To help one of our sons launch into independence, we decided to buy him an inexpensive used car. The criteria: Under $3000, four doors, cosmetically and mechanically okay, a couple years of life left in it.
You’d be surprised how many cars at this price are clapped out and beaten up. Darn good thing we weren’t in a hurry, because it took us about a month to find this 2005 Ford Escape. We paid $2600.
It had nearly new tires on it. They’re some off brand I’ve never heard of, and I’ve already found them to be so-so on wet pavement. I’m sure they went to some tire store and said, “Put on the cheapest tires you’ve got.” Regardless, I was happy to see them when we went to look at this car. These tires probably cost $500, a large percentage of the car’s purchase price.
I’m not an expert in buying used cars. I did pay for a Carfax report, which revealed just two owners and no accidents. I checked the car for things I know how to check. When I stuck my finger in the tailpipe, it came back grey and sooty, which was good. The oil was dirty, but it wasn’t foamy or low. The belts I could find were old but not dry or cracked. I grabbed the top of each front tire and pulled and pushed hard, looking for loose front-end linkage. They didn’t budge. All the switchgear worked, and there were no lingering idiot lights on the dashboard. The car drove and stopped straight, and had good, smooth power all the way up to highway speeds.
A couple minor issues were evident, however. The headliner is starting to separate from the roof where it meets the windshield. One of the hinges for the hatch glass was broken. I replaced the hinge myself — it’s incredible the car parts you can buy on Amazon and the instructions for repairs you can find on YouTube. I let the headliner go.
Whenever you buy an inexpensive used car, Murphy dictates that it will need some sort of repair shortly after. So I drove it for a couple weeks to shake it out, to keep our son from having to deal with it. Sure enough, one day I pulled into the parking lot at work and found the oil light to have just come on. My mechanic said that the valve gasket cover was leaking ever so slightly, and that there was a temporary plug in the oil pan, neither of which is great. But he said that for a car this old with this many miles, he wouldn’t invest in those repairs, he’d just drive it like that. He replaced the oil pressure sensor and couldn’t get the oil light to come back on, so we both declared it good.
It’s been only in the past few years that I stepped up from driving old cars much like this one. I know very well that after a certain number of miles, you live with some issues that you choose not to fix because the return isn’t worth the investment.
This Escape has 175,000 miles on it. I remember a time when a car with 100,000 miles was used up. But despite this Escape’s issues, I’ll bet it has at least 25,000 miles left in it — maybe 50,000 with good care and good luck.
I forget which camera I used to make these photos — it was one of my 35mm SLRs, probably with a 50mm prime lens. The film is Ultrafine Extreme 400, which I developed in the last of my LegacyPro L110, in Dilution B.
My friend and fellow blogger J. P. Cavanaugh found a box of 127 Kodak Kodacolor-X moldering in his basement and gave it to me. This is an old color film; this particular roll expired in January, 1966. I shot it last 127 Day, which was July 12 (12/7 in European date notation).
To get color images from Kodacolor-X, you need Kodak’s old C-22 chemistry. Unfortunately, that stuff’s been unobtainable for going on 40 years. Fortunately, you can develop any color film in black-and-white developers and get black-and-white images.
Nobody knows exactly how to develop old Kodacolor-X. Some say you should heat your chemicals to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, as you would C-41 chemistry. I don’t have a simple way to do that, so I skipped it. Some say you should just treat the stuff like Kodak Tri-X. That seemed simple enough, so I did that. I’m using up the last of my bottle of LegacyPro L110, which is a clone of Kodak HC-110. At 68 degrees, you develop Tri-X for six minutes in HC-110. I didn’t bother to check the temperature of my developer and adjust accordingly — I figured I was going to get faint, grainy images no matter what I did. I just went with six minutes.
The negatives looked almost like undeveloped film, although under strong light faint images were evident. I now feel certain I could have left this film in the developer for far longer than I did. Fortunately, my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II was able to pull images off the negatives.
Color film has an orange base, and you have to remove that color in your scanning process. I tried a bunch of options in VueScan before settling on scanning the negatives as color, as opposed to black-and-white — but choosing a black-and-white film profile, specifically T-Max 400. In VueScan, a “Negative type” setting of “TMAX CI = .40” looked best to me, so that’s what I went with. That setting instantly removed the orange mask.
Here are my two favorite images from the roll — not because the subjects are that interesting, but because they scanned the best.
The negatives curled laterally, which made them impossible to lay flat. Horizontal lines had a wicked curve in my scans. I had some success Photoshopping the curve away.
I use a squeegee to remove water from my negatives. Unfortunately, this old film’s emulsion was fragile and the squeegee scratched most of the images. Lesson learned: skip the squeegee on such old film. A few images were so badly affected that I saw no way I could use Photoshop’s tools to remove the marks.
I have mixed feelings about very expired film. On the one hand, I’m curious to see what kind of images it can create. On the other, I know that many variables play in wringing the best performance from the film. Film this old needs a lot more exposure than it did when new. Kodacolor-X was an ISO 80 film in 1966; I shot it at ISO 25, the slowest speed my Kodak Brownie Starmatic supports, to maximize exposure in my fairly crude camera. This is the only 127 camera left in my collection, so I had little choice but to use it.
