eBay Camera Surprises

Yes, I find eBay camera bargains and some of them are a pleasant surprise.

Guilty eBay Sellers and Bonus Cameras

Recently I purchased a Sears TLS camera from an eBay seller (in the last 5 seconds as always).  Then I purchased a Chinon SLR that he was selling for $5.  Total was $15 dollars plus $10 shipping.  I expected to receive two SLR camera bodies for M42 lenses.

Mike, if you’re reading this, thanks for the surprise camera goodies.  All my readers should be lucky to buy cameras from you on eBay.

The eBay seller was tardy in making his shipment.  I kept saying the USPS seemed slow and finally he admitted in an email that he waited 7-10 days to ship the package.

He was feeling guilty so he included some extra camera items to make up for his tardiness.  I’m sure he wanted a good eBay review (and I gave him one).  So I paid for two SLR M42 bodies and received 3 SLR bodies, one light meter, and one 50mm lens.  And they all seem to work.

eBay Camera Surprises

Sears TLS Body

This is what drew me to this eBay auction.  The eBay ad said the Sears TLS body had new seals, shutter speeds seemed good, and the light meter worked.  My previous Sears TLS body from the Salvation Army had a shutter problem.  This Sears TLS body worked as advertised right out of the box.

I took this camera out today shooting parts of downtown Chicago.  I even took my funLentar light meter.

Chinon CS

The eBay seller had a Cosina CS for auction and after it expired I offered $5 for it.  I somehow liked it and tossed in a $5 offer for the camera which the owner accepted.

I received it and it too is in fine shape:  new seals, good shutter speeds, clear viewfinder.  Heavier than most rocks its size.  No lens included.

Read CE Nelson’s fine photos and writeup on his Chinon CS.

GAF L-ES my Bonus Camera

Quick, name any aperture preferred SLR that works with all m42 screw mount lenses.

The answer I have learned is the GAF L-ES camera.  This is the free camera the eBay seller gave me.  I really like it.


Last year I wanted a GAF identical to this but the antique dealer wanted about $50 for it.  No thanks.  So when this eBay shipment arrived, I ended up with a free GAF L-ES.

The GAF L-ES is really a re-badged Chinon CE-2 Memotron.  Cameraquest has a nice write-up on aperture priority screw mount cameras, kind of like an Olympus OM-1 for screw mount cameras from the same period.

I thought there was something wrong with my new-old GAF L-ES.  Without a battery the shutter speeds all were the same.  That was odd.  Many cameras work manually and only need the battery for metering.  Without a battery, this camera had the same shutter speed for all dialed speeds.  A visit to Mr. Butkus website said this camera had an “electronic shutter”.

The phrase electronic shutter stuck in my memory for half a day.

I found a battery lying around in my house that would work taken from a Canon AE-1.  Tossed the battery into the camera and amazingly all the speeds worked correctly.  The GAF L-ES needs a battery for light metering AND its shutter speeds.  Cool, it should work.  Again, it had new seals.

So the GAF L-ES is an aperture priority SLR body for all M42 lenses.  This should be a fun one to test.

Since my Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL doesn’t work too well, I took its 55mm 1.8 aperture lens and attached it to the GAF L-ES.  (This lens was used to photograph Muhammad Ali about 40 years ago.)

Lentar EE-201 Light Meter

The “guilty” eBay seller also included an unmarked 50mm m42 lens and some LR44 batteries.

But he also tossed in a Lentar light meter. It reminds me of a Christmas tree.  It has two red lights when your metering is off and a green light when the meter is set correctly for your ASA film speed.  In the photo below you can see the green light is lit.  Next, you just look at your shutter speed and aperture combinations to select what you want for your camera settings.

Lentar EE-201 Light Meter

In bright daylight the red and green lights are hard to see.  I am using it with my Sears TLS camera currently.

Sometimes when eBay Sellers are Guilty, You Get Lucky

So every now and then you might be lucky to get eBay camera surprises with your next eBay purchase.  Thanks for reading What is a Film Camera today.


Kowa H Camera – Saved from the Garbage Can

I recently saved a Kowa H camera from an Elmhurst, IL garbage can.

Kowa H, Front View

I found an ad for a camera lot for sale in Elmhurst, drove to Elmhurst, and purchased 20 to 30 cameras ranging from good to bad, from 1880 to 1980, from rangefinder to SLR to point and shoot.

(I once wrote incredibly long camera posts describing everything possible about a camera.  But now I write shorter blog posts that are more fun for me to write, and hopefully more fun for you to read.)

Is this Kowa H camera worth much?

These cameras aren’t worth much on eBay or anywhere else.  Currently this camera is selling on eBay with an asking price ranging from $10 to $29 (plus shipping).  But this camera is worth something to me and here’s why:

  1. Saved from garbage.  Saved from Elmhurst, IL garbage collection (no doubt it’s next stop would be the garbage can).
  2. I repaired it.  This is one of the few cameras I’ve “fixed”.  Saying I repaired this camera would be to claim too much success.  Let’s just say I fidgeted with it at 2 AM once listening to music and was able to persuade it to work.

The Kowa H Exposure Cycle of Doom

In plain English, the Kowa H has a very complex method for taking one exposure, one shot.  To quote the excellent write-up by Rick Drawbridge discussing the curious Kowa:

The shutter blades close
The aperture closes to selected size
The mirror swings up
The film door swings up
The shutter opens, stays open for the selected time, and closes.
The film door swings down
The mirror swings down
The aperture opens to full aperture
The shutter blades open

I thought I had “fixed” my Kowa H one early morning.  But I came to learn the Kowa H was only temporarily working.  Beware the Kowa H exposure cycle of doom.

My first roll of Kowa H photos was mainly doomed to bad photos such as this one.  Double exposures?  Trouble with film advance?  Perhaps my readers can explain what happened with a comment or two.

