Leica Sofort Instant Camera

Following on from my recent blog where I was discussing my Polaroid Snap Shot Instant camera that I’d owned for the past couple of years and the issues I had with the print quality of the photos, I decided I was due an upgrade.

I felt I could justify an upgrade of instant camera as I do use it regularly, especially when I’m out with friends or family.

Whilst I appreciate the cost of film can be quite pricey I do tend to use it carefully and for me personally, I tend to buy instant film every one to two months so the cost isn’t too expensive for me. My basic rule is that I try to shoot quality over quantity with film camera’s.

My upgrade came about when I discovered the Leica Sofort Instant camera for sale in the UK. Whilst I appreciate all camera’s are ‘tools’ I couldn’t help but fall in love with the look and design of this camera.

Since it’s a Leica, this obviously comes at a higher price compared to a lot of instant cameras out there. In the UK the cost of this camera ranges from £200 – £250 and that is for the basic camera. That doesn’t include the cost of the case, film or cool orange, mint and white camera strap.

The camera is currently sold in three colours….white, orange and mint. Personally for me, I absolutely love the orange one.

It uses the fuji instax mini film and also the leica version of this same mini film which is produced by fujifilm.

Whilst the camera isn’t fully manual, it does have a built in flash and has several shooting modes:

  • Macro
  • Bulb
  • Automatic
  • Self timer
  • Party and People
  • Sport and Action
  • Double Exposure
  • Selfie

So far, I’ve mainly shot in standard or party and people mode. I’ve found the photos of people to be very flattering and many of my friends have commented about how the photos make them look younger which they obviously love.

The instant film is easy to load and there is a digital counter on the back which tells you how many photos you have left in the camera which I find really helpful. The film comes in packs of 10.

I find the camera lightweight and very portable. It is slightly bigger than my polaroid snap so doesn’t always fit into my smaller handbags but the cool strap enables me to wear it over my shoulder like a handbag.

There are two colour cases available for this camera in black and brown with a white canvas section on the side parts of the case. Again the cases aren’t overly cheap and retail for around £19 in the UK. However, I was pleased with the quality of the case.

I bought the brown case as I felt this colour complimented the orange shade of camera I owned.

The camera comes with a black Leica neck strap but I didn’t feel this colour went with my orange camera and didn’t look anywhere near as cool as the orange, mint and white strap. I therefore purchased the other strap for around £15 in the UK.

I was very impressed at how quickly the photos came out of my camera in comparison to the Polaroid Snap. The quality of the pictures are a million times better than the zinc  printed paper in my opinion and I’m very happy I decided to opt for an instant camera with this type of film.

The downside to this type of instant camera is that you cannot choose between colour and black and white photo modes like I could on the Polaroid Snap. To do this, I either have to load the camera with colour photos or black and white photos then use up 10 shots before I can change the colour. I can also only print one photo at a time as it doesn’t have different style modes, like the Photo Booth option on the Polaroid Snap. However, the picture quality more than makes up for this.

I tend to use the Leica colour film over the own named fujifilm. There have been many arguments that they’re exactly the same, just with Leica noted on the back of the film prints instead of fujifilm. I personally have found that the Leica film produces a warmer colour picture which I prefer.

However, on the black and white photos, I actually prefer the fujifilm brand over the Leica one because I think the photos are slightly cooler in tone which I personally prefer.

I’m sure there are many people who disagree with me about the difference in the film quality but I’m going from my own personal experience of shooting with both of these brands of films.

I tend to buy my Leica colour instant film online from Harrison Cameras as they currently sell a pack of 20 (2 x packs of 10) for £16.00. I can buy my black and white normal fujifilm from any local camera shop since I prefer the own brand of that to the Leica one.

I won’t deny it, this camera was definitely a luxury treat to myself and I’m sure the fujifilm camera’s take just as good photos for the fraction of the price of this camera but I have to be honest and say the look of this camera was what I loved.

I also loved the fact it was a Leica (admittedly not a German produced high quality Leica) but then it would have cost even more if it had been produced in Germany with all metal casing etc.

Ultimately this camera is great fun, is a great conversation point at a party and I’ve had much fun taking photo’s with it. I love the cool retro design and the fact it’s not too bulky to take out with me like a full size Polaroid camera would be.

I certainly don’t regret my purchase and can see me using this camera for many years to come.

Here are some instant photos I took at a family party this year:

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Here is an instant photo I took of the steering wheel of my friend’s 1965 Mustang:

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Dark Room Photography Part 1

When I was a teenager, I was fortunate enough to have a friend who’s parents had a dark room in the basement of their house.

