Sunday, May 31, 2015

Print: Living Room Seating

This photograph shows the inside of an abandoned house in Dekalb, Illinois. The house was mostly empty, save for a few jars full of urine, some plastic plants, guitar magazines, and this lone chair sitting in the corner of the living room. I used my Mamiya C330 with an 80mm f/2.8 Sekor lens, on Kodak Tmax 400 film. The physical print is 8" x 8".

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Spotlight: Robot Royal Mod. III

The Robot Royal Mod. III is a 35mm rangefinder camera that was first introduced in 1953. It sports many of the features a pro or enthusiast photographer at the time would want in a rangefinder camera, with the added bonus of being able to shoot at speeds of 5 frames per second! After readying the spring-loaded motor by turning a ratcheted knob at the bottom of the camera, you can shoot at blazing speeds, where all you have to do is hold down the shutter button and the camera just fires away as fast as it can. When fully wound, you can fire off about 36 frames before the camera runs out of juice and you have to wind it again.

Through the flip of a switch, you can also shoot in a semi-automatic mode, which will fire the shutter "as fast as you can pull the trigger". Unless you want to shoot a sequence, I recommend staying on this setting, as it's really hard to fire just one shot in the automatic mode!

 I took my Robot Royal Mod. III to one of our softball games, and tested out the fully automatic mode. I used Ilford Delta 3200 film, as lighting conditions were pretty poor.

Here is my brother-in-law, Aaron, at bat:


And here is my wife, Katie, at bat:

They're not great shots, but I couldn't get much closer with the standard 40mm f/1.9 lens without putting myself in immediate danger or annoying the other players. Other lenses are available, as the Royal Mod. III has a breech-lock mounting system, but the glass tends to fetch pretty high prices.

The Royal shoots in square 24 x 24mm format, so you get slightly more shots on a roll than you normally would. The smaller image size allows the camera to shoot at higher speeds than if it was full 24 x 36mm format, as it doesn't have to advance the film quite as far in-between photos.

The camera is small, yet hefty. It's only 3 inches tall and 1.25 inches thick, but weighs over 2 pounds! The Royal is German quality at its best. They just don't make cameras like this anymore!

Here are some more photos I took at the softball game. Once again, the film is Ilford Delta 3200, hence the grain.

Thanks for looking!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Spotlight: Kodak Bantam Special

At an estate sale last weekend, I was lucky enough to stumble upon this rare beauty: a Kodak Bantam Special. Put simply, the Special is a gorgeous camera. Its silver and black art-deco inspired design is an absolute feast for the eyes. The camera is luxury in every sense of the word. First released in 1936, the Special had a list price of $110, which is a little more than $1,800 in 2015 money. Woah!

A little kickstand folds out to display or stabilize the camera vertically

But its beauty isn't just skin-deep. The Bantam Special has everything any photographic enthusiast could ever want in a pocket-sized camera in the 1930's. It sports an ultra-fast 45mm f/2 Ektar standard lens for shooting in dimly lit situations. It has a leaf shutter with selectable speeds between 1 second and 1/500th of a second (Plus Bulb and Time). There's an 8x magnification coupled rangefinder for pinpoint-accurate focusing, and a separate window for composing. Lastly, all of these fine features are protected by a folding clam-shell door that closes up when the lens is pushed past infinity.

All closed up

By now you're probably saying to yourself, "Damn, where can I get one of these?!"

Before you start hunting ebay, you should know the one huge downside to the Kodak Bantam Special: It takes 828 film. Not 35mm. 828 is the same size as 35mm, except there are no sprocket holes, and it comes in a roll (like 120), and not in a cartridge. 828 film has been extinct for 30 years now, so to shoot with a Bantam Special, you have to either use long-expired film, go through the insane task of re-spooling 35mm film onto 828 spools, or buy some factory re-spooled film for a ludicrous price ($18 per roll on B+H). The Bantam Special itself isn't cheap either. A good working camera will run you between $250 and $300 on the used market.

I was fortunate to find some expired Kodak Verichrome Pan 828 film at the same estate sale I found the Bantam Special. The expiration year was 1973! For reference, I exposed the film at box speed (ASA 125), and developed it in Ilfotec DD-X for 15 minutes at a dilution of 1-9. The film was still a tad-bit underexposed, so maybe add a couple minutes to your time if you plan on trying for yourself. Also, for your information, 828 film will fit onto the same developing reels as 35mm film, as it is the same overall width.

Here are some photos I made with the Kodak Bantam Special:

Despite how expensive it is, and how impractical it is to shoot with, I completely adore this camera. While I don't expect to use it again, I do plan on admiring its beauty on my shelf for years to come. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Print: Stairwell

This cool decrepit stairwell is located in a house just outside of Dekalb, Illinois. The broken (or intentionally removed) stairs meant I could not explore the second floor of the house without risking falling through the gap and straight into the basement, so I didn't try. The good news is that the missing stairs allowed for a deeper, more interesting composition/scene for this photograph. You can see right through to the back door! For this extreme vertical shot, I used my Widelux F7 on Ilford HP5+ film. The physical darkroom print is 13x5.5 inches.