Vivitar XC-4 Review, Bad Camera or Bad Film

An old carpenter’s Vivitar camera is re-born, kind of…

Quick Vivitar XC-4 Review

It’s not a great camera, but it feels like a good camera.  If you need a camera for a high school photography class, it will work just fine.

The light metering is a little quirky (red lights are bad, green light is good).  The depth of field preview button still remains a mystery to me.  You’ll need to research it also.

But it feels good in your hands and has a silky smooth film advance.

Purchased the camera, 50mm lens, Vivitar flash, and a beautiful Marsand black case for 10 dollars (U.S.).

Vivitar XC-4 – One Nice Photo from my Vivitar XC-4

This is the the best photo out of an expired roll of film that gave me hope for this camera.  It’s just as I remember it.  The camera’s metering worked perfectly, the colors are true to my memory, and it worked.

Vivitar XC-4, Vapor Trails at Sunset, Mount Prospect, IL

Vivitar XC-4, Vapor Trails at Sunset

Vivitar XC-4 – Technical Details.

There seems to be little written on this camera on the Internet.  Mike Butkus has a Vivitar XC-4 manual at his website which is useful.  Consider making a donation to his website if you use his manual.  He’s the major provider of old camera manuals on the Internet.

My simple review.

  1. On/off shutter lock.  The camera has a dependable shutter lock on the top of the camera near the shutter speed dial.  Lock it for when you travel.  When you’re ready, unlock to take a photograph.  Practical.
  2. Light metering lights.  I’m not a big fan of the the red/green light method for light metering.  When you depress the shutter, if the viewfinder has red lights, there’s a problem.  Green light means take the photo.  But in its defense, the battery for the light meter doesn’t run itself down, unlike my Olympus OM-1N.
  3. Depth of field preview button.  I’ve read the manual for this button and still don’t understand it.

Provenance or History

It was a sunny day in the Summer of 2011 in Morton Grove, IL when I purchased this camera at a Saturday garage sale.  I purchased it from an old carpenter deep into his 70’s and his daughter who was my age.  It’s a nice memory.

I enjoy garage sales, I like meeting people, and this Saturday it was clear the old gentleman had been a tradesmen, perhaps a carpenter.  He had lots of wood working tools in his garage.  But I’m not a tradesmen or in the market for saws and hammers.  I asked the question I have learned to ask:

Do you have any old film cameras in the house?

The man said yes, and the daughter disappeared into the house.  She re-appeared a few minutes later with a beautiful black leather Marsand case that was ice cold from air conditioning in the home’s basement.  A good sign for me.  Cameras kept in hot attics don’t do well over time.

It was a Vivitar and I was a bit disappointed.  I had hoped for a Canon or a Nikon.  The SLR was in good condition with a 55mm lens and a flash.

I thanked them, wished them a nice day, started walking away for ten steps.  I didn’t need a Vivitar SLR, didn’t know much about them.  I stopped after 10 steps, paused, walked back to them.

I’ll make you an offer on the camera, all its stuff and the beautiful case.  I like the case.  I don’t mind if you say “no”.  I’ll offer you 10 dollars.

The daughter listened, paused only a moment, and said “yes”.

I wasn’t out to steal this camera.  I thought 10 dollars was a decent price.  I told the daughter I would take care of the camera and test it.  That’s what this blog post is all about.  I think the elderly carpenter and I would agree that a tool doesn’t lose its value just because its old.

My Repairs for the Vivitar XC-4, None

No repairs needed so far.  The shutter speeds seem accurate.  The light meter does react to light with a new battery.  I didn’t see any crumbling foam inside the camera that would allow light to sneak into the camera and affect the film.

Vivitar XC-4 Battery

Search the Internet for this battery and you will find the SMC357 Battery as the answer.

Although its cheaper purchasing batteries on the Internet that doesn’t help when you don’t even know if the camera will power up.  You can buy a cheap battery on the Internet and be stuck with that battery.  My solution has been to visit my local battery store and purchase batteries with this verbal agreement.

If the battery powers up the camera, I’ll buy the battery.  If not, I’ll give it back to you immediately.  Agreed?

My local battery store has agreed to this method.  I’d rather pay a few dollars more for a battery that powers up my camera rather than be stuck with an Internet battery for a camera that will not power up.  Makes sense to me.

How does the Vivitar XC-4 feel?

It feels like a decent 30 year old SLR:  medium to light in weight, solid, the film advance is very smooth.

Nice features of the Vivitar XC-4.

  1. Solid, light to medium weight.  I have read Vivitar had these cameras made by Cosina.  They seem well made.
  2. Silky film advance.  Yes, it feels good when you shoot it.  It also has a hand grip on the right side so you can hold it with one hand down at your side without fearing you will drop it.  But always have a strap around your hand.
  3. Shutter lock switch.  It’s simple yet essential.  There’s a switch on the top of the camera for locking the shutter against accidental shots.  Turn the switch “on” when you’re ready to take a photograph.

Problems?  Yes.

  1. Light metering system.  You sight through the viewfinder and depress the shutter button halfway.  The Vivitar makes a quiet “clunk” sound and you see its metering through the viewfinder.  There is no mid-range acceptable light metering view.  A left/right red arrow means the camera’s exposure is off.  A green light means the light meter thinks the exposure is OK.  This light metering system seems awkward to me but perhaps you’ll like it.
  2. Depth of Field Preview button.  This button still remains a mystery to me.  The explanations I have found on the Internet for this feature have been sub-par.  Feel free to leave a comment if you have a good answer to the purpose of the depth of field preview button.

Vivitar XC-4 Sample Photos, Bad Camera or Bad Film

Testing a film camera is inherently a dicey proposition.  You don’t know if the film camera works or how well it works.  For that reason, let me introduce you to Kraneis Photography Rule #2.

If you’re serious about testing an old film camera, use a fresh roll of film.

You guessed it, I broke my own rule, again.  Perhaps one day I will learn to obey my own rules.

But using undependable expired film to test a film camera is bad practice.  If lomography is your hobby, go ahead and use expired film (some people like that).  But if you want to see if an old film camera is worth keeping or selling, give it an honest test with good film.

But this old camera that feels has the quirky light metering (red light, green light) but is built so well took a few decent photos.  I won’t torture you with all my bad photos from this camera.  I attribute the problems not to the camera but to undependable, expired film and a photographer foolish enough to use bad film, me.

Just one bad photo.  I can’t even begin to describe what went wrong with this photo other than bad film.  But notice the clarity of the tree on the left.  Knowing me, I was trying to use depth of field to capture both the tree in the foreground and the scenic shore.

Vivitar XC-4, Pond with bad Exposure

Vivitar XC-4, Pond with bad Exposure

Vivitar XC-4 Review – Summary

I still like this camera.  Yes the red light, green light metering system is unpleasant.  But it does feel good in my hands and the film advances nicely.  You could do a lot worse for $10 at a Morton Grove, IL, garage sale in summertime.

Here’s hoping the old carpenter who owned this camera had a nice day.  His old camera is safe in its beautiful black Marsand leather case in my Chicago bungalow.

I like this photo below for its faint glimmer of green in the upper left and the partly cloudy sky reflected in the creek.

Vivitar XC-4, The Creek in the Ravine, Exposure Adjusted

Vivitar XC-4, The Creek in the Ravine, Exposure Adjusted

Thanks for reading my Vivitar XC-4 review today.  If you find a Vivitar XC-4 with a 50mm lens and a beautiful Marsand black leather case at summer garage sale, buy it.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.

Best 35mm Film Photos of 2011

These are my best 35mm film photos of 2011.  I hope that you enjoy them.

Nikon One Touch Zoom 90s

Although I developed this roll of film in February, 2011, I think some of these photos were taken deep in 2010.

I enjoy this photo for its dazzling clarity.  A great lens from a 5 dollar camera purchased at a garage sale somewhere.

Nikon One Touch Zoom 90s, Beautiful Ravine

Nikon One Touch Zoom 90s, Beautiful Ravine







This next photo is taken at my sister-in-law’s farm in central Illinois.  As I recall, I turned off the flash, steadied myself against the front porch, and took the photo hand held.  It’s a bit quirky but I like it.

Nikon One Touch Zoom 90s, Farm Christmas Lights

Nikon One Touch Zoom 90s, Farm Christmas Lights

Agfa Optima 1a, January and February

In January 2011 I took walks with my like new Agfa Optima 1a.  The camera was sold approximately 1962 and features a built in selenium meter that still works.  The lens is capable of some very nice photos and the camera is inexpensive (mine was $10).

Here’s another nice photo of my Kilbourn Park in Chicago, IL.  I think the lens did a fine job.

