Camera Reviews

Sears KSX-P

Sears, Roebuck and Company sold cameras under its own brands starting in the 1950s. Outside manufacturers made them all; Sears was a department store, not a manufacturer. From the late 1960s through late 1980s, if you bought a Sears 35mm SLR, Ricoh made it — with one exception. Sears turned to Chinon for its last 35mm SLR, the 1985 Sears KSX-P.

Sears KSX-P

This camera differs only cosmetically from Chinon’s CP-5. It offers two program modes, hence the “Dual2 Program” label on the prism cover. It also offers aperture-priority and manual exposure modes. You can mount any of the huge range of Pentax and third-party K-mount lenses to this camera. I don’t know how they did it, but automatic exposure modes work with any K-mount lens. I mounted one of my SMC Pentax-M lenses and program and aperture-priority modes worked fine. Pentax’s autoexposure SLRs required SMC Pentax-A lenses; older SMC Pentax-M lenses worked only in manual exposure mode.

Sears KSX-P

The KSX-P uses a metal, vertical-travel focal-plane shutter that operates from 30 sec. (8 sec. in manual mode) to 1/1000 sec. It accepts films from 25 to 3200 ISO, selected using the dial around the rewind crank. Pull it up to turn it. The viewfinder features split-image and microprism focusing. The camera also chimes for various reasons mostly related to misexposure; you can turn that off with the switch next to the lens mount and under the KSX-P logo. That switch also activates the self timer. Three AAA batteries power the camera; they’re under the grip.

Sears KSX-P

The two program modes are Program Action (Pa) and Program Creative (Pc), which you select with the gray lever on the mode dial. Pa chooses faster shutter speeds to freeze moving subjects, and Pc chooses smaller apertures for greater depth of field with static subjects. When using one of the program modes, put the lens at its smallest aperture. If you don’t, program mode still works, but the camera can’t choose apertures smaller than the one set on the lens.

Manual mode is unusual: you press the M button (next to the mode dial) to step through shutter speeds in ascending order. If you press the shutter button partway and then press the M button, you step through shutter speeds in descending order. It’s challenging to get both fingers in there. A flashing LED in the viewfinder appears next to the shutter speed. A second LED, glowing steady, shows the shutter speed necessary for the selected aperture. To set proper exposure, adjust aperture and shutter speed until the two LEDs become one.

The KSX-P lets you make multiple exposures on a frame. Slide the lever above the winder to the left and hold it, and wind. The film stays put but the shutter cocks so you can make a second exposure on the frame.

The rewind crank is unusual in that it is round, covering the shaft like a lid. I found the knob to be hard to hold as I rewound my test rolls. It kept slipping from my fingers, which caused the crank to close.

My Sears KSX-P came with a 50mm f/1.7 Auto Sears MC lens made by Chinon, which was probably the kit lens. My Sears KS-2 had a 50/1.7 Auto Sears MC lens too, but Ricoh made it. The easiest way to tell these identically named lenses apart is that the Ricoh lens takes 52mm filters and the Chinon lens takes 49mm filters, and the lenses are marked as such right on the front.

I’ve reviewed other Sears SLRs, namely the KS-2 (here) and the KS Super II (here). These are all K-mount SLRs, shared with Pentax. Check out my reviews of the Pentax KM (here), K1000 (here), ME (here), and ME Super (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded a roll of Fomapan 400 and shot it in Program mode at EI 200, and then developed it in LegacyPro L110 and scanned the negatives on my Minolta ScanDual II.

Sears KSX-P - Suburban scene

I used Pa mode when I was chasing after our little granddaughter and Pc mode otherwise. The KSX-P’s viewfinder shows which shutter speed the camera chooses by lighting an LED along a scale. You can see the lens’s selected aperture in a window at the top of the viewfinder, but in program mode that’s always 22, not the aperture the camera selected. I would have liked know the aperture so I could guess the depth of field I might be getting. The camera has no DOF preview.

Sears KSX-P - Bubbles in the sink

The KSX-P feels plasticky, but it’s got moderate heft. The viewfinder is a little dim, but it’s plenty usable. The battery grip makes the camera comfortable in the hand.

Sears KSX-P - Flowers

This lens focuses down to 18 inches, which ain’t bad for a non-macro lens. I like having the ability to get in close.

Sears KSX-P - VW

This lens has mild but noticeable barrel distortion, which I find to be uncommon among 50mm primes. The lens handles easily, however, and is compact.

Sears KSX-P - Stones on the sill

You’ll never mistake the KSX-P for a professional or luxury camera. The controls are sure, but aren’t hefty or silky.

