Collecting Cameras, Photography

You win some and you lose some when you shoot with old cameras

I’ve had a lot of fun shooting my new old cameras this year, but I also got out a couple old cameras I’ve had for a while and loaded some film into them, too.

Kodak TouristWhen I first wrote about my Kodak Tourist several years ago, I said I’d probably never run film through it because its lens was so unremarkable. But I had a roll of Plus-X sitting here doing nothing, and I thought maybe if I used my tripod and my GE PR-1 exposure meter I might get some okay results.

Not so much. I had a dreadful time with this camera. I kept setting up shots only to have the exposure meter tell me there wasn’t enough light. Because the lens’s maximum aperture is a tiny f/12.5, this camera needs gobs of direct, blazing sunlight to make an image. Ghosting ruined a few images, and then I managed not to advance the film on a few frames leading to double exposures. This double-exposed shot is the best one on the roll, sad to say. I uploaded three other shots from the roll to Flickr; see them here.

Anonymous office building double exposure

I was so unimpressed with the Tourist that I demoted it. It had been displayed on a shelf in my living room, but now it’s in the box of unloved cameras that I keep under my bed.

Minolta Hi-Matic 7I had a much, much better time recently with my Minolta Hi-Matic 7. It was one of the first cameras I bought when I started collecting again, but I had only ever put one roll of film through it. It felt like high time to try it again. This time, I had a battery for it and would be able to see whether its autoexposure system worked. In went a roll of Fujicolor 200 and out went I.

I got great results with my Hi-Matic. It’s not surprising – its f/1.8 lens lets in more than 32 times as much light as my Tourist’s lens. And the autoexposure system worked fine.

I just noodled around, shooting whatever felt good. As I drove to work one morning, the just-risen sun was casting long shadows. I stopped by Second Presbyterian Church for a snap.

Second Pres

A few days later as I stopped at Costco to drop off a roll of film, I spotted a 1941 Buick in the parking lot. I moved in close to shoot its grille.

Buick Eight

I uploaded several other shots from this roll to Flickr; see them here. There you’ll also find the photos from the first roll I put through this camera four years ago. When I compare those shots to these, I’m delighted to see how much I’ve learned and how much my work has improved.

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17 thoughts on “You win some and you lose some when you shoot with old cameras

  1. Those Hi-Matic shots are gorgeous! Too bad about the Kodak Tourist: “time and chance happen to them all.” :-)

    I’m not an expert on cars, but some of the older cars had real style. The Buick was nice.

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  2. Those Minolta shots are super.

    I sympathize with your Tourist experience. I’ve had several cameras like that which just would not cooperate. Given the price of film these days, the wisdom of continuing to work with an unpromising camera seems dubious. If you still harbor any interest in the Tourist, my suggestion would be to ignore the the widest f-stop. Most of those old Kodaks work best at f16 and smaller, so it makes sense to use 400 ASA film along with long exposures on a tripod. With 6×9 negatives, you are not going to see any grain with speedier film and you’ll get a better range of tonalities. Of course, there are still the issues of pinholed bellows, film-scratching imperfections and all kinds of other complications. Then again, you’ve obviously got to be a little crazy to get involved in this at all.

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    • I’ve always stuck with films of speeds in line with what was available when cameras like my Tourist were new, as I was going for the full vintage experience. But perhaps it’s time to change my strategy and switch to ISO 400 film if for no other reason but to make these cameras more flexible.

      Honestly, if it weren’t for the complications, this would be somewhat less fun.

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  3. ryoko861 says:

    Even though the Tourist didn’t come through, it’s still a pretty camera. They’re like models. Some shouldn’t open their mouths. They’re there just for their looks.

    “Second Presbyterian Church”? Is there a third anywhere? I often wondered if there was ever a “second”…now I know.

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  4. I dunno, the pictures from the Tourist look very “old timey”. Makes it look like our building was built in 1902 or something. I would take pictures of the most modern, cutting edge things I could find with the Tourist, just to make tasty anachronisms. Like supercomputers, a 787 Dreamliner, maybe a rocket launch if you can swing it. Oh! Maybe can you take a picture of “the cloud”?

    Seriously though, that jelly bean in Chicago — that’d make a nice anachronism!

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    • The Tourist’s lens is a little soft, giving everything a dreamy quality. Maybe that’s what makes the photos seem old-timey!

      I’ve shot the Bean in Chicago, but with my digicam. It’s a great subject!

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  5. Lovely photos. I have a number of film cameras myself and like to take them out from time to time. I had a Yashica Mat 124G, TLR. Unfortunately, I sold it. It was always a cool camera to shoot with. It was a real old-timer and caused many heads to turn. Your Hi-Matic photos turned out great!

    Regarding the improvement, isn’t it nice to go back after a time and have a look and see such good progress?

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    • I’d like to own a 124 one day. It’s on my list! It is great to see how much I’ve improved in the past few years since I started actually trying to take good photos.

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