Sunday, 19 June 2016

'116 Day'

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with HP5 Plus
Last weekend, on the day before 126 Day, I shot film in my two 116 format cameras. I'd had a Zeiss Ikon Cocarette for some time with which I'd previously used some 120 film, and had intended to write about, but taking photographs on the date of 11/6 this year was prompted by acquiring a Kodak No.2A Brownie in the format a few weeks ago. 116 was a paper-backed rollfilm, very much like 120, but the film was 70mm wide (compared to 120's 62mm), and the typical frame size for the format is nominally 6.5x11cm. Kodak discontinued manufacture of 116 film in the mid-1980s, but there are many 116 cameras still around, and to use them can be done with essentially three strategies: using original, expired 116 film; using other 70mm film stock in the cameras; or adapting the cameras to use 120 film.

Kodacolor colour negative films
Fortunately, both 116 cameras had the original metal spools in left in the supply side chamber when I bought them, and, online, I found a couple of rolls of Kodacolor negative film to shoot on the day. These dated back to the late 1950s and early 1960s with 'process before' dates of July 1961 and November 1964. Originally 32 ASA, I rated the films using a rough approximation at around 6 to compensate for loss of sensitivity with age. I shot one roll in the Cocarette, handheld, as this had a much faster lens than the Brownie, and, although I mostly shot at f4.5 with 1/50th, these negatives were predictably underexposed.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with expired Kodacolor film
With the No.2A Brownie, with a maximum aperture of around f11, and an 'instant' setting around 1/30th, I shot all the frames of the Kodacolour film on the T setting. As the camera does not have tripod mounts, I also had to find flat surfaces to place the camera for these exposures, stopping down the Brownie's meniscus lens to f16 or f22, and using times in seconds up to about a minute. The Kodacolor films were meant for C22 processing, a precursor to the current C41, but I used stand development in RO9 One Shot to produce a monochrome negative. The orange mask on the negatives appears darker than current colour negative film, and as a result of the size of the images, I had to resort to photographing the negatives on a light box rather than scanning.

Kodak No.2A Brownie with expired Kodacolor film
The images from the Brownie camera were much clearer than those from the Cocarette, thanks to having received sufficient exposure to compensate for age; I also had problems with the focus of the Cocarette. As well as the Kodacolor film, I also shot a couple of 120 film with the camera, adapting it to take the smaller spools. With the lens positioned at infinity, the focus is notably soft. I suspect that this is just behind infinity, as the whole image has a softness, not just in the far distance, but this was something I had failed to check before shooting with the camera on the day, although earlier tests had suggested a problem. The image below demonstrates this, though it's only clear when zoomed in. It may also be due to a lack of film flatness, evident at the top and bottom of some of the images on 120 film with a further loss of focus and straight lines beginning to curl.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Agfa Superpan
As the Kodacolor shots with the Cocarette were all at wider apertures, this would no doubt have been worse, however, on shots which were not focussed at infinity, the sharpness is much better, even in the underexposed image below of the daisies.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with expired Kodacolor
With the 120 film shot in the Cocarette, those images in better focus were those that were again not set at infinity: in the first image below, I estimated the focus to be around 30 feet to the detritus in the middle distance, and used a small enough aperture for depth of field to encompass most of the scene; the following two images were shot with much closer focus, but equally are better than those at infinity.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with HP5 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Agfa Superpan
Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Agfa Superpan
Using 120 film in a 116 camera does make for an attractively proportioned image in landscape orientation; beyond the scope of this post, there's a fair amount on the net from others about how to do this but it's something that deserves a separate post in itself for a future date.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Ilford HP5 Plus

Monday, 13 June 2016

126 Day 2016

126 cartridge reloaded with Agfaphoto APX 400
Observing 126 Day yesterday, the opportunities for shooting between showers and rain were limited. I used the Kodak Instamatic 25 camera which was still loaded with a cartridge containing APX 400 from last year. Given that the light was generally poor, the 400 speed film was ideal for the conditions at the time.

