This Old Camera: Fujica GW690

Update: Received my first roll of film back and editing to reflect my experiences on the 2nd day of shooting.

I blame the internets. After a visit to keh.com and a quick view of shots with it on flickr all went blurry and this arrived a couple of days later.

Day 1: The first roll (all 8 exposures of it) is being developed at Southeastern Camera, Carrboro. Sample shots and full This Old Camera post coming soon. May not be able to tell by this shot, but this bad boy earns it’s Texas Leica nickname.

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Shoots 8 exposures on 120 film (as opposed to 10, 12, and 15 exposures like my other medium format cameras) owing to the wider 6×9 aspect ratio. Like the Hasselblad it is utterly manual requiring a light meter (or exposure experience I do not possess), has a leaf shutter and aperture and shutter speeds are set on the lens. Like the Pentax 645 there is no film back so you change film when you are done like a 35mm film camea. Although a wider format than the Mamiya RZ67 it is significantly smaller and lighter (owing to lots of plastic), but it is not small when compared to any other mortal camera. Unlike all the others, except my neglected Holga, the lens is fixed. But at f/3.5 and 90mm the lens is very un Holga like and is highly regarded for it’s image quality.

Why? Glad you asked.

  • Already had 6×4.5, 6×6, and 6×7 so of course I had to have a 6×9.
  • Never had a Fuji, or Fujica in this case.
  • Never had a range finder. I normally not drawn to focusing on range finders (personal preference), but this one is a a breeze.
  • Look at the thing. It is both a beauty to behold and absurd in it’s size all at once. Don’t let my beef mitts in the photos below deceive you. I usually have issues with handling too small devices and I am not a fan of miniaturization. No issues here. This thing is massive.
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The GW690 dwarfing the X-700.

Day 2: This camera is awesome. I want to shoot with it all day. Have already run through 2 rolls (16 exposures) and working on a third. And now that I have had the first roll developed this has a lock on the top favorites list. Added notes:

  • Before this camera I was not really drawn to rangefinders. This camera has changed that. Very easy to focus. The center focus has not been an issue at all. If the subject is not on center you can either focus and recompose or crop later since the image negative is large and retains so much detail.
  • Rangefinders and lens caps. It was inevitable since you are not looking through the lens to focus. I lost one exposure due to not removing the lens cap.

Here are images of the camera.

Here is the gallery where future shots will be posted and a gallery of below contains samples from the first roll including 2 photos of the crew at Southeastern Camera Carrborro.

-ELW

This Old Camera: The Mamiya RZ67

Technically my first ever medium format was a Holga I bought a while back that Dennis at Southeastern Camera recommended. Love having it, but for varying reasons ( short attention span… easily distracted and forget I have it… ) I have yet to finish my first roll of film with it. So functionally my first medium format camera was the Hasselblad 501c.

So why did I pick up this Mamiya RZ67 Pro? Glad you asked. Look no further than Southeastern Camera once again. It showed up there under the glass cube and I became obsessed with it on sight. As predicted by Matthew when I first stared through the viewfinder (and may have uttered something unfit for print among polite company) I eventually purchased it though it took many visits to seal the deal. Came with the standard modular set up (waist level viewfinder, normal lens, and 120 film back), but also brought a portrait lens, shiny silver metal trunk, and a prism viewfinder magnifier (psst. Film folks look away. Think old school film focus version of mirrorless focus magnifier. And we’re back.). But did it come with a prism viewfinder to go between the camera and magnifier? Nope, waist level viewfinder only. But keh.com to the rescue once again with a great deal. There was special motivation for acquiring a viewfinder, but more on that below.

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Plus it was all for such a great price it was an offer I could not refuse. I am loving the vintage film camera market right about now. They are giving away 35mm cameras and medium format cameras are quite reasonable if you are not aiming for the big dogs.

Before I get to pluses let me get the one and only minus out of the way.

  • This thing is the size and weight of a cinder block. In fact that is what I call it. I thought the Hasselblad was big, but that is a compact camera compared to this. On a warm day I took it for a walk through Duke Gardens and came out with blown pits and a cramped left hand. Having learned my lesson when I ventured in to a trampoline place I came armed with a monopod. Using it takes a bit of commitment since bringing this camera and one additional lens is pretty much all that is getting in to even a camera backpack.

