N. K. Hurst Co.

N. K. Hurst Co.
Reto Ultra Wide and Slim
Fujicolor 200
2022

On the southeast edge of Downtown Indianapolis, in the shadow of Lucas Oil Stadium, stands the original home office of N. K. Hurst Company. You might know Hurst best for their 15-bean HamBeens soup kit. If it’s not available in your local grocery store, you can buy it and all of their other products at their Shopify site.

Hurst’s home office actually isn’t in this building anymore. They moved it to an industrial park on the east side of Zionsville, a suburb northwest of Indianapolis where I live. I drive by it on the way to Aldi, which does not carry HamBeens products.

I remember there being quite a kerfluffle when the land was purchased to build Lucas Oil Stadium. The N. K. Hurst Co. was on the south edge of the overall site. The authority that built the stadium wanted the land to complete a huge parking lot, but N. K. Hurst Co. did not want to give way. I’m sure billable legal hours ensued, but an agreement was reached that saved the building. After all that, a few years later N. K. Hurst. Co. moved its headquarters to Zionsville. The building is now used as an event space called The Heirloom, despite still bearing its N. K. Hurst Co. branding.

I made this photo with the tiny Reto Ultra Wide and Slim. The building’s corner has a slightly upturned look in real life, but something about the camera’s lens or how the film happened to be laying strongly exaggerated the effect.

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Photographs, Preservation

single frame: N. K. Hurst Co.

The original HQ of a bean warehouse.

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Camera Reviews

Reto Ultra Wide and Slim

A Chinese company called Sunpet has had this little 35mm point-and-shoot camera in its catalog for more than 25 years now. Several companies have slapped their names on it and sold it. The best-known company is Vivitar, who may have been the first to sell it back in the mid-late 1990s. So branded, it became a well-loved, almost cult classic. That’s certainly why so many other companies have sold this camera — they’re trying to cash in. Most recently, the Reto Project in Hong Kong has reissued this camera as the Reto Ultra Wide and Slim.

Reto Ultra Wide and Slim

Reto’s release of this camera created quite a buzz in 2022, especially given its $29 list price. That’s barely more than the cost of one roll of film and processing these days. I’m not normally one to jump on bandwagons, but I bought one of these the moment I could. Fellow photoblogger Mike Connealy does terrific work with his Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim (see some of it here), and I wanted a piece of that action.

Reto Ultra Wide and Slim

But I’ve buried the lede. What sets this inexpensive, fixed-focus, plastic camera apart is its extremely wide lens: 22mm at f/11. It’s set in a 1/125 second single-blade leaf shutter. The lens has a surprisingly sophisticated design, given this camera’s price, with one acrylic element in front of the shutter and another behind it. Also, baffles inside the camera’s film door forces the film to curve. This combination results in remarkably low-distortion images. The lens delivers some softness and vignetting in the corners, however.

Reto Ultra Wide and Slim

At 3 7/8″ x 2 1/4″ x 1″, the Ultra Wide and Slim is about the same size as the tiny Olympus XA. But the XA is a heavyweight compared to the feather-light Ultra Wide and Slim. This all-plastic, all-mechanical camera weighs just 2½ ounces!

The Reto Ultra Wide and Slim is available in five colors: charcoal, cream, pastel pink, muddy yellow, and murky blue. I went with the murky blue.

I’ve shot a number of point-and-shoot cameras over the years. Check out my reviews of the Canon Snappy 50 (here) and Snappy S (here), the Kodak VR35 K40 (here) and K12 (here), the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here), and the Olympus Stylus (here) and Trip 500 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

My first roll of film in the Ultra Wide and Slim was some expired ISO 200 Ferrania color negative stock with Kroger branding that I picked up cheap. The images showed the grain and color shifts consistent with expired film. But just look at how much of the scene the Ultra Wide and Slim captured!

Down the street

Here’s a look down Main Street in Zionsville. It took me a couple of rolls to start to get the hang of this wide lens, and avoid having so much uninteresting foreground in my images.

Down the brick street

Just look at how straight all the lines are in this straight-on shot.

Blue garage

I kept going with a roll of Fomapan 400. In retrospect, I wish I had chosen HP5 Plus or Tri-X for the huge exposure latitude they offer. Several of the images I made on this film were badly misexposed.

Through the windshield, Downtown Indianapolis

The winder is the cheapest-feeling aspect of this camera. It makes quite a ratchety noise when you use it. On this roll of film I felt it tearing sprocket holes as it wound the first five or so frames.

Mailboxes

The film counter is hard to read. It’s not just that the numbers are small and my eyes are more than 50 years old. The plastic magnifying bubble over the numbers does more to distort those numbers than to magnify them. That bubble also reflects light, which further obscures the numbers. Finally, the numbers are printed in a faint red.

