vendredi 4 juillet 2008

Voigtländer VF 101

Another German camera review, but this time from West Germany: the Voigtländer VF 101. Let's first have a look at the camera:

This nice little rangefinder camera produced from 1974 to 1976 has a twin sister, the Zeiss Ikon S312, and to make it easy to understand, these cameras were produced by Rollei in Singapore... Well, this shows again how complicated the history of the Camera production has evolved and how complicated it could be to understand exactly were your camera is coming from.

Voigtländer is perhaps one of the oldest optical producers in the world, because it was founded 1756 by Johann Christoph Voigtländer in Vienna. This factory produced optical instruments and precision mechanics. 1868 the company moved to Germany and it was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the factory produced her first real cameras. The "golden age" of Voigtländer was from 1931 to 1966 with the famous "Bessa" and "Vito" cameras.
After 1966, Voigtländer was merged into the Zeiss Ikon - Stuttgart company (west german part of the former Carl Zeiss factory splitted in 2 different units after the 2nd WW, the other one is the Carl Zeiss Jena factory of Dresden) and totally integrated in it after 1970. As Zeiss Ikon collapsed 1972, the whole Voigtländer/Zeiss Ikon activities where overtaken by Rollei who used their brands to produce some cameras. And that's why we have these twin sister cameras named Voigtländer VF101 or Zeiss Ikon S312.... Enough photo history for now, let's see some characteristics of this camera.

The VF101 is a coupled rangefinder camera with electronic shutter speed. The speed is calculated by the integrated CdS cell located directly on the front of the lens. Inside the viewfinder you have 2 kind of informations: on the top a red mark shows the selected aperture and on the right side a needle indicates the shutter speed with over- and underexposed warning zones. A very easy system to have always good exposed shots! The camera allows you to take shots from 4 seconds to 1/500 s and as the 40mm "Color Skopar" lens opens from 2.8 to 22, you have enough possibilities to take shots in almost every situations. The flash synchronizes at every speed (or at 1/30 in "flash mode").
The lens barrel isn't very big at the first sight: that's because you need to pull out the focusing ring to have access to the asa setting (from 25 to 400) and the aperture selction ring. Very clever to gain space for this little metal camera (490 g weight) and in the same time pulling out the focusing ring gives a sun shade to your lens.
Another thing to say is about the battery: when using the "A" mode, you need originally 4 PX 625 mercury batteries who are no more produced now, but you can easily replace it by one single CR123 after a little transformation of the battery compartment (for more infos, have a look here)

Well, this camera is a very nice one, easy and quick to use for your everyday photographic activities or for holidays, the pictures are colorful, well contrasted and sharp. I like taking pictures with it because of it's discretion (small size, quick settings and very silent shutter) and solid construction (putting together the knowledge of Voigtländer, Zeiss Ikon and Rollei in one little camera is a good guarantee of quality....). Here are some shots I took with the VF101 during a demonstration:

If you want to know more have a look at 35 or the Voigtländer page on Camerapedia with many other links about this prestigious company.

mardi 1 juillet 2008

More Welta Belmira shots

Here are some more shots taken with the Welta Belmira camera & Fuji Reala 100 :)

dimanche 22 juin 2008

Some new Exa 1a shots

Some new shots with the Exa 1a and an expired (08/2003) Fuji Sensia 200 x-processed... :)

mardi 17 juin 2008

Magic DDR Cameras #4: Welta Belmira

Here's the 4th review about a "magic DDR camera", this time the "Welta Belmira" or also known as "Belca Belmira". In fact the camera was first produced by the" VEB Belca Werk" from 1953 to 1958 and then, after the integration in a new industrial structure, was continued by the "Welta Kamera-Werk Freital". Both entreprises came from Dresden, and were founded before the 1st world war and were re-organized after the 2nd war by the new DDR socialist régime. Welta itself was integrated in the VEB Pentacon after 1964... If you're a bit lost in the complicated history of the DDR potographic industry, have a look at this very complete page of the Dresdner Kameras website. Here's the camera:

Like many of the DDR cameras, the Belmira has this fantastic "Carl Zeiss Iena" Tessar lens (2,8/50mm) well known for her great optical qualities. Openig from 2,8 to 16, the shutter speeds are set from 1/250s to 1s and "B". The sound of the mechanism is really limited, allowing discreet shooting.It was surely this aspect who decided me to buy this camera, but not only. Another point shared with many DDR cameras is the design, a very futuristic and unusual one and with some very cool aspects that simplify the shooting.
First surprising thing is that the viewfinder is completely on the right of the camera (perfect for left-eyed photographers) and the reloading of the film on the opposite left side. A clever "push-button" system gives you the possibility to reload for the next shot with your thumb very easily and very quickly! And the shutter has also an unusual position as he his on the camera body under the viewfinder, but it's a very natural position for your finger and makes the camera easy to hold.
Then, it's a rangefinder, that means that when you're focusing you can see by a "double image system" the focus on what you're shooting. The little window above the lens has a small coupled mirror, reflecting on the inside of the viewfinder and giving you an image of what the lens and your eye can see. Even if the viewfinder isn't very clear (yellow tinted window that became a bit dark with the time...) the size is big enough to have an idea of what you're shooting.
And finally, what I really appreciate on this camera is the overall view of the commands and the very smooth use of the rings. The focusing ring has little crancks for your fingers to find the good position (from 0,8 to infinity) and the aperture ring has clear positions and even "mid-positions". Only the shutter speed ring is on the front of the lens, perhaps a bit less easy to use while shooting...
All these things made that I really liked this camera at the first sight and the first roll I made was a real pleasure to shoot!
Here are some first samples of pictures made with the Welta Belmira,(more to come soon :)

