Tag Archives: Camera Test

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


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



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.


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


Canon New Sure Shot

The third version of Canon’s Sure Shot made in in 1983 ($150 USD) was sold as the New Sure Shot in the United States, AF35MII in Europe, and the Autoboy 2 in Japan. The New Sure Shot is a simple point and shoot 35mm camera featuring a 38mm f/2.8 – 16 lens. The camera focuses (near, medium, far) with a triangulation system using a near-infrared beam for autofocusing. Pressing the shutter button down halfway accomplishes prefocus. Powered by two AA batteries, the film advance is automatic and the exposure is controlled electronically. To test the camera, I used some expired Kodak Gold 200. The film really achieves that expired look in the blue tones.Canon New Sure Shot (AF35M II) (1983)

Nikon EM & Nikkor-S 50mm 1.4

Nikon EM (1979 - 1982) with Nikkor-S 50mm 1.4

Last year my film-photographer-partner-in-crime, Mike Williams, sent me a Nikon N2000 with Nikkor 50mm lens. Mike had wrapped the camera and lens in several layers of bubble wrap before placing in the box. That however didn’t stop USPS from damaging the contents. When I received the box, one side was damaged to the point that it looked like someone had taken an axe to it. The camera appeared to be fine, but the lens had a noticeable dent where you would thread on a filter. Fast forward eight months, Mike reminds me to test the camera. I hadn’t told him about the damage (because I knew he’d be pissed), but intended to use the camera and lens despite the damage. The N2000 body that appeared to be un-wounded, and working, was now dead. I still wanted to use the lens despite its new dimple, so I mounted it on my Nikon EM. I refer to this camera and lens combination as, “like putting an engine from a Mustang in a Pinto.” The images were shot on FPP High Speed Retrochrome 320 and processed E6. The resulting colorcast is very retro, warm, with medium grain.

TDC Stereo Vivid

I traveled to San Diego, California, back in June and came across a great little camera store in the University Heights area called Camera Exposure. They have a great selection of used vintage cameras. I went in looking for some negative hanging clips, and a lens cap for my Minolta SR-T202. I left with those items, plus a new camera. I had been looking to try something different and decided that I wanted to try a 3D or stereoscopic film camera. A quick email to my friend Maurice for some advice on prices, and I was sold on the TDC Stereo Vivid.

Three Dimension Company (TDC) of Chicago, IL, was a division of Bell & Howell. They produced roughly 20,000 TDC Stereo Vivid cameras from 1954 – 1960. Not as popular as Realists or Kodak stereo cameras, but well-built. The TDC Stereo Vivid features a 35mm, f/3.5 lens with shutter speeds of 1/10th – 1/100th, plus bulb. The camera is a rangefinder focus with the film advance knob on the top. A spirit level is located in front of the rangefinder window, with a recessed shutter release button on the front of the camera with a cable release port. The camera originally sold for $129.50 in the US.

The TDC Stereo Vivid has all of the camera controls on the top surface of the camera body. The Expo Sure display lets the photographer control f-stop and shutter speed. It’s also an exposure guide that assists with shooting conditions from dull cloudy to bright sunny conditions. Using the Expo Sure makes it much harder to incorrectly expose an image. Another great feature is the red dot on the camera below the clear rangefinder focus knob. It indicates the distance of focus. A red line on the focus knob itself indicates the focus distance out to infinity. Two red triangles indicate the closest and furthest points of focus for the f-stop set. Why is this important? It’s important because you’re creating a 3D image. I’ve quickly learned that composing a stereo image goes beyond a quick focus and snapshot. To create an effective 3D image, it has to have a foreground, middle ground, and background. Depth of field isn’t just about focusing on the subject in the photo, it’s about helping your viewer find that focus point while enjoying the depth.

