I shot this picture last month, in June, which happened to be Pride month. These are my fiancé’s sneakers that have the pride flag colors on the bottom.
I know it is now July, but I just got this picture back from my lab and I wanted to use this opportunity to talk a little about Pride month and raise a little bit of awareness.
You may not know that pride month is in June because that is when the Stonewall Riots occurred. This was during a time when it was illegal to be gay in the United States, and clubs and bars were a place to feel safe for the LGBTQ+ community. These clubs and bars were often raided by police and the Stonewall Riots began after one of these raids.
I got engaged last month, something I never thought would be possible because it only recently became legal to marry. Now you may say progress is being made and it has, but it was illegal to be gay in the 1960’s and 6 decades later it is only now legal for us to be married.
I’d like you, the reader, whether your a married man or woman, someone who has never been married but hope to, or just someone in love in general, to picture what it would be like to rarely ever see yourself represented on movies and television shows. Think about all the love stories out there in the media, but they rarely depict your life.
Think about having to come out to family, which is essentially announcing the way you chose to love another person. I would just like you to imagine having to fear holding hands in public, or to be told that God considers you to be evil.
Now this post has nothing to do with politics. I only wanted to share in my Pride by sharing my personal experience and inviting you for just a second to feel what so many people like me feel everyday.
I hope that will help you to start to, or continue to treat others with compassion and understanding. Because we don’t need others approval. We don’t need you to be “ok” with our “chosen lifestyle” we simply WANT to live our lives and be happy just like you.
You may be wondering at this point why I am saying all of this on my blog. As I said above I just got engaged to my girlfriend. We’ve been together 8 years now and not everyone reacted in a kind way. In fact I had to come out to a lot of people before I felt right even proposing to her which was extremely hard for me. I just hope one day there will be no such thing as coming out. I hope one day we won’t have to explain why we are considered different to others, because dear reader I am sure you never had to break it to your family that you are straight.
Maybe one day I will share my coming out experience on here if that is something you’d like to read. Until then, have pride in who you are, stay motivated, and keep shooting.
This shot was taken with my Canon FTb on Ilford HP5 400 film. I am working on a review/article about my experience with this camera so I took it along with me to a doctors appointment.
I was in a moving car when I quickly took this picture. I pass this house every time I go to my chiropractor and I always say I wish I could get a picture of that house, but the traffic is always heavy and moving fast. I was surprised this came out and that I was able to catch the windmill on the front lawn. I had to use a fast shutter speed so it didn’t catch the movement of the windmill, but I still really like this shot. I think I will try it again on color. What do you think?
Stay motivated and keep shooting. – Aly
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A lot of people have asked the question, “Can getting into photography as a hobby help mental health issues?” The short answer: yes.
I have written before about my struggle with anxiety and depression as well as my constant fight with Crohn’s Disease, which all go hand in hand. I also mentioned how much film photography has helped me regarding my health issues. Check out those posts here.
My entire life I have suffered from severe anxiety. As a little girl, I would literally puke in school every morning. You can imagine I had no friends after that. Teachers didn’t seem to know what was wrong and they weren’t telling my parents this was happening. They only embarrassed and humiliated me in front of the class. Due to this ignorance, I wasn’t even aware of the name of what I was experiencing until I was an adult. The only name I could put to what I was feeling was nauseas, because my mom told me the feeling I was having before I threw up was nausea. So little five year old Aly usually just repeated “I’m nauseas” over and over to people through tears because I had no idea what was wrong with me.
Once I was an adult and in therapy, it was seemingly so simple. I had severe anxiety that comes with being from a broken home, among other things. I had many fears that grew from those years of untreated anxiety that still haunt me as an adult. It has come and gone through out my life, depending on what I am going through at the time.
The anxiety hit an all time high in 2010 when I was diagnosed with, what doctors called, a severe case of Fistulized Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. This rise in nervousness was mainly due to the horrific experiences I had leading up to my diagnosis and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted from them.
I had a burst appendix for two weeks without realizing it. The doctors later told me they had no idea how I survived that. After two surgeries and a two month hospital stay, I returned home half the human I was when I went in, both physically and mentally. I weighed 120 pounds when I went in to the emergency room and came home a whopping 80 pounds. I didn’t recognize myself when I walked into my bathroom and looked in the mirror.
I quickly started having nightmares. I couldn’t sleep in my room anymore because it reminded me of the long nights spent laying sick and near death that lead up to my stay in the hospital.
I slept on the couch in the living room with pillows piled under me, because my body was so bony it was painful to sleep without cushions. I had to wear children’s clothing, and I ended up back in the hospital not long after.
Smells such as saline or rubbing alcohol still transport me back to the hospital bed and rough textured sheets remind me of the ones I slept on for two months in the hospital. These triggers got so bad at one point, that in 2017 I was going to physical therapy at a rehab located in a wing off the emergency room and the smells alone triggered me into panic so bad I couldn’t go back there. I even had to change hotel rooms on vacation one time, because the front door and lighting triggered my memory of that hospital stay.
