Sep 16 2017

Vivitar 500PZ

Vivitar500PZ-7813 Looking back at the 1990′s at some point in a camera advertisers career it must have become difficult to come up with new ways to describe the same features in an exciting way.  How else can you explain this line about the PZ500  “…and a tripod socket, permitting the camera to be mounted anywhere on a tripod to take advantage of the self-timer and of the non flash exposure option”  I feel that advertisers pain as I struggle to write about what sometimes amounts to the same camera in new packaging.  But here we go.  The Vivitar PZ500 sports a 35-70mm zoom lens that they suggest is a ‘Series 1 Optic’.  Funny how they never had any other Series that they were proud of.  The aperture goes from f4 at 35mm to f7.6 at 70mm.  The zoom control is a clear rocker switch on the top that has the indicator LCD beneath.  Vivitar500PZ-7814Now at least that is unique.  The focus system is 35 zones which seems like plenty all things considered having hundreds of possible distance settings as some point and shoots have may just be more marketing hype. All kidding aside the lens is actually pretty good and the only shot that seems slightly out of focus is one where I took a picture through a chain link fence.  I think the choice of a very conservative 2X zoom starting at 35mm allows for even lighting (no vignetting) and low optical aberrations.  I added the tape to the battery door more as insurance than out of absolute necessity. One thing about one camera:  The Vivitar PZ500 is essentially the same camera as the Leica mini zoom both being manufactured by Matsushita and having the same specifications except for the Leica name.

Aug 12 2017

Kodak T550


The Kodak T550 is a diminutive camera that separated itself from the rest of the APS pack with a flash that flipped up from its other duty as a lens cover. The 28mm f3.5 lens gives an angle of view similar to a 35mm lens on a 35mm film camera when you use the entire film area of 30.2mmx16.7mm.  With each APS exposure the full image area is recorded and with that also recorded magnetically the aspect ratio setting the user had selected.  There were three settings known as H (high definition), C  (Classic) and P (Panoramic) so while the entire image area was always recorded, during printing the machine would read the magnetic info and crop the images accordingly.  I prefer to use the full 16:9 aspect ratio for composing images as it is the one interesting thing about APS film.  And it shouldn’t be a surprise but I used out of date non refrigerated film with an unknown history as that is my primary source of APS film.

Apr 9 2017

Pentax K1000


What can one say about such a utilitarian camera,  other than it just works.  It’s that just working that made it so popular as a photography teaching tool.  Additionally it’s completely mechanical controls mean that it can be used without batteries and it’s rugged metal build make it a survivor.  My first encounter with the K1000 was to take pictures of a CRT screen from a pipe inspection system. At the time ( I used a Minolta X700 personally) it seemed ridiculously simple but it always worked.

In fact I don’t recall coming across any that haven’t worked in some manner no matter how beat up they looked.  That being said they can develop shutter issues as with this unit.  It seems like the shutter at 1/1000 is in need of some adjustment as it left one side of some images slightly darkened.  There is plenty of information on the web about the history and use of this camera so I won’t rehash what’s already there but I will say that with all the developments in the arena of digital photography one thing that is missing in my opinion are cameras that embody the nature of the K1000.  There are cameras that take styling cues from the past but not many of them strip down the photography experience to just dialing in settings and taking pictures.

Mar 25 2017

Minolta Super A


The super A is a heavy camera at 810 grams and that is without the lightmeter on top which weighs an additional 135 grams.  The shutter ranges from 1  to 1/400 sec however the 1/400 second setting is nearly hidden on the dial and is not available when using the light meter.  It does have interchangeable lenses,  I only have the one 50mm f2 which is a reasonable performer even wide open. The other lenses are quite rare.  The 50mm f2.0  provides a smooth out of focus area often referred to as bokeh just outside of the area of focus but distant out of focus areas are quite nervous looking.   This look is distinct from what you get from modern lenses.  Its effect can be seen best in the image of the railroad.


