Monday, December 6, 2010

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP

Why a Spotmatic?

It was the first SLR that I had in my hands, I should have been about five.
My uncle Jorge bought one with a lot of accessories. At that moment I decided that SLR was the kind of camera that I was going to use when I grew up.
In fact I've been using SLR cameras for more than twenty five years.
It took me more than forty years to get a Spotmatic.
Now, thanks to my parents, who gave me one for my last birthday, I have this beautiful black specimen.

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP

Some Facts about it:

The Pentax Spotmatic was presented in Cologne at the 1960 Photokina, as a prototype, by the Asahi Optical Co. Ltd.
This prototype had in fact a spotmeter, that gave the name to the camera.
The production version, that was introduced in the market in 1964, had an average meter, that later was substituted by a centre weighted one.

The Spotmatic was one of the pioneers of the TTL metering and became a cult camera among both professionals and serious amateurs.

An interesting fact is that the Asahi Optical Co. Ltd. changed it's name to the name of its product: Pentax Corporation.
The name Pentax was given to SLR cameras with a pentaprism, as opposed to the older models, with waist level finder, the Asahiflexes.

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP

Main Features and review:

In the picture above, you can see the double flash pc sockets, for electronic flash or flash bulbs, and the exposure meter switch, marked SW.
When it's on the up position it closes the diaphragm, on the lens, to the chosen aperture and gives us the light meter readout.

TTV Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP In the picture on the right you can see a TTV picture of the Spotmatic viewfinder with the meter off and the lens fully open.TTV Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP
In the picture on the left the meter is on and the diaphragm of the lens closed to the chosen aperture.
You can see now that the meter needle is between the brackets.
When the shutter is released the lens diaphragm opens and the meter is turned off, automatically.

This is called stop down metering.
It also allows to check the depth of fileld, once the diaphragm is closed.

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP

On this top view you can see, on the left, the film rewind crank, surrounded by a film reminder, the prism casing, with some abrasion marks, made by an accessory shoe.
On the right, the shutter speed selector, that doubles its function as ASA selector by pulling it up and turning to the value corresponding to the film we are using. The shutter index, turns to red if the parameters of film sensitivity and or shutter speed are out of the meter range.
The shutter release and barely noticed, by its right, the reminder of the film advance state, if it's black the film it's not yet advanced, if it's red it's ready to shoot.
Finally the advance lever with the exposure counter. This exposure counter is reset when the film door is opened.

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP

What can we say about this side, we have the iconic SPOTMATIC  logo, the self timer lever and the amazingly sharp SMC, from super multi coated, Takumar 55mm 1:1.8 lens.

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP

Even the lens cap is great.

This is a very nice and perfectly usable camera. With its forty something years of work it still delivers a pin point metering, with an adapted battery, the shutter speeds are perfect and the lens is sharp.
Another positive point is that I can use all my m42 glass with it and I have some.
In conclusion I'm very pleased with this camera and its results, that you can see on the end of the page.

Features list:

Type - 35mm single-lens reflex with built-in light meter.

Film and Picture Size - 35mm film, 24 x 36mm.

Standard Lenses - Super -Takumar 50mm f/1.4 or 55mm f/l.8 with fully automatic diaphragm. Filters and lens hood size: 49mm. Equipped with diaphragm preview lever which affords visual check of depth of field. Distance scale: 45cm to infinity.

Shutter - Focal plane shutter. Speeds: B, 1-1/1000 sec. Film speed (ASA) setting dial and window on shutter speed dial. Built-in self-timer releases shutter in 5-13 seconds. Cloth shutter curtains travelling horizontally.

Out of Range Warning Signal -The index of shutter speeds turns to red when the shutter and film speed settings are off the meters measurably range.

Viewfinder - Pentaprism finder with microprism Fresnel lens for instant focusing; 0.88x magnification with 50mm lens and approximately life-size with 55mm lens

Reflex Mirror - Instant return type with special shock absorbers for minimum vibration.

Film Advance - Ratchet-type rapid wind lever (for film advance and shutter cocking). 10° pre-advancing and 160º advancing angle.

Film Advance Indicator - A red disk appears in a small window alongside the shutter release button when the film is advanced and the shutter cocked, and blacks out when it is released.

Film Exposure Counter - Automatic reset type

Lens Mount - 42mm threaded lens mount.

