a different spin on things

Goerz Hypergon extreme wide angle lens

Toronto. One serious issue with extreme wide angle lenses in the days of big cameras and film or glass plates was light drop off in the film (or plate) corners. Expose for the centre, and there was serious vignetting. Expose for the edges, and the centre was burnt out.

In the beginning of the last century, Goerz found a solution. They mounted a tiny fan on the front of some of their  Hypergon lens as I wrote in this February 2003 article.

Like all extreme wide angle lenses, sharply curved meniscus glass was positioned around a central stop giving both the extreme wide angle of view and severe edge drop off of light. (see Kingslake – A History of the Photographic Lens, pp54, 55). To use the Hypergon, the tiny front fan was spun by air propulsion for part of the time and then flipped out of the way to expose the centre rays previously blocked. Ratio was critical. Aperture was tiny, lens was very slow. Awkward or what!

A tripod and long exposure were mandatory – no instantaneous shots here! Of course a smaller  plate could solve the problem of edge vignetting, but you would lose the extreme wide angle point of view you paid for with the Hypergon…

Posted in lens | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on a different spin on things


Ticka camera (1905-1914)

Toronto. If you enjoy a mystery set in the 20s, Frankie Drake on CBC fills the bill. In some episodes, she or her team use a tiny spy camera called a Ticka. The Ticka was sold from about 1905 to 1914 – the eve of WW1. It is a British camera made by Houghton and is a licensed copy of the Expo Camera made in the Big Apple (NYC).

The tiny marvel takes 25 16x22mm shots on a small strip of film. The simple meniscus lens in the “winder” is about f/16 with a focal length of 30mm, or slightly telephoto in effect. The rudimentary shutter offers I (instantaneous – about 1/25 second) and T (time). It’s basically a box camera.

The camera was generally chrome-plated with a special solid silver version (expensive). A rare focal plane shutter model was made at one point (even more expensive). The tiny film demanded its own enlarger. Like any expensive collectible, Tickas were counterfeited and sold to gullible collectors.

Posted in camera | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on ticka-tocka-not-a-clocka

points of view

A Rolleicord TLR

Toronto. Cameras of the last century tended to make a particular point of view easier. Cameras with rangefinders usually took an eye level view. Those with vertical viewfinders like some Kodaks and the famous TLRs took waist level shots – the belly button school of photography as Don Douglas used to call it. Massive ground glass backed cameras took either depending on their size and height – of course the image was upside down and reversed sideways on the ground glass (no big deal for a professional).

Some of the most popular Twin Lens Reflex cameras (TLRs) were made by a German firm mid last century. Their high end model was the expensive Rolleiflex with Zeiss lenses and Compur leaf shutters. The viewing lens was slightly faster to guarantee correct focus. A less expensive version (shown left) was a Rolleicord. Both were made by Franke & Heidecke of Braunschweig, Germany. Most TLRs took 6×6 cm photos on 120 roll film.

Some TLRs had Schneider lenses. Later versions used different shutters. Most had fixed 60 to 75 mm lenses or slightly wide angle normal lenses. Later models used bayonet mounts at the front of the lenses to add close up lenses and filters. Smaller models using 127 film took 4×4 cm images, ideal for super slides fitting a 2 inch square mount.

Some larger profession SLR cameras used 120 roll film and waist level viewers such as the Hasselblads. In time, Japanese TLRs took over the market. They too disappeared as digital cameras and smartphones evolved and crushed film down to a niche of enthusiasts.

Thanks to long time friend, Rollei collector, and master camera repairman, Ulrich Bartel, whose recent email on another matter prompted me to recall the heady days of Rollei and belly button photography.


Posted in camera | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on points of view

flipping over movies

Flip Movie offer c 1938

Toronto. Pepsodent had a catchy jingle when I was a youth, “you’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent“. Around the same time, one of my favourite cartoons showed a perplexed artist (Van Gogh?) staring at a partially used tube of Pepsodent on his palette and thinking to himself, “I wonder where the yellow went?“.