If you want to know more about that camera, have a look at alf sigaros flickr (with many other camera descriptions), or at the
Lippisches Kamera Museum, the
Lydrup's collection or some basic informations and links (but in english!) on Camerapedia .

dimanche 1 juin 2008

Magic DDR Cameras #3: Beirette VSN/Beroquick KB135

3rd part of my DDR-cameras review, this time about a much cheaper one, but with still this special "taste" of the former east-german optical industry: the Beirette, produced by Beier from 1974 to 1990 with many different variations and names. To add a litle bit confusion, most of the models produced since 1958 have the same name, simply "Beirette".... to understand why, let's make a little bit history about the Beier factory.

"Beier Kameraindustrie" was created 1923 near of Dresden (Freital) and made several box and folding cameras. After the 2nd world war the whole factory was dismantled by the Soviets and the remaining workers tried to make again some cameras with what was left. 1949 the "Kamerafabrik Woldemar Beier" was born again and could produce the Beirax II camera, folding camera inspired by the pre-war models. Unfortunately, Woldemar Beier died 1957 and the east german state took the control of the factory, and finally integrated it 1972 in the VEB Kamerawerk Freital (VEB stands for "Volkseigener Betrieb", that means that the factory belongs to the People, i.e. the socialist state...).

So, this little historical point to explain that the "socialist era" of Beier began really 1958, and that they turned into a "standardized mass production" of almost the same Beirette cameras from the 1970's to the end of the factory 1990. The first Beirette of this standard production was introduced 1974 and became later on the Beirette VSN or, for the export version, the Beroquick KB135 (which is the one I have):

This camera has a Meritar 2,8/45 lens with only 4 speeds (1/125, 1/60, 1/30 and B) and 7 different diaphragm settings from 2,8 to 22. The focus ring is on the front and goes from 0,6m with precise positions until 2m (0,7-0,8-0,9-1,2-1,5m) and then 3-5-10m to infinity. The viewfinder is tinted in yellow and has parallax correction marks. What shows that this camera was intended for a popular use is that the technical indications of speed and aperture are shown on one side of the lens but you have these 4 nice weather icons on the top of the lens (for the aperture) and on the other side the DIN/ASA settings (for the speed), that means that you don't need a specific knowledge to choose your speed & aperture, just follow the weather icons and your film speed.... And you can use a flash with synchro at 1/30.
Very simple indeed and ok to make pictures even if the speed is a bit limited and that the light weight of the cam shows that there is mostly plastic... but the whole construction is fine, the setting rings make a precise "click" on each position as well as the shutter (shutter button on the right side of the lens like all Beirette 35 mm cameras).
A nice little cam, easy to use and creating nice shots. Have a look at some pictures made with the Beroquick (most of the shots were made in double exposition for a film exchange with superlighter a great lomographer and camera fan who has a Beirette VSN as well, and we made this film swapping with the same camera...)

If you want to know more have a look at this very complete site (in german) about the Beier factory and the Beirette or Beroquick cameras. You can also have a overview on Beier cameras on the Lippisches Kamera Museum site.

jeudi 29 mai 2008

Interview by LSI

Waow, was really happy to be interviewed by the lomography team and it was published today on the lomo-site: read it here

lundi 26 mai 2008

Magic DDR Cameras #2: Exa 1a

Second "magic DDR" camera of my collection: the Exa 1a constructed by the Ihagee Kamera Werk from Dresden 1964. This company was founded 1912 and produced essentially the Exakta and Exa camera series. The Exa was conceived in the mid-50's as a simple camera evolution of the Exakta to have a larger public access. And it's true that the Exa is a very simple camera, no particular technical specification and very easy to use for everybody. A soft shaped round body (typical of the Exa/Exacta cameras), and a nice design made this camera very seductive for my eyes when I discovered it. Have a look at it:

It's a typical SLR camera with a vertical mirror viewfinder coupled to the shutter. If you don't advance the film, you'll see nothing in the mirror. The image of the viewfinder is very clear and great enough to have a idea about what you're shooting. In case of more precision for the focusing, you can unlock a little magnifying glass attached to the viewfinder.
The lens is a Meyer-Görlitz Domiplan 2,8/50, but you can also find it with a Meyer-Görlitz Primagon 4,5/35 and other lenses with Exakta bayonet. The position of the shutter is unusual, because it's on the upper left side of the lens, and the Domiplan lens has a shutter button corresponding to the camera shutter, coupled to the diaphragm: that means that if you push half this shutter, you can "previsualize" the image with the selected aperture... depending of course of the film sensibility you use... Even if the speeds of the camera are limited (B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/175) I really find this cam very comfortable to use. I really like the viewfinder looking from above, it's another kind of shooting and people don't notice if you're taking pictures of them.... And it's very easy to shoot up the sky!
Well, a solid and simple camera with great optic qualities (like almost all DDR cameras...) and a real pleasure to walk around with. Now, have a look at some shots made with this camera:

If you want to know more have a look at, the Lyndrup camera collection or the Lippisches Kameramuseum and this very complete site with links about the Exakta cameras.