Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ask Doctor Wally

(From this month's Wheel Issues)

Doctor Crankset

I am writing to you, sir, on the occasion of my 75th birthday. I've ridden bicycles all my life and in all that time I've never encountered a bigger buffoon or more despicable charlatan than you. Your so-called advice to cyclists is less than worthless and will no doubt make you liable under the law. Your actions will bring about a greater level of animosity between cyclists and motorists. Anyone with a modicum of sense knows that cyclists are to give way to motor traffic at all times. In my days on the police force, I would have given you a good thrashing. But times have changed, unfortunately. I look forward to the day the authorities lock you up for the good of our community. You, sir, are a fraud.

G. Brinton Matherwhyte III


Gosh, Brinton, you left out the words 'bounder' and 'cad.' Surely it's a mere oversight. As hate mail goes, this is fairly tepid. There's usually tons more profanity, a death threat or two, and I'm often described in more earthy terms.

But if I understand the point of your message, it's that by riding my bicycle as if it were any other vehicle, I'll somehow bring down the wrath of the motoring gods upon my head.

Hmmmm. Brinton, I've been riding like this for over thirty years. I can count on one hand the altercations I've had with motorists - and that's about the same as anyone driving a car lawfully and responsibly. I ride assertively, which is not the same as riding aggressively. I stop for traffic lights and ride in a straight line in the right hand tire track. That's not rocket science, Brinton, it's what works to make riding far less stressful.

You don't believe me, obviously, so here's an experiment you can perform. Find an arterial street with two lanes in each direction. Ride your bike in the right hand lane, solidly in the right hand tire track. That should put about a third of the lane to your right and two thirds to the left. Maintain a straight line without wobbling. Do it for a couple of blocks, maybe half a mile. You'll discover that motorists change lanes to pass you, just as they would any other slow moving vehicle.

Try it, Brinton old lad, and you just may like it!

Dr. Wally


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Favorite photos

Much as I like tinkering with old cameras, the ultimate test is the photos they produce. With that in mind, I'm going to post some of my favorites here. This one is from last year, taken sometime before Christmas with a Yashica GSN that I gave to a friend as a gift. It was the first test roll through the camera, and I was impressed with the quality of the images. Since then, I've purchased a Yashica GT, another GSN that will belong to Lyndsay shortly, and an MG-1 that will go to another friend.

Earlier this evening, I bought a broken Olympus XA on Ebay for ten dollars. According to the seller, the film advance is jammed. I have another one that I dropped and it's sitting in the parts box, so I'm hoping that between the two I can get one complete camera working. We'll see.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Hawaiian shirts

These are some detail photos from various Hawaiian shirts in my closet. Now, a purist (if there is such a thing) may not strictly consider all of them as Hawaiian shirts, but from my casual perspective, they fit because they're uniformly LOUD! The pattern above - tuna wearing sunglasses, is on the only cotton shirt, and it's from Colombia Sportswear.

Yes. Spongebob. According to my son, he's very educational. "Watch what Spongebob does, and then don't DO that!" he says.

Fish. Mary hates fish, but she bought this shirt for me. It must be love.

Flowers - big blue ones, on a shirt that wrinkles easily even though it's synthetic.

Mmmmm. Beer!

Flowers and motorcycles. Somehow, I don't think it would fit well in a biker bar.

More flowers.

My Hawaiian co-worker identified these once, but I can't remember what they're called.

Mmmmm. Spider man.

More big, loud flowers.

Our management recently sent out a memo advising us that the only acceptable shorts for use on the maintenance base are navy blue uniform shorts with or without the company logo. Many of us have been wearing cargo shorts because we can carry more in them, but they're no longer acceptable. The guys in the hangars wear what I call 'aviation chic" - T-shirt, baseball cap, work gloves, cargo shorts, and steel-toed boots, sometimes with knee protectors for working inside aircraft. But now we have to present a more 'professional' appearance. So I'm wearing blue uniform shorts with loud Hawaiian shirts. I truly look professional!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I could only shake my head...