Soon, these panic attacks culminated into a fear that I would have them anywhere, and I didn’t want to leave home. I still struggle with agoraphobia.
I have always actively sought out help from mental health facilities, but unfortunately when you are on the state funded insurance I have to be on with disability, access to quality healthcare, let alone mental healthcare, is non existent, at least where I live. I would sit in crowded offices for hours just to be yelled at and treated like an addict for needing anxiety meds. I was being judged by a juror before they even spent time enough to know anything about me.
Sitting in these tiny waiting rooms with so many people only made my panic attacks worse, and soon going to doctors appointments became another fear I couldn’t conquer.
On top of the horrible experiences with psychologists, the therapists I had to choose from left me at square one. They often would spend the appointment telling me their problems. Then I found a place that actually had therapists come to your home for sessions. I loved that but didn’t love that every single one I had would just disappear. They would all one day not show up for an appointment. Then I’d call the office and find out they quit and no one bothered to tell me. This happened four separate times. No wonder so many feel there is no where to turn sometimes.
I didn’t know what to do or where to turn for help. It was my own private hell waking up, and the first thing I’d think about was what doctors appointment I had to fear that day. Every night before bed I couldn’t sleep until exhaustion took over and I finally passed out. Even medication wasn’t helping. I tried self help books like Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway I used an app called Dare where a man with an accent spoke to me in a calm voice. These things helped for a minute, up until my next doctors appointment, or my next stint in a hospital.
It wasn’t until this last hospital stay in the summer of 2019 for a Crohn’s flare up that something positive finally came from all the suffering I have been experiencing.
After two weeks of extremely high doses of steroids, the doctors were beginning to really worry that they weren’t going to be able to get this flare under control. It really scared me. I had many different Gastroenterologists on my case, and none of them were communicating with each other, so they were all giving me differing opinions on my state and what I should do about it. As always I had to take my health into my own hands and make my own decisions.
Eventually, the steroids started working and I went home, but not before it took its toll on my body and my mind. I have mentioned in past blogs that when I came home I quickly found out my legs were weakened significantly by the strong steroids and the two weeks straight that I spent in that hospital bed. The pain I had any time I tried to walk, even to the bathroom, was so intense that I had to get a commode to put by my bed, and I couldn’t walk to the kitchen without needing help getting back.
A Turning Point
As I lay in my bed during those days I worried I’d never walk again. Doctors couldn’t give me any real answers, and still haven’t, as to what is really going on with my body. Could it be the Crohn’s, the steroids, or both? I only get the look of uncertainty from every doctor I’ve seen. You can imagine the amount of anxiety this uncertainty gives me.
In the beginning, the prednisone kept me up until late into the night and woke me up at sunrise every morning. I decided to start taking advantage of the energy it gave me by getting up and walking at first just out the front door, and take pictures of the sunrise with my digital camera.
As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time on social media during my time in bed. I joined a vintage camera collectors page on Facebook and everyday the pictures posted on there of the cameras cheered me up and kept my mind preoccupied. I decided to start looking at my collection again, and see if there were any I could shoot film with.
First, I purchased an Argus C3 because it was one I had always wanted to have in my collection. I even learned how to take it apart and clean it up. I decided to make a video of it and even started a YouTube channel. I never thought I would ever do this, but I really want to help people the way this hobby had been helping me. Two friends of mine Tabbie and Vicky, encouraged me to start the channel and I am glad they did. I can still remember how happy I felt after I finished that first video. It felt like an accomplishment. I was so weak and tired and in pain at the time, that I collapsed in bed afterwards, but it started something for me that I will continue to do as long as it continues to help myself and others.
Then I saw IT. The camera that would start it all. On the Vintage Camera Facebook page I started seeing many posts about the beautiful Nikon F modular system of cameras. It was love at first sight. If you go back to July of 2019 on my Instagram pictures, you will see this love unfolding when I got my first Nikon F camera from eBay. My arms were still very weak from the hospital, especially my right arm that had the IV’s in them for two weeks keeping my arm immovable at times. So it was difficult to even lift the camera to my eye, but I didn’t care.
You can see in those pictures that I lay in bed just playing with the camera and reading about it online. I started to drown myself in film photography and cameras and it gave me something to live for. It gave me a reason to get up and push my legs and push through the pain. I was still so anxious, but this time it was a good anxiety. I was anxious to get outside and shoot some film with my, new to me, vintage camera.
At first, I would have Kelsey walk me out the front door where I’d take two or three pictures of the flowers there before my shins would tighten up and the pain would become unbearable, and she’d have to help me back to my bed.