Keeping in mind that this is my first attempt with this type of camera, I have two issues with the Stereo Vivid. The first is film loading. I think TDC knew that loading and rewinding film in this camera was going to be an issue for photographers, so much that they actually printed the instructions on the bottom metal plate of the camera. To load film, the winding knob on the right must be rotated to the left until it stops. Next, rotate the middle sprocket, located between the film gates, to the left until it stops. When threading the film from the cartridge to the take-up spool, the film must go under the sprocket mentioned in the previous step. I admit I wasted two rolls of film before figuring out what I was doing wrong. The other issue are the size of the film gates inside the camera. The film gates are the area where the film is exposed, left and right lenses. They are too wide, resulting in images overlapping each other on the negative. I’ve confirmed this with other websites, and the only solution is to perform a creative crop in post.

Below are some images from the annual Peach Days Car Show in Brigham City, Utah, along with some rural images from the small farming town of Freedom, Wyoming. All images were shot on Kentmere 400 Film, processed at RepliColor and scanned with an Epson Perfection V600 Photo. I created the images using the free software, StereoPhoto Maker. To view the images in 3D, sit back from your display, keep your head and eyes horizontally level, and slowly cross your eyes. As you cross your eyes, focus on the middle image. The more you focus, and lock the image focus with your eyes, the easier it will be for you to explore the details of the image. If you feel that this is causing too much stress on your eyes, move further away from your display. And despite what your mom said when you were a child, doing this will not cause your eyes to stay this way. Click each image to make larger.

TDC Stereo Vivid - Peach Days Car Show, Brigham City, Utah

TDC Stereo Vivid - Peach Days Car Show, Brigham City, Utah

TDC Stereo Vivid - Peach Days Car Show, Brigham City, Utah

TDC Stereo Vivid - Peach Days Car Show, Brigham City, Utah

TDC Stereo Vivid - Peach Days Car Show, Brigham City, Utah

TDC Stereo Vivid - Peach Days Car Show, Brigham City, Utah

TDC Stereo Vivid - Peach Days, Brigham City, Utah

TDC Stereo Vivid - Peach Days, Brigham City, Utah

TDC Stereo Vivid - Freedom, Wyoming

TDC Stereo Vivid - Freedom, Wyoming

TDC Stereo Vivid - Freedom, Wyoming

TDC Stereo Vivid - Freedom, Wyoming

If crossing your eyes has given you a headache, and/or you prefer to view some additional film photos from the auto show, check out Scott Smith’s images.



Nikon EM

Nikon EM - 35mm Film (1979 - 1982)

The Nikon EM was produced in Japan from 1979 – 1982. The EM series of cameras was introduced as an entry-level SLR camera for budget minded photographers, $231 (USD). It’s interesting to learn, the EM was designed for, and marketed to, a growing market of female photographers. The camera weighs 16 ounces, has no manual exposure mode, and features a shutter speed from f/1 – 1/1000, bulb, and flash X-sync of 1/90 second. The thought was beginners had not mastered exposure, shutter speeds and f-stops. This section of the market was also moving up from rangefinders and compacts, but were intimidated by traditional SLR features. In the viewfinder is an exposure meter that beeps at the photographer if the exposure is too high or low, very cute. All Nikon F bayonet mount lenses can be used on the EM. To distinguish the EM from other Nikon cameras, the Series E line of lenses were created to differentiate between professional Nikkor ones. I bought this EM at a local pawn shop for $20. It’s the first Nikon product I’ve ever owned. Why? Not because I haven’t wanted to own a Nikon camera. It’s because every time I find a Nikon camera, they never have a lens! There’s nothing more depressing than a box of lensless Nikon cameras. You Nikon fanatics have the ability to hold on to your glass longer than any other camera manufacturer has allowed. I say that jokingly, but I mean it as a sincere compliment. I really enjoy this camera. I like the small footprint and weight. My first roll of film through the EM was 35mm Kodak Hawekeye Super Color, also known as Film Photography Project hand rolled Kodak Hawkeye Traffic Surveillance Film. Unfortunately, as you can see from photos, my EM has a light leak. I’m going to replace the light seals next week.


