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Film Cameras

Canon Snappy 30 review

I bought this weeks review camera brand new in 1989; it was a K-Mart blue light special blister-pack model and I think I paid about $45 for it.  I wanted to take some pictures of a house I was renovating, and did not have any other camera available.  At the time I thought I'd take a few rolls of what I needed, toss it in the drawer, and eventually it'd head to a garage sale or dumpster.  When I bought it way back then I didn't think I'd be using it almost 30 years later.  I still get a kick out of running a roll through it every once in a while; the technical image quality is pretty good, about the same as a top line $900 cell phone camera, but much quicker and easier to operate, and a whole lot less expensive; pick up a nice copy on ebay for less than $10, or even less at a garage sale.

Oddly, I can't seem to find a single page of information...

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Spartus Spartaflex review

Our next camera up for review is the Spartus Spartaflex, where their famous marketing line is "you see the picture before you take it."  Of course all cameras have some sort of way to view the picture before you take it, but Jack Galter of the Spartus Camera Corporation was not shy about questionable marketing, and he even tried to register the name "Kodak" for his new line of cigarette lighters with the US Trademark association.

This item was yet another ebay impulse buy, and fortunately I got lucky and ended up with a nice working copy.  The Spartus Spartaflex was made in Chicago Ill, around the late 1940s to early 1950s and priced at $27.50 with flash in 1949.  When looking online for more info, I noticed it looks like there are at least three different iterations of this model through the years; the differences are mostly in the face plate and lens shapes and finishes.

The Spartaflex is a relatively well build plastic "box" type camera, with a waist level viewfinder and a coupled taking and viewing lens, which, by the way, means this is a real twin lens camera, not a pseudo type like this one.   You can actually see the focus change in the finder as you move the lens in and out, but getting perfect focus is another story since there is no magnifier to use on the unusually dim ground glass.  It uses readily available 120 film, and takes 12 6x6 pictures per roll.

Spartus made some pretty dubious claims...

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Fuji GA645W Review

The Fuji GA645W was a very modern and expensive camera for the professional photographer, or rich amateur back in the mid to late 1990s. This particular model has a wide angle lens, and covers about the same as a 28mm lens in 135 format.  There are two versions in this series, a wide angle as we have here, and a slightly longer version of 60mm, which covers about the same as 37mm in 135 format.  Both are very high quality fixed lens medium format cameras that are feature rich, including full manual operation, and fully automated controls for quick point and shoot snap shots.  And a side note here before I forget; with all the advanced features, I expected a lens cap warning device; but no, if you leave the lens cap on, the camera works fine, but you get no pictures(!)  A couple years later, Fuji introduced a new model (GA645Zi) with a 55-90mm zoom lens, which does have a cap detector.

People looking to step up to medium format from an automated 35mm camera like the Nikon 35Ti will love the simplicities of the Fuji GA645 models, they both function basically the same, of course size being another matter.  So you don't know how to meter light, no problem, the camera does that for you.  And you don't know how to focus rangefinder cameras, no problem, its auto focus system is very accurate, and there's no rangefinder to fiddle with.  Do you like to write down your exposure settings for future use; well, you can keep your pencil in your pocket, the camera records the date and exposure settings along the film margins, not in the picture area...

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Die Klassische Evolution, Contax Tix review

The Contax Tix was a super expensive "boutique" APS film camera that came out around 1997.  I doubt there were many, (or any other) APS cameras that were more expensive than this one.   Based on the hang tag of 120,000; street cost would have probably been about $999.   A premium 35mm camera would've cost about the same amount, like this one.

The presentation case for the Contax Tix is so nice you would think it contained the Hope diamond.  Rich people bought this camera for vacation snaps when it first came out.  Starting around 2000 and later, digital cameras started taking a serious bite out of the film business , and the price dropped enough so middle class folks could afford a very nice sub-compact film camera.  Unfortunately, a few years later, the film would no longer be made, and you wound up with a nice paper weight for your desk.  It's too bad because the Contax Tix is very small and convenient, with a lot of premium features and a really sharp Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens.

The Contax Tix is a sub-compact film camera, and uses APS film which has not been manufactured since around 2010-11...

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Kodak Duaflex IV camera review

Today's review camera is the Kodak Duaflex IV, with the Kodar F/8 lens, it was the last iteration of the Duaflex line that started in 1947, and ended about 1960.  There are two basic versions of this camera, one with a standard 'miniscus' lens (called 'Kodet'), and the other with a more expensive 'Kodar' F/8 lens with front cell focusing.

These fake twin lens reflex cameras sold like hotcakes back in the day when super expensive Rolleiflexes were all the rage for pro photographers, and everybody wanted one so they could take better pictures...sound familiar?  Instead of paying close to a grand for a Rollei, you paid 25 bucks for the Duaflex with F/8 Kodar lens.  Well, you didn't get the image quality of the Rollei, but the Duaflex Kodar was actually pretty good, especially if you didn't print large photos.

So let's step back to ca1957 and take some snapshots with a cool fake TLR camera.  A time when cigarettes were actually good for you, flying cars and personal helicopters were right around the corner, and you could walk in a showroom and pick out a nice turquoise '57 Chevy Bel Air with fuel injection!!

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Kodak Star 535 Review

Ever wonder what it's like to take pictures with a really awful 35mm camera from the early 1990s?  Well wonder no more, and even better, I'll save you the $5 you would've spent finding out!

The Kodak Star 535 was a budget friendly camera, one that you would normally find at K-Mart or Walmart.  Most of the time it came in a blister pack with a roll of film and some batteries.  Unbelievably, the retail price for this thing was $75 back in 1992!  That seems way too high for the image quality of this camera, however it did have some nice automatic features.

If you're bored at work, and looking to blow five minutes, head over to the review...

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Olympus 35 SP review

At first glance, the Olympus 35 SP appears to be just another compact rangefinder camera from the early 1970s with a simple auto exposure system, full manual controls, and ghost image rangefinder focusing, just like all the rest in this price range.  Everything says 'boring' when you pick up the camera and do a hand-held inspection.  Yes, the build quality and mechanics are good, however, it's easy to miss the very best part of the camera; the lens. It's not just the F/1.7 maximum aperture, which was pretty fast back then for a mid-priced fixed lens rangefinder; or the nice 42mm focal length, or even the precise Seiko FLA shutter.  The brilliance and value of this camera is the G. Zuiko lens; it's comprised of seven elements in five groups in a double gauss configuration, and would be considered a good quality lens even by today's standards, almost fifty years after it's initial release!

Olympus brags in their owner's manual that the 35 SP is not only a 'masterpiece of camera crafting' but the finest rangefinder camera available today!  Well, was it, and is it?

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