Tag Archives: Camera Collection

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.


Dr. B’s Minolta SR-T202

Last week while shopping at a local thrift store I found a large camera case full of various items. Of course the main piece that attracted me was the camera, but what were the other odd items? The inside of the case was grimy with black pieces of foam that had crumbled apart from age. I carefully inspected the camera and purchased it with the case and contents. Later that night, I removed the camera from the case and put it to the side. I knew cleaning out the case was going to be messy, so I put on a pair of latex gloves and started to slowly inspect each item. A 100mm Minolta Rokkor macro lens attached to a bellows on a rail that measures about 8 inches in length. There was also a Minolta pistol trigger grip with a shutter release cable. Odd shaped mirrors, wires and square plates that somehow attached to the bellows. What was all this equipment used for? Then I found a receipt. The camera was sold to Dr. Graydon Briggs in Salt Lake City. He purchased the camera on April 23, 1976 from Washington Scientific Camera Company. The description of the camera and contents are listed as: Complete Minolta SR-T202 Clinical Camera Unit, Clinical Camera Case, Dental Mirrors, Columbia wire retractor, Minolta F4 100mm lens, and Minolta 18LS Flash.

With a simple Google search, I found the original owner, Dr. Graydon Briggs, DDS, a successful Utah dentist that was known for thousands of root canals. He passed away on November 11, 2013 at the age of 66. The Minolta camera kit he purchased for $587 in 1976 was used in his dental practice. From the receipt, you can see that he made two payments for the complete unit. To put this price tag in perspective, in 1976 a loaf of bread was $.30, a gallon of milk was $1.42, gasoline was $.59 per gallon, a new car was $4,100, and the average price of a home was $43,000. In 1976, this clinical camera unit would have cost the 2015 equivalent of $6,600.

The handwritten note on the back of the receipt:

Dear Dr.

You made our day – yeh these turkeys can’t afford a phone but look at the bargains you get. We do not maintain a phone at the shop & warehouse as we are in & out so much – We do not operate a retail store – can give better bargains that way. If you find it necessary you may reach us at our home morning & evenings as a rule at (206) 863-7172 or call Mr. Cliff Freede (?) at the U of W Dental School who can relay messages or give all the answers on problems – his phone # 206-543-5953. We are no longer going to carry the #704 case – so I have sent you the #705 which is larger at the old price of $27.50 – it is now $34.00. We do have our new custom camera case at $38.00 but was hesitant in sending it. Enclosed is our new price sheets. Thank you for your order.

Sincerely H.E.K.

Minolta SR-T202 Clinical Camera Unit

The camera is mounted to the bellows at one end and the 100mm Rokkor lens at the other. A dentist would use their right-hand to focus by extending or retracting the bellows, and squeeze the shutter trigger with the left-hand. Based on the odd shape of the mirrors, they would be placed in the patient’s mouth so the camera could capture photos of those hard-to-reach areas. I haven’t included an image of the mirrors because they need to be sterilized or thrown away.

The Minolta SR-T202 was the top-of-the-line camera in the series. When it’s not attached to the bellows and used for macro photos of someone’s throbbing tooth, it has a sharp 50mm Rokkor f/1.7 lens. I plan to write a full camera review after testing it with some film next week. For this post I wanted to feature the unique use, history, and the original owner of this camera.

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Camera Collection

For the past month I’ve been running test film through various cameras so I can share the results here. This week, I want to show off some of the most recent additions to my collection.

