Tag Archives: 35mm Film

Rollei 35 (1966 – 1974)

I was contacted last May by someone looking to donate a camera. A reader named Sarah had acquired her grandfather’s Rollei 35 and wanted to make sure it would go to someone that would use it. After a few back-and-forth emails, Sarah sent the camera from North Dakota. I asked Sarah to tell me a little about her grandfather, John S. Anderson, the owner of the camera.

John Sherwood Anderson

John Sherwood Anderson (December 31, 1908 – July 11, 1995)

John Sherwood Anderson (December 31, 1908 – July 11, 1995) was born in Cleveland and grew up in Ohio. He had an older brother named Robert, and a younger sister named Marion (“Mimi”). His mother, Cornelia (Lane) Anderson, was the first of four wives to his father, author Sherwood Anderson. Sherwood was a novelist known for his subjective and self-revealing works. In 1916 when John was four years old, his father Sherwood had a nervous breakdown, divorced Cornelia, and quickly married his mistress.

John and his wife Eleanor were the Editors of the Damascus Blade, a newspaper in the western Virginia town of Damascus. His siblings were also involved in the small-town newspaper business located in Marion, Virginia. John was a visual artist. In his later years he lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago and taught visual art. He likely used his Rollei 35 to capture beautiful or newsworthy parts of Virginia and Chicago.

What became of John’s father? Sherwood died in 1941 in Panama when he and his wife disembarked the cruise they were on headed to South America. He swallowed a toothpick that had done internal damage resulting in peritonitis. Sherwood was buried in Marion, Virginia. The epitaph on his grave marker reads: Life, Not Death, Is the Great Adventure. None of his novels were financially successful, however his short stories have become classics and influenced future writers like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner.

Rollei 35 (1966 – 1974)

Rollei 35 (1966 – 1974)

The Rollei 35 was introduced at Photokina in Cologne, Germany, in 1966. It was the first 35mm camera that Rollei produced. At the time, it was the smallest full frame 35mm camera made. About 2 million Rollei 35 models were sold worldwide. In his spare time, Heinz Waaske, the chief engineer of Wirgin cameras in Germany, made the first technical drawings of the camera in 1962. He designed the lens to be 40mm that would collapse into the body of the camera making it a thinner, more pocketable camera. Because of the limited space around the collapsed lens, a central shutter was impossible, so Waaske invented a new type of shutter that was separated in two individual parts: the shutter control clockwork was mounted to the camera body, and the shutter lamellas were mounted inside the sliding lens tube. For an exposure meter, Waaske used a selenium cell powered by a Mallory PX-13 (PX 625) 1.35-volt battery.

Waaske eventually left Wirgin and was looking for new employment in the industry, showing his compact design to Leitz and Kodak. In 1965, Waaske started working for Rollei where Dr. Peesel, the managing director, accidently got a glimpse of the new employee’s design. Dr. Peesel decided that the camera should be developed immediately. When it was finally presented at Photokina, the specs were greatly improved with a better lens, a Gossen CdS-exposure meter and a Compur shutter using Waaske’s patented design.

Over the years, several Rollei 35 models have been manufactured and sold. The model that Sarah sent me was an originally 35 model but has a Rollei Honeywell badge on the back of the camera and is engraved with “Made in Germany by Rollei.” The camera has an ISO range from 25 to 1600, impressive for a compact camera. The lens is a f/3.5 40mm Carl Zeiss Tessar and has shutter speeds from bulb to 1/500th of a second. Focusing on the lens is scale/zone and is shown on the lens measured in feet. Minimum focusing distance is 3 feet. The CdS meter is a match-needle displayed on top of the camera and is surprisingly accurate for the age of the camera.

Using the Rollei 35 reminds me of shooting with the Olympus XA because it’s so small. I feel like I have giant clumsy hands when I use cameras this small. The benefit of the size is the ability to slip this camera in your pocket, the side pocket of a camera bag, or a bike bag. The collapsing lens is unique on this camera. Before the lens can be collapsed, you advance the film. This is because part of the shutter mechanism is inside the collapsing lens tube. The shutter release button and the lens barrel release button on the top of the camera are very close to each other. I didn’t make the mistake, but I can see how someone would mistakenly trigger the shutter when they meant to collapse the lens. And like many cameras made during this time, the camera has no on/off switch. This means the meter is always active, measuring light and draining the battery. When I wasn’t using the camera, I made sure to put it back in my camera bag. And when I was done shooting a roll, I removed the battery all together.

Overall, the Rollei 35 is simple compact point-and-shoot, with an incredibly sharp lens. While using the camera, I had to stop and think a few times before making an image. The film advance is located on the left-side of the camera, so the film cartridge is loaded the opposite of what you expect. The film travels from the cartridge on the right, to the take up spool on the left. The film rewind knob, accessory shoe (cold shoe), film counter, and back lock are located on the bottom of the camera.