I looked forward to these two minutes every morning. The rest of the day I spent researching more about film and different cameras while I lay in bed waiting for doctors to get back to me about what to do next. I had no idea if I should be forcing myself to walk through the pain. At this point, they weren’t sure if I had necrosis in my hip or shin splints because of my symptoms. I started having horrendous spasms in my hips and knees so bad that my doctor’s medical assistant told me to go to the ER. I couldn’t bare the thought of going back there though, so I dealt with the pain until I could get in to see my doctor using a wheelchair, and had some tests done to rule out anything serious that could be happening.
Once those tests were done, and serious things were ruled out, the doctor put in for physical therapy. My insurance gave me a very hard time, but months later I did recently get approved. In the meantime, I continued to get up every morning and go out in my yard to take pictures. Little by little, it strengthened my arms and my legs enough to where I can at least walk without assistance around the house. I talk more about this in my video about the Canon TX. I still need a wheel chair in some instances when a lot of walking is involved, but progress is progress.
I started bringing a camera with me anytime I left the house. It has been like having a support animal. My mind is occupied on what pictures I can take from the car window on the way to my appointments. Check out my article on how I shoot street photography from my car. This has helped me tremendously with my anxiety leading up to appointments and even during them.
Turn Your Broken Heart into Art
The UK based website NoPanic.org says, “Taking up a hobby is a great way to ease anxiety or stress. It gives you something enjoyable to focus on, at the same time taking your mind off anything negative that you may be experiencing. Pleasurable pastimes can be a good way to calm down an overactive mind, alleviate anxiety and lower panic symptoms.”
I totally agree with this. Of course, there is so much more to staying mentally healthy, and I am not a doctor, but this has proven to be one tool that has helped me immensely when all other things had been failing. I highly recommend if you are thinking about getting into photography as a way to help your anxiety and depression, give it a try. Start small and do not put a lot of pressure on yourself. Especially being on social media like instagram, it can start to get overwhelming when you jump into the film photography community; it can be overwhelming for someone who is already suffering from anxiety. Wanting to be noticed on there and feelings of inadequacy can creep in, but there is also a great many people who are going through the same things and who understand, because they’re most likely using photography as some sort of an outlet as well.
Use your camera as a mask, a buffer to look through when you’re scared of a situation. It can feel like a protection in some instances. In the end, photography is a welcome distraction from all the thoughts that inevitably race through the mind of an anxious person.
Carrie Fisher, well known in a galaxy far, far away as well as for her fight with depression and bipolar disorder, once said, “take your broken heart and turn it into art.” Really, any creative outlet can serve this purpose. In the past, I have used drawing as a way to express myself. That is why the arts are so important. Find one that feels like an outlet for you and do it everyday.
So why film photography? With a digital camera you get that instant gratification. You see the picture right away, but then that’s it. It’s like taking a drug for pain. It numbs you for a short period of time, but then you’re usually right back where you started, with the same pain you began with. For someone with an exhausted, anxious mind, having to stop and think about your metering, your film choice, and making each shot count is, in my opinion, much more valuable. The distraction lasts all the way through the process of waiting for your film to come back and going through your scans. It can even go further with editing and posting to social media, all while you start over and do it again shooting another roll in the meantime.
Film isn’t for everyone. If there is something else you enjoy doing, do it. I lost my brother in law last year when he took his own life. The one year anniversary is in two days. I remember when he was so ensconced in his hobby of building his truck and racing at a local track. It kept him going until he hurt his hand and couldn’t do it anymore. The medical system failed him. The stigma put on mental health failed him. Of course, when you’re grieving you can find a myriad of things to blame. In the end, it’s never just one thing. Depression and anxiety are complicated. They are serious. Never forget they are common, and they are manageable. You just have to invest in yourself. You are worth the investment. Invest time to talk to someone, to journal, to pick up a camera and forget about everything else for a few hours.
I know it’s exhausting. I know when you’re anxious or depressed it feels like a dark cloud following you overhead, putting pressure on your shoulders zapping you of all your energy, but you are worth the energy.
Check out the Too Tired Project on Instagram. They offer a place for those suffering with depression to submit your work and to express yourself creatively.
Let me know in the comments how you express yourself creatively to release some of your anxious thoughts and deal with your depression and anxiety. I am always looking for ways to cope.
If you are feeling hopeless or need someone to talk to please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline. YOU ARE WORTH THE ENERGY. You never know how many lives would be affected if you weren’t in them.
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I recently wrote an article about the Anscoflex in which I expressed that I wasn’t crazy about the camera. Can the sequel to it redeem the Anscoflex? I hoped it would when I tested out the Anscoflex 2. But before I get into my experience, let’s learn a little bit about this pseudo TLR camera.
