Monday, March 19, 2018

Spotlight: Ihagee Exa

First released in 1951, the Ihagee Exa is a compact and lightweight 35mm SLR. Designed as a consumer camera, the Exa is a smaller, simpler version of Ihagee's flagship Exakta Varex. The Exa accepts the same bayonet-mount lenses and interchangeable viewfinders as the Exakta, but does not have many of the more advanced features its big brother offers.

The most limiting aspect of the Exa is its severe lack of shutter speeds. There are only five speeds available: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/150, and bulb. Speeds are selected via a unique little switch on top of the camera body. With a top speed of only 1/150 (laughable for an SLR), capturing any subject moving faster than an ambling walk in sharp focus is out of the question. Making pictures in direct sunlight is also difficult unless one is using a relatively slow film.

Besides the shutter speed issue, the Exa is a fun little camera to use. The build quality is exquisite, as one would expect from a mid-century German camera. Though diminutive in form, the camera has a reassuring weight to it. Operation is fairly archaic compared to newer 35mm SLR's, but is on par for the time period. Keep in mind, the Exa was made nearly a decade before the revolutionary Nikon F.

Unless one has a newer automatic-aperture lens, one must focus with the lens wide-open, and then manually stop it down to the desired aperture before tripping the shutter. Upon clicking the shutter release, the mirror swings up and does not return to the viewing position until the shutter is reset. The frame counter has to be reset by hand before loading each new roll of film. Film advance and rewind is performed by rotating small, uncomfortable (yet aesthetically pleasing) knurled knobs. The focusing screen is bright and easy to compose with, especially when viewed through the standard waist-level finder. Pentaprism finders are also available.

There's not too much else to say about the Exa. It's a fun little SLR if you can learn to deal with its limitations. Plus, it's just plain gorgeous to look at. In my humble opinion, the Exa and Exakta Varex are some of the most beautiful cameras ever made. My Exa came with a 50mm f/2.9 "Mertitar" lens, which I used exclusively to make pictures on a walk through the woods with some friends. The film was Ilford HP5+. The woods were thick, and the time was nearing sunset, so many of these pictures were made with the lens wide open. As a result, I missed focus on most of the shots. Whoops. Here are my results:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Drawing: Mountains Beyond Mountains

40"x30" micron pen drawing depicting my feelings toward our suburban nation. Metairie, I'm looking at you.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Myself Through Time and Place (Part 4)

The latest batch of images in my ongoing series, Myself Through Time and Place. Displayed in order of creation. All made with my Nikon F2 and 20mm f/2.8 lens. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Spotlight: Great Wall PF-1

Last week, I drove over to Mississippi in order to purchase a bulk of old film cameras from an estate. Within this group of cameras, along with its original box, case, and instructions, was a Great Wall PF-1. A cheap Chinese copy of the Fujica ST-F, the PF-1 is a full-plastic SLR. That's right, there's an actual mirror, prism, and focusing screen system within this hipster wet dream. Honestly, this camera's feature set is somewhat incredible considering its Holga-esque build quality. There's a built-in flash, and even metering! For the light meter, you press a little silver button on the front of the camera, and in the viewfinder you'll see a green light indicating correct exposure, or a red light, meaning you're either over or under exposed. The meter can be set for either 100, 200, or 400 ISO film. Both the light meter and the flash are powered by two AA batteries.

Exposure is controlled by adjusting the aperture ring on the base of the lens. The shutter fires at a set mechanical speed of 1/60 (Though, oddly, according to the instruction manual, at f/16, the shutter fires at 1/370 of a second... could be a typo?). With the fixed 40mm f/2.8 lens, you can focus as close as 0.9 meters, which is a bit pathetic for an SLR. There's a split-image assist on the focus screen that makes getting your subject into focus a relatively pain-free experience.

Ergonomics are pretty decent. The only tricky part to operation is remembering to couple the focusing ring to the aperture ring (by means of a sliding plastic tab) when you want to use the flash. This is how the PF-1 determines correct flash exposure. Speaking of ergonomics, I love the camera's adorable knurled plastic film advance wheel; it reminds me of the disposable Kodak cameras of my youth. The PF-1 is small enough for a coat pocket, and the plastic construction means it's quite light and easy to carry around all day.

Here are some photographs I made with the Great Wall PF-1. I used Kodak HP5+ film.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Collage: One Day (#1)

For this work, I cut up an entire strip from my 5 Days piece, and turned it into a 20" x 20" collage. All photos in the collage were made at regular intervals throughout the course of a day. I set a timer to go off every 20 minutes, and photographed whatever I was focused on at the time. The resulting mess is an abstract representation of one day in my life.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Myself Through Time and Place (Part 3)

The latest batch of images in my ongoing series, Myself Through Time and Place. Displayed in order of creation. All made with my Nikon F2 and 20mm f/2.8 lens. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Walk Through Burbank Gardens

A Walk Through Burbank Gardens is a collage I made from roughly 175 photographs. I made these photographs while on a walk through "Burbank Gardens", the fancy name given to the cluster of homes in Gentilly that I currently live in. I photographed what I saw and interacted with on my walk (most notably the friendly cat in the bottom-right), and the resulting collage is my somewhat whimsical interpretation of the banal experience. For the photographs, I used an Olympus Pen FT half-frame camera with a 38mm lens and Kodak Portra 160 film. The finished piece is 24"x18" on wood panel.