Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Found Film 3

In a recent purchase of a bundle of mostly uninteresting 35mm compact cameras, two of them had part-used rolls of film inside. The cameras were a Polaroid PZ2001 and an Olympus Trip AF.  The films were both Kodak Gold consumer colour negative films, and possibly could have been in both cameras for a number of years, the Trip AF being older, but there was nothing to securely date the films in either. This generation of plastic point and shoot film cameras probably lost value quicker than any other type of camera with the rapid and subsequent replacement of their place in the market by digital, and apart from the odd exceptional model of their kind, these are largely quite forgettable.

Polaroid PZ2001
Both films were stand developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+100 for one hour for monochrome negatives, rather than have them developed as colour: there might be nothing on either film, but stand development uses a minimal amount of chemistry. The Polaroid yielded the most results, although almost all were out of focus, and many over-exposed. As the Polaroid film hadn't been used up, I did shoot a couple of frames with the camera myself (below) - and got better results than everything else on the film in terms of focus and exposure.

Of the photographs already shot on the roll, most looked liked a holiday somewhere in America, with a Seaworld-type of attraction, what looks like festively decorated holiday apartments - or possibly a church and the decorations are for a wedding, and somewhere in the mountains (this last series of photographs being very overexposed - I imagine that the camera did not possess small enough aperture settings or fast enough shutter speeds to cope with using a fast film in very bright sunlight, but I have attempted to pull all of the detail out of the scans that was there). There are also two close up shots, both out of focus, of a flower and a lizard.

From the Olympus Trip AF there were just three frames that had anything remotely worth scanning - and perhaps not even that - all very underexposed, possibly needing the built in flash which didn't fire. These looked like they were taken in a junk shop, judging from the first photograph, while the other two look like accidental exposures. Given the few shots on the Trip, it feels less precious, but clearly the owner of the Polaroid camera went somewhere special and shot nearly a whole roll of film, before never finishing the roll, never developing it, leading one the speculate as to what the circumstances were that meant they never saw the results; however, this might just be reflective of how photographs were taken by many people before digital: once back from holiday, with the film not quite finished, those last frames weren't to be wasted, and the camera was put away in a drawer to wait for the next special occasion,

Monday, 14 November 2016

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette 519/15

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette 519/15
Many months ago, I shot a handful of test rolls with the Zeiss Ikon Cocarette, but then put this to one side as a consequence of initial results which were disappointing. Earlier this year, after acquiring a No.2A Brownie in a job lot of cameras, my interest was reawakened: both cameras use the obsolete 116 rollfilm format and I wanted to shoot with both on 11/6 this year for a '116 Day'; following this, last week I used the Cocarette again on 6th November as another calendrical 116 Day. When I'd made my first tests with the camera, I had begun to write up my experiences, of which it now seems like an opportune time to revisit, revise and post.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette 519/15
Having some years ago written a post about the Icarette L, before writing about the Cocarette, I also wanted to pass comment about the popularity of camera names ending in "-ette" during the first half of the 20th century. Nettel's Piccolette was the first example I could find; both the Icarette and Cocarette were later but contemporaneous to each other and a little research has also thrown up the Gewirette, Makinette, the Pearlette, a Japanese copy of Piccolette, itself inspiring copies called the Dianette and Pionette, and the Nifcarette and Rollette. With the Piccolette and other 127 format vest-pocket cameras, the "-ette" suggests a small, compact camera, which my Cocarette certainly is not, being 20cm tall - partly due to being the 116 version. Like the Icarette with Ica, the Cocarette name was given to a new prestige line of folding cameras produced when Contessa-Nettel was formed by a merger in 1919, it came in a number of formats, and, also like the Icarette, this camera was continued by Zeiss Ikon once Contessa-Nettel had been combined into the new company, although it was discontinued earlier, around 1930 (the Cocarette does not appear in Zeiss Ikon's 1931 catalogue).

Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens in Compur shutter
My example ot the Cocarette dates from after the formation of Zeiss Ikon, and is badged as such around the lens, on the folding bed, and imprinted on the leather at the top of the body; the name Cocarette likewise appears in three places, while the model number does not, but possibly this may have been on the handle, missing on my camera (it does, however, still have the folding stand on the drop bed's front that appears to be missing on most extant examples of the Cocarette). Provided with a reputed 64 combinations of lens and shutter variants, my camera has the top-of-the-range Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar f4.5 120mm lens and Compur rim-set shutter. Both lens and shutter serial numbers can be dated to 1929, being relatively late in the production run. The focal length of the lens is a giveaway for the film type that the Cocarette uses: had the lens been 105mm, this would denote 6x9 on 120 film; that the lens is 120mm indicates that the Cocarette takes a 6.5x11cm frame size on 116 film - although not true for all cameras, this is a very good indication. Zeiss Ikon were systematic in assigning catalogue numbers to all their cameras (all Zeiss Ikon products in fact), although many cameras in certain markets were also referred to by a letter suffix to indicate different specifications; my Cocarette is a 519/15: the first number denotes the camera model, the second number the film format and frame size. All Zeiss camera models /15 would therefore shoot 6.5x11cm frames on 116 film.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette opened for loading
The Cocarette has an unusual system for loading film: the top or side, depending on which way the camera is held, has a sliding latch, which when unlocked allows the user to remove a frame into which film is loaded (this is described as the camera's 'film race' in this US advertisement). There are two hinged flaps which hold the film spools either side, and the film needs to be threaded between inner and outer rails; this design appears to have been developed from Contessa-Nettel's earlier Piccolette, which was an improvement on the drop-in loading of the Vest Pocket Kodak that inspired it. It also appears that this design was promoted to reassure customers used to glass plates about film flatness - this advert describes it as entirely eliminating "buckling of the film".

Apart from the 'film race', the Cocarette functions as a fairly typical folder of its day. The camera is non-self-erecting: the lens is pulled out to the infinty stop of the folding bed's rails by hand. Frame advance is by red window and backing number, focus by estimation using a lever with markings for infinity, 30, 15, 10 and 6 feet (indicating this as an export model for US/UK markets); the focus lever does advance the lens further forward than 6 feet, but without distance markings, possibly as the margin for error when focussing may have been felt to be too great beyond this point. The rim-set Compur shutter has the full range of speeds from 1 second to 1/250th, as well as T and B settings; the f4.5 Tessar lens stops down to f32. For framing there is a brilliant finder with spirit level that rotates through 90º for horizontal shots and a wire frame finder: to use this, on the body is a small peep-sight that can be raised into position from a circular door on the back of the camera. This allows access to the lens for cleaning and removal (a feature that the Vest Pocket Kodak also possesses); either completely raised or lowered, this sight locks the rear door, but in an intermediate position the door can be rotated to remove it. Additonally, the lens is also provided with rise and fall in the vertical position.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette in horizontal format with wire frame finder and sight raised
My approach to converting the Cocarette to use 120 film was to do this in a non-destructive way, such that the camera could potentially use 70mm film in future - or, as on the Summer 116 Day, I used some original, expired 116 Kodacolor film. Research online shows two aspects to this conversion - firstly, some method of securing 120 spools into the slightly larger gap for the taller 116 spools - which needs to include the ability to wind on the advance key, and secondly, masking the frame itself down to the width of 120 film. With access to laser cutting facilities at the time I bought the Cocarette, I had adaptors made that would fit the top and bottom ends of spools from acrylic. Initially I thought that this would be enough, but when attempting to load camera with 120 backing paper as a test, there was too much of a curl to the paper at both top and bottom - as the 11cm wide frame doesn't hold the smaller format taut across it. Perhaps in a more conventional folding camera, this could be used without masking, although cupping of the film would potentiallt affect the focus on the film plane. I made a mask simply by cutting runners from thin black plastic sheet, which I taped to the top and bottom of the frame, but the camera also needed another pair of small runners inside the slots themselves to ensure that 120 film runs straight down the middle of the 'film race'.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette conversion - runners taped in place
I didn't make any changes to the viewfinder of my camera. Some examples of 116 conversion show the wire frame finders adapted to take into account the narrower frame. However, as using the wire frame finder - or brilliant finder for that matter - isn't exactly precise for the frame edges, and with 120 film only a small fraction is lost from the top and bottom of this image, I felt this to be unnecessary.

To test the frame spacing, I ran a roll of 120 backing paper through the Cocarette. The numbers which align with the red window are those for 6x4.5 exposures. As this exposure size isn't neatly divisible with the 11cm-long 116 frame, I counted turns of the wind on key to determine how far to advance the film between exposures. My first calculations were that I would need to make the first exposure starting with the number 2 on the backing paper to provide enough film to cover the frame; I estimated that 2 and 1/3 turns of the winding on key for each subsequent exposure was sufficient. To make this easy, there are three screws around the winding key to mark its position when turning. For the first test roll I simply discounted the problem of the circumference of the take up spool increasing as more film and backing paper is wound on. The first two images on the roll overlapped, but I then found an increasing distance between the frames. When I developed the first test roll, as well as the uneven spacing, this was marred by obvious light leaks (I discounted this being from the red window, as this should be light tight anyway - even with modern emulsions, the film's backing paper should be perfectly impervious, despite some comments that occasionally crop up in discussions online). Looking at the light leaks' position relative to the camera, it was clearly caused by a missing screw on the side which removes for loading. As I couldn't find a screw of the right dimensions to replace it, I simply used black tape to cover the hole from the inside.