Agfa Optima Ia , Kilbourne Park, Chicago, IL, Dazzling

Agfa Optima Ia , Kilbourne Park, Chicago, IL, Dazzling

On my wife’s birthday in February, the Chicago blizzard 2011 dropped 15 inches of snow overnight.  The newspapers were full of exciting snow pictures.  I didn’t look for adventure but rather photographed my Chicago alley before and after the snow.  Here’s a photo after I and my neighbors shoveled our own alley.

Agfa Optima Ia , Chicago Alley in Snow

Agfa Optima Ia , Chicago Alley in Snow

Canon A35F – Chicago Blizzard 2011

This is a wonderful 5 dollar camera.  Learn more about the Canon A35F if you’re looking for a wonderful, almost “point and shoot” Canon.  It’s heavy, feels good in your hands.  Just focus and your done.

I had already tested the Canon A35F long before the February 1, 2011 Chicago blizzard.  But since I like this camera, I popped in some ASA 200 speed color print film.  Then the snows came.

I and a dozen of my neighbors dug out our Chicago alley with shovels, snow blowers, and hot coffee from our wives.  This is a good photo of us working and smiling.

Canon A35F, Chicago Blizzard 2011, Cleaning our Alley

Canon A35F, Chicago Blizzard 2011, Cleaning our Alley

Here’s a photograph of a young father with his two young sons.  I later gave his wife this photograph.  I hope she framed it.  I remember admiring the solidity of the young father proudly standing with his two sons.

Canon A35F, Chicago Blizzard 2011, Father and 2 Sons in Snow

Canon A35F, Chicago Blizzard 2011, Father and 2 Sons in Snow

This last photo was taken in March, 2011 after the Chicago snows had melted.  North Park College has a soccer field near the Chicago River and I was taking photographs.  I wondered how well the Canon A35F would do if I took a “blind” shot from the running track.  I’m a bit too old to lie down and squint through a viewfinder.  I guessed the Canon A35F would take a nice photo and I was absolutely correct.

Canon A35F, Soccer in March, North Park College, Chicago, IL

Canon A35F, Soccer in March, North Park College, Chicago, IL

Ricoh KR-10, April 2011 in Chicago, IL

This camera was purchased in the fall of 2010 and used in April 2011.  Purchased for 10 dollars at an Oak Park, IL garage sale, I told the owner I wasn’t sure it worked.  I theorized the shutter would work with a fresh battery.  And, I was right.

In spring, this magnolia star tree blossoms in the back yard of our Chicago, IL bungalow.  I photographed it with an 80-200 zoom lens purposely including a neighbor’s chimney and power lines in the photo (urban bokeh).  I thought it came out nicely.

Ricoh KR-10, Close-up of Magnolia Star Tree, Chicago, IL

Ricoh KR-10, Close-up of Magnolia Star Tree, Chicago, IL

My wife is kind enough to let me photograph her.  This photograph was taken with The Villa neighborhood of Chicago, IL in the background.

Ricoh KR-10, Portrait in the Villa Neighborhood, Chicago, IL

Ricoh KR-10, Portrait in the Villa Neighborhood, Chicago, IL

I am pleased with this quintessential photograph of frame bungalows in Chicago, IL.  It’s a little overexposed (the light meter had trouble with the light) but I like the photo anyway.

Ricoh KR-10, Chicago frame bungalows

Ricoh KR-10, Chicago frame bungalows

Olympus Stylus Epic, April 2011 in Chicago, IL

I’m very fond of my black Olympus Stylus Epic cameras.  Inexpensively acquired, durable, put it in your pocket and go.  They are simple, functional with a wonderful lens in my opinion.  In researching the Olympus Stylus Epic I found Jim Tardio’s write-up and wonderful photographs on this little camera.  Even after perhaps 18 months of not seeing Jim Tardio’s photographs, I was again impressed with what he could do with an Olympus Stylus.

Again, here is my star magnolia tree from my Chicago backyard.  Just a pretty photo from a Chicago backyard.

Olympus Stylus - Chicago Backyard, Star Magnolia Tree

Olympus Stylus – Chicago Backyard, Star Magnolia Tree

This is one of my favorite photos for 2011.  It’s taken from my backyard deck of my Chicago, IL bungalow.  I purposely focused on the flower pot resting on my backyard deck.  This means pressing the shutter of the Olympus Epic half way down to pre-focus.  Then I composed the frame to hopefully see my neighbor’s backyards as bokeh.  I think it came out very nicely thanks to my Olympus Stylus Epic.

Olympus Stylus Epic - Chicago backyard bokeh

Olympus Stylus Epic – Chicago backyard bokeh

Have a moment?  Leave a comment.

2011 was a wonderful year for meeting more people with camera stories, purchasing old film cameras, and getting a little bit better with photography (street photography and perhaps compositional skills).

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.

Where to get Film Developed

This is a short post on what I’ve learned about getting film developed for my old camera photos.

First, take a look at this photo.  It was taken with a Nikon N6006 camera I purchased for 5 dollars on eBay (camera body only).  The ladies working behind the counter at a discount pharmacy told me there was something wrong with my Nikon N6006.  I didn’t believe them.  My second roll of film produced this nice photo from my home’s front steps.

Nikon N6006 - Golden Leaves Looking North

Cost vs Quality vs Dependability in Film Development

Measure cost vs. quality vs. dependability whenever you have your film developed.

35mm Film Development Costs in Chicago, IL USA

In my big city, here are the current costs of developing a roll of film and burning the images to a CD.  Costs as of November 28, 2011:

  1. Walgreen’s.  $9.50 plus tax.
  2. CVS Pharmacy.  $7.00 plus tax.
  3. Costco.  $5.00 plus tax.

You might think it obvious:  take your film to Costco.  But the film developer machines in Mount Prospect, IL died so now I must go to a Costco in Niles, IL or the northside of Chicago, IL for film development.  I can’t drop off my film during the lunch hour, I need to plan some Saturday chores around dropping my film off at a Costco.  Inconvenient.

Quality Film Development in Chicago, IL USA

For now, I am a hobbyist photographer.  I don’t plan on photographing weddings.  Seriously, those photographers use digital.

From a hobbyist’s perspective, the film development done by Walgreen’s and Costco are always good.  My local CVS Pharmacy was horrible.  They can’t be trusted.

Dependable Film Development in Chicago, IL USA

Yes, there is a difference between quality and dependability.  Quality to me means a spectrum of work that ranges from good to excellent.  Dependability means that I am confident that if I give my film to someone, they’ll do a good job.

  • Walgreens.  Dependable.
  • Costco.  Dependable.
  • CVS Pharmacy.  Horrible (more on that later).

My Choice for Film Development in Chicago, IL USA







Acceptable Acceptable
CVS Pharmacy


Horrible Horrible


Acceptable Acceptable

My film development choice is Costco.  Even though I need to work my schedule around dropping my film off at a Costco 3-5 miles from my home, it’s worth it in the long run. 

Choose your Film Developer Wisely

Your results may vary.  Perhaps in your small town, Walgreen’s is your best choice.  Or perhaps you’ll need to mail your film to a developer.

But for me, Costco was my best Chicago option.

Now my Discount Pharmacy Horror Story

I had developed on roll of film and had it burned to a CD at a CVS Pharmacy in my neighborhood and the price was great, under 5 dollars (November 2011).  Even though they had little piles of dirt on the floor in the film area that they never managed to put into a garbage can, I went there because it was cheap and convenient.

I brought two rolls of film:

  • Nikon N6006 – Film shots of my homeless friend Oly.
  • Vivitar XC-4 – Photos unknown.  I shot them but didn’t record their location.

So here’s what happened.

  1. I was told to come back a 2nd day because the regular film developer was off work and unavailable.
  2. I came back the 2nd day and was told to come back a 3rd day.
  3. On the 3rd day the lady behind the counter said there was a problem with both rolls.  It must have been something wrong with the film she said.  I was polite while the 2nd lady behind the counter said the 1st lady was “really very good with film developing”.
  4. Out of 48 photos only 3 looked OK, not even acceptable for this website.

I started wondering.  I shot two rolls of film from two different cameras and the film was of two different types.  Were both cameras bad?  Were both rolls of film bad?

The only things the two rolls of film had in common were that they were developed at the same discount film department by the same lady.  I didn’t trust her.

So I took an old Fuji roll of expired color film and put it into my Nikon N6006.  I shot the roll and took it to Costco for developing.  The photos came out great.  If I had believed the part-time film developers at the drugstore, I would never have seen the wonderful photos made by my 1990 Nikon N6006 camera.

Choose your film developer wisely by weighing the factors of cost, quality, and dependability.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.



Homeless but not Helpless, Thanksgiving Day 2011, Chicago, IL

Today is Thanksgiving Day 2011 in the United States.  I visited my homeless friend Oly to invite him to breakfast.  Here’s a photo of Oly on a warmer day in August.