The enlarger was from around the 1960s and was all chrome and dome shaped which looked really cool.

The dryer was a rack with a cream canvas which was discoloured due to it’s age and the chemicals it had been covered with.

I have fond memories of spending hours down there with my friend developing black and white photographs we had taken. Her parents had shown her how it all worked and in turn, she taught me the developing process which I found great fun at the time.

Now I’m rediscovering film photography again, I really wanted to get back into a dark room to see how much I could remember of what I’d learnt many years ago and also if I still enjoyed the developing process.

I found an adult education course in black and white photography at Varndean College in Brighton which is for a 5 week period on a Thursday evening from 7pm – 9pm.

I attended my first lesson yesterday evening and absolutely loved it!

I was given the basic introduction to the dark room and aside from the enlarger and timer being a lot more modern version to the one I had previously used, I was surprised at how much I still remember from those days. The timer I would be using on this course was digital whereas I’d previously used a manual timer.

There was a massive clock on the wall so I was able to count the minutes for the developing process.

The dryer was also completely different as it was a roller version in which the photo was slotted in one end wet and came out the other end of the machine dry. The tutor informed me that they had to order the drying machine all the way from Japan as they were unable to get hold of one in the UK.

In this initial lesson it was assumed we hadn’t yet shot a 35mm black and white film (although I’ve actually shot several over the past few months) so we therefore created camera-less photograms using objects around us to get a feel of how the enlarger works and how we transfer the image onto paper which we then develop.

I had never done a camera-less photogram before so this was all very new and exciting to me. We also had an introduction to basic camera technique so I only managed to do two photos but I was extremely happy with the results which are shown below:

 

 

 

Tokyo Camera Style Book

I discovered this book by John Sypal during one of my regular visits to Zoingimage in Brighton where they had the book for sale.

I was instantly drawn to the front cover and could tell it would be about film cameras. I also love Tokyo which I visited a couple of years ago as I have several friends who live there (one of them owns a really nice bar called the Ipcress Lounge).

I purchased the book and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Apart from the introduction, the book is made up of pictures of vintage cameras that people had in Japan. The book also makes a note of the camera the person is holding which I found to be really helpful.

There are so many amazing cameras in this book from the Leica’s to the Nikons, Pentax etc.

As a newbie to film photography I really did enjoy looking at all the different cameras and learning what they were.

One of my favourite looking cameras in the book was the Olympus Pen FT camera.

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Polaroid Snap Instant Camera

I first discovered this camera a couple of years ago when I wanted to get an instant camera for various social events.

I had been to a few social gatherings where some friends of mine were using the Fujifilm Instax Mini instant camera and I really thought it was lovely that I was able to take home an instant picture of the occasion.

Prior to that I hadn’t really thought about instant photos except for the old polaroid instant cameras which were used by my family during the 70s/80s.

I therefore started looking into the types of instant cameras that were available but at a reasonable price as I wasn’t sure how often I would actually use it so didn’t want to spend a small fortune only for it to end up sitting in a drawer several months later.

Whilst looking at the various styles I really liked the look of the Polaroid Snap Cameras as their style really reminded me of the late 70s / early 80s with the colourful rainbow stripe across it.

These cameras come in various colours but were quite pricey at the time (around £105 I recall) which was a little higher than I really wanted to pay. However, to my luck, the pink version suddenly came up in a sale at Urban Outfitters and was reduced to around £49.99. At that price I decided to buy it and it really helped that I loved the pink colour any way (the other colours remained at full price).

I also loved the fact that a really cool case in different colours had been designed for the camera and I bought a contrast white one from Argos for around £15.

What I love about this camera is that it has a magnetic lens protector and it’s very much the same weight of a compact camera so can easily be carried in a handbag on a night out. It has a viewfinder which pops up when pressed up and then closes back into camera when not in use.

What I wasn’t so keen on when I started using it was the type of photo quality you get. This is because the camera uses ZINK Zero-Ink Printing Technology. I found the colour quality to be rather hit and miss.

You can select 3 different types of colour options on top of the camera from full colour, to slightly muted colour and black and white. You can also select a style of print from normal frame, to a border frame and a 4 frame photo (like a Photo Booth) where the camera takes four shots rather than a single one and prints it onto the same piece of paper.

The other downside to this camera is that it doesn’t let you know how many prints are remaining (there are 10 per pack) so unless you keep count (which I struggled to do when at a busy party), I would find myself taking a further picture for it finally to flash at me to state there was no more film and the instant photo moment would have passed so that kind of defeats the object of being an instant camera.

Also, the zinc paper does take a while to print and slowly comes out of the camera so it’s not particularly ‘instant’.