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Film Photography Project Walking Workshop – Part 2

Continued from Film Photography Project Walking Workshop – Part 1

When I left Salt Lake City, I took five film cameras to use during the Film Photography Project Walking Workshop in San Clemente, California. One of the cameras I took was a Viddy pinhole camera from The Pop-Up Pinhole Company. I assembled it the night before, packed it in my camera bag, and took some time to experiment at San Clemente Pier.

Up to this point in my photography, I’ve never used a pinhole camera to create an image. It’s something that has always fascinated me. I’ve wanted to try it, but never had a real opportunity. That changed a few months ago while listening to the Pinhole Podcast episode #10. The guest was Kelly Angood, creator of The Pop-Up Pinhole Company. Kelly is known for creating a replica Hasselblad pinhole camera out of cardboard and publishing her blueprint online. On the Pinhole Podcast, she half-jokingly says that she was a university student and knew she couldn’t afford a real Hasselblad, so she created her own using cardboard. The success of building this pinhole camera inspired her to start her own company, launch two Kickstarter campaigns, and design two new cardboard cameras. I reached out to Kelly on Twitter and told her that I had never used a pinhole camera and asked if I could review one for UtahFilmPhotography.com. She responded and immediately shipped one out from the United Kingdom.

When the box arrived, it was roughly the size of a medium pizza box. I say this because (I love pizza) it opens identical to a pizza box and it’s the perfect package for shipping flat contents while keeping them protected. Using the step-by-step instructions online and watching the assembly video, I began the process of building my Viddy. The cardboard sheets are silkscreen printed and have a nice appearance. Punching out the various cardboard pieces was easy because the die cut process The Pop-Up Pinhole Company uses is very precise.

I am not a crafty or handy person. I have clumsy fingers and barely know which end of a screwdriver to use. When I assemble Ikea furniture, my family leaves the house and my neighbors get to find out all the profane words I know. The Viddy assembly process was straight forward, and as each piece came together I understood the simple functions of any camera. Kelly has taught countless school children, teens and adults the basic concepts of photography through the creation of pinhole cameras.

In about 40 minutes my new camera was completed. One thing to mention is the Viddy is capable of using 35mm or 120 medium format film. It’s important to make your film decision prior to building the camera because once you’ve picked a film format, the inside of the camera will be fitted and dedicated to that type of film. Kelly made the recommendation to use 120, so that’s what I stuck with.

Without attempting a single shot with the Viddy, I knew camera shake was going to be an issue. With the Viddy, you slide open the shutter, time your exposure, and the slide the shutter closed. The Viddy does not have tripod socket, so to help eliminate shake, I bought some generic Arca Swiss quick-release plates on eBay. I removed the ¼” screw and attached the plate to the Viddy using some tack putty.

One of the cool things about the online pinhole community is their willingness to share information. They know that someone like me is eventually going to come along, want to shoot pinhole, and have a bunch of questions. The Pop-Up Pinhole Company has created their own mobile app. With the app, you simply select the camera you’re using (Viddy or Videre), the film speed, and what type of shooting conditions are present (cloudy, sunny, etc.). The app will indicate the length of time to keep the shutter open for your exposure.

What did I learn about shooting pinhole?