Yashica Lynx 1000, Oly the Homeless Man, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL

Yashica Lynx 1000, Oly the Homeless Man, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL

Oly’s OK this Thanksgiving Day, how are you doing?

I had hoped to take Oly to breakfast but someone had already taken care of that for me.

He said earlier today a young man visited and gave him a warm jacket, a very warm sleeping bag, and a 20 dollar bill.  He walked 3 blocks to the McDonald’s at Addison and Cicero for a few donuts and coffee (Oly was grateful the McDonald’s is open today with its bathroom and food.)

We chatted about many things, his nifty shelter by the Addison bus stop, and reasons why he was grateful for life today.

Rich, I’m blessed.  There’s something special about this place.  People come by every day and are nice to me.

So here’s a homeless guy, it’s a chilly November day in Chicago, and he feels blessed.  How are you doing today?

So what does a Homeless Guy have to do with Film Cameras and Photography?

Good question, a fair question.  Here’s how I met Oly.

  1. Florida canoe trip.  In spring 2010 on a trip to Florida, my digital camera “drowned” in a small pool of water in the bottom of my canoe.  I needed a new one.
  2. Camera store.  Spring of 2010 I walked into a camera store to buy an inexpensive digital camera.  I found a wall of used film cameras re-igniting my love of cameras.
  3. What is a film camera.  I started a WordPress blog because I wanted to write about the old cameras I was collecting and my photos.
  4. Yashica Lynx 1000.  I purchased many cameras and one of them was a Yashica Lynx 1000.  On a Sunday morning in August 2011 I took a walk to Kilbourn Park in Chicago,IL to take some test photos with my camera.
  5. Meeting Oly.  On a Sunday I meet, introduce myself, and take photos of a homeless man named Oly.

So life is full of chained events.  A Florida canoe trip ultimately introduced me to Oly, the homeless man.

Let’s be serious.  I’m not a professional photographer nor a photojournalist.  I’m a 60 year old guy that enjoys old cameras, taking photos, meeting people, and telling their stories (camera stories and people stories).

Oly Gave me a Photo Assignment

Today, November 24, 2011, Oly was surprised I didn’t have a camera with me.

But Oly gave me a photo assignment for the next time I visit him.  I’ll do Oly’s photo project and write about it on this blog in the near future.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, 2011

I wished Oly a Happy Thanksgiving Day and I wished him better times in better days.  “God bless,” I said.

Happy Thanksgiving Rich.  Don’t worry about me.  I’m blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving Day from Chicago, IL USA.

Addendum:  February, 2012, Where’s Oly?

I lost track of my homeless friend:  Oleg Pichowkin

In late January (2012) I passed by Kilbourn Park and found Oly walking back and forth warming himself.  I invited him to lunch and we went to a McDonald’s.  He had been in the hospital for a week (lung problems) and had been released.  But he was still cheerful.  Although I remember him saying, “I wonder what God has planned for me.”

In early February his little tent at the Addison Street bus shelter at the north end of Kilbourn Park disappeared.  No tent, none of his belongings, no Oly.  I left word with someone who worked across the street to keep an eye out for Oly for me.  No luck.

I wondered if Oly in his weakened condition had passed away with the end of winter.

Addendum:  Memorial Day, 2012, Oly’s Alive

Walking in Kilbourn Park a few days after Memorial Day I saw a familiar white haired man in the distance.  It was Oly.  We smiled, laughed, shook hands.

Oly seemed healthier then ever.  He’s living in a homeless shelter in Uptown and I caught him on a supposedly momentous day.  He believes his paperwork battle with Social Security is over and he’s about to receive his first Social Security payment.

After a lifetime of work paying social security payments, Oly is about to get something in return:  a social security check.

After 30 minutes I said good-bye, Oly told me how to contact him, and yes he still has my cell phone number.  Seeing Oly was the best part of my day, May 30, 2012.

Canon SD880, May 2012, Oleg Pichowkin at Kilbourn Park

Canon SD880, May 2012, Oleg Pichowkin at Kilbourn Park

Why a Fisherman Chose Photography

I think the local fishing stores miss me.  Where is that guy that used to come in here and spend all that money?

Dad the Fisherman

I have caught my share of fish.  But sometime during 2010 I realized I was driving a whole lot to catch just a few fish.  Yes, I do catch fish, but not as many as I would like.

I’ve been fishing all my life, but film cameras were never far from my mind.  (Yes, the nice largemouth bass was released immediately.)

Canon SD880, Dad's Big Fish

ROI (Return on Investment) of Fishing or Photography

An average fishing trip on a Saturday would cost me $60.  It may not sound like much but I had little to show for it.  A photo or two of a largemouth bass I had caught and a few panfish that I would release alive back into the lake.  I was spending money but had little to show for it.

Then during 2010 I started collecting film cameras.  I used less gas, met interesting people, had the thrill of hunting and negotiating prices on cameras, and it took less time.  And at the end of the day I might find an Olympus XA, Pentax Spotmatic, or a Vivitar V3800N for my troubles.

The Thrill of Collecting Film Cameras

When a fish bites, you don’t know what you have until you reel it into your boat.  It’s like Christmas.  Every fish is a surprise.  Garage sale hunting is similar.  You never know what you’ve got until you actually hold an old film camera in your hands.  It’s a thrill when someone stops you at the garage sale and says:

I have some old film cameras at my house.  Can you wait 5 minutes so I can bring them to you?

You bet I’ll wait.

The Enjoyment of Great Photos with Old Cameras

Admittedly, not all of my older cameras have taken good photos.  But as a computer guy its fun taking an old technology with a quirky interface (all old cameras work a bit differently) and creating nice photos with them.

Kodak Motormatic 35

Add 35mm film to this old camera, wind it up like a toy, and it advanced film based on a mechanical inner spring.  I purchased it on eBay for 5 dollars and it takes nice photos.  It’s about 50 years old and still works.

Kodak Motormatic 35, Blue Pond

Agfa Optima II

A German camera from around 1960.  It’s automatic light metering still works well.  A 5 dollar purchase from eBay.

Agfa Optima II, Tricky Exposure

Old Cameras and Their Stories

And if you’ve spent some time on this website you know I like a story or two.  I enjoy my cameras even more when there’s a story behind the camera.  Perhaps its a Mamiya/Sekor 1000 that photographed Mohammad Ali.  Or maybe its the Yashica T4 worth $250 that I purchased for $30.  Or maybe it’s the Canon AE-1 that traveled to Borneo and Morocco.

Don’t throw away your old camera, of any type.  Yes, it might be worth something and you can sell it.  Better still, give it to your son or granddaughter and ask them to keep it for you.  It won’t be a cheap camera to them, it will be the old SLR their grandmother gave them.

Fishing and Photography

One day I’ll return to fishing when there’s a better chance of catching a fish or two.  In the meantime, I’ll keep “catching” some old film cameras, taking nice photos, and telling camera “fish tales” on this website.

Unknown Camera, Rich Fishing at 15


Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.

Nikon N6006 Review

This may be the best 5 dollars I ever spent on eBay for a camera body.  My test roll of film on this Nikon N6006 seemed horrible.  But the film developers at the discount pharmacy assured me there was something wrong with the film.  I didn’t believe them.  They lied.  This is what the Nikon N6006 can do.

Nikon N6006 - Golden Leaves Looking North

Nikon N6006 – Golden Leaves Looking North

Do I really like a 1990 camera with nearly auto everything?  It’s like a point and shoot SLR.  Perhaps I need to get to know it better, read a manual, and learn how to use it manually.

Purchased Oct 30, 2011 for $5.50 and $5.55 shipping it was an impulse buy.  Surfing eBay I saw the auction was ending, I had wanted a Nikon N6006 for a year, so I snapped it up around 8 PM.

Nikon N6006 Err Problem?

You need to know one very important feature/problem regarding this camera from Matt Denton, N6006 rescue:

BIGGEST TIP: the lens *must* be set to the smallest aperture for the camera to shoot at all in auto mode. This gives the camera the lens’ capability. You will get a somewhat inexplicable flashing E error if the aperture ring is not set to the smallest aperture, and this is the first place you should look if the camera doesn’t fire. Other than that, the N6006 (and N8008) has more features than you can shake a stick at, best bet is to keep in PM mode and fire away

Provenance or History

No fancy provenance on this camera.

Purchased Oct 30, 2011 for $5.50 and $5.55 shipping it was an impulse buy.  Surfing eBay I saw the auction was ending, I had wanted a Nikon N6006 for a year, so I snapped it up around 8 PM.  It came from Kentucky, I have no idea on the history of the camera.