Yashica A - 120 Film (1959 - 1969)Yashica A – 120 Film (1959 – 1969)


Pentax Spotmatic - 35mm Film (1964 - 1973)Pentax Spotmatic – 35mm Film (1964 – 1973)


Nikon EM - 35mm Film (1979 - 1982)Nikon EM – 35mm Film (1979 – 1982)


Pentax ME Super - 35mm Film (1980 - 1986)Pentax ME Super – 35mm Film (1980 – 1986)


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Holga 120S

My film camera collection is starting to be an obvious fixation. Last fall, a friend posted a comment on my Facebook page indicating that a local was selling a bunch of Holga cameras. The truth is, I saw the post a few minutes prior on another page and had already contacted the seller. Up to this point I knew I wanted to get a Holga, but didn’t feel like paying full price for plastic camera. When I met the seller downtown Salt Lake City, she told me that she had purchased a mixture of items from an estate sale. One of the items in the lot was a case of Holga 120S cameras. She decided to keep one for herself and sell the rest for $15 each. I purchased the last two from her, one for me, and the other for my friend Scott. They were both new cameras, each in a box, but one had been barely used. The seller told me that one of the two had been loaded with film and she didn’t know anything about it. When I met with Scott to give him a camera, I purposely mixed the boxes up, told him that both cameras were new, but one was loaded with film, and let him make a blind choice. Neither one of us cared because both were identical. I ended up with the camera loaded with film. I could see that the film had only been advanced to the second shot, but whoever had used it knew what they were doing because the body of the camera was carefully sealed with gaffers tape to prevent light from leaking into the film. The biggest part of the mystery was not knowing what film was loaded. How long had it been in the camera? Was it color or black and white? What brand and speed was it? I decided to take my chances and complete the remainder of the roll over the next month.

Holga’s history goes back to 1981 in China. The Holga was introduced to the Chinese as an inexpensive medium format camera. Despite Holga’s attempt to mainstream their 120mm camera, smaller and cheaper 35mm cameras dominated the market within a few years. However, the popularity of the all plastic Holga remained, and even grew. Holga sold more than 1 million cameras by 2001. The unique Holga look is created by a plastic lens, plus the possibility of artistic light leaks.

There’s really not a lot to say about the specs of the Holga 120S. It was the original Holga model produced in 1981, and has since been discontinued. It has a fixed shutter speed of about 1/100 sec, adjustable focus, a plastic 60mm f/8 lens, a two-position f-stop switch, hot shoe for external flash, and a 6×4.5mm film mask. It’s cheap, plastic, toy camera.

During the month of November, I took the Holga with me everywhere. Not knowing what film speed was loaded, I did my best to guess the amount of light needed. I used an old flash on a few shots. When I finished the roll, I found that the mystery film loaded in the camera was Kodak T-Max 400. My favorite images were done during a senior photo shoot. I admit that when I’m working on a paid shoot, I use my Canon DSLR. However, I’ve been slowly introducing film into my sessions. The next time I use my Holga, I’ll probably load it with some Lomography 120 film that I received from my wife and kids for my birthday.

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Argus C3

I found this Argus C3 at a local thrift store for $10. It’s one of the cleanest thrift store finds I’ve purchased. The camera and case were in excellent condition. Someone really cared for this camera. And I was surprised to find one because I had only ever seen one once before, the previous day. A friend showed me his father’s Argus C3 that he used in the Philippines during World War II. The leather case was heavily worn and one of the three aperture leafs was missing. Not a functional camera, but a sentimental item; a wonderful reminder of his dad and his service in the military.

Part of the enjoyment from collecting and using vintage cameras is learning about the people and companies that made them. The history of Argus takes place during the Great Depression in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. In 1929, local inventor Charles A. Verschoor and the Mayor of Ann Arbor, William E. Brown Jr., created a radio manufacturing business that was funded by local bankers. The company was named the International Radio Company and produced the Kadette, the first radio that used a series of tubes instead of a large transformer. The name of the company was changed in 1935 to the International Research Corporation. In 1936, Verschoor traveled to Europe and returned with an idea of producing a rangefinder camera, like the Leica. In 1940 the company released its first camera and renamed itself International Industries. By 1941 the company concentrated on cameras and was renamed Argus Cameras Inc. The name Argus comes from the mythical Greek god of 1,000 eyes. During the 1940’s, Argus expanded its products from cameras to other optical equipment and held several contracts with the U.S. Government during World War II and the Korean War. Argus was responsible for a prosperous community in Ann Arbor, employing 1,300 people and occupying 2 city blocks during the peak of operation. In 1959, Argus was acquired by Sylvania, an American tube and semiconductor manufacturer. Argus was sold again by 1969 and the name was used throughout the 1970’s on camera products that were re-badged. Today the original Argus manufacturing facility and offices are used for various departments by the University of Michigan.