Camera: Rollei 35 (1966 – 1974)
Film: Ultrafine eXtreme 100
Process: CineStill DF96 Monobath
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 

 


Cycling with an Advanced Compact Film Camera

I mentioned back in April that one life changing event that occurred to me in 2019 was weight loss surgery. In the time leading up to the surgery, I told myself that I was going to get back into cycling once I had lost some weight and was comfortable getting back on a bike. I am happy to say that I have done that, but now riding longer distances and taking steeper climbs than I did 30 years ago. I brought my Specialized Hotrock (2002) mountain bike out of retirement, and then purchased two new 2021 Trek Dual Sport 2 hybrids for me and my wife.

Shaun in Yellowstone National Park

Over the 4th of July weekend, my wife and I spent two days riding through Yellowstone National Park. I cannot think of a more beautiful place to ride than Yellowstone. One day I rode from West Thumb to Old Faithful. It’s not a long ride, but it takes you up and over the Continental Divide, twice. It’s a steep climb, but again, beautiful.

Before the trip, I committed to take a film camera with me on my bike. The choice was easy, the Olympus XA. A simple advanced compact camera, lightweight, with some advance features. The challenge was where to store the camera. I purchased a Roswheel triangle frame pack to store the camera, my iPhone, and wallet while riding. Below are a few pictures I took along the ride. To see some additional photos from the roll, check my Instagram @shaunnelson.

Camera: Olympus XA (1979)
Film: Kodak Kodacolor 200 (expired)
Process: TheDarkroom.com

 

 


Mercury II Film Test – A Tale of One City

This week we’re featuring local photographer Bob Grant and his review of the Mercury II camera. Bob found Utah Film Photography a few years ago and we’ve met up for a few photowalks. With a background in engineering, Bob loves the technical details, mechanics, and operation behind film photography. He admits his artistic and technical interests go hand-in-hand, and they tend to compliment each other.

Well, this certainly isn’t the best of times. And pandemic concerns recently prevented me from exploring any city other than my own.

And for anyone who enjoys travel photography, an unexpected 10-week long stay at home spells out “missed opportunities” in bold letters.

But photography continues. I’ve added greatly to my old film camera collection within the past two years, and I have a number of gems that until 10 weeks ago I had not yet put any film in. So I suddenly saw a golden opportunity to correct that by shooting my first rolls in my Contax IIIA, Voigtlander Bessamatic, Yashica D, Yashica-Mat, plus Kodak No. 2 Hawk-eye and Rexoette box cameras. Hoping for interesting photos, or at least ones that exposed the strengths and weakness of each camera, I decided to play tourist on my daily walks of 2 to 5 miles in my neighborhood. As time progressed, novel subjects, lighting, and camera angles became harder to find in such a small radius from home. But playing tourist in my own neighborhood proved to be a fun challenge to my creativity.

In retrospect, selecting my recently acquired Mercury II with an 35mm F2.7 Tricor lens for its tour of duty at this time may have pushed this challenge a tad too far into the deep end of the pool. Because the Mercury II is my first half-frame 35mm camera, and I hadn’t fully anticipated how long it might take me to shoot the full complement of 65 images within walking distance of my home.

Briefly, the Mercury II is a uniquely shaped post-war American 35mm camera.

Mercury II Film Test

Anyone interested in the technical details can easily find it on the internet search for “Mercury II camera”. Mike Eckman Dot Com gives a much better description than I possibly can.

Amazing things about this camera include:
The bump on the top houses a rotating disc that serves as the focal plane shutter. At each shutter speed, from 1/20 to 1/1000, the disc rotates at the same speed, and always emits the same lazy whirl. The exposure is varied by changing the size of the pie-shaped opening formed by the two over-lapping “half discs”. It is unquestionably the most accurate mechanical shutter in my camera collection, and is as precise throughout its whole range as I can measure with my simple shutter tester, challenging some of my electronic shutters.

Mercury II Film Test

The exterior metal surfaces were not plated. They now have an intriguing patina. Okay, it’s actually a tarnish that you can see in the first photo. But the tarnish shows graphically where the operators’ fingers have smoothened the metal’s surface finish and additionally darkened it over the years. Judging by this, this camera has apparently seen heavy use, yet maintained its accuracy. I guess I can’t rule out that the original owner had excessively hard, dry and abrasive skin.

The owner’s manual has a description of the exposure calculator, on the camera’s back, but it is so complex that I couldn’t find any reason to read past the first paragraph or two, when “Sunny 16” answered my needs. A fringe benefit of living in Utah: substantial sun compared to where this camera was designed – NYC.

