Spring Sale at the Schoolhouse Antiques Mall

I am SO BEHIND on posting photos. I started a new job last month; my commute is twice as long as I’m used to (although largely on rural highways very light of traffic) AND I’ve been working a lot of overtime—I even came in for about 3 ½ hours on Sunday! I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, and I’m certainly not complaining about the money, but lately it feels like I barely have time for anything else.

Anyway, on Saturday I made time for the spring sale at the Old Schoolhouse Antiques Mall in the town of Washington, thus continuing my unbroken streak—I haven’t missed one of the biannual sales (there’s another one in October) since I moved to south Louisiana. For a couple of years there in the middle they were kind of crappy, but they seem to have bounced back. I’ve gotten some of my best vintage cameras there, including my Land Cameras, and this year did not disappoint:

Polaroid SX-70

The SX-70 was the only Land Camera I didn’t have at least one type of*, and one of just three cameras still on my must-own list. (The others are a Rollei 35 and a Fuji Natura Classica. I don’t count the Arguses or Kodak Brownies I buy when I come across them, because I collect those brands specifically.) I only paid $20 for it because it has the plastic rather than metal exterior, and because it hadn’t been cleaned and restored. But the seller—who was selling refurbished ones for $100, so he clearly knows Polaroids—assured me it worked, and I figured I could afford to trust him for $20. Those old leatherette patches just have to be scraped off, and the old adhesive soaked off with denatured alcohol, then I can either buy a die-cut skin or make my own. I’ve seen tutorials where people used materials like old wallpaper swatches, or leather patches cut out of vintage purses.

Hoodoo Oils

And this is the other thing I bought there, a Japanese lacquered corner shelf. Some of the lacquer has rubbed off on the edges, but it was only $12 and I’ve always had a fondness for all the kitschy stuff the GIs brought home after WWII. Cheap as it was, most of it is still better-made and more charming than the crap Ikea sells. I think it’s meant to hang in a wall corner, it’s got a metal hook, but standing it on the dresser creates 3 shelves instead of 2. Which makes it the perfect size to hold all of my condition oils, which previously had been scattered about—some of them were actually being kept in my underwear drawer!

*I also own a 95A, the 2nd model ever made and one that covers the earliest roll-film era; a 150, which covers the classic ‘50s-‘60s era (mine is a 1963); and several late-model hardshells.

Camera stash!

This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, get all of my vintage cameras together and take some photos. (I took 3 photos from 3 positions: standing, sitting, kneeling.) I don’t keep them all in one place–I group all the rangefinders together in one place, my Kodaks in another, my Polaroids in another, some that are for sale I keep in the closet, and miscellaneous ones are on the top shelf of my desk–so it’s hard to get a sense of how many I actually have. This isn’t even all the vintage cameras I’ve EVER owned, since I started my Etsy shop last year, I’ve sold a few. A lot of these are for sale, too–in fact, most of them would be for sale at the right price. Although there are a few I wouldn’t sell at ANY price: my Arguses, my Land Camera, the WWI-era Zeiss-Ikon that Phil bought in Germany when he was in the Army. He gave it to me a few years ago.


PICT0988, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0987, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0990, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

A lot of people do film stash photos, but I don’t have tons of film on hand at any given time. Frankly I think it’s dumb to hoard more film than you can shoot in, say, a year. Refrigerated or no, unexposed film is a slowly degrading medium. I’m currently stockpiling about 20 rolls of Fuji Neopan 400, which I recently learned is being discontinued, but I won’t try to amass more than that. I’ll just have to switch to Ilford when it runs out. Sigh. Although at the moment I do have quite a bit of Fuji color 35mm, since my friend Trish sold me her stash!

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Polaroid Z2300: “This is the future!” <— my brother

Polaroid-Z2300

Polaroid released this camera during the summer, and my immediate reaction was OMG WANT, but I decided to sit on that for a while and see if I still wanted it a few months later. My parents gave me some money for my birthday last week (yes, I just turned 38 and I still get birthday money from my parents–my mother also makes me give her a Christmas list), and I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather spend it on, so I got it. Photojojo has the best price that I could find; Amazon is charging about $20 more and Urban Outfitters nearly $40 more. I paid extra to get the 2 50 packs of Zink paper, as the camera itself only comes with 10.

