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Deadcameras Black Allfit strap Konica Hexar AF-4

The new Allfit strap & Konica Hexar AF Silver. Click here to shop.

 The deadcameras shoulder strap and the Leica M, the perfect combination.

The deadcameras slim strap and the Leica M, the perfect combination. Click here to shop.

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Fuji GF670, the XXI century folding camera.

It may also be called Bessa III in the European market, but mine is a Japanese import of the limited but not so limited, Black Fuji GF670 model, as the common model comes in silver. The only problem this model has is that the manual of the camera comes written only in Japanese.

Now, a bit out off-topic but in someway the Fuji brand and the Deadcameras names are related. When Fuji some years ago steadily increased the price of Fuji films and ceased selling some of their most popular emulsions, some folks started talking in forums about how film was dead and how they would eventually end up with several “deadcameras”, cameras that would not work in anyway, if film goes out of business. Of course, I had a few of these film cameras so the name for the blog came naturally to be “Deadcameras”. Fortunately these days it seems that film is coming back! Let us hope it does.

Now back on track, Fujifilm decided in 2015 to stop the production of the GF670, possibly their last film camera. Sad.

But what a great camera it was!

Fuji GF670 -  Mar/Abr 2015

Oporto. GF670 set to a 6×6 frame on Kodak Tmax100.

A medium format device that shoots 6×7 (10 exposures) and as a bonus also will do 6×6 (12 exposures) in a 120 film, that comes with a great optical rangefinder coupled to the lens. It can fold to take less space on your camera bag or fit inside the glove compartment of your car!
Mind you, medium format cameras are traditionally big so taking one for a walk makes us look somehow like strange geeks.

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Fuji GW690 on top versus the GF670.

The GF670 by the contrary, is a pleasure to take to the street, it´s a head turning device and one can receive pleasing comments about it, like… “-Uau, that camera looks good, it´s like new!”… , to which we reply that it looks like new because it is new, and not only new but with an electronically controlled leaf shutter and with modern conveniences like aperture priority auto-exposure and in the viewfinder, LED reading for the shutter speed!

Of course, digital camera users will laugh at such technological achievements but mind you that like with every thing in life, including photography, simple is better. This is the philosophy behind the Leica brand, not the quality of their products or the status of their lenses but the ability to keep it simple, that´s what brings people to the Leica brand. And the GF670 like the Leica M is a simple camera.

And since we are talking about Leica and maybe the reader has already used a Leica rangefinder camera, let me tell you that this is the closest one can get to a Leica in medium format and in several ways it surpasses it.
To start with, the viewfinder is on a class of it´s own. Put it this way: If you think the Leica viewfinder is good, then I can tell you that compared to the viewfinder of the GF670 it is dimm, the difference between the two is clearly noticeable, that is how good the viewfinder of the Fuji is. Not only that, one gets an extended out of the frame view, just like on the Leica, but with switchable frames between 6×7 and 6×6 and on top of that, parallax correction. Also, the central double image square for focusing is big and very easy to read for precise focusing. regard this, much better than the older Fuji GW690.

Of course the Leica is better built, not that the Fuji is bad but having some plastic parts on it, not on the same league or even close. More on that later.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-15

Side by side, Leica M6 vs GF670.

The second point where the Fuji beats the Leica by a mile is on the image quality of the negatives it produces. I find it funny how clever marketeers have made up our minds to believe that “Full frame” is the quality benchmark we must pursuit. FULL FRAME!! In the days of film photography that was called the “miniature format”.
So a 24x36mm image format went from “miniature format” to “full frame” just by applying the right marketing philosophy. There, you should not want to have a m43 camera just because it is not “full frame”. In fact m43 and “full frame” cameras are both miniature format cameras so not much separates them.

We say miniature format because it has only 864 square millimeters of area compared to the 3808 square millimeters of a 6×7 frame. That is to say that the “sensor” of the Fuji GF670 is 4.4x bigger than the one on the Leica RF. No way one can beat that!
Of course, with fine emulsions that yield a lot of image detail that is not much of a problem because 35mm cameras have lenses that can resolve much more detail (line pairs per millimeter) than MF lenses, but try to use a fast emulsion like Ilford Delta 3200 Pro and the difference is surely obvious. Of course a big negative/positive is better for enlargements, but to me, more important than that, is the ability of medium format cameras to take film rated at 400 ASA/ISO or faster, with less perceived fall in image quality, as one would notice on a miniature format camera.

Violeta no hospital, Fuji GF670

My daughter at the hospital. GF670 loaded with Ilford Delta 3200 hand held. Even with such a fast film the grain is very well controlled and blacks are deeper.

Deadcameras Fujifilm GF670 -16

Same film, Ilford Delta 3200 but now a 24x36mm frame (Pentax Spotmatic). The grain is clearly noticeable and part of the image.

Portra 160 Leica M6

Leica M6 with Kodak Portra 160 rated at 80 ISO, colors are less appealing and the grain is clearly visible. Click to see the 5467×3075 image at 100%.