My Repairs for the Nikon N6006, None

No repairs needed.  Frankly, I’m not terribly good at repairs.  What I am good at is persistence and the ability to keep learning how to use old cameras.

Nikon N6006 Battery

Most battery powered cameras purchased on eBay or Craigslist long distance are a risk.  You don’t know what you have in the camera until you power it up.  It’s not fun purchasing a battery and then it fails on you.

Although its cheaper purchasing batteries on the Internet that doesn’t help when you don’t even know if the camera will power up.  You can buy a cheap battery on the Internet and be stuck with that battery.  My solution has been to visit my local battery store and purchase batteries with this verbal agreement.

If the battery powers up the camera, I’ll buy the battery.  If not, I’ll give it back to you immediately.  Agreed?

My local battery store has agreed to this method.  I’d rather pay a few dollars more for a battery that powers up my camera rather than be stuck with an Internet battery for a camera that will not power up.  Makes sense to me.

The Nikon N6006 takes either a 6V lithium CR-P2 or 223A for a battery.  As I recall, the battery cost me $14 a few weeks ago in October, 2011.

How does the Nikon N6006 feel?

It feels like a professional SLR:  heavy, solid, it even makes a nice sound when it advanced the film automatically..

But after one botched roll of film, my confidence was shaken in the camera.  But in every regard, the Nikon N6006 felt good in my hands and seemed to work properly.

Nice features of the Nikon N6006.

  1. Solid, but not horribly heavy.  Yes, that sounds like a disadvantage.  But as long as I’m not hiking on some long walk, carrying the solid weight of the Nikon N6006 wasn’t a problem.
  2. Loud but comforting.  Again, I am using a strange description.  Don’t expect to take family photos of children unnoticed with this camera.  But the sound of the shutter and the automatic film advance seems re-assuring.
  3. Feels good.  Yes, it feels good when you shoot it.  It also has a hand grip on the right side so you can hold it with one hand down at your side without fearing you will drop it.  But always have a strap around your hand.
  4. Point and shoot mode.  The Nikon N6006 does have a point and shoot mode.  It makes decisions for you, and those decisions are good generally.

Problems?  Yes.

  1. Nikon N6006 Err Problem.  In program mode, the camera with its AF lenses doesn’t work unless the lens is set to the smallest aperture possible.  Understanding the Err problem is the first thing you need to learn about a Nikon N6006..
  2. Battery cover.  This wasn’t a problem for me but I have read others have lost or broken the battery cover on the camera.
  3. On/Off switch.  You need to turn the camera on and then off with a switch on top of the camera.  Why these devices do not have an automatic timed turn off feature I don’t know.  Leaving the camera on for hours will cost you another battery.

Digital cameras give us disposable photos and consequently, we think we are better photographers.  I do own and shoot with digital.

I write this blog post wondering what teenagers and adults of the digital era would say if they took photos with a Nikon N6006.  It sure feels like a real camera.  It even sounds like a real camera.

Nikon N6006 Sample Photos

Testing a film camera is inherently a dicey proposition.  You don’t know if the film camera works or how well it works.  For that reason, let me introduce you to Kraneis Photography Rule #1.

Take a dependable camera with you.  Wherever you go, whether you’re testing a camera or not, take a camera that will work dependably.  You never know when you’ll come across the Pulitzer photograph of a lifetime.

My first roll of film through the Nikon N6006 had some photos of my homeless friend Oly at Kilbourn Park that I will never see.  I’ll never see those photos because a film developer department at a discount pharmacy botched my first roll.  Those photos are gone forever.  It’s not a nice feeling.

The discount pharmacy on Milwaukee and Pulaski in Chicago said the film had a problem.  I didn’t believe them.  My second roll of film through the Nikon N6006 proved me correct.

My Second Roll of Film

This was fun.

I took a roll of ASA 400 expired film from the summer (purchased twenty rolls for about twenty cents a roll at a garage sale) and inserted it into the Nikon N6006.  I used programmed mode on the Nikon N6006 for everything.  All I did was focus my zoom lense as needed.  Basically, I used a Nikon N6006 as a glorified point and shoot camera.

Nikon N6006 - IPUMC Church

Nikon N6006 – IPUMC Church

My duck photo on a downed tree at the pond is a bit overexposed.  The best of cameras seem to have trouble with light metering reflections on a pond.

Nikon N6006 - Ducks by the Pond, Overexposed

Nikon N6006 – Ducks by the Pond, Overexposed

If a camera comes with flash, I try it.  The Nikon N6006 has an onboard flash that worked fine in my four test photos.  Here my smiling wife.  I think its a nice photo of her.

Nikon N6006 - Smiling Wife, Indoor Flash

Nikon N6006 – Smiling Wife, Indoor Flash

Nikon N6006 Review – Summary

This is a very nice camera.  I look forward to learning how to use its different functions.  I shot the first good roll in programmed mode.  Just imagine what I can do when I actually learn this camera.

As for the photos,  I am delighted.  Below is a photo I took at 5:30 PM on a weekday this November.  A night photo, bracing the camera on the top of my car, just pressing the shutter until it did something.  Wow.  This Nikon N6006 can even do night photography.

Nikon N6006 - Amazing Photo at Night

Nikon N6006 – Amazing Photo at Night


Sometimes a camera returns a lot of joy for what little money you put into it.

  1. Cost of Camera – $5.00
  2. Shipping – $5.50.
  3. One ruined roll of film – $2.00
  4. Fresh battery – $14
  5. Expired film – 20 cents
  6. Costco developing – $5.00

A total of $31.70 to test a Nikon N6006 camera.  Is that expensive?  I could probably sell the camera right now on eBay and recoup my costs.  If I keep the camera I have a wonderful image maker ready at my disposal.

Thanks for reading my Nikon N6006 review today.  If you find one with a lens, I hope it turns out as well as my Nikon N6006 from Kentucky.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.

Testing film camera light meters

Do you buy old film cameras with questionable light metering systems?  This is my solution to testing my old cameras and their exposures.

This is my solution to the old camera light metering problem.

Saturday, November 11, 2011 I went to Costco to shop and have film developed.  While they developed the film I went to a Cook County Forest Preserve on Lehigh in Edgebrook, IL and learned a huge amount about testing cameras.  It happend all of a sudden.

I had recently purchased a used Gossen Digisix light meter but I had unresolved problems.

  1. Testing an old camera with two rolls of film is too expensive.  One roll for the camera’s light meter and one roll for the Gossen Digisix test costs too much money.  And I’ll waste a lot of shots that I’ll never get back.
  2. If I test the light meter of a camera vs the Gossen Digisix on the same film roll, how will I know what technique I used for each test?
  3. Even testing an old film camera I hope to get some useable photos in the process.  I’m not just testing a camera, I’m hoping to take a few good photos.
  4. I also want to use the “Sunny 16” rule to test my cameras.

I had tried a previous method for testing a light meter outdoors but was disappointed with my logic.  But this Saturday it came to me.

Take two photos of every scene when testing a camera.  Landscape and then portrait.

  1. Find a scene to test your camera’s light meter.
  2. Landscape – Use landscape format to test the camera’s light meter.
  3. Portrait – Use portrait format to test a Gossen Digisix light metered exposure.

What could be simpler?  On your roll of film, whenever you see two photos of the same thing, you’ll know its an exposure test.  All my photos are normally at F16 aperture.  More on that later.

Sunny 16 Testing

If you’re feeling adventurous and just want to test the camera with the Sunny 16 rule, just take one photo of something on a bright sunny day.  Here’s my plain English description of the Sunny 16 rule.

On a sunny day outside you can test a camera without a light meter.  This is best done with ASA 100 film or perhaps ASA 400 film.

  1. This only works shooting outdoors on a sunny day.
  2. Set your aperture to F16.
  3. Set your shutter speed to “match” your film speed.  If you are shooting with ASA 100 film, set your shutter speed to 1/100.  If you are shooting with ASA 400 film, set your shutter speed to 1/500 (it’s the best you can do).

I only take single photos on a test roll when using the “Sunny 16” rule.

Two photos of the same scene in landscape and portrait tells me its a camera light meter vs. Gossen Digisix test.  A single photo of a scene tells me it was a Sunny 16 test.

Single shots for sunny 16, two shot tests for every angle (lateral is for camera’s light meter, vertical is for Gossen Digisix), shoot F16 and then mix the rest, always using the same aperture.

Photos of a Lifetime

If you find some photos of a lifetime and you’re testing a camera, you should pull out your backup camera that’s dependable and tested.  Don’t be rigid on this.  Take a digital camera with you if you can depend on it always or toss your most dependable film camera into a bag (my five dollar Canon 130u with its zoom lens might be my choice, with a fresh battery).