On Saturday, I went to the Tulsa Flea Market which was held at the Rose Bowl along old Route 66. I looked for old cameras, old photos, and a few other odds and ends. The Rose Bowl is smaller than the usual venue at the Fair Ground, so I wouldn't expect it to be a long-term substitute. Regardless, it's an interesting building, more than a bit worn down by time.

Sure enough, I found a table with some old cameras. They were beyond being merely dusty. They were encrusted in dirt, like something stored in a garage next to the lawn mower and weed eater for many years. So of course, I found something of interest!

Maybe it's a kind of bad karma. Maybe I did something bad in a previous life, and I get to be tormented in this one. But lying there on the table was another Konica Auto S2, filthy enough that with the addition of a little water, it could sprout grass seed from all the caked on dirt. I looked through the viewfinder, but in all honesty, I could see better with a thumb stuck in my eye. All the parts were there, but the film advance wouldn't budge. Sigh. Another dead camera.

The price tag said $42.50!

Are these people insane? Is there some lucrative broken camera market that I don't know about? I offered $10 but the seller wouldn't consider it! I wouldn't make an offer unless I had another camera for parts, and I do. Maybe it was the Rose Bowl. Maybe it was the proximity to Route 66. Maybe this woman just tumbled off the turnip truck from the planet Trafalmadore where turnips are more precious than diamonds and a broken camera is priceless. She acted as if I'd spit on her shoes. Maybe next time I will. It could be the highest compliment on her planet.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Digital or film?

There's an interesting discussion of digital photography versus film photography over on Boing Boing focused on a commercial targeted at older people who may be averse to new technology. Frankly, I don't care if the Vivitar commercial is real or merely a clever satire. But the comments are revealing. I'm willing to bet that many of the commenters have little experience with film since the balance of opinion seems to come down on the side of digital photos.

I'm not going to discuss the pros and cons of each technology. If you're interested in that sort of thing please go read that long string of comments. But it did make me wonder why I'm so fascinated with old film cameras. I use both digital and film processes, but it seems I use them for different things.

I almost always have a digital point-and-shoot in my pocket. Actually, today I have two: an Olympus FE-320 that does excellent macro shots, and a Canon A590IS that does burst photos and will save in RAW format. Both are 8 megapixel cameras.

I carried a Yashica MG-1 today in addition to those two digital cameras. The MG-1 is a simplified version of the Electro series with a 45mm f2.8 lens rather than the f1.7. I'm running the first roll of film through it since I cleaned the rangefinder and installed new seals. I'll know more in a few days.

One appealing aspect of digital photography is the instant gratification and instant feedback that can hasten the learning process. If you understand the three way balance between aperture, shutter speed, and film speed, you're going to have little difficulty using either digital or film cameras. There's no contest when it comes to size and weight. That Olympus FE-320 is smaller than a pack of cigarettes while the Yashica Electro is Godzilla by comparison.

So what's the appeal of a heavy, bulky 35mm rangefinder that's over 30 years old - ancient technology by today's standards? First, let's talk about focus. The autofocus in my little point and shoot is usually good, but in low light it's not always accurate, and given the small size of the screen, it's sometimes difficult to determine if a shot was in focus. The Yashica, on the other hand, makes focus easy, even in low light or with my glasses. I rarely have out of focus shots with it unless I'm hurried.

One other aspect of an old, apparently obsolete camera is that people don't take it seriously. (That's beside the fact that I often wear those loud Hawaiian shirts that make me look like a tourist!) People aren't as wary of old 'amateur' cameras where they may be more guarded when a big DSLR is pointed in their direction. That's equally true of tiny point and shoot cameras too, but I expect that will change as more mirrorless digital cameras come into the market.

I have film processed in the mini-lab at our local Drug Warehouse. They give me both prints and a CD with scanned copies of my photos. The jpegs are roughly 5 megs apiece. I think that would be equivalent to a sensor of 10 or 12 megapixels, but that's a guess. Still, I couldn't find an electronic camera equivalent to that for the same price as one of the Yashicas.

