Camera Reviews

Olympus OM-4T

Early in my career I wrote instruction manuals for software. Users would frequently call tech support to ask questions that could answer for themselves would they only Read The F$#@ing Manual, or RTFM. Despite this, I almost always put film into a new-to-me old camera without RTFM. I get away with it most of the time. I did not when I shot this Olympus OM-4T.

Olympus OM-4T

The OM-4T, known as the OM-4Ti in some markets, was the last of the professional-grade cameras in Olympus’s wonderful OM series. Olympus introduced it in 1986 and manufactured it through 2002, making it among the last manual-focus 35mm SLRs produced. It’s a terrific camera — after you RTFM to learn how to use it.

Olympus OM-4T

It’s solidly made with titanium top and bottom plates, yet it manages to be light and easy to carry. Like all OM-series cameras, it’s small. It’s well featured, beginning with an electronically controlled cloth focal plane shutter with a top speed of 1/2000 sec. and a slowest speed of 1 sec. in manual mode and up to 2 minutes in aperture-priority mode. It meters through the lens in center-weighted average and three spot modes. The viewfinder includes dioptric correction for those of us with aging eyes. An innovative new electronic flash control system allowed flash sync from 1/60 to 1/2000 sec.

Olympus OM-4T

The OM-4T takes films of ISO 6 to 3200. Here’s where it’s important to RTFM. Like many SLRs, the ISO setting is around the rewind knob. It only looks like the ISO selector on so many other SLRs — it doesn’t work like them. You lift the collar on the outer knob and twist to select ISO, but unlike every other SLR I’ve ever used the exposure compensation setting moves too. After you select ISO — and this is the part where I wish I’d RTFM — you must then lower the collar and twist the exposure compensation setting to where you want it. So nonstandard. I didn’t notice that the exposure compensation was at -2 and proceeded to underexpose my film by two stops Then I loaded some ISO 200 color film and left the ISO set to 100 as I like to overexpose this film by a stop. But because the exposure compensation was still at -2, I underexposed it by one stop. I was ten frames into my third roll of film when I downloaded and read the manual and realized my error. Argh! Thank heavens for the good latitude of the films I shot.

To shoot, move the lever atop the camera to Auto for aperture-priority mode or Manual for manual exposure mode. An LCD display at the bottom of the viewfinder shows exposure information. In manual mode, you’ll see > | < and a row of dashes, along with your shutter speed. It works like a match-needle diaplay: for proper exposure, adjust shutter speed and aperture until the dashes line up with the |. In aperture-priority mode the LCD shows the range of shutter speeds and a row of dashes. Select aperture and press the shutter button down halfway to meter. The row of dashes moves to the shutter speed the OM-4T selects. If the shutter speed would need to be faster than 1/2000 sec, the display shows OVER and the camera beeps.

The star of the OM-4T show is its multi-spot exposure option. I’m not going to get into its full operation here, in no small part because this is a feature I’d hardly ever use. In short: You activate it with the SPOT button next to the shutter button. You can meter up to eight spots and the camera averages them. You can also spot meter for the highlights or for the shadows; the OM-4T then applies exposure compensation to bring out detail.

Two SR44/357 button cells power everything. Glory be, an old camera that takes batteries you can buy at any drug store! Without a battery, you can make a photo but only with a 1/60 sec. shutter.

If you like small 35mm SLRs, also check out my review of the original Olympus OM-1 here, of the OM-2n here, of the Nikon EM here, and of the Pentax ME here. If you’re an Olympus fan, see my reviews of the XA here, the XA2 here, the Stylus here, the Stylus Epic Zoom 80 here, and the mju Zoom 140 here. Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

The first roll I shot in the OM-4T was my last roll of original Agfa APX 100, expired since November of 1998 but stored frozen until my film freezer died last summer. Not only did I shoot this two stops under, but I may have underdeveloped the film. I used Rodinal 1+50, which the Massive Dev Chart said needed 13 minutes at 20° C. That’s what I did, but later I learned that Agfa recommended 17 minutes for this developer and temperature. Argh! But my scanner pulled good things out of a handful of frames.

