Camera Reviews

Operation Thin the Herd: Konica Auto S2

Church entrance

Some old film cameras have become very popular on the used market. Just try buying an Olympus Stylus Epic or a Canon Canonet QL17 G-III for bargain prices anymore. Yet plenty of highly capable cameras never catch on among modern film photographers and languish in relative obscurity. Like the Konica Auto S2.

Konica Auto S2

This 1965 camera has everything you need to make lovely photographs today: a 45mm f/1.8 lens set in a Copal leaf shutter with top speed of 1/500 sec, a coupled CdS light meter driving shutter-priority autoexposure, and a rangefinder. You might consider it a limitation that it accepts films up to only ISO 400, but I don’t; that’s as fast as I normally go. It returns lovely results, as here on Kodak Gold 200.

The Pyramids

For this camera’s turn in Operation Thin the Herd I chose Kodak T-Max 400. I found a fresh PX625 battery in my stash, loaded the film, and got busy.

Bird is the word

I started Downtown in Indianapolis one chilly, slightly snowy day. I have been getting my hair cut at a barber shop on Delaware St. and then walking about with my cameras after. These electric scooters litter the street corners.

Indianapolis Public Schools

The Auto S2 nailed this gray-day exposure every time. The only thing I had to do with these photos in Photoshop is straighten them, as I proved unable this day to hold the camera level.

Firestone

The more I shoot Downtown Indianapolis, the more I want to capture routine street corners and get as many buildings in as I can. The architecture here is varied and, while common, still interesting.

Indianapolis Musicians

I took the Auto S2 on a sunny-day photowalk in downtown Zionsville. Bright reflections off light-colored surfaces and deep shadows did trip up the Auto S2 a little bit, but generally not so much that a little tweaking in Photoshop couldn’t help considerably.

Black Dog Books

The Auto S2’s controls generate no feelings of pleasure. You know that camera you want to use because everything feels so good under your fingers? That’s not the Konica Auto S2.

Zionsville home

But the Auto S2 isn’t unpleasant to use. It’s neither clumsy nor cumbersome. Everything falls to hand and works well enough. The winder is a little grindy but winds surely. The shutter button doesn’t have too much travel (a common affliction, I find, among fixed-lens rangefinders). The focusing lever is about where your finger needs it to be. Still, the overall tactile experience manages rises only to “meh.”

Zionsville home

What makes the Auto S2 remarkable is its lens, which really drinks in detail. The lens is why I put T-Max into it this time — its minimal grain promised to show me what this lens could do. It didn’t disappoint.

Building

I didn’t shoot anything remarkable on either of these photo walks. I made no art. But every photo on this roll came back properly exposed and bursting with detail. The Auto S2 would make a wonderful companion on one of my road trips.

Main St. Zionsville

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Konica Auto S2 gallery.

I’m surprised that I like the Konica Auto S2 best of the fixed-lens rangefinder cameras I have shot so far in Operation Thin the Herd. What it lacks in refinement it makes up for in consistent, solid results. The question is, do I need a camera like this? Would I shoot it often enough to justify keeping it? Because it never lets me down, I’m going to let time tell.

Verdict: Keep

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Film Photography

A pilgrimage to Central Camera

A pilgrimage to Central Camera

Despite our many weekend getaways to Chicago’s Loop, this was the first time we sought out Central Camera. We found it closed on Sunday. But because we were staying over through Monday, we went back.

A pilgrimage to Central Camera

We stepped in, and it felt like stepping into 1948. There were counters on both sides and an aisle down the middle. The left side was crammed with used gear. I dared not dwell. I passed through to the film counter. Oh my gosh, but I’ve not seen that much film for sale in one place since the 1980s.

A pilgrimage to Central Camera

The array of films in stock was impressive. I bought four rolls of Arista.EDU 200. Yes, they carried Arista.EDU from Freestyle Photo! The kind young woman behind the counter wrote my receipt by hand.