Portra 160 160915-05

Fuji GF670 with Kodak Portra 160 rated at 80 ISO, colors are greater and the grain is well hidden. Click to see the 8427×6831 image at 100%.

But apples to apples, this camera must be compared to other MF cameras when it comes to image quality. Of course, as being a Fuji it should not disappoint us and it doesn’t. The images it makes are stunningly gorgeous, not with the razor sharp feel of the Rolleiflex TLR lens or the Hasselblad Zeiss glass, but the detail is all there.

In fact when it comes to medium format cameras, no camera system will desilude, I am yet to find a bad MF camera.

So let´s look at the tech specs for this camera…

On the heart of the device comes the 80mm 1:3.5 EBC Fujinon lens, EBC stands for electro beam coating, which is good but not that important these days because all modern lens are multi coated, but it was a must have on the 70’s…
The 80mm lens equals more or less a 40mm lens on a “fullframe” camera, nice.

Talking about the lens, it is a bit weird to focus, it has a focus tab like other rangefinders but the bellows protrudes in such a way that one cannot held the camera in the same way like we do with other cameras, so one hand grabs the camera on the right side and the left hand goes on the bottom of the camera so that a finger can sit on the focus tab but not touch the fbellows. A bit weird.

The lens will only focus from 0.9m to infinity, a bit disappointing in this regard but having a large frame also means one can always crop the frame without loosing much in image quality.
The lens has a dedicated lens hood that takes 40,5mm filters, however the lens barrel may also accept 58mm filters, but then, the dedicated hood is of no use. Not much of a issue because flare is very well controlled by the lens.

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The hood fits nicely into the cameras as an extension of it but needs to be removed if you decide to fold the camera.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-11

The lens hood comes with a screw in filter chamber that is also good to gather dust.

Now, the widest aperture is f=1:3.5, not that fast but on MF it is not that bad either, because DOF is always present even at f8 and faster film emulsions can be used and we will still get a decent image resolution.

The lens can be closed down to f=1:22 and such apertures are widely used in medium format and large format cameras to increase the depth of field and check this, no reason to worry about image deterioration.
Mind you, the aspect ratio is rather different and more close to 4:3 than to 3:2, because of that, the images will look quite different from those made with a 35mm camera.
One may argue about why to go 6×7 if 6×6 is almost the same. Publishers may answer 6×7 is better suited for Magazine publishing. With a 3:2 or 1:1 ratio, photographers always have to remind themselves about the need to crop either ends (horizontal or vertical) to make the picture fit the cover of a magazine, with 6×7 it is almost certain to get the right framing.

Silence

The electronically controlled leaf shutter is very silent and free of vibration, this translates to very sharp images even at low speeds but the inability to know if the photo was taken by listening to the “click”. On a silent room one can hear it but on the street it is rather difficult. Ask a DSLR user to take a picture for you and look at his face afterwards trying to find out if he actually did it! No “mirror bang” on the Fuji I assure you. It is much quieter than a Rolleiflex TLR, in case you ever used one.
So the only way to know if the photo was taken is to advance the film and this is done by a very old fashion way that is by turning the advance wheel until it stops.

The shutter goes from 4s up to 1/500s and includes B, pretty standard on MF cameras. If you choose to shoot on an aperture priority program (the only auto mode available), overexposure or underexposure can be set up to 2 stops. Not the best, but still usable.
Flash is manual and because of the leaf shutter it can sync at any speed (I guess).

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-4

On the top of the camera one can find almost all the controls of the camera. On the left side of the camera, there is the ISO selector and by rotating the whole knob it is possible to select the desired speed or select the “Auto” mode and either overexpose or underexpose by 2 EV.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-3

Same perspective of the camera but with the lens open that also turns the camera to “ON”. Now the shutter button on the right side will work. After the exposure the whole knob on the right can be turned to prepare the camera for the next shot. On the small window next to the shutter one can read the exposure number.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-5

The back view of the camera is very clean, there is only the viewfinder, a slot to place the film card board and a small window that shows the type of film loaded, that can be either 120 film or the nearly extinct 220 film.

Now, the film is loaded on the back of the camera and the unexposed roll sits on the left side.

Very important! First of all you must select if you wish to take 6×6 frames or 6×7 frames before you load the film because the knob to choose such options is inside the film chamber. Secondly, pay attention while loading the film to see if it is folding properly around the empty spool. Make sure the film is aligned and does roll in very firmly into the spool. Placing your fingers above the empty spool while loading may help.

This is a big problem with the GF670, if the film doesn’t roll in well you might end up with a defective exposed roll, that lets light leak into the emulsion and that can make the advance wheel run stiff or even stop working.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-6

The film chamber is empty, at this point it is possible to select the desired image ratio, 6×6 or 6×7.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-7

Wind the roll until the arrows align and make sure to check with your fingers if the film firmly rolls into the empty spool. It is now safe to close it.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-8

Now that the film chamber is closed the cardboard end of the roll can be placed into the slot as a reminder of the film in use.

The GF670 is a very fragile camera!

