Friday, January 3, 2014

How to work with a Graflex RB Series B camera

Last year I wrote an article about my great-grandfather's Graflex RB Series B that I'd acquired from my Dad. Recently I posted two videos on my House of Hacks site.

The first is about cleaning the camera and getting it ready for making images.

The second covers loading film, setting exposure, taking pictures and the results from the first roll of film.

I hope you find these interesting.

Monday, December 9, 2013

How to hack a C-mount lens onto a Canon 5D

The other day I pulled an old industrial video camera with a lens on it out of the trash can. It was a beautifully built bit of kit and the trash can seemed the wrong place for it, even if it is so old as to be mostly worthless. The camera requires some specialty support hardware and doesn't do anything by itself. But I wondered if the lens might be interesting to work with.

I pulled the lens off; if simply had a screw mount. I also removed the lens from my 5D, held the video camera's lens up to the camera and did a bit of lens whacking. This was the result of playing around making images of my computer's login screen.

It has the smeary imperfections typical of a lens whacked image. However the odd color shifts in the center caught my eye. I wondered what cased them so I zoomed in to 100% and saw the following.

The individual red, green and blue dots in the image above are the sub-pixels that make up a pixel on the monitor. That's pretty cool. This lens has some potential for macro shots. So, I decided to make something a bit easier to work with than just holding the lens in front of the camera body by hand.

I had an extra body cap on hand that I'd purchased just for experimentation such as this. I pulled it out and drilled a hole just large enough for the threaded part of the lens to slip into.

I then attached the lens to the body cap.

I didn't want to make this a permanent mount in case I wanted to use the lens in some other configuration. So, a couple dabs of hot glue later and the two pieces were securely attached but fairly easy to pull apart in the future if I so desire.

Once the glue set, I put the cap/lens assembly on the camera and pointed it at my 24-105 that normally resides on the camera.

The images aren't perfect by any means, but they do have an interesting, dreamy quality to them with all the distortion around the edges. And the depth of field on the area that is in focus is incredibly shallow, like any macro situations. Notice how the yellow "Macro" is sharp in the top image and the red "50 35 24" are blurry. And then compare this to the bottom image where the focus is exactly reversed. I doubt there's 2mm between those two items, so the depth of field is obviously less than that.

The reason this lens acts like a macro lens is because c-mount lenses are designed to be very close to the sensor. Canon EOS bodies have a relatively large distance between the sensor and the lens mount. Because of these two things, a c-mount lens on an EOS body is sort of like having an extension tube or bellows attached to a normal lens.

Finally, here's an image of my computer's screen with the lens mounted on the body cap.

It's not really much different than the one that I took holding the lens by hand. Although the pixels aren't quite so washed out.

In this 100% crop of the grey line seen in the image above, the sub-pixels really stand out.

Next, I need to get some micro-adjusting slides and play around with some focus stacking.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

High-speed event photography follow-up

This is just a quick post to say "Thanks" to everyone who came out tonight and to Jeremy Hall and Pete Stott for asking me to demonstrate how to capture shots of apples splashing and balloons popping. I had a great time and enjoyed sharing.

Here are the slides for anyone interested.

If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment below and I'll answer them to the best of my ability.

Update: Here's the eBay store that sells the wireless triggers I use: Gadget Infinity. Note, they are cheap. I haven't had too many problems with them, but some people have. For hobbyist use, I find them acceptable. If you're a pro, you'll probably want to go with something better.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

High-speed event photography presentation

I'm excited to give a talk on doing high-speed photography. This Tuesday, at the Utah County Studio Co-op led by my friend Jeremy Hall, I'll be showing the light and sound triggers I built a couple years ago. I'll go over how to setup and use them to consistently get shots that, without them, are pretty hard to capture.

It's basically similar material to a talk I gave a couple years ago at Photocamp Utah 2010. The video from that presentation is still available on Ustream and I wrote about it in a previous blog article.

If you're in the Utah County area on Tuesday night feel free to come out. The event is free and open to all. More information can be found on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Treasures from Time: Polaroid SK-70 Land

The seventh and last of the cameras I brought back from my Dad's was another one that caught my wife's eye: the SX-70 Land camera by Polaroid. Manufactured between 1972 and 1981, this model with chrome and leather trim was sold to higher end markets.

