Category Archives: Film Cameras

Minolta X-700

I’ve been looking to buy a Minolta X-700 for a few years. I passed on a few of them because I thought they were overpriced. However, last month I found one in an antique store for $20. I believe they thought it was broken. With a set of new batteries, light seals, and some cleaning, the camera works great! This is one of the few cameras that my friend Mike Williams has raved about for a few years now. He likes this camera so much; he bought a backup. And he’s been eager to hear my thoughts on the X-700.

Minolta X-700

The Minolta X-700 was released in 1981 and was the top of the line from the X-series of cameras, boasting the largest number of accessories and part of the MPS (Minolta Program System). Initially produced in Japan, and then manufactured in China, the X-700 was produced from 1981 to 1999. While the X-700 was sold as a professional camera, it gained popularity with both amateurs and pros because of the camera’s Program mode. The Program mode made use of camera’s electronics, automating the camera, making it a high-end point and shoot, with perfect exposures every shot. The X-700 has three modes: Programmed Automatic Exposure, Aperture-Priority Automatic Exposure and Full Metered Manual Exposure Mode. During my testing, I stayed in the aperture-priority mode because I like control over my depth of field. I spend about 80% of my time shooting in AP on most cameras.

You can find dozens of X-700 reviews online, so I’m going to touch on a few features and specs. Like the Minolta XG I tested last year, the X-700 has the electromagnetic touch shutter button. Resting a finger on the shutter button activates the meter that is displayed by LED lights in the viewfinder. The camera features shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/1000th of a sec, plus bulb mode. The main power switch lets you select if you want audible beeps from the camera, indicating the shutter speed is 1/30th or slower. The camera has a silicon photocell through the lens, center weighted metering. Made of plastic with a metal frame, it weighs 505 grams, a little over 1 pound without a lens.

Overall, the X-700 is a fun camera to shoot with. The features are on a professional level, but the camera is simple to operate. It feels balanced in my hands. The plastic molded grip reminds me of the Canon A-1. Minolta MD lenses have a solid reputation of being sharp. The only downside to this camera that I can think of are the electronics. How well do electronics age? I think the only reason Konica-Minolta abandoned the X-700 was photographer’s preference for autofocus lenses in the mid 1980’s.

Camera: Minolta X-700 (1981)
Film: Fomapan 100 Classic
Process: Kodak D76 (1+1) 10:00 Min @ 20°
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 

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Coca-Cola Polar Bear Camera

Coca-Cola began using polar bears for print advertising in 1922. And the polar bears would appear occasionally in printed advertisements over the next seventy years. It wasn’t until 1992 that advertising professional Ken Stewart gave life to the Coca-Cola polar bears in the popular Northern Lights television commercial in February 1993. The Coke polar bears were one of the first digitally animated advertising campaigns. The television commercials featuring the polar bears touched on the emotion and magic that many of Coca-Cola’s previous ad campaigns had done. Starting in 1993, the Coca-Cola Polar Bears from the “Always Coca-Cola” (admit it, you just sang that in your head) series of advertisements and many more successful marketing campaigns came complete with matching Coke merchandise.

Coca-Cola Polar Bear Camera

Manufactured in 1999, the Coca-Cola Polar Bear Camera could be purchased in a Coca-Cola collector tin or bought by itself in a sealed plastic clamshell package. The camera came with two AA batteries and a roll of Kodak Max 400 color film, a Coke branded camera case, and camera strap. The camera is a simple point-and-shoot, with no special features other than being automatic and motorized. Sliding the polar bear, holding his beverage of choice, to the side reveals what I’m guessing to be a 35mm f/5.6 lens. The camera automatically senses light and fires the flash if needed. The top of the camera features a frame counter and a switch to rewind the film. The shutter is triggered by pressing the Coca-Cola bottle cap.

This camera was given to me last Christmas by my oldest son, Caleb. My initial test was an incredibly expired roll of Kodak Gold 400. The roll was not stored in a box, so I don’t know the expiration date, but the shifting colors are a good indicator that it was past its prime. I developed this roll with the CineStill C-41 one quart developing kit. I like quirky branded toy cameras like the Coca-Cola Polar Bear Camera. I wish they would make a camera featuring my preferred drink, Coke Zero.

