Our granddaughter came over one sunny Sunday morning not long ago, so I got out my Yashica-D and loaded my first roll of the new 120 Kodak Gold 200 into it. I shot the whole roll that morning.
My wife brought our granddaughter into the yard to plant some annuals into larger pots. Whatever Grandma is doing, our granddaughter wants to do it too!
I took one meter reading in this well-shaded area and made all of my shots here using it, knowing that Gold’s wide exposure latitude would cover any minor variations in light from shot to shot. I shot these at f/5.6 or f/8, which in this light yielded a shutter speed too slow to freeze motion.
I attached my Spiratone close-up kit and photographed some flowers in our yard. The phlox I planted last year sent up just a few blooms this year.
Margaret bought a flat of these purple annuals and is putting them in pots as she has time. Some are on the porch and some are on the deck.
When I’ve shot Kodak Gold 200 in 35mm, I’ve gotten colors that are a more saturated than this. But I find this moderate saturation to be pleasing.
It’s easy to see that Kodak Gold 200 in 120 is a good general-purpose color film. I look forward to the four rolls I have remaining.
I assume I’m among many who have jumped on the bandwagon and bought a five-pack of the forthcoming Kodak Gold 200 film in 120. I’m excited to be able to shoot this favorite film in my medium-format cameras.
Kodak is releasing this film to be a less-expensive alternative to its Ektar and Portra films. It’s supposed to retail at 25% less than those films.
I pre-ordered a five pack from B&H for $44.95. B&H sells five packs of Ektar for $52.99, of Portra 160 for $54.95, and of Portra 400 for $59.95. The new Kodak Gold 200 costs between 15% and 25% less than those films, so Kodak has almost achieved its pricing goal.
However, I do not find the new 120 Kodak Gold 200 to be an inexpensive film. With tax and shipping, my order came to $53.20, or $10.64 a roll. I favor films that cost $5 to $7 a roll. I can buy several black-and-white films in and near that price range, which is why I’ve shot a lot of black and white in my medium-format cameras lately.
Regardless, I’m eager to try Kodak Gold 200 especially in my old box cameras. I hope it works as well as Ektar always has for me in them. Check out how Ektar performed in my Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model F here, and in my Argus Argoflex Forty here. Kodak Gold 200’s wide exposure latitude gives me great hope for similarly great results.
When the film arrives, I’ll probably test the first roll in one of my Yashica TLRs as a baseline before trying it in simpler cameras.
I have always had a thing for folding cameras. They sure look impressive to me! But many of them are low-end cameras with limited capabilities. I wanted a usable, versatile shooter, so I went looking for a folder with a fast and well-regarded lens. I found it in the Kodak Monitor Six-20.
The Monitor is near the pinnacle of Kodak folding cameras, second only to the rare and expensive (even now) Kodak Super Six-20. Produced from 1939 to 1948, versions of the Monitor were made for 616 and 620 film. Regular 620 Monitors came with an f/4.5 Kodak Anastigmat lens at 103 or 105 mm and a Kodamatic or Flash Kodamatic shutter that operated from 1/10 to 1/200 sec.
For more money, however, you could get a 101 mm f/4.5 Anastigmat Special lens, which is a four-element Tessar design. It was coupled to a Supermatic or Flash Supermatic shutter that operated from 1 to 1/400 sec. My Monitor is one of these. The CAMEROSITY code in the lens’s serial number tells me mine’s from 1946. I gather that Kodak started coating, or Lumenizing in their lingo, this camera’s lens that year, which made them perform better. My Monitor’s lens is marked with a circled L, meaning it’s Lumenized.
Monitors also came with double-exposure prevention and automatic film spacing so you couldn’t wind beyond the next frame, both mighty nice features in those days.
All of these goodies cost, of course. The Kodak Monitor Six-20 with the Anastigmat Special lens was $66, which is equivalent to about $1,000 today.
The Monitor comes with two viewfinders. The first is a brilliant type, attached to the lens assembly. It’s small and reverses the image left to right, making it challenging to use. The other finder flips up on the top plate. It is big and bright, and includes manual parallax compensation.
To use the Monitor, first cock the shutter with the little lever next to the brilliant viewfinder. Guess the distance to the subject and turn the lens barrel to that number of feet. Then frame the shot and press the shutter button on the top plate.
If you like folding cameras, I’ve reviewed several others, including the Voigtländer Bessa (here), the Kodak Tourist (here), the Certo Super Sport Dolly (here), the Ansco B2 Speedex (here), the Kodak Junior Six-16 Series II (here), and the giant No. 3A Autographic Kodak (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
For my first outing with the Monitor I loaded Kodak Ektachrome E100G slide film. I paid through the nose for this film as I bought it pre-respooled onto 620 spools. In retrospect, I should have started with inexpensive black-and-white film, as I had trouble learning this camera’s ways and buggered most of the first roll. “Why won’t this thing fire? …oh.”
So I shrugged, loaded more expensive E100G, and kept going. When I worked the Monitor properly, it delivered excellent sharpness and color.
The Monitor has a clever winding system that stops when you reach the next frame. A lever on the top plate has two settings: WIND and 1-8. After you load the film, slide the lever to WIND and, using the red window on the camera back, wind to the first frame. Then move the lever to 1-8. For the rest of the roll, the winder knob stops when you’ve wound to the next frame.
On my first roll, this system didn’t work quite right and I ended up with overlapping frames. If the same happens to you, just leave WIND/1-8 lever on WIND. Then you can wind freely just like on any other folding or box camera. You just use the red window on the back to see when you’ve wound to the next frame. You do need one extra step here, though: to override the Monitor’s double-exposure protection. Just move the lever underneath the pop-up viewfinder to unlock the shutter.
