I'm George Parkins, bartender, amateur writer and vine-dresser. In the last year and a half I've gotten into film photography, especially medium-format. I very much like the sensation of shooting with a fixed-focus, fixed-exposure medium-format camera and still getting better results than a small-format with AE and autofocus. I re-spool modern 120 onto 620 spools, with mixed to positive results. My list of 620 cameras is pretty huge, thanks to the frequency with which they come up at thrift-stores for five and six dollars.
My opinion is that paper-backed roll-film is a perfect invention, one of those things that do not become obsolete merely because more advanced options are available. Bicycles did not make walking obsolete and motorcycles didn't make bicycles obsolete. Digital may be more practical for most applications, but film is a better artistic medium, and roll-film holds a special place in my heart as a solid, straight-forward piece of 19th/20th century engineering. No sprocket holes wasting film space, a built-in frame counter, no cumbersome cassette or cartridge to open before developing... it's perfect for what it does. Plus, there's something about the feel of a roll of 620 with the metal core.
Furthermore, I don't like plastic SLRs. I think you get less camera shake with a heavy camera that balances well back in your hand, and plus, it feels more real. I've actually been given multiple film-era EOS's by family members and I end up having a fun time with all the ridiculous special features and then never shooting a second roll. I do like using them to check the meters on my other cameras, though, and I suppose it's nice to have reliable backups.
I'm also into stereo photography, but I doubt I'll ever invest in a nicer 3d camera than my shitty old Delta Stereo, which has more than a handful of design flaws, in my opinion. Still, I lust after both the Kodak Stereo and the Stereo Realist, and I've recently run another roll of low-ASA B/W film through it that I've yet to develop. I have an affection for it as my first 35mm, if nothing else.
I develop some of my own color film with a daylight tank, but I'm still getting all the kinks out of it. I ruined my first batch of chemicals because I accidentally poured the stop back into the bottle of the developer, due to not maintaining an organized space. I'm considering a better daylight tank, because the "Yankee Clipper II" leaks something awful, and I don't like wasting the chemicals. I like putting fixer down my kitchen sink even less, in fact; it's not good for the septic field.
I have experimented with Caffenol, an alternative developer based on instant coffee and washing soda. For low-ASA B/W films it's an okay developer that's dirt-cheap, but it tends to fog any fast film at or above 400 ASA. Moreover, cross-processing color film in it has interesting results. Soon I'm going to try the version with vitamin C powder. My experiments are hampered by the fact that I don't own a film scanner, so I still have to pay someone else to get my pictures printed or on disc.
Cameras I Own:
- Canon AE-1 -- my baby, at least as far as small format goes. It's one of the more functional cameras in my collection, with approximately nothing wrong with it, besides the fact that its exposure values at box speed are always just a little low--probably not even by a full stop, but still, it leads to dull-looking colors. The problem is more than alleviated by shooting at half-ASA, though, which really, everyone should do. I love the physical-needle-style meter. I only wish it could take an action grip like the...
- Canon AE-1P -- a hand-me down from Mom! While I don't love the LED meter, I must admit that it's a better all-around camera. I've just temporarily fixed the mirror squeak by gently applying valve oil to the gear in question via a syringe, so I'm fixing to shoot with it for the first time in ages.
- My FD lenses include the 50mm 1.8, (two or three of these, I think) the 50mm 1.4 (equal to a Rokkor in my opinion), the 28mm 2.8, and a couple of long Vivitar zooms, one of which does macro focusing at a certain focal length.
- Canon EOS 650 -- which I got out of an optometrist's automatic camera machine in a dumpster, in perfect shape but missing the grip. In many ways this was my most technically capable camera for a long time. The combination of this and my superzoom EF 28-90mm II lens can do just about anything my AE-1's can and more, but something about it feels fake. I dunno, I just don't like light plastic cameras. That lens, of course, has no DoF calculator, but who needs it when you can stop down? There's also an autofocus-based DoF priority mode on that camera, but I haven't had good results with it, and I prefer manual focus.
- Argus C3 -- God, this is just the cutest thing. I've wanted one forever. Mine is a 1948 model (or something close), with a blue filter in the rangefinder, ASA-type film reminder and no "Argus" badge. I thought it was working properly for quite a while before I realized that the lens was partially screwing and unscrewing from the mount instead of focusing. I ruined multiple rolls by using bad instant coffee in my Caffenol soup, so I'd actually only seen one roll out of it, and it had been mostly landscapes focused at or near infinity, so I couldn't tell. It's working great now and and I'm going to replace the front leather soon. I think I bought it for $28, which seems to be the going rate.
- Praktica FX: I got it for twenty dollars on a whim with a nice lens. The only thing wrong with it was that the leading curtain was loose so that it would flip over on itself when it fired. I tried to open it up and something broke. Now it won't even wind. I dunno, another nice paperweight, I guess. Eventually I'll get a working camera with an m42 mount to use all these nice Pentax lenses and this Meyer 58/1.9 Primoplan from the Praktika.
- Praktica FX3: I got this very cheaply on Ebay a little later because I liked the FX so much. It has a cool little pentaprism adapter. Still, only three speeds are even in the neighborhood of accurate; it tapers and caps at high speeds and the low speed timer runs but doesn't engage the curtain, so all the slow speeds are functionally 1/25th. Still, for now it's my m42 camera. I do love the aesthetics of it, and I like a WLF for street photography. It came with an Auto Chinon 55/1.7 that I like alright, but it looks too new on this camera.