For all it’s faults, it certainly has provided great entertainment over the past few years and I’m pleased that I’ve got full use out of it and it hasn’t sat in a drawer as I worried it may do.

Personally though, I’m pleased I got it for the price I did and didn’t pay the original price as to me, I’m not sure I could have justified it for the print quality of the photos and the inconsistency of not knowing if I have enough paper in there for the photo.

The Zinc paper is cheaper overall per photo than the likes of fujifilm instant film so that is where I think the compromise is.

Since I bought this camera, it has reduced in price to around £69.99 – £89.99. This is because Polaroid have now brought out a newer model called the Polaroid Snap Touch Instant Print Camera with an LCD Screen so you can digitally view the picture on the back of the camera before you print it. There is also bluetooth connectivity and the newer model takes an SD card up to 128gb, which enables you to continue to take photos even if you run out of paper and print them later. This newer model currently retails for around £149.99.

Below are some photos I’ve taken so you can decide for yourself the quality of the images:

 

 

 

Trip Magazine Issue One

It’s great to see other people keeping film photography alive and I was very excited when I learnt on instagram about this recent magazine that had been made by @trip.zine

@trip.zine describes it as a visual love letter to the Olympus Trip 35. It’s ultimately a visual magazine which comprises of pictures taken by the Olympus Trip 35 from 20 photographers from across the world.

It’s A5 in size which means it’s easily portable and is printed on lovely quality 150gsm silk paper.

The photos are amazing and it provides so much inspiration as to what photo’s could be taken using this smart little compact camera.

I’m really happy with the purchase and I wasn’t surprised to recently discover that there aren’t many copies left for sale so if you’re interested, I’d buy one before they sell out.

They retail at £8 (plus postage costs) but in view of the quality of the magazine with over 60 pages of 35mm film photography, I personally think the cost is well worth it.

This magazine is something I will certainly keep as it’s truly unique and special.

I really admire @trip.zine for publishing this magazine and I do hope there will be further issues for sale in the near future which I will most definitely purchase.

The magazine is currently for sale online at http://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/609019891/trip-zine-issue-one?utm_medium

Their shop name on Etsy is TripZine.

Olympus Trip 35

I was first made aware of this camera when I was recently in my local second hand camera shop and a young guy popped into the shop and put this model of camera on their counter asking if they had a case for it.

The chrome and black, accompanied with the really cool style lens really caught my eye and it helped having Olympus Trip 35 written on it so I knew I could do some more research about the camera online once I got home.

I found that it’s a 35mm compact film camera (which means it doesn’t have interchangeable lenses) and was produced from 1967 (hence the cool design) until 1984. I also discovered that David Bailey had promoted the camera in some adverts during the 1970s so couldn’t help but take a look at these on youtube.

I am too young to remember this camera originally but I can imagine it was a great travel camera back in it’s day.

I had been after a compact film camera to accompany my Pentax K1000 for times when I needed something a bit more lightweight and compact to take film photos with so I knew this was the camera for me.

After further research I found that two types of shutter button had been produced on this camera. The first was the chrome shutter button which later changed to a black shutter button.

I immediately decided that I wanted an Olympus Trip 35 with a chrome shutter button as I personally preferred how that looked overall on the camera.

These cameras are very common (because so many were produced) so they are very easy to get hold of. They can also be bought quite cheaply from £5, with the price increasing with older models and if they’ve recently been refurbished.

Within an initial enquiry to all my local second hand camera shops, they all had one in stock but unfortunately all with the black plastic shutter button.

In the end I purchased mine on eBay for less than £40. It came with the case, original instruction manual and a miniature flash (which still works!) so I was really happy with my purchase.

The only slight flaw with the camera (hence why I think it wasn’t for sale at a higher price of around £70-£80) was that the light seals needed replacing. I wasn’t put off doing this myself as I found a website http://www.cameramill.co.uk/product/olympus-trip-35-light-seal-kit/ where I could purchase a light seal kit for £4.20

This website also provides two lots of the kit (in case of any mistakes) and instructions about how to remove the original light seals and fit the new ones. I found it really easy to replace the old light seals and my camera works great.

The camera overall is automatic and by that I mean that you turn the lens to single person, group of people or landscape mode to take a picture. It takes some practice to make sure your standing at the correct distance for each of these modes so your picture doesn’t come out blurry. There are also aperture numbers for you to choose from if you add a flash to your camera that you would pick instead.

If you’re not using the flash, the camera requires well lit conditions to work as it is has a solar-powered selenium light meter. The shutter will not fire if it’s too dark and a red flag will show in the viewfinder to confirm this is why the camera won’t work.