Mercury II Film TestLeft to right in the foreground above are:

  • The extinction light meter that came with the camera (useless, maybe due to darkening with age);
  • Saymont rangefinder attachment, unrelated to this camera but a useful accessory; This is a viewfinder, not a rangefinder. Distance is by guesstimate, but I happen to have this era-appropriate accessory rangefinder, which I also found fun to use.
  • Kodalux light meter, obviously unrelated and with limited functionality, mostly to confirm “Sunny 16”.

Annoying things about this camera:
The half-frame images are pretty small, magnifying any image imperfection and requiring manual framing of each image when using my Epson V550 film scanner. When the camera is horizontal, the image is in portrait orientation. It is easy to grip and hold vertically for a landscape, so I didn’t find this to be a problem. Until I saw the photos. Many of them were skewed. I obviously had a hard time holding the camera level, in either configuration. Will you let me blame the tiny viewfinder, which is vignetted for anyone wearing glasses? I actually can’t get my eyeball close enough to see the edges of the viewing frame.

It takes 4 repeated twisting motions for me to wind the film and cock the shutter. If this was a full-frame camera, I’d have to pre-schedule each film advance on my monthly calendar.

The film advance on my camera has aged a lot faster than the shutter. One film sprocket hole was torn mid-roll, several exposures slightly overlapped, and the last 8 to 10 exposures were blank, with one frame showing multiple exposures despite the expected tension signaling that I had properly reached the end of the roll, and the shutter appeared to have never missed a beat. I respect any camera that presents me with a mysterious failing such as this. I wonder now if the advance knob stops when it reaches frame number 65, even if the film stopped advancing sooner. I’d have to wind it 65 times just to find out. 65 x 4 =260 twists. Never mind.

The top of the leather case folds up, over, and back toward the user, preventing them from getting an eye within 4 inches of the viewfinder. Perhaps it is because the leather is now so hard and stiff that it won’t drop out of the way. I decided to just remove the case while I had film in the camera – the first time I’ve ever felt obliged to operate any camera without its case.

So – how good are the pictures? First let me explain. I find it hard to believe, but I checked the math, and I really did make my first photographic equipment purchase (Crown Graphic 4×5 and Omega DII enlarger) 49 years ago, while still in high school. I have a fair amount of amateur darkroom experience. However, now my favorite way to view my photos is using my 4K TV, so now my old amateurish ways of judging analog input/analog output image quality no longer apply to me, and keep in mind that my new amateurish analog input/digital output methods do not always satisfy me, and might not appeal to you, either. This has always been only one of several hobbies that are enjoyable for my own entertainment, but I’ve never sought to totally master.

I shot Ilford FP4+ with standard developing time. I used no filters – none of mine fit this small lens. Most outdoor shots were handheld, usually taken at 1/100 and F16 or F8.

These subjects aren’t particularly interesting, but were primarily selected to judge the camera’s capabilities. One, but only one, image on this roll gave me the image definition evocative of my what I love about my Zeiss and Voigtlander cameras from the ’50’s and ’60’s. At least it wouldn’t stand out if grouped with those images – when viewed on my TV. All of the others would fall short.

Mercury II Film Test

So I know beautiful photos are somewhere within this camera’s capabilities, but I couldn’t find all too many with my first roll of film. The small image size is a big disadvantage. Every speck of dust or blemish is twice as big as full-frame 35mm. All of these images are scanned at 3200 dpi (but downsized for this publication) with Epson’s lowest USM setting, and no post processing and no digital dust removal. Kinda raw.

Can anyone identify what caused the circled flaws in this image, and how to avoid them? Other than, of course, not shooting a 3/4″ x 1″ negatives while a 4″ x 5″ camera sits unused at home. 🙂 I don’t remember it ever having been a problem for me before, so I guess it is a processing flaw that has previously gone un-noticed with less magnification. You will see more examples in other shots.

Mercury II Film Test

Middle-lane Social Distancing for Teens

Mercury II Film Test

Outer-lane Social Distancing for Adults

Mercury II Film Test

Stay-at-Home Social Distancing for Boomers

Mercury II Film Test

These cameras are said to have a good depth of field due to their small images, so I took this picture to get a sense of it.

Mercury II Film Test

The camera can focus as close as 1′ 6″. This was taken a little further than that, but as close as I could get due to standing in a ditch.

Mercury II Film Test

Tennis Court Shadow

Mercury II Film Test

Sno-Cat

Mercury II Film Test

I cannot quite count the number of plies in the rubber belt of this cat-track, which I interpret as pretty good.

Mercury II Film Test

Snuggle Bench During a Pandemic However, nothing looks very sharp.

Mercury II Film Test

I’ve started shooting very rudimentary resolution test shots of all my cameras, with similar lighting and always tripod mounted. My methodology still has many flaws, but this suggests to me that this lens is average – comparable to my Canon 50mm FD, but better than my Canon zoom lenses with FD mounts.