In 1953, driving to a fishing trip with her husband, Virginia Schau became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her photo.  She was using an inexpensive Kodak camera.  She photographed a truck hanging off an expressway bridge with a man hanging on to the truck for dear life. Selkirk

 Virginia Schau, amateur
Rescue on Pit River Bridge – 1954 winner.

Other Light Meter Testing Methods

Read’s Gray Card method for testing a light meter.

Ollinger has a wonderful website on old light meters.  He also has a fine article by Peter Moore that’s rather scientific on testing film camera light meters.

My First Test Results with my Olympus OM-1n

Two poorly exposed rolls of film (my Zenit-E and my Olympus OM-1n) compelled me to purchase a Gossen Digisix like a real photographer.

I’ll show my results for testing film camera light meters here and at my Olympus OM-1n page when the testing is done.

My second roll of film through my Olympus OM-1n was my first camera meter vs. Gossen Digisix test.  Remember the method:

  • Landscape for camera meter.
  • Portrait for Gossen Digisix.

Most of the photos were taken on a partly cloudy day at F16 aperture.  I’d have to say the test was inconclusive.  A 50/50 horse race as to which technique was better.

In the two photos below, the photo below looks closer to the scene as I remember it.  Better exposure with the Gossen Digisix on the right.

Olympus OM-1n, ASA 400, River, Camera MeterOlympus OM-1n, ASA 400, River, Gossen Digisix








But this photo of ducks under a bridge came out totally opposite of what I expected.  The photo on the left using the Olympus OM-1n camera meter looks better exposed than the Gossen Digisix metering on the right.  Quite frankly, both look a bit washed out.

Olympus OM-1n, ASA 400, River Bridge, Camera MeterOlympus OM-1n, ASA 400, River Bridge, Gossen Digisix








I’m still glad I purchased the Gossen Digisix.  But in my initial testing of the Olympus OM-1n, there was no clear winner between the camera’s light meter (with a non-Mercury battery) and using a Gossen Digisix light meter.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.

How many cameras do you own?

Way too many cameras is the answer.

(Disclaimer:  This post is incredibly long with bunches of camera stories.  If you like to read about how people collect cameras and their quirky camera stories, you may enjoy this post.)

My wife tells me I should stop collecting cameras for a while because the cameras, camera bags, and accessories are taking over the house.  She’s absolutely right (thanks honey).

But that doesn’t mean I won’t keep on using film cameras, testing them, and writing about cameras.  It’s a hobby, but it’s fun.  Most of my cameras were purchased for $10-$15 dollars.  There are a few expensive ones, but not too many.

So here’s a growing list of the cameras that I own.  Two categories:  untested and tested cameras.  These will be short descriptions, perhaps you’ll enjoy them.  (It’s also my way of keeping track of my untested and tested cameras on this blog.)

Untested 35mm Film Cameras

Canon 120 ED, 120 Film, Sunnyside Garage Sale, 2010

This camera breaks my 35mm rule.  It actually uses 120 film and the camera is in good shape.  It was purchased near Sunnyside and Central Avenue on Chicago’s northwest side in the summer of 2010.  This cost a whopping five dollars.

It’s probably wondering if I will ever use it.  I will.

Canon 650, Village Discount, Spring 2011

This camera was purchased along with a Praktica camera for I believe $25.  In my defense I would say that I wasn’t sure if either the Canon 650 or the Praktica would work.  I’ve come to learn that the Canon 650 was a fine camera in its day, although heavy as a brick.  It has a zoom lens on it and I look forward to testing it.

Canon AE-1, Borneo Africa Peoria, Tom’s Gift, April 2011

As you can see from my titles, I’m using some shorthand for these cameras.

I paid $70 for this Canon AE-1, a 55mm lens, and a zoom lens.  It also came with a nice camera bag.  It was purchased in a neighborhood named The Villa on Chicago’s northside.  I’ve purchased some very nice cameras in The Villa over the past two years.

I didn’t need a Canon AE-1 but I fell in love with this camera’s “story”.  I already had a Canon AE-1 from my friend Paul (he passed away 10 years ago).  But the nice lady and veterinarian who had the camera said the camera had been to Borneo, Africa, and Peoria, Illinois.  A strange itinerary for a camera.

Why Borneo and Africa I asked?  She said she was studying primates in those two regions and used her Canon AE-1 to take photos.  Why Peoria, Illinois?  She was just passing through and took photos.

I know, I like my stories.  What made this camera a must buy is that my great friend Tom came strolling by during the neighborhood garage sale.  He saw me bargaining for the camera and insisted in tossing in $40 for the camera as a gift to me for my 60th birthday.  Wonderful gift, had to buy it.

One day Tom and I will go strolling together with two Canon AE-1 cameras for a fun afternoon.

Canon EOS Elan IIe, Tamron 28-200 zoom, The Villa, Summer of 2010

As I said, Chicago’s The Villa neighborhood has been a nice place to buy used film cameras.

This camera sold for over $1000 when new but I purchased the body and its zoom lens for a whopping $40.  I think it was a good deal.  I told the owner the camera was worth a sold $80 – $100 on eBay if he took the time to sell it.  I told him I would give him a quick $40.  His wife said take the money and get rid of the camera.

There are some very good reviews for this camera on the Internet.  But it does seem to have a voracious appetite for batteries.

Canon QL17, Mt. Pulaski Garage Sale, $10, Summer 2010

My wife’s home town of Mt. Pulaski, IL has a few garage sales in the summertime.  She was with me on this drive and we had just visited a garage sale with no luck.  She saw a sign for another garage sale and said I should try a certain house.  Sure enough, there was a surprise.

If you don’t see a camera in a garage sale always ask,

Do you have any film cameras in the house?

You’d be surprised how many people forget about their cameras in the basement or attic.  The elderly lady (heck, I’m 60 years old) brought out a beat up camera case with Canon written on it.  I opened it up and there was a Canon QL17 inside.  Good mechanical shape, dead battery, inner seals crumbling with age.

She asked how much it was worth and I told her:  Fixed up, sold on eBay, perhaps $50 to $70.  She asked how much I would pay.  I told her my estimate was low and she might not like it.  She asked for the offer.  I told her $10.

She said yes.  It’s a nice camera (I have one just like it already) and this winter I’ll repair its seals and take it for camera shoot.

September 9, 2013:  My camera guy has given this a complete CLA and it’s about to go on eBay after a test roll.  Here’s hoping it finds a nice home.

Canon Sure Shot Ace, waist level finder, Date Unknown, Five Dollars

Point and shoot cameras are often a bit expensive to collect and test.  New batteries, film, developing and you’re at $10 easily.  Kind of pricey when the camera cost only 5 dollars (U.S.).  I suppose I shouldn’t complain.  I purchased a Yashica T4 for $30 that’s worth $250 easily.

Perhaps that’s why I liked the Canon Sure Shot Ace.  It reminded me of the Yashica T4 because it has an eye level view finder and a waist level finder.  I suppose I’ll test it one day but it’s further down on my testing list.

Canonet 28, Summer 2010, $30 on Craigslist

That sounds about right.  I purchased this long distance from the east coast using Craigslist.  Bad seals but the meter tested OK.

I think I purchased it because allegedly this was the camera used in the movie Pecker.  If you haven’t seen the movie Pecker its worth seeing.  Small town boy from a quirky family gets a 35mm camera and photographs everything.  NYC film critic discovers Pecker (his nickname) and he hits the big time in New York City.  Then his life goes careening out of control.

Most likely, the Canon Canonet 28 is Pecker’s camera.

Kodak Instamatic X-15 – Russia Trip, 1975

It sounds like a rocket ship.  It isn’t.

This is one of my few non 35mm cameras.  It went to Russia with me in 1975.  While I salivated over my tent partner’s Praktica SLR I had the tiny Kodak.  I still have those old photos, ready to be scanned when I purchase an Epson scanner.

I still have this camera and it has film in it.  I should just shoot it out and try to develop it.  I know that it has photos of my life before 1980 when I met my wonderful wife.

Konica Rangefinder, Bridgeport and Craigslist, Fall of 2010, About $35

This was purchased just off Cermak in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.  The owner wouldn’t even let me inside his home.  I guess that’s OK.  I met him outside his home and checked out the camera as daylight ebbed away late in the day.  I remember trying to check out the camera with the street lights overhead.

Purchasing an old camera in a hurry with fading light isn’t a great idea.  It looks like its in good shape.  (My wife is again right.  No more camera purchases, for a while…)

Minolta Auto Wide, Chicago Snowstorm, February 1, 2011, $30

I remember the day I purchased this Minolta rangefinder, January 31, 2011.  It was the night before the worst snowstorm in Chicago in recent years.  Purchased at Kouks Vintage Cafe on NorthWest Highway.  Great coffee, nice collectibles, and two nice people who own it.