Sears KSX-P - State Bank

I shot a roll of Fujifilm Superia Reala 100 next in this Sears KSX-P. This stuff expired in March, 2002, but it was stored frozen, so I shot it at box speed. I took the camera to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, an enormous, sprawling place, for a warm evening walk. Every time I’ve lucked into a roll of ISO 100 Fujicolor film, which isn’t made anymore, I’ve been blown away by the color.

Deeply red

I started the walk with the camera in program mode, but switched to aperture-priority mode after just a few frames. The forecast for full sun proved to be wrong as clouds rolled in. Light was mixed. With such slow film I wanted more control over depth of field, and aperture-priority mode gave it to me. The window at the top of the viewfinder showed me the aperture I’d chosen, and an LED in the viewfinder lit next to the shutter speed the camera chose. Perfect.

Fake flowers on the door

My only gripe with this camera is that the shutter sounds weird and cheap: Shhhhhh-chunk-ping. It sounds the same regardless of the shutter speed, which made me wonder whether the shutter speeds were accurate. (I get a sense of shutter function by listening to it. 1/15 sounds a lot slower than 1/500.) It wasn’t until I saw my developed negatives that I was sure the shutter worked properly.

Crown Hill road

A couple times I knew I was photographing into the light, and sure enough, the lens flared. Photoshop let me tone that down.

Military cemetery at Crown Hill

I bought this KSX-P from its original owner, who hadn’t used it in many years. It says something about this camera that when I put batteries in it, it fired right up and functioned properly.

Military cemetery at Crown Hill

Yet I didn’t fall in love with this camera. I suppose my bar is high after having used so many truly wonderful SLRs over the years. I know that if someone had gifted me one of these when it was new in 1985, I would have been thrilled, and I would have made wonderful photographs with it for years.

At Crown Hill

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Sears KSX-P gallery.

I bought this Sears KSX-P because I’m curious about Sears SLRs and this one cost very little. It is a decent performer, but more than that, it’s truly remarkable that automatic exposure works with any K-mount lens. If you have a passel of Pentax glass a KSX-P might be worth adding to your stable for its versatility.

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Old Cars, Photography

A long ago car show

On a mid-September Saturday in 2007, my longtime friend Brian and I documented all of the old alignments of US 31 we could find in northern Indiana. When we reached the town of Peru, we found the highway closed through the heart of town for a car show.

Miami County Courthouse

This is one of the reasons why I love to take road trips — you never know what you’ll encounter!

Brian knows I love old cars, so he patiently let me walk among these and photograph them. This little Nash is heavily customized.

Car show

I’m pretty sure this is a 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster.

Car show

This 1960s Chevy truck was heavily customized. I liked its front end, so I squatted for a close photo. I make a cameo appearance in the bumper.

Car show

This boy from South Bend always stops to look at a Studebaker.

Car show

A Chevy Nova SS. It’s likely this didn’t roll off the assembly line as an SS — most Novas were what we used to call “grocery getters,” with boring sixes under the hood.

Car show

My favorite car of the day was this 1966 Plymouth VIP. Ford luxed up the Galaxie to make the LTD, and Chevy the Impala to make the Caprice. Plymouth put fake wood trim and upgraded seats into its Fury, and called it the VIP.

Car show

This one looks to have been modified some. The fake wood is missing, and the door cards don’t look stock to me. But whatever; it’s lovely and I lingered over it.

Car show

As I prepared to take the shot below, a fellow tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I’ll have to charge you a quarter for each picture.” He owned the Plymouth. When I told him I had recently seen an old television ad for the VIP on one of the online video sites, he lit up for a moment. He told me that there was precious little information available about the VIP, which didn’t sell very well. He said he had had a difficult time finding trim parts for the car, and pointed out a few places where he had to use slightly scuffed chrome or parts that didn’t fit together just right because that’s what was available.

Car show

This blog was about six months old when I found these cars. I wrote about this Plymouth then; read about it here.

My camera’s battery died while shooting the Plymouth, which brought me out of my old-car delirium to notice that Brian was standing politely on the curb, ready to move along. Even though there were more cars to see, we headed back to my car to continue our trip. I fished my spare battery out of a cup holder, put it in the camera, and we were on our way.

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Film Photography

Storefronts on Mass Ave

I had an errand to run Downtown along Massachusetts Avenue, or “Mass Ave,” as everybody here calls it. This diagonal Downtown street is loaded with hip restaurants, bars, and shops. I loaded some Ilford FP4 Plus into my Yashica-12 and brought it along. I walked up and down Mass Ave photographing storefronts.

I developed the roll in L110, Dilution B, and scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. These are easily the best results I’ve ever gotten from home developing and scanning. I got exposure right in the camera, developing led to negatives of good density, and repeated practice with the VueScan scanner software is starting to pay off. I’ve shot a fair amount of FP4 Plus over the years and finally it’s looking like I expect it to, compared to the results I got from the pro labs I used to send it to.