Firstly there is the bellows that is in fact very easy to damage so keep your fingers away from it and very important, don´t try to close the lens if it is not set to infinity first. Also, the lens cover is made of very thin plastic shell and it is prone to crack if you put pressure on it.

I had Fuji to replace mine due to a crack on the plastic cover after taking it for a walk inside a backpack and because the case for this camera is a soft case, it will only protect from dust and rain.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-12

The original soft bag for the camera is made of high quality leather but of no use to protect the camera from any shock. For the asking price I would skip it.

Repairs to this camera are made only at the factory that makes them in Japan, so while one can be reassured the job will be well done, sending a camera to Japan for repair is neither fast or cheap.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-1

Front view of the camera with the lens closed, only the rangefinder windows, the meter sensor and the silver handle to open the lens are noticeable. A very clean look indeed.

I must say I don´t like the finishes to the camera, I think the paint can chip off easily and the rubberized parts will wear over time or gather a ugly patina, dust, and dirt sticks to it easily. I would much prefer a traditional leatherette instead. But maybe it is just me, I have the GF670 for several years now and it still looks like new but I must say, I don´t use it that much.

The GF670 drains batteries quickly

Yep, I find this to be true even if you keep the lens closed which also turns the camera off. The camera only takes one CR2 Lithium Battery but it will drain in 6-12 months if left in the camera when not in use. Keep also in mind to check the battery prior to using the camera because it won´t work without it. Always bring a spare.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-13

On the bottom of the camera we have the tradicional tripod mount socket and the battery chamber. The cap of this one is prone to paint loss even if you are very careful so maybe the silver version of the camera is a better option to avoid this.

On the field

One cannot avoid comparing this camera to a Leica M because both are rangefinders, both are compact cameras, at least when not in use, and both shoot in a similar way. The M6 is 790g with the small 35mm summicron and the GF670 is 1050g, so not so far apart. The GF670 does not feel heavy in any way.

Deadcameras review Fuji Fujifilm GF670-14

The GF670 is noticeably bigger than the Leica M6 but still very compact with the lens closed.

So is it like a Leica? Well… here is where one may miss an essencial point about this camera… Because the camera is lightweight and shoots like a Leica rangefinder, one may think that it should be used like a leica M.

Deadcameras Fujifilm GF670 -1

The awesome GF670 mounted on a tripod.

Yes it can be used like a rangefinder! But then you loose the advantage of it, that is state of the art, high resolution imagery. Unless you shoot at high speeds of 1/250s or 1/500s, a tripod is mandatory for the ultimate picture quality when using a MF camera and the GF670 is no exception.

Deadcameras Fujifilm GF670 -9

The Deadcameras quick release buckles are a good option if the cameras is to be frequently used on a tripod…

Deadcameras Fujifilm GF670 -8

…so that the camera strap can be removed easily when not in need.

A good pair for it would be a moderately compact tripod. In my case I use the Manfrotto carbon fiber 190CXPRO4G with the excellent 057 magnesium ball head. This makes for a stable yet lightweight combo that pairs well with the camera.

Then there is a mistake that I find myself doing quite often with this camera, that is shooting from a distant position. The culprit for that I think, is the excellent viewfinder of the camera. The image is so rich and detailed while framing that one may think he is closer to the subject than he actually is. The lens is a 40mm equivalent, already a wide angle lens so I must teach myself to get closer to the subject with this camera.

Deadcameras Fujifilm GF670 -10

This photo would greatly benefit if I was closer to the subject. Leça de Palmeira, Portugal.

I must also add, to the (short) complaint list that it bothers me a lot to use the camera on a rainy day, because of the bellows getting wet.

Also, I have to mention the cost of running such a camera. Each roll will give you only 10 pictures, at most 12. So compared to a 35mm camera you waist 3x more on films and development! For such, this is a tool to be used in exceptional photographic opportunities, not for candy photography or selfies, and it is very easy, at least for me, to miss that essencial point.

Deadcameras Fujifilm GF670 -14

Using the GF670 hand held like any other rangefinder camera is possible but then the high level of detail is lost to motion blur and camera shake. 6×7 frame on Fujifilm NPS160.

This is a high performance photographic device for state of the art quality with film medium. I am pretty sure that this camera on the hands of a very well trained and creative photographer can be a powerful tool and this also means that one masters the development of film, the printing and or the scanning procedures.

If you decide to scan the images, a high performance scanner is also mandatory, only a drum scanner or something like the Imacon/Hasselblad  flextight, or the Nikon Coolscan 9000ED or or the Minolta Dimage Multi Pro will make justice to the camera. The epson V700 flatbed is ok for the price it costs but will not get you half of the detail recorded to the film. So why use such an expensive camera in the first place?

Deadcameras Fujifilm GF670 -11

Fuji GF670 loaded with Delta 400 and mounted on a tripod, even with such a fast film highly detailed images can be achieved. Scanned with the Minolta Dimage Multi pro.