  • Camera shake is unavoidable. When you’re shooting long exposure times as I did on the beach, the wind and opening/closing the shutter are going to create movement with your camera. This is why many pinhole photographer duct tape their cameras in odd places and eventually agitate law enforcement with the unidentifiable boxes.
  • Composition takes time. Because there’s no viewfinder, you have to pre-visualize your image composition. This can be frustrating if you’re someone that likes to line things up perfectly using photographic rules of composition.
  • No two pinhole cameras or images are alike. My images compared to others that have use the Viddy are drastically different. No single person could assembly two Viddy cameras in an identical way. And because of this, images are going to be vastly different. For example, I managed to get a lot of vignette in my images and I think it’s the way I assembled the camera.
  • Keep the shutter smooth. Aside from advancing the film and other moving parts within the camera, the single biggest component to creating a good image is an easy to use shutter. In the assembly instructions for the Viddy, it points out that you shouldn’t press the brass paper fasteners flat and tight. If they are pressed firmly, the shutter will not slide in a smooth motion back-and-forth. Too loose and you would run the risk of over exposing the image or possibly the roll of film. I think I’m going to partially disassemble my Viddy and see if I can improve the shutter movement.
  • Keep things light-proof. The Viddy comes with some stickers to help seal the camera body. On my Viddy, I put black gaffers tape over the exterior openings to keep light out once I had loaded the film. However, removing the stickers or gaffers tape is eventually going to wear the cardboard thin.
  • Ignore everything I said above. Why? Because pinhole to me is about experimentation and those occasional happy accidents while shooting. The only sure image is one you can chimp off the back of a digital camera. To me, the unexpected is what makes pinhole photography fun.

The Viddy from The Pop-Up Pinhole Company is a fun pinhole project camera. The Viddy looks cool. It’s a great conversation piece when you’re out shooting. It’s like a magnet that attracts attention from onlookers who have never seen a cardboard camera. This was a great introduction for me into pinhole photography. The simple and understandable process of assembling the camera really made it my own creation. Now that I’ve used a pinhole camera, I have far more respect for those that can shoot pinhole successfully and artistically. Using pinhole has also helped me realize all the modern tech in our digital cameras we take for granted. Along with my blue UTFP branded Viddy, I’ve decided that I’m going to continue to experiment with pinhole cameras. I purchased a pinhole lens cap and have dedicated its use to one of my Pentax Spotmatic cameras.

Special thanks to Kelly Angood and The Pop-Up Pinhole Company.

In the UK, you can order your own Viddy or Videre at ThePopUpPinholeCompany.com.

In the US, you can order your Viddy at Photojojo.com.

Facebook: The Pop-Up Pinhole Company

Instagram: The Pop-Up Pinhole Company


To be continued…


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Fujica ST701 Tested by My Son Connor

This week I wanted to try something different and fun. I asked my youngest son, Connor, to pick one of my 35mm cameras off the shelf to test for the weekend. At first he was extremely reluctant and gave me a whole list of excuses why he didn’t want to use one (i.e. it’s too heavy, I don’t want to pack it around). However, once he saw the manual process of loading the film and manually adjusting the focus, it intrigued him. Connor loves science. He loves to invent things. He spends his Sunday afternoons working on his science experiments and perfecting his inventions. When he saw the mechanical process of using a film camera, and changing the aperture on the lens, I could see the gears begin to spin in his head. Connor chose to use the Fujica ST701. It’s funny, but because of all the cameras I’ve acquired, he still doesn’t realize that he’s the one who actually found this camera at the thrift store. We loaded some Fujicolor Superia X-Tra 400, and went as a family to Swiss Days in Midway, Utah.


The Fujica ST701 was made in 1971 and was the first camera to use a silicon photo-cell receptor coupled to a field effect transistor (FET) circuit for light metering. I bought this camera at a local thrift store for $10. Unfortunately the cameras made in the late 60’s and early 70’s were equipped to use mercury-based batteries. After reading several blogs, they indicated that a Zinc Air battery could be used in place, but would require some padding as these batteries are smaller than the original. The batteries are required to operate the silicon photocell that operates the exposure needle in the viewfinder, like a Pentax K1000. Another unfortunate discovery, after using the Zinc Air batteries, I found the photocell or the meter is dead, which is another common occurrence with this specific camera model of this age.