The Rathskeller is technically on Michigan Street, but its imposing entrance is fully visible to and accessible from Mass Ave. This building is also known as the Athanaeum and, as the sign over the door says, Das Deutsche Haus. Built in the late 1800s, it was originally a social club for German immigrants. Today it’s a restaurant, beer hall, and coffee shop.

The Rathskeller

The rest of these images are not as architecturally interesting. Over the last 20 years or so, entire blocks of Mass Ave have been demolished so enormous apartment and condo complexes could be built, with retail on the ground floor. Silver in the City, a kitshcy gift shop, is in one of the early-20th-century buildings that remains.

Silver in the City

Global Gifts is a few doors down, in the same building. It’s a non-profit organization that sources its items ethically from around the world.

Global Gifts

In the same building as the previous two businesses, Three Dog Bakery has been around for at least 15 years now. I remember when they opened — I thought this business surely couldn’t last. Home-baked dog treats? Really? They have several locations today.

Three Dog Bakery

I worked Downtown the first time in 1996-97, when Mass Ave was a very different place, not yet hip and cool. It was just starting to recover from a period when it was Indianapolis’s Skid Row, and many of its businesses remained from that era. I don’t know how long The Frame Shop has been here, but it strikes me as a 1990s-era Mass Ave business.

The Frame Shop

Lots and lots of bars line Mass Ave now. This one opened a couple years ago, replacing a longtime Mass Ave bar called the Old Point Tavern. It was one of the last old Mass Ave businesses to throw in the towel, and I miss the place. When I worked Downtown in the 1990s, I sat at the bar many a lunch hour in front of a bowl of chili. It was the kind of chili you might make for yourself at home. I didn’t make much money in those days, and the $3 (as I recall) bowl was a filling, delicious lunch for very little money. I miss the Old Point Tavern.

Tavern on the Point

I’ve never set foot inside the Burnside Inn, despite its inviting facade. It’s been open for only a few years, replacing a hair salon that operated here for a long time.

Burnside Inn

Nine Irish Brothers is a chain restaurant that opened in this new building some years ago. In this case, nothing was torn down to build this building — it was a green space. I’m sure some other building once stood here, but it was torn down long before I ever set foot on Mass Ave. Margaret and I have stopped in here a number of times because the Guinness is fresh and good.

Nine Irish Brothers

Finally, here’s my favorite Mass Ave bar, Liberty Street. They have the widest whiskey selection in town, and a massive mahogany bar. I’ve met my brother here for a tipple many a time. He lives just a couple blocks away, so it’s easy enough for him to get here!

Liberty Street

I hope I’m settling into a successful groove with my home developing and scanning. It’s been frustrating to have gotten such mixed results over the year and a half I’ve been doing it.

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COVID-19

Returning to the world

It was quite a week: I went to church, and I went to work.

Margaret and I are both vaccinated, as is one of Margaret’s kids who lives with us. The other isn’t, despite our admonitions. But she works in retail, and with nobody masking anymore she’s far more likely to get sick at work than because Margaret or I brought COVID home. So Margaret and I are no longer restricting ourselves. We’re also not rushing to Do All the Things in the world, either. We’re taking measured and deliberate steps.

When I walked in at church, everyone about fell over. I didn’t tell anyone I was coming, I just showed up. We hadn’t seen each other in 15 months! I took my usual place in the back and enjoyed the service. I was almost overcome with happiness when communion was passed. In my faith tradition, we take communion every week. I really missed it.

Last month I said that when Margaret and I felt safe to return to worship, we’d find a new church together. That’s still our aim, but in the short term I will attend at my current church about every other Sunday. There needs to be someone from church leadership in attendance every week, and the fellow we’d been leaning on for that is going to be away most of the summer. So one of the other leaders and I are alternating weeks.

I won’t go every week because our granddaughter comes to visit on Sunday mornings. Without getting into all of the complications around this, I’ll just say that this is the time her mom can bring her, and that’s that.

I worked in the office on Tuesday. The company opened its office on Monday, allowing anyone vaccinated to work unmasked. I had to provide a scan of my vaccination card. I understand how some people might find this to be too invasive, but in this instance I didn’t at all mind sending in my scan.

This is a brand new office for my company. We were in the building next door until March, and then we were homeless for several weeks while finishing touches were placed on the new office, which is in a new building. The photo above is from the window near my desk, where I have a commanding view of the Eli Lilly & Co. building. The pharmaceutical giant is headquartered here.

My company is allowing us to work some days at home and some days in the office. My plan is to work in the office Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday for sure, and maybe on Monday. But I’ll work from home every Wednesday for sure.

I’m going to add in-office days slowly. I found it to be intensely stressful to suddenly work from home every day last year when all this began. I hope that by easing back into my in-office schedule, I can adapt more easily.