To sum up, I think the GF670 is one of the best film cameras ever made alongside other great cameras like Rolleiflex TLR or the Hasselblad V series.
Compared to other 6×7 cameras like the great Pentax 67 or the Mamiya RB67 it is much smaller and truly light, the Mamiya 7 sits between being also light but not so compact.
Therefore the Fujifilm GF670 makes for a great traveling tool, and one that will not make you feel awkward when you take it out for a walk.

Deadcameras Fujifilm GF670 -12

Water sculpture.

If you master analog photography and need the best possible quality, this camera should be on your short list but for those that are beginners to analog photography or those that cannot afford the cost of film medium, film development and the ownership of a good scanner, I would recommend a 35mm camera instead or a 6×4.5 MF camera to start with. The Bronica 645, the Fuji 645 or the Mamiya 645 are amazing cameras that are cheaper and at least they will make 15 frames out off a 120 roll. If you luster for a cheaper MF rangefinder, then the Bronica RF should also be a excellent option, it is also a 6×4.5 MF camera.

Fuji GF670 Praia da Torreira

Praia da Torreira, Portugal.

If you just desire that Medium Format “look” mind you that this is not the best lens for it, as one can see from the images above they are pretty standard in appearance, I mean, the lens on this camera does not render like those one can find on other MF cameras, like the Pentax Takumar 2.4/105mm, or the Contax 645 2/80 or the Hasselblad 2/100.

Bringing dead cameras back to life…

Thank you for reading.

Deadcameras Brown&black Allfit strap Fuji GF670-1

Our Black & Brown Allfit leather strap can come with a “Fuji green” dot and the brown leather is a exact match to the leather of some Fujifilm leather cases. Click here to visit our shop!

Nermal, the Leica CM

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Do you remember Nermal, that cute little cat from Garfield? Such a cute and vain kitty he was, he really did annoy Garfield. Well, who could resist him?

When I saw this camera for the first time, it reminded me a lot of Nermal, it is a really cute camera, that small… and with the looks of a Leica M.

Deadcameras Leica CM-6

Garfield was so jealous about him (Nermal) that he wanted to send him to Abu Dhabi…  well, I don´t know about Nermal but I would not ship the CM to Abu Dhabi because in fact, Abu Dhabi is not that bad so,… I would rather send the Leica CM to Borkou or Siberia. I mean, that´s what I felt about the camera the day after I bought it.
It´s true, I could not resist such a beautiful camera and even if it is a deadcamera, meaning here out of production, it was expensive. Of course, the problem here is not that it is dead  but even worst than that, buried by Leica itself! Let me explain…

I did read a lot about the CM before I purchased one and I learned that it is a evolution of the previous Leica Minilux with better flash capabilities, improved optical coatings, hot shoe… and a more reliable design fitted into a titanium body. Well, Perfect!
Mind you, that amazing 40mm f2.4 Summarit lens is blazing sharp, comparable in quality to the Leica M lenses and fitted to a very compact body. So what´s wrong?

If you search the internet you will find out that the Leica Minilux is doomed by shutter problems mainly caused by a soft cable that links the camera to the shutter mechanism, this cable will eventually brake turning the camera into a nice paperweight. In various forums you will read that the best option is to get the Leica CM because such issues have been solved. Right? Well, no.

Before I purchased mine I did test it and everything was ok, so I put a roll on it, made some shots and went home as a happy owner. The next day I was playing with it and after 10 shots the diaphragm got jammed at f5.6 and then at f22, it would not move! Later it totally broke and the EI shut01 error appeared on the LCD.
So I called Leica services the next day and to my disgrace they said that due to the lack of repair parts, they do not service the Leica CM anymore.  For a camera released in 2004 and sold up to 2006 that is shocking! So, if you now are considering the Leica Minilux instead, let me warn you that it is also, not serviceable by Leica.

Well, the review could stop here but thankfully for us owners of the either the Minilux or Leica CM there is a solution!

One of the last pictures I made with the camera before it broke. Focus is not spot on, but at f2.4 it is hard to nail it when the subject is a moving child.

One of the last pictures I made with the camera before it broke. Focus is not spot on, but at f2.4 it is hard to nail it when the subject is a moving child. Leica CM & Expired Fuji C100.

In my case I took the camera to Fototecnica repair centre in Oporto and after explaining the situation to the technician, he just smiled and went in with the kitty. After 5 minutes he came out and said I should leave the camera, he had already repaired several Miniluxes by replacing the soft cable with a new DIY one. To my surprise he phoned me the next day and said I could pick up the repaired camera!

I think this is the most relevant information I can give about the Leica CM or the Minilux, because if you have it or consider the purchase of one, there is hope that it may be repairable if you get into problems and believe me, sooner or later you will.

 

Leica CM front view in off position.

Leica CM front view in off position. look to the bottom of the camera, to the left is the on/off button.

And now in the on position, the lens will pop out.

And now in the on position, the lens will pop out.

Leica CM size compared to the iphone 4.

Leica CM size compared to the iphone 4.

And here compared to the Leica M6. Mind you, the new Leica M typ 240 is even larger.