Knight

My next roll was some fresh Fujicolor 200. Some say that this camera can struggle to wind toward the end of a 36-exposure roll. I did not find that to be the case at all with this 36-exposure roll, or the 36-exposure roll of Fomapan that I shot.

At the food truck

The Ultra Wide and Slim’s viewfinder isn’t accurate — when I framed this yellow Pontiac, the cars on either side of it were barely in the frame. But then, hardly any point-and-shoot viewfinder is accurate. I don’t know why I expect better after all these years. The viewfinder also has a fisheye effect that the lens itself does not.

Yellow Pontiac

This simple image does a great job of showing how sharp this acrylic lens is. Reto recommends using ISO 100 or 200 film on sunny days, and ISO 400 film on cloudy days, to accommodate the camera’s fixed exposure.

Ellison

Despite the lens’s ultra-wide angle, I still had to tilt the camera to bring some subjects fully into the frame. However, I don’t think I could have managed this image with the 35mm lenses that are common to point-and-shoot cameras. I would have hit the building behind me before I backed up enough.

J. W. Marriott

I had trouble rewinding the first two rolls I shot in this camera. I thought I heard and felt the film leader pass into the cartridge, but when I opened the camera I found a little film was still wound on the takeup spool. A few frames on each roll were ruined because of this. On my third roll, I discovered that the rewind crank had wiggled down a little bit. I pushed it all the way up before I rewound. This time upon rewinding I heard the same steady clicking noise as when I wound the film. When the film came off the takeup spool and was fully in the film canister, the clicking stopped. Aha! So if you rewind this camera but don’t hear that clicking, press the crank/spool firmly back up into the camera.

Statues

I am deliberately not showing you the many images I made that featured one or more of my fingers. The lens is so wide that if your fingers are on the front of the camera at all, you are likely to see them in your image. By my third roll I had built a habit of holding the camera only around the edges, to eliminate all chance of getting my finger in the lens.

To see more from this camera, check out my Reto Ultra Wide and Slim gallery.

The Reto Ultra Wide and Slim is a blast to use, especially after you learn how to work around its quirks. It’s the kind of camera you want to keep loaded at all times, and slip into your pocket wherever you go. On a full-sun or cloudy-bright day, load this camera with your favorite everyday color film and be ready for some fun shooting.

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

Pentax ME SE

You have to wonder why Pentax went to the trouble to offer the Pentax ME SE. After all, it was the same camera as the Pentax ME save two tiny details. One of those details is obvious by inspection: smooth brown leather on the body instead of textured black leather.

Pentax ME SE

The other differing detail is inside the viewfinder: on the focusing screen, the split screen is canted at -45 degrees. The regular ME’s split screen is horizontal. The canted split screen eliminates needing to rotate the camera when the subject’s lines are primarily horizontal, which is nice.

Pentax ME SE

Otherwise, the ME SE’s specs are identical to the ME’s. It works with films from ISO 12 to 1600 and allows exposures from 8 seconds to 1/1000 second through its electronic shutter. You can adjust exposure up to two stops in either direction by setting a dial around the rewind crank. Its hot shoe syncs at 1/100 sec. Two silver-oxide SR44 button batteries power the ME SE. Without them, the shutter operates only at 1/100 sec and at bulb.

Pentax ME SE

Also like the regular ME, this camera operates only in aperture-priority autoexposure mode, and it lacks depth-of-field preview. This camera was aimed squarely at the amateur.

To use the Pentax ME SE, turn the dial atop the camera to AUTO. Set your aperture on the lens. Then look through the viewfinder, frame your subject, and focus. Press the shutter button down partway. A red light appears next to the shutter speed the ME SE’s meter chose. If the red light appears next to OVER or UNDER, adjust the aperture until the meter can select one of the shutter speeds. Of course, if you get a shutter speed slower than about the inverse of your lens’s focal length, you should mount the camera on a tripod to avoid shake.

Pentax produced these cameras from 1976 to 1979, but you could buy them new out of existing stock through at least 1984. They commonly came in a kit with the 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens for a street price of about $120. That’s equivalent to about $330 today, making this camera a solid bargain when new.

If you like compact SLRs, see my reviews of the original Pentax ME (here), the Olympus OM-1 (here), and the Nikon FA (here). If you like Pentax SLRs, see my reviews of the K1000 (here), the KM (here), the Spotmatic SP (here), the Spotmatic F (here), the ES II (here), and the H3 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

My regular Pentax ME has long been my favorite SLR. It’s so light and easy to carry, and I strongly favor aperture-priority shooting. When I found my ME’s meter to be dead last fall, I faced a choice. I could either have my well-used, somewhat battered body repaired, or buy a lightly-used, working body. I decided upon the latter, and soon came upon this clean and minty ME SE. The seller had even just replaced all of the light seals. I paid $105, including shipping, which is a lot more than I normally pay for any camera. But I am entering into a long-term relationship and was willing to pay for a body in very good nick.

