I’m grateful to Sue J of Words Visual who yesterday invited me to join in the 5 day black and white challenge. As I’m currently exploring black and white film photography using vintage cameras and developing my own black and white negatives, I was happy to take up the challenge and join in.
As some of you may remember, this little camera was a gift from a very good friend and fellow blogger Angi (Moments in Time). Angi came to Cornwall to take part in one of my workshops last year. The camera was a lovely gift and was the catalyst for my new-found interest in black and white film photography. We visited Roche Rock one afternoon as part of the workshop and I’ve been wanting to get back to take some pictures using the Agfa Billy ever since. The challenge was the perfect opportunity. This is a simple camera, the point and shoot of its day. It’s over 80 years old, produces a huge medium format negative and the quality from the little 3 element lens is amazing, I think you’ll agree..
F/11 1/125 sec. ASA/ISO 50
This negative was developed in Ilford ID11 stock 1+3 at 20°C for 15 minutes.
It is the nature of these challenges that we pass it on so today I’m going to invite Angi to take up the challenge but of course there is no pressure to take part, only if time allows..
When fellow blogger and good friend Angi came to Cornwall to take part in one of my photo workshops, to my surprise, she had a gift for me. The gift was an Agfa Billy Record 7.7 camera. These cameras were produced between 1933 and 1942 so my new camera could be anything from 73 to 82 years old. Given the war, I guess it’s more likely to be pre 1939. It’s a real beauty. The proviso that went with the gift was that I take some pictures with it. I started by taking pictures of it with my point and shoot. See below.. :-)
The first film I put through the camera before Christmas gave me a few problems and I wasted the film but over the Christmas holidays, I got to thinking about film photography. The gift had reminded me of my early teenage interest in photography when everything was analougue. I can remember spending hours learning to wind a film onto a Paterson developing tank spool that my Dad had given me to practise with. I never got around to actually following through, winding on a real film and developing it, so I set about ordering all I would need to develop the first roll of film from the Billy Record myself.
In for a penny, in for a pound, whilst shopping on ebay for used darkroom equipment I came across a listing for a Mamiya 645 pro medium format camera. Having used the digital version last year (which costs around £30,000) the film version, for a few hundred pounds imported from Japan, seemed like a bargain not to be missed. A new skill for a new year!
Today, I got around to developing the first film taken with the camera. This was only the second time I’d developed a film (I’d already developed a test roll from the Mamiya) so I’ve been very pleased with the results on all counts.
The negatives are huge – 8.5 x 5.5 cm. If you can imagine film to be the analogue equivalent of a digital sensor, this would be a very large sensor indeed. The sensor in my Nikon D800 full frame digital camera is just 3.6 x 2.4 cm. There are 36.8 million pixels packed into that sensor yielding amazing quality. I’m sure the grains of silver halide on the film are larger than a pixel but the point I’m trying to get across is that this little camera has the potential for some fine quality prints. The Agfa Billy is basically a medium format point and shoot.
The camera has two distance settings, 2m to 5m and 5m to infinity, three shutter speeds and three aperture settings. The lens is simple, just three elements. One thing it doesn’t have is an auto film advance. So when a digital photographer like myself gets hold of a camera like this, the inevitable happens when said digital photographer forgets to wind on the film before taking the next shot, yielding a higher than acceptable number of double exposures. Still, these are the first pictures from this 80 year old camera, taken around my garden and I’m delighted with the results. Click on any of the images below to open a gallery.
By the way, just one more week to go in the DLR ‘Blowing in the Wind’ Photo competition! Submit a photo or three and you could win Topaz Labs’ Complete Collection. Must be worth a peek in the archives and an email with some attachments! We look forward to seeing your entries! Click Here for more details