Gear


Just over two weeks until Valentine’s Day, and if you were wondering what to get your camera-loving significant other for the occasion, then here’s an analog trifecta treat from the folks at Lomography. Three new limited edition cameras, each given a faux animal skin treatment. From left to right: the Fisheye No. 2  Python, the Diana Mini Leopard, and the Diana F+ Zebra.

Animal Appeal

There’s a slight premium tacked on of course. But, then again, you are paying for something quite out of the ordinary. The press release says these are limited to only 2,000 units, but isn’t clear whether that’s 2,000 for each model or all three. In any case, these will still make quite the impression on whomever you’ll gift these to.

What’s your favorite?

Personally, I like the Fisheye 2, with the green adding an almost amphibian quality to the otherwise reptilian case. Plus, it’s the only one among the three I can pull off carrying around.

Fifty years ago, Olympus released the PEN D, a small half frame camera with a brilliant 6-element 32mm Zuiko lens. It had a selenium meter, uncoupled so you wouldn’t have to be a slave to its whims (or be stuck with a dead camera after the selenium went dead). Aperture went from the fast f/1.9 to f/16 at its most narrow, shutter speed from 1/8 to 1/500 a second, including a bulb setting for really slow shutter action. Like the Olympus 35 UC, the PEN D had a clever way of setting exposure, based on EV, which made it easy to maintain proper exposure settings while tweaking aperture-speed combinations. Focus is, like the other PENs (except the PEN F series), by scale focus guesstimation as well.

Of the PEN D, I have two, one with a meter that still works. The other one is easy enough to use via Sunny 16 rule or with a handheld meter. As always, image quality is stellar. Being half frame, the camera gets you 72 shots for a 36-exposure roll, which is great if you’re on a tight budget. The contact prints are just so retro cute.

Thought I’d shoot a bit of camera porn for the fans. For some reason the soundtrack won’t play at 360p, so just play it at 240p or 480p. At 360p you hear the koi pond waterfall in the background.

KOLA Color Filters

I’ve been seeing these or something similar online for the last year or so, and being a Colorsplash fan, I figured I’d get around to buying them soon enough. Soon enough came today as I was doing some Christmas shopping at Fully Booked. I had meant to pick up another Colorsplash flash for a project I’m working on, but they were out of stock.  What they had instead, a new arrival, were these KOLA color filters.

Inside the cute box is a set of eight plastic filters, each one measuring 4cm by 6cm. Unlike the acetate-thin filters you get for the Colorsplash, these KOLAs are thick and sturdy. You string them up with the provided chain, like a set of paint swatches, and they make a comforting clack-clack sound when they hit against each other. KOLAs are designed and manufactured in Thailand.

There are two ways to use them. First, place one (or more) against your camera’s lens, so that the light that enters your lens is tinted with your selected color.Everything in the shot gets the color treatment. Alternatively, you could place the filter over your camera’s flash, for that Colorsplash effect. Only the areas within range of the flash will get painted with a splash of color; everything beyond remains as-is.

You can use KOLAs with most imaging devices, whether they be digital or film, iPhone or Holga. They may be a bit small for some lenses, but I’ve tried them with a 52mm diameter lens and they work just fine.

By the way, KOLA stands for Kolors Of Life Accessories. They don’t seem to have other products, for now at least. But they seem intent to make their own splash in the Colorsplash pond. Check out their website at www.kolastore.com and their Facebook page.

With just a few test shots, I do believe they’ll do a good job, and are thus going into my camera bag. I’ll probably just pick my favorite colors and keep the rest in my camera closet, to keep creative decisions simple, ya know? The price is not bad either; I got my set for about US$14. If you can stand the Christmas traffic, you can get a set from Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street or online from Kara of Lomo Loco. She delivers.