Masked knight

I made these images as Indiana was reopening from shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home during these times has let me ride my bike more, and I made most of these photos from the bike with the OM-4T slung over my shoulder and across my torso. The body is so light and small it was an easy companion on the bike.

Coneflowers

The viewfinder is big and bright enough for me, even though some other reviewers compare it unfavorably to the OM-1 and OM-2 viewfinders. I found having to look down at the LCD panel to be less comfortable than the needle display on the left side of the OM-2n viewfinder. Also, the LCD was a little laggy. None of this is enough for me to pan the camera. I just liked the OM-2n’s needle better.

Octopi

The camera has no on-off switch, by the way. Pressing the shutter button halfway activates the camera; the LCD wakes up and gives a reading. The camera turns itself off after a while.

One Nine Five

My OM-4T came with a standard microprism/split-image focusing screen. As a system camera, you can swap in any number of other focusing screens if you have them. I prefer split image focusing so I was good go to.

Queen Anne's lace

I live in a suburban vinyl village, but within five minutes on my bike I can be among the farm fields. This old farmhouse probably dates to as early as 1840.

Old farmhouse

I next shot two rolls of Fujicolor 200. I intended to shoot them at EI 100 but because I’d buggered up the exposure compensation setting I actually shot the first roll and ten frames of the second roll at EI 400. It’s a testament to this consumer-grade film that these images all turned out fine. Fulltone Photo did the developing and scanning.

Holliday Road

I made most of these images on a beautiful morning I took off from work. I got on my bike and rode around on country roads four hours. I’ll write a separate post about the red bridge — it’s restored after being mangled by a too-large tractor.

Holliday Road Bridge

Even though I’m a city boy through and through, I deeply enjoy riding out in the country. It’s peaceful, there’s almost no traffic to contend with, and you get to see lots of great old farmhouses.

Farmhouse

I left the 40mm f/2 lens on for this ride. It focuses from 10 inches, making it almost a macro lens.

Chicory

After I RTFMed and set ISO properly on this OM-4T, I mounted a 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko Auto-S lens and shot the rest of the roll on various bike rides over the next week or so. I can’t imagine riding with many of my other 35mm SLRs as they are so much larger and heavier.

Lane to the old house

Except for that laggy viewfinder LCD, the OM-4T handled beautifully. The controls all felt well-made and smooth under use.

NO

Rewinding film on the OM-4T is a little different from on the OM-1 and OM-2. Press in the R button atop the camera next to the shutter button. Then pull up the rewind crank and rewind away.

Coneflowers

See more from this camera in my Olympus OM-4T gallery.

I had a fine time with the Olympus OM-4T. Because I never fully took to the LCD display, it never disappeared in my hands like the OM-2n did. But this camera passes my litmus test: if it were the only one I could own, I’d shrug and get on with making beautiful images with it for the rest of my life.

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

Pentax IQZoom 60

When I heard that the Pentax IQZoom 60 has both a macro mode and an LED display that shows the exact focal length to which you are zoomed, I bought one as soon as I could find one. Those features would be so useful on a point-and-shoot 35mm camera! But they turned out not to be on this camera, not really. Worse, this camera was no fun to use.

Pentax IQZoom 60

The IQZoom 60 has middling specs, starting with a 38-60mm f/4.5-6.7 zoom lens of six elements in five groups. It uses an active infrared autofocus system; its autoexposure system offers no manual override. Its electromagnetic shutter operates from 1/30 to 1/250 second. A zoom range that narrow and a shutter that slow are probably fine for family snapshots and vacation photos.

Pentax IQZoom 60

To load the camera, open the door by pulling down on the lever at left, and then insert the film cartridge on the right, upside down. Pull the film across the takeup spool to the red line and close the door. Turn on the camera by sliding the slider next to the LCD to the middle position. The film winds to the first frame. The IQZoom 60 reads the film canister’s DX code to set ISO from 50 to 1600. If the film has a DX code outside that range, or has no DX code, the camera operates at ISO 100.