I did get one color shot of the exterior, so you can take in the sign’s great shade of green.

Central Camera

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Film Photography

Strolling Downtown in Indianapolis with the Canonet QL17 G-III

While I was looking for work I had a lot of coffee, lunch, and drinks appointments with people in my industry, as I tried to find opportunity. Even though this exhausts me — I am a pegging-the-meter introvert — I really love catching up with colleagues and getting to know people in my industry whom I hadn’t met yet. My appointments had me driving all over Indianapolis and its north suburbs, and I always brought a camera along. One of those cameras was my Canonet QL17 G-III. Agfa Vista 200 was inside.

Sunrise houses on Meridian Street

I met the VP of Engineering of a well-known local startup one morning near his South Meridian Street office Downtown. This little sliver of Indianapolis’s main street has been isolated from the rest of Meridian Street thanks to resolving an awkward fork with another major street. It has allowed two blocks of charming old houses to remain.

View of Downtown from the south

Here’s where northbound Meridian Street ends, with its view of the Indianapolis skyline. The building at the photo’s center is Salesforce Tower, housing the largest employer of software people in Indiana. It was built in 1990 as Bank One Tower.

Beer and food

A little park stands where Meridian Street used to. After you cross through it you reach the Slippery Noodle Inn, Indiana’s oldest bar. This is its south wall.

Down an Indianapolis alley

Here’s a quick look down an alley, toward the old Union Station. A whole bunch of tracks run through Downtown, elevated since before anybody can remember.

Scooters

Bird and Lime electric scooters litter Downtown’s streets. I rode one once. It was kind of fun, but not worth what it cost.

Green arches

I strolled looking for interesting scenes to photograph. I forget where this scene is exactly, but it’s within a couple blocks of those scooters.

Lit balls

Same with this festive scene devoid of customers on this chilly, gray morning.

The Claddagh

I know exactly where this restaurant is, however: on Meridian Street just north of the tracks. My wife and I come here from time to time, as we like fresh Guinness, Irish whiskey, shepherd’s pie, and fish and chips.

Church door

I made a point of walking the few blocks over to St. John the Evangelist Church to photograph this great door. Then I walked back to my car and drove to my next appointment.

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Shoe repair

Shoe repair
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Max 400 (exp. 10/2007)
2018

This is my favorite shot from that Pentax ME and 50/1.7 lens I recently picked up on eBay. The muted colors and enhanced grain of the expired film really work here, complementing this gritty scene.

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Film Photography

single frame: Shoe repair

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History, Photography

Favorite subjects: Broad Ripple Village

What is now the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis started as two rival towns far north of the city limits and along the White River. It was 1836 and construction of the Indiana Central Canal had been approved. The two towns were platted that year to bracket it, Broad Ripple to the north and Wellington to the south.

BRV

Broad Ripple, bisected by the Indiana Central Canal. Imagery and map data © 2017 Google.

The Mammoth Internal Improvement Act that funded the Canal and other infrastructure improvements would quickly cause a financial panic that brought Indiana to the brink of bankruptcy. Many of the Act’s improvements were aborted, including the Canal. Of the hundreds of miles the Canal was intended to span, just eight miles were completed, all within Indianapolis.

But the Canal’s construction brought people to the area, and the two towns grew. But by the 1880s Wellington had become a thriving community while Broad Ripple foundered, dwindling to about 35 residents. Yet when a new post office was located in Wellington but given the name Broad Ripple, the less-prosperous town won out and the entire area soon had the name all of Indianapolis knows today.

At first, just the canal and a single dirt road (now Westfield Boulevard) connected Broad Ripple to Indianapolis. In 1883, a railway came to Broad Ripple that connected to Chicago; it would later become the Monon Railroad. In 1894, electric street cars were extended into Broad Ripple; in 1904, the same tracks were used to carry interurban trains. The advent of the automobile led Indiana to form its first highway system in 1917; Westfield Boulevard became part of State Road 1 and, later, the first alignment of US 31. Broad Ripple had become very well connected.