It’s virtually the same in every way as its predecessor, the original Anscoflex. Designed by Raymond Lowey and the Ansco Camera Plant, it still takes 12 6x6cm pictures on 620 film. It still has the ratcheting frame advance, and it still has the slide up lens cover that serves as the viewfinder hood. The shutter speed is fixed at 1/60th and aperture of f/11.
The only difference in the sequel is the two filters added on the bottom of the camera. A close up lens allowing shots as close as 3.5ft, and a yellow filter to help improve sunny scenes such as clouds in pictures with a sky background.
I did enjoy using this camera more than I did the original Anscoflex. The two filters do add a little bit more of a controlled experience. I personally love to take pictures with the clouds because I take a lot of pictures of trees and nature.
The close up lens on the other hand was hit or miss. I must’ve been a little too close to the vase of flowers below, because it was completely out of focus. Yet the pineapple pictured below came out pretty good.
I also tried the camera indoors, on a tripod. I thought that the shutter of 1/60th and an aperture of f/11 would be enough with some natural sunlight because I do take pictures at these settings with my SLR cameras indoors, but I think the aperture was a little to small. They did come a little too dark, but this is the first time I have ever gotten any kind of shot indoors with one of these old box-like cameras.
I took the camera around town with me after a doctors appointment to get some different shots.
In the end, I did enjoy using this camera, especially better than the original. I did have a couple issues. I used respooled Kodak Tmax 100 film from B&H, and at the end of the roll when I opened the back I found that the film didn’t rewind tightly on the take-up spool. This was most likely caused by the ratcheting advance lever, but I am not sure. I quickly closed the back and went into a dark closet to remove the film. In the end only the edges of the film had light leaks.
The other issue I ran into was my filters sliding into place. It is very important before each shot to make sure they are in neutral position if you are not using them. Otherwise they tend to slide over into position without you realizing it’s happening. I took the camera apart to see if it was something that could be fixed, but it wasn’t and after asking around, this seems to be common.
In the end I would recommend this camera if you enjoy shooting old 1950’s box type cameras. The lenses are a nice feature that don’t normally come on these types of cameras. For me, I probably won’t be shooting with this one any time soon. I do love it as a decoration though.
Have you shot with an Anscoflex? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I love hearing from you.
Until the next article, stay motivated and keep shooting.
The shot above was taken with my Rolleiflex Automat while the Rolleikin was still installed, so this is 35mm Ilford FP4 125 film. You can read more about that set up here.
This typewriter was passed on to me from my Great Aunt Frances before she passed away, and the hat was given to me by my Uncle Dallas before he passed away.
I mentioned in a video that I am trying to get a good close up shot of the typewriter so that I can print it and frame it. I’ve tried it on several different formats and several different cameras, but haven’t yet gotten one that fits what I am going for. I am getting closer though. I will post the shot once I get it.
Are you working on any shots to frame? Let me know in the comments, and until next time Stay Motivated and Keep Shooting.
This article is the first in a series of short blogs I’m going to be doing where I write about a single photo I’ve taken on film and my experience behind it. I hope you enjoy this new idea and the photo.
I’ve been adding a bunch of sunflowers to my grocery order since the Covid-19 lockdown started because I need a subject to photograph indoors. I chose sunflowers for a project I am working on, and better yet, it’s the only flower I could find that I am not allergic to.
Being a Floridian, the heat and humidity become so unbearable this time of year, not to mention the incessant downpours, that I will have to become really creative if I want to scratch that itch of taking photos daily. So I set up a black velvet sheet, with two light boxes, a tripod, and took many shots with some sunflowers.
Have a great weekend and I hope that in all the darkness and craziness going on right now you can stop and enjoy the sun, or better yet a sun flower. – Aly
The Anscoflex was created in 1954 by Ansco, but designed by an industrial designer named Raymond Loewy. You may know him as the designer of the Shell gas station logo, among others. He had a very impressive design career.
Ansco wanted a camera that looked like no other at the time. Raymond was the right man for the job. It has a very industrial look with its metal body and the raised matting around the lenses. It has a rugged, rubber-like, strap that is built into the camera body. The front lens cover, made of aluminum, slides up to reveal both lenses as well as acting as a light shield, blocking glare from the viewfinder. The red button to release the back door is also located next to the viewfinder and the aluminum door has to be raised to reach it.
It is a pseudo Twin Lens Reflex camera, because the two lenses do not connect like a true TLR. It is more like a box camera, because it doesn’t have any controls. Just the basics. The shutter is about 1/60th of a second with an aperture of around f/11. The lens is fixed focus and you must be 5ft or more away from your subject to stay in focus.
The waist level viewfinder is big and bright but has reverse viewing so when you move to the left it appears to be moving to the right and vice versa. This can take a little getting used to.
The wind on lever is a ratcheting design, so to go on to the next frame you essentially make a ratchet-like motion, turning it forward a short ways and then back and forth again until the next frame number appears in the back window. This motion also cocks the shutter button, popping it back out into position after you move on to the next frame. This also prevents double exposures.
