep trying.

They're worth it...

February 9, 2014

Nikon L35 AW AF is the point and shoot that the Nikon L35 AF wanted to be

People who know this site know that I shoot with the Nikon L35AF a lot.

Along with the Konica TC-X with a 40mm F1.8 Hexanon, the Yashica 635 twin lens reflex, and the Nikon D40 with a whole slew of lenses, the L35AF (aka the Pikaichi) is one of my go-to cameras for a lot of endearing reasons.

Also, I'm superstitious. If a camera tends to take the pictures I like best, for whatever reason, I tend to go back to it. Well, that's the Nikon L35AF for me.

But one should note, it's not a perfect camera: the flash pops up on its own if it deems there's not enough light; like most point and shoots you don't get to pick the aperture; uh, really freaking noisy (lovably so).

There are work-arounds amply discussed at the Flickr discussion group. The reason to put up with all the fuss and muss is because of the lens. It is charming and has a je ne sais quoi. It just has it.

So, I've put up with its quirks and go out of my way to collect versions and models of the L35 mark.

Until this week, I had never found a Nikon L35 AW AF in decent enough condition. Now that I have my hands on one, I believe this version of the L35 (called the Nikon ActionTouch in the US), with its all-weather/ underwater design, does away with some of the more irky quirks of the original L35.

1. The L35 AW AF is not NOISY. This is because of all the heavy rubber gaskets. The film advance screech is mellowed to a gentle whir.

2. Underwater cameras can't use the auto focus. With this model one can pre-set the focus with the dial on the top.

3. The flash doesn't pop-up unless you want it to. This allows a user to take advantage of the lovely f2.8 aperture and the slowest shutter time of 2 seconds (despite what the manual specs say - which say 1/8 sec).

4. And, you can do the opposite, if you like force flashing. Just  flip the switch and it's on no matter how bright it is outside. I used to have to trigger the flash by sticking it inside a bag and take a light reading.

There are a few problems though with this version too: can't manually set the ASA though one can circumvent the encoder with a bit of tape on the film cassette in which case the camera defaults to 100 ASA providing two-stops over-exposure on a roll of 400 ASA black and white;

...there is no lens filter thread while on the original L35AF  offers a 46mm thread on which I usually slap on a YK2 when shooting black and white.

These are just initial thoughts on the camera. Loading it soon and will let you know how it does.

If you need the manual, kiss my BUTKUS.

September 21, 2013

With Yashica 635 - why lens sharpness sometimes doesn't matter in medium format

The best bit of advice I ever received from a Hasselblad repair technician: If you're not cropping images, don't worry that the lens is a mere triplet and not a better formula.

My trusty 635 has the triplet Yashikor instead of the highly desirable Yashinon lens found on the Yashica Mat 124-G.

Horst Wenzel, camera repair tech extraordinaire, said, "Pah, what difference does it make. You'd have to blow it up the size of the wall to see the difference."

Indeed, the bigger the image the further back one stands.

Lens sharpness has a parallel to the passion for more pixels in the digital era. If cropping is not involved, a photographer can get by with a mere 2.7 pixels even less (depending on the size of the print).

A big negative makes up for a humble (not crappy) lens. Above is Park Wong tailor from the shop where I apprenticed, Modernize Tailors.

It's a scan made with a mini light table as the backlight...I don't have a medium format scanner.

I picked up the gist of this technique from John Sypal of Tokyo Camera Style. Good enough for me.

September 6, 2013

More Warhol news and Warhol-with-a-camera shots because we can't get enough

New York Times' T-Magazine reports a batch of photos by Warhol are on auction right NOW. They are owned by the Hedges Project. Above, is his 1986 image of Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.
Recent Warhol/camera images....

Ahh. The above image is by David McGough. I've heard about this camera but I hadn't found a hi-res version of it. McGough writes that Warhol holds a point and shoot decorated by Keith Harring. It is identified as a Canon but based on the viewfinder position and the location of the light exposure sensor under the lens I suspect it is an Olympus AFL Picasso from 1983.

Also, because it's so nice, Warhol on the Great Wall by Chris Makos with his camera for that trip, the Chinon Infrafocus 35F-MA.

June 14, 2013

Test shot

Shot with Canon Super Sure Shot AF35ML. Film: suspected Fuji Superia X-tra 400ASA packaged as Easypix 400 from Shoppers Drug Mart.

Don't mind the bad scan please.

Also if you want to know more about shooting with the Super Sure Shot, I have a few notes.

June 12, 2013

Shoppers Drug Mart film Easypix 400 ASA

I finally had a chance to develop the Easypix film from Shoppers Drug Mart.

I shot the film with a Color Skopar 50mm f3.5 on the Voigtlander Vito B viewfinder. The results are quite nice considering how adverse the lighting situations I found myself in. One shot involved a dark elevator. The other had heavy duty back lighting.

I scan pretty roughly but I can safely say the film may very well be Fuji Superia X-tra as rumour has it. It certainly has the graininess of typical of that film.

In the past, when shooting colour 135 film (aka 35mm ), I have tended towards Kodak's Ektar 100 and Fuji's Reala. The Ektar has always been a very saturated film (which I like for outdoor summery). Reala seems to me more smooth and a bit more quiet. With Reala, I taken some of my favourite colour images (see pic below).


That said, I am itching to try the 200 ASA Easypix film which should be the same as Fuji Superia 200 ASA film. I don't think I've really shoot seriously with Superia 200 and I hope it is a bit of a sleeper.

As for the Easypix 400, it's okay. Though, I will hold back on a FINAL verdict as I shot another roll of the 400 on the Canon Super Sure Shot AF35ML.

You never know.

June 5, 2013

What is depressing...

When people take pictures of cameras for craigslist without an iota of photographic sensibility. It's just another hunk of metal to sell.