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Now that I have gotten that out of my system. On to the pluses.

  • 6×7. While 6×6 is very quaint the 6×7 aspect ratio is an advantage when you want to have a photo printed.
  • Portrait and landscape. The minus of size listed above is tied to one of the RZ67’s biggest pluses. The large size is in part due to the RZ67’s party trick and that is the ability to rotate the film back alone to switch between portrait and landscape. Quite a brilliant bit of engineering.
  • AE. So what is the prism viewfinder bonus I mentioned earlier? Auto exposure my friends. Sweet, beautiful fully automatic exposure. Set the ISO and put the body and viewfinder in to AE mode and off you go no light meter needed. While I do enjoy the back to basics beauty of a light meter it is nice to get the same look as the Hasselblad with some automation. And so far it has proven to be very accurate.
  • A beautiful view. When you do use it the waist level finder is a beautiful thing to behold. Just a beautiful focus screen.
  • Tank. Another benefit of the size minus listed above is that this is one wonderfully solid feeling camera.
  • A looker. I know it has nothing to do with the images produced, but this camera is gorgeous.
  • Image quality. The Hasselblad produces beautiful technical images. It may be more owing to the film used, but the Mamiya seems to produce images that may not be as tack sharp, but they have a certain warmth to them.
  • Colors. Again perhaps owing to film or circumstance, and definitely lenses, but I love the colors this camera produces.
  • Handling and ease of use. Once you learn the controls and what all of the warning lights are for in the viewfinder this is an easy to use camera.
  • Value. For the money this camera is a screaming bargain in my opinion. I was able to get the body, film back, waist level viewfinder, 2 lenses and a silver metal case for about the price of a Hasselblad V series film body alone (no finder, lens, or film back). Plus accessories, like the AE viewfinder, while not as plentiful are reasonably priced.

A few oddities:

  • Bellows focusing. Took a beat for me to grasp, but instead of the lens internals moving forwards and backwards to focus the lens is fixed and the whole front of the camera moves forward and backwards via two knobs on the bottom left and right of the camera. What does this mean?
    • Minuses
      • Not an issue with this copy, but I imagine if you do not find a well kept or maintained copy of this camera the bellows may be cracked causing light leak problems.
      • Not bad with the normal lens, but with the longer heavier tele lens extending the front plate very far forward has a significant effect on the front to back balancing of the camera so take care when either hand holding or on a tripod as I imagine the camera could possibily topple forward if one is not attentive.
      • Exposure is impacted since extending the front impacts the amount of light that makes it to the negative. As a result exposure needs to be corrected when using a light meter per a handy dandy conversion graph affixed to the side of the bellows. Kind of them, but nigh inscrutible to one with a compromised attention span such as myself. But there is a fix…
    • Pluses
      • The fix for bellows focusing exposure compensation is an AE prism finder which automatically does the necessary adjustments for you.
      • Close focusing. Bellows focusing turns nearly any lens in to a near macro lens.
      • It is different. This is exactly the kind of quirkiness that I love.
      • I imagine it simplifies the lens.

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  • I do not know if it is just my copy, but I tend to leave the dark slide in so it locks the film back since this camera will drop the film back like a bad habit if one is not careful. Never happened to me in the wild, but something to consider.
  • Obtain and read the manual. Just trust me on this. Warning lights that keep you from taking a shot are indecipherable hieroglyphs without one.
  • It has a multi exposure mode that will let you shoot as many shots on one frame as you wish.
  • That extra cm of width in 6×7 means you will get 10 shots per roll of 120 instead of 12.
  • Width and height are such because to accommodate the rotating film back hat trick the image circle is effectively sufficient to cover 7×7.
  • Film advance is accomplished by two long swipes forward on the film advance.
  • Carrying this camera on a monopod parts a crowd like nothing I have every seen.

That is it for now. I have a roll in progress and really need to commit to getting it finished, but here is a link to an ongoing album and here are samples below.

