As you may know from my last post, I’ve been exploring black and white film, learning to process the negatives and taking pictures with much older cameras than my usual Nikon D800e. In my last post I wrote about the Agfa Billy Record that I received as a gift. Bitten by the vintage camera bug and enjoying the unique qualities of these older cameras (and film in general) in this post I’m introducing my latest acquisition, a Rolleiflex 3.5f TLR. My Agfa Billy is as old as my Dad; this camera is just a few years older than me. Something rather nice about that. I’ll be on the hunt for a camera that perhaps my grandad may have used as a young man next. This camera was manufactured in 1961
Purchasing this particular model however came out of a challenge suggested at a meeting of the Royal Photographic Society South West Region. The idea was to take some photographs in the style of Vivian Maier and/or Lee Miller. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the meeting where the two photographers were discussed as I was in Iceland. However, I did do my homework and the Vivian Maier story particularly captured my imagination.
I watched a couple of documentaries and was fascinated by this photographer’s life and how her amazing life’s work didn’t come to light until her death. Vivian Maier took pictures with a Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) a camera I knew little about other than the name. I was really taken with the design and whilst not having too much success taking pictures in the style of Vivian Maier, I thought the least I could do was take some pictures with a similar camera to Vivian Maier. There is something particularly romantic to me about this classic design. The special feature of TLR cameras is that they have two lenses of the same focal length with their focal planes aligned. The lens at the bottom of the camera is the one that takes the picture (often called the ‘taking lens’), while the other is used in the viewfinder system.
I’ve taken just the one film so far with this camera, using Ilford Pan Plus 50, developed in Ilfosol 3. I didn’t realise when I chose Pan F Plus 50 that it’s considered a difficult film to use. It has a very fine grain and produces fine detail but does have a tendency to be a bit contrasty apparently. I have been advised to over-expose (set ASA rating to 25 rather than 50) and to shorten the developing time. As this was the first, however, I went with standard settings and the recommended developing times.
The garden pictures below came up a little under-exposed however, it was very bright yesterday afternoon, dark shadows were being cast by the sunshine and metering correctly would have been a challenge for even the latest DSLR. I think the camera has done a brilliant job. The tulip and teasel picture came up perfectly exposed. All negatives were scanned using an Epson V600 and then processed in Photoshop. I corrected the under-exposure as best I could, toned the ‘prints’ digitally with cyanotype toner which I think works rather well. I hope you enjoy the pictures. I often say this but I certainly enjoying taking them and processing them.. :-)
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
This has got to be one of the most photographed of all plants, the seed head of the dandelion and with good reason, get close and you really begin to see what an amazing plant it is. No wonder it is so successful, in my garden at least.. ;-)