To test the camera I mounted the delightful 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens and loaded some Kodak Ultramax 400. I set the camera’s ISO to 200 because I love the look of Ultramax 400 overexposed by a stop.

Autumn in the suburbs on the Pentax ME SE

The ME SE feels just like the ME in the hand, except that the ME SE’s smooth leather feels a great deal nicer than the ME’s nubby black leather. It gives me an “ahhhhh!” moment every time I pick it up.

Metamora, Indiana on the Pentax ME SE

I kept going with a roll of Fomapan 200, which I rated at 125 and developed in Ilford ID-11 stock.

Rushville, IN on the Pentax ME SE

Just like the regular ME, the ME SE’s winder feels a little ratchety. The similarly sized Olympus OM-1 or -2’s winder is a lot smoother. The shutter button feels good, however, with a smooth, short travel.

Rushville, IN on the Pentax ME SE

The ME SE’s viewfinder is surprisingly large and bright, which adds to the joy of using this camera.

Brookville, IN on the Pentax ME SE

Next I mounted the underappreciated 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens and loaded some expired Agfa Agfacolor Vista 400 film. I shot it at box speed — I should have rated it at 200 or 100. This was the best-exposed image on the roll.

Construction scene on the Pentax ME SE

I shot the ME SE all over Indiana on various trips. Because of its size and weight, it’s an easy companion.

Carmel statue on the Pentax ME SE

Finally I took the ME SE along on a trip up the Michigan Road toward South Bend, fresh Fujicolor 200 aboard. I mounted a 35-70mm f/4 SMC Pentax-A lens I had just bought.

Rees marquee on the Pentax ME SE

This fat lens made the ME SE front heavy and thus less pleasant to shoot. Mount a prime onto the ME SE (or the regular ME) and you have a light, balanced kit.

1949 Buick Super on the Pentax ME SE

To see more from this camera, check out my Pentax ME SE gallery.

I love the Pentax ME SE, just as I have loved the Pentax ME for many years now. I recommend these bodies every chance I get. They’re still relatively inexpensive on the used market, and they let you mount the entire range of terrific Pentax manual-focus lenses. What’s not to love?

Postscript: I got out my regular ME the other day to decide what to do with it. I decided to try another fresh battery just for the heck of it — and the meter lit right up. The camera works just fine. I have no idea why I couldn’t make it work before. Now I have two working ME bodies!

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

First impressions: 35-70mm f/4 SMC Pentax-A zoom lens

For the walking-around photography I often do, I like 28-80mm or 35-70mm zoom lenses. They’re like having three or four prime lenses on hand, but without having to dismount one lens to mount another. Their maximum apertures aren’t as wide as the primes they replace — f/3.5 or f/4, rather than f/1.7 or f/1.4. Fortunately, I commonly shoot at f/8 to f/16 when I’m walking about in daylight, so that’s no big deal.

I’ve long wanted such a zoom lens for my manual-focus Pentax SLRs. I recently bought a 35-70mm f/4 SMC Pentax-A lens because I got a good one at a good price ($44 shipped) on eBay. I liked that it was a twist zoom rather than a pump zoom. I find twist zooms to handle a little more easily.

I took my Pentax ME SE and this lens along on a recent road trip up the Michigan Road to South Bend. Unfortunately, the lens made the ME SE front heavy, which detracted from this camera’s usual easy handling. I probably should have mounted it to my larger and heavier Pentax KM instead. But what was done was done, and I pressed on with a fresh roll of Fujicolor 200. Still, I always carried this kit in my hand, strap dangling. That tells me it wasn’t too heavy.

This lens suffers from a common malady among short-range zoom lenses: barrel distortion at the wide end. This photo shows it a little.

Liquor store

Fortunately, that’s easy enough to correct in Photoshop, which I did on all of the rest of the images so affected.

Purple building in Plymouth

The lens doesn’t stay perfectly focused when you zoom. The amount of needed refocusing is tiny, however. You don’t need to correct it except when depth of field is shallow.

Sycamore Row

At 70mm, this lens focuses to four inches. What a nice touch.

Stars

On this photo, the sun was off to my left and created a little flare. I suppose I could look for a hood to fit this lens’s 58mm filter threads.

State Theater, Logansport

I am satisfied with the lens’s sharpness.

Michigan Road historic marker

The 35-70mm f/4 SMC Pentax-A is a solid, well-made lens. My copy is still well screwed together and tight. It handled and performed adequately.