It’s as if I am given a limited number of “energy cards” every day, and when I’ve given all of those cards out in the course of a day’s events, I’m out of energy. Truly, when that happens, I’m fried. I make routines out of anything I can, because it reduces how much I have to think about them, which conserves energy. When the pandemic sent me home to work, every last one of my workday routines was upended. I had to figure out all new ones, and until I did I was exhausted at the end of each day.

Sure enough, working in the office on Tuesday left me spent. It had been a long time since I’d dealt with rush-hour traffic, and that spent a whole energy card by itself. It didn’t used to, probably by sheer daily repetition. But after a 15-month hiatus, I had lost my chops, I guess.

Of course, I did all the things you do when you work for the first time in a new office: set up my desk, figure out how to work the coffee machine, and find the restrooms. But I also took all of my meetings over Zoom just as I did the day before working at home, as nobody I met with was in the office that day. So I had Zoom fatigue on top of everything-is-new fatigue.

When I go back to the office this Tuesday, I won’t have so many new things to figure out. But I’m sure the commute will still be tiring, until I get used to it again.

Another reason I plan to add in-office days slowly is because when I work from home, I can ride my bike on my lunch hour. I’m reluctant to give that up, as this is the last summer I will get to do it. I’m even considering taking a long bike tour later this year, covering 150 miles or so over a few days. Riding most weekdays will help me prepare for that. I’ve wanted to do a tour for years, and if ever there’s a year to do it, this is it.

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

💻 I first heard of the massacre of blacks in Tulsa just a few years ago. I was blown away, not only because something like that happened in the United States, but because for the first five decades of my life I had no idea it had happened. Why was it not taught in school? Pete Saunders takes a long view of the massacre, its place in United States history. Read The Last Word on the Tulsa Race Massacre, And the American Context of Urban Racial Violence

Flowers
Pentax KM, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Ferrania P30 Alpha, 2017

💻 J. P. Cavanaugh tells the story of a manufactured food that the astronauts ate, which you could also buy at the grocery store. Read Space Food Sticks – Because Space is Awesome

📷 A great thing about following photobloggers from around the world is that I get to see places I would never get to see otherwise. Mike Connealy lives in New Mexico, where the Yerba Mansa are in bloom. If you’re all like, “the what?” then click through to see. Read Yerba Mansa

📷 Most cameras look like cameras. Occasionally, one comes along that doesn’t. Mike Eckman reviews one, a 35mm camera that takes half-frame images. Read Fuji TW-3

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Road Trips

US 31, the Michigan Road, and the Dixie Highway in Argos, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

US 31 follows about 1,000 yards of its original path between Plymouth and Argos before curving away again, as this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The turnoff looks like this from the west side of US 31.

Meeting US 31

As we turned in, we passed this freshly planted sign commemorating the Potawatomi Trail of Death, in which more than 850 Potawatomi were forcibly evacuated from land in this and surrounding counties. They were marched all the way to Kansas, and more than 40 Potawatomi died on the trip. Their journey followed the Michigan Road from about here to Logansport, which is ironic because it was a treaty with the Potawatomi that allowed Indiana to build this road in the first place.

Trail of Death marker

A great-great-grandmother, my mother’s mother’s mother, is said to have been full Potawatomi. My great-grandmother was born in 1898, so this great-great-grandmother was likely born between 1860 and 1885. That part of my family is from Rochester, which is in one of the counties from which the Potawatomi were evacuated. Did this woman’s parents somehow escape evacuation?

We would see these signs along the road until old US 31 left the Michigan Road on Rochester’s south side.

A short stub of old US 31 remains to provide access to a house. Every time I drive by here, trailers are parked on it.

Old road

I turned around from that spot to photograph the old highway southbound.

Southbound

Argos came quickly. US 31 didn’t bypass it by very much. The map shows old US 31 running through it at an angle, and US 31 running north-south just west of town.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Argos began with a tidy neighborhood. Lawns were mowed and edged and homes were in decent repair.

Argos residences

Brian and I noticed two 1800s homes in Argos, across the street from each other at the corner of Michigan and Smith Streets. Here’s the first, built in 1892.

Old house, Argos

Here’s the second, built in 1890. Both houses are on the national historic register.

Old house, Argos

It was apparent as soon as we hit downtown, however, that Argos had seen better days. The tall building has a Mason shield and the year 1905 on it above the top row of windows.

Downtown Argos

I once worked with a woman from Argos. She said that when she was a young adult there, most people in town worked “over to Ristan’s,” a wonderfully northern-Indiana way of saying that they all worked at the Ristan factory, which was just across US 31. Then it closed, she said, and Argos’s fortunes haven’t been as good since.

Next: Continuing south to Rochester.

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