September 2011


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.

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This just in from Lomography dot com. They’ve recently released two new film stocks, the Lomography X Tungsten 35mm and Earl Grey Black & White 120.  Here’s their marketing schtick:

Lomography X Tungsten

Tungsten Tones And X-Pro Powers 35mm/64 ISO

Lomography X Tungsten is a 35mm, 64 ISO color-slide film guaranteed to shock you into excitement with its electrifying personality! Used under the right light conditions, it will wash your photos in blue hues and tones. And things get extra exhilarating when you take X Tungsten over to the parallel universe of cross processing; get ready to experience beautifully vivid colors with that distinct tungsten appeal!

Earl Grey Black & White 120

The Monochrome Earl Is Now Available
in Medium Format! 120/100 ISO

Recently we launched Lomography Earl Grey 35mm and now the Earl has ascended to 120 format too! Lomography Earl Grey 120 is a stunning 100 ISO black and white film, perfect for all your Medium Format Cameras – You’ll get super smooth shots with amazing black, white and grey tones; get yours today!

Now, I already have my favorite B&W film stock, so Earl Grey doesn’t really interest me. I’ll stick to my tried and tested, thank you very much. Lomography X Tungsten. however, is a different case.

Normally I’m not one to mindlessly drink Lomography’s Kool Aid, but X Tungsten is…intriguing. It’s balanced for tungsten light, meaning, the film eliminates the color cast produced by tungsten light upon a subject or scene, say in an indoor shot. If you shoot tungsten-balanced film under different lighting conditions, the colors in your photos take on different qualities.  Shoot tungsten-balanced film outdoors and you’ll get a blue cast in your shadows, for instance. Cross process that and the blues get even deeper.

Now the really intriguing bit for me is the new film’s pricing, US$25.38 per pack of three. Compare that with Fujifilm Fujichrome 64T ISO64 Tungsten-balanced film, priced at US$11.59 per roll, and you’ll see that Lomography’s film comes out cheaper. For a company that is known for its ridiculously overpriced films, that  is a big surprise.

So what’s the catch? Is LXT expired? Is it from some dubious supplier in China? Is there even a catch?

What I definitely would like to know is what film stock is under all of Lomography’s branding. Unlike The Impossible Project, Lomography doesn’t make their own film, so this is for sure a rebadge. If I can identify what the film stock is, then I can get it even cheaper hehe.

I’m not sure when this will hit Team Manila stores here in the Philippines or how much these will cost per box, but hopefully they don’t deviate much from Lomography’s online price. Methinks I’ma gonna try ’em out.

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

When you think about it, enjoying photography is kind of like eavesdropping on a conversation or looking over a stranger’s shoulder to see what he’s reading. It’s through photographs that we gaze at a reality only experienced by the person pressing the shutter button. We see a world we have no right to see, since we weren’t there at that precise place, at that exact time! We are voyeurs, peeping toms, mamboboso.

That Being John Malkovich  feeling, this is mainly why I like reading photography books – collections or portfolios rather than how-tos. It’s also why I like rummaging through old photos in antique stores and why I am always on the lookout for orphaned rolls of exposed film, whether they be undeveloped rolls found in your grandmother’s baul or mystery rolls you find in thrift shops and junk shops.

A couple of weeks ago, while digging through the stuff at my favorite Japanese surplus store, I came across a used Konica C35 EF. The price was right and the camera was in remarkably good condition, but what sealed the deal was my realization that there was still some film inside. The indicator told me five shots had been taken. What could be on those five shots?

I’ve tried my hand with mystery film twice before, with poor results. The first roll, picked up from an antique dealer, came out totally blank. Another roll that came with my Kiev 88 had really bad photos of someone’s leftover spaghetti. I mean, wtf? Maybe the third time’s the charm?

I think so. Here are the results.

Found #1

Found #2

Found #3

Found #4