… under the sun.

PHSC OUTDOOR FALL CAMERA FAIR – SAT. Oct 2nd, 2021. Trident Hall

Toronto. I grew up with the King James version of the Bible. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says in part, “… there is no new thing under the sun.”. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when our indoor Fall Fair became seriously doubtful due to COVID restrictions.  Since we had a good Trunk Sale, we decided an outdoor fair at the same location would work. Our newsletter editor agreed, but suggested a name change and the PHSC “Outdoor Fall Camera Fair” was born.

Come out and join the festivities. We moved up the start and end time from the Trunk Sale times in recognition of the traditionally cooler weather. The date, as shown on the poster is SATURDAY, October 2nd, 2021.  Email fair@phsc.ca for reservations. Attendance for buyers and browsers is free – Beverages and food will be available too! Need directions? Use those shown here on an old Fall Fair book mark. TTC access and Free Parking!


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tweet, tweet

1950 ad for Ferrania Condor in Pop Photography

Toronto. This camera was ‘for the birds’, or was it?  This advertisement by Direct Products Corp. in NYC appeared on page 125 in the June, 1950 issue of Popular Photography (about the only year the camera was around over here, although it was made in Italy from about 1947 into the early 1950s).

Twenty years ago the camera in good condition sold to collectors for $100 to $150 USD vs. $93 USD when new.  Many dubbed the Condor a Leica “look alike” but others disagree.

My introduction to Ferrania was in the summer of 1960 when I tried its colour printing paper and chemistry. It took me and a friend nearly a night to get the paper exposure and colour right. By then, the chemistry was finished and we had to begin with a new batch the next night. Very tedious and costly. At the time, I had no idea Ferrania also made cameras and that the Condor had been its introduction to more expensive models.

In this advertisement, the American distributors hint at the camera’s Italian roots without saying so explicitly. Like many cameras of the day, the Condor attempted to get into the post-war North American photography market, but lost out to better or cheaper products. Please note that not all Condor cameras were labelled as Ferrania Condor. To add to the confusion, there was also a Japanese camera called the Condor.

My thanks to good friend, George Dunbar, for sharing this find on post WW2 photographic history in America.

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revisit to an ERA

Ev’s studio at 21 Gloucester Street

Toronto. Everett Roseborough became our journal editor back in 1987 and continued the task through 1997 when Bob Lansdale took over. Ev passed away at 98 in London, Ontario. Ev was a commercial photographer for many years and had studios at various locations in this city. His last studio was known as Everett Roseborough Limited and ERA Communications (ERA). Ev’s business was here when he passed the PHSC editorial duties over to our late editor, Bob Lansdale.

In Photographic Canadiana, issue 37-1,  Stan White wrote a nice article summing up Ev’s contributions to photography. Stan had worked as a fellow photographer in Ev’s studio and later taught at Sheridan College before retiring.

Stan and I swapped emails recently and Stan included both his 37-1 manuscript and a few photos of Ev’s earlier studios. Of interest to me was Ev’s studio in the Yorkville area at 21 Gloucester street just east of Young. The studio became a restaurant called ‘Bumpkins’ which I attended a few time for lunch when I was working at Bloor and Yonge. Here you can click on an image and see 21 Gloucester as the studio at left and later as Bumpkins at right. When I ate there I was a member of the society but completely unaware that it was once a photographic studio.

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a shot in the dark

Notorious photo of the execution of James Morelli taken with a tiny Minox.

Toronto. In Chicago of 1949, execution of notorious, James ‘Mad-Dog’ Morelli, made newspaper head lines because contrary to American law, the man’s execution was captured on film. This was about two decades after a similar incident in New York State’s Sing Sing death house prompted major changes to execution access in America.

Like the earlier photo, exposures were taken by existing light and a good guess. To circumvent discovery, the photographer hid a loaded Minox in a carved out area within his shoe, using a handkerchief to hide the camera as he looked through the viewer and snapped off four shots at 1/5th second speed (the Minox has a fixed aperture f/3.5, 15m lens).