The apertures are set at definitive click stops and at f5.6 and f8 produce an interesting aperture shape that looks like a 10 pointed star.


Mar 10 2017

Sigma 28 AF Zoom or the Stickyma


I love this little bit of advertising copy Sigma gave about the 28 AF Zoom and its siblings.

Sigma gives its cameras a touch, exclusive “ZEN” finish which is not only scratch-resistant but is also non-reflective and non-slip. The “ZEN” finish will retain its looks almost forever: your Sigma camera will always look as new even after many years of faithful service.

Every one of these cameras that I have happened across has had a defining attribute, they are sticky.  They didn’t start out that way of course but over time whatever that “ZEN” material is it has turned into a gummy mess that will pick up anything loose it comes into contact with.  The lens on the AF 28 Zoom goes from 28mm to 50mm or 1.78X which isn’t that impressive, but I do like 28mm.  To fill out your focal lengths Sigma also offered the AF Super Zoom 70 that had a 35-70mm lens and the AF Super Zoom 100 with its 50-100mm zoom.  That way you could have 3 cameras stuck together.

The Sigma 28AF Zoom lens provides apertures of f4.2-f7 across the zoom range but with a high level of vignetting.  Lets face it the camera is as ugly as the images it produces and using it leaves you with a feeling that soap just doesn’t seem to be able to wash away.

One thing about one camera:  Despite being an automatic exposure, autofocus point and shoot the Sigma 28 AF Zoom has an external flash shoe that works with almost any flash whether its sticky or not.

Feb 26 2017

Fuji X30 discontinued but still working


In 2016 I had an opportunity to take a fantastic trip to Paris and London and really wanted a small point and shoot camera that was up to the task.  My previous camera that would have fit this bill was the Nikon P7000 but it’s getting old for a digital camera and resets itself every time the battery is removed. As well sensor technology has also improved in the interim primarily in low light. I wont go through all the choices I considered but the Fujifilm X30 was only ever an outside consideration as I was looking at the newly released Panasonic Z100 and the Sony RX100 IV both of which cost more than $1000.  By chance however the local camera store (actually a pharmacy and the last camera outlet standing) was having a small camera show with representatives from different manufacturers and dealers.  Among these was Fujifilm with some wonderful new cameras and lenses as well as the X30 which was approaching 2 years old and being discontinued. In addition it had the same lens and sensor and processor as the previous model the X20 making the camera seem a little dated.  But then there was the price when all was said and done it cost only about 1/3 of the Sony.  So aside from the price what other feature would prompt me to forgo buying the best camera I could afford?  Well there is the form factor, it’s a nice camera to hold and with all the external dials its easy to use without the need to hunt through menus. x30controls  And the 2.360K-dot OLED viewfinder.  I’ve never liked EVFs but when I looked through this one I had to admit that it was very good and is a pleasure to use. x30_viewfinder It is large and clear and provides useful information and most importantly for me it did not suffer from lag in low light.  In fact Fujifilm claims that the refresh rate is 0.005 of  a second.  I find that if I pan and the image doesn’t refresh fast enough it causes mild nausea which is not conducive to enjoying photography, one of the main reasons I prefer optical viewfinders.  But the X30 viewfinder excels   I’m not going to list off the features and specifications of the X30 those are easily found online but rather try to explain where the camera excels and where it does not.

The first thing to be addressed is its ISO range and in particular noise at higher settings.  I ran a few tests and as expected it was not a particularly good performer at higher ISO settings.  Here is a crop from one test comparing ISO 100 to ISO 800.


So during this testing I determined that ISO 1600 was the upper limit that I was comfortable using to achieve results that I could live with but that limiting it to under ISO 800 was preferable.  This is not state of the art territory but it’s also not like you can not take pictures at those values especially given the X30 lenses F2.0-f2.8 maximum aperture.


For reference this is what a 100% crop at 3200 ISO looks like without noise reduction.   Not useable for me.