Mobilgas

This was the fourth roll of film I put through this Pentax ME SE, which I bought somewhat impulsively as I have a perfectly good regular Pentax ME. I’ll review the ME SE soon.

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Wrigley building

Between the Wrigley Building towers
Minolta Maxxum 5
35-70mm f/4 Maxxum AF Zoom
Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
2022

I’m fascinated with the Wrigley Building in Chicago. You’ll find it on Michigan Avenue, on the west side of the street, just north of the Chicago River. The building has two towers connected by an arched pedestrian walkway. This creates a courtyard of sorts, one of concrete rather than of grass, between the towers. I find this to be a stunning view and I love to photograph it.

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Photographs

single frame: Between the Wrigley Building towers

Between the towers of Chicago’s Wrigley Building.

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Camera Reviews

Kodak Retina Ia

Kodak’s mission was to bring photography to the masses. They succeeded by cranking out millions of inexpensive cameras. But Kodak really invested in its Retina line when they introduced it in 1934. Made in Germany of German components, the Retina was meant to compete with, or at least carry some of the cachet of, Leicas, Voigtländers, and Zeiss-Ikons. The Retina became Kodak’s most celebrated camera. Naturally I was Retina-curious. My first Retina was this Kodak Retina Ia (one-a).

Kodak Retina Ia

The 1951-54 Retina Ia (“Type 015” in Retina-speak) was the entry-level Retina, which improved upon an earlier Retina I (“Type 013”). The Ia’s most obvious improvement was its winding lever; the I had a knob. This Ia features the Synchro-Compur shutter with a top speed of 1/500 sec. and a coated 50mm f/3.5 Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenar lens. Other lenses were available on the Ia, including an f/2.8 Retina-Xenar and an f/2.8 Kodak Ektar. Early examples offered a Compur Rapid shutter.

Kodak Retina Ia

A defining and endearing feature of the Retina through about 1959 is that they fold open and closed. The bellows is tiny, but it’s there. When closed, you can put it in a coat pocket — but be ready for your coat to hang funny, because this camera is heavy.

Kodak Retina Ia

There was no mistaking that this is a Kodak Retina; the back cover makes it pretty obvious.

If you’re into Retinas, also check out my reviews of the Retina IIa (here), the Retina IIc (here), the Retina Reflex IV (here), and the Retina Automatic III (here). Other surprisingly capable Kodaks include the Pony 135, Model C (here), the Monitor Six-20 (here), and the Brownie Starmatic (here). Or check out all the cameras I’ve ever reviewed, here.

I put a couple rolls of Fujicolor 200 through my Retina Ia. I decided to “go commando” and use the Sunny 16 rule to guess exposure: on a bright, sunny day, set the camera to f/16 and the shutter to about the inverse of your film’s speed. The Retina’s shutter doesn’t have a 1/200 sec. setting, but it does have 1/250 sec., so I just used that. The photos all turned out right enough that minor tweaking in Photoshop made them look fine. Here’s the cart path on the golf course behind my house.

Golf path

This shot is from the cemetery behind my church, on this land since 1839.

North Liberty Cemetery

My dogs are always easy subjects. Meet Gracie and Sugar. The Ia’s viewfinder is teeny tiny, making it challenging to frame subjects. I thought I had my doggos centered in the frame, but they wound up noticeably left of center. That viewfinder is itty bitty, and it’s hard to frame accurately with it. I cropped the photo to fix that.

Gracie and Sugar

My car is another easy subject. Toyota Matrix owners all know it: it’s so easy to lose wheel covers on this car. That Schneider-Kreuznach lens delivers good color and sharpness.

Red Matrix

For my second roll of Fujicolor 200 I stayed right in my yard. I didn’t have my car repainted — I bought a new one in blue. I’m a giant fan of Toyota Matrixes. And there’s Gracie just hanging out.

Front yard with dog

One challenge I always have with a manual-everything camera is remembering to set all the settings. On about half the photos on this roll I forgot to focus. D’oh! I remembered to focus this shot, where the lens was as wide open as the light would allow it to be so I could get a blurred background.

Matrix tail

This shot of the back of my house shows the resolution and detail this Schneider-Kreuznach lens delivers.

Deck

We’ll wrap this slideshow with a photo of my pal Gracie. The house across the street had been abandoned for a few months when I made this; gotta remember to choose my backgrounds better.

Gracie

To see more from this camera, check out my Kodak Retina Ia gallery.

The results I got from this Retina Ia helped me see why the Retina line remains well respected among collectors today. But its tiny viewfinder and lack of focusing and exposure assistance helped me see why collectors prefer Retinas II and III.

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