27 June 2009

Agfa Isolette: focus ring reborn

A few weeks ago I picked up an Agfa Isolette II, a wonderful German 120 folder from the early-mid 1950s. It all seemed in relatively good condition until I did a bit of research & found there are a few common problems which plague these cameras: the bellows leak, and the focus ring gets stuck.

Fortunately, the first was solved by a liberal application of liquid electrical tape, and being super gentle when folding/unfolding the bellows (if I fold them up at all, which I try to avoid).

The second wasn't so urgent, as the focus ring still moved with a fair bit of pressure. Bit annoying when you want to take up-close photos as well as landscape shots, though. So last night I thought I'd have a go at fixing it myself. Virtually all I did was use a very fine paint brush (and a bit of folded card) to scrape away some of the Agfa "green gunge" (the grease used to lubricate Agfa cameras tends to turn into a thick, sticky green gunge over time), then used the same brush to apply olive oil to the thread. Mind you, I used the tiniest amount of oil possible, as I have heard that the oil can get into the lens or (much worse) onto the aperture blades, causing major problems. Then I just worked the focus ring a few times between close-up & infinity to get the oil into the right spots.

It seems to work fine now, quite smooth - and no oil on the lens or aperture/shutter.

NB: I take no reponsibility if anyone tries this method to fix the focus & it turns out badly! I was doubtful it would work at all, I'm pleased with the result but still expecting I've fucked up somehow that I just haven't realised yet.

22 June 2009

It's alive!

After a bit of fiddling about on the weekend, I discovered a wonderful thing: the match-needle light meter on the Zeiss works. Both of them, actually. But only in "A" mode. I'm not sure whether this was a decision made in the design process, or whether it's just a quirk it's developed over the last 40 years. Could be either, and as someone who refuses to read the manual in depth, I may never know...

I'm pleased - while I have a light meter on the way, it does mean that I won't have to rely on carrying it with me in future. I'll just have to bear in mind that it's not an aperture-priority mode - which I use mostly when the Minolta isn't sulking - it's a shutter-priority automatic mode. It'll take a little getting used to, and I wonder whether I'll still be thinking in terms of depth of field rather than speed of subject...


In other news, I completely fucked the first film I put through the Zeiss. Tore it clean in half, as it were. I wasn't aware (translation: i didn't read the manual) that I needed to turn one of the locking screws on the bottom to "R" before rewinding.


as you can tell, I like to learn things the hard way.

16 June 2009

Bakelite Beauty, Petrograd & old Ukrainian film...

Today's purchase ($10) was that bakelite beauty, the Kodak Brownie 127. The 127 refers to the type of film these cameras take, which I believe Kodak stopped producing in 1995. Thankfully, I'm lead to believe some Eastern European film manufacturers still make the stuff (how I will navigate online ordering in any language other than English is another matter), and if you're keen (but not keen enough to buy 127 film & then argue with your local camera chain about developing it) you can slot in some 135.

I'm not a huge fan of "toy" cameras. I do own both a Fisheye 2 and a Holga, however with me the novelty wears off eventually. The Holga has had about 6 films through it in my 7 years of owning it, and the Fisheye is still nursing a roll of expired film that I started at Christmas. So I guess it's more a using them thing. I like the look of the Brownie 127, it reminds me of a radio (c. 1950s) I once saw at the family shack. So it's worth the relatively small outlay for that alone.

WHilst in the shop that lead to the purchase of the Brownie, I took a squizz at a pair of folding cameras they also had for sale. One was a Penguin (? never heard of it until today), the other was a something I had heard of (UK brand?), but can't for the life of me remember now. Both were in pretty poor condition. The second seemed to be functioning okay, but $50 for something that is more rust that camera is a bit much.


Yesterday I was so close to buying a Moskva 5, but in the end decided that I still haven't seen results from the Contaflex & Isolette, and only one roll from the Zorki - so perhaps it wasn't a wise idea to compound this by adding another camera to the pool. What I did decide is that a light meter would drastically increase the chances of getting good results (or at least well exposed) from those cameras. So, thanks to confdntart, I have a Leningrad 4 light meter on the way.


Oh, and I ordered some Svema 64 film as well, expired in 2004. I figured it would be good to get into the spirit of Red Oktober by shooting film from a former Soviet Union manufacturer, in a camera made in the USSR.