-ELW

This Old Camera: Hasselblad 501c – V Series Camera

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My first post ever about the Hasselblad 501c said:

I count my 1st ever roll of film through a Hasselblad camera (acquired recently from a friend who made me an offer I could not refuse) a success. Thank you interwebs and Southeastern Camera-Carrboro for the tips. First and last frames done in before they had a chance by yours truly and have inspired my new mantra, “Always cock shutter before putting on film back after playing with camera body. Always…”. Not counting those. Of the remaining ten, nine came out so I am thrilled.

Now that I have had time with this camera I wanted to revisit and update this post.

If I had to use one word for this camera it would be respect. Respect for the heritage. Respect for the quality of the image it produces. Respect for the way it distills the process of taking a picture down to it’s most essential elements. There is a lot of talk about how manual film cameras make you slow down, but along with that these cameras force you to think. Why? Glad you asked:

  • Novice prism disorientation. This was my first time with a waist level viewfinder. While the viewfinder clarity is amazing it takes a bit of time to get used to left and right being reversed. Not too difficult, but it takes a minute and also inspires you tho think about your shot.

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  • Light meter learning curve: I have long wondered how a light meter works. While I have used film cameras for quite some time by the time my father brought me online in camera light meters were quite common. Light meter manual and youtube were my friends here. Whats more is that the light meter has now become a mainstay with my digital photography as well. For example after setting up a 3 light kit using a light meter and Hasselblad for family reunion portraits I went on to use the same readings for my K-1 for the rest of the portraits in full manual rather than risking exposure inconsistency with the camera’s internal meter.

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  • 12 exposures: I used to worry about wasting film with 24 or 36 exposures on a roll of 35mm film. 12 exposures will make you positively stingy with shots.
  • Zen film loading: I love loading medium format film. Oddly relaxing.
  • General handling: This is a camera that makes you look like you know what you are doing even if you do not. For me that makes me take even more care not to fall short of that expectation.

Bottom line? I love this camera. It honestly fell in my lap, and as an unknown I would have not laid out full price for one. But now that I have owned and used one I will never let it go. Above that knowing what I know now I would strongly recommend that anyone with the inclination and means, but has doubts to go ahead and make the plunge. I doubt you will regret it.

Here is a link to an ongoing gallery and below are the samples I originally posted of the first roll I shot with it.

-ELW

This Old Camera: Medium Format Corner – Pentax 645

Having just received my first lens for this camera today so not one roll of film developed I may be putting the cart before the horse, but I am so impressed with this camera already I figured I would proceed…

For family reasons I wanted to obtain 3 medium format cameras. It relates to kids and is kind of mushy so I will leave that there. Having had one medium format film camera fall in my lap and another call to me from beneath a glass enclosure at the local camera shop the only question was “What to get?”. While I like to claim brand ambivalence…

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it is hard to ignore the fact that I have Pentax leanings.

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So Pentax it is. The obvious go to darling for a Pentax medium format camera would be the Pentax 6X7.

Pentax 6×7 MUBy Jan von Erpecom – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Like many others I already had eyes for it. Having access to a respectable, but not massive, unexpected windfall at my disposal I got to researching. Why not shopping? No matter how sure I am about something I always research it first. Glad I did because due to the medium format cameras I had already and some other factors a different camera kept rising in the rankings for me. First off things that moved me away from the 6X7. Very personal to my tastes, but there were a few ‘already hads’.

  • Already had…
    • a fully manual camera in the Hasselblad 501c.
    • a 6X7 in the form of the Mamiya RZ67.
    • one camera of considerable size and weight.

Then there was the fact that a 6X7 would cost a bit more than my windfall and spending my own money because I got unexpected money seemed counter-intuitive. Especially if there was another valid option and there was. I had never heard of a Pentax 645 film camera before. Contax 645? Yes. Mamiya 645? Yes. Pentax digital 645 D and Z? Yes. After reading some reviews including one by Ken Rockwell I was hooked.  Why? Glad you asked.

