Welcome to Photo Jottings! Feel free to browse the site; there’s a lot of stuff here, so starting with the site guide may be a good idea. Film lovers can start with my film camera reviews and scanned negatives here and here. For all my Minolta and Sony lens reviews, go here. Use the search box for past homepage posts and product reviews that may not show up in the pages above.
Welcome to a very early look at the upscale Crocker Highlands development, just east of Oakland, California. High Society folks living here now describe the development as 'a neighborhood that overflows with an abundance of character and charm, and exhibits a genteel ambiance of an old Hollywood movie set.' Crocker Highlands offers elegant examples of Tudor, Spanish, Arts and Crafts, Beaux Arts, and Art Deco period homes.
Zeroing in on the actual location is a bit tricky. I see...
Our review camera for today is the compact Minolta Freedom III; featuring a quartz date back, AF, auto loading, advance and rewind; along with a nice 35mm F/2.8 lens. The 'Freedom' line from Minolta were wildly popular during the 1980s, and competed with the similar Canon and Nikon offerings of the day. This camera came out in 1986 along with three other 'Freedom' models; see a goofy wild west themed period ad here.
The fully automatic Minolta Freedom III (AF-Z) was at the top of the Freedom line, and fairly expensive back in the day. So will it still take good pictures today? Let's find out now...
Here's a sample image from a roll of 122 film, taken in front of 'The Tavern' in Mansfield Massachusetts sometime around 1910 according to literature that came with the negative. 'The Tavern' was a Hotel and Restaurant built by Walter Lowney, who years earlier built a chocolate factory down the street, so in this scene the photographer may have been smelling baking brownies while taking the picture! There isn't much online information of 'The Tavern' in Mansfield, MA, so it's probably not there anymore; and likely followed a lot of other wood framed buildings from the era and burned to the ground 'suddenly during the night.'
This picture is a good example of the kind of quality you could get with a simple folding pocket camera over a century ago...
The Argus argoflex Forty is one of the very best of the pseudo TLR 6x6 box cameras, and the best one I've used so far. This little gem is from 1950, and the model production years for the "Forty" ranged from 1950-1954. Oddly, Argus describes the camera in the owner's manual as a 'modified' twin lens type, with a 'built-in flash'---a big negatory on both claims.
The argoflex Forty has a lot of useful (and high-end) features such as; focusing lens, nine blade iris with six marked settings, four shutter speeds with bulb, tripod socket, and shutter cable release. And the best part; it will work just fine with 120 film as long as you use a 620 take-up spool...
Here are four full page ads from Canon promoting their SLR line, with two pages dedicated to the new high tech ‘programmed’ AE-1 Program. The reason this ad caught my eye is that I bought one new in 1983 with the kit 50/1.8 lens; I think it was about $200; a short time later I added the Canon FD …
Today we head back to late 1950s for a review of the Crapsey designed Kodak Pony II. This rather mundane camera has a simple one speed shutter, zone focusing, multiple apertures to choose from, a good Kodak Anastar four element lens, (supposedly loaded with radioactive thorium dioxide), and uses commonly available 135 type film, so it should be an easy camera to get good pictures from, even in poor shape.
The little black plastic Pony II was produced from 1957-1962 and was one of the simplest and least expensive 'Pony' cameras in the series. A couple of odd features on this version include a tripod socket, even though it has a single speed shutter and no bulb or long exposure modes; and of course the camera uses the dreaded 'Exposure Value' system, (popular back then), in which you set the aperture using information from an exposure card on the back of the camera that matches your film type. It was a confusing way to figure out the proper exposure, but it did work if you followed the instructions. A step up from the 'II' version is the 'IV,' which features a four speed shutter with bulb mode, traditional F/stop markings, and an accessory shoe.
The Kodak Pony II cameras are plentiful and relatively inexpensive on ebay, and also at garage sales and flea markets. The review model here is in excellent condition and working order, so let's take some snaps and see what happens!
Beware invading armies; the Kodak is more to be dreaded than a dynamite gun!!
Check out the Kodak advertising supplement that appeared in Harper's November 1891 magazine edition. It's six pages long, and filled with quaint descriptions of scenes from a bygone era. The timing of the ad in November suggests it was targeting the upcoming Christmas season, but I don't think gift giving was all the rage back then as it has become in more recent decades, so maybe it's just a coincidence.
Anyhow, it's a good read and a neat peek into the dawn of amateur photography; back when there were no automobiles or airplanes. Kodak was able to claim that during war, 'a view of the countryside can be had for many miles around, and the movements of the army can be detected long before the action begins. In this direction, the Kodak may become an instrument 'more to be dreaded than a dynamite gun.'
Minolta produced some really nice film cameras back in the day, and the Freedom Zoom 160 is no exception. This camera is surprisingly small and lightweight for having such a large zoom range, which makes is very pocketable, and close to being as tiny as the Olympus XA! Main features include a zoom range of 37.5-160mm, earth shattering high tech auto focus, (really, read the next paragraph!), auto loading, film advance, rewind, self timer, flash, auto parallax correction, and even a +1.5 exposure compensation setting!
The Minolta Freedom Zoom 160 came out near the end of the film camera era, (around 2001), so it had a lot of sophisticated features that we take for granted today, such as predictive AF, eyepiece sensor metering/AF activation, and flash distance integration to name a few. In fact, Minolta claimed in a 2001 business ad the camera had: the world's largest AF area in a film camera -- the world's first film camera with subject detection -- the world's first compact camera with matrix AF indication and automatic LED brightness control -- advanced subject-weighted multi-segment metering -- eye start, a 32-bit RISC processor, and a high-speed AF drive creating the world's fastest focusing compact camera in its class.
All that sounds pretty cool, but how well does the camera actually work in real life? let's find out now!