And here compared to the Leica M6. Mind you, the new Leica M typ 240 is even larger.

With that said, we can enter the second part of this review where I will talk about the usability of the camera itself and about it’s characteristics. Probably you already read some reviews about the CM, I also did and one can find extensive information about the camera and about it’s counterparts, mainly the Contax T2 and the Ricoh GR1. I did briefly play with a Contax T2 and I must agree that overall it is a better camera, more compact, robust and more important than that, a mechanical diaphragm selector.

A view from the top, to the left there is the shutter speed and diaphragm selector. Next to it, the two step shutter release button.

A view from the top. To the left there is the focus dial and the diaphragm selector. Next to it, the two step shutter release button. At the center we have a flash hot shoe, something the Minilux does not.

Here the bottom plate of the camera. If you have noticed the camera is completely mint except for the battery door compartment.

And here, the bottom plate of the camera. If you have noticed, the camera is completely mint except for the battery door compartment.

Yes, the CM looks robust and if you open the film door you will see that it is in fact very well built with few plastic parts but to my eyes it seems that not all parts of the camera where thought to the same level of excellence. For instance, the titanium body looks and is in fact very solid but if you look at the battery door closely you will find out that it is made of a weaker metal, faux painted to resemble titanium but worse than that, the door assembly has lots of plastic parts that eventually may be a source of problems. Plus, I don’t understand why  there is a screw drive inlet if one can open or close the battery door with one finger. Turns out that one sales vendor used a coin to open the battery door of my camera and in the process the paint started peeling of – a real shame.

The battery door assemble is mainly made of plastic with a faux painted cover to resemble titanium.

The battery door assemble is mainly made of plastic with a faux painted cover to resemble titanium.

The film compartment is nicely finished and the most obvious detail is that the film goes on the right side of the camera.

The film compartment is nicely finished and the most obvious detail is that the film goes on the right side of the camera.

But the most notorious fault to the camera is obviously the leatherette, of good quality of course, but the way it is placed on the camera makes it easy to peel off. When I had my CM repaired, the technician was kind enough to glue it back into place, from then a few weeks have past and I can see that it is peeling off again. Nothing serious but it is there.

The metal underneath the leatherette is amazingly polished, should this be the cause of the leatherette pealing, the lack of a textured surface for the glue to stick on?

The metal underneath the leatherette is amazingly polished, should this be the cause of the leatherette pealing? The lack of a textured surface for the glue to stick on to.

Then we have the LCD on the back with some quirky buttons and a dial that obviously is not the most practical solution but for such a small camera I think it does the job by offering lots of shooting possibilities one can only find on professional cameras, like flash sync to the second curtain and AE shift up to 2 stops. Unfortunately, no ISO override, meaning, if you use a film without DX code like the marvelous Adox CMS20, there is no way to setup the ISO that will be set by default to ISO 100 and with only 2 stops of AE shift available, the closest one can get to is ISo 25.

On the rear, from top to bottom,  the selector buttons for flash, exposure override, shutter timer and hour&date imprint. Next to it the dial selector. Also, notice that there is a diopter selector for the viewfinder and a film window!

On the rear, from top to bottom, the selector buttons for flash, exposure override, shutter timer and hour/date imprint. Next to it the dial selector. Also, notice that there is a diopter selector for the viewfinder and a film window!

Not all is bad though,  fortunately this menu system hides a secret that professional photographers will love to know, if you press any button for some seconds with the options you selected, it will store them in memory so that the next time one turns on the camera it still remembers that you don´t want to use the flash for example, or that you are over or under exposing.

Other source of problems is the speed and auto-focus/manual-focus selector.They are well placed together and it’s a very clever solution indeed, but the focus dial moves very easily out of position and when one tries to change the diaphragm value, he may end up with the camera in manual-focus or with the focus distance accidentally changed. I have lost some shots because of this.

I cannot end the list of cons without some words about the time it takes to rewind the film because it is really slow so, if you’re taking the camera to a important event, make sure the film does not end at the middle of a ceremony because you will loose the rest of it.

And here the small Leica flash SF20 mounted on the camera, it make it look even smaller! Mind you, the external flash for some reason will not work in TTL mode but still, works just as fine in automatic mode since it will read from the camera the shutter speed, f stop and subject distance.

And here the small Leica flash SF20 mounted on the camera, it makes it look even smaller! Mind you, the external flash for some reason will not work in TTL mode but still, works just as fine in automatic mode since it will read from the camera the shutter speed, f stop and subject distance.

So after all these complains one may think I don’t like the camera but it’s quite the opposite, in fact I love it!

Definitely a camera mummy would bring to the kinder-garden but also a camera Dad would love to have

Definitely a camera Mummy would bring to the kinder-garden but also a camera Dad would love to have.

To start with, no arguments against that marvelous Summarit 40mm f2.4 lens. Maybe the new digital Leica compact cameras like the X1 and X2, cannot get a compact lens of such a quality because digital sensors restrict the use of such lenses, otherwise I don´t see why they would not use this lens on the new cameras. It is one of the sharpest lens I have ever experienced on a 35mm camera.

