Agfa’s production of the Isolette series spans several decades. Multiple models were made from pre-WWII 1936 up to 1958. The Isolette I is a simple German-made 120 folder that was sold from 1952 to 1960. The camera features an 85mm coated f/4.5 – 32 Agnar lens and a synchronized Vario leaf shutter. Focus is scale-focusing, measured on the lens from 3 feet to infinity.
I purchased the Isolette I for $20 after listening to Episode 143 of the Film Photography Project Podcast. Host Mark O’Brien details many of the features. He also describes the common issues with sticky, or dried lubricant. When I received the Isolette, sure enough, the lens would not focus because the original lubricant had cemented the focus in place. Utah Film Photography friend, Maurice Greeson, put the camera on his workbench, cleaned, lubricated and freed the focus.
My experience with the Isolette was just so-so. I like having a 120 folder that has such a small footprint. However, I found that ultimately I wanted better control over the focus. My ideal 120 folder would have a rangefinder focus. The Isolette I doesn’t have a light meter. For some photographers that might be a deal breaker, but for me it wasn’t an issue. Now that I’ve said that, the majority of my shots were under or over-exposed. I don’t believe this was my fault or the cameras. I think it was the expired Kodak T-Max 100 I was using. I’m not sure how it was stored before it was donated. Will I shoot with the Isolette again? Sure, but with some fresh Kodak Tri-X or Illford HP5.
Utah Film Photography has been an interesting adventure. I started this blog 2 years ago to share my experience shooting film and using vintage cameras. To say that I’ve enjoyed myself would be an understatement. It’s introduced me to some fantastic people that have contributed film, gear and a lot of wisdom.
Maurice Greeson – his career on the retail side of the photography industry has given him a love for all things camera related. Maurice has donated film, cameras, advice, knowledge, and everything that has helped me move this blog forward. He’s become a great friend and I value each moment I get to hang out with him. If I ever have a camera or film question/problem, Maurice is my personal wiki.
Scott Smith – encouraged me to shoot film as he himself finished a film and darkroom course at the University of Utah. Scott has donated lenses and has spent several lunch hours with me going over blog ideas and planning our next photo quest. I like to go out shooting with Scott. I always learn something new to try with my own photography.
Mike Williams – my partner in crime. We’ve never actually spoken face-to-face, or on the phone. But we are in constant contact on Facebook and text messages. There’s not a day that goes by that we aren’t talking about cameras, film, and family. Mike has donated film, cameras, and lenses over the past year. He’s been a great source for ideas and projects.
Special thanks: Mars, Caleb, Connor, Big Red, Jacob at Acme Camera, the FPP podcast, the CCR podcast, the 223 Restoration Crew, Special Agent Eric, & Deseret Industries
My 13-year old loves to tease me about using the Barbie camera. When I pull it out of my camera bag, his reaction is a combination of silliness and flamboyance, “Are you shooting with your [high pitched voice] Barbie camera today?”
The Barbie Instant Camera was made in the United Kingdom by Polaroid in 1998. Next to the Tasmanian Devil and Spice Girls camera, it’s one of the more collectible Polaroid cameras made in the 1990’s. Originally, the Barbie Instant Camera came packaged with flower stickers so you could decorate the camera, or your photos. The camera features a pink, purple and lime green plastic body and uses Polaroid (Impossible Project) 600 film. At the time of the release, Polaroid manufactured a matching Barbie-framed instant film. The film matched the flowers on the camera and could be drawn on with a purple magic marker. The plastic lens is 116mm, f/11 single element. The camera also has a close-up lens for shots .6 – 1.2m (2 – 4 feet) that slides out in front the main lens and viewfinder. Exposure is automatic and the shutter speed is about ¼ – 1/200 of a second. Like other plastic body instant cameras made by Polaroid during this period, it has a built-in electronic flash than you can override with the shutter button.
A more difficult camera to write a serious review about than to actually use. Compared to some of the other Polaroid 600 Instant Film cameras I own, the Barbie camera works the best. Probably because it was manufactured more recently. To test the camera, I shot with Impossible Project Black & White, Black Framed, 600 Instant Film. This is some of IP’s first generation film, and had expired two years ago. Even though the film was refrigerated, this is what I expected from gen-1 film. Will I use this camera again? Of course, because it gives me an opportunity to embarrass my son in a crowd of people! When I open the camera, people can’t help but smile and laugh because it’s not often you see a 45-year old man packing around a pink and green Barbie camera.