The Argus C3 is a 35mm rangefinder camera that was mass-produced from 1939 to 1966. It earned a nickname as “The Brick” because of its shape and size. The C3 has a reputation for being a rugged camera. There’s even a US Army Service Manual that details how to field strip and repair an Argus. More than 2 million C3 cameras were sold during its 27-year production. The body is made from Bakelite, features a 50mm f/3.5 – 16 Cintar anastigmatic triplet lens, and has a rangefinder focus. The C3 out-sold most American competitors, including Kodak’s 35 Rangefinder, and several inexpensive Japanese SLR’s in the 1960’s. The C3 is also known as “The Harry Potter Camera.” In the movie series based on J.K. Rowling’s books, the character Colin Creevey is a muggle-born wizard that uses an Argus C3 Matchmatic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.

During manufacturing, Argus gave each camera a serial number. After doing some research online, I found that the serial number on mine indicates it was made in 1956. That makes my camera 59 years old! The C3 has a cold shoe, but has a two-pin connector on the side for a dedicated flash unit. I believe the cameras were originally sold with a flash gun. The flash took C-batteries and used common 25b flash bulbs. The shutter speed is controlled by rotating the dial on the front right-hand side of the camera. Rotating the dial counter-clockwise allows shutter speeds of 1/10th to 1/300th of a second. Bulb mode can be enable for long exposures by twisting the dial that surrounds the shutter release to ‘B’.

I didn’t find the rangefinder focus on the Argus C3 any more or less difficult to use than any other rangefinder camera. Since buying my C3, I’ve see others in thrift and antique stores. A common issue I find is a cloudy rangefinder window and a stiff focus wheel. If the camera has mold or other issues within the focus window, I’m not sure how easily that would be to repair. That’s not something unique to this camera, but all vintage cameras. The focus on the C3 is geared between the focus wheel and the lens. When the focus wheel is stiff, it can literally peel the skin off your fingers while trying to focus. I found that applying a few small drops of WD40 really helped. I emailed Mark Dalzell from the Film Photography Project who gave me this advice on cleaning an Argus C3:

Hi Shaun – to clean out the old C3, you’ll need to take the lens off. Not a big deal – they made multiple lenses and it was designed to swap them out. Set the camera to infinity and unscrew the dome-headed screw on the gear between the lens and focus gear. Then lift out the gear and you should be able to unscrew the lens from the body. You can now scrub any moving parts with naphtha (you can buy it at any good hardware store or as Zippo-style lighter fluid). It won’t hurt anything in a C3 so you can use a good amount. After that you can flush it all out with 99% alcohol (available at pharmacies or for a lifetime supply in gallon jugs at nail salon supply stores). The alcohol will flush out any naphtha residue and won’t leave a trace. The camera should work fine after this but you can rub a tiny amount of machine oil on the threads to loosen them up even more.

Because my C3 is in such good condition and the back of the camera seals very tight, I decided to bypass a cheap test roll of 35mm film. My first roll through the C3 was some Kodak Tri-X 400. On the top of the C3 is a manual frame counter. To advance the film, the film catch switch is clicked to the left and the winding knob is turned clockwise. This turns the frame counter one complete rotation as the gear block assembly moves the film from the canister to the take-up spool inside the camera body. At some point during my initial test, I forgot to advance the film. What resulted was a triple exposure of an old truck, the ceiling of my local Apple store, and an iBooks display from the same store. Using the cocking lever on the front of the camera was another failure on my part. No less than a dozen times did I hold the camera up, frame my shot, focus, and then press down on the shutter release only to find that I hadn’t cocked the camera. Based on my last two examples, I’m telling myself again how digital photography has really spoiled us.