 


The Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole

In the past, I’ve tinkered with pinhole cameras. Nothing too serious. My first attempt at pinhole was the Viddy cardboard pinhole camera . Then there was the pinhole lens cap for a Pentax Sportmatic. Next, there was my semi-successful attempt at making the Tie Fighter pinhole camera. Last year my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told her I wanted a nice wooden pinhole camera. Her response, “Go buy it yourself.” So, I did. I found a local film photographer that sold me his Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole camera.

The Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole

Ondu’s success goes back to a Kickstarter in 2013. Elvis Halilović, a Slovenian industrial designer and carpenter, created six different types of pinhole cameras. At the end of 30-days, the Kickstarter was a success. Elvis manufactured and delivered cameras to pinhole enthusiasts around the world. The smallest and cheapest of these was the Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole. Handcrafted in Slovenia, the Ondu 135 is made of chestnut and maple wood. The back of the camera and advance/rewind spools on the top are held in place by magnets. The pinhole size is 0.20mm, a focal length of 25mm, giving you an 81° field of view and an aperture of f/125. The camera has a standard tripod mount on the bottom. To trigger the shutter, you simply slide the horizontal wood piece on the front of the camera up, uncovering the pinhole, allowing light to enter the camera to expose the film. Since the initial launch in 2013, Ondu has continued to craft updated designs. Newer versions of the Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole include a bubble level, shutter stop, and engraved lines on the camera making it easier to compose an image.

Before I continue with the pros and cons, keep in mind that my Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole is first model. This version lacks a few features that newer models have.

Cons:

  • The camera doesn’t have a bubble level, but that’s okay because my tripod has one.
  • This version doesn’t have the horizontal and vertical viewing engravings. I may need to make some markings on my camera so I can compose a better shot.
  • The takeup winding knob lacks any kind of information on which way to wind the knob, or how far to wind the knob. Newer models have an engraving indicating which way to wind the knob. I’ve made some marks on my camera to remind me.
  • While there is a strong magnet behind the shutter, there is no shutter pin on this model, making it easy to accidently move the shutter up or down.

Pros:

  • The Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole weighs 220g, making it a small but sturdy pinhole camera.
  • The camera comes with an empty take-up cartridge. As you advance the film, it’s rolled into an empty 35mm cassette, making accidentally exposing an entire roll of film impossible.
  • The camera is very easy to load. Even in the cold weather, I was able to quickly load a new roll of film.
  • It’s a good looking camera. The wood finish feels good in your hands and looks good.

Overall the Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole is a fun camera to use. The quality and craftsmanship of having a wooden pinhole is a nice change to cardboard pinhole cameras. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some additional photos taken with the Ondu. Being that I’m no pinhole expert, many of my shots were poorly exposed or composed. I’ve experimented with three different film stocks and used a simple development method. And though my images are far from the awesome pinhole photos found in The Lensless Podcast group on Facebook, I enjoy this camera so much, it’s worth the time and patience to learn more about pinhole photography.

Camera: Ondu 135 Pocket Pinhole (2013)
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono
Process: FPP Super MonoBath BW Developer 3.5 Min @ 75° F
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 


Kosmo Foto Mono 100

One final roll from the the Canon 10S. This time using one of my favorite black and white film film stocks, Kosmo Foto Mono 100.

Camera: Canon EOS 10S (1990)
Lens: Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM L-Series
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 100
Process: Kodak D76 (1+1) 10:00 Min @ 20°


Kodak Plus-X Pan 125 (Expired 3/1981)

Here are some additional photos taken with the Canon 10S. This time I experimented with some Kodak Plus-X Pan 125 that had expired in March of 1981.

Camera: Canon EOS 10S (1990)
Lens: Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM L-Series
Film: Kodak Plus-X Pan 125 (Expired 3/1981)
Process: Kodak D76 (1+1) 8:30 Min @ 20°

 


Canon Barcode Reader E

This is the first time I’ve written about a camera oddity. After I discovered the Canon Barcode Reader E, it was too fun to pass up. After I purchased the Canon 10S, I noticed the barcode option on the camera, but not much information was given in the manual. What might be a laughable concept to a 1990 professional photographer is really a unique way to program a camera for a beginner.

Canon Barcode Reader E

Canon Barcode Reader E Original Packaging with EOS Barcodes 101 Book

In 1990, Canon released the Canon Barcode Reader E, an accessory intended for both the Canon 10S and EOS ELAN/100 SLR camera series. Labeled as part of the Program Image Control was a new barcode setting on the camera Command Dial. This allowed users to use a small handheld barcode reader to scan a 14-digit barcode from a booklet that represented some of the more difficult photographic situations. For example, you’re taking a portrait of someone in a backlit environment. Simple, scan the barcode that represents this situation and program the camera.