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I have to admit something that every photographer has done at least a dozen times. I coveted my friends Leica cameras. Maybe coveted is too strong of a word, but I’m a sucker for a good rangefinder camera, but also aware that my funds don’t allow me to possess a Leica. However, I can afford a Zorki!
The Zorki 4 was manufactured by KMZ, Krasnogorsky Mekhanichesky Zavod, from 1956 to 1973 near Moscow in the former USSR. This model was one of the most popular because it was exported from Russia to the western world. The Zorki 4 features a cloth focal plane shutter, with shutter speeds from 1s – 1/1000s. According to some research, there were at least 32 versions of the Zorki 4 released during its 17-year run. All of the changes were cosmetic, either by changing the way the camera name was printed (or engraved) along with anniversary models or commemorative editions. The model that I purchased was manufactured in 1963 (Zorki 4B), indicated by the first two-digits in the serial number. The Zorki 4 uses the old Leica M39 lens screw mount. The cameras were sold with either a Jupiter-8 50mm f/2 or Industar-50 50mm f/3.5 lens. I chose to purchase a model with the Jupiter lens because of the reviews I’ve read and comments from friends.
Overall, this camera is built like a tank, a Russian tank. The camera is easy to focus, and the viewfinder is bright. If I compared it to a pre-war Leica, like most photographers do, I would say that the sound of the shutter, and the feel of the camera are exactly what I’d expect. One disadvantage of the Zorki 4 is the viewfinder. It’s is so big that you don’t know where the edges of your framed shot are, or where they should be. Ideally, it should have been designed like other rangefinders at the time with faint boarder lines in the viewfinder. Image composition is difficult.
I love that this camera is all mechanical, no batteries, and no meter. The Jupiter lens is easy to focus and provides nice depth of field. One of the best pieces of advice I read online before pulling the trigger on eBay was; you get what you pay for with the Zorki. Most are shipped from sellers in Russia and normally the price indicates the condition and functionality of the camera. Of course you always want to check seller feedback, current sold and shipping prices. My test images were shot on Film Photography Project’s Edu 200 BW Film. Currently I have some Svema BW Super Positive ISO .8 BW Film from the Film Photography Project loaded in the Zorki. Russian camera, Russian film, отлично!
The camera review this week was a donation from Mike Williams in Hickory, North Carolina. Mike found the 7s at a local yard sale for $5.00 (US) and shipped it out west. Make sure to check our Mike’s current project on Youtube, 12 Months/12 Cameras, where he shoots an entire month with a single camera and shares a video review.
The Petri 7s was manufactured by the Petri Camera Company from 1963 – 1976. Features: coupled rangefinder focus, around-the-lens selenium light meter, shutter speeds from 1 to 1/500 sec, and a 45mm f/2.8 – 16 lens. The Petri company called their rangefinder focus system the Green-O-Matic because the overall viewfinder is tinted green while the focusing area is yellow. The idea was that contrasting colors made it easier to focus.
After the Petri 7S arrived, I purchased a telephoto and wide angle diopter set from a user in a vintage camera group on Facebook for $12. The diopters are screwed in to the 52mm thread mount, and the viewfinder is attached to the camera cold/accessory shoe. My results with the diopter set are mixed. This is the first time I’ve used diopters with a rangefinder camera. In the digital world, my experience with adding more glass in front or behind a lens results in difficult focusing and poor image quality.
The selenium light meter on the Petri 7s circles the lens. This design was initially created to allow the meter to read the light behind an attached lens filter. The camera has two match-needle meters. One is visible in the viewfinder, and the other on the top of the camera body. In this particular 7s, the needles on both do not display the same reading. In some of my images, I tried to split the difference between the two with little success. I had much better results metering with my Gossen Luna Pro S handheld meter.
You can find the Petri 7s for as cheap as $8.00 (US) on eBay, and there are a lot of them. While I really enjoy a good rangefinder camera, this one ranks towards the bottom of the list. And not because of the meter issue. That’s almost expected with a selenium meter on a camera that’s a) this old and b) you don’t know how it was stored. My test images were shot on Film Photography Project’s Edu 200 BW Film. There was some scratching on the negatives in most of the images that I intend to investigate. If I had to pick a rangefinder from 60’s or 70’s, I’d consider a Yashica or Minolta over the Petri. However, for less than twenty bucks, it was worth the gamble. Do you have a any of the Petri rangefinders? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
The Hi-Matic series was Minolta’s most popular line of consumer rangefinder cameras. The F was produced in 1972 as an economy model. Not only economic in price, but in size and weight. The Hi-Matic F weighs 350g and measures only 113 x 73 x 54mm. With a small footprint, the camera does have a nice 38mm, f/2.7 Rokkor coated lens. The CdS meter on the camera automates the aperture and exposure for shutter speeds from 4 to 1/724 sec. On the lens itself, a flash guide number is printed so the photographer can select distance to the subject for flash photography.