Pentax IQZoom 60

The IQZoom 60 focuses from 3.3 feet to infinity. In macro mode, the camera focuses only from a not-that-macro 1.8 feet. To put the camera in macro mode, move the on-off slider to the green flower. The camera zooms to 60mm and a magnifier with a green border pops into the viewfinder. If you compose a subject where nothing is in the macro range, the camera pulls the magnifier out of the viewfinder and focuses from 3.3 feet as normal. That’s a nice touch.

I don’t like the viewfinder. It’s small, and peering into it feels like looking through a toilet-paper tube with a thick piece of glass taped to its end. Inside you’ll find frame lines for normal and parallax-corrected close focusing, but they were hard to see except in blazing, direct sunlight.

To focus, put the thing you want in focus in the center of the viewfinder and press the shutter button halfway. The green light next to the viewfinder glows steady when the camera locks focus; it blinks when the camera can’t lock focus. Once you’ve focused, you can recompose if you want (but keep holding the button halfway down) and then shoot.

As usual with point-and-shoot cameras, the flash is always on and the camera uses it whenever it thinks there’s not enough light. The red lamp next to the viewfinder glows when the flash is ready to fire. You can also press the button under the on/off/macro switch to activate fill flash.

A surprisingly expensive CR-P2 battery powers the IQZoom 60.

Pentax IQZoom 60

I find it exciting that the IQZoom 60 shows you the lens’s focal length as you zoom. I like to use typical prime focal lengths, like 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm, as much as I can. But given the camera’s short zoom range, the only typical prime focal length here is 50mm. I’ll throw in 38mm to be charitable as it’s close enough to 35mm. That’s it. But I’ll bet people in this camera’s target market used the zoom to replace moving closer to or farther away from the subject and didn’t care what the lens’s focal length was.

When Pentax released the IQZoom 60 in 1987, it sold for $324. That’s equivalent to north of $750 today, a lot of money for a middling point and shoot! Pentax stopped production in 1991. In some markets, the camera was called simply the Zoom 60.

If you like 35mm point-and-shoot cameras, check out my review of another in the IQZoom series, the 170SL here. It’s everything this IQZoom 60 wishes it were. Also see my reviews of the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here), the Yashica T2 (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus mju Zoom 140 (here), and the Kodak VR35 K40 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

Even though cameras like this were meant for color film, I loaded black-and-white T-Max 400 into it and took it on a walk around the Broad Ripple neighborhood in Indianapolis. I developed in LegacyPro L110 H (1+63) and scanned on my CanoScan 9000F Mark II with VueScan.

Kimmel's Shoe Repair

As you can see, the IQZoom 60 does good work. The lens is sharp and has no obvious distortion. But that doesn’t mean I liked using this camera.

Rainbow bridge in black and white

I have four complaints about the IQZoom 60. First, that viewfinder, as I described earlier. Second, it’s large for a point and shoot, about the same size as a typical 35mm SLR! Third, it felt clumsy and plasticky in my hand.

Spotted chair

Fourth, the combination shutter-zoom button was rubbery and blubbery. Sometimes I had to press the shutter button twice to get it to fire. That’s a real pet peeve with me — give me buttons that feel solid and sure under my finger.

Kilroy's

Unfortunately, the button to zoom in was dead on this camera. I worked around it by putting the camera in macro mode, which zoomed the lens to the max, and then zooming out from there.

Social distancing

The camera’s so-called macro mode works well enough, though 1.8 feet is hardly macro. I used it in the photos above and below.

Broad Ripple Village

At least the viewfinder is accurate. It’s not on so many 35mm point-and-shoots. That’s another pet peeve of mine. But on the IQZoom 60, if you can manage to see the framing lines, whatever is inside them is actually in the frame, and nothing more.

Monon Bridge

To see more from this camera, check out my Pentax IQZoom 60 gallery.

Pentax’s IQZoom cameras are such a mixed bag. Some are great and others aren’t. The Pentax IQZoom 60 is not great — its negatives far outweigh its positives. I’ve tried one. Now you don’t have to.