The focal range of the lens 7.1-28.4mm yields an angle of view for its sensor that is equivalent to 28-112mm in 35mm terms.  While I like 28mm and use it often it would have been nice to have a somewhat wider lens such as 24mm.

Over the next little while I used the X30 when ever I could in order to see how well it performed.  What I found was that it was a well laid out camera with good autofocus that produced nice images, what more can you expect.  Well larger files such as 20mpixel rather than 12mpixel would be nice and better low light performance would be good. However if you stay within the boundaries of where the X30 works well it is a good all around point and shoot.  The X30 also excels at close focus photography as well allowing images taken as close as 1cm to the lens in ‘Super Macro’ mode. DSCF5617One other minor issue was the movie record button, I find myself hitting it inadvertently far too often ending up with useless short video clips and sometimes a missed photograph.  It wasn’t the only digital camera I took and I tended to only use it when traveling as light as possible such as inside museums, a place where it isn’t the strongest.

Fuji has discontinued the X30 as I mentioned and the have not signaled that there will be a replacement. Nikon has also decided to stop development of their DL series of compacts before they ever made it to market.  The point and shoot camera market is practically dead and even the high end compact market which the X30 sat in is limited with Sony and Panasonic dominating that segment with a few exceptions.

What follows are some images from prior to my trip as I tested the Fuji X30 in an other post I will share some of the images from the trip.


Feb 2 2017

Thrift store disposable camera

I can’t resist a cheap camera and a cheap camera with film in it is even better. It isn’t unusual to find disposable cameras in a bin at thrift store often for $1 to $2. The results are unpredictable but it is film so what else are you going to do.

One of those what else can you do is to recover the film for use in another camera.  Disposable cameras tend to have the film wound out and as you expose each frame it is pulled into the canister.  So if you cover the lens with something opaque or perform this in complete darkness.  You can advance the film until it is entirely back into the canister and then break the camera open to recover the film.  You then need to pull the film out of the canister film_retriever

( I use an Arista film leader recovery tool).  I did this recently with a disposable camera that said made in China with film made in Italy.  I found they had used an old Kodak film canister to wind the film onto and then just put a new label over it.


It should be interesting to see how this plays out. However what follows is images shot right in a Fuji disposable camera.

Oct 14 2016

Ricoh R1 Light seal transplant


I seem to attract light leaks with cameras like ants to a picnic or mosquitos to the one spot you missed with the repelant. All very annoying. I’ve been using my Ricoh R1 for a few years now without any issues and have been very pleased with it. Ricoh R1 with Color Implosion Ricoh R1 great camera design
Ricoh R1 in Niagara but then this happened.


There are some clues in the leak: It repeats on every frame, it is near the edge, it is a narrow strip. This all points to the light seal around the film canister window.
Taking a close look at the seal I could see that it had begun to deteriorate. I decided to look for a donor camera that would fit the bill. It isn’t until you nead something that you realize how hard it is to find. The variety of shapes and sizes for the seal material was unexpected not to mention the different textures and methods of adhesion. Not finding a perfect match I decided rather than doing the sensible thing and just blacking out the film window I would deprive a cheap camera of its seal despite its poor fit. A little extra strip of foam shouldn’t hurt either.


As you look at this you may be thinking well that looks unprofessional to which I would reply ‘It’s inside the camera and it does the job’

Here is the proof


And here are a few images from before the seal transplant.

Sep 4 2016

Pentax efina T


The Pentax efinaT is with out a doubt my favorite APS film camera. I’ve posted previously about its robustness here Pentax EfinaT
It’s just one of those cameras that seems like the peak of its type, its type being a small camera with a film format doomed for failure before it ever started of course. EfinaTAdvert

It’s 23-69mm lens gives a similar field of view as a 29-87mm lens on a 35mm film camera a very nice focal range and with the wide 16:9 aspect ratio its a fun camera to compose images with. The lens is a slow f5.6 to 9.9 comprised of 6 elements in 5 groups with two of them being aspherical. The slow speed of the lens shouldn’t be a surprise considering the compactness of it. The camera does weigh a hefty 195g due to its metal build. Interestingly it has a 5 point autofocus system and can also be set to spot focus. The close focus distance of 65cm can be used at any of the zoom settings.

