Collecting Cameras

My camera cabinet

For the 40-plus years I’ve collected cameras, I’ve kept most of them in boxes that I stored in closets and under the bed. For years I’ve dreamed of storing them all in a single, visible, easily accessed place. I’ve just fulfilled that dream by buying this cabinet.

This would not have been possible had I not said goodbye to so many cameras in Operation Thin the Herd. I would have needed at least three cabinets this size to store all of the cameras I owned!

Here’s a tour of my camera cabinet! I said everything here off the cuff so forgive me for calling my Olympus Trip 35 an Olympus Trip 75!

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Collecting Cameras

Operation Thin the Herd: Certo Super Sport Dolly

Statue before the big house

Yes, Operation Thin the Herd is still running. The pace has slowed to a crawl, however. I’ve been distracted by cameras donated to the collection since this project began, which is a wonderful problem to have. I’ve also wanted to shoot some of the cameras I’ve kept in this project! But back to it at last, down to the last few cameras. This time I’m considering my Certo Super Sport Dolly, a folding camera for 120 film.

Certo Super Sport Dolly

I used this camera last not long after it was given to me. It needed some repair to work properly, including patching pinholes in the bellows and replacing a broken focus-stop ring. But once repaired, it worked well. Here, I shot some Kodak Ektar 100 in it.

Test

The Super Sport Dolly gave me great sharpness from corner to corner. The colors are a little strange, but that isn’t unexpected with an uncoated lens. This camera is from the late 1930s, before lens coating was a thing. This lens is the 75mm f/2.9 Meyer Görlitz Trioplan, a three element, three group design based on the Cooke triplet. It’s set in a Compur shutter that operates from 1 to 1/250 second.

For this outing I loaded some Ilford FP4 Plus, which I developed in Rodinal 1+50 and scanned on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. I got unexpected results.

Ampitheater

The light leak is back, but that’s not surprising as my bellows repair consisted of dabbing black fabric paint onto the pinholes. That lasts only so long. The leak shows up in only a couple frames because I closed the camera between many of these shots.

Silos

But check out that vignetting. I didn’t experience that at all with the other rolls of film I’ve put through the Super Sport Dolly. Who knows why it’s showing up now. (I cropped the vignetting out of some of the photos that follow.)

Ampitheater

I also didn’t get the same sharpness I enjoyed before. My scanning might be to blame; I’m still figuring out how to get the best results from my scanner.

Shadows

But man, did I have fun shooting the Super Sport Dolly. I can’t say the same with many other old folders that I’ve used. The Super Sport Dolly is small and light compared to many other old folders. Its f/2.9 lens and 1/250 shutter might not strike you as blazing fast, but I’ve encountered a lot of old folders have limited use except in blazing sunshine due to specs like f/6.3 and 1/100. The Super Sport Dolly’s pop-up “frame” viewfinder offers easy framing, where many old folders have small, hard-to-read brilliant viewfinders. Finally, the Super Sport Dolly takes 120 film, rather than a defunct format like 620 or 116.

Shadows

I normally keep cameras that work very well and, ideally, are in very good cosmetic condition. This Certo Super Sport Dolly doesn’t clear this bar. But I enjoy it enough that it doesn’t matter. I already want to shoot it again.

Verdict: Keep

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Collecting Cameras

Kodak Retina IIa with a Rodenstock lens

Earlier this year I shot a Kodak Retina IIa that a reader gave me. It was my second Retina IIa; I let the first one go in Operation Thin the Herd.

Both of these Retinas featured the 50mm f/2 Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon lens. Kodak also made the IIa with a 50mm f/2 Rodenstock Retina-Heligon lens.

When I shared photos from my more recent IIa I remarked that I’d never seen a Rodenstock-equipped IIa. Craig VanDerSchaegen emailed me photos of his Rodenstock IIa and gave me permission to share them here.

In comparison, this is my first Retina IIa. Its Compur-Rapid shutter dates it to the first few months of 1951, early in the production run. Kodak switched to Synchro-Compur shutters after that.

Kodak Retina IIa
Kodak Retina IIa

Thanks Craig for letting me share your Retina IIa! Craig suggested to me that he’s open to finding a new home for his IIa. If you’re interested, I can put you in touch.