Kowa H, Lomographic Nightmare

Where has this Kowa H camera Traveled?

This camera came from someone’s uncle in Elmhurst, IL.  He didn’t keep his cameras in very good shape from what I can see.

Kowa H Camera at Wrigley Field

But every camera you shoot with has traveled somewhere.  This 49 year old camera has now traveled with me to a Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals ball game on July 29, 2012.  The Cubs won on a 10th inning opposite field home run by Anthony Rizzo.  My friends and I sat in the upper deck down the first base line.  They love baseball while I enjoyed the baseball game shooting a few photos with my Kowa H camera.

Kowa H, July 2012, Wrigley Field Infield

Kowa H at Portage Park, Chicago, IL

My wife and I decided to take a stroll at Portage Park on Chicago’s northwest side.  We live closer to Kilbourn Park but I wanted to see something different this evening.

Unless you’re from a big city it’s probably hard to imagine hundreds if not a thousand or so people playing soccer, tennis, football, baseball, walking their dogs, barbequing in the park, or just letting their kids run in the grass.  The breezes last night were wonderful on July 31, 2012.

I took some photographs of some peewee football players.  I know the photograph isn’t impressive.  Most of my photographs from the Kowa H were horrible.  This photo was actually one of the good photos.

Kowa H, Portage Park, Pee Wee Football

A dad asked me:

Are you from CNN?

I smiled and said no.  Just an amateur photographer.  Why he thought I was from CNN using a 49 year old Kowa H camera I’ll never know.  But a nice night to be strolling with my wife and taking photos of Portage Park, Chicago, IL.

How Does the Kowa H Feel?

Well, sometimes fun, sometimes not.  49 years ago it probably was fun.  The selenium meter “seemed” to work based on my photos.

You never know if any on board light meter works for a camera until you test a roll of film.  The Kowa H uses a selenium meter.  So it’s battery free.  The light meter did respond to light and changed based upon light ability.  Here’s a decent photo of the light meter on top of the camera.

Kowa H, Active Light Meter

But the Kowa H is known for problems with its complex shutter.  And I can personally vouch for the camera back trying to spring open its door, even with duct tape keeping it closed.

Horrible Kowa H Photos

Yes, some photos were horrible.  Double exposures were caused by an undependable film advance system.  This 49 year old camera has not survived 5 decades in good shape.  Here’s a giant mission chair sitting in Wrigley Field’s outfield.

Kowa H, Bad Photo, Giant Chair in Wrigley Field

Is the Kowa H Camera Dependable?

When you shoot a roll of film, even before you develop it, you get a “feeling” about a camera.  You develop a like or a dislike for a camera that amounts to dependability.

At this point after shooting my first roll of film with the Kowa H, it will most likely be my last roll.  If the developed roll of film for the Kowa H is amazing, only then would I consider picking it up again.

Kowa H Shutter Problems

As mentioned earlier, Kowa H cameras may suffer from the exposure cycle of doom.

Does the Kowa H like the Chicago Cubs?

In the 2nd or 3rd inning I pulled out the Kowa H and tried to take a photo.  I had pre-loaded it with fresh ASA 100 film hoping for a great day at Wrigley Field.  Immediately, the shutter problem returned.  I pressed the button but the shutter didn’t work.

I yanked out the film, tossed it into the garbage, and inserted some ASA 400 color print film of dubious, expired vintage.  I started taking photos.

Deep into the game (Cubs won 4-2 in 10th inning) the back of the camera sprung open a little bit but I caught it with my thumb.  How much film was exposed I won’t know until its developed.

Kowa H Duct Tape Repair

After the Cubs game I put white duct tape on the back of the camera so it wouldn’t spring open unexpectedly.

Inevitably, a few days later I was taking a photo with the Kowa H when I realized the back of the camera felt funny.  The back of the camera had “sprung” and was pulling against the white duct tape.

I closed the film back as best I could re-setting the film latch.  The roll of film is completed.

Kowa H Performance Anxiety

So here I sit wondering if any of my Kowa H photos will come out decently.  Even if the photos are extraordinary for some reason, the camera is not.  It’s undependable.

Kowa H Camera Summary

After shooting a roll of film with a troublesome camera, you know whether or not you will shoot with that same camera.  I love the old selenium meter on this camera.  Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.

A friend once said you have to watch bad movies to appreciate good movies.  Perhaps that’s the same with camera collecting.  I won’t say that Kowa H cameras are bad.  I will say that my Kowa H is undependable.

At least this Kowa H gave me a few good photos.  Here are two Cardinal fans at Wrigley field, July 29, 2012.  The Cubs won in the 10th inning 4-2 with a Rizzo walk off 2 run homer.

Kowa H, July 2012, Two Cardinal Fans at Wrigley Field

But ultimately, I cannot depend on this Kowa H camera for future use.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today and reading my Kowa H review.

Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL Review

Muhammad Ali and my Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL

In the summer of 2011 I found a Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL at a Wilmette, IL, garage sale.

Greg the owner had a Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL.  I didn’t know much about it but I knew it was a heavy, metal SLR from about 40 years ago.  Perhaps I would make an offer on it.

Mamiya-Sekor 1000 DTL, Front View

And then Greg showed me a photograph he took of Muhammad Ali during the early 1970’s at a civil rights rally in Kansas City.  Muhammad Ali was surrounded by huge African-American men (security guards?) and Greg was within that circle as he took his photo.  So here’s my question for Gregg, the previous owner of this Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL:

Gregg, can you scan your Muhammad Ali photos from 40 years ago and send them to me?  Can you give me a date and location for the photos?  Perhaps a little background information?  I certainly won’t share your name on this website.  Thanks Gregg.

That was it for me, I had to buy this Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL that had photographed Muhammad Ali in the early 1970’s.