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

Olympus OM-2n

I enjoy using my Olympus OM-1 from time to time. My film-photography friends all have encouraged me to get an OM-2 or OM-2n, as it offers all of the OM-1 goodness with aperture-priority exposure, my favorite way to shoot. I held off because I couldn’t find one at a price I was willing to pay. They’re not expensive, not really; you can find good ones for under $100. I’m just a cheapskate. My reticence paid off — a reader recently donated this Olympus OM-2n to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras!

Olympus OM-2n

The OM-1 came first, of course, in 1972. In 1975, Olympus introduced the OM-2, which added an electronic shutter and aperture-priority exposure. Then in 1979, Olympus released the OM-1n and the OM-2n, both of which offered a few improvements over the original models.

The OM-2n is a 35mm SLR featuring an electronic focal-plane shutter operating from 1/1000 sec. to 1 sec. in manual exposure mode and a whopping 120 sec. in aperture-priority mode. It offers through-the-lens metering with a clever inner shutter curtain imprinted with black and white blocks that mimic an average photograph. The meter reads light that bounces off those blocks.

Olympus OM-2n

You set film speed, from ISO 12 to 1,600, with a dial atop the camera next to the winder. Lift the dial and twist until your film speed appears in the window, then lower the dial and twist until the line from the window points at the tick mark. That mark can be hard to see. This dial also lets you adjust exposure by up to two stops in either direction.

Olympus OM-2n

The OM-2 is a system camera with interchangeable focusing screens (see a list here) and interchangeable backs. I know of two backs: a data back (one of which I have but have never used) and a back that lets you shoot up to 250 frames of bulk film. My OM-2n came with a 1-12 cross-hairs screen inside, but also with a smattering of other screens. I found a 1-13 microprism/split-image screen among them and swapped it in.

Unlike the OM-1, the OM-2n needs batteries to work. Without a battery, when you press the shutter button, the mirror stays in the up position. I’ll bet a lot of people think this means the camera is broken! Pro tip: insert two fresh SR-44 batteries and move the switch atop the camera to Reset. The mirror will come right down and you’ll be good to go.

Speaking of batteries, the OM-2n natively takes two silver-oxide SR-44s. It was designed for them. That alone makes the OM-2n a wonderful choice for a film photographer today. So many other old cameras take now-banned mercury batteries and/or batteries of an odd size. You’re stuck ordering silver-oxide or alkaline equivalent batteries online, which carry different voltages than the mercury originals. In theory that could mess up your exposures, although I think that worry is overblown. In contrast, you can buy SR-44 (also known as 357 or 76) batteries at any drug store!

The OM-2n is so pleasant to use! Because it’s small and light, you can sling it over your shoulder and shoot fatigue-free all day. The controls all feel precise and smooth, even luxurious. The OM-2n is solidly built.

If you like small 35mm SLRs, also check out my review of the original Olympus OM-1 here, of the Nikon EM here, and of the Pentax ME here. If you’re an Olympus fan, see my reviews of the XA here, the XA2 here, the Stylus here, the Stylus Epic Zoom 80 here, and the mju Zoom 140 here. Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

For most of my camera reviews I shoot just one roll then write up the camera. But I enjoyed the OM-2n so much that I put three rolls through it. The first one was Kodak T-Max 400 which I developed in LegacyPro L110 Dilution H (1+63).

Masked

This OM-2n came with a bunch of lenses. I tried the 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S first. It’s a delightfully thin and light lens, and it focuses from 10 inches making it almost a macro lens. It handled beautifully on the OM-2n.

I was mugged!

I shot the OM-2n while Indiana was slowly reopening after coronavirus lockdown. We decided to take a walk along Main Street in Zionsville one Thursday to find the street closed to traffic. Tables and chairs were set up for people to buy dinner at local restaurants and eat outside. It felt like too many people in too little space to us, and we didn’t linger.

Dining in the street

This camera also came to me with a 21mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto-W lens — yes, that’s right, 21mm. I’ve never shot a lens so wide! I made a few photos with it but will explore it more deeply later.

Down the lane

I loaded good old Fujicolor 200 next and mounted a 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto-Macro lens. This lens lets you focus from 9 inches.