I purchased it for $30 because I saw one sold on eBay for $240 (honest).  But the film advance is stuck and my local camera repair guy wants $40 to repair it.  So it sits on my shelf waiting for someone to fix it.  Hopefully I can have it fixed before the next snowfall.

This camera remains unrepaired, sitting patiently on one of my shelves.  When I learn how to break down a lens and remove oil from aperture blades with Ronsonol, I’ll spend some time on this camera.

Minolta SRT 102 SLR, Summer of 2011, Denver Craigslist

This camera has a speckled viewfinder but the rest of the camera sounds solid as a rock.  I believe someone just tossed it into a parcel I purchased from Denver’s Craigslist.  The parcel of cameras was perhaps $30 plus shipping, the Minolta SRT 102 was free.

I don’t know much about the Minolta SRT 102 but its older brother the SRT 101 was used during the Viet Nam War by U.S. war photographers.  I barely missed purchasing an SRT 101 Viet Nam war camera on eBay in November 2011.  Luckily, now that I own a Gossen Digisix light meter I don’t care about the Minolta SRT 102’s light metering system.

Miranda SLR, eBay, Summer of 2010, $55

I was surprised to win this camera.  I set my highest bid on eBay, went to a party, came home, and saw that I had won a camera.  Normally the high bid technique doesn’t work for me on eBay.  Perhaps I won it because a previous owner scratched his name onto the metal.  Whenever I see that I think, how tacky.  If the camera is so important to you, never let it out of your sight.

Why a Miranda?  Why not.  I had read it was a fine camera company that died with too much competition in the 1960’s.  This camera came with 3 lenses and patiently waits for me to use it.

Nikon N65, ShopGoodwill, Long Distance, $65

This really is good therapy for a camera collector.  If you feel like purchasing another camera that will sit on your shelf, write a blog post about all the cameras that are collecting dust instead.  It’s a humbling exercise and cuts down on wasteful eBay purchases.

Photography Review had a 4.38 out of 5 rating for this camera with 119 reviews.  That’s an awesome track record.

It’s light, seems sturdy, and came with a 28-80 zoom lens that I am testing on another camera.

Nikon Point and Shoot, Greg of Wilmette, Free, Summer of 2011

I can’t even remember the name of this camera.  All I know is it sits on my desk by the computer screen.

When I purchased Greg’s Mamiya/Sekor 1000 and Olympus XA for $25 he tossed in this Nikon point and shoot for free.  Point and shoots are expensive to test.  You buy them for $5 or less.  But the film, developing, and possible battery pushes the testing cost to $8 to $15 dollars.  Just to test a camera you thought was “inexpensive”.  I’m also not partial to most point and shoots because I have nothing to control (aperture, shutter, focus, anything).

Having said all of that, every Nikon point and shoot I’ve used have had terrific lenses.  So for now, this Nikon point and shoot will need to wait its turn.

Olympus 35 RC, 2nd One, Summer of 2010, Craigslist, $30

I purchased this during the initial phase of my camera collection frenzy last year.  I read the Olympus 35 RC was a good camera in many places on the Internet.  Read Ken Rockwell’s Olympus 35 RC description and I dare you to not want to buy one of them for yourself.  I found one on Craigslist from the East Coast and purchased it long distance.  Most of it was OK except for an obscured viewfinder that doesn’t show all the aperture/shutter speed information.

But the good news is that after it was delivered to me, I found its twin the very next day at a garage sale in The Villa in Chicago, IL.  That Olympus 35 RC is tested but not written up yet.  A beautiful camera, plus a case, plus a point and shoot, all for $15.  This is a photo of what an Olympus 35 RC can do.

Olympus 35 RC, Barn, Tree, and Clouds

Olympus 35 RC, Barn, Tree, and Clouds

 Olympus  XA, Greg of Wilmette, Summer 2011, $12.50

I do love Wilmette, IL garage sales.  This was a $12.50 Olympus XA I purchased from Greg the retired lawyer.  I told him accurately what it was worth but offered what I could afford.  I even received two flashes for it in the process.  In my defense, paying $12.50 for a camera that sells for $50 plus on eBay, I would say that I purchased it untested.  Always a risk.

But taking it home that day I tried a battery in it and the metering system worked fine.  No photos taken as yet.  Like a darn fool I unscrewed the battery chamber on my back porch, the battery cover slipped out of my hand, rolled on the deck, and slipped through the cracks 6 feet below into the wood chips.  I was lucky.  15 minutes later I found a dark battery cover amidst dark wood chips.

This is a photo from my other Olympus XA, tested, but no write-up as yet.  Pretty amazing, especially when you consider it was done hand held in my car using ASA 200 speed film.  Somewhere, Mr. Yoshihisa Maitani the designer of the Olympus XA is smiling.

Olympus XA, Car Traffic at Night, Handheld

Olympus XA, Car Traffic at Night, Handheld

Olympus AF-1 Twin, Basement, Unknown Origins

I can’t remember purchasing it.  I know that wherever I purchased it I did not spend more than $5 for it.  Just a rule.  No more than $5 for an untested point and shoot camera (unless its any kind of Yashica T3 or T4).  It sits in the basement with a few other point and shoot cameras of dubious origins.

Camerapedia has a write-up on it.  Other than that, it remains a mystery.  But it is an Olympus and I almost all of my Olympus cameras have done well (SLR, rangefinder, or point and shoot).

Pentax K1000, Park Ridge, 15 bucks, Summer 2010

Wouldn’t you buy a Pentax K1000 with two lenses, case, and a light meter that works for $15?  Of course you would.  This is my most memorable Park Ridge, IL camera purchase. Great reviews for the Pentax K1000 are all over the Internet.  Karen Nakamura’s Photoethnography calls the Pentax K1000 an excellent student camera.

On Fridays driving to work in the summertime I take garage sale detours from Rand Road.  This one came deep in a subdivision of suburban homes.  A man in his late 30’s or early 40’s had set up a bunch of items on his garage driveway.  A black case has $15 marked on it.  I open it up and try not to jump for joy:  a Pentax K1000.  The shutter works fine, viewfinder is clear, and oh my goodness, the light meter responds to light, it’s working.  It includes an 80-200mm zoom lens.

You want $15 for the case, camera and lenses?

The owner said yes and I paid it in a heartbeat.  No small talk, just pay the man what he wants and go.  It’s probably worth $50 to $70 on eBay.  What a deal.

Pentax K1000, Chicago’s Northside, 20 bucks, Summer 2012

It was a bargain at $20.  Shutter speeds were accurate, camera body clean, lens clean.  I took it home and dropped in a new battery and the light meter works great.  I’ll run a test roll through it and hopefully sell it on eBay.  I don’t need two Pentax K1000’s.  But I don’t like to see old, good cameras become lost on some forgotten antique store’s shelf.

Pentax Spotmatic Body, Salvation Army, Summer 2011, 10 Dollars

This really is a sweet camera body that I picked up at the Salvation Army store on North Clybourn in Chicago, IL.  The ladies seem to know me now so sometimes they let me behind the counter to sift through 30 cameras stuffed in the display case.  Normally no “keepers” but good practice for someone who collects cameras and looks for value.  I visit about once a month.

For a terrific write-up on the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic Karen Nakamura’s Photoethnography is your first visit.  As far as I am concerned regarding photography on the Internet, Karen Nakamura, Ken Rockwell, and Matt Denton have done more for my love of cameras and photography than any other website or person.

Back to the Asashi Pentax Spotmatic I purchased…

In Summer 2011 I dropped by the Salvation Army store and found two cameras:  Pentax Spotmatic Body and Sears TLS Body.  I tested both on the spot and realized the Pentax shutter worked fine but the Sears TLS shutter speeds were undependable.  I took them both.

Both will need M42 screw mount lenses and now I have some of those to use with these camera bodies.  I tested the Pentax Spotmatic light meter with a battery and it doesn’t work.  But the shutter speeds and feel of the camera just ooze with quality.  At any shutter speed, the Pentax Spotmatic works and there’s a quiet sound and hardly any camera shake.  I look forward to using it.

September 9, 2013:  Too bad the light meter on this camera is erratic.  It jumps around but never settles down.  At best I can only shoot it with a light meter.

Petri Color 35, Craigslist, Long Distance, 30 Dollars, Fall 2010

In my early days of collecting film cameras, I was very intrigued with rangefinders.  I still am.  Although they don’t have the advantage of interchangeable lenses and shooting from a distance, they’re good at stealth.  Perhaps even better than that, rangefinders don’t make a big scary sound when you take the photo.  They’re unobtrusive, friendlier somehow.