When you have just one roll of an expired film, developing is a crapshoot. If I had four more rolls from the same batch, stored in the same way, I could keep tweaking my recipe and timing to wring the best performance from this film. But I had just the one roll, and this is what I got. Fortunately, every image was minimally usable.
You never know how expired film is going to perform.
As you can see, I made these images in suburban strip malls. Several are within walking distance of my home. I would have liked to photograph more interesting subjects. But it rained off an on this 127 Day, and I had to rush through the roll in a dry hour when I could sneak away from work.
Drive thru open Olympus OM-2n 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S Ilford HP5 Plus LegacyPro L110, Dilution E (1+47) 2021
South Street is the south border of Indianapolis’s historic Mile Square. You can probably guess the names of the north, east, and west border streets.
You’ll find this Subway and (behind it in the background) an Arby’s on South Street, as if they were out in the suburbs someplace. This land is becoming valuable, and I wonder how long it is before both restaurants are razed in favor of apartments or condos.
My new job is located Downtown in Indianapolis, but a couple blocks south of what’s considered to be Downtown’s heart. My last job was about two blocks east of Monument Circle, amid Indy’s tallest buildings. My new job is seven blocks south of Monument Circle, amid some very old houses, brand new expensive apartments, and decayed light industrial buildings.
I am in the office every Tuesday now, and sometimes on Friday as well, as I ease back into working in the office. On my first day back, I loaded some Ilford HP5 Plus into my delightful Olympus OM-2n. I hadn’t used my compact 40mm f/2. Zuiko Auto-S lens in a good long time, so I mounted it. I developed the film in LegacyPro L110, Dilution E (1+47) and scanned the negatives on my Minolta ScanDual II. I made these photos over about a three week span, on lunch hours and afternoon breaks.
In this part of Downtown, there are no parking garages. We all park on large surface lots. Fortunately, my employer picks up the tab. My previous employer did not, and it cost me $1,700 a year to park. These stairs lead to the popular LaRosa lot.
I don’t know what this lot is called but it’s immediately north of LaRosa. That this lot is empty says a lot about the state of returning to work in Downtown Indianapolis. In the background at left is the complex of buildings in which I work.
A lot of railroads used to converge in Downtown Indianapolis. The tracks were all elevated about 100 years ago; the infrastructure remains even though the railroads do not.
A large building, which I would guess was once a factory, is within line of sight of the building in which I work. Part of it is a brewery today.
Other businesses take up other parts of this building, while other parts appear to be vacant.
This is the entrance to the main building in the office complex where I work. I’m told this used to be a high school — it looks the part. The specific building in which I work is brand new and stands next door.
Our building is on Meridian Street, which is Indianapolis’s main north-south street. But because of the campuses of a couple of large employers and the location of a couple Interstate highways, this section of Meridian Street is cut off from the rest of it to the north and to the south. The buildings in the background are hotels and are brand new.
The Indianapolis Colts play at Lucas Oil Stadium, which is just a couple blocks away. It provides an interesting backdrop to these old houses.
These houses are a block to the west. These houses all seem so very old, from the late 1800s I’d guess. I wonder what kind of neighborhood this was in its time.
This grand dame is around the corner from my office. It houses some sort of business today. I’m very curious about what it looks like inside.
That’s a quick look at most of the area around my new office. I haven’t shown you the new construction yet; that’ll be in a post to come.
The 35mm point and shoot was an exciting development in photography for the average person. When they first came on the scene in the early 1980s, 126 and 110 cameras abounded and Kodak’s Disc cameras were popular. Unfortunately, they delivered so-so image quality. 35mm film’s 24x36mm frame was larger than that of any of those films, and even a middling lens could result in good, sharp images at snapshot sizes and in enlargements up to 8×10. And besides, “the pros” all shot 35mm film. That wasn’t exactly true, but that’s what the average person thought then. It’s what I thought then. When I bought a new camera in 1983 for a trip I would take the next summer to Germany. I wanted one of the early 35mm point and shoots, specifically a Canon Snappy 50.
Canon’s Snappy cameras, the 50 and its little brother the 20, were the first point-and-shoot 35mm cameras I ever heard of, probably because Canon advertised them on TV.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford either camera. Dad had paid for the trip, which cost my working-class family a ton of money. He told me that if I wanted a new camera, I’d have to save my allowance and buy it myself. The Snappy 50’s street price was about $90 (about $250 in today’s money), and the Snappy 20 about $70 ($190). That’s not inexpensive: you could buy an entry-level Canon SLR body with a 50mm lens for about $120 then. My $5 weekly allowance, plus money I earned mowing neighbors’ lawns, was enough to buy me only a crappy 110 camera, a decision I’ve always regretted even though it was the best I could do. But I’ve never forgotten Canon’s first Snappy cameras, which is why I bought this Snappy 50. It’s just an old used camera today, so I got it for $20 shipped.
