Ever since I got back into shooting film, I’ve had a hankering for a polaroid camera; it appears unusually none of my relatives ever owned one, I have no recollection of any of my friends having one either, in fact so far as I can remember I’ve never even seen one used! I was in one of Cirencester’s Charity Shops a couple of weeks ago (Helen and Douglas House in Cirencester if you’re interested, lovely people) and they had one. I got them to take it out for a look, and it looked okay but of course with the battery in the film cartridge you can’t test them. I decided as it was very sensible money I’d take a punt, and they even offered to let me return it if it didn’t work! So I ordered a pack of Polaroid Originals 600, watched some videos on how to use it, and loaded up the film. There was a lot of satisfying whirring and the dark slide popped out, all good thus far….so I pointed and shot…
A while back I picked up a Yashica 35-ME (the link is wrong by the way, it’s not a rangefider, it’s zone focused) for very good money in a deal with an Olympus Trip.
It all seemed okay so I took it out in London and shot with it, processed the roll of film….and my scanner broke! Given that it was nudging 10 years old this probably wasn’t surprising. After much thought I decided, rather than get another flatbed I’d go for a proper film scanner and bought a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE. So after a hiatus of several weeks, I can now share some of the photos from the Yashica. I dont’ think they’re as good as the ones from the Trip, but for a camera to keep loaded in my pocket they are, as my old dad would have said, good enough for a coal boat.
If you’re British, and of a certain age, you’ll remember the commercials for the Olympus Trip with Brian Pringle as the wedding photographer and David Bailey as, well, himself. If you don’t remember them, or just want a rip down nostalgia lane, you can see it on here on youtube. I never owned one in the 70s mind you, way out of my price range.
But a while back I found myself thinking of getting a nice film compact camera, something I could put in my pocket. There was also an element of the fact that we’re going to Berlin later this year and I rather liked the idea of shooting film in that most creative of cities, on a vintage camera. Sort of get in touch with Bowie changing popular music, that sort of thing. So when I found myself thinking ‘vintage point and shoot’, well there really was only one camera springing to mind. An Olympus Trip. I checked on eBay and they were consistently available, and I read some online reviews by people who said that a good one really held up well and produced some great photos, almost certainly due to that bit of Zuiko glass at the front. So I started following them and set myself a ceiling price of forty quid and it had to be a decent one. I missed several as they were going for forty plus, and I’m in no time pressure, when somebody advertised one going with a Yashica 35 (for which I also found postive stuff online), so I set a celing of fifty five on the grounds there were two of them and got them for fifty one. The whole thing being made even better by the fact that while they weren’t tested the seller said if they didn’t work he’d take them back for a refund.
Well the box arrived, and the trip wasn’t in good condition, it was pretty much factory new! Not a mark on it, no scuffs, dents, none of that stuff cameras pick up in the process of being used. It felt mechanically okay so I stuck a roll of hp5 in it and saw what it could do. I was blown away, the results were great. The selenium light meter coped admirably with snow, which is a challenge for anything and I got crisp and clean images well on a par with those I get from film SLRs. There wasn’t any flaring, but I checked and the light seals are shot and will need to be replaced. I even went out and got a genunine original skylight filter and a lens cap for it to protect the glass.
Okay, so Bailey really used a Rolleiflex for most of his stuff, but he didn’t really care much about the hardware so I can believe he might well have shot with one…well I want to believe he did anyway.
Old cameras, we’ve all got them, our relatives have got them, our friends have got them.
I’m mainly talking about old film cameras here, but we’re getting to the point where we’ve almost got vintage digital cameras now. Sitting on the shelf behind my desk is our first digital camera, an Agfa ePhoto CL18, vintage 2000 with .3 megapixel resolution and a whopping 2mb of storage. Allegedly one can download a driver for it which will work with modern operating systems but I’ve not tried. I really ought to. My oldest camera is, I think, the Kodak one my dad bought just before I was born in 1961. A few years ago I found I found somebody who could supply and process 127 film and put a roll through it. Fifty plus years old, not been used in 25 of those, worked like and charm and the photos were fine. I do quite a bit of shooting on a film EOS which my mother in law doesn’t use any more, and the K1000 I bought in 1979 purrs like a kitten and lets me make great photos.
But I think it’s important that these cameras don’t sit on shelves or in drawers, I think they ought to be used. It’s a much less dramatic idea than that which drives restorers of aeroplanes and cars and trains, but the idea is the same. They were built to do something and we sort of owe it to them in a strange way to fulfil that idea. Also, its’ fun to see what comes out. Those old lenses all behave differently, and the different film stocks too. Also, and not the least, using them is fun!
So, the next time you find an old camera at home get a roll of cheap film and use it. If you see one round at granny’s house, ask to borrow it and make some images with it. You’re not going to want to replace your DSLR with it, but you’re going to have a great time.