George Dunbar tells me that Pepsodent also collaborated with Walt Disney to offer a card board machine you could assemble to view flip cards of Snow White (released in 1937) and other Disney characters plus a story line. George suspects his father helped him assemble the device.

Posted in film | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on flipping over movies

Lights! Action! Camera!

    LIFE Ad for the Argus M3 8mm movie camera (November 1959)

Toronto. Ahhh, amateur home movies. In the 1930s and 40s well heeled families could shoot 16mm movies of family life. Post war, 8mm  and Super 8mm became common allowing every family to capture family life in motion (my father-in-law used a Brownie movie camera to capture his holiday trips).

Home movies, indoor stills with flash and colour photos were pushed hard in the advertisements of the day. If a company had a popular still camera, the next step was movies. Argus had its popular C3 still camera, fondly called the brick, so it was logical to move on to… movies. In 1959, Argus advertised the M3 movie camera. The choice of M3 for its name may have been to imitate the fabulously popular Leica M3 of the day (and by far the most successful Leica ever) or M for movie and 3 for the 3 lenses. The movie camera matched competitors with a lens turret, three viewfinders (fixed focal length lenses before inexpensive and quality zooms), and even a selenium cell light meter, all in a “pocket size” compact camera.

The differentiating concept was a palmed winder replacing the more traditional crank or winder key. Like most fads, people lost interest in the poor quality of 8mm and the demands of editing and home movies disappeared until the age of the modern home computers, smartphones and digital cameras with their high quality videos.  My thanks to George Dunbar and his dedicated research of photographic advertisements in popular magazines of the last century. LIFE magazine for November 23, 1959 features the Argus M3 on page 4.

Posted in camera | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lights! Action! Camera!

when is a camera not a camera?

Komic Kamera (c1930s 2D film strip viewer)

Toronto. When it’s a Komic Kamera – a toy handheld  2D viewer for film strips! The size of this viewer suggests 35mm strips. I saw a couple of sites on Google that suggested the little toy was made by different companies – Allied in Chicago, and Russakov also in Chicago.

The “camera” was made in both tin and bakelite versions. It was actually a toy made to view short film strips frame by frame as you turned the knob to bring the next frame into view. The strips told a short story in 2D, usually featuring American newspaper comic characters of the day (some movie plots were used too, apparently).

The “Made in Chicago Museum” page gives background on Allied while the “Kleefeld on Comics” page credits Russakov. Kleefeld also suggests somewhat lewd/adult strips were offered for the tiny viewers.

As a kid, I once had a smaller bakelite viewer, black with art-deco sides. The strips were a smaller 16mm width to my memory. A ground glass window illuminated a frame while a simple eye-piece focused the frame on the retina. The bakelite case could be carefully pulled opened and the film strip exchanged for another. I think it came was some old cartoons.

It appeared in my life suddenly and then disappeared for ever – my mother liked to trash toys once my interest was lost – or pass them on to others. My thanks to good friend George Dunbar for this trip back along memory lane,

Posted in camera | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on when is a camera not a camera?

what the heck is a Colwood?

Colwood’s rebuilt Speed Graphic

Toronto. In the latest Graflex Journal, subscriber Chris Cooper offers photos and info on the Colwood Camera Co. based in the UK.  In business at least in the 1950s, Colwood offered rebuilt Anniversary Speed Graphics using factory spare parts.

Have a read and if you can share more info on Colwood or their rebuilt Graphics, drop me a line and I will pass it along to Ken Metcalf, editor of the Graflex Journal.