Let me preface this by saying that this is not a Serious Camera. It’s a more technological version of the Polaroids that printed the tiny sticky-backed photos the size of stamps, remember those? The commercial showed a couple making funny faces at each other, then sticking the photos on foosball heads.

That being said, the camera is a lot of fun. Other features aside, it’s a nice little 10 mp point & shoot, although a little bigger because it has to accommodate the 2″ x 3″ paper. It’s still much smaller than Polaroid’s first effort at instant digital. It has several settings actually, more than my “serious” digital (which is several years old, so maybe not that surprising). You can do a lot of editing of the photos right from your camera: crop, add borders and filters, make the shot sepia or B&W, eliminate red-eye, alter exposure and saturation. You can even give your photos the old school Polaroid border if you want! There’s 32 GB of memory integrated in the camera, with a slot for an SD card to expand it.

It has a fisheye setting!

It has a fisheye setting!

You can set it to print automatically every time you take a photo, but to me that defeats one of the best features of the camera, only printing photos you want. The Zink paper is activated by heat, not light, so it can’t be accidentally exposed. (But don’t keep it in your glove compartment in the summer.) It takes about 30 seconds to print, and it comes out of the camera dry, so you don’t have to worry about smearing or fingerprints. The pictures are the size of a business card and have an adhesive back. They’re not perfect, they come out a little streaky and faded, but hasn’t that always been one of the charms of instant photography? It’s not like anyone is using these cameras for Serious Business. And they’re about 50 cents per shot, making them half the price of traditional instant photos. (Or less, if you’re using Impossible Project film.)

Regular, B&W, and sepia shots.

Regular, B&W, and sepia shots.

I only have 2 complaints:

  1. The LCD screen sucks. It’s super coarse-looking, I mean like something you’d see on a 1st generation digital camera. The photos themselves are perfectly nice, but composing the shot can be jarring. You have to remind yourself that the photo (even the printed ones are much nicer) will be higher quality than what you see.
  2. It would be helpful if the sticker backing on the Zink paper had a break that made it easier to peel. To peel it off you have pick at a corner until it comes up, and that usually creases the photo.

So this isn’t going to replace my “real” cameras, but it’s fun. I can see getting a lot of use out of it for journaling/scrapbooking/snail mailing. Something to capture funny/interesting/beautiful things and be able to share them with a lot of people. Yes, you can email camera phone pics; but remember, I communicate with a lot of people solely through the written word. And isn’t there just a special feeling in getting an actual photo that you don’t get when you open an email attachment?

What’s funny is I keep wanting to bring the camera up to my eye when I take a shot, I’ve been using vintage (non-digital) cameras almost exclusively for so long.

Some of the criticisms of this camera, and of Polaroid in general, is that instant photography of any type–and cameras in general, except for professionals–are obsolete. (Those people would say my brother is wrong, that this is the past.) That everyone has camera phones and there’s no need to carry around something that doesn’t serve several purposes. Maybe that’s technically true, but I hope there will always be enough oddballs like myself that products like this keep getting made. I would hate to live in a world where the only visual communication we had with each other was via iPhone.

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my camera collection is now up to an even 20

I took last Friday off work to go to the bi-annual antique sale at the old schoolhouse in the town of Washington. They have it every April and October, and I haven’t missed one yet. They always have cool vintage cameras.

 


yashica mg1, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This is a Yashica MG-1, a 35mm rangefinder from the mid-70s. It came with the flash, but the batteries had been left in it and the entire inside was corroded. But the camera itself works fine, and I can use my Diana F+ with it.

If I’d written Inferno, the innermost circle of hell would be reserved for jackasses who leave batteries in cameras.

 


polaroid land camera 100, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I found this Polaroid Land Camera for just $25, and it came with a case and a lot of accessories. It even had the original manual. It’s a 100, a model that was made from 1963-1966.

There was also a battery inside this one, but it wasn’t actually hooked up, so the corrosion was just kind of loose inside the compartment instead of sticking to anything. Other than that, it was in great shape, and I figured $25 was an acceptable risk. I’ve been looking for a Land Camera for a long time.

So I took it home, cleaned it up with vinegar then scrubbed the battery contacts with baking soda paste, and ordered a new battery from Radio Shack. I got it today, and… it works!

I have no idea why the vendor was selling it for such a low price. I’m thinking maybe he thought that the kind of film it takes is no longer made (a lot of people don’t realize that Fuji still makes pack film), and the only reason anyone would buy it is for the novelty or as decoration.

