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27 May 2022

A Wee Update

 I was becoming increasingly aware I haven't posted here in a while. In fact I am thinking about moving the whole blog over to my Lomography page. I'll leave directions here if I do.

At the moment I'm allocating cameras to purposes. I think the Petri 7S will remain as a good street photography camera. Of all the miniature cameras I have it's a choice between the Rollei B35 and the Minolta 460Tx. The Minolta seems more secure in a pocket and has its own flash but the Rollei takes full size 35mm negatives with a good range of exposure settings. I think it may depend on the occasion with these.

As to general purpose photography and something of an all rounder to take on a trip I'm a wee bit reluctant to use the old Zenit 11 at the moment with the horrendous actions of the Russian government that are ongoing and I also have discovered what a good camera the Yashica TL Electro is. I have one that works beautifully as a manual camera and takes all of the nice M42 lenses I've collected. It has a beautiful big bright viewfinder and a button that lets you check depth of field, features which trump my Pentax ME Super which is remarkable for such an old camera. However, getting the electronics to work on these is a big ask. The batteries are obsolete and there are no straight equivalents. I have a set of adaptors on the way but after some discussion with a great eBayer called Ben, I now have this camera on the way with a full guarantee on its mechanics, optics and electronics. So I may end up with two of these (no bad thing).

On the arty side I am currently testing a 1963 edition Ilford Sporti 6. It takes 120 film and I'm thinking it might give some of that Lomography vignetting and interesting exposure depth while having a better lens than the Holga or the Diana F. I'll post those when I get them.
In the meantime here are some pictures taken with a Yashica TL Electro without the Electro bit.

15 February 2022

Half Frame, A Parallel Tiny World


I managed to get hold of an Olympus Pen-D at a very reasonable price. I've been checking these out on eBay for a year or two and the prices are usually overinflated for what is a nice but fairly basic camera.

The collectors are after them because they form a unique little story in the development of compact cameras in the 50s and 60s. This is the story of half-frame 35mm cameras and the pursuit of these in the Japanese camera industry.

Olympus produced a series of these called Olympus Pen cameras over a couple of decades right into the 1980s. I like the Pen-D because it has one of the best lenses in the series, a 6-element F.Zuiko 32mm f/1.9, and, while having an uncoupled meter on board, it doesn't need batteries, especially those mercury ones from the early 60s, as the meter is a selenium type. The meter uses the EV system that I'm used to from my Minolta A5; very handy as you set the aperture and speed rings relatively for the light level and then you can turn then as one to choose the optimum speed and aperture for a particular shot without having to adjust the exposure again.

So I loaded a roll of KosmoFoto Mono 100 ISO film into it and had a go. 100 ISO is usually a good match for the aperture and speed settings on 1960s cameras and KosmoFoto Mono is one of my favourites anyway.

The F.Zuiko lens is way better spec than the 3-element lens on my Rollei B35, but the Pen only takes half-frames, ie half a standard 35mm negative, whereas the Rollei takes full 35mm frames. I wondered whether the better lens on the Olympus would overcome the lower film resolution of the smaller negatives.

Continuing the comparison with the Rollei, which was also an attempt at making a very compact camera shooting 35mm film, the Olympus is only a little bigger but much heavier and with a more robust feel to it. I had no worries that it would break when trying to load the film (see my post on the Rollei to see what the anxiety was with that one). The B35 is one of the most basic of the Rollei 35 line and so I suspect the more advanced ones would compare better. However, the Olympus lens won hands down and the little half-frame negatives a jewels of miniature art with high contrast and pin sharpness.

The only problem I have is that my nearly-60-year-old Pen-D has a stuck rewind release mechanism. When it comes time to rewind the exposed film back into the cassette, it won't. So I have to take the camera into the darkroom, open it and lift the film out past the sprocket wheels and then into the cassette or straight into the developing spiral. Not too much of a problem when you get 72 shots on a 36 shot cassette. So no frequent film changes and a blacked out change bag gets round that problem if required.

As with most of these tiny cameras, there is no focussing aid. Rangefinders and pentaprisms take up space. So the lens barrel is marked with the focussing distance in feet. However, this is where half-frame presents a real advantage. The standard lens for a full-frame 35mm camera has a focal length of between 45 and 55 mm. This little half-frame camera gets the same coverage of field and perspective with its much shorter 32mm lens.

Now focussing a camera without a rangefinder or the pentaprism of an SLR, requires making a good guess at the distance between the camera and the subject. This doesn't have to be exact though because of the phenomenon known as depth of field. When your camera is focussed on a scene there are some points in the scene which will be precisely in focus. These are the points that are exactly the distance indicated in the lens barrel from the plane of the film in the back of the camera. However there are other parts of the scene that are quite acceptably in focus, especially where they are at leas as sharp as the film grain will allow. These are close to the distance indicated in the lens barrel but not exactly there. How close they have to be is fixed by the depth of field. This depends on a relationship with the focal length of the lens (45 to 55mm for a full frame camera with a standard lens) and with the aperture setting (the f/number). The shorter the focal length, and the smaller the aperture, the deeper will be the depth of field and so the less precise the focussing needs to be.