It takes 12 square (6 x 6cm) pictures on the now obsolete 620 film, and unlike some cameras, you cannot use 120 film in it with a 620 spool for the take up. I tried this and it was a horrible experience. You have to use 620 spools in both bays. You can do this by either buying some re-spooled 120 film on a 620 spool, or by doing it yourself in a darkroom or changing bag.
I’ve seen many articles saying how much they love this camera, some even say it’s their favorite. I on the other hand found it to be my least favorite vintage camera I have used yet.
On my first try I did what I had done with the Argoflex. I cut down the lip of a 120 spool and I loaded some 120 film tightly into the camera just to see if it would work. It didn’t. It got stuck after a few shots. I had to open the back and start over with some 620 film and a 620 take up spool. Luckily, I didn’t lose many frames from opening the back.
So, with some expensive re-spooled 620 film from Film Photography Project loaded up, I took some shots around my yard to test it out.
It wasn’t a bad experience. Like I mentioned before, the viewfinder is nice and big and bright. It makes you think you’re taking big beautiful pictures. But you have to remind yourself it has a shutter speed thats slow and an aperture thats small. You need sunny conditions for this camera, as with any box-like camera.
The shutter isn’t very satisfying like an SLR of course. The racket winding lever is a little annoying in my opinion, and the front door doesn’t slide up very easily on my camera. These are my cons. These things may not bother you. For me, these things stood out because I do enjoy shooting with the Argoflex, so in a way I was comparing it to that. I even tried taking a close up shot with the Kodak Portrait Lens attachment that goes with my Argoflex since it fit over the taking lens. That pic is below. I’m not sure if it worked, but I was less than 5ft from the light and it seems to be in focus.
I did get some nice shots, but I tried several different rolls and stocks, and just wasn’t crazy about them. What do you think?
In the end, I like some of the pics I got, which I posted above. It’s a fun little camera for its time. I don’t like to be too negative about a camera because really, these fun type cameras are all up to your individual opinion. In my opinion, there are many other cameras in this genre that I’d rather use.
If you’re looking for a fun, vintage camera to shoot with, that is simple, usually you’re going to go by the look and display value of the camera because they all have the same features. If this camera appeals to you, keep in mind you will have to pay more for the re-spooled 620 film or learn to re-spool it yourself. For me, the results weren’t good enough to go through the trouble.
Let me know in the comments if you have an Anscoflex and your thoughts. I will be reviewing the Anscoflex II soon. This one has more controls, so I am looking forward to giving it a try. Stay tuned.
Until the next one, Stay Motivated and Keep Shooting.
In my first article on this subject I talked about the specs of my Rolleiflex Automat, and my experiences shooting 35mm film with the Rolleikin 2 installed. In this article, I am going to expand on that by talking more about the adapter and the pictures that can be had with this set-up.
The Adapter Kit
I touched on the Rolleikin in the former article, but I would like to get into it in a little more detail.
In the early 1930’s, the owners of Rolleiflex decided to create an adapter for 35mm film because at the time the world needed a more economic way to take pictures. Practices were different then they are now. Back then, they used bulk rolls of film and cut them down to size in a darkroom. So the original kit came with a special back to put on the camera that had a film cutter equipped within it. There were several improvements made on it as the decade went on and the daylight loading cartridge like we use today was becoming more common.
Then came the Rolleikin 1 from 1939-1950. This included a rewind mechanism so that the film could now be rewound into the cartridge the same way we do today with our 35mm film. This kit works for all 6×6 models that have removable backs, except ones from the early 1930’s and the Rollei Magics. In this kit, the special back came with a pressure plate and sprocket wheel built into the door.
Then, in 1951 they created the Rolleikin 2 which is the set I use for my Rolleiflex Automat. This set does not come with a special back door because it is for the models that already have the door with the changeable pressure plate. It has two variants, one set comes with a 36 frame counter knob for the models that don’t already have one, and then another one does not include the knob. So make sure you buy the correct one for your model if you decide to try this out.
The kit, pictured below, comes with 3 masks, one for the lens hood, one for the waist level finder, and one for the top window. It comes with the pieces you need to be able to fit the 35mm cartridge in the loading bay and it also comes with a take up spool. Make sure it has all of these pieces when you purchase one, and as I mentioned earlier, if you have a Rolleiflex that already has a counter knob for 36 frames then you do not need to buy one with the knob. I did need it and it can be seen below in the bottom right hand corner.
What I love most about this camera is how sharp the lens is. The Automat isn’t the best model of the Rolleiflex you can buy, that would be the more expensive f2.8 model. Even so, my camera sports the 75mm f/3.5 Xenar taking lens which is nothing to scoff at. Even with 35mm film, you can see the detail in a picture simply because of the sharpness of the lens.