A view from Ribeira, oporto. Leica CM loaded with Agfa CT Precisa 100

A view of Ribeira, Oporto. Leica CM loaded with Agfa CT Precisa 100 – Scanner Nikon Coolscan V ED. Click the image to see a full size enlargement.

Some my argue that it is not wide enough nor it is a normal lens, to me it is perfect because you don´t get the freaking perspective distortion of the wider lenses but still can get the benefits of one. I have also used the very reputed Panasonic 20mm f1:1.7 lens for the m43 digital system and I may say that the reason it is so popular comes from the fact that it has the equivalent angle of view of a 40mm lens on a 24x36mm frame. To my eyes 40mm lenses just have something special about them. See, I still dream about a Olympus M1 body plus the Zuiko 40mm lens…back to earth.

Leica also claims it has better coatings than the older Minilux lens, but this may sound better in paper than it is important in real shooting situations I think. Nevertheless the lens is stunning.

Somewhere in Oporto.

Somewhere in Oporto. Leica CM loaded with Agfa CT Precisa 100

But remember, this is a auto-focus camera, in fact a very slow auto-focus camera but still good to me. Maybe a SLR user will find it slow but if you are used to manual focusing cameras it is faster than one. It´s not an important issue unless you do sports photography or so. My only complaint is that the focusing window is too big and sometimes I don´t know if it is focusing where I wish it to focus, but usually it is where it’s supposed to be unless the subject is badly lit or there is not enough separation between the subject and the background.

My baby girl at the hospital. I took a series of photos from this position at 1:2.4 and only a couple came out perfectly in focus. Leica CM loaded with Agfa APX 100

My baby girl at the hospital, I took a series of photos from this position at 1:2.4 and only a couple came out perfectly in focus. Leica CM loaded with Agfa APX 100.

Another one, this time with good light the auto focusing system was splendid. Please not that the lightning conditions are tricky but the Leica CM was able to expose correcly. From the same roll of Agfa APX100

Another one, this time with good light the auto focusing system was splendid. Please note that the lightning conditions are tricky but the Leica CM was able to expose correctly. From the same roll of Agfa APX100

Having loaded the camera with some Ilford XP2 400 film and having used it extensively under bad lightning conditions at the wider aperture, the camera failed mostly always to focus correctly. From 25 exposures 12 came out of focus, maybe it is just me but I suspect that this is not a camera to be used in low contrast light. But again, it is a point&shoot camera, cannot expect the accuracy of a Leica R8/9 body and manual focusing.

Very important! The lens does not accept filters neither a sunshade but you can always DIY a solution.

Also, I have seen lots of complains about the viewfinder window but I cannot agree much about that, not that it is good because it is not but if you look at the physical size of it, something like 6mm per 4mm in height, it is hard to believe that one can see through it, for me it is an engineering feat. Remember, this is a P&S camera and anyway, it is always possible to add an external viewfinder to the hot shoe. Problem solved.

I must add a note here, some people have said that the cameras does not accept any accessories on the hot shoe besides a flash unit. Well, before I got it repaired that was true, if I tried to place any accessory on the hot shoe it would give me a error. Now I don´t have any problem on mounting any accessories on the camera. May this be a sign of a faulty camera before it breaks down?

 

Somewhere in Oporto. From the same roll of Agfa CT Precisa 100.

Somewhere in Oporto. From the same roll of Agfa CT Precisa 100.

To sum up this is definitely a flawed camera but at the same time a wonderful piece of photographic equipment. Note that the Rollei 35 SE was a compact camera with only scale focusing capabilities but it is still today one of the most exciting photographic devices and it had other serious flaws!  The CM is not the best compact camera one can get but I doubt anyone would refuse it´s ownership. I know at least one person that will not part from is CM. A very nice camera and I hope it does not break again soon.

Market

Market, Leica CM loaded with Ilford XP2 400

Lenine, Leica CM loaded with Ilford XP2 400

Lenine, Leica CM loaded with Ilford XP2 400

What is so great about this camera, more than how it looks gorgeous is the size of it, I mean the size of it with such a good lens. Barely the same size of my iphone 4 but fatter of course. It is also lightweight and with the lens closed into the body it fits well a jacket pocket so one can take it anywhere. It is such a practical camera in this respect that lately I take it more often out of the closet then I do with other cameras.

It is also a very silent camera, the shutter sound is barely noticeable being the film drive the most audible sound but nothing serious really.

Deadcameras Nano Wrist Strap Leica CM-3

Deadcameras Nano Wrist Strap Leica CM-3

I was almost ending this review (I started in January), when a friend asked me why I din´t have a Deadcameras strap for the CM. Well… he was right so here it is. If you have a small camera like the Nikon 35ti, Contax T2, Leica CM or Minilux, you can purchase one of these wrist straps here.

 

For any question or just to warn me about a typo mistake, please send me a message to deadcameras@gmail.com.