- Canonet QL17 GIII: Yeah, this is another very functional piece. The only thing wrong with it is that there's a big dent in the filter ring so that nothing will screw on, which is fine because I don't have a single 49mm (?) filter. I do have a Minolta lens hood that would have fit, so I'm a little sore about that. Now, of course, there's the battery problem, but it's easy to compensate for by changing the film speed setting on the camera. I'm getting into the habit of shooting half box speed anyways, so it's not a problem to me at all.
- Nikkorex F: A wonderful find; apparently these are quite rare. I got it for $40 with a ever-ready case, a leather camera bag, a ziplock full of old camera gadgets and Kodak Series V filters, and both a pre-AI 5cm Nikkor-S and a ridiculously long Soligor 250mm with an f-mount adapter. I have a roll in it right now to test the shutter. Looking at the shutter beforehand, everything about 1/8th looked right, 1/8th seemed very slightly slow, 1/4th was a full second, and 1 second wouldn't let the shutter close until I turned the dial to "B." Still, that's all of two shutter speeds not working on a mechanical SLR from the 60's (B even works!), and I think it's a problem with the gearing for those speeds specifically. I'm gonna use this.
- Minolta X-370s: I got this for sixteen dollars at a thrift store. Normally I would have passed on a plastic SLR like this, but I had all these MD lenses lying around from the time I bought a broken SRT-101. I actually like this a lot. I have a 2.8 28mm, a 2.8 35mm, two of those standard 50mm's, a 1.4 58mm and whatever that fast Rokkor 135mm is, all but one of which came in a shoebox with the broken SRT.
- Certo Dollina II with Schneider 5c f/2.9: I bought this to repair. When I found it the shutter wouldn't cock or fire, but it was just gummed up and wiggling the cocking lever got it to work at fast speeds, and I think cleaning will restore the slow speed. The rangefinder is a bit iffy, due to this stupid sheet-metal cam I just wrote about on the Dollina page, and because it's an optically terrible design that requires daylight to show you anything, but I have it very nigh calibrated and I have a roll in it. I'm just worried that there's a bit of rust on the pressure plate and on the film track, and it might scratch the film. By the way, this is the black-finished model, which means it's likely from 1938. That's a year older than the oldest person I know, a college professor who distinctly remembers late WWII radio broadcasts.
- Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash -- My very first camera, though I've since gotten one that works better, and my original has fallen apart from stripped-out screwholes attaching the light-cone to the front. Jeez, these are really good considering they're just box cameras with single meniscus lenses.
- Kodak Brownie Bull's-Eye Flash (black model) -- The Hawkeye's big brother. You can see one identical to mine being used to photograph the dictator in "In the Time of the Butterflies," believe it or not. That movie is hard to watch, though. Bought for eight dollars.
- Kodak Tourist (Kodet Lens, fixed focus) -- with a complete flash setup, no less. It ended up being trash, but it looks very nice. Bought for seven dollars.
- Imperial Reflex 620 Duo Lens -- Lee Harvey Oswald's camera, but also a very functional box camera. Bought for five dollars.
- Argoflex EF -- I think I've finally gotten this collimated. I love this little sucker, because it has such an aesthetic to it. An SLR is a tool, but a TLR is part of your outfit. It has a nice look to the viewfinder, despite the lack of brightness.
- Kodak Medalist II -- I just bought this. It has a fault with the DoF calculator, which seems to have been repaired once already, but otherwise everything works, including the automatic frame spacing (though this can be temperamental.) The shutter is as crisp and accurate as the day it rolled off the assembly line.
- Kodak Brownie Target Six-20: What can I say? It's cute and I find it easier to shoot on than the more finicky Bull's-Eye (which has a surprisingly narrow depth of field). Bought for $12.
- Kodak Reflex: Gummy shutter. T and B don't work, and I can get speeds down to 1/5th if I set it incrementally between 1/50th and 1/25, but the actual marked speeds below 1/50th don't work. If I can I'll remove the shutter soon and soak it in naptha. Bought for $15. I like it, but it doesn't have the same practicality as my Argoflex.
- Diana (Original)
- Diana Plus (missing the mask for 4x4) -- both gifts from Mom long ago, before I took up photography in earnest.
- Yashica Mat 124G: I got this from a friend who had been given a lot of camera stuff. She gave it to me for twenty dollars because she couldn't get it to fire the shutter, which turned out to be the shutter-release latch being bent. I think it was dropped a long way onto concrete. It has some decoating on the lenses, the shutter is accurate but the gearing is gummed up so that I can't turn the shutter dial past 1/30 (1/15 if I force it,) and it looks like the focus knob was forced and bent. I think it focuses alright but I can't tell without being able to set it to B. Hell yes I'll shoot with it.
- Kodak Folding Cartridge Premo 2A: What can I say, it was cheap, in great shape and it's a sexy beast for a 90-100 year old camera. I think I can respool 120 to 116 easily enough.
- Some variant of the Polaroid Onestep Flash. They made too many different models, man. I don't shoot on this one regularly because it's literally $2.50 a shot and the color response is shitty. Still, I made one perfect shot on it, long ago on a foggy day.
Cameras I lust after:
- Kodak Retina Reflex -- I almost bought one at a thrift-store (the same place where I bought the Imperial) and I've regretted missing the chance ever since.
- Horizont (Original)
- View-Master Stereo Color -- This would give me even more troubles with developing and printing (what with the tiny staggered frames), but it's so cool.
- View-Master Personal and pretty much any other 35mm stereo.
- Olympus Pen F -- What can I say? It's a cool little SLR and it's adorable.
- EOS 3: While I'm not huge on autofocus (or plastic SLR's, for that matter,) the idea of eye-controlled AF is pretty cool.
- Voigtländer Vitessa L: I mean, isn't this a sexy beast?
- Literally any good TLR. I had to pass on an 70's Rolleiflex recently.