This model has a number of interesting things. First, its form factor. It collapses down into a relatively thin package and pops up easily (once you figure out the technique), ready to make pictures. Second, due to the folding and the fact that it's a SLR, the light path has to go through some odd shaped lenses in order to provide a proper image to both the view finder and film. Next, the disposable flash bars had logic circuits in them to determine which bulbs were used and which one to flash next. Finally, the film pack included a 6-volt battery to power both camera and flash. This ensured power was always available whenever there was film in it.

Later variations of this design introduced in the mid-70's allowed the price to drop, being made out of cheaper materials and with more features. Film chemistry was improved over the life of the product and by the late 70's, this format was the top selling film in the United States.

Open Source Hardware is an interesting movement to watch today. Sort of like Open Source Software groups that publish all their source code, there are companies that publish all the source documents for making their products. The idea is to allow more innovation, providing a means for customers to easily understand and modify their technology. Polaroid, while not opening up to this degree, was a fore-runner of this concept by selling two kits for hobbyists to incorporate their technology. One was their sonar kit for measuring distance that they developed for the OneShot camera, a descendant of the one pictured above. The other kit allowed people to use the flat, high-current 6-volt battery in their own projects.

That's it for this series. If you want to see other articles about the cameras I recently acquired, the introduction to this series has an index.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Treasures from Time: Canon T50

This Canon T50 caught my wife's eye, probably because she has an AE-1. The T50 has an interesting mix of features. It was designed as an inexpensive, entry level 35mm SLR and was the first of the T series, replacing the previous A series SLRs. Because of its position as a beginners camera, automatic is the only exposure control mode. It has auto-loading and a motor advance, allowing 1.4 frames per second. All the electronics are controlled by two AA batteries. In contrast to all this automation, the focus and rewind are manual.

The T50 accepts FD mount lenses, as was standard for Canon when this model was made between 1983 and 1989. This allowed an impressive array of glass options from a 7.5mm fisheye to a 600-830mm zoom.

Canon introduced a new shutter with this model. All their previous SLRs had horizontal sliding cloth shutters. The T50 pioneered the vertical sliding metal shutters that are still used in their current SLRs. This allowed sync speeds higher than the 1/60th second limit imposed by the old technology.

The introduction to this series has an index of all the cameras I recently acquired.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Treasures from Time: Kodak Pony II

As solid and advanced as the Retina IIc was yesterday, the Pony II is light and basic today. Shown above with an optional flash attached, this camera was manufactured between 1957 and 1962. It has a bakelite body with a simple viewfinder and takes 35mm film.

Focus is set by estimating the distance to the subject and dialing in that value on the dial around the lens. The lens is marked as 44mm at f/3.9 but the aperture control ring is indexed with exposure values, not f/stops. An EV of 9 is wide open and 15 closes the four bladed diaphragm to its smallest opening, which looks to be about f/22.

There is only a single shutter speed. I found a chart online that correlates exposure values/ISO to f/stops/shutter speeds. If I'm interpreting the chart correctly, I think the shutter speed is probably 1/30th or 1/60th of a second.

This is a really basic camera which made a perfect gift when I received it around 2nd grade. That's right. This is my first camera. I thought it had been lost or given away in the moves growing up, but Dad had it stored away somewhere and here it was, all ready for me to pick up again and start making pictures. It's light and plastic, but simple. And that means there's not really much to go wrong with it. It seems to work as well now as it did when I first got it, more than a couple decades ago.

The introduction to this series has an index of all the cameras I recently acquired.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Treasures from Time: Kodak Retina IIc

The next camera in this series is this Kodak Retina IIc. It's an incredibly solid little camera; the weight for it's size and the feel of all the mechanisms scream craftsmanship. The leather case is built such that it could probably survive years of hard abuse and still provide superb protection for the camera.

The Retina line was manufactured in Stuttgart, Germany for Kodak by their subsidiary Nagel Camerawerk. The original Retina was introduced in 1934 and pioneered the 35mm film format. The Retina IIc shown above was produced between 1954 and 1957. Like the other Retina II series cameras preceding it, it has a rangefinder viewfinder, an exposure calculator and interchangeable lenses.