The Canon Barcode Reader E itself measures about 90mm long and weighs under 30 grams with two CR2025 lithium batteries installed. At the end of the reader is a small LED and photocell to scan the barcode. The scanning is activated by pressing once on the button located on the side of the scanner. Using the scanner like a pen, you simply slide it over the desired barcode that’s labeled with the photo situation. The scanner emits a small beep when it’s successfully scanned the barcode.

To transmit the programming to the camera, the Command Dial of the camera must be turned to the barcode program position. This enables the cameras infrared connection point. Opposite the scanning end of the barcode reader is an infrared transmitter. You simply press the transmitter of the barcode scanner up against the connection point of the camera. The transmitter presses inward like a button, against the cameras infrared receiver. The best way to think of this process is like using a remote for a television. Only the remote is extremely low powered and must be placed flat against the televisions infrared receiver. When the information has been transmitted from the barcode reader to the camera, it beeps with a confirmation. Looking at the LCD of the camera, you can immediately see the programming changes made.

Canon originally gave users a small booklet called EOS Photo Files with the barcode reader that contained 24 different programs. In 1991, Canon released an additional book called EOS Barcodes 101 that contained 101 different barcode programs. I’ve been unable to find the latter on eBay, but I did find an archive of a 2009 Geocities website from an unknown programmer that created a Java program for creating Canon EOS barcodes. The code is simple and runs in a web browser.

You can create your own barcodes, give them a program number, name, and specify the camera programming options you want. They are then kept within the browser cache, so you can go back and pull them up (if you don’t clear your cache), but it’s recommended that you print the barcodes after you’ve made them. Not only can you create your own, but you can print all the original barcodes that Canon released in the EOS Barcodes 101 book, but unfortunately, they aren’t labeled. If you want to experiment, you can download the original Java program page here. Unzip and run the index.html file.

So why would anyone want to mess with this? Why not. It’s an interesting look in to Canon’s past where they were trying to make shooting in difficult environments easy for beginning photographers. It’s a unique accessory. From what I’ve read online, Minolta attempted to do the same. I’ve not been able to find any information on a barcode scanner for Konica or Minolta cameras. If you have some knowledge about this, please leave a comment. Or if you have an original copy of the EOS Barcodes 101, please let me know.

Camera: Canon EOS 10S (1990)
Lens: Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM L-Series
Film: Kodak TMax 100
Process: Kodak D76 (1+1) 10:00 Min @ 20°
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 


Canon EOS 10S (1990)

Last May, Scott Smith was at the Utah Film Photography Worldwide Headquarters (my house) to develop some 4×5 sheets he’d shot with his newly acquired Graflex. We used a tank that would hold ten sheets and required over a half gallon of chemistry. I’m not doing that again. I’ll stick with 4 sheets in the Stearman Press SP445. Anyway, I digress. Scott showed me a Canon EOS 10S that he had purchased earlier that day. Both Scott and I have owned Canon digital gear over that past decade. He has sold most of his Canon gear but kept a Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM L-Series lens. Because the EF lens mounts were the same, he paired this lens with the 10S. While Scott developed film, I played with the camera. Autofocus and image stabilization worked as quickly as it would on my Canon 6D and I was impressed. The next day, I went hunting on eBay and bought a mint Canon 10S for $10, including shipping. In the last six months, the 10S has become one of my favorite cameras, and the closest I want my film and digital worlds to get to another.

Canon EOS 10s

Introduced in March 1990 by Canon, the 10S (10QD in Japan, 10 in Europe) is an autofocus 35mm SLR camera. The camera features a Multi-BASIS AF sensor. This sensor gives the photographer three autofocus viewpoints. Many of the design elements and features of the 10S still remain on Canon’s DSLR cameras. For example, the command dial is nearly the same: automatic and creative modes, P Program, TV Shutter Priority, AV Aperture Priority, M Manual. The LCD on the top displays your selection of focus modes like one shot, AI Servo, AI Focus. Shutter speeds are 30 sec to 1/4000th sec, bulb and flash sync up to 1/125th sec. Film speeds can range from ISO 6 to 6400. With the meter and exposure controls, the camera has 15 custom functions from autobracketing to multiple exposure. The automatic advance allows you to shoot 5 fps in One-Shot Autofocus and Manual modes, or 3 fps in AI Servo mode.