Thank you for reading.

The Asahi Pentax Spotmatic II

 

A vintage look for modern and classic cameras

Perfectly blended, the brown slim strap & the spotmatic SPII! Click here to buy this strap.

When I decided I would create a blog to review and pay tribute to the most amazing film cameras, I also decided that the first camera to start with should be the “Pentax Spotmatic”. Why?

 

The Asahi Spotmatic II incomplete family, from left to right and downwards: 4/200, 2.8/120, 1.8/85, 1.4/50, 4/50 macro, 3.5/24, 3.5/35+SPII, 3.5/28, 4/17 fish-eye, magnifying eye-piece and the 90 degree rotating eye-piece.

The Asahi Spotmatic II uncompleted family, from left to right and downwards: 4/200, 2.8/120, 1.8/85, 1.4/50, 4/50 macro, 3.5/24, 3.5/35+SPII, 3.5/28, 4/17 fish-eye, magnifying eye-piece and the 90 degree rotating eye-piece.

The Pentax is a iconic camera, some have said that it is the Volkswagen of the camera world and while I agree that it is sort of it, I must also say that Asahi decided that their cameras should be on the same league of their German counterparts from Zeiss, and while in the 60’s and 70’s the Pentax was cheaper than those, the quality of their optics was up to the quality of the German Glass and guess what… They are still presently excellent optics to use on a digital camera. Well, the optics are not the camera but one must agree that it’s the most important element to pay attention on a camera right?

I will make even a bolder statement: The takumar lenses have the best focus mechanism of all the manual lenses ever made and the more you use them, the better they get. And yes, I have used Zeiss, Leica, Nikon, Minolta, name it glass. The focus feel you get from Takumar lenses is just superb, smooth and precise. I have had over 20 takumar lenses and I am yet to find one that had problems with the focus helicoid. Also, these lenses are made of metal and glass only so even today you can find them looking like new. Even their caps are high quality, aluminum in the front and very nice quality Bakelite in the back.

The Spotmatic II with the lovely super multi coated fish-eye-Takumar 4/17

The Spotmatic II with the lovely super multi coated fish-eye-Takumar 4/17

But let’s pay attention on the camera because I will give us a review of all the Takumar’s later.

This is a very well built and very reliable camera that looks just like that and will keep taking photos I believe, during the next 2 or 3 centuries if you give it a proper use. Mine is in a very good shape although it’s over half a century old. It is my belief that the cameras made from the 50’s up to the 70’s are the best made cameras ever and since then they have gotten worse to the point that they are just very expensive disposable pieces of plastic on our days. Lens included.

The pentax line of cameras did not start with the spotmatic but with it Pentax had their first slr with a light meter built in, and this is a very special one beloved by photographers, it allows stop down metering. While that may sound sophisticated, it is in fact a very archaic way of measuring the available light. It´s already a TTL camera with true the lens metering but the photographer as to stop down the lens manually to set the right exposure.  This slows down the process of taking a photo but the good thing is that you learn in a very intuitive way how the metering works and how to predict the right exposure before you even take the camera to the eye. That’s why photography teachers recommend the camera to students even today. My model is the Spotmatic II, an all mechanical camera that is a improvement to the original Spotmatic just by adding a fixed hot-shoe for the flash. Later models are the Spotmatic F (no longer a stop down metering camera because the diaphragm is coupled to the meter) and at last came the automatic Spotmatic ES and the much improved Spotmatic ES II, with better and more reliable electronics.

The second reason why I like this camera so much is because it uses m42 lenses and this means it uses a screw mount of 42×1 mm also called pentax mount or universal mount. Well, I think universal mount is the best name for it because almost all cameras in the world can use this lenses and also because a big bunch of camera makers did build their own camera systems around the m42 mount. That’s great because with this camera you can also use lenses from Zenith, Pratika, Zeiss Pentacon, Olympus, Mamiya, Rollei, Fuji, Chinon, Ricoh, Revue, etc.

Even in 2003, Cosina Voigtlander gave us a brand new camera for m42 lenses, the Bessaflex! Thank you CV, I love you so much and please, please… give us more!

 

The spotmatic plus the smc takumar 1.8/85 compared to the size of the iphone. The weight of this combo is still light enough to be used with a wirst strap.

So, at this point we already know what is great about the spotmatic, it´s a high quality camera with high quality lenses that uses a very nice metering system and has a universal m42 mount that takes lenses from almost all the camera makers in the world. So before we go into details are there any bad things about the spotmatic? Well, yes… some few.

To start with, the biggest flaw of the spotmatic II to my eyes, literally, is the viefinder screen. It´s a screen designed in the 60’s and like most any other viewfinder from that age, it is a little dark for one to focus properly. If you use a fast lens like the smc Takumar 1.8/85 or the 1.4/50, you will have no problem to focus even in a dark location, but the truth is that almost all takumar’s are not that fast and it is very hard to focus a lens like the superb 4/50 macro takumar or the 3.5/28 takumar. Also, my Spotmatic does not have a split focus fresnel, just the rather conventional micro-prism fresnel circle and you cannot change the fresnel glass like with other cameras from that age.

