SLR


photo (14)My newly purchased (used) Pentax 67 and 165mm LS Lens :-)!

I love old film cameras.  Their like swiss watches… except you can make art with them!

Because I’ve purchased my fair share of them, I think it only fair to share some secrets regarding the purchase and maintenance of classic cameras.

So you followed the guidelines for buying a used camera.  Now what to do once you bring her home?  Clean her out!

IMG_0010-9Seals? We no need no stinking seals!

While cameras from the 70’s and 80’s are very reliable, even moreso than their new age counterparts, one thing that always messes things up is the foam seals that are used.  These seals degrade over time… and eventually become a funky black gunk.  But the seals provide a very real and important purpose… to ‘seal’ out light from the camera box.

If the seals degrade and light comes into the camera, then you get light leaks.  Want some illustration?  Just take a gander at the upper right hand corner of the above photo.  Notice the big blob of ungainly white light coming into the frame on the ladies face?  That my friend shows you that your camera is leaky…  And it’s time to patch her up and make her right.

photo (9)Pentax 67 Optical Viewfinder

So how do we stop the leaks?  Well replace the seals!  And the first part to replacing the seals, is to get rid of the old ones.

Above you can see that gooey nasty black crud that’s surrounding the bottom part of the viewfinder.  Mind you, this tutorial will describe how to remove the seals on the optical viewfinder of the Pentax 67, but really, all light seals are the same so go ahead and use these instructions for removing the seals in other cameras (and in the camera bodies too).

photo (13)

Here are my tools:

  • Toothpicks (skewers are better as they are thicker and stronger)
  • Q-Tips
  • Paper Towels
  • Mineral Spirits (other chemicals to remove adhesives will work as well… Goo-Gone etc)

Step #1.  Identify and Attack.

Find the seals that need to be replaced and start applying Mineral Spirits with a Q-Tip.

photo (12)

Because Mineral spirits and other similar chemicals evaporate quickly, a few different appliques will be necessary to loosen the adhesive underside.  Notice the glossy shine of the chemicals on the above viewfinder.

So we identified where we need to remove the gunk… but… Oh No!  The gunk spread!

photo (10)This is the Pentax 67 body and focusing screen (focusing screen in the center in white).  Notice around the edges of the screen is the gunk!  It transferred from the viewfinder to the camera body!  That rascally gunk  needs to git outta der so we can have clean viewing!

So we have identified two places where the gunk is.  Apply the mineral spirits to the body as well!

photo (11)

Now start scraping.  This is the tough part.  And can take some time.

You have to scrape off the goo with the backend of a skewer or toothpick.  With the skewer, the blunt end is good for the majority of the work, the pointy part for the nooks and crannies.  Now apply more mineral spirits… Wash, rinse and repeat.  Eventually your work station looks kind of like this:

photo (8)

But you would rather have that crap out of your camera than inside of it right?  Agreements all around.  And some hugs.

One word of caution – mineral spirits and Goo Gone are liquid and can get into places you don’t want them to.  A perfect example is getting into the vewfinder.  After I cleaned out the viewfinder I put it all back together and found a hazy patch in the middle of the screen!  I was really worried… but after some investigation I found that there was condensation on the inside of the viewfinder (so it wasn’t the lens or the focusing screen… phew!).

photo (15)

That tiny patch in the middle was much bigger about 5 minutes before… but over time the condensation went away.  This is important to think about when choosing a chemical.  Mineral spirits evaporate quickly, and in this case, that is a very good thing.

So now your camera should be without gunky crap, which is nice.  And you’ve gotten over the toughest part, so kudos to you.  But now you have to replace the seals.  And that, my friend, is for another blog post :-).

Happy (light leak free) shooting!

-J

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Motivation comes from many places. I was originally motivated to write this blog because I couldn’t find good information on the technique and philosophy of street photography on the internet. There is info… but the majority of photographic discussion on the web today is geared towards… well… gear.

Wanting a new piece of equipment is pretty natural. Man sees shiny object. Man believes shiny object will help him accomplish his goals. Man spends money on shiny object. Man forgets about goals. Man moves on to next shiny object which will help him accomplish his next fantasy goal…

This paints a pretty dim portrait of humanity and is admittedly one sided. Gear is necessary to take photographs and a computer is necessary to organize them and post them to the web. Another great example of gear reliance is underwater photography. I could not have taken underwater photos without 70 lbs of extensive gear.

Unlike street photography however, underwater photography is a real niche market. On the street your options are wide open. So why do we fret about gear so much when we don’t have to? Well probably because everyone is talking about megapixels, Nikon rumors and what video modes come with their camera. And we want, nay… crave to get with the times.

