Cross this bridge at a walk

Cross this bridge at a walk
Kodak Monitor Six-20 Anastigmat Special
Kodak Gold 200 (expired)
2013

I won’t soon forget the day I made this photograph. Margaret and I were still dating, and I took her to Bridgeton to see the bridge.

Bridgeton had always been a private place for me, a place I go when life has knocked me around hard and I need to reconnect with the good in the world. At first it was because the people of Bridgeton had kept the original 1868 bridge in good repair. Later it was because after arson destroyed that bridge, those same people rallied to build a new bridge.

It was this day I shared this little piece of my heart with her. Funny it felt that way, because some years before I told the world about Bridgeton on this blog here.

It was a truly lovely day. Margaret packed a light picnic lunch, which we shared on a grassy area alongside the bridge. She asked a passerby to photograph us with another film camera I had along. I can’t find that photograph!

If you’re wondering why this photo on Kodak Gold 200 is in black and white, it’s because Dwayne’s processed it in black-and-white chemicals by mistake. On this photo, at least, it worked out fine.

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Film Photography

single frame: Cross this bridge at a walk

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Film Photography

Color film, black-and-white results

Not long ago the folks at the Film Photography Project came upon a cache of expired-since-1995 Kodak Gold 200 color film in size 620, and offered it for sale in their store. It was pricey at $14 per roll, but wanting to try a couple of my 620 cameras I bought two rolls. I shot the first roll in April on Route 66 using my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye and was disappointed with the faded, grainy results. See them here.

Kodak Monitor Six-20Recently I spooled the remaining roll into my Kodak Monitor Six-20. I wanted to use the Monitor again anyway, and I wanted to try the Kodak Gold in a camera where I could control the exposure so I could better test the film’s capabilities. That the Monitor has the fine Anastigmat Special lens only sweetened the deal.

Then the processor dunked my $14 color film into the wrong chemicals and I got black-and-white images back. At first, I was severly disappointed. But quickly I recognized that the images had potential. Contrast was poor, but a touch of Photoshop cured that ill and brought these images right to life.

I took the Monitor with me to Bridgeton. I had three cameras along on that trip: the Monitor, my Pentax Spotmatic, and my Olympus XA. The Monitor did the best job of capturing the sky, and edged the other cameras for sharpness.

Bridgeton covered bridge

I find it difficult to frame shots with the Monitor’s tiny bubble viewfinder. This bridge portal was all akimbo in the original image, so I straightened and cropped it for best effect.

Cross this bridge at a walk

My house faces east, and sometimes the morning sun bathes my little front garden in some delicious light. All too often I’m rushing to work and can’t stop and really enjoy it. But the light was right one lazy Saturday morning, so I put my Monitor on a tripod and took this photograph from my front stoop. I also shot the scene in color with my digital camera; see that shot here for comparison.

Early morning front yard

My Monitor is not a pleasure to use. I’ve already mentioned the difficulties framing shots. The shutter button has a long travel and is stiff at the end where it trips the shutter, so I usually trip it by sticking my finger in by the lens barrel and moving the linkage. And the wind-stop feature on mine doesn’t work well, so I have to work around it. But I so love the results I get from it that I am likely to shoot it again. Perhaps I will soon, because the Film Photography Project offers fresh, hand-respooled 620 films now.

See more from this roll, along with some great color shots from my Monitor, in my Kodak Monitor Six-20 gallery.

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Other 620 cameras in my collection:
Kodak Six-20 and Kodak Duaflex II.

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Camera Reviews

Kodak Monitor Six-20

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I have always had a thing for folding cameras and own several. They sure look impressive, especially my giant No. 3A Autographic Kodak. But many of them either take film that hasn’t been made in decades, or 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.

Kodak Monitor Six-20The 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 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 Monitor Six-20 with the Anastigmat Special lens was $66, which is equivalent to a little more than $1,000 in 2012 dollars.

Kodak Monitor Six-20

The Monitor comes with two viewfinders, both an old-fashioned bubble type attached to the lens assembly, and a flip-up finder on the top plate. The flip-up finder is big and bright, and includes manual parallax compensation.

Kodak Monitor Six-20

To use the Monitor, first cock the shutter with the little lever next to the bubble 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. Mine requires a very deliberate press or the shutter won’t fire, but I got used to that fast enough.

I never got used to the winding system, though. 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. I couldn’t make it work well on my Monitor. When I first shot this camera last fall, the winder usually stopped long before it had actually moved the film fully to the next frame. I ended up with several double and triple exposures. I got two usable photos from that roll; this is one of them.

First Presbyterian Church

A colleague owns a Monitor with this lens and shutter and showed me some fabulous slides he took with it using some Ektachrome E100G. I was so impressed with the color he got that I bought some E100G respooled onto 620 spools from B&H Photo for my Monitor. I shot Sunny 16.

Hydrant with shadows

But I was so deflated by my winding woes that I sat the camera back on the shelf and worked up the courage to try again. In playing with the camera, I found out that it’s possible to bypass the winding system. In the well underneath the pop-up viewfinder is a little lever that, when you move it, overrides the double-exposure prevention system and lets you take a second exposure on the current frame. I figured out that if I left the WIND/1-8 lever on WIND I could wind freely just like any other folding camera, using the red window on the back to gauge when I’d wound to the next frame. Then I tripped the double-exposure lever so I could take another shot. It was a little convoluted, but it worked. So I loaded some more E100G and went to town. This time, I brought my GE PR-1 light meter with me. This is my favorite shot from this roll, of a picket fence in Broad Ripple.

Fence

A fellow parked his 1960s Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia in front of a natural-foods store. Somehow, that seems appropriate.

Karmann-Ghia

I just love this goofy chair painted on the side of this building. I’ve shot it over and over.

Polka-dotted chair

See all the photos that turned out at my Monitor Six-20 gallery.

If I had it to do over again, I might not buy this Monitor. The Kodak Vigilant Six-20 used the same body and could be had with the Anastigmat Special lens and the Supermatic shutter – but it lacked the self-stop wind feature that gave me so much trouble. I would think it would be a less complicated camera to use. Hindsight is 20/20, of course.

Do you like vintage cameras? Then check out my entire collection!

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