I must say that it’s pretty much the worse you get from the spoty but let me add also that the camera does not have a shutter lock and that the original batteries are no longer available, but like I will show you later, there is a easy fix for the later.

Spotmatic Deadcameras-53

So let´s go to the details:

– All mechanical focal plane cloth shutter (rubberized silk), that is very reliable and serviceable with speeds rating B, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60x, 125, 250, 500 and 1000s. 60x means the camera will synchronize with the flash at 1/60s and while 1/1000 is not that fast for today standards, it’s a none issue because the lenses are not that bright either. The shutter sound is not very loud and at the same time it is a very pleasing sound to ear;

Spotmatic Deadcameras-48

– One stroke is enough to  get the shutter cocked and while there is no shutter lock, a red sign on a window near the shutter warns you that the camera is ready. I must say I have lost some shots by tripping the shutter accidentally but on the other hand, that also happens with cameras that have a shutter lock;

– Single reflex prism with 100% magnification with a 55mm lens, a bit dark and not in the same level of the prism finder of the most recent cameras. The Bessaflex and the Fujica ST801 are in this regard the best cameras to get. I would consider also the Chinon CE3 because it is a very complete camera with a very clever metering system for m42 lenses but it is hard to find especially in good working conditions;

– There is a film counter with automatic reset, right to the shutter dial and the ISO is set by lifting the shutter dial and rotating it. It only has a ISO scale ranging from ISO 20 up to 3200;

– The light meter works only with a speed faster than 1/15s and therefore on the right side of the shutter dial there is a small window that turns red to warn you for that;

-On the left side of the top plate there is the rewind knob that also opens the film back if you lift it and also a loaded film indicator to remind you of the film type loaded or if the camera is empty. You may set also manually, the flash contact type in use;

– Of course, no TTL flash, but that is just a useless detail at least for me;

Spotmatic Deadcameras-47

– On the front of the camera you get the all mechanical self-timer switch and lever (releases the shutter in 5-13s) and on the side next to the lens the SW switch that activates the light meter and stops the lens to the right aperture, hence stop down metering. Mind you that if you let it on, you will end up with a flat battery. My battery was placed in the camera 2 years ago and is still working fine. As usual to many other cameras, the flash sync sockets are on the front panel of the camera;

Spotmatic Deadcameras-52

– Because there are no motors available for this camera, on the bottom one can find only the rewind release button and the battery compartment;

Spotmatic Deadcameras-50

– There is no viewfinder shutter either, to block the light from entering the camera through it during long exposures but I have a original and very nice bakelite cap for the viewfinder that serves the purpose. As a option, there is a 90 degree rotating finder, a magnified finder for precise focusing and a rubber eye piece. I have them all and while the 90 degree viewfinder is almost useless because it makes the viewfinder even darker, the magnified eye piece is very nice and works great, showing up the most fine details of the image;

Spotmatic Deadcameras-49

– Loading the film is very easy and I never did find any scratches to the film caused by the pressure plate but I must say that I am very careful to  clean the film compartment with a air blower prior to any film load. My favorite film is Fujifilm acros 100 and that film is very prone to getting scratched if one is not careful dealing with it;

Spotmatic Deadcameras-54

The original battery is a PX-400 1,35v mercury type cell and therefore no longer available. The good news is that because of the bridge design of the electronic circuitry, one can use any modern 1,5v alkaline cell as long as it fits the battery compartment and the exposure will still be accurate. I am using a Maxwell sr936sw 1,5v battery  without any problems. Please not that because the original battery is larger, I have placed a rubber ring around the battery to center it. Also, old batteries had the polarity reversed so place the battery also reversed as show in the picture below;

Spotmatic Deadcameras-51

To end, let me say that the weight of the camera is of 622 grams body only and 853 grams coupled with the Takumar 1.4/50, a bit on the heavy side compared with later models but still very portable.

If you seek for more detailed information, you can find the original manual of the camera here.

 

Now, let me tell you how it feels to use the camera, and in few word’s,  it’s great!

The Spotmatic is a beautiful camera and the Takumar lenses just feel even better made than Leica or Zeiss but at the same time more discrete. The camera grabs the attention of the people passing by and goes well as like a fashion accessory.

The ergonomics are great since you get only the most basic commands to operate the instrument. Just select a speed and adjust the iris in accordance to what the light-meter  and your intuition tells you. The SW button is very well placed and the whole experience of the stop down metering system just feels natural and is not obstructive. Simple than that, maybe only a Leica M6.

Because of the stop down metering system it is my practice to setup the right exposure immediately after I change environment, this way my exposure settings are always very close to the right value so if I need to be quick, I can always rely on those settings for a shot. Very close to how one operates the Leica M.

On a future post I will have the pleasure to give us a review of the Takumar lenses I have used. Thank you for reading.

 

 

A vintage look for modern and classic cameras

If you like the brown slim strap please visit hour shop! Click here.