San Jose Photo Fair

I visited the San Jose Photo Fair today.

And I only spent $5. My Gear Acquisition Syndrome medication must be working well.

The majority of the tables at the fair sell older film camera like Olympus, Minolta, Canon and Nikon SLRs. There is also quite a lot of medium format gear for sale (Hasselblad, Bronica and Mamiya) as well as large format gear and some of the smaller rangefinders (Konica, Canon, Yashica, Olympus). Digital gear is also available but not as common as the film cameras. Some tables also buy cameras and lenses so people looking to offload older equipment can pick up some cash.

Last year I bought a Leica M2 at the fair and this year there were quite a few M4s on sale as well as one or two M3s and M6s.

I was surprised by the amount of Polaroid cameras for sale. I saw at least six SX-70s and some SLR 680s today.

As a sign of the times perhaps, this year also had more tables selling off camera flash equipment. "Strobist" stuff like cables, remote triggers, LED lights, and soft boxes.

The fair takes place twice a year with the next one occurring in October but if you read this before 2pm today and you live in south Bay Area, the fair is still going on right now.

Link: San Jose Photo Fair.

By the way, my $5 purchase was a lens cap for my Leica 50mm f/2.


Leica M2 First Impressions

Leica M2 Over the weekend I picked up a Leica M2 35mm rangefinder camera at the San Jose Photo Fair. I had been watching these cameras on eBay to see what the usual prices were and I was planning of buying one around Christmas time. But on Saturday, when I held this M2 in my hand I just had to have it right then and there.

Leica M2

When I was researching what M model to get I settled on the M2 over the M3 because of the 35mm frame lines in the M2. The widest M3 frame lines are for 50mm lens and my main lens these days is a 35mm. The camera didn't come with a lens so it is shown here with my Voigtländer Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4.

It looks like this camera may be from around 1960 or 1961.

Leica M2

The camera is in fairly decent condition. Cosmetically there is some vulcanite missing from the body below the lens and there are a few minor dings on the back but mechanically and optically everything seems to be in order. Based on some limited testing, the rangefinder appears to be spot on and the shutter speeds seem to be correct. The film transport is very smooth and the viewfinder is nice and bright with a very clear rangefinder patch.

The shutter sound of Leica cameras is famous for being quite and unobtrusive. It is definitely quieter than my Voigtländer Bessa R4A which has a loud clack sound but the Leica isn't as quite as the compact Olympus XA rangefinder.

Leica M2

The M2 differs from later more modern models (like the M7) in a few ways. First, the Leica M2 is a fully mechanical camera with no batteries so there is no light meter. I will be using an external light meter or the sunny 16 rule to expose correctly. The rewind knob has no lever so it takes a little longer to rewind the film but I found it easier to use than rewinding with the lever on my Bessa.

Loading the film is not as straight forward compared to regular 35mm cameras. Instead of flipping open the back, loading is done by removing a plate on the bottom of the camera. There is a take up spool that you have to remove and thread the film into before inserting the film and spool back into the camera.  It's easy enough to do when there is something to place the camera on while you hold the film in one hand and the spool in the other but I am not sure how I will load film on the go without finding somewhere upon which I can set down the camera. I will write a more detailed post on loading film sometime in the future.

Yesterday I ran a roll of Arista Premium 400 quickly through the camera to make sure it was working correctly. Everything looked pretty good. No leaks and I managed to expose everything fairly well. I have included a couple of the the photos from the test roll here.

Leica M2 Test Shot

Leica M2 Test Shot

If you have any tips on the M2, please leave them in the comments.

Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes Behind the scenes at a shoot in my studio, ... eh... I mean, spare bedroom.  This shoot was for an upcoming blog post which should be posted in the next few days.

This is the first time I shot tethered to my laptop using Lightroom 3's built in tethering feature. It was useful to see a large image on screen but it takes a while to download the files. But another advantage is that the images are already on the computer and it was very fast to import the temporary catalog I was using for the shoot into my main catalog.  Way quicker than uploading via USB anyway.

Photo Shoot Practice - Olympus 35 RC

Photograph of an Olympus 35 RC 35mm rangefinder camera Today I decided to take some shots of my Olympus 35 RC, a compact fixed lens rangefinder from the 1970s.

To take these shots, I was using a very basic "Strobist" set up with a Canon Speedlite 430 EX flash mounted on a stand firing through an umbrella camera left. I also used some white foam core on the right to reflect back some fill. The flash was fired remotely using an Elinchrom EL Skyport Universal radio trigger.