Flash Synchronization - Equipped with FP and X flash terminals. Electronic synchronization at 1/60 sec.

Exposure Meter - Built-in meter measures the brightness of the ground glass, and couples directly to shutter and film speed settings. Film speed (ASA) setting ranges from 20 to 1600 (LV1-18 for ASA-100 film with standard lens.) Meter is powered with a mercury battery.

Film Rewind - Rapid rewind crank for speedy film take-up. Film rewind release button on bottom of camera body rotates while film is being rewound.
Loaded Film Reminder - Loaded film reminder dial underneath film rewind knob is marked PANCHRO (black and-white), COLOR and EMPTY.

Dimensions - Width143mm x height 92mm x thickness 88mm.

Weight - 868 grams with standard lens, Body alone: 621 grams.

Photo Examples:

Blessed Trip
Blessed trip by RaúlM.

Saint Catherine
Saint Catherine by RaúlM.

Grandeur in death
Grandeur in death by RaúlM.

I let you be the judge of the results.

Stay tuned (o;

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Franka Solida

Franka Solida I
Franka Solida I by RaúlM.

Franka Solida IIE (3)
Franka Solida IIE by RaúlM.

Franka Solida III E
Franka Solida IIIE by RaúlM.

I love medium format folding cameras. They allow me to always carry a medium format on my pocket.

The Franka Solida range is amazing in manufacture quality, reliability and as practical shooters.

These cameras were made in Bayreuth, in the Black Forest, by Franka-Kamerawerk.

Franka Solida I
Solida I back by RaúlM.
Franka Solida III E
Solida IIIE back by RaúlM.
These are post war cameras marked "Made in Germany US Zone".
They were manufactured around 1954.

They all use 120 film giving me twelve exposures per roll of film.

The Solida I is the least sophisticated of the three I own.

Franka Solida I & Watameter rangefinder

It lacks range finder, that's why this one came with a Watameter, when I bought it.
I bought it from an English gentleman, who told me that this camera was his seventeenth birthday present, from his brother, who was stationed in Germany at that time.

Franka Solida I & Watameter rangefinder

The lens is a Frankar - Anastigmat 75mm, 1:4.5 on a four speed Pronto shutter, 1/25-1/200 and B, with self timer.

Even being the least sophisticated is a sharp shooter, as you can see in the following pictures:

Medieval by RaúlM.

Bell Tower
Bell Tower by RaúlM.

The Solida IIE, is a more sophisticated model, with a built-in, uncoupled, range finder, a better lens and shutter.

Franka Solida IIE (4)
Solida IIE top view by RaúlM:

In the picture above you can see the distance indication of the range finder, the red dot warning that the film is advanced and the camera ready to shoot, the shutter release and the advance knob, that includes a film reminder.

Franka Solida IIE (1)
Solida IIE front view by RaúlM.

This was one of the first folding cameras I bought. The range finder was non-operational. I send it to repair, it was a loose mirror. Later when I gained more confidence in my mechanical skills I made a complete CLA to the range finder, that was quite misaligned vertically. Now it's great.

On this one the lens is an Ennagon 75mm, 1:3,5, from Enna Werk, München, on a eight speed Prontor-SVS shutter, 1"-1/300 and B,  with self timer, V, and two flash synchro positions  X and M.

I have an anecdote about this camera:
The other folding cameras I had, when I bought this one, in order to fold I had only to force down the struts.
When this one arrived I opened it and was incapable of closing it. I turned it upside down, looked everywhere but to no avail.
I handed it to my wife, not telling her about my difficulties, and asked her to close it. What she did, to my complete surprise, immediately.
As she picked the camera, she saw at once the silver button, under the lens, that must be pressed  to unlock the struts.
It was a good laugh afterwards.

Once again this is a sharp shooter:

Franka - Douro
Douro by RaúlM.

Peaceful morning
Peaceful morning by RaúlM.

The Solida IIIE is the top notch on the scale.

Franka Solida III E with case and filters
Franka Solida IIE with leather case and filters by RaúlM.

I bought this one with the leather case and a set of filters, in a leather case also.

Franka Solida III E
Solida IIIE front view by RaúlM.