Posted in camera | Tagged , | Comments Off on what the heck is a Colwood?

neat way to add three stops

Polaroid ad in LIFE (1959) offering ISO (ASA) 3,000 film

Toronto. A half century ago if you wanted a fast film you went with Tri-X ISO (ASA) 400 B&W film. Tri-X was marketed around 1940 as a larger size film with an ASA of 200. In 1954 it was offered in 120 and 35mm format too at 320 (tungsten) and 400 (daylight) which could be pushed to 800 ASA with the right developers.

Polaroid beat the pants off Kodak with its ASA 3,000 B&W film, touting use indoors with no flash during the day and a camera mounted wink light (AKA fill-in flash) at night by indoor lighting with the wink light softening any shadows.

Today’s digital cameras easily offer an ISO of 3,00o and higher. My old Sony NEX-6 goes to an amazing ISO of 25,600! But in the days of film, Polaroid’s ASA 3,000 film was something to be proud about! My thanks to friend and fellow PHSC member George Dunbar for researching this historical ad in the September 28, 1959 issue of LIFE magazine (pp 21-23). Well done George!

Posted in processes | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on neat way to add three stops

big format – 3X the fun

the Three Stooges try to make a buck with photos

Toronto. Familiar faces to those of a certain generation, Larry, Moe and Curley are featured on the upper left of page one of the latest Graflex Journal for this year, issue 3 2019.

Click the link and browse and print Ken Metcalf’s latest newsletter on the famous Graflex and Graphic cameras. Ken always has an interesting little photo for the left of his masthead.  This time it is a publicity still of that famous trio, The Three Stooges, trying to earn a buck by taking and selling some Speed Graphic photos at 3 for a dollar.

Posted in newsletter | Tagged , , | Comments Off on big format – 3X the fun

digital photos – easier and harder too

Seagate – back up before you regret losing images and fies

Toronto. As digital overrides film (analogue), the messy wet darkroom gives way to computer-based image correction and inkjet printing. Digital makes technically perfect images a snap while still demanding an artist’s eye to find a subject and take a photo that is more than just a snap shot! And the cost of materials is reduced to paper and ink for those shots deemed necessary as prints.

For film, negative sleeves offer a place to note the client/project, date, subject matter etc. This is greatly simplified in digital images through keywords, captions, etc. that allow fast searches on the computer. Such data are imbedded in image files (EXIF etc.) making every file’s background material portable.

But what about losses? Computer files are stored on a mechanical hard drive or a solid state drive. Backups to another drive or the cloud are a MUST to anticipate the inevitable error, goof, or failure that deletes the original file(s). I recently bought a four terabyte portable drive to back up my images and files. A failure of an internal drive years ago taught me how important it is to back up all critical files and images. I managed to recover my data but it was slow and messy without solid backup material.

Another issue with digital images is that the standard and means to view the images have a rather short life in the full scheme of things. Film negatives and prints can be viewed by the eye. Digital files need a suitable computer plus a viewer or editor application. The current file standard is JPEG (or JPG) but the advent of short videos and stills in smartphones has shifted the standard to something labelled  HEIC.

Even RAW files vary. Camera makers bring out newer versions of their RAW files with newer camera models rendering older versions of RAW files obsolete. Adobe countered by offering to save RAW files as DNG files instead hoping DNG would last. Now competitors to Adobe Lightroom are arguing that you lose some fine detail and other critical data by converting from a RAW format by the camera maker to DNG format.

And as we see a shift in storage media over time from eight inch floppies, to 5 1/4, to “hard” case floppies, to hard drives, to DVDs, to SSDs, to the cloud, etc., it becomes potentially harder and harder to reliably save and view digital images across the years. As  resolution increases, so do demands on the hardware. A couple of decades ago most digital images were around one megapixel in size. Today 60 megapixel images are not uncommon to professionals. Four decades ago I used a 10 Mb hard drive. three decades ago I used 40 Mb to 100 Mb drives. Today I have 2 Tb and 4 Tb drives.

Digital images are sweeping, fast, easy, and complicated all in one.


Posted in processes | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on digital photos – easier and harder too