Even one year after I purchased this camera on Craigslist from the west coast somewhere for $30 plus shipping, I remember its glowing writeup at Cameraquest.  How could I not buy a camera that was better designed than a Rollei 35S ?  It’s really a tight little bundle of good engineering.  As my wife said, I don’t need to buy another camera.  I need to shoot with the ones I own.

Praktica Nova B, Village Discount, Spring 2011

This camera was purchased along with a Canon 650 body for I believe $25.  In my defense I would say that I wasn’t sure if either the Canon 650 or the Praktica would work.

I think I’ve always wanted a Praktica ever since my tent partner Ken had one on my Russian trip of  1975.  I had a Kodak Instamatic X-15 and he had a Praktica.  Talk about camera envy.  Plus I’m German-American and my Uncle Ernie showed me a shiny chrome camera years ago when I was little.

This Praktica Nova B came with a lens as I recall, nothing special.  It stank of cigarette smoke so that’s a factor against it.  Also, I think the shutter speeds are off a bit.  But it was made by some of my ancestors so I think it deserves a little respect, and a photo shoot in the near future.

Ricoh KR-5, Craigslist Purchase, July 2012

There are camera bargains on Craigslist.  This was part of a camera lot of 7 cameras and accessories that I purchased in July 2012 for $35.

At first when I tested this Ricoh KR-5 at the customer’s apartment sale I thought the camera wasn’t working.  I pressed the shutter button and nothing happened.  I guessed it needed a battery to work just like a Ricoh KR-10.  But I was wrong.

When I brought the camera home, I advanced the shutter slightly and the camera worked fine.  If the shutter advance is in its normal position the shutter is locked.  Advance the shutter slightly and the camera works in manual mode.  It’s a well made camera and even its light meter works fine.

I look forward to using it one day.

September 9, 2013:  I gave this to a young 10 year old photographer.  Here’s hoping she learns how to use it.

Ricohflex TLR, eBay, Fall of 2010, 25 dollars

I’ve tried to stay with 35mm cameras but once in a while I’ve dipped my toe into the 120 film format.  This camera came with a beat up case, a shutter that worked only once (now I have to trip a mechanism for the shutter to work), and there was slight fungus on the lens.  It sits on a shelf waiting for a repairman to screw it back together again.  But the labor will be more than the camera is worth.  So it sits.

I think this camera is destined for eBay as a parts only sale.

August 2012:  Good news for this camera.  I found another Ricohflex and combined the two cameras into one twin lens reflex camera that works.  Visit Super Ricohflex, Super Wife to read about my Ricohflex camera repair.

Sears TLS Body, Salvation Army, Summer 2011, 10 Dollars

I knew when I purchased it that the battery was probably corroded (cover would not come off) and that the shutter speeds were off.  I blame (joking) Matt Denton for his write-up on the Sears TLS for wanting this black beauty of a camera.  It’s also known as a Ricoh Singlex TLS.  Apparently, Ricoh made a lot of cameras for Sears years ago.

I tried using WD40 on some of the interior mechanisms of the camera (DO NOT DO THAT) and now the shutter action is worse than before.  I am probably the least likely person to fix a defective camera.  (Perhaps I can get my friend John interested in this hobby.)

Note:  I gave this camera to a work colleague who’s much better with fixing cameras than I am.  Here’s hoping that Mickey can fix this camera’s shutter problem.

Vivitar, 220, Shop Goodwill, Summer and Fall 2011, 15 and 20 Dollars

Once I purchased two M42 screw mount cameras in the Pentax Spotmatic and the Sears TLS, I obviously needed lenses for them.  Reading about M42 SLR cameras at Matt Denton’s website led me to the Vivitar 400/SL write-up.  Who knew it?  Vivitar actually had good cameras made by Cosina.  One day I thought I saw a Vivitar 400/SL for sale at Shop Goodwill but after I purchased it I realized it was a Vivitar 200/SL.

The Vivitar 200/SL came from Wisconsin but sadly they forgot to include the zoom lens they promised.  I didn’t make a fuss because I had a camera bag, one camera, and two lenses.  Besides, if you purchase from Shop Goodwill you should strive to be gracious, they make little money and support the needy (my opinion).

So I had one Vivitar 200/SL and bought another.  Why?  This second purchase from Shop Goodwill had a camera, two lenses, and the third zoom lens that I wanted in the first place. My two Vivitars work mechanically and the light meter seems to work although I don’t like its quirky left/right red arrow metering system.  They are as yet untested with film.

Vivitar XC-4, Morton Grove, 10 dollars, Summer 2011

This really is the 1st Vivitar camera I purchased (I own four).

In Morton Grove, IL, I was driving garage sales for cameras.  Nice talking to people about cameras.  I’m becoming a used camera consultant for some people.

I remember this camera story clearly.  Suburban home, side drive with things for sale, garage set in back.  Lots of tools for sale.  The man is in his 80’s and he’s a little senile (I hope that’s polite).  His daughter is deep into her fifities, just a little younger than me.  She’s keeping an eye on him, being a good daughter.

I don’t see any cameras at the garage sale but ask the question you should always ask:

Do you have film cameras in your house?

The daughter spoke with her Dad, said yes, and went inside the house.  I watched the garage sale, and her Dad.

When she back outside she had a beautiful black Marsand leather camera case that obviously was still cool from the air conditioned basement.  I opened it up and found a nice looking camera that worked mechanically as it should (aperture and shutter action).  It was well cared for, or so I thought.

I looked at it and thought I didn’t need a Vivitar SLR.  Aren’t they 2nd tier cameras?  It’s not a Canon, Nikon, or even a Pentax.  I asked the daughter how much they wanted for it but she said, “Make an offer.”

I said I think I’ll pass, thanks for showing it to me, and started walking away.  But 15 steps away I turned and came back.  Then I said:

I wasn’t looking for a Vivitar.  I’ll offer you $10 for the camera and the case.

She said yes and I was glad.  It’s a nice camera in a beautiful black Marsand case.  The old man who took such good care of his carpentry tools perhaps took good care of his Vivitar XC-4.  There’s very little written about the Vivitar XC-4 but here’s a brief snippet on the Vivitar XC-2 for your reading.

One roll of film came out badly from the Vivitar XC-4 but I think it was the non-Walgreens pharmacy that had the problem.  I had two rolls of film developed at a store and both rolls of film came out badly.  48 exposures and 6 poorly developed photos.  I am re-testing the camera.

Personally, I refuse to believe that the old retired carpenter from Morton Grove had any bad “tool” in his house.  That includes his Vivitar XC-4.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, 2nd One, 2010, $25

Early in 2010 in my camera collecting I wanted a Yashica GSN.  Then, I came to own two of them.

The problem with a Yashica GSN is normally its battery and possible corrosion.  This camera is untested but I have already tested my first Yashica Electro 35 GSN and have come to enjoy them.  It’s an amazing camera that can take hand held photos like this one with ASA 200 speed by candlelight.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Michael and Carol by Candlight

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Michael and Carol by Candlelight

I sold this camera to my camera friend Mickey for $20.  He shot his first roll of film and was pleased with it.

Yashica FX-3, 15 dollars, Chicago’s Northside, Summer 2012

On my third visit to a junk, antique store the owner accepted my offer.  They had wanted $30 originally but when I offered to purchase two cameras and a lens together they gave me a discount.

It’s an incredibly light camera for being an SLR.  Nice Yashica lens, clean camera body, accurate shutter speeds.  It really looks only a few years old.  I purchased it because it means I can buy a Zeiss lens for it if ever I find a Zeiss lens.

Yashica Lynx 14, 15 dollars, Delevan, Wisconsin, Summer 2011

Delavan, Wisconsin is a nice town that once was the winter home for circuses before Florida was discovered (Ponce De Leon, 1519).  Really, it’s a nice town with nice shops, a wonderful book store, a fine bakery, and a few antique shops.

We come here once a year because my wife and I go to a summer church camp at Lake Geneva for a weekend.

Visiting one antique shop in Delavan I saw the famous “goggle eyed” camera in the glass display case.  Could it be?  Is it really?  Yes, It was the Yashica Lynx 14.  Asking price was 25 dollars.

I don’t like paying full price for old untested cameras.  This camera had some obvious problems (and more to follow).  The case was in horrible shape.  It was missing a rewind crank for the film.  There seemed to be a speck or two on the lens (seems like a tiny fungus).  But the aperture and shutter speeds worked fine.

I showed the owner all the defects and offered him $15.  He took it gladly.

During the summer I made a few repairs to it, cannibalizing my bad Yashica 5000 cameras, put a new battery in it and determined the light meter was not working.  I’ll soon test the Yashica Lynx 14 with my newly acquired Gossen Digisix light meter.  For great information on Yashica rangefinders and the Yashica Lynx 14, visit the Yashica Guy.