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Collecting Cameras

Talking camera collecting with Henry

A budding young camera collector named Henry bought a Polaroid J66 and, as he researched it, found my post on this camera. He’s working with an organization called Happen, Inc., a nonprofit arts organization that works with kids on creative projects. They reached out to me on this fellow’s behalf and arranged a video interview between us about collecting old film cameras, which went live today. I thought you might enjoy seeing it!

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Collecting Cameras

Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C

It’s a Kodak box camera that’s not a Brownie: the Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C.

Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C

The Hawk-Eye or Hawkeye name is strongly linked to Kodak. Indeed, Kodak first made cameras with that name in 1899. But that’s only because Kodak bought the Blair Camera Company that year, which had bought the Boston Camera Company in 1890. Boston made the first Hawk-Eyes, box cameras for glass plates.

When Kodak took over, Hawk-Eyes became box cameras in the Brownie tradition. As best as I can suss out, the line began in 1913 with three models: one without a model letter, the Model B, and the Model C. They are all typical cardboard boxes covered in leatherette, producing eight 6×9 cm negatives on 120 film. The unlettered model and, it looks like, the Model B both offered two viewfinders, one in portrait and one in landscape orientation, and two apertures selected by a pull-up tab on the camera’s top. All three cameras presumably use the same meniscus lens, which is is probably at f/11 or f/16 (though I don’t know how the aperture control constrains that). The rotary shutter probably operates at about 1/30 second.

Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C

The Model C took away the landscape viewfinder and the aperture selector, probably making it the least expensive No. 2 Hawk-Eye. The only control on the camera is the shutter lever. Whichever position you find it in, up or down, you move it to the other position to make a photograph.

Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C

I couldn’t find out when Kodak stopped the original run of this camera in the US. I do know that Kodak also made this camera in the UK from 1926 to 1934. Mine’s one of those, as evidenced by the seal on the back that reads, “Made in Great Britain / Kodak Limited.”

Kodak also made this camera with colored leatherette. I’ve seen them in brown, blue, burgundy, red, maroon, and green, and with at least three different patterns embossed into the leatherette.

In the US, Kodak reissued this camera on the company’s 50th anniversary in 1930, in brown leatherette with a silver foil badge on the side noting the anniversary. They made a whopping 550,000 of them through 1934. I have one of those, too; a review is coming soon.

If you like box cameras, I’ve reviewed a bunch: the Ansco B-2 Cadet (here), the Ansco Shur Shot (here), the Kodak No. 2 Brownie in both Model D (here) and Model F (here), and the Kodak Six-20 Brownie (here). Or see all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded Kodak T-Max 100 into this old box and took it for a spin. I developed the film in Rodinal, diluted 1+50, and scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. All of these images got a little sharpening and contrast enhancement in Photoshop. I rotated the image below to be level. The rest I left at whatever cockeyed angle I managed thanks to the small, dim viewfinder.

House in midafternoon sun

Holding the camera level was the biggest challenge of using this camera. When the subject had one large, strong element, I had an easier time of it because it was so obvious in the viewfinder. The tree was that element in this image.

Tree shadow

You’d think you could just hold the camera up and turn it on its side to get a landcape oriented image. Unfortunately, the image in the viewfinder turns upside down when you do that. It’s hard enough to frame a subject in the itty bitty viewfinder. It’s nearly impossible to do it with the image upside down.

Suburban street

All of the images were soft with low contrast. I’ve seen far better results from other Kodak boxes with meniscus lenses. Shake was also a problem on a couple frames. As slow as the No. 2 Hawk-Eye’s shutter is, I’m surprised shake didn’t affect more photos.

VW in the driveway

Conventional wisdom with simple cameras like this is to always have the sun behind you when you make a photo. The No. 2 Hawk-Eye enforces it by making the viewfinder wash out unless the sun is behind you and therefore your body is blocking it.

Statuette

See more from this camera in my Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C, gallery.

This Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C, is a gift to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras. I thank the fellow who donated it. He’s a longtime professional photographer and camera collector who retired a couple years ago and sent me a box full of goodies when he cleared out his studio.

It’s always fun to shoot an old box, and this time was no exception. I favor my two Kodak No. 2 Brownies, however. They both have portrait and landscape viewfinders, and their lenses are sharper and deliver more contrast.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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