The Snappy 20 uses a fixed-focus lens, but the Snappy 50 offers autofocus. It is limited to two focus zones, though, one centered around 5.9 feet and one centered around 13.1 feet. It uses the narrowest aperture possible at each focus point for the greatest possible depth of field. The Snappy 50 uses a 35mm f/3.5 lens that stops down to f/16. The shutter operates from 1/20 to 1/500 second.
Atop the camera is a switch to select between ISO 100 and 400 films. The camera doesn’t read DX coding, which hadn’t been invented in 1982 when the Snappy 50 was new. Consumer color negative films were either ISO 100 or 400 in those days, so this limited range was fine.
Flash is off by default, thank heavens. When the red light blinks inside the viewfinder, there isn’t enough light, so turn on the flash by pushing out the orange slider on the front of the camera. It whistles while it warms up, which is such a 1980s sound! The light around back next to the viewfinder glows when it’s ready. The flash has a range of 5.2 to 14.7 feet at either ISO setting.
Two AA batteries power everything, and the camera won’t work without them.
Loading film was remarkably simple for its day. Pull the “Pull Open” block on the camera bottom to open the back. Then lay the film cartridge in on the left, stretch the film across to the red mark at the right, close the back, and press the shutter button repeatedly until the film counter reads 1. After you finish the roll, to rewind the film look for the film-roll symbol on the camera bottom. Above it is a button; press it in with a finger and hold it. Then with another finger, slide the lever above that button in the direction of the arrow and let go of both the lever and the button.
To shoot, open the lens cover with the lever on the side of the lens area. Then frame and press the shutter button.
If you like point-and-shoot cameras, also see my reviews of the Canon AF35ML (here) and Snappy S (here); the underrated Kodak VR35 K40 (here); the Minolta Talker (here); the truly crappy Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here); the Olympus Stylus (here), Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), and µ(mju:) Zoom 140 (here); and the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), IQZoom 170 SL (here), and IQZoom 60 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
I shot a roll of Fujicolor 200 in my Snappy 50 and sent it to Fulltone Photo for developing and scanning. Because this film looks great with a stop of overexposure, and because this was expired (though cold-stored) stock, I felt confident shooting it at ISO 100.
The Snappy 50 was pleasant to use. In the great point-and-shoot tradition, you frame and press the button, and that’s all. The camera winds to the next frame and you’re ready to go again.
The lens is sharp and the exposure system does a good job of reading the light even after about 40 years. Look at the good detail in this flowering tree.
I really enjoyed the Snappy 50’s big and clear viewfinder. It turned out to be reasonably accurate, in that what I framed is more or less what the lens saw — except when focusing close, when parallax moved things I carefully centered in the frame up and to the left.
I never figured out what to do with the Snappy 50’s long lanyard. I tried hanging it around my neck, but then the camera bounced off my chest with every step. When I slipped it across my torso, the camera banged uncomfortably against the bottom of my rib cage. In the end, I wrapped it around my hand three times and carried it that way.
Some point-and-shoots deliver dull, muted color on overcast day. I don’t know why, but that’s been my experience. The Snappy 50 was not so afflicted.
I enjoyed myself enough with the Snappy 50 that I laid in another roll and kept shooting. I used Ilford FP4 Plus, an ISO 125 film, on the ISO 100 setting. FP4 Plus has good exposure latitude, so the slight overexposure would be no big deal. I developed it in LegacyPro L110 (a Kodak HC-110 clone) and scanned it on my Minolta ScanDual II. Looking at the negatives, it looks like the whole roll is underexposed and overdeveloped. I’m still learning how to read my negatives so I could be wrong. But I had to do a fair amount of post processing to make these scans look okay.
I used flash on this photo, the only time I did. It lit fairly evenly, but of course it left shadows as on-camera flashes do.
Processing the photos to bring out detail tended to bring out a fair amount of noise.
Most photos had blown-out highlights. About 25% of the photos on the roll were so blown out, I couldn’t rescue them. I’m really bummed out about that. But I had a fine time with the Snappy 50 anyway.
The Canon Snappy 50 would have been a great camera for the average person in its day. It’s pleasant to use and it has a good lens. That’s the formula for a successful point-and-shoot camera right there, even in the present day.
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.
Curious lizard Olympus OM-2n 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro Ilford Delta 400 LegacyPro L110, Dilution B 2021
Here’s another photo from the Ruins at Holliday Park in Indianapolis. They renovated it a few years ago — it had been in serious disrepair — and in so doing added a water feature with a bunch of little amphibious statuettes. Like this one.
I like this little guy. He looks so curious. At the right angle he almost looks like he’s smiling.
I don’t have too much trouble with dust and debris settling on my film while it dries after development. I’m fortunate. But Ilford Delta 400 attracts more dust and debris than most other films I use. I don’t know why! It took me a while to remove all the spots from the images on this roll. But this combo of film, developer, and scanner is a winner in my book, so the spotting is worth it.