Another old camera in the heirloom collection that I had not tried before. This one has a fascinating history I’ll definitely share in a longer post soon. But for now, here are the first results from this century old piece of camera design hardware. Light leaks, misfires, double exposures, lens flares . . . it has it all.
I tried to patch the gaps in the bellows, and shot a roll of test film. It’s clear from the film I did not get them all, but the images are strangely appealing – especially for all the flaws.
I have more work to do on this one. And more research on the provenance.
A decade ago, we met good friends for a couple of weeks exploring Guatemala. It’s a great way to travel, with friends who know the country well. We went places and saw things we would never have found on our own. And it’s only better when friends have someone to share them with.
Got the first rolls developed from the new/old Bronica S2A. Very impressive.
These are from a roll of Ilford HP5 pushed two stops.
Because it’s a “reflex” camera, it’s a little easier to use than the Graflex. A mirror lets you see through the lens in the viewfinder to focus and frame; then the mirror flips up automatically as you trip the shutter.
With the Graflex, you either have to swap in the ground glass viewfinder for critical focus and framing, then swap in the film cartridge and try not to move while doing that – or use the rangefinder to focus, sort of, and use the guides or the view-peeper-thingy to frame while you shoot. You sort of have to embrace the serendipity of the process.
That said, the Graflex is more portable and compact. It folds up into a tidy package with a handle. The Bronica is a brick, weighing 4 pounds. No handle, only prongs to attach a strap, which would get really old in a short time hanging around your neck.
An old family projector found its way to us, along with several carousels of slides from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. . I scanned the slides, and put them up in galleries for distant relatives to enjoy.
But examining the projector, it was clear the mechanical parts no longer work. No surprise, given its age. But still a shame. These were staple appliances of many families when I was growing up. In the age before digital cameras and cellphones, before online galleries and social media sharing, places like Facebook and Instagram, slide shows were the way people shared their family photos. It was a rare event, often held decades apart, but a truly social one. Something people usually did together, sharing stories of separate but braided memories.
I pulled the lens out, mostly to have a look inside the case to see if there was an easy fix. Setting it aside, an inverted image of the window streamed through the lens and across the table. Picked it up and saw I could project a view of the yard on the palm of my hand.
A short time later, using only a cracker box, piece of white cardboard, and a utility knife, I had a rudimentary Camera Obscura in my hands.
A smallish hole cut in the front above the lens, allows the lens of my phone to peek inside the box. Sliding the projector lens in and out by hand adjusts the focus.
This first prototype is pretty finicky, but with a bit of juggling: Presto! I have an old style view camera, with that super narrow depth of field, vignetting corners, and light-struck images from leaks in the seams.
Just like a vintage camera from the early 1900s.
Might be fun to make a more permanent wooden box, maybe even salvage the focusing knob and gear and some other parts from the old projector.
A good friend, a lifelong professional photographer, still had his old film camera kit from back in the early 70s. We share a fondness for old tech, and hang onto things longer than most rational people. When he saw that I was playing with my grandfather’s Grayflex, he offered to give it all to me. Just wanted to see it used again. I had some old computer hardware I no longer use, so we worked out a nice barter.
When I went to pick it up, I found a whole pile of stuff in boxes. He threw in a bunch of other old gear, too: Developing tanks, a darkroom timer like the one I had, light kits, a meter, cases, even the original boxes, film, winders, some Holga plasticams, etc.. Quite a haul.
I won’t have film developed from this for a few more days, but the camera is an amazing piece of brilliant engineering. Like the Grayflex, there are no electronics. Everything is mechanical. And it’s completely modular. The film backs are interchangeable, and can be removed mid-roll so that different types of film can be used for the same shots, moments apart. The view finders are interchangeable, as are the lenses and even the focusing ring. The dang thing weighs 4 pounds.
I’ll be posting photos from this one soon. This will be fun.