I didn’t scan the film, I photographed it with my Pentax K-3 setup APS-Scanning-8008
and then cropped and adjusted it in Lightroom. I also decided to leave the full area of the film visible just for the sake of it and so you can see the true image size captured.
The film itself is 24mm wide but the image area captured is only 16.7mm along that edge and 30mm along its length. It results in an image area 58% smaller than that of 35mmm film although it’s no less fun.

Mar 30 2016

Breaking the 30 second barrier with a Pentax DSLR (Interval Composite Mode)


Image created in camera by moonlight using 4 30second exposures

One of the restrictions of many DSLR cameras is the limit of the longest  exposure you can set is 30 seconds. This forces you to use bulb mode and a separate method of timing the exposure. There is an alternative though with newer Pentax cameras such as the K-3, K-3II and recently announced K-1. The way it is achieved is by changing the drive mode to interval composite. When set to this mode you also want to set the combining to additive so that all the exposures are summed together into one file. IMGP2205
Next select an interval that is larger than the length of the exposure (This is a necessary setting). So if your going to use the 30 second maximum set this to around 33 seconds as that allows enough time for the exposure and processing of the file. After that it’s just a matter of selecting how many exposures or in this case how many times 30 seconds. For example 4 exposures would equal 2 minutes, 20 would result in a total of 10 minutes. There is a drawback and that is the necessary short gap between exposures. If there is something moving in a predictable way such as a star it’s going to leave a small gap where it isn’t recorded.
Here the multiple exposures have given my time to walk around in the scene and manual trigger a flash

Of course you can also use a shutter release cable in bulb mode and lock it down I just wanted to present an alternative method that is more automatic and controllable

Back before digital there really was only one way to create star trail images and that was to use a very long exposure and some trial and error. You can still do this but digital sensors behave differently than film over long periods and digital noise can become an issue.  Some people have used a different method where they capture multiple images over a period of time perhaps hundreds of them and then stack them using computer software.  The new Pentax K-1 apparently has a new composition mode that facilitates doing this in camera referred to as star streams (It turns out that that feature is actually a method of creating 4K time-lapse movies where the star trail ends fade out after a period of  time, it will be interesting to see) but I wanted to share how you can do it now with the K-3 or K-3II

You still use the image composite drive mode but rather than setting the combining to ’additive’ you want to set it to ‘bright’
This way bright objects such as stars will be added to the exposure while darker things such as a foreground will be left dark.  This is different from a long exposure because of the way the frames are combined and is most easily illustrated.  The following pictures where both taken with settings of ISO 1600 f5.6 120 Seconds. The one on the left with bulb mode and the one on the right by combining 8 15 second exposures.


While not long enough to really show the star trails yet you can see that the accumulation of light pollution and noise is having an adverse effect on the long exposure more than the composite image. Also at some point continuing on in bulb mode the foreground would become over exposed.
In this next image I’ve stepped it up to 18 exposures of 20 seconds for a total of 6 minutes which is still too short a time to create a dramatic image but this can easily be extended further by just adjusting the number of images to be ‘stacked’

If I get a clear night in the near future I will update this with a longer capture. The point though is that there are tools built into these cameras that are waiting for creative exploration. As a side note the image that is generated can be a RAW file and tends to have less noise due to the combining of the images. Also generating images in this way doesn’t require dark frame subtraction and the time penalty that entails. Although the dark frame count down timer on the top LCD is a nice touch its like waiting for water to boil and is lost time.  And of course you aren’t burdened with dealing with a whole pile of files on your card and in your computer which is a very film like notion.