Provenance or History

This camera photographed Muhammad Ali at a civil rights rally.  It’s a wonderful photo.  I hope the past owner will share that photo with me for this blog post.

My Repairs for the Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL, Broken Light Meter

Bad light meter

Bad light meters are a way of life for old cameras.  This camera is 40-45 years old (manufactured (1968-1973).  That’s why I carry a light meter with me at all time.

I don’t know of any way to repair a bad light meter on a 40 year old camera.  Sometimes its just better to accept the limitations of an old camera and just shoot with it as best you can.

Missing part on film advance

The shutter was missing a top piece when I purchased it.  The shutter advance on the left is missing a top piece.  I constantly had to hand tighten the visible spherical part of the shutter advance counter-clockwise so it wouldn’t fall off the camera.

Mamiya-Sekor 1000 DTL, Missing Part on Shutter Advance

The owner said that wasn’t a problem.  He was kind of right.  I was able to take photos with my light meter.  But I’ll never know if that missing part from the shutter re-wind somehow controlled the light meter.

How does the Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL feel?

It feels heavy and awkward.  But that’s just one person’s opinion.

Nice features of the Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL?

This camera photographed Muhammad Ali during a civil rights rally in the early 1970’s.  For me, it’s history is its best feature.

Problems?  Yes.

  1. Light meter.  Even with a fresh battery, the light meter refused to operate properly.  I used my light meter for everything.
  2. Missing part on film advance.  As mentioned earlier, this part was missing.

Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL Sample Photos

Let’s just say this camera had 3 strikes against it during its test roll.

    1. On board light meter didn’t work.
    2. My light meter was 30 years old (but has worked just fine in the past).
    3. Expired film.  I used my 5-10 year old expired film.

This may have been my best photo of the roll.  A quirky shot taken on a rainy day from the inside of my car going eastbound on Chicago Avenue just as you cross Halsted (Chicago, IL).  Once again I was using my hand held meter.

MamiyaSekor 1000 DTL, Chicago from the Backseat of my Car

MamiyaSekor 1000 DTL, Chicago from the Backseat of my Car

These are some town homes on one of my walks in the neighborhood.  It’s not a great photo but it’s decent.  If you purchase a 40 year old camera that works manually, you hope to take decent photos with your light meter.

MamiyaSekor 1000 DTL, Townhomes on Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL

Teenagers Boxing on a Chicago Street

I wish I had the photo, I should have been bolder and took a photo.

Bicycling around Kilbourn Park on Chicago’s northwest side I passed two teenagers sparring on the street.  Not a real fight but two friends flicking jabs at each other as kids do in my neighborhood.

I wanted to take their photos but I doubted they had ever heard of Muhammad Ali, or had they?  But while testing all my old cameras, the only time I ever saw two kids boxing on the street was with a camera that had photographed Muhammad Ali.

Perhaps that would put a smile on Muhammad Ali’s face in his retirement.

My Favorite Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL Photo – My Wife

I know my wife reads my blog posts.  She’ll say:

I read your blog today.  It’s a little long but it’s OK.

She may not think this photo is a pretty one but I do.  Using a 40 year old camera, hand held light meter, and expired film, she looks wonderful with one of her passions:  cooking.

MamiyaSekor 1000 DTL, Wife Cooking in the Kitchen

Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL – Summary

I had high hopes for this camera.  After all, it had photographed Muhammad Ali.  (I am still grateful for the purchase and this camera’s fine story.)  But perhaps, for some cameras, their best times are behind them.

In practice, this camera and I didn’t get along too well.  The light meter was dead, It was unbalanced, and I didn’t like how the viewfinder went dark whenever I set the aperture to F16.  I’ve tested other cameras that had dead light meters, somehow I wanted to enjoy this camera greatly but it didn’t work out.  My test photos were OK but they certainly couldn’t compare with Gregg’s photo of Muhammad Ali from 40 years ago.

Thanks for reading my Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL review today.  Although I was a bit disappointed in this camera as of 2012, it created happy memories for its previous owner in the early 1970’s.  Gregg, thanks for your Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL and its Muhammad Ali story.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.

Camera Bargains on Craigslist

Honestly, I believe you can find camera bargains on Craigslist every day.  Having said that, it doesn’t mean you’ll make a living doing it.  But it does mean you can expand your camera collection and collect nice stories in the process.

A few days ago I found Ric on Craigslist and today (July 22, 2012) I visited him near Ashland and Wilson in Chicago.  I prefer Craigslist to eBay because I can meet people, test cameras, and sometimes make a purchase at a good price.

For $35 I purchased four cameras, a light meter, a tripod, and a Jon Goodman light seal kit.  After negotiating hard I gave Ric an extra $5 for an even $40.

Canon QL17 – Shutter Has Oil

Honestly, I now have four of these cameras.  Two in excellent condition and two that need repairs.

Ric asked me how much I thought the Canon QL17 was worth and I told him.  A Canon QL17 with crumbling light seals and a shutter that won’t open (probably too oily) but with a good meter might bring $20 on eBay.  I told Ric I had purchased a similar camera for $10 (bad light seals) and that it would cost $60 to repair his camera before selling for full price.  I also told Ric his camera might go for $100 when repaired.

But buying a Canon QL17 with a defective shutter is a risk.  I don’t know if it will work even with a repair.  But Ric tossed in the flash for the camera so I eventually bought it.

Canon AE-1 – Beware of Defective Battery Covers

It’s always a risk purchasing these cameras that only work with a battery.  The camera may not work at all.  Although the battery cover on this camera is a little chipped (Canon made them poorly) I popped in a battery at home and the light meter began working right away.  There are two vertical lines in the viewfinder so its not perfect.

I’ll sell it on eBay, hopefully for more than $10.  We’ll see.

Chinon 35 EE

This is a quirky little rangefinder that reminded me of my Mamiya 135 EE.  If it works as well as my Mamiya 135 EE it’ll be fun to shoot a roll of film with it.