Mercury II Film Test

 

 


Long Exposure

It’s been a crazy summer for me. With some new job responsibilities, I worked some incredibly long hours at odd times of the day or night. On a Friday back in June, I had spent 12 hours working from home in front of my computer. I felt like I was going to go crazy if I didn’t get away from the screen. When I finished my work around 9:30 PM, I loaded up my Olympus OM-1 with some Kodak Ektar and headed down the street to a local carnival. With a tripod and cable release, I decided the best way to disengage and relax from work would be some long exposures. I’ve never tried long exposures on film, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. With my patient wife standing by me, I opened up the OM-1 in bulb mode, and just shot. It was actually a therapeutic way to end the day. The results aren’t stellar, but they’re not bad either. The next morning, I walked back down to the carnival to get a few shots of some wild looking horses that were part of the merry-go-round.

Camera: Olympus OM-1N MD (1979)
Film: Kodak Ektar 100
Process: CineStill C41 Kit
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 


Recently Abandoned

This summer, I spent an afternoon at two recently abandoned places with my Nikon F2 and a roll of Kodak Ektar. On the occasion that I shoot color film, I like the saturated colors of Ektar and the way it renders red, orange and green.

The house and pool in the images are a piece of property purchased last year by the Utah Department of Transportation. Several homes along US 89 in Fruit Heights, Kaysville and Layton in Davis County will be demolished because of a highway expansion project.

Raging Waters in Salt Lake City was operated under a contract starting in 2011 with Seven Peaks Resorts. The contract however expired in early 2019 and the owners decided not to re-open and the water park was abandoned. I know a few skaters that would love to trespass on this property.

Camera: Nikon F2 Photomic (1971)
Film: Kodak Ektar 100
Process: CineStill C41 Kit
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 


Haunted? Stricker Ranch – Hansen, Idaho

In 2019, I’ve tried to spend more time shooting film than writing. I’m finding myself returning to some of my favorite cameras and film stocks. This post is more about the destination and the subject than the gear or film. I thought it was worth sharing.

Over Memorial Day weekend, my family took a short road trip to Twin Falls, Idaho. Our first destination was Stricker Ranch/Rock Creek Station, in Hansen Idaho. I learned about the Stricker Ranch while looking for some ghost towns to visit that were within a few hours drive from home. Stricker Ranch, also known as the Rock Creek Station, was built along the Oregon Trail in 1865 and was one of the stops west of Fort Hall, Idaho. It was also home to the Overland mail stage route and the Kelton Freight Road. The remains of the ranch, or town, are currently being preserved by the Idaho State Historical Society and non-profit Friends of Stricker, Inc. The ranch and buildings are rumored to be haunted by friendly spirits. You’ll need to visit and decide for yourself. Many of ranch structures have been lost to time, but the original store, wet cellar, and Stricker home remain standing. The buildings and Stricker home are only open on Sundays for a few hours, but self-guided tours via markers and maps onsite are available year-round. The Stricker home is surrounded by beautiful shade trees and landscaping, making it a perfect place for a picnic, or séance, whatever you decide.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959)
Film: Ilford HP5 Plus 400
Process: RepliColor, SLC
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 

 


The 2nd Annual Negative Positives Podcast Double-Exposure Challenge Photo Zine

The 2nd Annual Negative Positives Podcast Double-Exposure Challenge Photo Zine

 


The 2nd Annual Negative Positives Film Photography Podcast Double-Exposure Challenge

This year I organized another double-exposure challenge for The Negative Positives Film Photography Podcast. Using some of the lessons learned from last year, I decided to simplify the challenge, and give photographers deadlines. The concept of the double-exposure challenge: one photographer shoots a roll of film, rewinds the film, and then sends it to someone else, who then shoots on the same roll. Listeners of the podcast signed up via a Google form and filled out their preferences to shoot black & white or color 35mm film. Something new this year, hosts from other film photography podcasters were also challenged to participate.

My partner for the Double-Exposure Challenge was Ben Mills from Buckinghamshire in the United Kingdom. Ben runs an awesome website that connects photographers with film. If you have a stash of film that you’re not going to shoot, but want to trade it with someone that has something you’d use, Ben’s website can hook you up. Ben provided a roll of Fujifilm Acros 100 black & white film, and shot the roll around London. Me and Ben also decided to use the same camera body, hoping for a better chance to line up our double-exposed images. And it worked for the first half of the roll, but eventually drifted towards the end. The camera we both used was the Minolta X-700 (1983). These are some of my favorite images.

Photographer #1
Ben Mills
Buckinghamshire, UK
Camera: Minolta X-700

Photographer #2
Shaun Nelson
South Ogden, UT USA
Camera: Minolta X-700

Camera: Minolta X-700 (1983)
Film: Fujifilm Acros 100
Process: RepliColor, SLC
Scanner: Epson V600 Photo

 


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

 


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.