Still Life with the Rollei
I’ve done several still life sessions with the Rolleiflex and Rolleikin. I used a regular lamp for light and my handheld Sekonic meter in the following pictures.
Shooting in Low Light
I took these shots of my dog and cat sitting in the window on an overcast day with the Rollei on a tripod, and used a cable release to reduce camera shake caused by touching the shutter button. There were no lights on in my house, only the natural light coming in from the window. So I had to use a slow shutter speed. With the soft contrast of Ilford HP5, I really love how they came out.
My Rolleiflex came with several filters that I still haven’t used, for lack of knowledge, so I hope to do another blog on those soon. The following pics were taken using the yellow filter. I like it because it makes the clouds more pronounced.
I have enjoyed using the Rolleikin and I hope you will give it a try too. If it wasn’t for that adapter I probably wouldn’t have been able to shoot with my Rolleiflex for many years until the resurgence of film came back around. I am appreciative of that because I truly love this camera. To me it is a piece of art.
Writing this article has been bitter sweet because it was the final time I would be using the Rolliekin now that I have my Nikon F 35mm cameras. I have taken the training wheels off, so to speak, and I will be shooting 120 film in my Rolleiflex for the first time. Wish me luck and I hope you’ll subscribe to read more of my adventures in the future.
Last year I had finally decided I was comfortable enough with my photography skills that I wanted to make the leap to medium format film. The big question was, with the many choices out there, which one was right for me?
You can see from the title which one I ultimately chose, but in this article I will not only go over the Mamiya 645 Pro in all its glory, but also share my process in finding that this was the camera for me, and hopefully that will help you in your search.
Now, most photographers will turn their nose up at you at the mention of gear talk and say it’s about the picture not the camera, and that may be true, but you can’t count out the equipment you use to get the picture you want. Sure, if you know what you’re doing and you have the eye, you can get a picture with a box camera or a digital camera. It doesn’t matter. But you also have to remember that if you’re going to be doing this for more than a couple days on a whim, you want a camera that suits your style, is comfortable for you to work with, and that gives you the features you need to achieve that style.
With all that in mind, I made a Pros and Cons chart with all of the medium format cameras that I was interested in. These included the Mamiya 7, Mamiya 6, Mamiya RB67 and RZ67, the Hasselblad 500 CM, Bronica ETRS, Pentax 645 and the Pentax 6 x 7. It was a long list, but it’s also an expensive purchase, and I wanted to make sure I was going to be happy with the choice I made.
In the end of my research, I narrowed my list using the criteria I was looking for in a medium format camera.
Criteria 1: Weight
The most important thing for me, because of my health, was to make sure the camera would be comfortable for me to hold. I found out that the Mamiya’s RB67 and RZ67 as well as the Pentax 6 x 7 were all very heavy cameras. So I immediately eliminated them for now.
Criteria 2: Price
Price was the second factor for me. The Hasselblad 500 CM has been a dream camera for me since I was a teenager, but the price tag for one of those systems was just too much for me. So I moved that one over to my piggy bank to be saved up for later. (Yes I still use a piggy bank).
The Mamiya 6 and Mamiya 7 from the 90’s are great cameras, and meet my light weight criteria but they carry a big price tag. So those three cameras were eliminated.
Criteria 3: Film Format
Another factor that helped me to eliminate some choices was the film format that I preferred to shoot with. If you like square 6×6 then a Rolleiflex or Hasselblad may be the one for you. 6×7 shots are nice and big, but you only get 12 shots per roll. Economically that wasn’t for me. So I chose the 6×4.5 format, this way I could get 15 shots per 120 film roll.
Criteria 4: Needed Features
This left me with the Bronica ETRS, Pentax 645, and the Mamiya 645. In the end, I would decide using the features that I wanted in a camera and that would help me make my final decision.
The Bronica ETRS I heard was too difficult to get repaired if a problem occurred and the Pentax 645 didn’t have changing film backs. In the end, the Mamiya 645 Pro really had all of the features I was looking for.
Therefore, I decided the Mamiya 645 was going to be my first medium format camera, but I still had more to decide. I originally wanted the Mamiya 645 Super because it was fully modular and could still be used after the battery died with the speed of 1/60th of a second. But apparently this was the most popular model at the time because I couldn’t find one anywhere. So I found a Mamiya 645 Pro on Ebay so clean I couldn’t pass it up. I wasn’t crazy about the 1992 Plastic look, but after seeing what it could produce I overlooked its outer appearance and fell in love with it.
Created in 1992 (according to the Mamiya website) the Mamiya 645 Pro is a system camera similar to The Nikon F or the Canon F1, meaning there’s many options that can be bought to personalize this camera to your needs.