Second test roll, Fomapan 400, first frame showing tape mark at start of film
For a second test roll, I took the first two shots with a gap of 2 and 2/3 turns, then 2 1/3, finally just 2 turns between the exposures. This showed I'd solved the light leak, but, although none of the frames overlapped, the spacing was too generous, which resulted in five shots from the roll of film rather than a possible six. The first frame was also right on the very beginning of the film, overlapping the tape, as in the image above. It seemed safer to begin with the number 3 aligned in the red window, instead of 2, given that this initial length of film might vary between manufacturers.

Rather than counting turns of the winding key, I decided for the frame spacing, I would try using the numbers on the backing paper. Had I only wanted just five shots, it would have been easy to use the numbers 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, but there's clearly enough film on a roll of 120 to get six exposures. Running backing paper through the camera again, I noted down where I thought each frame should fall, using the marks that precede the frame numbers as well as the numbers themselves. For a third test, using the red window, I aligned the first mark before the number 3, then 5, first mark before number 8, third mark before 10, first mark before 13, 15. However, this isn't necessarily always possible, as different manufacturers have different backing paper designs: Foma, and some other films have three marks before the frame number; Ilford films have four circular marks increasing in size before the frame number; unhelpfully, Kodak just has the word 'Kodak' and the film name before the frame number. When using the camera, I taped a note with these estimations written down so as not to forget where I was in the sequence when shooting; I have yet to try taking 120 film and taping it to the 116 backing paper that I now have from shooting the expired film earlier in the year, which could be an alternative approach.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette focus lever
From my earlier tests, and using the camera during the summer, I realised that the focus scale was not accurate, and attempting to find out exactly why, I removed the panel at the back of the camera and using a loupe with some tape across the focal plane (I used some 120 backing paper with a hole in for the tape to best place this on the focal plane itself), it was clear that, when set to infinity on the scale, the lens was not extended far enough; at the 30ft mark, infinity seemed to be achieved. I then made the assumption, which I didn't measure, that I could simply shift each focus mark to the next nearest, so if 30ft is really infinity, then 15ft becomes 30ft, and so on. This worked well enough for the shots I'd taken on the last 116 Day, although a more permanent solution might be better, but the only practical way to do this would be to remove the infinity stop, which takes the form of a small peg screw, drill a small hole in the folding bed slightly forward of its original position, and replace it there.

As I wrote on my post for the summer's 116 Day, using 120 film in a 116 camera does make for an attractively proportioned image, especially suited to landscape photography, and, like the Zeiss Ikon Cocarette (despite my camera's focus issues which may yet require more attention), there are many of these cameras still around which can be used with currently available film with a little extra work.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with expired Kodacolor film
Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Agfa Superpan 200
Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Fomapan 400
Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Ilford HP5 Plus
Sources/further reading:
The Cocarette series on Camera-Wiki
Cocarette models on Early Photography

Sunday, 13 November 2016

116 Day - November 2016

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Ilford HP5 Plus
For various reasons, I've not had much time in the last few months to dedicate to this blog, but I did shoot a single roll of HP5 Plus with the Zeiss Ikon Cocarette last Sunday on 6th November for a '116 Day'. From using the camera during the summer, I realised that the focus scale was not accurate, and attempting to find out exactly why, I removed the panel at the back of the camera and using a loupe with some tape across the focal plane (I used some 120 backing paper with a hole in for the tape to best place this on the focal plane itself), it was clear that, when set to infinity on the scale, the lens was not extended far enough; at the 30ft mark, infinity seemed to be achieved. I then made the assumption, which I didn't measure, that I could simply shift each focus mark to the next nearest, so if 30ft is really infinity, then 15ft becomes 30ft, and so on. This worked well enough using a fast film and generally choosing an aperture of f8. Of the six exposures on the roll, four negatives seemed worth scanning, and the focus was better than the shots I had taken earlier in the year, although in the last image below, the long exposure was marred by movement during the exposure.

Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Ilford HP5 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Ilford HP5 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Cocarette with Ilford HP5 Plus

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

World Toy Camera Day 2016

For this year's World Toy Camera Day last weekend, I used my V. P. Twin, feeling as this would qualify for being a 'toy camera', being made of plastic with no user controls other than the shutter lever itself. I shot a roll of HP5 Plus cut and rolled with 127 backing paper. As the morning was grey and overcast I decided to push the film one stop to compensate for not being able to change any settings on the camera, which worked as well as could be expected, although a number of frames were quite underexposed. There were problems with lens flares, light leaks and film flatness, which I'd noted in writing about the V. P. Twin; I had intended to make an additional tension spring to balance the pressure on the film inside the camera, but in the event I didn't find the time. I did also shoot a roll of Fomapan 200, but the roll suffered rather more from light leaks as a result of the camera back not being fully closed, which I only realised most of the way through the sixteen shots, so I've only posted images from shot on HP5 Plus here.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Butcher's "Cameo"

The "Cameo"
Sometimes I acquire cameras almost by accident. After using the Ensign Folding Klito earlier in the year, I bought another quarter-plate format folding camera as it came with a full complement of a dozen plate holders, and probably would have paid around the same amount for the plate holders on their own. However, these metal holders were not compatible with the Klito: the Klito holders have a single 'lip' on the left and right edges and none at the bottom. These particular holders in comparison have a double lip at both sides with a single lip at the bottom edge which meant that they were not interchangeable. It's an issue not uncommon for early plate cameras, as many manufacturers had their own propriety designs, especially it seems around the turn of the century; only later was there a degree of standardisation amongst different camera makers.

Cameo with plate holders and supplementary lens
The camera that these holders came with was a Butcher and Sons Cameo (on the camera itself is a small brass name badge with The "Cameo").  I've already written about Butcher and Sons in discussing the Midg: their cameras were made in Germany and then badged and sold by Butchers - with most likely some other elements of finishing by Butchers, notably that the Cameo has a British-made lens in a German shutter. The camera itself was almost certainly made by Hüttig, or Ica - of which Hüttig was a constituent when Ica was formed in 1909: the 'Cameo' is listed as a plate camera under the Hüttig page on Camera-Wiki, but does not appear as a 'continued model' on the Ica page, although this may just be an omission (however, the Cameo also does not appear under the comprehensive Ica cameras list on From the Focal Plane to Infinity).

Research online turned up scans of a Butcher and Sons catalogue from 1914, which was invaluable for precisely identifying the model. There are four versions of the Cameo listed: my camera corresponds to the Model O, surely a back-formed name: the others are named with Roman numerals I, II and III (the 'Uno-Cameo'); the O is a simpler, cheaper version. It does appear to be named with a capital 'O' rather than a zero, although whether anyone referred to it as a "Model-Oh" seems unlikely. To add a small amount of confusion, the Model O is divided into five variants based on lens and shutter combinations: my example is the middle of the range Model 03 (the other Cameos, although having a wider variety of sizes, lenses and shutters are not burdened with a further model name in the catalogue). The catalogue states that "The Model O "Cameo" has for fourteen years held the lead as the most serviceable, most practical, and most valuable Guinea Folding Pocket Camera on the market, and for this reason has become famous the wide world over. The 1914 pattern has been entirely remodelled, and is now as perfect as is possible to make it." As an importer of cameras from Germany, the outbreak of war that year was significant: it resulted in Butchers forming a partnership, and then an eventual merger, with Houghtons in order to stay in business.

Cameo in landscape orientation
The Cameo itself is a fairly well-constructed example of a typical plate camera of its time: leather-covered wooden body, with a metal drop bed, removable wooden back for the ground glass screen, originally with a hood, missing on my version. It has a large brilliant finder, without a spirit level. It also lacks a wire frame finder, which I prefer for shooting handheld. The bellows are single extension only, and focus eschews a rack and pinion device for the simpler expedient of using the spring clamps, as the catalogue names them, to advance the front standard along the runners. There is a focus scale with an infinity lock, but for precise focusing, this is rather more difficult as I found my hand partly occluding lens as I attempted to move the standard into place. As well as a hood, my camera was also missing the ground glass screen itself, so I made a replacement, although I used too coarse a grade of grit to see the projected images very clearly (incidentally, to make the replacement screen I had to cut down a glass plate for this, as the screen is smaller than quarter plate size). Camera movements are limited to front rise/fall and cross, like most folding plate cameras of this age. The body also has standard tripod sockets for vertical and horizontal orientation.