One thing I personally like is the camera design. Because I’ve owned 4 different Canon DSLR bodies over that last 11 years, the layout of the buttons and features are all familiar to me. When I want to change the f-stop, I quickly know where to place my finger. While three autofocus points don’t sound like a lot, the simplicity works. It makes the 61 selectable focal points on a Canon 5DMIV DSLR extreme overkill. I enjoy using Canon L-series lenses like the 24-105 f/4 and 70-200 f2.8. One thing I’ve learned over the last 4 years is I don’t like heavy SLR cameras. The 10S only weighs 625 g (1.4 lbs), but when you use a lens like the 70-200 f/2.8, you add another 1490 g (3.28 lbs). The 10S uses a single 6V 2CR5 lithium battery. Even though it’s a common battery, I paid more for the battery than the camera.

I’ve shot 4 rolls with this camera and will be posting the results over the next few weeks. Plus, next week I want to cover the most interesting part of the 10S, the Canon SLR Barcode Reader. Yes, think grocery-store-beeping-barcode reader.

Camera: Canon EOS 10S (1990)
Lens: Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM L-Series
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 100
Process: Kodak D76 (1+1) 10:00 Min @ 20°
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 


Minolta XG7 (1977)

This camera was given to me by a coworker whose father owned it. I was told his father had another Minolta, accidently dropped it, and was told it would be cheaper to buy a new camera than have the repairs done. The XG7 is what he upgraded to. He gave me the camera with an awesome 50mm Rokkor-X f/1.4 lens, a Minolta Autowinder G, and a Quataray 85-210mm zoom lens. This camera and all the accessories are in fantastic condition. Normally, when I get a camera this old, I usually expect to replace the light seals or the mirror bumper, but not this camera. There’s no stickiness or crumbling foam.

The Minolta XG was the budget line or entry-level camera to Minolta’s XD series. Both the XD and XG series of cameras came after the SRT line from the late 1960’s. The Minolta XG7 (XG-E or XG2 in other markets) has the Minolta Bayonet MD lens mount, shutter speeds of 1 – 1/1000th second with bulb, TTL central zone CdS metering, and a hotshoe with PC X-Sync.

In 1977, the XG body and 50mm lens sold for $289 at B&H. That’s about $1200 today. For an entry-level camera, that’s a lot of money for 1977. From the information I’ve looked through on The Rokkor Files, I think this version of the 50mm Rokkor-X f/1.4 was made in 1979. The original owner must have purchased it a year or two after buying the body. And because this is a Bayonet MD mount lens, it’s highly sought after by digital mirrorless photographers.

The body of the XG7 is small, like a Pentax ME Super or Pentax Super Program, and is covered with a synthetic leather that has started to shrink a bit. One unique feature of the XG7 is the electromagnetic touch shutter button. This is the first time I’ve used one. How does it work? You lightly touch your finger on the shutter button, and the meter activates. The camera has aperture priority and manual modes. However, I’ve found that the autowinder only works in aperture priority mode and allows you shoot at 2 frames per second.

The viewfinder is bright and has LEDs on the right-hand side to show your shutter speed. The LEDs also have an up triangle above 1/1000th and a down triangle below 1 second to indicated that you are over or under-exposed. The LEDs in the viewfinder are bright but tend to jump around a bit as you place your finger on the electromagnetic shutter.

What this camera doesn’t have are some of the pro features that were included on the XD series. Things like depth of field preview, mirror lockup, and standard cable release. Because of the electromagnetic touch on the shutter, a cable release must be screwed into the side of the lens mount.

This camera requires batteries to operate the film advance and shutter. If you’re looking to buy one and the seller doesn’t think the shutter works, or they say it’s not been tested, there’s a good chance the camera doesn’t have fresh batteries. That’s another feature of the XG7. It takes two standard LR44 1.5v batteries.

The XG7 is one of those unknown cameras that pass by a lot of photographers. It doesn’t get much love compared to Pentax, Nikon and Canon’s from the late 70’s. You can usually find an XG7 on eBay starting at about $22 with a 50mm lens. And Minolta MD Bayonet mount Rokkor lenses have a reputation for being sharp.

Overall, I enjoy using the XG7. I like the size of the camera. Even with the autowinder, it’s not overly bulky or heavy. The body weighs 20 ounces.