Minolta Hi-Matic F (1972)
Minolta Hi-Matic F (1972)
Minolta Hi-Matic F (1972)
Minolta Hi-Matic F (1972)
While the camera is small enough to carry wherever you go, the absence of any manual controls make it feel like a point-and-shoot. The Hi-Matic F is a great all-purpose camera. It would make a nice addition to a street photographers kit because of its discreet size and shutter sound. My test shots were made with Kodak Tri-X 400, and scanned on an Epson Perfection V600 Photo.
At some point I bought a second Pentax Spotmatic from a thrift store without a lens. Not sure what to do with the extra body, I decided to purchase a pinhole lens cap on eBay and try my hand at some pinhole photos. Using Pinhole Assist on my iPhone, I was able to capture an accompanying image with the settings used for each film shot. Within the app you start by metering with the phones camera, set the film reciprocity, make any necessary calculations for aperture, and then save your profile for future use. These images were made on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, April 24, 2016.
Camera: Pentax Spotmatic with 45mm – f/150 Pinhole Lens Cap
Film: Kodak Color 200 – Expired (donated by Mike Williams)
Other: MeFoto Backpacker Travel Tripod, Pinhole Assist for iOS
The Yashica Mat-124 G is known as being the last TLR (twin lens reflex) camera manufactured by Yashica from 1970 to 1986. In a time where camera manufactures had abandoned TLR’s, the Mat-124 G was very much out of place, but very successful. The Mat-124 G is nearly identical to the earlier 124 model. The only differences being cosmetic, the 124 G is all black, some electrical changes were made along with the pressure plate slides internally.
Featuring a four-element, Yashinon 80mm f/3.5 taking lens, and a 80mm f/2.8 viewing lens, the Mat-124 G has a Copal-SV shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/500 sec, bulb mode, self-timer, MX flash snyc selector and shutter locking device. On the top of the camera is a Cadmium Sulfide (CdS) meter powered by one modern PX-625 battery. The meter is match-needle based on the preselection of the shutter speed. The film advance crank on the right-side of the camera automatically stops, preventing accidental double-exposures and proper spacing on the film between images. The focus knob on the left-side of the camera extends and retracts the front panel containing the taking and viewing lenses. The shutter button is threaded for a standard cable release and the bottom of the camera is threaded with a standard ¼” tripod socket.
I bought this camera because I really enjoy shooting 120 film, Kodak Tri-X being my favorite. I’ve also enjoyed using my Yashica A and wanted something with a meter and a better focus screen. The Mat-124 G meter powers itself on when you open the focusing windows on top of the camera. While Zinc Air batteries don’t last as long as the old mercury ones, at least I don’t need to worry about forgetting to replace the lens cap or flipping a switch to save the battery. The physical location of the shutter speed and aperture dials make this camera easy to use. While the ground glass focus screen is bright and sharp from edge-to-edge, I find myself using the built-in magnifying lens over the top of the focus window frequently to ensure that I’ve nailed the focus. The focus screen is considerably better than my Yashica A, plus there’s still a number of vendors that sell and install replacement glass for better viewing on the 124 G. The taking lens is a bayonet mount for accessories. I’ve found that buying an original metal lens hood, or 30mm filters, can be very expensive. Overall, the camera is built like a tank and produces a wonderful 6×6 medium format images. Below is a selection of photos taken on three different types of film: Lomography Color Slide / X-Pro 200, Fujifilm Reala 100, and Kodak Vericolor HC (Expired 3/91).
I purchased this camera in March of 2015 from a thrift store. The camera was sold as a dental kit: Complete Minolta SR-T202 Clinical Camera Unit, Clinical Camera Case, Dental Mirrors, Columbia wire retractor, Minolta F4 100mm lens, and Minolta 18LS Flash. One item not listed on the original sales receipt was the Mobilgrip. This would allow a dentist to hold the camera in one hand, like a gun, while focusing the bellows with the other. You can read more about this camera in my original post from last year.
The following images were shot on Holga 400 black & white film on a cold January morning at the Union Station in Ogden, Utah.