It’s light meter “woke up” just fine with an LR44 battery when I arrived at home.

Ricoh KR-5 – Reminds me of a Sears TLS

At Ric my eyes kept looking at his Ricoh KR-5.  I thought it was related to my old Rich XR-10 that needs a battery to work.  At Ric’s I tested the camera but the shutter didn’t work.

Upon getting it home I learned that the camera can be used with or without a battery (two LR44 batteries).  So it’s a manual camera.  When I inserted the batteries its match needle metering worked just fine.  Hurray.

I like Ricoh cameras.  They just feel solid and dependable without being bulky.  I don’t plan on selling this Ricoh KR-5 with its Vivitar 55mm auto macro lens.  In build and quality it reminds me of the Sears TLS SLR camera I’ve never been able to find.

Sunpak Tripod

I also acquired a Sunpak Tripod from Ric.  It’s a short but very sturdy tripod ready for use.  You can never have too many tripods.

Honeywell Pentax Light Meter

It’s real name is Honeywell Pentax 1/21 Spot Meter.  It seems very clean and responds to light well.

I was already to make an offer on Ric’s stuff (4 items for $20) when I saw the spot meter sitting on the shelf.  I remembered it from my Internet readings as something valuable,  I saw that it responded to light, and decided to purchase it.

Always Ask – Do you have More Cameras

That’s what I have learned and that what I ask people.

Do you have any other cameras you might sell?

Wow, talk about getting results.

Ric brought out a Pentax 645 medium format camera with three lenses in its own camera bag.

Ric, if you’re reading this blog post I’d like to buy it.  It’ll just take a while.  Let’s stay in touch.

As I said, always ask people what cameras they have to sell.

Ric, thanks again for selling me your cameras and showing me your Pentax 645.

Maybe I’m a Camera Archivist?

My final visit this Saturday was to the Independence Park neighborhood where I met Tony.

Tony planted the idea that perhaps I’m a camera archivist.  I need to think that one over.  I like camera collecting, shooting photographs, and telling camera stories.  Is that a camera archivist?

You can find camera bargains on Craigslist.  I hope you enjoyed my garage sales story for July 21, 2012.  Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.

How To Become a Better Photographer

Do you want to become a better photographer?

A visit with my friend Paula became a lesson on becoming a better photographer.  I visited her home and she took out her cameras to show me.  She had two Rolleiflexes that looked pristine, and 35 other cameras.

Wikipedia - Rolleiflex

Wikipedia – Rolleiflex

Tennis and Photography

First a discussion on tennis and photography.  When I was a kid I thought I was good at tennis.  I was good.  I normally beat my opponents at Camp Mount Morris or the tennis courts of Skokie.  But I never had instruction or played competition better than me.  So the talented ten year old tennis player became the decent teenage tennis player.

Chess was the same thing.  I was good, not great.

Now I enjoy photography and would like to become good at it.  Very good, not world class good but very good.

If you putz around with cameras without instruction, without criticism, without education, and without shooting thousands of photos, the odds are you will be a slightly above average photographer the rest of your life.

Autodidact Photographers – Can you learn photography alone?

I love the word autodidact (it means self taught).  Are you as good as Jack London, a famous writer who may have been just as good as a photographer?  Around 1900 Jack London began taking photographs.  Here’s one amazing photograph from Sonoma.edu where Jack London photographed lepers celebrating the 4th of July on the Hawaiian island of Molokai in 1907.

Sonoma.Edu - Jack London, Leper's Celebrating 4th of July on Molokai

Sonoma.Edu – Jack London, Leper’s Celebrating 4th of July on Molokai

Most of us aren’t Jack London.  We need help learning photography.

Three Techniques to becoming a Better Photographer

Take a Photography Class from a Well Qualified Instructor

Take a photography class, but not just any class.  Find a school and/or instructor who’s qualified to teach the subject.  My friend Paula has been taking photography classes for 20 years or so.

The instructor will be an obvious source of learning for you.  But your fellow students will also become a source of criticism and analysis for your photographs.  And if you apply yourself in a photography class, your photographic eye will evolve, mature, and advance.

Purchase Photoshop Elements

My friend Paula was a big fan of Photoshop Elements software.  She’s moved away from film into digital.  Perhaps I’ll have a physical darkroom one day for developing my film.  But I definitely want Photoshop Elements for the improvement of my photos, both film and digital.

If you can think of similar or better software to purchase, please leave a comment.

Shoot More Photographs

Paula was showing me her artistic photos and then she paused and said:

Shoot more photographs.

Having beautiful cameras in your basement isn’t enough.  Taking photography classes and editing photos with software isn’t enough.  Take more photographs.

How do you become a better photographer?

Buying books, cameras, going to photography schools, developing your own film, learning photo editing software, it’s all a good thing.

Ultimately, take more photographs.  And think about the quality of your work before, during, and after you take the photo.

Please add comment of your own to this blog post.  How did you become a better photographer?  And thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today and reading How to Become a Better Photographer.


Old Town Triangle Garage Sale, Chicago, IL, July 14, 2012

If you’re from Chicago, keep in mind the Old Town Triangle Garage Sale day sometime in July.  It takes place around Bastille Day (the French national holiday for the storming of the Bastille in 1789).

The Old Town Triangle is wealthy now but when my friend Tom grew up in that area in the early 1960’s, it wasn’t so affluent.  Today I’m looking for cameras while Tom is looking for everything else (he purchased a ukelele, fabric print, and an atlas today).

Old Town Triangle, Chicago, IL

Old Town Triangle, Chicago, IL

The people were very nice but there weren’t as many garage sales as I had expected.  But I did see some nice cameras today.  (I absolutely promise, the next time I do a garage sale post, I’ll take some photos.)

