Apr 25 2020

Ricoh Auto Half

I love it when a camera surprises me. The Ricoh Auto Half did that. With its fixed focus and aged meter I wasn’t too sure what I would get. My expectations though were exceeded.

From Ricoh’s own history page this is what they have to say “…in 1962, rolled out the more advanced and handy Ricoh Auto Half—a half-frame, fully automatic camera with automated exposure, focusing and film-winding functions. Being compact, purse-sized and requiring no manual control skills, the world’s smallest popular-model automatic camera of the times proved to be a huge hit, particularly with female consumers.” And from their manual there is this gem. “When you leave your finger from the Release Button, the film is advanced automatically by one frame with the sound “Z-E-E”.

The 25mm f2.8 lens has fixed focus but that proved not to be an issue with any of the subjects I photographed with it. Pretty much anything 5 or more feet out is in acceptable focus. I really like the fact that as a half frame camera the image aspect ratio is naturally vertical “Portrait”. This is a nice change from the ubiquitous “landscape” orientation of most cameras.

Image quality was better than expected with flair only being an issue when I did my normal extreme test of allowing sunlight to hit the lens directly.

I really enjoyed using the Auto Half and because of its small size it will absolutely find a little spot in my camera bag.

Apr 19 2020

Mamiya U

One thing I have found is that almost all Mamiya U cameras suffer from their shutter buttons turning into goo. Its too bad because they are a wonderful 80s design with their lens hump.

I purchased one in a box at a camera show prior to the necessity for physical distancing. (I add that because in the future I hope that comment was of this time and not in perpetuity) This camera was no exception, with the remains of its button an orange goop, so I set about the task of making a replacement.

My first effort (Yes it required more than one) was to use the rubber from an old lens focusing ring/area/zone/whatever.

Ta da! unfortunately the rubber was too flat and too stiff resulting in the camera wanting to take pictures on its own.

Effort two was to find a camera with a similar size button and transplant it

Looks good but it had the same issue no amount of hollowing it out could make it not constantly trip the shutter as soon as the film was advanced.

Getting a little desperate I now tried molding a button out of gasket material. Yes it was as sticky and worked as well as it looked, I presume if I had ever put it near the camera.

Effort number four though was getting close I used elastic material that had the right feel but was still a little too stiff.

And finally attempt number 5 yielded a working result.

And the winner was a chunk of a nitrile glove. No beauty but it sealed the camera to the elements and functioned.

Now with a functional camera it was time to try out that 35mm f2.8 lens. There isn’t a lot of user control available and the focus is via simple zone settings but the lens has a beautiful blue coating and was a good performer. The 5 element lens was sharp with good contrast. Additionally the use of 2 AAA batteries rather than some now defunct cell is always welcome.

Apr 10 2020

4×5 Paper Negatives

I have a bunch of AGFA MCP 310 multi grade paper that is fogged. Its not really any good for making Black and White prints but not wanting it to go to waste I started using it as paper negatives. Because it is 8×10 sheets of paper intended for use in a darkroom there are some considerations that need to be dealt with. First its Orthographic which means that it is sensitive to Blue and Green light but insensitive to Red light. (That’s the reason you can use it under a safelight in a darkroom) This means that things that contain reds will be rendered very dark and things with blue will be rendered very light. (Sky for instance will mostly be blown out to white) The next consideration is of course cutting it down to fit into a film holder. Although it seems like a no brainer just cut the 8×10 into four 4x5s you do need to trim them slightly smaller to fit in the holders. And the final consideration is the sensitivity of the material. Just how much light is just right. My first few attempts I just treated it like it was around ISO 6 which is roughly what you would expect the paper to be. It was fun and I achieved some decent results but mostly through random experiments.

Once that phase was over I decided to take a little more care and determine how to achieve the best results consistently. Rather than trying to find the absolute ISO value of the film I decided to find a value that provided me with a negative that I could achieve the best results with. I set up the camera and had 8 frames to take of the same scene with varying exposures. I started by taking a picture with a digital camera set to ISO100 it metered the scene at 1/500 and f5.6 which is 14EV.

So this was my starting point knowing full well the paper was not equivalent to 100 ISO. I set the 4×5 camera to f22 and 1/30 sec. which is also 14EV and sure enough the result from that frame was too light (I’m speaking in terms of the image after scanning and conversion to a positive), next up was 1/15 second or twice the light it was better but still too flat. At 1/8 of a second though we seem to have hit the sweet spot where the highlights were not blown out yet there was detail in the shadows. This f22 and 1/8 second suggested that the best result was achieved when you treated the paper as if it was ISO25 not bad and quite a bit faster than the ISO 6 I had tried previously. Not having seen the results yet of course I continued on with the test setting the shutter to 1/4,1/2,1,2 seconds each one with a greater degree becoming blown out. The results of this test excluding the 2 second one is displayed bellow

You can see that 1/8 of a second gives a result that offers the most range for both scanning or contact printing. I’ve adjusted the levels of the full 1/8sec image (ISO 25) for a result I like.

You may be wondering what sort of detail do you get using a paper negative. And there is no doubt they are by their nature going to be softer than a real film negative but here is a crop into that monument across the water.

So now knowing that the paper yields a reasonable result when its shot at 25ISO I can continue further experiments and potentially refine the results. I have plenty more paper to use so rather than writing more I think I will load some and get out and shoot. Maintaining physical distancing from other people of course. (If your reading that last line years from now and don’t know why I would say such a thing then I am very glad for you)

Apr 4 2020

Olympus Trip 35

I’ve written about the Olympus Trip 35 a couple times so I will attempt to not repeat myself. Olympus Trip 35 2015 Olympus Trip 35 2012. One thing I need to say though is each time I have used the Trip 35 I have been pleased with the use and results. I’m not super keen on zone focusing as I tend to forget or miss focus on one or two shots but not needing batteries yet having auto exposure is a nice plus. Considering that the camera came out over 50 years ago that is an impressive feat.