Monday, January 25, 2016

A Very Different Rolleiflex - SL2000F - My Latest Passion

So several weeks back, I went to meet my good friends Charlie and Alain for a photo outing. Charlie and I were discussing settings for his new Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 when Alain walked up with this beauty.
Rolleiflex SL2000F and Planar 50mm f1.8 Lens
Now, I admit that I'm pretty passionate about cameras. Passionate, but generally careful. When I realized that this was a 35mm Rolleiflex, with both eye-level and waist-level finders built in, interchangeable lenses (Rollei QBM mount), and interchangeable film backs, well, that was it. I had to have it. I'd never seen anything like it. No looking it up online, no research at all, had to have it. I bought it right then, in the parking lot. Alain was nice enough to part with it for the price he paid. Here it is with the matching Sonnar 135mm f2.8 lens.
Driving away after our day out shooting, I thought "What have I done?" A dead lens mount (the QBM is no longer made anywhere), electronic (not quiet) advance only (no manual override), maybe I should have been a little more cautious. But, just look at it. So, I smiled and drove on home.
Then, just as soon as I got home, I started looking for information on this beauty online. Oh, no! Everywhere I looked were warning signs - electronic failure, no spare parts, DO NOT BUY THIS CAMERA! Well, it gave me pause, but again, just look at it. I decided to take my chances and just plain use it.
This camera is a total blast to use. Something between a Rolleiflex TLR and a 35mm SLR system camera, it's just plain wonderful.
And then, I found out even more that I liked - a Rollei-made auto-aperture adapter to mount M42 lenses! This immediately expanded my lenses from the Planar 50 and Sonnar 135 to my wider set of Pentax M42 lenses, including a 28mm f2.8 no-namer, 35mm f3.5 Super Takumar, 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar(!), 200mm f4 Takumar, and even a Yashica 300mm f5.6 telephoto. Lots to play with.
So what about all of this concern for reliability? Well, I could either try to find someone to service the SL2000F if needed, or think about spares. I determined that a spare body was the best approach. So, I picked up a Rollei SL35 (earliest model SLR) for $35 on ebay. Yes, it needed a little exercise, but now it works fine. Here it is with the Pentax 35mm mounted via adapter.
Rollei SL35 and Pentax Super Takumar 35mm f3.5
Of course, I also started a followed search on ebay for a second SL2000F body. Pretty slim pickings, as these cameras are pretty rare. But, within a couple of weeks, I found a fully-functional SL2000F listed in Germany, with another M42 adapter, Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f2.8 M42 lens, two film backs, the very difficult to find electronic wired remote shutter release, and, even rarer, the dedicated Metz flash and Rollei flash adapter, built specifically for the SL2000F. And at a great price. I emailed the German seller with a few questions, and went for it. The second camera is now here and appears to be fully functional.
So, now I'm really deep into these cameras, but loving every minute of it. And, to calibrate it a little, still have less invested than the cost of a single high quality DSLR body.
So, how does it work? Like a dream. Here are a few images from the first SL2000F body, shot on a recent road trip down to Asheville, NC.
The lenses are plenty sharp. Everything seems to work very well. No electronic problems, even though I had a few scares at first. Based on reports online of AA batteries being too high voltage for the camera (they fit), I took others' advice and ordered some rechargables and they work perfectly. I chose Panasonic Eneloop batteries, and highly recommend them.
More importantly, this camera just fits me perfectly. It truly feels at home in my hands. I love being able to use the waist-level finder when I want, more often the eye-level finder, without changing any parts. I love that it's 35mm. I love the lenses, both Rollei and M42. I love a lot about this camera.
So, I'm glad that I didn't make time to be more rational about this purchase. If I had, I would not have bought it, based on all the warning signs online. I'm glad I bought it, and feel quite fine now with a spare body, just in case.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Some Half-Frame Shots - Canon Demi EE17

Well, apparently I have still not gotten over my obsession with shooting lots of different cameras and formats. My last two posts have been from the large film end, 6x9 medium format in the Fuji GW690. Before that, I posted some shots from the smallest film format camera that I currently own , a half-frame Canon that I picked up by chance. (Click Here) to see my previous post on that camera. Here are some color shots from the Demi.
It's fun making diptychs (picture pairs) with half-frame cameras. Here's an example.
And now, I've bought a second half-frame camera, which I'll write about later. And that's not all, but enough for now.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Two More From the Fuji GW690II

Adding to my last post, with two more 6x9 medium format images from Jones Gap State Park in South Carolina.
This is a detail shot of the water at my feet . To give an idea of the scale, I'd say the rock at top was about six feet away. I love the deep darkness and blue cast in the water
This image didn't appeal to me at first, but I've grown to appreciate it.
Both were shot on Kodak Portra 400. No filters were used.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Fuji GW690II - Monster Rangefinder Medium Format Camera

Over the holidays, this camera popped up at KEH ( at an unbelievably low price.
Fuji GW690 II
A Fuji GW690II, this big beast shoots 6x9 negatives on 120 medium format film. The camera is in KEH's "BGN" (bargain) condition, which as usual means that it's fully functional. This particular camera has a few bumps and scratches, but the shutter counter has a low number, and the lens glass is just plain perfect.
I've long been a fan of Fuji's optics, and enjoy their medium format rangefinder cameras. I used to have the earlier version BL690, which had interchangeable lenses. The GW690II has a fixed 90mm f3.5 lens, and it's a beauty.
This is a big, heavy camera. In my opinion, it's best on a tripod.
Here's a shot from my first roll shot in the camera, on Kodak Portra 400.
The detail in this image is incredible. I've made an 8x12 working print. Next stop, 12x18!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year 2016!

It is one of my favorite family traditions - Japanese Osechi Ryori on New Year's Day. Hope everyone has a perfect 2016!