Camera collecting is fun even when you don’t buy cameras

Today at the Old Town Triangle garage sales I had the pleasure of hearing some nice camera stories and seeing some nice cameras.  No purchases today.  But collecting cameras is a nice excuse to say hello to people, enjoy a sunny day, and talk about cameras and life.

Do you have any film cameras in the house?

Those are the magic words if you’re a camera collector at a garage sale.  People forget to place their film cameras out for sale because film cameras have slipped to the back of their memories.  They shoot with digital and are shocked when people say they collect cameras.

Do you have any film cameras?  Do you have any cameras in the house?  No, not digital cameras, film cameras.

After I ask the first question I can sometimes see people recollecting that they own some film cameras.  I can see them “remembering” their cameras, their eyes look a bit different.

I also say and mean the phrase:

Even if you don’t want to sell your cameras, I’d love to see them.

My wife thinks that comment is a bit weird.  Maybe she’s right.  But I just enjoy seeing old cameras, seeing if they work, whether I buy them or not.  When I’m lucky, people are willing to sell their cameras.

Do you have any old vinyl records in your house?

My friend Tom is amazed at how just asking to see old cameras “in the house” is working.  I think one day he’ll use my same line just to ask if they have old vinyl records in their house.

A Retired Journalist Shows me His Nikons

I met a woman in a garage selling a few items.  The “Do you have any cameras in the house?”, question yielded her answer.  She’d check with her husband inside.

At first he brought out his digital cameras.  I mentioned I was interested in film cameras.  Then he brought out his Nikons.  He brought out two Nikons in excellent condition:  Nikon FG and Nikon N8008.

Nikon FG

This was a beautiful camera.  The photo shown below is from Camerapedia’s write-up on the Nikon FG.

Camerapedia - Nikon FG

Camerapedia – Nikon FG

The garage sale Nikon FG I saw and the photo shown above were the same.  It was a beautiful camera with three Nikon lenses (50mm, 28mm, 80-200mm zoom).  To be honest, I didn’t memorize the lens sizes because I knew I couldn’t afford this camera.  It was cool to the touch from being nicely air-conditioned in its home, the battery worked, and it was gorgeous.

The camera’s story evolved.  The owner was a retired journalist for the Chicago Tribune.  (Sorry, I’m not mentioning his name.)  He was a journalist, not a photographer.  But obviously he had great equipment with him as a journalist.

I had to ask, but did so gently.

Do you have any interest in selling one of these cameras?

The owner thought just a moment and said no.  He hadn’t thought about selling them and thought he would keep them.  If I had a business card I would have given it to him.  But I’ll visit him next year to see if he wants to sell those cameras!

The camera seemed familiar.  When I researched it at home it all came back to me.  I had seen the same type of camera two or three weeks before.  It felt familiar in my hands because it was the “son” of my Nikon EM from decades ago.

Nikon N8008

The retired journalist also had a Nikon N8008.  Again, it was beautiful, cool to the touch (air conditioned), and had a good battery.  It was ready to take photos and had the three “usual” lenses (50mm, 28mm, 80-200 zoom lens).  Here’s a photo from Camera-Wiki on the Nikon N8008.

Camera-Wiki - Nikon N8008

Camera-Wiki – Nikon N8008

It was a pleasure visiting with this retired journalist and seeing his beautiful cameras.  Next year I’ll return in hopes of purchasing his Nikon FG.  If he doesn’t want to sell it, I”ll understand.  It’s beautiful.

The Brother-in-Law’s Lubitel 166

Two hundred paces from the retired journalist’s home I found a Lubitel 166.  It looked almost like the one shown below from Wikipedia, except I think the used one I saw was missing the bottom lens ring.

Wikipedia - LOMO_Lubitel-166

Wikipedia – LOMO_Lubitel-166

Yes, even seeing an old camera is a pleasure.  I had never seen a Lubitel 166 and I knew something about them.  A decent TLR made in Russia.  If it was available for sale I’d make an offer on it.

Would you consider selling it?

The owner said his brother-in-law gave it to him as a gift.  I immediately said:

Keep it.  Don’t sell it.  It was a gift from your brother-in-law.

This turned out to be a wise thing to say since his wife was behind the table watching the entire transaction.  It was her brother who gave the camera to the owner.

Two Canons, Not for Sale

Ten feet from the Lubitel 166 I found a Canon AE-1 and Canon EOS Elan 7, possibly for sale.

This is another case where asking, “Do you have any cameras inside your house?”, yielded two cameras for me to inspect.

The Canon AE-1 was in good condition but then you can never really tell unless you have a battery to test them.  It had a 50mm lens.  The owner clearly planned on keeping the AE-1.

The owner also had a Canon EOS Elan 7.  I knew I had one at home (shame on me, as yet untested).  So I didn’t need a Canon EOS Elan 7.  Again, I’m hesitant to purchase any camera that needs a battery for testing, you should feel the same way.

The owner wanted to keep his Canon AE-1.  He would have sold his Canon EOS Elan 7 for the right price.  I chose not to make an offer.

A Good Day at the Old Town Triangle Garage Sale

It was a good day.  Altogether I saw 7 cameras, but no purchases.  I met some nice people and learned more about cameras and how they work.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today and reading about my visit to the Old Town Triangle Garage Sale in Chicago, IL.

Mamiya 135 EE – Brief Review

As soon as I purchased my cute little Mamiya 135 EE I popped a roll of ASA 400 expired film into it and started taking photos.

Mamiya 135 EE, Best Photo

Mamiya 135 EE, Best Photo

I took photos at the Kilbourn Park basketball court, around the house, at the Addison overpass during a community mural painting, at Lake Michigan with fisherman.

I wonder if my other cameras are a little jealous (I know, weird thought).  I’m supposed to be shooting out my Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL but this little Mamiya rangefinder is too cute not to use.

