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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Film Photography

Arista Premium 100 in the Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK

Hunt Club Road

In thanks for a favor, reader Christopher May sent me a roll of Arista Premium 100 black-and-white film to shoot. This film is widely thought to be rebranded Kodak Plus-X, which went out of production in 2011. After that, Arista stopped offering its Premium 100 film as soon as stock ran out. This roll expired in 2011, but had been stored frozen.

Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK

I loaded the film into my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK, a terrific little viewfinder camera with a coupled selenium light meter. I hadn’t used it in some time and it deserved some exercise. But also, its lens is put-your-eye-out sharp and I looked forward to what it would do with this film.

I shot most of the roll on a bike ride over to the cemetery next to a little country church not far from my home. I developed the film in LegacyPro L110, Dilution H (1+63), and scanned it with VueScan and my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II.

Road

Things didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. Every time I pick up a viewfinder camera I forget to focus a couple photos early in the roll, and this time was no exception. It’s as if not seeing a rangefinder patch or split-image circle in the viewfinder makes me think the image must already be in focus, or something. I also misfocused a couple photos because I’m not the greatest guesser of distance.

Cemetery entrance

But even then, almost all of these images were soft. Several were hazy, as well. I was able to Photoshop most of the haze out, but I was only able to improve sharpness only so much. The photos I’m sharing here all look sharp enough at blog size. The softness comes out at full scan size. If you’re curious, click any photo to view it on Flickr, and once there click the photo to expand it.

Angel

The photos above and below are the sharpest on the roll. They give a good sense of what this camera’s Carl Zeiss Tessar lens can do.

Military grave

I had a lovely time with the Contessa LK, at any rate. I left its ever-ready case on and slung it over my shoulder and across my torso for this bike ride. The leather strap was still solid and strong despite the case showing heavy use.

Marker

I finished the roll on a walk with Margaret through the Garfield Park neighborhood in southeast Indianapolis. We’re starting to dream again of where we want to live next, and I’m drawn to some of Indianapolis’s old neighborhoods.

Garfield Park neighborhood

Houses on two streets overlook stunning Garfield Park with its sunken garden and conservatory. Garfield Park is a real hidden gem in Indianapolis.

Garfield Park neighborhood

Despite everything, it’s good to see the signature even tonality and smoothness of Plus-X again. Yes, I believe that’s what Arista Premium 100 is, just as I believe that the also discontinued Arista Premium 400 was rebranded Kodak Tri-X.

I think I need to give the Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK another spin soon, and see if I can improve on these results.

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Film Photography

Olympus Trip 35 and Ferrania P30 Alpha in LegacyPro L110

Bike and power lines

As I continue to practice developing black and white film, I’m shooting up my film stock. I tend to hang onto special films waiting for the perfect reason to use them. Perfect never comes and then the film expires. Nuts to that!

I’m also cycling through my cameras to make sure they all get a little use now and then. That’s how I came to put my last roll of Ferrania P30 Alpha into my Olympus Trip 35. I’ve never shot black and white in the Trip before!

Because I developed my last roll of P30 in Rodinal, this time I used LegacyPro L110, an HC-110 clone, in Dilution H (1+63). Let’s just tweak all of the variables!

I’m not blown away by these results. They’re all soft, even after sharpening as much as I dared in Photoshop. Shadows tended to black. And for whatever reason I was incapable of holding the camera level, although that’s easily fixed in Photoshop.

Here are some of the photos, the ones I think turned out best. The subjects aren’t anything special, just stuff I shot around the neighborhood. I was especially fixated on the high-power lines that run through here.

Torrid
GetGo
Field
Under the base
Power lines
Structure
Lilies

I just finished a roll of Arista Premium 100, said to be rebranded Kodak Plus-X, in my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK. Photos to come!

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Pencil cup

Pencil cup
Pentax ME
50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M
Arista EDU 200
L110 Dilution E

My son Garrett made this when he was 4 or 5. It’s a pencil cup made out of a tin can with a piece of thick paper glued around it. He wrote his name on it and painted it. I love the way he shaped the g to start his name: a circle and a J-like curve, not connected. You can’t tell because this is a black-and-white photo, but he painted it in watercolors, peach and pink and green.

Garrett also made the fake flower, in the third grade. It’s a pen, actually; his class made them by the score and sold them to raise funds for something I can’t remember anymore.

I used to have a drawer full of keepsakes my kids made. I let a lot of them go a few years ago when I moved out of my last house. It was a little painful to see them go. It was very nice to get that drawer space back.

I will keep a few things, like this. They will stand in for everything else.

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Photography

single frame: Pencil cup

A pencil cup my son made for me when he was small.

Image
Film Photography

40-year-old Tri-X in the Yashica-12

I buy film impulsively with some project in mind. Then I never get to the project and eventually forget why I bought the film. I’ve done it enough that I now have about 15 rolls of film I need to shoot up. I’m working my way through this stock while I refine my home developing technique.

I own two rolls of 120 Kodak Tri-X that expired in June of 1981. I had a day off a couple weeks ago, and it was a warm spring day. So I spooled one roll of the Tri-X into my Yashica-12 and took it for a drive in the country. It was lovely to smell all the rural-Indiana spring smells. Along one country road the fields were awash in fragrant golden flowers. Another road smelled strongly of swine. That’s Indiana!

I stopped when I came upon the small town of Sheridan, and blew through the whole roll there.

In small town Indiana, everybody knows everybody and everybody’s lived there for ages. Even though the streets were largely deserted, a stranger like me stands out. These little towns are seldom popular destinations. The locals are sure to wonder why I’m making photographs there.

As I wrapped up the roll, I noticed one fellow stick his head out his door and give me a sidelong look. Several minutes later a woman pulled up to me in her car to ask what I was doing. Two minutes later, another car bearing two women pulled up to ask the same thing. They put on friendly faces, but that they asked at all told me I had worn out my welcome.

I’ve experienced this many times as I’ve photographed small Midwestern towns. I have a window of time before people let me know, at first subtly and then directly, that I’m noticed.

I’m a middle-aged, well-groomed white man. While I stand out because I am not known there, at least I look more or less like everyone else.

When I was in my 20s, with hair halfway down my back and wearing rock-concert T-shirts, I feel sure I would have received a distinctly unfriendly reception.

If my skin were brown but all else about me were the same as it is now, I’ll bet someone in Sheridan (or in any small, rural Midwestern town I’ve ever visited) would have called the sheriff.

It’s safe to be a middle-aged white man.

I developed the film that afternoon in L110, Dilution B, and scanned it the next day. This film was so fogged that the images were barely visible on the negatives. Yet my scanner cut through it and brought out usable, though very grainy, images. Here are the best of them.

Barber shop
Farmer's Bank
Christian Church
Central Indiana Telephone Co.
Reserved parking
Step up
Sheridan Post Office

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