I, for one, like to have a metered prism finder, but you can also get one without the meter, or even a waist level finder. It produces 15 exposures on 120 film, each at 6 x 4.5cm as its name says. The AE metered prism seen below has three options: AV average metering that sees the light of the entire picture and averages it, SP for spot metering and Auto A-S which chooses between the other two depending on the light of your scene. There is also a dial for exposure compensation.
It has the ability to change film backs with the use of a slide, so that you can remove the back with say a roll of color film exposed mid roll, and replace it with another film back loaded with black and white. You can also buy a back for 35mm film, 220 and pack film if you desire.
The shutter speed dial includes AE (Automatic Exposure) & AEL (Automatic Exposure Lock) when using the AE Prism Finder such as mine. When you choose one of these settings on the dial it locks in place so that you can’t turn it to choose a shutter speed manually. In order to unlock the dial you have to hold down the black button next to it while you turn the dial.
Any M645 mount lens can be used on this camera. There is a coupling pin on the camera that touches onto the lens similar to the Nikon F Photomic. This pin allows the lens to communicate the aperture selected on the lens with the prism finder. The older lenses pictured below that I own are “c” lenses meaning they’re multi coated, and newer lenses are marked with an “s” or an “n”.
There is a switch for mirror lock up to help reduce camera shake in long exposures, as well as a multi-exposure button to do multiple exposures on one frame.
There is a motor drive handle model WG401 that can be attached to replace the rapid winding crank. This handle helps to hold the camera better when viewing through a pentaprism finder. It also can serve as a more convenient way to access your shutter release button, automatically advance and rewind your film, as well as a battery check. The motor takes 6 AA batteries while the camera itself uses a single 6-volt battery or 4SR44, 4LR44 or 2CR1/3 batteries. This does add a lot more weight to the camera and it is pretty loud, but it makes the process smoother in my opinion.
The camera uses a dedicated electronic shutter release cable, but if you connect the right hand grip/motor drive shown above, you can use a regular threaded cable release. There is also a left handed grip that can be purchased and attached. I may look into this in the future because I am left handed.
Once I received the camera, I was a little disappointed to find that it was still significantly heavy for me, and I have yet to find a waist level finder for it, so it is a little difficult to lift it to my eye and hold it there for a shot.
I ran a test roll through it and when I got the scans back I was blown away by my first encounter with medium format film. I couldn’t believe the detail it gave. I was so used to using 35mm film. In the pic below you can clearly see the veins in the tree.
Next, I decided to test it out in town, to see how I could handle the weight of the camera. I took it with me to Tradition when I was going to test out Ilford’s new Ortho Plus 80 film. I tested the camera with a roll of Kodak Tmax and Ilford Ortho Plus 80 and I loved the results, although I did find the camera was heavy for me to carry around.
Since the Covid-19 quarantine, I have not been able to take the Mamiya out in town to take pictures, so I decided to try out some still life shots. So I set it up on a tripod, draped a black velvet sheet across a table and up the wall behind it for a background, and I set up a couple different still life shots.
I wanted to take these shots using natural light, but that caused me to have to open the aperture wide giving me a shallow depth of field. As you can see in the picture above, this caused some of the items to be out of focus.
Now, in the picture below, I ordered some sunflowers with my groceries during the quarantine just for this session. I wanted it to look like a still life painting so I gave it soft focus and slight underexposure to make it look like a painting. I really like how it turned out.
The next pictures of the last sunflower left alive I shot on Ilford HP5 and metered using my handheld Sekonic meter. I metered for different spots of the flower to bring out different areas. So the first one I metered mid tones. The second photo I metered the pedals so the middle came out dark and the third shot I metered the middle so that it appeared clear. I think I will frame these as a tryptic.
I am happy with my choice in the end. I have an addiction to vintage film cameras, in case you haven’t noticed by now, so I know this isn’t the only medium format camera I will try, but for now, I am glad to have the Mamiya 645 Pro in my arsenal. My only complaint about it is the weight of the camera, and the loud noise the power grip makes when rewinding and loading the film. Other than that I have truly enjoyed using it.
I hope this article has helped you in your decision making process if you are shopping for your first or next medium format camera, and if you are reading this to decide on the Mamiya 645 Pro, I hope it answered what you needed to know. If you have any more questions please leave them in the comments and if you’d like to see more, take a look at my YouTube video that accompanies this article. Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.
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The Bear Photo Service Camera is a box camera made by Ansco Company in the 1940’s. There isn’t much info out there about this camera, so I have not found a definitive date for this camera. It is based on the Ansco B2 Cadet model, but this version was specially made for the Bear Photo Service Company in San Francisco. Other specialty versions were made such as the Texas Centennial.
A Little History
Ansco Started out in 1842 as the E. Anthony Company until it merged with Scovill Manufacturing to become Ansco. Then after almost going bankrupt, Ansco merged with the German company Agfa in 1928 to become Agfa-Ansco.