Ricoh R1

Don’t you just love thrift shops and surplus stores? I got this Ricoh R1 from a surplus store I spotted while driving south of Manila. It was on a shelf with some other old instamatics being sold “as-is” and dirt cheap. “Does this work?” I asked the clerk. “We don’t know. That’s why it’s priced that way. We have no batteries for it and no way of testing.”

Think I’d pass up a bet like that? C’mon. You can’t go wrong for (the equivalent of) US$7. I tried to haggle it down further (hah!) but the clerk just smirked at me, “For real?” I forked over the cash.

Went to the nearest mall and found a CR2 battery, which cost about half the price of the camera. That plus a roll of film came out to US$5. Pop the battery in, load the film and pray. Bam! A gift from Amaterasu. Everything worked, except the LCD screen which was a bit wonky. But it got better as the camera’s circuits started remembering how to work. Awe. Some.

Now what is it about the R1 that makes it so special? What makes it stand out from all the other point-and-shoots from the mid-90s?

Forget first that it’s a Ricoh, a camera brand that has established itself as a badge of hipster cool. What’s great about the R1 are its wide angle features. It swaps between two lenses,  depending on your panoramic mode, a 30mm f/3.5 and a 24mm f/8. As was de rigueur during this time (around when Advantix was being touted as the next big thing), camera manufacturers offered “panoramic” shots, which just masked the top and bottom of a frame to give the illusion that your 35mm frame was wider. The Ricoh R1 has the same thing. Which is a good thing, if you like hacking your cameras.

Switching to panoramic mode will deploy top and bottom masks, but some simple grokking and you can prevent that from happening. In panoramic 30mm, this does absolutely nothing (because the end result is exactly the same as normal 4:3 mode. In panoramic 24mm, however, the results will make you grin a panoramic grin.

This Ricoh’s 24mm lens wasn’t designed to be used full-frame. The masks were there to crop out the vignetting and loss of sharpness caused by the quality of the lens. With the masks out of the way, these “imperfections” shine through. You can read more about this, and how to do it yourself, here and here.

Tomorrow I’ll have the first roll back from the lab. I am crossing my fingers and praying once again to the gods of Nippon that they smile upon me, shower me with good shots and all that jazz. Will post shots soon.

Cheers.

Give it up for the Olympus XA

Today I say goodbye to my Olympus XA, which, at this moment, is winging its way to its new owner. I rather liked that camera, the smallest rangefinder I’ve come across. Like the Olympus PENs and OMs, the XA (and its siblings the XA1, 2, 3 and 4) was designed by legendary camera designer Yoshihisa Maitani. It was an iconic design in both aesthetic and technological terms that would make it one of the most sought-after film compacts even to this day. While it may have had its share of wear (from a previous owner), the XA was an impressive performer, and gave me some really good shots.

If I liked it so much, why did I sell it? To keep my inventory low, for one. I just have too many cameras lying around and too little time to make my way through each one. Also, the XA was designed for someone with finesse in their fingers. My hands are big clumsy things hah. Perhaps if I find one in mint condition, I can get another one for my collection. But only when I have more shelf space.

For now I think I shall stick to my PENs. At least with those compacts I’m not all thumbs.

Olympus XA gets downright moody

Lomography's Candy-Colored Cameras

Following the launch of the four-edition La Sardina wide angle tin can cameras, the Lomographic Society has just released its Sprocket Rocket Superpop editions. Available in lemon yellow, cornflower blue, day-glo orange and gang green, the Superpops join the basic black and the special edition white Sprocket Rockets.

While I prefer my cameras not to scream “Steal me!” or “I’m a fuckin’ hipster,” I can understand the appeal, as these are marketed to younger kids who want to try their hand at experimenting with film. The Sprocket Rocket, as you might know, is a wide angle 35mm film camera which is designed for multiple exposure, its two spools capable of forward or reverse winding. As the name implies, it exposes the entire area of your frame, including the sprocket holes.

It is also known as the Bane of One-Hour Photo Labs Everywhere.

Hurray for squiddy goodness!

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