Beck Symmetrical lens in Lukos II shutter
The Beck Symmetrical lens has a mark for f8 as its widest opening on the scale, but the aperture opens a little wider, as shown by the pointer's position in the image above, possibly just to f7.7. It does have a chip or crack at the very edge of the front element, but this probably has a marginal effect on image quality. The lens is set in a Lukos II three-speed shutter, with 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, with T and B. The Lukos is an 'Everset' shutter, meaning that it doesn't need a separate lever to cock the shutter before firing, but the tensioning of the mechanism can be felt in initially pressing down on the release lever before it reaches the firing position. According to the 1914 catalogue, Lukos shutters were specially made for Butchers - although not specified, no doubt by Ica.

Having made a new ground glass screen and submitted the camera to some general cleaning and renovation, an excuse for shooting with the Cameo came with the announcement on Emulsive of the first #FP4Party. In one of my job lots of old film and plates, I'd acquired two boxes of 8.2x10.8cm FP4 from the 1970s: with 50 sheets to a box I was happy to sacrifice a few sheets to test the camera, and having used some 4x5 inch FP4 from the same source successfully, without testing the film itself. I shot half a dozen sheets at half box speed and used developing times for modern FP4 Plus - the sheet film being the previous iteration of Ilford's FP emulsion before the 'Plus' version.

Cameo with expired Ilford FP4
Cameo with expired Ilford FP4
As well as the FP4 film, I also shot some glass plates at the same time. Thirty years older than the FP4, I shot some Ilford Soft Gradation Panchromatic plates, dated to 1946, hand held, with the result that most were underexposed given the Cameo's slow lens. The plates would have been better for an extra stop or two, but the results are still good for a seventy-year old emulsion.

Cameo with Ilford Soft Gradation Panchromatic glass plate
Without a spirit level or a wire frame finder, I had trouble keeping the camera level when shooting, and as a result, I have cropped some of the FP4 images, although with the glass plates the qualities of their distinctive edges would be lost, so I kept the scan of the whole plate, as above, despite the slanting horizons.

Cameo with No.6 supplementary lens fitted
Included with the Cameo camera was a push-on supplementary lens, with little information to identify it, marked simply 'No.6'. Fitting it to the camera showed it to be for close up and wide angle use, the former mitigating the camera's limited, single bellows extension to get closer to a subject, the latter simply facilitated by placing the front standard a little closer to the camera body. With the supplementary lens it's critical to use the ground glass screen to focus, as the focus scale on the body no longer applies; for wide-angle work, the brilliant finder shows a slightly smaller angle of view, but using the finder itself isn't especially exact, so this matters little. The two images below show the difference with and without the supplementary lens, which isn't especially dramatic.

Cameo with No.6 supplementary lens and expired Ilford FP4
Cameo with Soft Gradation Panchromatic glass plate
The difference when used for close up photographs appears more marked, with the two examples below both shot on Ilford G.30 Chromatic glass plates. In each case, the front standard of the camera was advanced as far as possible on the runners, right at the very edge of the folding bed.

Cameo with Ilford G.30 Chromatic glass plate and No.6 supplementary lens
Cameo with Ilford G.30 Chromatic glass plate
Although not used for any of the photographs in this post, the Cameo also came with two exposure meters of a very specific kind. The two wallet-like items are actinometers and work by timing how long a piece of sensitised paper takes to darken to a specific tint; that time is then applied to the calculator, which is calibrated to emulsion speed in Hurter and Driffield numbers. Possibly around a hundred years old, I found that the sensitised paper still darkened when exposed to light; some of my old glass plates are rated in H&D numbers, but most of the photographs in this post were shot with the 'sunny 16' rule rather than metered (I used an SLR to meter the close up shots and overexposed most of them).

Imperial Exposure Meter showing sensitised paper strip and sliding calculator
A century ago, the Cameo would have given quite adequate results on glass negatives for photographs that would have mostly been printed by contact. The Beck Symmetrical lens is sharp in the middle, but definition falls off towards the edges at wider apertures, and for some of the reasons I've mentioned, the Cameo isn't the easiest plate camera I've used: contemporary to my camera, more expensive models in the range with better, faster lenses, double extension bellows and rack and pinion focussing would be more desirable - if one were to make an informed purchase.

Butcher's Cameo sample image with Ilford FP4
Butcher's Cameo sample image with Soft Gradation Panchromatic glass plate
Butcher's Cameo sample image with supplementary lens and Soft Gradation Panchromatic glass plate

Sources/further reading:
There's perhaps surprisingly little in depth information about the Cameo online, although presumably sold in tens or hundreds of thousands, this may be simply that it's not considered sufficiently interesting in any way.
1914 Butcher Catalogue
'Pocket' Cameos on Historic Camera
Early Cameo model on The Living Image