Yashicamat 124, 110 dollars, Craigslist Ohio, 2010

In the summer to late fall of 2010 I became a little obsessed with 120 format cameras, especially the Yashica line.

I found this affordable Yashicamat 125 long distance on Craigslist, negotiated a bit with the seller via email, and purchased it.  He said it belonged to his daughter for a photography class.

Visit Karen Nakamura’s Photoethnography website for her write-up on the Yashicamat 124.

I already know a good battery couldn’t bring back the Yashicamat 124’s light metering system.  But it looks like a solid TLR camera.

Zeiss Ikon Nettar, Chicago Estate Sale, 15 Dollars, July 2012

On a weekday drive to Costco I saw a sign for an estate sale and my car veered off the road safely as it normally does.  I do stop for an obvious estate sale.

A quick walk around a table set up in a Chicago back yard brought me to a folding camera:  Zeiss Ikon Nettar.  I checked the mechanisms as best I could and it seemed to work.  They asked $15 and I paid it quickly.

I believe this camera was made in the early 1930’s.  It uses 120 film and is in good condition.  It does seem to have a sticky shutter that works best at 1/75th of a second.  At 1/25th of a second the shutter freezes.  It’s a keeper.

Tested 35mm Film Cameras without Write-Ups

I’ve tested about 30 cameras but most of them aren’t on this website, yet.  Over time, I’ll list them here.

Agfa Optima Ia, Fall 2010, 5 Dollars

Another eBay purchase.  I think it came with 3 other film cameras.  Of the four cameras for $12 (U.S.), three of them worked.

I’m German-American and I think my German genetics kicked in with my interest in the Agfa cameras.  It is a good looking camera that does feel a bit light and plasticy, read CameraSite for more info on it.  My camera came with a beautiful brown leather case.

Here’s a sample photo taken with my Agfa Optima Ia:

Agfa Optima Ia , Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL

There are More Cameras

This blog post is unfinished but that’s OK.  It’s a hobby.  Over time I’ll finish it with all the tested film cameras and tested film cameras with write-ups.

If you’d like to see photos taken with my tested cameras visit my Flickr account.  There are many sample photos there, just without background information.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.

My Olympus OM-1n Review

I wasn’t looking for the Olympus OM-1n, I think it was looking for me.

Olympus OM-1 on Craigslist

Special thanks to Wayne and Jo Ann from near Mount Prospect, IL.  I was malingering on the Internet being sad about being outbid on a Yashica EE rangefinder when I did a daily search on Craigslist.  Today I searched on the word Olympus.

I got lucky.

I emailed the sellers, I’ll buy your Olympus OM-1n, just call me immediately.  They called me and I purchased the camera, two lenses, flash, case, original manuals the next day for $45.  That was a deal for me, hopefully a deal for them.  I hope Wayne and Jo Ann enjoy their move to Florida (best wishes).

Olympus OM-1n – Technical Details has an excellent review of the history of the Olympus OM camera line.

The Camera Site has good technical details on the Olympus OM-1n camera.

Provenance or History

No fancy provenance on this camera, just a short history.

A couple in their 60’s newly retired owned the camera and their daughter was the last person to use it.  But they took care of the camera, two lenses, and flash.  Even the original instruction manuals.  Unfortunately the fake leather case had a tear in it.  But a camera in very good shape.

My Repairs for the Olympus OM-1, None

I certainly didn’t repair the camera but I did spend some time researching the battery problem and driving around trying to resolve the battery problem.

Olympus OM-1n Battery

Yes, you will need to do some footwork to find a good battery replacement for your camera.  They don’t make that mercury battery anymore.  There’s a good discussion of the replacement for the 1.3v mercury battery at  I ended up following this advice.

  1. Purchased a 1.4 v Rayovac battery.  It’s called a Wein cell and I believe its correct identifier is L675ZA-8ZM.  It’s a battery commonly used for hearing aids.  Eight of them in a pack for $10 or $12.  Now I’m rich in batteries I don’t need.
  2. Purchased a #9 O Ring from a hardware store to hold the battery in place in the battery chamber.  It’s called an “O” ring.  Finding it at your large hardware store may not be easy.  It’s only about $2.00 but you need to buy 10 “O” rings so you can use one of them.  A bit wasteful.

(I had a great chat with the Japanese-American staffer deep into his sixties who helped me find the “O” “thingy” at Lowe’s.  He owned a Rolleiflex.  He wasn’t interested in selling.)

How does the Olympus OM-1 feel?

At first it felt disturbingly small, too light.  That’s just because its significantly lighter than my Canon AE-1, Pentax K1000 and other SLR cameras.  But today, pausing to take a few photographs after visiting the dentist’s office in Skokie, my Olympus OM-1 felt nice and light.

There’s something else.  As I photograph with the Olympus OM-1 I have a confidence that the photos will come out well.  How strange is that?  I hope I’m right.

Nice features of the Olympus OM-1.

  1. Light.  Yes, it is light.  But in a good way.
  2. Nice sound.  Not too loud, not too soft, just right when you press the shutter.
  3. Feels good.  When you press the shutter, the camera shake is minimal.  SLR cameras do shake a little but not this one.  The camera shake actually feels like a well made piece of machinery working.

Problems?  Yes.

  1. Shutter speed.  The shutter dial is at the base of the lens.  I’m not used to that.  Seems a bit awkward.  But if Mr. Maitani designed it that way, he had good reasons to do so..
  2. Batteries.  Purchasing a battery and the “O” ring at Lowe’s was a bit of a hassle.
  3. On/Off switch.  The light meter is on or off.  If you forget to turn it off, the battery runs out.

The Olympus OM-1 feels nice on my shoulder and fun to shoot.  I look forward to the result.

Sadly, I now know that the Olympus OM-1n tends to overexpose with my 1.35 v replacement battery.  I did everythng the right way for replacing the battery (Internet instructions).  I need to purchase the original 1.35v mercury battery or not use a battery at all.  The mercury PX625 battery is sold outside the U.S.  If you don’t want to use a mercury battery, just use a light meter.

Olympus OM-1n Sample Photos

Gosh darn it.  Again I made the same mistake I made on my Vivitar camera.  The exposure count was at 2 or 3 and I “assumed” or hoped that there was film in the camera.  So I thoughtfully shot 24 exposures of nothingness.  No film.

Never again.  From now on, I’m just popping open the back of the camera to see if I have film.  No more hoping to get a free roll of film in a camera and wasting photo opportunities.

Repeat after me.

If you think your old camera has some film in it, don’t guess, test it.  Try to turn the film rewind knob clockwise.  If you feel resistance, there’s film in the camera.  If there’s no resistance, no film.

My Second Roll of Film

Even after finding the correct battery for the Olympus OM-1n, the photos consistently came out overexposed.  What a disappointment.  But here goes, you need to see some of them.

Olympus OM-1n, Slightly Overexposed Vineyard Pond

Olympus OM-1n, Slightly Overexposed Vineyard Pond







That photo wasn’t so bad.  A little overexposed but not as bad as I thought when viewed on my home computer.  Apparently your computer or laptop display can trick you into thinking something is overexposed.  But still, it’s overexposed.  Here’s another photo.

Olympus OM-1n Overexposed Ducks

Olympus OM-1n Overexposed Ducks







Sorry, those are geese, not ducks.  But the shot is overexposed.  I was very careful in taking these photos, the meter indicated this was a perfect exposure.  But its washed out.

This is a good photo from my first roll for the Olympus OM-1n, although it is a bit overexposed.

Olympus OM-1n, Ivy Closeup
Olympus OM-1n, Ivy Closeup


I am no longer a purist.  Testing over 30 film cameras has taught me that ultimately, I do want a good photograph from an old camera.  If I owned a film lab I would process my photos for their best possible look.  Since I do not own a lab but do have access to software, I do process my photos.

Here is the Ivy Closeup processed with Picnik’s autoexposure feature.  Do you like it better than the original?

Olympus OM-1n, Ivy Closeup, Picnik Autoexposure

Olympus OM-1n Review – First Actual Roll of Film

Once again, the camera felt great when I used it.  I was almost positive the photos would be great.  I was wrong.

If you purchase a replacement battery that’s not like the original (trying to replace a mercury battery now illegal in the U.S.) for the Olympus OM-1n, you may be disappointed.

As for the photos…

Almost all the photos were over exposed.  My disappointment in the Olympus OM-1n battery problem pushed me to purchase a Gossen Digisix light meter.  Even a great camera like the Olympus OM-1n may need help with its light metering.  I still believe the Olympus OM-1n is a fine camera, but you absolutely need the correct battery to make it work.

Thanks for visiting What is a Film Camera today.