Weathered wood

I shot a lot of flowers on this roll. The OM-2n continued to handle flawlessly. It achieved that holy-grail state of seeming to disappear in my hands — I composed, focused, and shot fluidly, as if the camera were an extension of my eye.

White with a touch of pink

My, but do I love moving in close with a camera. This suncatcher hangs in our back door window. My mother-in-law made it.

Suncatcher

This lens is just a peach. Look at that up-close sharpness, and look at that bokeh. Given the hexagonal shape of the light points in the background, you should not be surprised to learn that this lens has six aperture blades.

Tiki

A 50mm macro lens is fine for non-macro photography, as well. I took it on a bike ride around the neighborhood and made a few photos.

Swimming pool

Because the OM-2n offers aperture-priority shooting, it eliminates my top complaint about OM-series cameras: the shutter-speed ring is around the lens mount. Every other major camera maker made it a dial on the top plate next to the shutter button. But shooting aperture priority means I never have to change the shutter speed.

XXX

I made all of these photos during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was fortunate to keep my job and be able to work from home. But my work computer needed service while I was using the OM-2n. I had to take it to the office Downtown for IT to look at it. I loaded another roll of Fujicolor 200 and walked around Downtown after IT fixed my computer. This was a couple weeks after the riots motivated by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In Indianapolis, some windows were broken and there was some looting. Many buildings boarded up their windows as a protective measure.

I used the 40mm lens for this walk. It was a good focal length — wide enough that I didn’t have to back out into the street to get a good look at a scene.

After the protests

I’ll share more from this walk in an upcoming post. I’ll wrap up with this photo of the outside seating at the Downtown Five Guys. A Five Guys cheeseburger is such a calorie bomb, but it is so good.

Five Guys

To see more from this camera, check out my Olympus OM-2n gallery.

The Olympus OM-2n is a fantastic 35mm SLR: compact, light, precise, smooth. The Olympus Zuiko lenses are similarly fantastic optically, and are solidly built with great feel in the hand. If you could have only one manual-focus 35mm SLR, the Olympus OM-2n would be an outstanding choice.

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

Canon Snappy S

In the early 1980s camera makers finally figured out how to make loading 35mm film foolproof. Meanwhile, thanks to the 35mm SLR, 35mm film had taken on the aura of quality photography. These two things finally killed the 126 and 110 film formats and opened the floodgates for 30 years of 35mm point-and-shoot cameras from bare bones basic to highly capable and fully featured. When Canon introduced the Snappy S in 1985, it was among the earliest basic 35mm point-and-shoots.

Canon Snappy S

Canon’s rationale was simple: get Canon quality at an attractive price. On the street these could be had for $50-60, which is about $120-150 today. It offered middling specs, starting with a 35mm f/4.5 lens, a classic triplet of three elements in three groups. Everything from 1.5 feet is in focus. Exposure is automatic, but I couldn’t figure out what kind of system it uses. The shutter operates from 1/40 to 1/250 sec. Flash is integrated, and the camera automatically winds and rewinds film. A red light blinks in the viewfinder when there isn’t enough light. Two AAA batteries power everything. You could get your Snappy S in black, red, green, or yellow.

Canon Snappy S

Mine came to me with the flash broken: plastic cover missing, flash unit dangling. The seller disclosed that, but I didn’t notice it in the listing. The flash even flashed, but I didn’t try it more than once because it didn’t seem quite safe. Also, as I used the camera, the auto-winder got weaker and weaker. The batteries were fresh, so I assume this old, cheap camera is just on its last leg. But it wasn’t objectionable to use that way.

Canon Snappy S

This camera sparked no joy, but there was nothing unpleasant about it. Frame, press the button, off you go. I was a teenager when this camera was new and I would have been perfectly happy with one had I been able to afford one then. It would have been a giant step up from the truly lousy 110 camera that was my main camera.

If you like point-and-shoot cameras, also see my reviews of the Kodak VR35 K40 (here), the Yashica T2 (here), the Canon AF35ML (here), the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), and the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded some Fujicolor 200 into it and took it out into my shrunken world. We were all still encouraged to stay home, or close to home, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. I spent most of my time in the nearby shopping centers looking for colorful subjects.