This photo was subject to much debate over its authenticity. My thanks to good friend and associate, George Dunbar who shared this find of an article on page 86 of the March 1950 issue of Popular Photography.  The magazine link appeared earlier and is recorded here for convenience.


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doing it better (sometimes)

An impressive ad for the Contax S c1950

Toronto. On page 31 of the March 1950 edition of Popular Photography, an advertisement touts the Zeiss-Ikon Contax-S camera at whopping price of $475USD with the coated Zeiss Biotar lens. The model S was briefly sold while later models were made with lower letters after the name “Contax”.

The ad explains the virtue of the 35mm pentaprism SLR over the common and very popular rangefinder cameras like the Leica. The ad ignores the difficulty focussing wide angle lens or focussing in dim light. Or that mirror clearance affects the focal length, design and resolution of lenses at and shorter than so called normal lenses. The use of an SLR at the time was a bit more complex and a bit slower than using a rangefinder camera. However; when using telephoto lenses outdoors, the SLRs won hands down.

I used the Exakta Varex and the Exakta VX IIa, also made in Dresden, for about 15 years. They too commanded a healthy price tag and like the Contax SLRs were of poorer construction than Leica. I discovered that as my eyes aged, focussing normal and wide angle lenses became more challenging prompting me to move to the Leica and rangefinders for most of my photos.

In later years and into the digital era, SLR cameras replaced rangefinder cameras as the two design concepts merged in speed and image quality.

My thanks to my good friend and fellow PHSC member, George Dunbar, for sharing this find.

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rainbow connection

Kermit sings “Rainbow Connection” courtesy of Vanity Fair

Toronto. On September 10th, Brad Wheeler wrote a comprehensive obituary in the Globe and Mail on the death of our editor, Bob Lansdale.  Brad’s article was complemented with this overview of Bob’s bio and photographs.

Until Bob’s accomplishments are read, some of us may have been unaware of the gem we had in Mr Lansdale as a devoted member of the PHSC. Read the words and view the images. Well done, Brad. A truly great send off for a very special member.

Note: The title is that of the whimsical Sesame Street song as sung by Kermit the Frog. The icon I used is courtesy of a 2019 article in Vanity Fair by Donald Liebenson.

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fine art photos at heritage auction house

Calla Lily c1865, courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Toronto. As we sit out this pandemic and browse around the internet, we may discover a means to augment boredom and complement our image collection.

For example, PHSC member Ian Archer discovered this interesting auction of historical photos online. Heritage Auctions touts itself as “America’s Auction House” and has a series of photos up online for viewing and bidding – auction closes September 28th.

I did a screen grab of the image titled “Calla Aethiopica Lily, 1865″ Its an Albumen print some 9-1/4 x 7-3/8 inches (23.5 x 18.7 cm) and is lot 30003 in Auction 17163. The photo is from the “Fratelli Alinari ” archives. The photographic house of  Fratelli Alinari was established back in 1854 in Florence, Italy by Leopold Alinari, who founded his studio just two years earlier.  Alinari’s two brothers, Giuseppe and Romualdo, joined him in the venture, hence the “Fratelli” in the name. Today, it is “the oldest company in the world in the field of photography”. (Note Heritage Auctions show the company active from 1854 to 1920 while Wikipedia shows it active from 1854 to the current date).

Browse through their eclectic collection of old images, many taken by recognized photographers of the day. Note that the auction house is based in Dallas, Texas, and all amounts are in USD. A big thanks goes to member Ian Archer for sharing this find with us.

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the value of photography to history

Toronto from Toronto Island – from a wood cut in the 1st edition of Picturesque Canada c1882

Toronto. As we sit back in our easy chair and view a colour video clip of a catastrophe (from nature, man,  or war) on the other side of the globe, we seldom think about the impact photography has had on history.