The Solida IIIE has a 80mm 1:2.9, Sheneider-Kreuznach Radionar lens on a eight speed Synchro-Compur shutter, 1"-1/500 and B, once again no self timer, M and X flash synchro. Edit - Thanks to the info provided by Malcolm Grant Purvis, I found that this shutter as a self timer:
On the Synchro-Compur the little conical button on top of the lens is the self-timer. Cock the shutter, then pull back the button and push the cocking lever some more, about 5mm. This sets the self-timer.
The built-in range finder is uncoupled, it has double exposure prevention and a film reminder on the film advance knob.

One distinguishable feature in this camera is that the bellows bed swings to the right, while in the other models it drops to the front.  

This lens is a beauty and what can I say? Another sharp shooter:

Sabugal by RaúlM.

Sabugal by RaúlM.

These folders are among my most cherished cameras.

Edit - For a very comprehensive information about these and other Franka Models visit:

Stay tuned (o;

Monday, November 15, 2010

Photax Blindé

M.I.O.M. Photax III (Blindé) (1)
Photax III Blindé by RaúlM.

Blindé is the French word for tank.
You just have to take a look at it, with the lens cover on, to understand the name.

These cameras were manufactured by a French company named M.I.O.M., Manufacture d'Isolants et d'Objets Moulés. It was a factory of insulators and plastic, Bakelite, cast materials.
The plastic casting allowed these streamlined designs.
The first of this series of blindé models saw the light of day in 1938. It was the Photax II that was made until 1947. The one I own is a model III, 1947-1951.

The lens cover, that doubles as shutter lock, must be turned 360º, CCW, until it clicks into place.

M.I.O.M. Photax III (Blindé) (2)

In doing this the camera is ready to take pictures, using it's Boyer Serie VIII, meniscus lens.
The focus is fixed from 2,75m to infinity.

M.I.O.M. Photax III (Blindé) (3)

All the main controls are located in the lens board:
The shutter release, that acts the guillotine type shutter, due to its long travel, doesn't need to be pre-cocked, it all happens in a single movement, when we press it.
Shutter speed selector, the small lever above the lens. 1/100, 1/25 and T (B).
Under the lens, that lever with positions 1 and 2, selects the aperture. We have the choice of two masks, roughly corresponding to f8 and f11.

M.I.O.M. Photax III (Blindé) (4)

In the body there is a reverse Galilean viewfinder, the film advance knob and the camera back locks.

The removable camera back incorporates the red window, to monitor the advance of the film.

This camera uses the defunct 620 film. I use it with re-spooled 120 film. I have some 620 spools, they are a little shorter and the centre pole is significantly thinner. The film has the same dimensions, so it's an easy operation that I perform in a camera changing bag.

Cased M.I.O.M. Photax III (Blindé)

In the picture above you can see the re-spooled film and the empty 120 spool, by the camera and over the changing bag.

620 vs 120 Film spools

620 vs 120 Film spools by Dirk HR Spennemann

In this picture, from my friend Dirk, you can see the differences between the 120 and 620 spools.
He also has a very nice tutorial on "HOW TO: make a 620 roll film from a 120 roll film".

As I told you before this is a very simple camera, features wise, and a very nice piece of design.
I found it in a flea market and bought it without a second thought.

Cased M.I.O.M. Photax III (Blindé)

Would you resist it?

Although the lens is a simple meniscus the quality is surprising, especially on the centre, as you can see in the following pictures:

Me and Photax Blindé
Me and Photax III - Blindé

Rio Ferreira
Rio Ferreira by RaúlM.


Photax III aka Blindé 1947-1951
Manufactured By M.I.O.M., Vitry-sur-Seine, France
Rollfilm Viewfinder camera
Viewfinder: Reversed Galilean 
Lens: Boyer Serie VIII
Shutter: Guillotine shutter, cocked by the shutter release. 1/100, 1/25 and B
Apertures: f8 and f11, selectable masks
Focus: Fixed from 2,75m to infinity, when the helical lens barrel is turned 360º, CCW.
Film advance: by a round knob on the top left of the camera, monitored in a red window on the back
Film type: 620 film, eight 6x9 exposures per roll
Tripod bush: On the bottom centre
Brown leather camera case.

Stay tuned (o;

Friday, November 5, 2010

Exakta Varex IIa

Exakta Varex IIa
Exakta Varex IIa by RaúlM.

This camera is from a good vintage 1961, like its owner.
It's a "modernized" version of the 1956 model:

Exakta Varex IIa Biotar Jena pre WW II. Pentaprism.