  • The Pentax 645 was nearly half the cost of a comparably spec’d Pentax 6X7 or even it’s succesor, the 645N.
  • Getting this camera would cover the popular medium format image sizes, 6X6, 6X7, and now 645.
  • Not only had a light meter, but automatic exposure modes as well.
  • The incremental stops and autofocus gains of the 645N were not necessary for me.

Now that I have had some time I can report that the handling of this camera is very solid. It may pass, but there are aspects of this camera that could elevate it in standings. Namely…

  • Program modes are quick to pick up and once you get used to them the LCD user interface is pretty handy.
  •  Many lamented the lack of dials, that were added on the 645N, and put down the the push button interface of  the 645, but I like the button layout.

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  • After taking some time to acclimate myself and obsessively reading the mildly comical instruction manual here is a run down of the modes I use most.
    • Program: Set it and forget it.
      • Aperture Ring: A
      • Notes: Seems to favor 1/250s shutter speed when possible and adjusts as need be given the conditions.
      • Handling: Frame, focus, shoot.
    • Aperture priority: My usual go to auto mode.
      • Aperture Ring: A
      • Notes: Like on a Pentax 35mm SLR or DSLR the aperture is adjusted using the up and down buttons near the shutter on/off switch rather than the aperture ring.
      • Handling: Note the LED display on the inside, lower right corner in the viewfinder, frame, rough focus, adjust the aperture, fine focus, shoot.
    • Shutter priority: Less used, but handy in bright conditions for me.
      • Aperture Ring: A
      • Notes: Like on a Pentax 35mm SLR or DSLR the shutter is adjusted using the up and down buttons near the shutter on/off switch.
      • Handling: Note the LED display on the inside, lower right corner in the viewfinder, frame, rough focus, adjust the shutter speed, fine focus, shoot.
    • Manual
      • Aperture: This is the one mode where you adjust the aperture using the physical aperture ring.
      • Notes: Shutter speed is adjusted using the up and down arrows next to the shutter on/off switch. Light meter gives you reading in the viewfinder.
      • Handling: Handle your business as you see fit, focus, shoot.

Pluses.

  • A compact point and shoot in size compared to the RZ67 and were it not for the grip it would be smaller than the Hasselblad 501c.

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  • The 75mm is quite the dainty lens. This makes for a very well balanced camera that was no trouble at all to carry around. When I first unpackaged it my first thought was that they must have sent me a 35mm lens by mistake. Smaller image, smaller image circle, smaller lens I gather, but look at the difference in the shots above.
  • Once you get the hang of the settings navigating the camera is a breeze.
  • The grip is great. Makes carrying the camera around way more comfortable than the other two. There is even an opening between the grip and the body that makes it easy to get a very secure grip on the camera when carrying it around.

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  • Some reviews lamented a lack of dials like the 645N, but I actually liked the button layout very much in practice (which I did not expect). As an example I found it very easy to read the meter in the viewfinder while moving my index finger over to the up/down arrows to make any necessary adjustments without ever having to take my eye away.

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  • Auto advance. Turns out I LOVE auto advance. Go figure. Far too often I still forget to advance the film in all of my manual advance cameras. Minor, but one less thing to concern myself with.
  • Loading film is a breeze. The integrated film back is well done.
  • Focusing is also a breeze. Some noted a dim view in the finder, but that was not the case with me.
  • Time will tell, but so far metering seems spot on.
  • Value. With what I paid for the camera and lens I bought separately combined I would be hard pressed to find a body only Hasselblad. The Pentax 645 body with film door (viewfinder and film back being integrated) cost only $20 more than what I was recently quoted for a Hasselblad film back.
  • Some other things I will think of and add later…

No real demerits for me, just a few oddities to familiarize ones self with that were trivial.