Overall this camera is great for a simple point and shoot camera without having to put too much thought into taking the picture. I can see why it had ‘Trip’ in the title as I can imagine it’s a great travel camera.

When I got my first roll of film developed I was amazed at the quality and sharpness of the photos. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting great photos because of the camera’s simplicity but it clearly has a really good lens.

I discovered online that this camera is very popular and there is a little cult following for this camera. There is a great website http://www.tripman.co.uk who is dedicated to the Olympus Trip 35 camera and you can buy refurbished camera’s through them too.

Here are some photos I’ve currently taken on my trip:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pentax K1000

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In previous posts I mentioned that my Zeiss-Ikon camera no longer worked and I needed to find a replacement.

After much research I finally decided on the Pentax K1000 SLR camera. I know that I wanted an SLR 35mm camera and I also knew that I wanted it to be as manual as possible so I could learn the basics of photography on it.

There is plenty of information on the internet regarding this camera and I heard from people I had spoken to that it was a good ‘student camera’ to learn on. I had also read that it is a good robust quality camera.

This camera has a shutter speed of 1 /1000th to 1 second and a centre-needle metering in the viewfinder. There is a battery that is required for the centre-needle metering system. However, what is great about this camera is that it’s still fully functional if the battery runs out. This means you’d have to work out the exposure yourself (you can’t go too wrong with the ‘sunny 16’ rule) or alternatively use an external light meter. This is one of the main reasons I picked the Pentax K1000 over the Canon AE-1 because if the battery dies on the Canon AE-1, the mirror will lock up so no more photos can be taken until the battery is replaced.

I really liked the fact that the Pentax K1000 was manufactured from 1976 to 1997 which made me think it must be a good camera if it was in production for 21 years.

Whilst in production, from what I’ve read, it was initially manufactured in Japan and then in other countries. The earlier models state Asahi Pentax on them where as the later models only state Pentax which again, from what I’ve read, the quality of the materials produced on the later models isn’t always as good quality.

I therefore decided that I wanted an earlier ‘Asahi Pentax’ version. Thanks to the timespan of manufacturing of these cameras, they are very easy to get hold of but they are going up in price every year.

I decided that I wanted my camera to be in an excellent condition and was willing to pay a little extra for this. After much searching in my local camera shops and online I finally managed to find an older style ‘Asahi Pentax’ that was cosmetically in beautiful condition, fully working with the light meter working correctly and the light seals newly replaced on eBay from a reputable camera dealer with an SMC Pentax-M 1:2 50mm lens (Asahi Optical Co.) included. What was also lovely was that the camera came with it’s original case which again was in immaculate condition and also the original cool 70’s  blue and white embroidered strap. I find the strap extremely comfortable to wear when using the camera.

I think the pictures do come out really nice on this camera (will show examples in a later blog) and I’ve learnt a lot about shutter speeds and aperture since using this camera.

It is a proper solid, well built camera and I’ve certainly not regretted my purchase and have had much joy in using it.

When I started using the camera I did feel rather restricted in the lens I was using so decided that I wanted to purchase some further lenses, ideally for wider shots and a zoom type lens for closer shots of wildlife when I’m on the beach etc.

I managed to find a copy of the ‘Complete Pentax user’s guide K1000’ by David Kilpatrick on eBay. This gives great information regarding the mechanics/use of the camera and also the types of lenses available.

I visited my local camera shop, Clock Tower cameras in Brighton (www.clocktowercameras.co.uk) where I was able to purchase two of the lenses I was after.

The first one was the SMC Pentax-M 1:2.8 28mm lens (Asahi Opt. Co. Japan) which I was able to pick up for less than £60 and is in excellent condition and gives wider angle shots.

The second lens I purchased from there was the SMC Pentax-M zoom 1:4 75-150mm lens (Asahi Opt. Co. Japan) which again was in excellent condition and cost around £30. The zoom is quite a good general zoom lens but if you wanted really detailed shots, you definitely need a larger zoom. For me though I was happy enough with this purchase.

I learnt from my local camera shop that the wider angle lenses are more costly than the zoom lenses for this camera. They told me this was because people don’t always want the bulk of carrying the zoom lenses around so they’re ultimately not as popular.

The main lens I use the most out of the three I currently own is the 28mm lens because of the coverage I can get in a shot. If I was taking a picture of something closer up (such as a portrait) then I would opt for the 50mm lens. When I need to zoom in then I obviously use my zoom lens.

I use this camera a lot and I’m currently trying different films, both in colour and black and white, to see what types of pictures each film produces.