On a daily basis my Mamiya 135 EE looks a bit quirky.  An old Vivitar lens cover that doesn’t fit and a rubber band to keep it on the camera.  If you don’t use a lens cover it runs down the battery constantly.  There is no on/off switch.

Mamiya 135 EE, Rubberband Technique

Mamiya 135 EE, Rubberband Technique

The Mamiya 135 EE is inexpensive, if you can find one

I couldn’t fine one completed listing on eBay with a sold price for the Mamiya 135 EE.  I did find one that had not sold for $15 that now was selling for $10.  I purchased mine for ten dollars at a Chicago garage sale in June 2012.

I love it when people speak in another language thinking that you don’t know what they’re saying.  I speak English and understand some Spanish, German, and Russian.  The owners kept saying “quince, quince” to each other.  No I told them, I wasn’t paying $15.  It was $10 or nothing (but I smiled and was friendly).

I purchased the camera for ten dollars in June 2012.

Where has this Mamiya 135 EE Traveled?

This is another camera without a past.

All I know is that the camera came from an older Hispanic couple living on the 3200 N. Karlov block in Chicago, IL.

“My” Mamiya 135 EE has traveled all around Chicago photographing fishermen, basketball players, and muralists.  It’s a fun little shooter.

How Does the Mamiya 135 EE Feel?

It reminds me a lot of the Canon Canonet 28 and the Canon A35F.  But not as nice.

Canonet 28 and the Canon A35F have a nicer viewfinder.  You can actually see what shutter speed and aperture has been chosen by the camera.  I never could tell what shutter speed and aperture the Mamiya 135 EE had chosen because in bright light outside it’s hard to see.  And unlike the Canonet 28 or Canon A35F, the Mamiya 135 EE will let you depress the shutter whether or not there’s too little or too much light for the camera.

Mamiya 135 EE Problems

None really.

The Mamiya 135 EE does need a battery for its light meter.  Years ago it took the infamous 1.3v PX-675 mercury battery.  I used a battery from my Olympus OM-1n.  A Rayovac 1.4v hearing aid battery worked just fine.  It’s long identifier is L675ZA-8ZM.

The camera’s shutter works without a battery but you have no manual control other than focus.  I’d say without a battery the camera is doing a 2.8 f stop at about 1/30th of a second.  Just my guess.

Mamiya 135 EE Best Photos

It’s hard choosing a best photo.  Out of a 24 exposure roll of film, 20 photos were “keepers”, only 4 bad shots.  But here’s three of the best photos from an expired roll of ASA 400 film.

From my bungalow to the basketball courts of Kilbourn Park (Chicago) to an urban mural on Addison Street to Lake Michigan fishermen, these are some happy photos from an untested Mamiya 135 EE with expired ASA 400 color print film.

Mamiya 135 EE – 3400 North Tripp, Chicago, IL

I thought photographing my tall grass with a little bungalow bokeh would be fun.  I estimated the distance from camera to grass, set the focus, placed the camera on the sidewalk, tilted the camera a bit, and pressed the shutter.

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Tall Grass on 3400 N. Tripp Street, Chicago, IL

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Tall Grass on 3400 N. Tripp Street, Chicago, IL

Mamiya 135 EE – Basketball at Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL

Remarkably, if you ask people to take their photograph they may say “yes”.  I watched this basketball game for 5 minutes and then asked to take photos.  The shirtless man didn’t speak much English but he said, “Yes.”

I always try to move closer, closer to get the photo.  For this photo I was sitting on the edge of the basketball court.

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Kilbourn Park Basketball, Chicago, IL

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Kilbourn Park Basketball, Chicago, IL

Mamiya 135 EE – Addison Street Mural, Chicago, IL

One June 2012 day I was driving westbound on Addison Street just past the Kennedy expressway and saw some teenagers painting a mural by the overpass.  This was too good an opportunity to pass by.  There were lots of nice photos.  This is just one of those photos.

I wish I had the name of the Mexican artist supervising this work.  Nice to see young people being creative.

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Addison Street Mural, Chicago, IL

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Addison Street Mural, Chicago, IL

Mamiya 135 EE – Montrose Harbor (Lake Michigan), Chicago, IL

This is taken at Montrose Harbor in Chicago, IL, looking south to the high rises on Lake Shore Drive.  I used Google’s Picasa to adjust the exposure a bit on this photo.  This 1977 camera was a bit overwhelmed with the brightness of the background and the fisherman.  Now, Picasa adjusted, the photo looks even better.

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Fisherman and Big Perch 2, Picasa Edited

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Fisherman and Big Perch 2, Picasa Edited

Mamiya 135 EE Summary

I wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase a Mamiya 135 EE.  If a Canonet 28 is a “poor man’s Leica” than the Mamiya 135 EE is a “poor man’s Canonet 28.  But if you can pick up a Mamiya 135 EE at a garage sale than go ahead and have some fun.

For ten dollars and using expired ASA 400 film that’s probably 5-10 years old, I think the Mamiya 135 EE gave me some fun photos.  There’s nothing fancy about the shot shown below, but it’s a darn good exposure (and a pretty lady).

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Wife on the Phone

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Wife on the Phone

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today and reading my Mamiya 135 EE brief review.



Andersonville Garage Sales – Chicago, IL

Today, June 23, 2012, was the Andersonville Garage Sale Day

If you’re from Chicago, keep in mind the Andersonville Garage Sale day sometime in late June.  Andersonville is on the north side of Chicago and bounded by Foster on the south, Bryn Mawr on the north, Ravenswood on the west, and perhaps Greenwood Street on the east.  But don’t take my word for it, ask anyone from Andersonville.

Andersonville Neighborhood, Chicago, IL

Andersonville Neighborhood, Chicago, IL

I did find something for free at the garage sales, you’ll need to to to the end of this blog post to see it.