126 cartridge reloaded with Agfaphoto APX 400
126 cartridge reloaded with Agfaphoto APX 400
126 cartridge reloaded with APX 400
A second cartridge loaded with Foma Retropan 320 was less successful. The Instamatic 25 has generally proved to be quite good at handling 35mm film reloaded into 126 cartridges - I had greater difficulty with the 300 model last year in Stockholm - but after reusing the backing paper in some of the cartridges a number of times, some of the rolls are beginning to deteriorate. The thin strip of paper along the outside edge of the long perforation holes has torn in places, and it may be this, in part, that caused extra resistance when attempting to advance the film. As can be seen from the results below, the overlapping frames are indicative of these problems, and the light leaks are due to taking the cartridge out of the camera mid-roll in order to advance a few frames by hand when it became too stiff to do so in the camera itself. Nevertheless, the design of the cartridge does ensure some protection for the exposed part of the film in this event.

126 cartridge reloaded with Retropan 320
126 cartridge reloaded with Retropan 320

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Paris flea market finds (2)

Plate camera box and plateholders
One of my first posts on this blog was describing what I'd found in the Porte de Vanves flea market in Paris five years ago; the weekend before last I revisited this flea market on my way through Paris to the south. There were a few cameras of interest to me, but none without one problem or another. However, I did find a stall which had a couple of plate camera boxes containing plate holders. These were 9x12cm-size plate holders, which, having a few cameras in the size, such as the Ica Trona and the Kodak Recomar, it's always useful to have more. The stallholder wanted €25 for six holders; I did try to barter down to €20, but he wouldn't move on the price. I then asked for the box too, and was told the price was €10 for the box alone, but he gave me the box and plate holders for €30. If my French had been better, I'd have asked him how often he sells glass plate holders, as I don't imagine these items sell which any frequency in the flea market. The plate holders are all stamped AP Paris, some with a craquelure finish on the darkslide; none had film sheathes inside, but one did contain a glass plate negative, shown below.

Found glass plate
A few days later, in Toulouse, a window display of a shop on the Rue Pargamini√®res drew my attention, with, amongst other secondhand cameras, a Contax IIIa. The shop was Photos Signe Des Temps - the website is limited, but the shop itself had a good stock of film, and film cameras, including a whole cabinet of classic SLRs, and a glass case of all kinds of old cameras. One camera which caught my eye was a folding plate camera with a 165mm lens.

Photo-Plait branded 9x12cm plate camera
Typically, for a camera of this age, the 165mm focal length would denote a 10x15cm plate size, and at a glance, it looked as though it was larger than a typical 9x12cm camera - which it turned out to be - due to the wooden body. The lens itself was a Berthiot Olor Series IIa, reputedly a Tessar clone, with a maximum aperture of f5.7 in an Ibso shutter - the eight-speed version with 1/150th, rather than the more common seven-speed shutter, up to 1/100th. The shutter gave some indication of the camera's date: according to Camera-Wiki, the Ibso was made by Gauthier between 1908-1926. However, I suspect that the lens and shutter unit may not be original to the body, and not simply due to it being an unusual focal length for the negative format. Some of the features are clearly missing, such as the focus scale, and, at infinity, the 165mm lens is drawn out so much that the metal indicator at the base of the lens standard is beyond where the focus scale would need to be in order to read this. It is also missing a wire frame finder, and a brilliant finder: the latter appears as though it may have been carefully sawn away, with the metal cut into a continuation of the curve around the lens standard. As a typical mid-range folding plate camera, it has rise and cross movements, and rack and pinion focus with double extension bellows - a necessity given the focal length. The bellows were in good condition, and the ground glass intact. The lens was dirty but appeared otherwise good, and, by ear, the shutter fired at all speeds fairly close to each setting.

Berthiot Olor Series IIa lens in Ibso shutter
The camera was priced at €40, and although it did have some missing features, the serendipity of having found the plate holders and camera box in the flea market earlier in the week prompted me to buy it. Needless to say, the plate holders did fit, and the camera itself fitted into the box with the six plate holders too. Even if the lens and shutter were original, there was little on the body to identify the camera, except for a metal plaque with 'Photo-Plait Paris'. This Paris-based dealer would have affixed this small plaque to the cameras that they sold (including, in this discussion thread, a Leica), but it appears that some cameras were manufactured for Photo-Plait and sold under their own name. The distinctive thumb-grips on the two locking levers for the base board were some help in getting close to an identification: French cameras are something of a lacuna for me, but after a detailed trawl through, with a different lens, and some removed features, it looks closest to the Photo-Plait Splendor model.