The camera I used was my trusty Canon 40D with a 24 to 70mm L f/2.8 lens. I metered using a Sekonic L-308s Flashmate meter.

Photographing an Olympus 35 RC 35 rangefinder camera

I am still learning flash photography so came upon a few problems. One of those can be seen in this following shot.

A photograph of an Olympus 35 RC Rangefinder 35mm camera

Reflected in the lens is the clear outline of the umbrella. I would have preferred for this to not be so obvious. I tried playing with angles and also with the set up you see below but I wasn't happy with the results. In this set up I am firing the flash through the diffuser part of a Photoflex multi-disk but the reflection was still too noticeable.  Still a lot for me to learn for sure.

Trying to solve a reflection problem

Olympus 35 RC 35mm rangefinder camera

For all of the shots I set the camera on manual mode with the shutter speed set at 1/60.  There was daylight coming in from an open door camera right and also through a window behind the subject so I wanted to use some of the ambient light.

Most of the shots were shot using an aperture of either f/8 or f/11 except the photograph above which was shot at f/5.6. I found with apertures less than that the depth of field wasn't as pleasing to me.  The flash was used in manual mode and the power was set from 1/2 to 1/8 depending on what aperture I was using or the distance of the flash from the subject.

The gear used during my Olympus 35 RC photo shoot

The photograph above shows most of the gear I used today. At the top is an Interfit light stand and Wescott shoot through umbrella. On the next row is a Manfrotto 498RC2 ball head. Next to that is my Canon Speedlite 430 EX flash with a hot shoe to PC adapter connected to the Elinchrom El-Skyport receiver below. Next to the flash is the Canon 40D with the 24 to 70mm L f/2.8 lens and next to that is the flash meter, a Sekonic L-308s.

Below the 40D, is the matching Elinchom trasmitter and some no-name light stand adapter. At the bottom is a Manfrotto 190XPROB Pro Aluminum Tripod.

As I said I am still learning this type of photography so there is a long way to go before I will be truly happy with my images. But it is always a good idea to shoot as often as possible and learn from the experience each time.

Below are the rest of the "keepers" from today.

Close up of the top of an Olympus 35 RC

Close up of the top of an Olympus 35 RC

Olympus 35 RC detail shot

Off Season : Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of my favorite places to take photographs. Even in winter when it is empty and lacking crowds I find it interesting.

If you are viewing this post in a feed reader, click here to go to the blog page and see the photographs as a gallery.

Mamiya M645 1000s

Mamiya M645 1000S This is my Christmas present to myself. It's a Mamiya M645 1000s medium format camera. It is shown here with a 80mm Mamiya-Sekor C lens and I also got 55mm and 150mm lenses.

The 645 series was introduced in 1975 with the 1000s coming in 1976. I believe they continued to make the 1000s until 1990.

The camera is an SLR with an image format of 6cm x 4.5cm. You get 15 frames on a 120 roll and 30 frames on a 220 roll. The film is put into inserts which then go into the camera. 120 and 220 films use different inserts presumably because of the need for different pressure plates due to the lack of paper in 220 film. Later models used magazines which could be swapped mid roll.

Here are a few test shots from the first roll.

Voigtlander Vito II

Large-1 I picked up this Voigtlander Vito II today at the San Jose photo fair. This particular Vito II is a later generation with Prontar SVS shutter and was introduced around 1954. The lens is a Color-Skopar f/3.5 50mm.

The camera is fully manual with shutter speeds from 1/300 to 1 sec in addition to bulb. There is a cable release socket for long exposures. Focusing is achieved by rotating the lens that has distances marked on it in feet. The lens also has symbols to represent "near" (8 to 15 feet) and "far" (15 feet to infinity) which work as zone focusing with using an aperture of f/5.6 or smaller.

The camera has an interesting feature whereby you can manually set the frame counter to any number you wish. This means you can shoot half a roll, wind it back to load a different roll and when you want to reload the first roll, you set the frame counter back to the way it was.

This camera appears to work. Shutter speeds change depending on the setting. I just shot a test roll so I will see if the bellows or any of the seals leak once I get that developed.

Camera Review: Holga 120

History In 1982, Mr T.M. Lee, founder of Universal Electronics Ltd in Hong Kong, wanted to release a medium format camera to supplement the companies flash products which were increasingly facing competition from cameras with built in flash made by competitors. The original target market was Mainland China so to be affordable, the camera had to be made cheaply and be fairly reliable. The result was the Holga.