Canal

On the Central Canal. Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014

Broad Ripple

Walking path on the Canal. Canon Canonet QL 17 G-III, Fuji Neopan 100 Acros, 2010

Rainbow bridge

The 1906 Guilford Avenue bridge over the Canal. Kodak Monitor Six-20, Kodak Ektachrome E100G, 2012

Monon bridge

Monon Railroad bridge over the Canal. Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011

With so many ways to reach Broad Ripple from all over, the town increasingly became a place to go for fun. The well-to-do built cottages along the river; an amusement park went up on the eastern outskirts of town. Businesses filled the town’s main street.

And then in 1924 Broad Ripple was annexed into Indianapolis, and more and more houses were built in the area. It started to become a neighborhood, and the former town’s identity as an amusement destination began to wane. The amusement park was transformed into a city park. The village started to become a commercial center for residents.

In time, buses replaced the streetcars and interurban and the tracks were paved over. US 31 was routed several block west onto Meridian Street, newly built north of the canal. Even the fabled Monon Railroad went defunct. And as happened in every American city, the suburbs kept pushing farther and farther away from the city center. By the 1960s, Broad Ripple was in decline. Residents were leaving and businesses were failing. But the falling rents created opportunity. Quirky shops went into the storefronts and even into some of the homes. A vibrant night life formed, with bars opening along the main street and the former movie theater, the Vogue, becoming a concert venue. Broad Ripple was, once again, a destination for fun.

IMG_3724

The Vogue at night. iPhone 5, 2015

The Vogue

The Vogue by day. Rollei A110, Fujicolor Superia 200 (exp. 1996), 2013

The Monkey's Tale

The Monkey’s Tale bar, Kodak Monitor Six-20, Kodak Ektachrome E100G, 2012

Big Hat Books

Bookstore in a big old house, Kodak Brownie Starmatic, Kodak Portra 160, 2012

Kayaks

Kayaks for sale, Kodak Brownie Starmatic, Kodak Portra 160, 2012

Ripple

Ripple Bagel Deli, Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm Zoom-Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014

My first visit to Broad Ripple was in this era. It was about 1992, and the Terre Haute radio station where I worked gave me tickets to see a concert at the Vogue. And then when I moved to Indianapolis a couple years later I ended up in a neighborhood that’s a quick drive from Broad Ripple. I’ve been there most of the last 23 years. Broad Ripple remains a common destination for me.

Broad Ripple’s main street, today called Broad Ripple Avenue and known as “the strip,” was a fun mix when I moved here: by day, popular shops and art galleries; by night, bars and late-night food joints for a younger crowd. I found the night life to be great fun then.

Now that I’m pushing 50, that kind of nightlife isn’t fun for me anymore. But I still enjoy Broad Ripple’s offbeat shops. My favorite coffee shop in town is there; I’ve written a few blog posts at one of its tables. And the Village remains a great place to go for some photography. I’ve visited it dozens of times for just that purpose.

Broad Ripple Kroger

Tiny Kroger. Olympus XA, Kodak T-Max 400, 2016

Shoe repair

Shoe repair. Polaroid Colorpack II, Fujifilm FP-100C, 2017

Corner Wine Bar

Corner Wine Bar. Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm Zoom-Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014

Colorful clothes

Clothing shop on Westfield Boulevard. Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011

Today's specials

Good food at Petite Chou. Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011

196x Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Karmann Ghia parked in front of the natural food store. Palm Pre, 2012.

Awning

Street seating awaiting customers. Pentax ME, SMC Pentax 55mm f/1.8, Kodak T-Max 400, 2012

Some things haven’t changed over these years. The strip remains lively and young; the streets just off the strip appeal more to those who’ve graduated from their 20s. The tiny Broad Ripple Kroger remains open somehow. Many of the former residences off the main business district still contain small businesses and restaurants. And when you drive through you can still imagine a time when Broad Ripple was a small town.