Despite the dead photocell and meter, the 55mm f/1.8 lens is incredible solid and sharp. It makes it hard not to want to use this camera regardless of metering. That’s mainly why I selected the ISO 400 color film for Connor to use. My idea is the ISO 400 would be a little more forgiving in the sunlight and shadows. Half-way through Saturday, Connor asked me, “Dad, is this color or black and white film?” He was happy to learn it was color and I’m surprised it hadn’t come up when we loaded the film. For whatever reason, my kids dislike black and white photos.

Threading the 35mm film on the take-up spool in this camera is very difficult. After some additional research, I found that this is another common issue with this camera. And to say that it’s difficult to thread is putting it nicely. It’s a miserable experience that makes you wonder why the design is so poor when everything else on this camera seems so simple to operate.

After spending Labor Day weekend using the camera, I sat down and interviewed Connor. He did a great job thinking about his responses to my questions. This gives a great insight into the mind of a kid using technology that’s thirty years older than him.

What is your name and how old are you?

Connor Nelson, I’m 11-years old.

Can you describe the camera you used?

It’s a Fujica ST701, it has a small lens compared to what some people use. It’s made out of metal and plastic. When I hold it, it feels heavy and solid in my hands.

What did people say to you when they saw you with this camera?

One man asked, “Are you shooting with a film camera?” And another lady said to me, “I have the same one in my bag!” and she pulled it out to show me. Someone else said to me that they were happy to see me using a film camera because it was the same kind of camera that they used to use.

What did you take photos of?

Yesterday I took photos of things they were selling at Swiss Days, like glass pendants. I also took pictures of the steeple of an old building, and a big pine tree. Today I took a picture of a park with lots of trees, a heart that was carved into a tree, flowers, our garden with tomatoes and pumpkins, our dog, the leaves changing colors on the trees, and the playground at the park.

What did you like about taking photos with a film camera?

I like the way it worked. It was really simple. All the cameras they have now have all these buttons and things on them. I liked using the manual focus on the lens. I also liked that I couldn’t see my images after taking the photo. You don’t know how they are going to turn out.

What didn’t you like about taking photos with a film camera?

At first I didn’t like carrying the camera around. I didn’t like that I couldn’t zoom in on things with the lens. I didn’t like having to cock the camera before taking a photo.

What was the easiest part about using this camera?

It was simple. You don’t have to mess with the picture after you take it and you don’t have to use the back of camera to check every photo. You have to make the best of your shot. I liked that I could take the camera with the strap and sling it over to the side and I didn’t have to hold it all the time.

What was the hardest part about using this camera?

It was kind of heavy for a camera that size. I didn’t like not being able to zoom in on the things I wanted. You have to make sure that your shot is really good before you take it because you only have so much film.

What did you learn by taking photos with a film camera?

It was really important to get the things I wanted perfectly in focus. I learned that people still like to take pictures with film cameras because of some of the comments people made to me. When I was taking a photo of these glass pendants in a booth, a guy patted me on the back and said, “I’m glad to see people are still using film cameras.”

What do your photos will look like when they come back from the lab?

Since this was the first time I shot with film, I think some of them are going to look bad. I also think that some of them are going to look good because of the depth and focus. They will probably be different than what I expect.

Would you like to use a film camera again?

Yes. I liked it. I liked the way the camera works. It’s not hard to learn to use.

What advice would you give other kids about shooting with a film camera?

I’m not sure many kids would like using a film camera. Kids like to use newer stuff. Some might not get how to use it. You have to take your time and focus right so you can get a good photo. You have to try hard with your photos because you only have so much film.


This week we’ll send Connor’s roll of film off to the lab and begin the anticipation of what his photos look like. And like a kid waiting for their birthday to arrive, I believe the suspense of the unknown is going to irritate him. I’m glad Connor took the challenge to use a film camera for the weekend and I’m personally relieved that it wasn’t a disaster. He had a positive experience. He actually had fun using the camera. On a future Sunday afternoon, I suspect that he’ll invent his own camera using parts of boxes and pieces of plastic found in the recycling bin at home.