During World War II, the company’s U. S. location was taken over by the United States government for its ties with Germany. Their film Anscochrome was a great competitor to Kodachrome at the time for its greater speed and its ability to be developed in home dark rooms.
The Bear Photo Service, like the Agfa-Ansco Cadet B2 model, has one shutter speed and a time setting when you pull out the bar above the shutter button. The lens is fixed focus, and the subject must be at least 4 feet away to be in focus.
It has two ground glass viewfinders, one for portrait mode and one for landscape.
The camera takes eight 6 x 9 pictures on a roll of 120 film. The shutter is said to be 1/60th of a second and there are no options to change the aperture. The aperture is around f/11.
I bought this camera back when I started collecting vintage cameras purely for decoration. I remember it being hard to find one of these in good condition.
Just as I did with the Kodak Brownie Target Six-16, I tested this camera out with some Lomography redscale film from my fridge at first to see if it had any issues. I took it to my local cemetery to take some test shots.
The ground glass viewfinders were a little bit dim, but that was the only issue I had. The advance lever was smooth unlike a lot of other box cameras I have tried.
The shutter button was a little bit clunky. I had to push it down and then pull it back up to close. I don’t know if mine is a little stiff, or if that is the way it was made to work. I know some of the older box cameras worked this way. Either way, it did not affect my pictures.
Since the Covid-19 stay at home order, it has been difficult to get my film developed. So I decided to take this opportunity to finally learn how to develop my own black and white film from home. I used the Film Photography Project kit that I received for Christmas, which I will be reviewing in a later article.
I shot my second roll in this camera with Ilford Pan F Plus 50 film. I chose a slow speed film to match the slow shutter on the camera.
The kit comes with FPP76 developer, which is Film Photography Projects smaller version of Kodak D76 developer. It also comes with an FPP Fixer. I bought some Ilford Washaid, Ilford Stop Bath, and some Kodak Photo Flo to add to the kit.
I bought an app called Massive Development Chart for $8.99 to make things easier. It lets you choose the film and developer you are using, and then populates a timed recipe for you to follow. It even tells you when to stop and start agitating. This really helped me stay organized so that I could mix chemicals in between agitations.
I really enjoy the developing process. I have been in a lot of pain lately and have had numbness down the left side of my body, so it has been difficult shooting pictures and difficult sitting through the developing process. It has been very frustrating, but learning this new skill has been such a motivation for me to keep going.
I scanned the negatives on my Epson V800. I am still getting used to using this scanner. It doesn’t really come with instructions, so I still don’t know how to set the negative holder to focus correctly. There are sliders on the holder to adjust how far your negatives will sit from the scanner glass in order to focus it correctly. I played around with different settings but still can’t seem to see a difference. If you have any advice for me in this area, please feel free to leave them in the comments.
I have shot with a few box cameras so far, and this one was the most enjoyable to operate. While they all are uncomplicated and simple, I have run into different issues, such as the advance lever being too hard to turn, or the film reel falling off of the lever as I turned to the next frame. I didn’t have that issue with this camera.
For more info, and to see how to load film into this camera, please watch my video below, and until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.
When I had my first camera, I was around 13 years old, and film was getting harder to find as digital made its way to the forefront of the photography game. The only film available (where I live anyway) at that time was Fujicolor Superia Xtra. If I remember correctly, you could get it in ISO 200, 400, and 800. I primarily shot 400. I would buy the three packs at Walmart, again if I remember correctly, I think they were only $7.99 a pack back then.
Then the digital age took over until it came back full circle for me, and now here I am shooting those three packs of Fujifilm again. When I started getting back into film, I gravitated towards the familiar at first and went to Walmart who surprisingly still sells the three packs, but no more ISO 800. Now they carry 3 packs of Fujicolor 200 and Fujicolor Superia X-Tra 400.
Fujicolor Superia films were introduced in 1998 to replace the Super G plus films. The Superia Xtra film has a ‘4th’ cyan color layer designed to provide better color reproduction under fluorescent lights. This layer was later dropped. The Fujicolor 200 film is made with older technology in order to make it more affordable.
When I first started to shoot film again I would shoot a lot of Kodak Gold because it was cheaper at the time but, I always fall back to Fujifilm like a security blanket.
This film is reliable and it suits the subject matter I often find myself photographing. It has somewhat of a green tone to it, which fits well with the nature photography I gravitate towards. Colors are well saturated and true to life.
For a non professional film, it is pretty versatile. I have found that Superia Xtra 400 looks best rated at ISO 200, and that it looks just like Fujicolor 200. So for the price you pay, you might as well buy the ISO 200 film. I prefer Superia Xtra 400 for night scenes and low light indoor shots.
Although, lately I have been gravitating towards Kodak Portra, I still always have rolls of Fujicolor on hand for unplanned shooting.
Have you shot Fujicolor? Let me know what you think in the comments.