Exakta Varex IIa Biotar Jena by Juan Felipe Gomez T

This model was produced in three variations, all the features were the same, only the name plate was different, from 1957 to 1960 the name plate had this beautiful lettering either engraved or embossed, mine produced in 1961 has this black plate with straight Roman lettering.
I'm saying that mine was made in 1961 as a wishful thinking, they were produced between 1961 and 1963. 

These cameras where made by Ihagee, in Dresden, Germany.
They are the culmination of a long line of 35mm SLR cameras, a field where Ihagee was one of the pioneers, they started with the Kine Exakta in 1936 and continued its production until 1948.
After the WWII, Dresden was in East Germany, under Soviet influence.
The models prospered with the very early EXA models, then the V model, VX, Varex and finally the Varex IIa and IIb.
After that they started cutting corners with models striped of features like the VX500 and VX1000 ending with the EXA models, from which I have two and like them very much, but in a very different league.

The camera is beautiful, perfectly build, a nice engineering project but an ergonomic nightmare.
I think that the factory closed when the word ergonomic became current.

Exakta Varex IIa
Top view and main controls

Let's start by the shape: a trapezoyd, maybe not the best gripping shape. Although I have to confess it's beautiful
The controls: all the most important controls are located on the left of the camera, maybe it's a good thing for lefties, not my case.
Let's see film advance, shutter speed selection, for high speeds, film counter and film counter reset, release for film rewind and shutter release, this one not only it's in the left of the camera but also in the front.
On the right top we have the shutter speed selector, for low speeds and self timer, in the same knob, and a film reminder.

Exakta Varex IIa - Film advance lever at 270ºExakta Varex IIa
The film advance lever, as you can see in this pictures travels 270º.
It doesn't lock after advanced, so if you, like me, have the habit of verifying if the film is advanced before taking a picture, you are going to find a very loose film advance lever, every time you do it. Of course, if you remember that the mirror only returns after the film advance, you know that if you have image in the viewfinder the film is advanced.

There is also a shutter release lock:

Exakta Varex IIa - release shutter unlockedExakta Varex IIa - release shutter locked
You can see it locked, on the left picture, and unlocked, on the right one.
It's a nice feature, not very pratical with this kind of lenses, with the shutter release extension.

It features a very nice hinged back:

Exakta Varex IIa - Back openingExakta Varex IIa - back closed
Here again it's a tricky operation you have to pull hard, or very hard, on that knob on the bottom left and then twist it either way to keep it unlocked.
It's locked, on the left picture and unlocked on the right one.
The right knob is the film rewind. First you have to pull it so it comes off and then you turn it CW to rewind the film.

Exakta Varex IIa - Take-up spool or cartridge

A nice feature is that you can use either a take up spool or cartridge.

Exakta Varex IIa - Cartridge to cartridge

Using the take up cartridge we can perform a mid roll change:

Exakta Varex IIa - Film cutterExakta Varex IIa - Film cutterUnscrewing the small knob, near the rewind knob, we release a knife, used to cut the film. Clever gadget.

Exakta Varex IIa - Exakta proprietary lens mount

The lens are interchangeable, using the Exakta mount, shared with early EXA cameras, later models adopted the M42 screw mount.
Exakta never produced lenses for their cameras, many of the contemporary lens makers did it for them, even Nippon Kogaku, later Nikon Corporation, made some lenses with its mount.

The viewfinders are interchangeable too.

Exakta Varex IIa with WLF of EXA I

In the above picture the waist level finder is from my EXA I, but I can also use the one from my EXA 1c, a much more recent model.

Exakta Varex IIa

Did you noticed the three flash connections, for slow bulbs, fast bulbs and electronic flash?

Anyway, with all it's quirks, I think this is one of the most beautiful cameras in my collection.

The lens that came with it is a wonderful Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm 1:2,8

As a shooter is quite competent, only the 1/1000 shutter speed is faltering, maybe with a good clean up it revives.
I leave here some shots, so you can judge by yourself.

Marégrafo - Tide meter
Tide meter by RaúlM.

Dragon by RaúlM.

Just a park bench
Just a park bench by RaúlM.

Need by RaúlM.

Kodak Portra 160, Expired 2002-05
Caffenol-C Process.

Stay tuned (o;