The internet is a massive place that has made information gathering and distribution very efficient. On DP review you can see the details of photographs with the latest cameras all next to each other so we can see who’s winning the ISO wars, the megapixel wars or the smallest camera wars. We are measuring the stats of our equipment very precisely, but at what cost?

The cost of this hype is that we lose focus on what matters.  And what matters is technique!  Increasing the quality of your equipment will increase the quality of your photographs.  But not by much.  Increasing the quality of your technique will increase the quality of your photographs… by leaps and bounds.

While some may dislike the fact that they cannot buy their way into making great photographs (as so many ads would like to tell them), I happen to appreciate it. If all photography was was a game of spending money, it wouldn’t be an art form or much fun.

So how do we get out of the trap? Well… I would say buy a cheap film SLR for starters… But you don’t really need anything new. Go ahead and use the camera you have. The zen for any photographer is using a camera they’ve used for 5 years or more. That’s called gear intimacy (cue in the Barry White).

If you want to spend money, instead of buying a new camera, buy a book or class that will teach you the proper ways of using your existing camera.  Debate the techniques of photography… Not the stats of some plastic image maker.

In conclusion, all of the hubbub about measuring all these stats only distracts us from what matters most – patience, lighting, keen eyes, and a quick trigger finger. Pay more attention to these practices than the latest digital whirly gig out on the strip and your photos will become much better… they may even mean something to you ;-).

Happy shooting!

J

Its amazing the things we can learn from kids.  We are so used to the notion that we have to be teaching them but in many ways they should be teaching us!  Intimidation is not in most kid’s vocabularies and that is to their benefit.  Because children are constantly taking on new tasks and learning completely new skills, they are used to going out of their comfort zone.  After being shot out of a womb everything is outside of your comfort zone, it’s a wonder babies don’t cry even more.

The other great thing that kids are constantly doing is working on the basics.  The fundamentals of whatever it is you are doing need to be second nature before any serious work can be done.  Even dyed in the wool professionals could use a basics refresher course every now and again (I think it would be a great exercise for a CEO to become a factory worker for a day).

One of my first photos with my Nikon FM and 50mm F2 lens.

This is why old film cameras are wonderful, not to mention cheap, photography tools.  They are very basic – aperture value, shutter speed, and metering the light are all that you need to worry about.  Once you have those three basic things  down packed – you can play with the more interesting things – composition, lighting, juxtaposition etc.  Cutting away all of the options of digital slr’s and point ‘n shoots really helps narrow your focus.  This is why I recommend basic film camera as a first street photography camera.

Oh and did I mention they are inexpensive???

Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Zorki, Leica… the list of old camera options goes on and on…  Where to begin?

Well, if this is to be your first film camera, then I recommend shooting with an SLR that comes with a working light meter.  That second point is not trivial.  If a camera is automatic in any way and the meter doesn’t work, then the automatic modes will not work (and automatic exposure-only cameras won’t work period).  Also, for convenience’s sake, a working meter in the camera is very nice to have.  External light metering can be annoying… so trust me, the first thing you should check on any used camera is that the light meter works and is accurate.

So why choose an SLR?  SLR’s were made rugged and durable.  They typically are not that finicky or complex.  This is why they last a long time.  The other nice thing about them is that they have interchangeable lenses.  And brothers and sisters, lemme tell yah, there are some excellent used lenses on the market that are not that expensive!

The 50mm lens design is the standard for any camera company.  Millions of these pieces of glass were produced and I would go out on a limb to say that most photos were taken on a 50mm lens.  Because of the volume in production, the prices are low and the quality is high.

So here is my proposal for you – get a used SLR camera from the 70’s with a 50mm lens.  Budget conscious?  No worries! Any tight belted chap can afford this setup!  This combo can be had for around $150 or even less!

Some popular options:

  • Pentax K1000
  • Nikon FM, FE or F (my personal recommendation due to the lenses available)
  • Canon AE-1

Another option to go for would be a rangefinder design.  The reason I don’t recommend this as a first film camera is that the prices will typically be greater unless you go for very early designs.  If you go for very early designs, then a light meter will not be available to you.  Many people prefer rangefinders and I love them too, but for your first film camera, a good SLR cannot be beat.

If you are interested in a good discussion about the benefits of an SLR over a rangefinder then take a look at this youtube video

Any endeavor is overwhelming when you first set sail.  I certainly was intimidated by my first digital slr and again by my first film camera.  But after shooting many frames in both, it became so natural to pick up either, put them to my eye, adjust the settings and click.  Just keep shooting.  And everything will fall into place.

Happy shooting friends!

J