Camera: Minolta XG7 (1977)
Film: Agfa Vista 200
Process: RepliColor SLC
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 


Olympus XA (1979)

Back in August, my wife and I took our two teenage sons to New York for eight days. I knew this was going to be a great trip to get some photos, so I took 3 cameras; one digital, and two film. The digital was a Canon 6D with 24-105mm f/4 lens. The two film cameras were my Leica M3 with 7Artisans f/1.1 lens, and a borrowed Olympus XA. I always tell myself I want to travel light and end up taking too much gear. The camera that received the most use on this trip was the Olympus XA. Why the Olympus XA? I needed something that was wider than 50mm, and small enough to fit in my pocket.

The Olympus XA is a compact camera that was sold from 1979 to 1985 and has some not-so-compact features. It’s a rangefinder focus camera, aperture priority, with a 35mm Zuiko f/2.8 lens, and shutter speeds from 1 – 1/500th sec. The design of the XA is simple, you slide open the camera, uncovering the lens and activating the CdS exposure meter. The rangefinder focus is located below the lens, and the aperture is controlled by a vertical sliding switch on the front right-side of the camera.

Compact 35mm cameras are commanding higher prices on eBay, and the XA is no exception. The unique compact design and sharp lens are two features that set this compact apart. The electronic A11 flash can be detached from the camera, making the camera a nice 7.9 ounces. And how did they get such a sharp f/2.8 lens in such a small design? According to Modern Photography Magazine in 1979, “high-refractive-index glasses had to be used to control aberrations across the picture field, and optical elements had to be manufactured and aligned to very close tolerances.” Olympus was able to accomplish this with, “the XA’s “reversed retrofocus” [is] a 6-element, 5-group optic measuring about 31mm from front element to film plane. Focusing is internal, via moving third group. Achieving this extremely flat design necessitated high index crown rear element, special flint second element. Result is a super-compact, rigid camera body with rangefinder focusing.” Voodoo magic and pixie dust? No, just some super engineering and meticulous optics.

The size doesn’t predict the quality of images this camera can deliver. As you can see by the gallery below, the Olympus XA was used a lot on my trip. Unfortunately, the photos taken from the top of the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center were subject to a few days of poor air quality in Manhattan. The only complaint I have about the XA is the sensitive shutter. The feather-touch shutter doesn’t take much pressure to fire, and it can take some getting used to. This is hard to explain, but this is the first film camera I’ve used where I knew immediately whether I got the shot I wanted. The images in the gallery were shot on both Kodak TMax 100 and Kodak Tri-X 400.

Camera: Olympus XA (1979)
Film: Kodak TMax 100 / Kodak Tri-X 400
Process: RepliColor SLC
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 


Nikkor 35 – 200mm f/3.5 – 4.5s

Camera: Nikon F2 Photomic (1971). Lens: Nikkor 35 - 200mm f/3.5 - 22 - Macro.

I’ve really enjoyed shooting with the Nikon F2 Photomic (1971 – 1980), so I thought I’d like another lens. Since shooting film, I’ve gained a new appreciation for fixed prime lenses. The zoom lenses for older film cameras don’t appeal to me, but I wanted to give this one a shot (pun intended). Released in 1985, the Nikkor 35 – 200mm f/3.5 – 4.5s is a zoom lens with an Ai-S lens coupling, 17 glass elements in 13 groups, and apertures from f/3.5 to f/22. It also has a macro button that allows the lens to focus as close as 0.3m, about 12 inches.

These shots were taken at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 24th. Being a state holiday, the garden offered free admission for the day. My wife and I took advantage of the day off and headed up to the east bench of the valley to enjoy some colorful landscapes. Keep in mind, I’m not much of a landscape or macro flower photographer. My intent was to test the lens and see if it was something I liked. I found myself fumbling when composing shots. First, trying to zoom, and then focus, while checking the meter, etc. That says more about me as a photographer than issues with the lens. Maybe a larger learning curve than I thought, so not enjoyable at my first attempt. It’s like Scott Bourne says, “99% of the lenses are 100% better than the photographers.” Slightly off topic, next to Kodak Ektar, Agfa Vista is my favorite color film for saturated bright colors. It’s disappointing that Agfa Vista has been discontinued. I’m happy with the results from a technical standpoint. The images show some soft grain where I think it should be. When the lens is opened to f/3.5, it grabs a nice slice of focus. I think the ultimate test for this lens would be portraits, and that’s what I plan to try next.

Camera: Nikon F2 Photomic (1971)
Lens: Nikkor 35 – 200mm f/3.5 – 4.5s
Film: Agfa Vista 200