But much has changed in Broad Ripple. Businesses have come and gone, of course. Art galleries that used to dot the strip have mostly closed, replaced by more bars and late-night food joints. The Monon rail bed has become a very popular running and biking trail. Bazbeaux Pizza, which started in a garage, moved into a very nice facility down the street. And a giant polka-dotted chair was painted onto the side of a building.

Ice cream station

Former Monon station, now an ice-cream shop. Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011

Carter Bldg

Winter in Broad Ripple. Canon Dial 35-2, Fujicolor 200, 2013

Brugge Jeep

Former Internet cafe, now a brewpub. Rollei A110, Fujicolor Superia 200 (exp. 1996), 2013

Brown Rolls, brown brick

I don’t know what this business was, but it’s long gone now. Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011

Bazbeaux

Bazbeaux Pizza, a Broad Ripple institution, moved down the street from its original location. Canon EOS A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Kodak Tri-X, 2016

Monon Coffee Co.

My favorite coffee shop in Indy opened since I moved here but is 20 years old now. Canon EOS A2e, 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF, Kodak Tri-X, 2016

Brick Chair

The Bungalow. Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011.

For more than 40 years, Broad Ripple has had a quirky, offbeat, hippie vibe. But that is beginning to change as yet another major transition comes to the area: urban densification. The neighborhoods around Broad Ripple have been very popular over the last quarter century or so, which has driven home prices and rents up. Developers have taken notice. They’ve sought and won zoning changes and are building multi-story apartments and parking garages with first-story retail. The buildings crowd the street. Broad Ripple had formerly felt open and airy, but it increasingly feels closed-in and tight.

Pedestrian Bridge

Monon bridge. Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011

The new Broad Ripple

Behind the pedestrian bridge now. Polaroid Colorpack II, Fujifilm FP-100C, 2017

Blue mural

Mural on a building recently torn down, Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011

BlueIndy

Electric cars for hire taking up prime parking, Polaroid Colorpack II, Fujifilm FP-100C, 2017

I love old bridges and I have a preservationist’s heart. So I was sad to see that the railing on the 1906 bridge over the Canal was altered, I’m sure to make it safer. The railing was about knee height before, making it easy to fall off.

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow bridge railing before. Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow bridge railing after. Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax, Kodak Gold 400, 2017

Taking the long view, change has been constant in Broad Ripple. But many places of quirky charm from Broad Ripple’s most recent era remain. I never lack for photographic subjects there. I can always photograph the Monon bridge or the polka-dotted chair one more time. Or I can walk down a side street I haven’t visited in a while and see what’s new.

Monon bridge 1

Monon bridge. Pentax ME, Kodak T-Max 400, SMC Pentax 55mm f/1.8, 2012

Polka-dotted chair

Polka-dotted chair. Kodak Monitor Six-20, Kodak Ektachrome E100G, 2012

Fence

Blue picket fence. Kodak Monitor Six-20, Kodak Ektachrome E100G, 2012

Dilapidated

Dilapidated building (restored since I took this photo). Kodak VR35 K40, Fujicolor 200, 2011

Vintage

Vintage clothes. Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot), Fujicolor 200, 2011

Brugge

Brugge. Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm Zoom-Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014

Broad Ripple has survived many transitions before and forged a new identity. I expect it will survive this one just the same.

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The Bungalow Inc

The Bungalow, Inc.
Kodak VR35 K40
Fujicolor 200 (I think)
2011

Of late I’ve been either busy, or ill, or busy and ill. It’s left little energy for photography. So to feed the blog I’ve been trawling through my photo archive for ones that please me. My mom bought me my first Kodak VR35 K40 new in the late 80s. Though it was just a point and shoot, it was the nicest camera I ever owned and it always did reasonable work. I don’t know what became of it. I paid a couple bucks for this one at Goodwill.

Photography
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