McAlister's

The Snappy S drank in the color and asked for more.

Wendy's

Everything’s good and sharp.

Denny's

The Snappy S weighs essentially nothing. I wrapped its long strap around my right hand and carried it about easily. In its time, I would have been very pleased to have a camera like this.

Don't order here

All was not perfect with the Snappy S, however. You have to look at the viewfinder perfectly straight on or you will misframe. Here, I thought I had the full Cracker Barrel in the frame.

Cracker Barrel

Here, I thought I had the entire awning over the gas pumps in the frame.

Marathon

Also, the viewfinder is massively inaccurate. I put just the tail end of my car in this frame. Look at how much more the Snappy S actually sees.

VW tail

Also, straight horizontal lines wind up slightly wavy. Notice the line that is the top of this wall.

Meijer

This photo shows it too, especially on the top sill of the garage on the right. Is this a lens aberration? Or does the camera not hold the film perfectly flat?

Utilities

To see more from this camera, check out my Canon Snappy S gallery.

The Canon Snappy S was a pretty good inexpensive point-and-shoot camera in its time. It wasn’t perfect, but I’ll bet most people who bought these neither noticed nor cared.

But because mine has two key issues that spell its imminent demise, I’m about to do something I’ve never done before after reviewing a camera. I’m going to put it into the trash.

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

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

Camera makers tried for decades to create systems that made loading film foolproof. Kodak’s 126 and 110 cartridge formats won the race in the 1960s and 1970s. But 35mm SLR photography took off with pros and advanced amateurs in the 1970s, giving 35mm the cachet of quality. As the 1970s came to an end, camera makers figured there was a big market for 35mm cameras that operated as simply as an Instamatic. They were right. The 1981 Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 is one of the early point-and-shoot 35mm cameras and is a big step toward foolproof operation.

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

The Hi-Matic AF2 lacks three key features that came to define the genre: motor wind, automatic film loading, and automatic ISO setting. Lacking these things doesn’t make the Hi-Matic AF2 a bad choice today, however. It comes with a good Minolta lens, 38mm f/2.8, of four elements in three groups. It offers a limited range of film speeds, from ISO 25 to 400. You set ISO by turning the knurled wheel around the lens.

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

Its active infrared autofocus bounces infrared light off a subject and gauges distance by how long it takes the light to return. It appears to offer two focus zones, one for closer subjects and one for farther subjects. It focuses no closer than 3.3 feet, and the camera bee-bee-beeps when your subject is closer than that. This is a nice feature most point-and-shoots lack. The viewfinder includes close-focus marks for when your subject is between 3.3 and 4 feet. The focus point is in the center of the viewfinder, marked with an oval. To focus, place the subject in the oval and press the shutter button halfway down. Then compose and press the shutter button the rest of the way to take the photo. 2 AA batteries power the camera’s automatic functions and flash.

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

If you have earlier Hi-Matic cameras in mind when you pick up the Hi-Matic AF2, you’re in for a disappointment. This camera is nowhere near as well built. It feels light and plasticky in the hand, and it creaks as you handle it. The controls feel flimsy. When you press the shutter button, the camera coughs a sickly wheeze as it stops the aperture blades down and then activates the shutter. The winder, though it has a delightful short throw, feels like it could break right off. When you turn on the flash, thwack! — the strobe pops up.

Film loading may not be automatic but it is foolproof: stick the leader in the slot on the takeup spool and wind. The film takes right up, no fuss. And winding and rewinding follows the 35mm SLR idiom, with all the controls where you’d expect. Press the button underneath the camera, pop the rewind lever out, and crank, crank, crank.

I haven’t figured out how its autoexposure system works. My theory is that it chooses the narrowest aperture it can for best depth of field. When light is low and it can’t do a shutter speed faster than 1/40 second, it beeps continuously to tell you to turn on the flash.

The camera is also large, at 5x3x2 inches. Within a few years, the 35mm point-and-shoot would start to shrink, eventually to pocketable sizes.