No one ever saw an Egyptian pyramid being built – photography did not exist. We see Napoleon at Waterloo only through the mind of the artist who painted the battle – photography did not exist. However; since 1839, we have seen portraits and landscapes not through the mind of a painter, but through the mind of a photographer and his camera lens.

Centuries ago, books and newspapers were mostly text – columns and columns of text relived only by expensive engravings. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the invention of the half-tone process allowed photographs instead of engravings to be used and circulated. Without photography, books would use engravings like this one from Picturesque Canada, to relieve the tedium of the printed word.

We would only know history from the imperfect written word (or sometimes an oral history) or by an artist’s rendition of a famous person or event. Some line drawings, like those by Hogarth, illustrate the common people and city scenes, often as a criticism of the times or morals.

So the next time you idly watch a full colour video clip, think about the value and impact of photography on the history of today!

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Leica copy cats

Toronto. After WW2, the world was inundated with Leica lookalikes. Some were  flat out copies like the Russian FED and Zorki models; some were copies of Leica features like Canon; and some were marketed as improvements on Leica like the Kardon, or the very expensive Foton. Others used a similar sounding name like Nicca.

To try counteracting this deluge of cameras, the American subsidiary of Leitz took out ads like this one on page 7 of the April, 1949 issue of Popular Photography. A few years later, Leitz introduced the famous M series and ended this wave of ‘me too’ cameras based on the screw mount series of Leicas.

Over the years, I handled cameras made by Leica, Exakta, Minolta and many others. None seemed as well built or as sturdy as the Leica models, especially the famous M series.

My thanks to good friend and fellow PHSC member, George Dunbar, for suggesting this advertisement. The link also appears elsewhere on this site but is copied here for the convenience of the viewer.

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no wonder compact digital cameras disappeared

cherry tomatoes using the Samsung A32 5g camera via the iPod Touch camera

Toronto. The other day, Carol and I decided to trade in our ancient Samsung smartphone. We opted for a cheap cell phone and an equally cheap plan. One of the cheaper phones was the Samsung A32 5g model. It was black with 64Gb of memory built in and another massive amount optional by plugging in a microSD card at any time.

It had not two cameras, but FOUR. The main camera is a 48Mpx beast that makes optical zoom practical (the cherry tomatoes at top left from our garden are an example of optical zoom before and after exposure). This makes it the camera with the highest resolution in the house! A second camera gives ultra wide shots; the third close – very close – macro shots and the forth is the usual front facing camera for ‘selfies’.

An iPhone would have been more to my liking but the choices were too expensive or a bit dated now. Samsung uses the Android OS, and while it often mimics iOS, there are enough differences to be puzzling to this old Apple fancier.  Nevertheless, a cheap cell phone uses a camera far better than any compact digital. Plus it has the editing software built-in and can save images and send them (if you know how) world wide. Of course, you can also use it to text or telephone …

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genealogy and photography

Julia Austin on stage in a Shakespeare play

Toronto. Have you ever wondered about your ancestors? The American company  Ancestry (with the Canadian link shown here), does a wonderful job of indexing an astonishing number of genealogical databases.

Before Ancestry, one had to visit city directories, or government archives and weed through addresses and census records on microfiche. I did both some 30 to 40 years ago. Census records where a challenge. You had to know who, when, and where to even ask for a possible reel of records. The records were not indexed and were often by street with some addresses skipped and recorded later.

But no records included photographs! Fortunately, family records often include photographs showing many of our ancestors well after they have passed on to heaven or hell or whatever. Photographs, often annotated or the people shown recognized by family members and friends, gave us insight into where we came from. Fascinating.

Years later, before her husband’s death in 1900, Julia and Henry Peneycad took a ride in this two wheel wagon propelled by a pony (automobiles were still in experimental stages and very, very expensive). The couple remained in England in and around London.

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