Sunday, March 23, 2008

Second First Impressions

So I had some free time this weekend and decided to use it to revisit my old friends in the closet, my camera collection. I went through as many as I could, removing stale batteries and exercising the lenses and shutters. In the process I discovered a few things, and was struck with what I can only call 'second first impressions' of some cameras that I haven't used for a while:

Discovery #1 -- old hearing aid batteries (1.3v replacements) can leak and leave a crystalline residue in your battery chamber. Easily cleaned with a damp cloth but good to know.

Discovery #2 -- it's a good idea to exercise the shutter of any old camera before loading it with film and taking it out for a spin, just to make sure it's in shape and up to speed. There were a few that were sluggish for the first few frames and got better quickly.

Discovery #3 -- there's simply never enough space. Shocker, I know!

Some quick standout impressions of some of my neglected friends:

Konica Autoreflex AC, light and impressively compact, the compact 40mm makes this a great package.
Konica Autoreflex T3, a solid picture taking machine.
GAF Memo, super-compact dark horse of a shooter.
Kiev 4, just f'n cool, so silent and smooth and stylish.
FED 2e quirky and cool, heavy.
Minolta SRT101, maybe the smoothest shutter release of the mechanical cameras.
Vivitar 400/SL ah what memories we made together. Nice solid workhorse.
Sears/Ricoh TLS, slightly primitive classic classic. Heavy!
Prakticas, KA-CHUNK.
Olympus Trip 35, so cute, understated easy shooter.
Ricoh 500G, Vivitar 35ES, Canonet GIII, Olympus 35RC (forgot I had that one!) what can I say, all great tight little packages, all good shooters.
Konica Auto S2, the Cadillac of rangefinders, almost too nice to use. Big.
Yashica Electro 35, which I have too many of, you wouldn't know to look at it that it could take the pictures it does.
Agfa Isolette, Franka Solida, Moskva-5, solid shutters (especially the M-5) and classy well engineered packages.
Kodak Retina 1a, a thing of beauty and a true marvel of engineering. Jaw dropping precision action.
Walz Walzflex, very nice action for a relative unknown.
and Argus A, who couldn't like that little art deco classic.

That's the off-the-top-of the head standout list, I have other ones around that I didn't touch but I was so impressed at some of these I just had to give them a little shout out.

I did take an Electro 35 out for a spin down to Ghirardelli Square, we'll see how those pics come out. You know, 'cause I'm rusty and all.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How could I forget?

As most featured museum exhibits will, the Annie Leibovitz exhibit ended in the Legion of Honor gift shop. Where, much to my surprise, amongst the photography books and clever albums were a flock of Diana and Holga cameras for sale! Lomo apparently has taken over manufacture (and marketing) of these cameras. I remember when you couldn't find a Diana anywere, and here was a stack for $36 apiece. The Holgas (flash model) were way too expensive for some reason, $67? What? For that price I'd go get the extra special White Stripes edition. Still fun to see that they're still out there!


Monday, March 10, 2008


Last week a friend and I went to the Legion of Honor to see the new exhibit by one of my all-time favorite portrait/fashion photographers, Annie Leibovitz. It was an extremely well curated exhibit, which is not something I'm used to noticing or saying, and of course the photos were phenomenal. I forgot that Annie has mad photojournalism skillz in addition to being one of the great portrait photographers. Her private candids show another side to that insight you glimpse through the portraits. The end of the exhibit that chronicles the death of her longtime companion Susan Sontag, then the death of her father, then the birth of her second and third children, one of whom she named Susan, was particularly moving. And of course the portraits are amazing to see up close and in person. If you're in the area I highly recommend a trip.

I knew but had forgotten that the Legion of Honor itself is not only by far the best museum in San Francisco, it's on par with the great museums of the world. The collection of Rodin sculptures are better displayed there than even the Rodin museum in Paris. Walking through the courtyard was the first time in a while I wished I had a camera with me, but I hadn't known ahead of time that we were going to be able to go. Another day!