Nice People and Nice Items in the Andersonville Garage Sale

About 50 families participated.  This was garage sale heaven.  But strangely, no cameras today.

My friend Tom and I did these garage sales together today.  Tom loves his vinyl records and also found some furniture he liked.  As for me, I look for cameras.

As a pair, we are a bit unbalanced in our search method.  Tom looks for records/books and then rummages through record after record or book after book.  As for me, it’s the ever popular:

Hi, afternoon.  Do you have any film cameras?

If they say no I always ask:

Do you have any film cameras inside?

When they hesitate I know the answer is yes.  That’s when it gets interesting.  You’d be surprised how many people will go into their houses to find old cameras for me.  If they say they don’t want to sell them I just say, “That’s OK.  I promise I won’t buy them.  I just want to see them.” (And, I mean what I say.)

Ten Dollar OM-10, Missed it by 10 Minutes

I missed purchasing an Olympus OM-10 with two lens and a case by ten minutes.  For $10.

Tom became tired of hearing me complain about the camera that “got away” and threatened to hit me.  I smiled.  I knew I’d get the last word on my blog.

But if you miss a camera by ten minutes at a garage sale (and you will), get over it.  You keep searching enough garage sales, cameras just come to you in time.  Maybe not today, but eventually you will find the great camera bargains.

Nikon FG and Canon EOS 650, No Offer Made

I just like seeing cameras, even if I can’t buy them or won’t buy them.

Gerhardt and Betsy sat me down on their white sofa for sale and showed me their cameras.  And the Nikon FG went to Africa.  (Gerhardt and Betsy were deep into their 70’s).

Sometimes the Best Deal is the One You Don’t Make

As Gerhardt, Betty, and I discussed their two cameras I forgot totally that Tom was watching.  Only later did he say he was proud I didn’t try to low ball offer the two senior citizens.  It never crossed my mind.

I told them what I thought their cameras were worth and as it turns out, my guesses were correct per eBay.  Nikon FG cameras with two lenses currently cost less than $100 and a Canon EOS 650 with a zoom lens is a bit over $50.  So I gave them helpful information.

Like I said, sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.

Canon T50 for $40?  No Deal

I met a young couple selling a few things in front of their apartment building.  Yes, they did have a camera inside.  It was a Canon T50 with one Canon lens and two no name brand other lenses.

The young lady wanted $40 and I didn’t like the plastic feel of the camera.  She was nice but her camera didn’t feel right.  I also though $40 was too much.  Sold prices on eBay are half as much plus shipping.

A $150 Photography Book for Free?

Would you pay $150 for the book Century (edited by Bruce Bernard, published by Phaidon)?  That’s what they are selling for used at Amazon.

Canon SD880, June 23, 2012, Andersonville Garage Sales, Century by Phaidon

Canon SD880, June 23, 2012, Andersonville Garage Sales, Century by Phaidon

Canon SD880, June 23, 2012, Andersonville Garage Sales, Century Inside

Canon SD880, June 23, 2012, Andersonville Garage Sales, Century Inside

The Last Sale, a “Free” Table

Just before the restaurant Pauline’s at Balmoral and Ravenswood (good food, good people) there was an abandoned card table with books on it.  And one of the books was huge.

The book had Phaidon written on its spine.  I knew it was a photography book.

Underneath the table was a sign.

Everything on this table is free.  Except the table.

The Book is Mine

Tom touched the book on the table first (he was ahead of me).

I grabbed the book and said, “It’s mine.”

Tom said, “Don’t you have to pay for that?”.

I said, “Look at the sign, it’s free.”

It’s funny, I don’t feel bad about grabbing that book ahead of Tom.  And, I don’t think Tom we’ll lose sleep over the photography book Century tonight.

I don’t know if my $150 used Century book is really worth that much.  But the story it gave me with my good friend Tom is priceless.

Canon SD880, June 23, 2012, Andersonville Garage Sales, Tom

Karma and Camera Purchases in Andersonville (Chicago)

Take a garage sale walk with a friend this summer.  Just make sure he or she likes something different than you do.  (Next time, I’ll take more photos.)

And remember that some of the best deals of the day are the ones you don’t make.  It’s just good karma.  Thanks Tom, I owe you a great garage sale deal (I’ll be looking for you).  And guess what, Tom even paid for lunch (thanks Tom).

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.



Photography, Haiku, and Basketball

Sometimes your hobbies are in perfect alignment.

Canon SD880, June 19, 2012, Kilbourn Park Basketball, Graceful Layup

Canon SD880, June 19, 2012, Kilbourn Park Basketball, Graceful Layup

Sitting in the park.
Watching a basketball game.
Cool summer breezes.

Street Basketball was my First Hobby

Long before I collected cameras, long before I could quote stories about Abraham Lincoln, long before any hobby or avocation, I played basketball as a kid.

Pick up basketball games are very democratic:  one man, one shot, one vote.  And apparently that spirit of equality extends to photographers watching playground basketball in Chicago’s Kilbourn Park.

I’ve never been denied a chance to play street basketball.  But admittedly, it’s been years since I played in Chicago or elsewhere.

Photography in my late 20’s and early 60’s

I seem to have missed four decades of photography.  It sounds horrible, and I never thought of all the serious photographs I may have missed along the way.  But like most Americans, I always had some type of family camera nearby.

In my late twenties I purchased a Nikon EM with a 50mm and telephoto lens.  Perhaps after being stolen by a neighborhood kid (Vince Txxxxxxx, I still remember your name) my Nikon EM’s light meter died.  I never recovered the stolen telephoto lens.  And during my 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s I had nameless cameras that I have long since forgotten.

Deep into my 50’s I took my best friend’s old cameras out of storage almost a decade after his passing.  Paul was his name and he died at age 50.  I tested his Nikkormat FT2 and Canon AE-1, wrote articles about his cameras, and they will never leave my home or my family.