Finally, I just enjoy tinkering with these old cameras. Cleaning and repairing them is as fascinating as using them, but then I've always been fascinated by shiny mechanical objects. I enjoy reading and learning about them too. The ultimate test, though, is always the photos they produce. I'd like to become a better photographer, and I expect that will be a longer, more difficult task regardless of the choice of equipment.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Konica Auto S2 update

A neighborhood cat taking up residence on our porch.

The first roll of film through this camera was wasted. It was an old roll that a co-worker had given to me, and apparently it was exposed to high heat for a very long time. The negative was entirely magenta. I was worried, of course, that one of the light seals I'd installed was bad, so I gave the camera a careful inspection before loading another test roll. This one came out much better, as you can see.

Storm clouds over 76th Street.

Some of these were taken using a Minolta Autometer IIIf to determine exposure. Yes, I know the meter is worth more than the camera! Some were taken using the camera's auto exposure. I took two of this locomotive, and to be honest, I can't see a difference between the manual and the auto exposure.

The Konica has a depth of field scale as does the Yashica Electro series. That can make the camera almost a point-and-shoot model if there's enough light. The Canon Canonet doesn't have a scale, but it's definitely smaller and lighter than either of the others.

Tally's Cafe, Tulsa. Portrait by window light.

In the full size original, there's a tremendous amount of detail. I like shooting by window light but it can be a trial for both the film and the lens. Oh, this is some guy from Texas.

Some guy from Oklahoma wearing a LOUD Hawaiian shirt.

Like I said, when you use the depth of field scale, you can guesstimate the range and still get good photos. Just be thankful that more of the Hawaiian shirt isn't showing, especially if you haven't eaten yet. Thousands of years from now, someone will dig this thing up from a landfill and say, "Dang, this shirt still looks like new! But whoever wore it had lousy taste!"


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Konica Auto S2

I managed to repair the Konica Auto S2 that I fumbled a couple of months ago. The impact broke off the wind lever, leaving a broken threaded stub down inside the shaft that winds the film. The photo above is from the donor camera. The top end of this shaft has the frame counter assembly, and it's possible to remove this as a unit.

These are the two springs that have to be detensioned and moved. The small one around that brass screw in the corner is attached to a lever that resets the counter when the camera back is open. It has to be moved in order to get to that larger coil spring around the shaft. You can just see the end of it hooked around the casting behind that brass screw.

The frame counter has been removed. There are just two screws holding it in place, and from this view you can see the two springs very well.

This is the bottom of the camera. That large screw on the right holds the bottom end of the film winding shaft. The big U-shaped spring on the left has to be removed, as well as the small circlip next to the end of the shaft. Then the brass retainer can be bent back and the big screw on the shaft will come out. It's a very thin slotted fastener, however, and it would be very easy to strip. If I did this regularly, I'd make a dedicated screwdriver just for this task. I very nearly gorfed this one.

Reassembly is fairly easy. Just watch for clearances and see that you retract some of the mechanisms to get the shaft installed. It's not rocket science. Just work slowly and carefully being careful not to force anything.
Here's a 'while-you're-at-it' job. The dustcover over the rangefinder is held on with a screw, not glued on like the Canon Canonet or Yashica Electro. Take out that single screw and you have access to the beam splitter.

In the full size shot, you can actually see some of the crud on the back side of that beam splitter - the diagonal piece of glass across the width of the rangefinder. I used a bit of cotton held in a pair of tweezers for cleaning because a Q-tip is too large. I used a lens cleaning solution from my eye doctor because I know from experience that it won't damage anything. This is another spot to work slowly and carefully, because you don't want to scratch anything.

All in all, I'm impressed with the Konica. It offers both automatic and manual operation much like the Canon Canonet. And the viewfinder is much brighter than either the Canonet or the Yashica Electro. But the most critical thing is how the lens performs. That will probably be something to investigate this weekend.

By the way, all these macro shots are from a refurbished Olympus FE-320. It has a macro and "super macro" that focuses as close as 2 inches. And it's roughly half the size of my Canon A590IS.