My Monitor has another common Monitor problem: pressing the shutter button doesn’t actually fire the shutter. The real shutter release is on the lens housing. A complex linkage between button and release is prone to misalignment. The best solution is to screw a cable release into the socket on the lens housing. What I did was just stick my finger behind the lens and trip the shutter manually. Then I pressed the shutter button to release the winding mechanism so I could wind to the next frame.
On this second roll of E100G, I shot the Monitor on a tripod. I was quite a sight toting my kit through the Broad Ripple neighborhood for these photographs! The Monitor had to come off the tripod for this photo, which because of its lovely color is my favorite of all the E100G shots I made.
I came upon some expired Kodak Gold 200, probably among the last Kodak made in 620 before discontinuing the format. It came along on a trip to Bridgeton to see the covered bridge. Unfortunately, the processor goofed and developed this film in black-and-white chemistry. I like this shot best, which I cropped square because its native 2:3 ratio was less interesting.
I made one other successful photo here, but buggered up the whole rest of the roll thanks to shake caused by the way I was firing the shutter.
After I returned home, I finished the roll on familiar subjects. This photo tells a lot about the Anastigmat Special lens’s capabilities. The sharpness and definition are wonderful, but despite the Lumenized coating, the lens is still prone to a little ghosting.
I mounted the Monitor on a vintage tripod and displayed it in my home for several years. I think this camera is gorgeous and I loved looking at it. But it’s a shame to own cameras I don’t use. So I spooled some Ilford FP4 Plus onto a 620 spool and took the Monitor out to play.
Ilford film in a Kodak camera? Scandalous! But the combination worked well. By this time I was developing my own black-and-white film. I used LegacyPro L110, a Kodak HC-110 clone, in Dilution B (1+31). Ilford packaging said 8 minutes at 20° C, so that’s what I did. I scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II scanner.
All was not perfect with the Monitor after so many years. The shutter had gummed up a little bit, which I fixed temporarily with a drop of lighter fluid through the cocking-lever slot. Some shots, as above and below, showed signs of further shutter issues or maybe light leaks.
But when the Monitor hit, it hit big. Its lens is still a peach after all these years.
I forget what I paid for my Monitor but it wasn’t more than $50. Today, you are hard pressed to find one with the Anastigmat Special lens for less than $100. You might save money buying the similar Kodak Vigilant Six-20, which could be had with this lens and shutter. It lacks the Monitor’s potentially troublesome winding system, but retains the Monitor’s definitely troublesome shutter linkage.
But the Kodak Monitor Six-20 is a beautiful folding camera, and is a peach to use when it works properly. You won’t be disappointed if you buy one. Mine is in the queue to be sent off for repair so it can shoot well for years to come.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.
This bridge spans the Indianapolis Central Canal on the grounds of Newfields, also known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
It was built in 1873 to span Sugar Creek near Crawfordsville in Montgomery County. It was a two-span bridge. When the bridge was replaced, one span went elsewhere in Montgomery County and this span went unused. After many years, it was moved here and restored.
The Astronaut David Wolf Bridge Kodak Signet 40 Kodak Gold 200 2011
This is the last truss bridge still standing in Indianapolis. It was built in 1941 to carry State Road 100 across the White River. Its two Parker through trusses are bookended by Warren pony trusses.
In 1941, this was way out in the country. The Indianapolis city limits were several miles to the south. But as the city expanded outward, as cities do, eventually this region became suburban, and this road became a major shopping destination. This road, and therefore this bridge, were no longer sufficient for the traffic volume.
Fortunately, sane heads prevailed. When the road was widened to four lanes in the late 1980s, a new two-lane bridge was built alongside this one to carry westbound traffic. This bridge was left in place to carry eastbound traffic. In 2008 it received a thorough restoration. Somewhere along the way, the city of Indianapolis named it after astronaut David Wolf, who was born and raised here.
This is a challenging bridge to photograph given its length and how many strip malls crowd the area. Once I made a through-the-windshield video when I crossed this bridge; you can see it here.
Every time I see a post about the best film camera to start with, the comments pile on. So many different, strong opinions. So many of them recommend a mechanical, manual SLR like the Pentax K1000 or the Minolta SR-T 101.
I think that’s a terrible place for a newbie to start. There’s so much to learn about exposure to use a camera like that. It’s a barrier that could turn a budding film photographer away.
Instead, buy an auto-everything 35mm SLR from late in the film era, around the turn of the century. My favorites are the Nikon N-series cameras, like the N55, N60, and N65. Get one with a lens already attached, preferably a Nikon Nikkor. A 28-80mm zoom lens is common and still useful. You can buy kits like these for $30 on eBay every day. (Read my post here about how to buy film gear on eBay.)
There are some risks. Any used camera could have issues. But I choose these N-series cameras because, in my experience, unless one has been abused it is likely to work reliably.
The other reason I recommend these cameras is that when you twist the big dial atop the camera to Auto, you have a giant point-and-shoot camera. You’ll easily get great first results.
If you try one only to realize that film photography isn’t for you, you’re out very little money. You can probably sell the kit to someone else for what you paid for it!
If you find you like shooting film, keep going with this auto-everything SLR until you feel like you’ve mastered it. Then try a mechanical, manual camera like that K1000 (more info here) or SR-T 101 (more info here).
Here are some photos I made with my Nikon N60 and N65 with my 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6-G AF Nikkor lens, a common one to find with these cameras. I used everyday color films: Fujicolor 200 and Kodak Gold 200, which you can still buy at the drug store. I walked up, twisted the lens barrel to zoom in on the scene, and pressed the button. (My wife shot the last one.) That’s all there is to it.