The exposure calculator is an interesting feature, apparently introduced on the second generation Retina I model. The user sets the "light value" which locks in a ratio between shutter speed and f/stop. A ring can then be rotated that allows the shutter speed or f/stop to be adjusted that keeps the other in sync for proper exposure. It's basically a mechanical version of the aperture value and time value modes on current DSLRs.

Shutter speeds are bulb mode or between 1 and 1/500th second, and the flash can sync at any speed. There's a 10 second self-timer. The standard 50mm lens is f/2.8 and is reputed to be a very good lens. Close-up adapters, wide angle (35mm f/5.6) and telephoto (80mm f/4) lenses were also available along with quite a few other accessories, including a microscope adaptor.

This camera has no personal history; my Dad could not remember how it showed up in his collection. But its solid feel and the exposure computer caught my attention and drew me to it. It should be fun to give it a try.

The introduction to this series has an index of all the cameras I recently acquired.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Treasures from Time: Wardflex II

The twin-lens reflex Wardflex II is the next oldest in my new collection and the second with some personal history. Most of the cameras I recently acquired have quite a bit of information available online. This one is an exception.

About all I've been able to find out about it is the Wardflex was a rebadged import sold by Montgomery Wards. The original plastic version was sold before World War II and used 620 film. Post war through the early 50's they introduced another model by the same name with upgraded optics and a metal body that used 120 film. In 1957 they updated to the Wardflex II and sold it for several years.

The lens opens up to f/3.5 and closes down to f/22 with a focal length of 80mm. Looks like the shutter speed is limited from 1 second down to 1/300th second and bulb mode.

Like the Graflex, there's a bit of personal history with this one too. It also belonged to my great-Grandfather and given to my Dad by my Grandparents. He used it all through my growing up years until he got a Minolta SLR when I was in Jr. High or High school. Other than the shutter being a bit gummy it's in great shape. I need to get it in to get cleaned up and it should be good to go make some images.

Also shown is a Sekonic Auto-Lumi model 86. There's more online information available on this than the camera. It was made between 1963 and 1978 and sold new for about $9.00. It uses a selenium photo cell as a sensor with the output displayed on a micro-amp meter. The amount of current generated by the light hitting the photo cell is directly shown on the meter. A simple, battery-less system with very few things to go wrong. It shows the average reflected light but can't be used for incident light.

The introduction has an index of all the cameras in this series.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Treasures from Time: Graflex RB series B

The next oldest in my new collection is a Graflex RB series B camera and the first with some personal history. The company changed names a number of times over its history, making it easier to narrow down the age. The manufacture's plate indicates it was made by The Folmer-Graflex Corporation. According to Wikipedia, this was used between 1928 and 1946. Near as I can find in searching around, the RB series B was made until 1942, further limiting the possible date of manufacture.

This one has a number of interesting features to it.
  • The back film carrier rotates, allowing the photographer to switch between portrait and landscape without rotating the camera.
  • Normally there is a sheet film holder on the back. Mine has a "newer" 120 holder that clips into where the sheet holder would usually fit.
  • The lens is interchangeable and had several options. I just have the standard lens made by Kodak. It has f/stops from 4.5 to 32. There was also a telephoto lens that was popular with portrait photographers.
  • The shutter is a length of fabric with various sized slits in it called curtain apertures. It is rolled onto a roller that has spring tension on it. The more it's rolled, the higher the tension and the faster the shutter speed. The combination of which aperture is selected and the amount of tension on the roller control the shutter speed from 1/10th to 1/1000th of a second.
  • The viewfinder is setup like a twin-lens reflex with a 45 degree mirror and a ground glass. The difference is there's only one lens. The image on the glass is size-for-size exactly what the film will see. It's a real SLR.

As I mentioned, there's a bit of personal history with this one. It had belonged to my great-Grandfather and my Grandparents didn't have any use for it, or one of the other cameras, so they gave them to my Dad when I was an infant. I have early memories of playing around with this but I've never known it to be used. I don't know that my Dad ever put any film in it. I think it's time to get some 120 and see what it'll do.

The introduction has an index of all the cameras in this series.