The Argus C3 has quickly become one of my favorite cameras. I’ve kept it in my backpack every day since I purchased it last July. When I sent off that first roll of film to the lab, I didn’t know what to expect. I admit that I was surprised by the results. I guess I was expecting less than average images from an old mechanical camera. I’ve read other reviews online about the C3 and compared notes. There are many who prefer other rangefinder cameras for various reasons, but you can’t argue with 2 million C3’s sold over a 27-years. This was the camera of choice for many Americans into the 1960’s. I think there’s a certain pride that Argus collectors have and it goes beyond the ability to create a good photo. The company was formed in one of the worst economic times in American history. Then went on to employee 1,300 people and sustain an entire community. And like many private companies, helped the United States in a time of war. Argus created something that made people proud to be American.

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Who Are You? Why Film? Why Now?

This is one of those moments where you attempt to accomplish something, but you have so much that you want to do, you don’t know where to start. Let me begin with who I am and what direction I want for Utah Film Photography. I’m Shaun Nelson, a photographer from South Ogden, Utah, USA. I originally took up photography 14 years ago when my oldest son was born. I consider myself part of the new generation of photographers in the way that I started shooting digital. It’s all I’ve known until the last year. Prior to digital, I had no experience or desire to shoot film. In October 2013, Jacob Nuttall from Acme Camera Company was demonstrating an old Polaroid Land Camera 250 at a Studio o2o Creative Exchange. I was honestly shocked at the beauty and contrast of the black and white images coming out of the vintage camera. Two weeks later, I bought my first Land Camera. In December, my wife gave me an old Canon A1 for Christmas. From that point forward, I’ve been buying vintage cameras and shooting film for fun. Since January 2014, I’ve collected over 25 film cameras. At times it’s made my wife very nervous that I’ve immersed myself into something so quickly. My feeling about my camera collection is simple: I won’t buy a camera that I can’t put film in and use. Museum pieces are nice, just like classic cars and comic books, but I want to take them out and enjoy them. Along with collecting the cameras, I’ve found a lot of satisfaction researching them and learning about them. There are so many fantastic stories behind companies, specific camera models, and the people who made them. In many ways, it’s a new culture of creativity that’s been opened to me. And I want everyone that loves photography, film or digital, to feel the same. That’s why I’ve created this site.

Shaun Nelson – March 2014
Self-portrait inspired by Kenneth Linge and Uncle Fester.

This site isn’t about film versus digital. It’s not about who won the photography war, megapixels or silver halide. It’s about preserving what is becoming a fading art. It’s about sharing, inspiring, and having fun. The desires I have for this site can be found on the About page. This site will feature articles written by myself and special guests. If you visit Utah Film Photography and see something that you’ve known for years, or though experience, and recognize information needs to be added or corrected, I ask that you be patient with those who are just starting their own understanding of film photography. I invite you to share your own thoughts here, on Facebook and Twitter. This site will not be a negative experience for the content creators, casual readers, and participants.

Why start another site about film photography? Let me attempt to explain with a lame analogy. Remember the first time you heard your favorite band or singer? Do you remember wanting to share a specific song with your friends or family? It’s an exciting moment. As time passes we don’t typically wake up one day and stop liking that band or specific style of music. We might enjoy other types of music, add new genres to our collection, but that favorite band continues to stay with us, year-after-year, decade-after-decade. Even when that band has broken up, some members have passed away or entered rehab for the 10th time, we love that one particular song or album. If you know me on a personal level, you might think I’ve engaged in an expensive, eccentric, or trendy hobby. That’s not true. With this site, I want to share my own experience and discoveries with film photography. Talking about film photography and vintage cameras is exciting to me. Just like the excitement I had when I came upon my favorite band and music, I wanted to share it. That’s how I feel about photography.