In the 1990s, the Holga saw a huge increase in popularity. First of all, art schools and photography classes started to use Holgas to teach the basics of photography. Also, camera retailer, Lomographic Society International (LSI) started to market the camera as part of their Lomography movement.

In addition to that, the toy camera movement was gaining momentum and the Holga quickly became one of the mainstays in that genre of photography.


Specifications The Holga is essentially a plastic box with a plastic lens. It uses medium format (120) film and there is minimal control over exposure and focus. The lens is a simple meniscus lens with a focal length of 60mm. Focusing is achieved by turning the lens barrel. Distances are judged using symbols which represent 4 different distances from 4 feet to infinity.

Shutter speed is listed as 1/125 and there is a switch which allows you to do bulb exposures. The "specifications" for the Holga also state that the apertures are  f/8 and f/11 but due to a design flaw, many Holgas have only 1 usable aperture which may really be f/13 depending on who you talk to. It is possible to modify the camera to get two working apertures and the camera in the photo above has been modified to have actual apertures of f/8 and f/11.

Taken with a Holga

Image size is determined by a mask inside the camera. The interchangeable masks come in the 6x6cm square or 645 (6x4.5cm) portrait style formats. When 6x6 is used, a roll of film will yield 12 photographs. When the 645 mask is used, there will be 16 images on the film. The camera can also be used without any mask which results in an approximately 6x6 square image extending beyond the intended image area. Some mechanical vignetting may also occur when the mask is not used.

Holga Models There are many variations of the Holga 120. The 120S (now obsolete) and 120N are the most basic but do have a hot shoe to attach an external flash. The 120FN is a built in flash version and the 120CFN is the color flash version that allows the photographer to use the flash with 1 of 4 colored filters. All of the recent models come in a glass lens version and those have a "G" in the name (e.g. 120GFN). There also exists a variant called the WOCA. This is no longer made and has been replaced by the 120G series.


The Images Because the lens is a simple plastic lens, the resulting photographs are not tack sharp and have a slight blur to the them. Many times that blur becomes more pronounced towards the edges of the images and, depending on the lighting conditions, there may be some vignetting.

Some Holgas will have light leaks. Some users like the leaks but for those who don't they can be minimized by spray painting the inside of the camera matte black and taping up the seams of the camera.

Because the film transport is decoupled from the shutter, it is possible to easily take multiple exposures (sometimes unintentionally).


Modifications The good thing about the Holga is that it can be modified with only a small amount of effort. It is possible to convert the camera to take 35mm film or the lens can be completely removed and replaced with a pinhole.

Where To Get A Holga Sometimes, local independent camera stores will sell Holgas especially if there is a college or school nearby that uses them in their photography courses.  But the easiest place to get one is online either in one of the main online camera stores or on eBay (sellers in Hong Kong sell new Holgas on eBay).

Lomographic Society International also sell Holgas normally as part of Lomographic packages. The packages typically come with extras but many times the don't warrant the increase in price that LSI sells at. LSI also distribute cameras through "trendy" clothing and accessory stores such as Urban Outfitters in the US.

holga sells modified cameras and is worth checking out.

My Opinion The Holga is a great camera from anyone wanting to get into cheap plastic toy cameras. In today's world, this camera is a vast and welcome contrast to mega pixel'd digital cameras with auto-everything. I like the softness of the images and the atmosphere of the photographs. The camera itself is easy to use and is fairly robust. If it does break, you can probably glue it back together or buy a brand new one for less than $30.

If you are going to shoot 120 film it is a good idea to make sure it is going to be easy for you to develop. Black & white film is easy to process at home and if you have a scanner you don't even need a dark room. For color, you will probably have to drop it off at a lab. Some consumer labs don't develop 120 so check before hand.

All in all, I recommend the Holga 120 so go check it out

Links My Holga photos on Squrefrog - lots of Holga information Wikipedia Camerapedia Lomographic Society International

Olympus 35 RC

Olympus 35 RC I visited the San Jose Photo Fair for the first time today. I picked up this Olympus 35 RC rangefinder, two packs of expired Polaroid film and a lens cap (to fit the Olympus). If only I had a few thousand dollars in spare cash with me. Then I would have walked away with loads of Leicas and other expensive collectibles.

The 35 RC is from 1970 and has a fixed 42mm E. Zuiko f/2.8 lens. It has a Automatic Exposure mode which is shutter priority as well as full manual mode. There is a CdS light cell for metering but this only works in auto mode. So when shooting in manual mode, you need an alternative means of metering.

I have just loaded it with some Fuji Acros 100 so will take it for a test drive later today.