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The Tavern in Mansfield MA, c1910

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...

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Argus argoflex ‘Forty’ review

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...

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Canon AE-1 Program ad from 1981

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 …

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Kodak Pony II review

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!

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At the home of the Kodak, in 1891

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.'

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Minolta Freedom Zoom 160 Date Review

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.  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...

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Agfa Record III 105mm F/4.5 Solinar review

Our review camera for this week is the Agfa Record III; a classic 1950s 6x9 self erecting folder featuring an uncoupled rangefinder, and a four element lens.  This is my favorite camera, and I've taken more pictures with it than any other camera except maybe my old Canon A-1 I used back in the 1980s.

I really like the fact that it's very compact when folded; it'll fit in the back pocket of your jeans, or in a jacket pocket.  These old folders take no batteries, they're fully manual; you advance the film, focus, set the aperture and shutter speed; then cock and press the shutter!  Thankfully, the camera uses widely available 120 film, and any good photo shop should charge you about the same amount as your 135 film for processing, scanning and printing.

Believe it or not; this Agfa Record III with Solinar lens will come close to the resolution of the...

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