If you like point-and-shoot cameras, also see my reviews of the Kodak VR35 K40 (here), the Yashica T2 (here), the Canon AF35ML (here), the Pentax IQZoom 170SL (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus mju Zoom 140 (here), and the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

We were still locked down thanks to COVID-19 when I shot this camera. So I loaded it with Fujicolor 200 and took it on walks to places I could get to and back during my lunch hours while I worked from home.

Wendy's

The nearby shopping centers are full of in-your-face color. They make a surprisingly good place to test a camera with color film.

Old Navy

The parking lots are mostly empty thanks to COVID-19, making it easy to approach the subjects. This also makes it far less likely for me to be accosted by shopping-center security.

Big O is Open

Red, blue yellow, orange — the Hi-Matic AF2’s lens rendered them all bold and true on Fujicolor 200.

Qdoba

Look at the lovely dusky colors I got as the sun went down outside my back door!

Evening over the Toyota dealer

I shot the rest of the roll around my neighborhood, starting on my front stoop. The too-close beep really helped me make this photo: I backed up until the camera quit beeping.

Flower pots on the stoop

One pet peeve I have with point-and-shoot cameras is inaccurate viewfinders. I centered this car in the viewfinder, but it is shifted left in the image

Red Matrix

To make this photo, I placed the backboard in the viewfinder’s center oval and pressed the shutter down halfway so the camera would focus on it. Turns out it was unnecessary, as with this much light it chose a narrow enough aperture that everything was going to be in focus.

Goal shadow

The Hi-Matic AF2 was a pleasant enough camera to carry despite its size. It was light enough to be unobtrusive. And these results are fine: sharp and colorful, with no distortion.

Clubhouse

To see more from this camera, check out my Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 gallery.

This Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 once belonged to my father-in-law. I found it in the garage while looking for something else. I shot it with Margaret’s permission. My father-in-law chose a simple camera that delivered reliably good results. But for the collector and user today, many point-and-shoot choices offer equally good lenses in smaller packages with more amenities.

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

Kodak Retina Reflex III

From the 1930s through the 1950s, the finest 35mm cameras had built-in rangefinders to take the guesswork out of focusing. But during the 1950s, manufacturers began to introduce 35mm single-lens-reflex (SLR) cameras. The Germans built leaf-shutter SLRs, including Kodak with its 1953 Retina Reflex. Kodak kept improving that basic camera over the next 14 years before getting out of the SLR business. The 1960-64 Kodak Retina Reflex III was the third, and next to last, of the line.

Kodak Retina Reflex III

The Reflex III, which the Retina cognoscenti also know as the Type 041, came with one of several 50mm lenses. Mine features the f/1.9 Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon lens, which focuses to 3 feet. This is an interchangeable lens camera; twist counterclockwise and the lens comes right off. Eight different Schneider-Kreuznach lenses were available, ranging from 28mm to 200mm. Six different Rodenstock lenses were also available, ranging from 30mm to 135mm.

Kodak Retina Reflex III

All Reflex IIIs use a Synchro-Compur shutter that operates from 1 to 1/500 sec. That’s pretty speedy for a leaf shutter. It syncs to flashes via a cable, either M or X sync.

The Reflex III lets you set film ASA from a surprisingly slow 5 ASA to a surprisingly fast 1600 ASA. To set ASA, push up the little thumb lever on the camera back below the ASA/DIN dial that’s on top of the camera, and then turn the knurled setting wheel on the bottom of the aperture/shutter-speed rings until the arrow points to the ASA you want.

Kodak Retina Reflex III

The top plate is remarkably free of controls beyond that ASA setting and a film type reminder on the rewind knob. The shutter button is on the camera’s front. The winder and film counter are on the bottom.

Kodak Retina Reflex III

It’s not obvious how you use this camera, so let me share what I’ve learned. Before you take the first picture, set the film counter. Don’t forget, because when it counts down to zero, the shutter won’t fire. There’s a little slide control near the winder; push it repeatedly in the direction of the arrow until it shows the number of frames on your roll.

To open the camera to load film, twist the control around the tripod socket clockwise to reveal a little chrome button. Push it and the back pops open.