On my full-frame Rollei there are markers on either side of the focus indicator to show the extent of depth of field with the aperture set at f/8 and f/16. So you can estimate how much leeway you have when focussing. Essentially this defines some focus zones when shooting in good light. The numbers on the barrel at 6 feet and at 20 feet are marked in red to show two of these zones: 20 ft for distance shots as the depth of field with the aperture at f/11 (the focal length of the lens divided by 11) or smaller will keep things in focus between 10ft and infinity there; and 6 ft for closeups, kept in focus between 4ft and 10ft.

Now the Olympus has a much shorter focal length and so deeper depth of field. It has stops on the focussing lever which you can feel engage at 4ft and at 10ft. These allow good focussing for close-ups and distance shots with the aperture set at f/8 or smaller. At bigger f/stops (f/5.6, f/4 etc) you still get away with a good guess at the distance but might have try three smaller zones rather than just these two.

One last thing: Olympus cameras always have count-down frame counters. I forgot this first time out and thought the counter wasn't working. So, if I load a 36 exposure film in my Pen-D, I have to reset the counter to 72 and it will count down my 72 half-frame pictures until it reaches 0 and I have to remove the film and develop it. A 24 shot cassette starts at 48 on the counter.

The best of the pictures from this test roll are on my Lomography Home.

Exercising Old Cameras


I dusted off my Rollei B35 the other day, realising I hadn't used it in over a year. This is not a good thing for old cameras which need their cogs and springs exercised once in a while to maintain them. I had had a couple of problems with the winding mechanism and so I decided to run a film through and see if there was a real problem with this. It turns out that patience is the solution and just taking a bit of time over making sure the film is secure in this tiny little camera means that all is well.

I've posted a gallery of some of the best shots on my Lomography Home. Sure enough the little camera is alive and well and I got some good results on my roll of Fomapan 400, although the small aperture lens really does prefer sunny summer days.

09 October 2021

More Lomography, More 110

I took the Minolta Autopak 450E out for some snaps last month then tried out some Ilford ID11 developer on the Lomography Orca film with some nice results. It's a very useful pocket-sized film camera and can take good photos with a little care.

I've uploaded an album of the photos to my Lomography home at ayesongs · Lomography.

07 August 2021

Further into the Tiny World of 110 Cameras

 Flushed with the success of my project with my old Dolphin Sirius, I managed to acquire a Minolta Autopak 450E, probably the best of Minolta's 110 offerings of the 1970s. It features an actual focusable glass lens and two exposure levels with exposure metering plus a built in Minolta Pocket flash. Once I get used to the symbols for the zone focusing this camera should be at least as usable as a good Kodak viewfinder camera from the 1960s.

The first roll of Lomography Orca 100 film has yielded some very nice results. Have a look at my Lomography album for more shots. It's quite interesting to see the results from 110 photography when some care is taken over the processing. I have an old West German movie film developing tank which takes the 110 film in its 16mm spiral and I can lovingly develop these black and white images which look a lot better than the old high street developing we had in the 1970s.

30 July 2021

Birthday Camera

My brother came up with a brilliant birthday present this year: a Petri 7S rangefinder, one of those wonderfully sophisticated Japanese cameras from the 1960s. It has metering visible in the viewfinder and not a battery in sight. So you use it like and SLR while having the immediacy and quiet operation of the rangefinder.

Great wee camera and great results too.

21 July 2021

Into the Tiny World of 110 Cameras

 I found my old Dolphin Sirius underwater camera and decided to give it a run with some film. The Dolphin Sirius is a 110 camera that takes tiny little film cartidges and produces teensy negatives that make 35mm negatives look like posters.

Fortunately the nice people at Lomography make good quality 110 film and I bought a panchromatic Orca cartridge and popped it into the Sirius. Taking the pictures was a simple affair. The flash which came with the camera no longer functions, so my choices were between sunny exposure or cloudy exposure. No focussing allowed.

One thing that is clear from the resulting pictures is that the camera's fixed focus is not set up for landscapes. This makes sense for an underwater camera as visibilty for snorkelling is usually only 10 to 20 feet.

The real trick was developing the film. 110 film is only 16mm wide and so doesn't fit in the usual 135 or 120 spirals that come with developing tanks. However I managed to find an old West German movie developing tank which, of course can take 16mm movie film. The 110 film fitted perfectly in there.

Before getting it into the spiral I had to get it out of the cartridge. There is a popular trick you'll find online which advises you to stop winding the film on once you've got to the Xs on the backing paper (which shows through a wee window in the cartridge and on the camera). You can tweak the film out (in total darkness) with tweasers because this leaves a little film poking out under the backing paper. However, as you pull the film out, it tightens on the take-up spool inside the cartridge and mine would go no further with only 10 of my 24 shots pulled out of the cartridge.

BUT.... the good folk at Lomography are ahead of the game. On closer inspection I discovered that their 110 cartridge pops open if you just pull the top up. So - back to the darkroom and all the film came out easily and went into my 16mm movie spiral. They also provide nice clear instructions on their website about developer concentrations and development times for their film. :-)

You get some interesting and unpredictable images when using the Dolphin for snapshots. I think I may keep it for underwater use only though. In the meantime I have procured a Minolta Autopak 450E and some more Lomography Orca film. So there are more 110 adventures ahead.

Check out my Lomography Home.