  • What would be the detachable film back on many medium format cameras is internal here so there will be no switching between backs mid roll. I own exactly one film back for my other 2 so this is a non-issue for me.
  • No incremental stops. Not an issue for me personally.
  • The on/off button only turns off the shutter,  not the entire camera.
  • I can hardly believe it, but I actually miss having a dark slide. I mean I curse them every time I go to take a shot and nothing happens because I forgot to remove it and they are constantly at risk of getting lost once removed. But in place it is an excellent insurance policy that keeps me from taking an errant shot and when removed inner mechanical shenanigans prevent me from ruining exposures by absent mindedly removing the film back altogether. On my Mamiya removing the dark slide also keeps me from dumping the film back on the ground like a bad habit by accidentally hitting the release lever on the bottom. I do stare at that back release lever that says ‘OPEN’ right on it knowing we may ruin some exposures together one day. But I cannot hold a camera responsible for my short attention span.
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It even says OPEN.
  • That is all I have.

I went ahead and tele lens while I was at it.

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The last test was image quality, but given my past medium format and Pentax experiences I was not concerned and the 645 did not disappoint. Here is the ongoing album and below is a sample gallery:

-ELW

RNF – Bringing reality back.

I hear a lot of talk about “bringing jobs back” that used to be. Problem is that often times these are industries and professions that are or are on their way to being obsolete. To entice companies to do so corporate welfare is provided which may make for a good sound bite or photo op, but at most proves pointless by only delaying the inevitable.

Both sides of my family hail from small, rural towns. On both sides many saw the handwriting on the wall generations ago and left to pursue opportunities elsewhere often including the military and college and sometimes both.

Some moved to urban centers, others suburban, and some overseas.

Left family.

Left land.

Left familiarity.

Had to be done.

Home is where you make it.

They did not sit around lamenting the situation.

They were willing to change.

To move.

To retrain.

To get an education.

They did something about it.

They knew there was no Calvary coming to save the day.

They surveyed the situation and left. And the generations that followed benefited from their willingness to adapt.

There seems to be many who talk of wanting others not to benefit unless those others are willing to change, but are unwilling to change themselves.

-ELW

3rd time a charm. Revisiting the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

A lens so nice I bought it… thrice? Anyhoo…

I love a bargain. My father is the tech/geek inspiration, but my mother’s battle cry is “Never pay retail!”

Round 1:

A while back I had a Nikon D3300 that I really liked. Would still have it if the upgrade path were not so prohibitively (for me) expensive lens and body wise. My favorite lens for it was the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. More about that version here and below is a sample photo of a nightmare fuel mutant hummingbird lobster moth thing captured in my backyard with it.

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Round 2:

Tamron lens round 2, Pentax round 1. During my system churn adventures I visited (revisited) the Pentax mount before with the Pentax K-3ii. On my way to building a budgetographer’s dream lens trinity (APS-C edition) I remembered this lens and picked up a Pentax copy of the Pentax 28-75mm f/2.8 with great results. Once again it was a go to lens.

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Then I went astray and traded my Pentax gear on an ill advised jag where I gave my allegiance to  brand that was not that into its customers before I snapped out of it and…

Round 3:

Tamron lens round 3, Pentax round 2. Now back in the Pentax fold once again, this time in full frame and APS-C strength, this lens was one of my first buy backs (traded and repurchased locally at Southeastern Camera, Carrboro, NC along with the Tamron 70-200mm.) This lens was an astounding value and it was great on crop sensors as in round 1 and round 2, but due to its focal length range it really belongs and shines on a full frame camera. Not only does the lens compliment full frame’s low light capabilities and benefit from a true 28mm wide angle focal length…

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…it also compliments full frame’s ability to isolate the subject along with fantastic colors.

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This lens has yet to disappoint. If I were not so obsessed with prime lenses this lens could stay on my camera and I would not have a single complaint. If you are hesitant to spend over a grand on a wide to tele f/2.8 constant factory lens and you do not need VR (except Pentax which has in body stabilization), water sealing or silent drive focusing I believe you will be quite pleased with this lens. It is a bargain at its current new asking price, but I purchased the Pentax copy used and spent around $250 which makes for an even greater deal.

Here is a link to my ongoing flickr album for this lens. Happy shooting.

-ELW

 

This Old Camera: Konica AiBORG

Updated with pics below.

Photography and good common sense have little to do with one another. Film photography especially so.