The winder is on the bottom, too. Winding the film cocks the shutter. To rewind, press the little button that’s in the crook of the winder arm and twist the rewind knob on the top plate.

To set exposure, first choose the shutter speed you want by turning the shutter-speed ring on the lens barrel. Then turn the knurled setting wheel until the aperture you want lines up with the shutter speed. If you then change the shutter speed the aperture changes with it, maintaining the chosen exposure. For example, if you set 1/60 sec. at f/8, then turn the shutter-speed ring to 1/125 sec., the aperture shifts to f/5.6. As you do this, two red pips on the focus scale move to show you the depth of field you will get. It’s a neat little system, really.

There’s one last way this camera doesn’t follow the modern SLR idiom. The mirror doesn’t return after you fire the shutter, leaving the viewfinder black. The mirror returns only when you wind to the next frame.

This complex machine is also “whoa, that’s heavy” heavy. It was also startlingly expensive in its day: $248.50 USD, which is equivalent to more than $2,000 today.

You’ll find Retina Reflex IIIs with two different meters on its face, one slightly smaller than the other. The smaller one is on Reflex IIIs from before 1962. Mine has the larger meter. Both meters were made by Gossen, and if you look carefully at the plastic cover you can see Gossen’s name in it.

If you like Kodak Retinas, by the way, I’ve reviewed several: a Ia (here), a IIa (here), a IIc (here), and a Reflex IV (here). I’ve also reviewed a Retinette IA (here) and a Retinette II (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded a roll of Arista EDU 200 into the Retina Reflex III and started shooting. (I developed the roll in Rodinal 1+50 and scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II.) For the majority of shots I left the shutter speed at 1/250 and used Sunny 16 to guess aperture. For the rest I set exposure based on what my phone’s light-meter app reported.

Stained glass

My Retina Reflex III was well used by its original owner, who was my sister-in-law’s father. It came to me with several issues. The ASA setting mechanism on my Retina III may be broken — turning the knurled knob moves both the scale and the selector, at different rates. But the meter is dead in mine, too, rendering that problem moot.

Fence

The coupled aperture-shutter speed setting doesn’t work properly on this camera, either. If I choose 1/500 sec. at f/1.9, and then twist the shutter-speed ring until I reach the minimum aperture of f/22, and then twist the shutter-speed ring back until the aperture is f/1.9 again, my shutter speed is only 1/125 sec. It should go right back to 1/500.

Suburbia

Sometimes after shooting and winding, the aperture blades closed all the way, blocking the viewfinder. I found that releasing the winding lever very slowly often prevented this. When it didn’t, I had no choice but to fire the shutter and wind again. Toward the end of the roll I realized that the camera was probably still making an exposure, so I tried just pointing the camera toward a subject to see what turned out. This is one of those photos.

Entrance

Finally, the focusing ring is stiff, so stiff that I had to be careful in twisting it not to twist the lens off the camera. Focusing was slow going. Of all of this camera’s faults, this is the only one that tried my patience.

Hoop

But after I did the hokey-pokey to set exposure and focus, the Schneider-Kreuznach lens went to work and delivered well.

VW and license plate

I shouldn’t be surprised; I’ve yet to meet a Schneider-Kreuznach lens I didn’t like. Unfortunately, shooting this camera was more frustrating than rewarding.

Tree shadow

See more from this camera in my Kodak Retina Reflex III gallery.

During the 1960s, rangefinder cameras declined sharply in popularity as the SLR took over. The Japanese found the right formula, starting with focal-plane shutters to open up top speeds of 1/1,000, 1/2,000, and even 1/8,000 sec. Their cameras were generally lighter and less complex. They were easier to use and felt good in the hand. Kodak decided not to change with the times, instead exiting the SLR business with the last Retina Reflex IVs in 1967. Kodak leaned hard into its Instamatic cameras and didn’t look back.

I’m not looking back at this Kodak Retina Reflex III, either. It simply has too many issues. But I’m sure that when it was new, once its original owner got the hang of it, he made scads of lovely images with it.

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