Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Silver theft on Aisle 3

If you shoot film and have it processed at a drugstore, watch out. Walgreens and CVS are trying to steal your silver.
By Eastwind41 (Own work) [Copyrighted free use],
via Wikimedia Commons

That's the only possible explanation as to why they no longer return your negatives when you develop color negative film. Instead of giving you prints with negatives in your photofinishing envelope, they give you prints and image files on a CD. You don't get your negatives back.

By SkywalkerPL (Own work) [CC BY 3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
Why? The film contains tiny particles of silver, which can be extracted and recycled, usually benefitting the photo lab. Companies used to offer kits that allowed labs to recover the silver, and you'd get your negatives back.

But that technology likely isn't widely offered, since film processing declined. This page of Kodak's website talks about the process.

The labs want to keep the silver. So you don't get your negatives back. And they're yours.

Trouble is: image files scanned from your negs onto a CD contain only a small amount of image data. Your negatives store more details than a compressed JPEG file allows. Some estimates suggest that a frame of 35mm film contains the rough equivalent of a 20-megapixel photo from a higher-end digital camera. Brad Templeton has devoted much more thought to this topic.

The image file on a CD from Walgreens? It's closer to what you'd get from a five-megapixel camera. It has less detail -- less photo data than the latest iPhone camera captures.

Without getting deeper into techno-babble: I no longer use film developing services that won't return my negatives. Period. I'll pay more for film developing that includes prints, a CD, and my negatives. Currently, Rite Aid returns my negatives with my prints and a CD. So do independent labs, which I still visit.

Because they're my negatives. And it's my silver, should I one day choose to have the precious metal extracted from those negatives.

You should demand your negatives back. Or go elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Three things to know about the Canon Canonet 28

Rangefinder cameras from the 1970s had fast lenses and enabled you to control the lens aperture. They were quiet. And, if you were confronted by muggers, a weighty Canonet on a neck strap could be used as a defensive weapon.

The downside? They used mercury batteries that were outlawed by the 1990s. Their foam light seals dissolved into gunk by the early 2000s. They didn't have built-in flashes. And some owners struggled to load the film correctly.

These photos came from my Canon Canonet 28, shot on very expired Kodak 200 print film. I hadn't seen the camera for years. (The Parkside photos were shot years ago; the flower images are more recent.)

The photo processing was questionable, too. See that white squiggle in the price list shot? Dust on the negs.( More on drugstore photo processing another time.)

You'll find Canon Canonets on eBay and thrift shops. If the shutter and rangefinder focus work (they don't need a battery), buy one. But, keep these three things in mind:
  • Don't hunt for long-outlawed 1.35-volt batteries. Instead, buy a package of inexpensive 675 zinc-air hearing aid batteries. They hold a constant 1.4-volt current, and can be fitted in place with a small rubber band or O-ring.
  • Your film choices are limited to up to ISO 400. With the Canonet 28, you set the film speed manually, and 400 is as high as you can go. Luckily, the fast lens means you'll have ample light.
  • Canon built these Canonets 40 years ago, so the light seals will probably need replacement. It's not complicated; buy the kit here, and watch the video below to see how it's done.
By Filippo C from stockholm, sweden (camera 005)
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (],
 via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

10 Pretty Good Five-Dollar Cameras

Your iPhone or Android might take pretty good photos. For $500+, it ought to take photos Annie Leibovitz would buy.

But it doesn't. It's more like the world's most overpriced point-and-shoot camera. 

Compact 35mm film cameras from the 1970s-1990s are my Kryptonite. I find most of them in thrift stores, next to audio devices with old 30-pin iPod docks. Those film cameras have better lenses than a smart phone. Flashes that actually light up a scene. They make me think about composing a picture that tells a story. And if I drop a camera I bought at a Godwill or Salvation Army, I'm out a whole $5 -- not $500 plus a pricey screen replacement.

I can live with that. 

