Friday, August 24, 2007

Going smaller

No, don't worry, I'm not going digital-crazy.  Although I am talking about the equivalent of small sensors, well, not *that* bad :)

Half-frame is what on the menu today. And I am talking about one of the coolest half-frame scale-focusing camera around, the Olympus Pen EED. An honest to goodness auto-exposure camera with an amazing lens attached to it. And the usual smooth operations expected from vintage Olympus. Everything from opening the back, loading the film, advance and rewind, and shutter release just oozes quality.

The lens, it's an F.Zuiko 32mm (which is close to 50mm on a full-frame cameras). Good for taking snapshots and more. It's a 6-element design lens that is fast, ... f1.7 fast.

The format, it's a half-frame, which is not a big deal in this day and age, where some ASA 400 films are smoother than ASA 100 films of yesteryears.  Alas, feeling cheap, I used the on-sale Walgreen 400 film which is about as crappy a film as you can get (and it shows, arrrrgh!).  They make nice black and white when converted, though :)

NOTE: There are two versions of this camera, one with the Rapid Agfa cassette, the other with an ordinary 35mm film. Guess which one is reviewed here :)

But all in all, even the crappy film shows of how sharp and contrasty the Zuiko on this camera is.  Here's one picture with ample sunlight:

Here's another one that is lighted only by the chandelier itself, and a teeeeeeny bit of ambient light from a revolving door about 20-feet behind me.

Not bad, eh? I keep being amazed at Olympus for putting in such a high power lens into an obviously consumer camera that I bet they didn't think someone would review it in 2007 (41 years after they are first released).

Overall the automatic-exposure mechanism is doing one heck of a job. But one thing that irritates me is that the meter is not located in the lens housing, making it that much more of a hassle to use filters. At first I thought that it can't be done, but when I think about it some more, I can use a filter if I knew how many stops I have to compensate and use the ASA settings to fool the camera.

Ok, on to the fun part. Another bonus for using half-frame cameras are ... DIPTYCH-making :)
These half-frames are designed to do diptychs.  It's fun to try to make two pictures seems to have some kind of connection with each other and it's a fertile ground for creativity (and of course, some stretching of imagination :)

This one is titled "DMA in Vivid and Neutral"

This one is "My Shadow"

This one is "Reaching out"

In summary, this camera impresses the heck out of me. The cool retro look is matched by both the build quality and the images. I have a feeling that this one is going to stay with me for a long time. Also, as you probably suspect, it makes a good Osanpo (walk around) camera :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Welmy the Six Shooter

Hello all, this is Welmy, my new six shooter that is both quirky and fun to use.

it has the Terionar lens (like I've heard that before ) that most likely is a Cooke-triplet design.

The most interesting feature of this camera is that it has two viewfinders (alas, no rangefinder) that allows you to do waist level (or chest level more correctly because the viewfinder is so small) and eye level compositions.

This one come with stuck shutter speed and slow speed shutter not working. After a mini-bath of denatured alcohol, everything starts to work. That's how I can do the test roll, but the next day, the shutter diaphragm becomes lazy again, so it's in queue for a Naphtha bath next.

What irked me the most about using this camera is that I always forget to advance the film, therefore making ugly multiple exposures (why can't I make good ones like the ones I usually see )

Anyways, just sharing some pictures from the test roll around the house

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Same Glass, Different Wavelength

"One has visible lights going through them, the other has electricity"

I was visiting the monthly flea-market at downtown Dallas when I noticed gentleman with a vintage van opened at the back and on the side.  Among the pile of boxes of the things that he's selling, I noticed several old radios and amplifiers. Having my camera in the bag, I thought to myself, hmm, those may make interesting props for studio shots; no harm taking some pictures of them.

So I went over and scan the table, then I noticed these little bitty boxes, obviously mass-manufactured from hundreds of different brands and models. That's neat, I thought.

At that moment the gentleman probably noticed my geeky-fascination look and said to me, "those are vacuum tubes".  I lift my head and noticed him smiling at me.  We then proceeded to talk about his hobby and passion, old tubes used to build or rebuild old equipments.  Pardon my very pedestrian description, I'm sure most of you know what I'm talking about and have better vocabulary to describe it :).

I have almost zero Electronics knowledge, but I did remember hearing in a college lecture about these glass tubes; enough to appreciate their versatility and their place in history.  I also know that they look very stylish and I'm making it a challenge to capture the vintage-ness. 

So I extended my hand, saying, I'm Will, I am an amateur photographer.  He said, I'm Jim, nice to meet you!  Then I asked him if I can compensate him in any way for letting me take a picture of his tubes and radios.  Jim just smiled and waved his hand, he said, "shoot away, don't sweat it".

That day I brought my Olympus 35 SP and a Nikon FM2, I snapped some photos, hoping that the 1.7 Zuiko on the Olympus and the 2.8 Nikkor can do the job.  Mind you, this flea-market happens under the highway bridge, the lighting is weird to say the least.  The yellowish street lights under the bridge are mixed with the morning sunlight.  I decided to save myself a lot of white-balance hassle so the pictures are going to be black and white for sure.

Suddenly Jim turned to me and said, "You like vintage photography? come
on back later, I think I have an old camera catalog from the 1800 for
you" then he started rummaging in his stack of crates full of old ads,
catalogs.  I smiled at his comment, said that I'll be back later, and
proceed to the rest of the flea market.

Later on, I came back and took some more pictures.

As I snapped these pictures, several others have gathered around the table and talked to Jim, some of them are obviously long-time acquaintances and fellow vacuum tube fans.  A guy, seeing that I'm taking pictures, opened a box and pull out a tube and stage it for me to take a picture of. He told me that even today, these vacuum tubes are still used to control switches within nuclear reactors because we couldn't use modern transistors or semiconductor chips because they will be fried. Wow!

Between shots, I suddenly realize, these are just like  film photography people, they have the same passion, same dedication, to a craft thought useless and lost to many.  Same glasses, different wavelength.

Finally Jim came over and told me that he couldn't find the camera catalog, he apologized. I said, you have given me enough. Just the chance to meet people like him, who are steadfast in their chosen passion, is encouraging to me. And that made my day.