Nikkormat FT2 and Zoom Lens

Nikkormat FT2 and Zoom Lens

So in some mystical way, and old friend brought me back to photography.

Haiku Poetry is a Surprising Joy

In high school I was the “C” student in Honors English.  I certainly could write prose but certainly wasn’t good at poetry.

And then I discovered haiku.

I don’t try to write haiku, it just comes to me in snatches.  It’s supposed to be based in the nature around you.  You have 3 lines to build with a syllable count.

  1. 1st line:  5 syllables.
  2. 2nd line:  7 syllables.
  3. 3rd line:  5 syllables.

Street Photography in Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL

In my late 20’s in the Truman College library I remember looking at photography books dreaming about taking great photographs.  I no longer dream.  I just take photographs when I can.

On this summer day, June 19 2012, four men in their 30’s were playing some basketball in Kilbourn Park.

Sitting in the Shade, Cool Breezes, Writing Haiku

I sat in the shade reading a book on meditation.  The breezes were cool.  I shot a photograph or two.  Then a line or two of haiku came to me.  I counted the syllables with my fingers.  I had no paper, I had to memorize the haiku immediately.

Sitting in the park.
Watching a basketball game.
Cool summer breezes.

Do you see the shirtless man dribbling in the photo below?  I walked up to him before they began their 2nd game and asked if I could take some photos.  I showed him my old Mamiya 135 EE camera and my digital camera.  He didn’t say much, but he did say, “Yes.”

Canon SD880, June 19, 2012, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, Basketball, Driving Dribble

Canon SD880, June 19, 2012, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, Basketball, Driving Dribble

Sitting on the Edge of the Basketball Court, Taking Photos

Get closer, get closer.

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL, Basketball Court

Mamiya 135 EE, June 2012, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL, Basketball Court

I could have used my telephoto lens on my Canon SD880 (digital) but chose to just sit on the edge of the basketball court.  I always shoot with a 35mm camera and a digital camera for backup (sorry folks, I shoot both film and digital).  The photo shown above was taken with my 35 year old Mamiya 135 EE rangefinder.  It’s kind of like a Canonet, only not as good.

After the Photos, Say “Thank You”

And don’t forget, when you finish taking photographs, offer a thank you and a good-bye.  That’s what I did as I walked away from the basketball court.

What My Dad and Photographer Nevada Weir taught me about Photography

Strangely, my father and photographer Nevada Weir are linked together as photography mentors (hope you don’t mind Nevada).

Talking to Strangers with Dad

Decades ago my father dragged me along on Saturdays to Amundsen Park stadium (Chicago, IL) to watch soccer games.  He would peek through the canvas on the outside of the stadium and after halftime we would enter the stadium for free to watch soccer.  (Sorry dad, I hated soccer.)

I watched my father as he easily walked up to people and started conversations.  Dad could do that with anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Apparently I learned that skill from my father.

What Nevada Weir taught me about Photography

In a photography book I gave away to a young photographer, I read a one page article by Nevada Weir on how to take photographs of strangers you meet.  She’s a world class photographer and was kind enough to exchange emails with me a few weeks ago.

I can’t remember what she said exactly about photographing strangers on the street, throughout the world.  But this is what I learned from her, in my words.

Don’t just sneak your photos of people.  Try to engage people.  Say hello and strike up a conversation.  Engage them as human beings, not as subjects.  Ask them if you can take their photo.

Sorry Nevada, I can’t remember your words exactly.

Take your Camera with you and Take Photographs

It’s true I may have missed 4 decades of photographs.  I’ll never know how good those photographs might have been.  But today I took some good photos in Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL.

Canon SD880, June 19, 2012, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, Basketball, Waiting to Rebound

Canon SD880, June 19, 2012, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, Basketball, Waiting to Rebound

But these days, I carry a camera with me always.  If you’re in Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL, don’t be surprised if someone walks up to you, starts a conversation, and asks to take your photo.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.


Winning eBay Auctions by a Penny

Today I won a camera eBay auction by a Penny

It was a nice feeling.  I and another bidder competed for a Minolta SRT 100x on eBay.  He bid a little, I bid a little and then “felt” that he had a higher limit on the camera so I stopped bidding.  I kept raising my bids from about three dollars to ten dollars but his/her higher bid kicked in and outbid me.

So I waited for my 5 second snipe.  See my post on eBay auction sniping.

Five Second Sniping on eBay

If I want a camera on eBay I always wait for the last 5 seconds to make a bid.  Whether there’s another bidder or not.  Yesterday, I knew there was another bidder so I waited for the last 5 seconds.

I decided that my limit for a 35 year old Minolta SRT 100x would be fifteen dollars plus shipping.  If the other person outbid me, so be it.

I know, $15 dollars for a camera and 3 lenses doesn’t sound like a big purchase.  But isn’t part of the fun of buying eBay cameras at auction the thrill of winning?

Always add a penny to your eBay Bids

In the past I have won eBay auctions in the last 5 seconds by 50 cents or even 25 cents.  But I can never remember winning an auction by a penny.

I wanted the camera for $15 plus shipping.  So I bid $15 plus a penny in the last 5 seconds.

Winning eBay Auction Bids by a Penny

So I won a Minolta camera with 3 lenses.  I really bid on it because it looked like it was in good condition and someone’s father had used it “lightly” years ago according to the description on eBay.

I know the other person was disappointed when he learned I had outbid him/her by a penny.  But I taught the other bidder two important lessons yesterday:

  1. Never bid with round figures for lesser priced goods on eBay.  If you want to bid $15.00, then bid $15.01.  Never bid with .25 or .50 or .75.  Always bid with 27, 51, or 77 cents.  You get the idea.
  2. If you can watch an auction, all the action happens in the last 5 seconds.

So good luck on your next eBay auction.  Just add a couple of pennies to each final bid.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.