Here's a brief guide to real 35mm cameras worth looking for when you're garage-sailing or cruising thrift stores. You can go retro for just a few dollars, and see if you remember how to compose a photo with a real viewfinder pressed against your brow.

10. Olympus Infinity Twin - a somewhat boxy but weatherproof camera that avoids zoom-lens failure via a clever mirror system that switches from 35mm to 70mm just by pressing a small button. One downside: it uses two CR123A lithium batteries, which often cost more than the camera itself.

9. Yashica Microtec AF Super - a semi-stylish camera with a wide-ish 32mm lens. Uses AA--size batteries, available everywhere.

8. Olympus Stylus Zoom 80 - small, sleek, and affordable. I'm not a fan of zoom point-and-shoots, which have slower lens optics. A 2X zoom like this, however, is okay. They made a bazillion of them, and $3.99 is a good deal.

7. Any Pentax IQ Zoom. Overly complicated, but usually tank-like construction. Not quiet.

6. Nikon One Touch 100 - features an f3.5, four-element glass lens, dual self-timers, and it'll use one lithium or two AA-alkaline batteries. Mine cost $1 at Goodwill. A disposable camera costs five times as much.

5. Kodak Cameo Zoom (below) - Kodak made few memorable 35mm cameras in the 1990s. But the Cameo zoom had a very wide-angle 25mm lens that doubled to 50mm. Plus the patented "cobra" flash that really cut down on red eye -- and served as a lens cover. Mine set me back $2.

4. Canon Canonet 28. The less-pricey brother of the hard to find Canonet GIII QL17, but still indestructible and retro-looking. Buy a cheap pack of hearing aid batteries and you're in business. Use a neck strap, and look like you're posing for a Burberry's ad.

3. Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim. A simple plastic camera with a unique 22mm wide-angle lens. No battery needed. Pay no more than $3 for this cutie. Be sure the spring-loaded shutter and thumbwheel film advance work. And prepare to be amazed.

2. Canon Sure Shot Supreme - features a coated, four-element, f2.8 glass lens. Must use a small plug on the neck strap to block the light-sensor so the flash fires in tricky lighting. Bring a jeweler's screwdriver to change the battery. At $4, a steal.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Street shooting with the Olympus Infinity Twin

The Oldsmobile of Point-and-Shoot Cameras

Olympus Infinity Twin. (c) DKassnoff, 2016
It's a gray brick. Press the shutter button, and you hear the workings of your Aunt Stella's sewing machine. It's a 1988 relic from a time when Olympus believed you only needed two focal lengths: 35mm and 70mm.

That's the Olympus Infinity Twin, a thrift-store find that consumed $3.99 and promised a photographic experience comparable to driving my Uncle Arnold's Olds Starfire F-85 around the narrow streets of Bayside, NY. It did the job, but felt clunky in the execution, like the ball joints were shot.

The Infinity Twin (known as the Olympus AF Twin in some regions) had a twin-lens design. The 35mm lens was the default, but a button atop the camera activated a mirror that doubled the focal length to 70mm. The 35mm, f3.5 lens was sharper and faster than the 70mm.

I'm fond of Olympus' clamshell lens cover design, which first appeared with the Olympus XA film cameras, and really ushered in an era of pocketable 35mm cameras. But the Olympus Infinity Twin remained bulky, and required two CR123A lithium batteries to do its job, That meant a heavy bulge in one's pocket. And led to other problems.

(c) DKassnoff, 2016
In 2006, the cameras were recalled due to incidents of the flash circuitry overheating and burning the user's hands.

By then, of course, the move to digital photography became a stampede. Olympus was slapping its well-regarded Stylus branding on countless mediocre pocket-sized digital point-and-shoots. Most Twin owners parked their cameras in a desk drawer or donated them to Volunteers of America.  New CR123A batteries for the camera became more expensive than shipping it off to Olympus America for repairs.

How did this model do? With 10-year-old ISO 200 film, not too badly. The color shift is pretty obvious, even in the post-processed shots from Toronto, below.