Case in point I love this Darth Vader’s helmet looking Konica AiBORG even though:

  • Have shot exactly 5 frames and have yet to complete one single roll so I do not even know if this thing works yet.
  • Came covered with inscrutable hieroglyphs and ridiculously tiny buttons of many colors laid out in a manner defying any manner of control scheme logic I have ever seen. One review acted as a high level instruction manual which helped and I even took to perusing the pictures in a Japanese manual.

Why do I love it? Welp before I bought it…

  • It is a film camera.
  • Winged logo marking (later learned it’s light marks when the middle focus point is activated along with the lights left and right of it. All wonderfully pointless.).

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  • Came covered with inscrutable hieroglyphs and ridiculously tiny buttons of many colors laid out in a manner defying any manner of control scheme logic I have ever seen. I love the inscrutable.

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  • Some say ugly, but I love the way this thing looks. Fell for it the moment I saw it on Southeastern Camera’s shelf. Visited it every time I entered for a couple of months.
  • It is a power zoom, by vertically toggling the joystick on the back, with autofocus from 1991.
  • Built in flash.
  • It has a power button controlled plastic eyelid.

Appreciation has grown since purchase because…

  • An at times pointlessly robust feature set that ranges from the actually useful to the absurd to the “it does what now?”. For instance:
    • Useful:
      • Time lapse where you can set the duration between and number of shots.
      • Infinity focus for shooting through a window or landscapes… or landscapes through windows?
      • +1.5EV and -1.5EV for well, you know.
    • Absurd:
      • Has a TV mode for taking pictures of old timey tube TVs without bars between. If you can still find one anywhere.
      • Portrait mode that zooms in for a head shot depending how far back the subject is. I imagine the engineers got in to the strong snuff that night.
    •  It does what now?
      • Bouncing ball icon mode. Six shots metered such that an object in motion will be exposed several times.
      • It will put a date stamp on the photo if you wish. I remember this from the 90s and I do not like it. Not new, but as a standard feature surprised me.

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  • 5 horizontal focus points selected by a horizontal toggle on the back joystick.
  • Zooming makes quite the racket, but this thing focuses and takes a shot so quickly and quietly that 2 shots will be taken before you realize if you are not careful.
  • It is fun to look at and fun to use. Granted this may just me, but I love the goofy controls.
  • These folks had to have had a sense of humor to make this thing. It has blue sparkly plastic.

I’ll report back when I actually finish a roll and get it developed. In all honesty it does not matter. Even if this is a film placebo device not producing a single shot I will definitely be keeping it around. See. No common sense. Now for some shots of Darth Vader’s point and shoot.

Am I necessarily recommending anyone else get one? Heck no. Unless you are similarly afflicted as I am. Either way here are some more shots of the camera. Below is an update and pictures taken with the camera since I have had my first roll with it developed.

Update:

First off kudos to Southeastern Camera because when I returned with the camera to turn in my my first roll they provided me with the full manuals in English. Much more helpful than the Japanese translation I had been struggling through.

Next up the shooting experience. There isn’t any. It is so 80s-tastic automated, quirky, and the viewfinder so pinhole-ish that you would get the same shooting experience by punching a croissant through with a pencil and peering through the hole while mashing the right side. The shutter fires if you look at it funny. The zoom makes a monumental racket. When changing focus points left and right through 5 points it lets out a bit of a noise as it moves the whole focus mechanism at the front likewise. That may sound like I am complaining I now realize. But no. For those reasons I more I love this oddball. You pick it up, put it to your face (then slide it across your face to find the tiny viewfinder hole), aim the odd focusing icon at your object, and then mash the button with no earthly idea whether or not you were successful. I love it. Shoot with it often or even again? Perhaps not often. But I will keep it always.

But here is the kicker. This things has it’s pleasant surprises. One main one is that every single blind exposure I took came out. Almost all in focus and even the few that missed were close enough. I did not expect that. Whenever I feel like a blind aiming exercise in film this will be my camera. Check out this multishot (bouncy ball icon) picture.

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Makes no sense. I love it. About sums up the camera.

Here is to a link the full album and below are some of the shots from the first roll. Happy shooting.

-ELW