“an essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” -edwin land

Yesterday was the spring half of the Washington Schoolhouse Antiques Mall Outside Sale, which I’ve managed to hit every time since I moved down here (there’s a second one in the fall). Yesterday was pretty nasty for April, so we planned to leave around 8:00. For very few things do I tolerate setting my alarm for 7:00 am on a Saturday.

I’m on the lookout for primarily two things at Washington: old pins (jewelry, not like, clothespins or safety pins) and old cameras. I struck out on the pins–the lady who always has a booth of old jewelry that’s like 85% pins didn’t make it this year–and inside the schoolhouse I didn’t see anything I couldn’t live without.

There’s a couple of shelves in the gym that usually has old cameras that are guaranteed to be in working condition, it’s where I got both my Brownie Hawkeye and Kodak Duaflex. And I was surprised this time to find a model 95A Polaroid Land Camera. Surprised, because I wasn’t even aware there were models lower than 100.

Dog bless the Blackberry; a quick scan of the Wikipedia entry for “Land Camera” later and I’d found out that the pre-100 series were the first commercially available Land Cameras and were in production from 1948-1963. There was a 95, 95A, and 95B; so this camera is the middle model and was probably made in the mid- to late-’50s. They used the old roll-type of instant film and were replaced by the 100 series, which shot pack film, the kind of film I shoot in my Holgaroid. Roll-type instant film stopped being made in 1992, but! There are rumors on the internets that they can be modified to shoot 4×5 pack film.

So what the hey, I bought it. It wasn’t expensive to begin with, it’s in near-mint condition, and on top of that it was on sale 20% just for this weekend. I’ve been wanting a Land Camera for ages, but I refuse to buy from fleaBay. Those cameras are never film-tested and they’re being sold by dealers who don’t know shit about what they’re selling and only see old cameras as a way to make a quick buck off of gullible buyers. It pisses me off.

I hope I can get it to shoot pack film, but even if I never do, it’s fun just to have it. The bellows don’t have any cracks or holes, and the shutter works like she rolled off the assembly line last week. Even the strap on the case is barely worn.

Old cameras make me nostalgic for an America that disappeared right around the time that I was born: a country that made things that worked well for decades. This country doesn’t make things anymore, we just provide services.

navigating the impossible project almost lives up to its name

Okay wow, there are a lot of different kinds of Polaroid film. I guess I knew that, but the 600 series was the kind that was made for pretty much my entire life, and they all shot the same kind of film, so I sort of thought of Polaroid film as being homogenous, even though I knew intellectually that wasn’t the case.

The Impossible Project makes more than a half dozen types of Polaroid film, some of which I’d never even heard of (“Zink”?). And it’s hard sorting out which cameras you stuff which film into, because TIP doesn’t give you a comprehensive list. They want you to buy the (ludicrously overpriced, IMO) cameras they sell, so they only tell you which cameras that they sell that are compatible with each kind of film.

But thanks to flickr Polaroid groups, Camerapedia.org, and crippling insomnia, I think I have it sorted.

Silver Shade is integral film for the 600 series, which is what my generation thinks of when we think of Polaroid. They started producing them in the early ’80s and the final evolution of the line was the Polaroid One.

TIP also makes Silver Shade for the SX-70, Polaroid’s first SLR and integral film camera. Also for the SX-70 is a weird film called Fade To Black, that goes through a bunch of color shifts before (yup you guessed it) becoming solid black after about 24 hours. Neat concept, but ultimately kind of a waste of $$$.

The Chocolate, Blue, and Sepia films are Type 100, a pack or “peel apart” film that goes into the old bellows-style Land Cameras. It seemed kind of weird to me that they would even make this film, but I guess pack film is easier to manufacture than integral film, or it wouldn’t have been invented first. And amazingly, these old cameras are still quite commonly found on auction sites in good condition, so I’m putting a 250 or 350 on my wish list.

I went ahead and bought a Super Shooter, because I found one in great condition on Etsy for only $19.99, and I was afraid someone would beat me to it. TIP makes one type of film for this camera, in Chocolate; but it also shoots Fujifilm FP-100, which is still being produced.

So whenever I get some more buxx coming in, I’m going shopping for a Land Camera and possibly a 600 One. Although if TIP has plans to make Silver Shade in Type 100, I might not bother getting a 600. Although although, it might be fun to have one for nostalgia’s sake. Although (3), that may be a color that can only be produced in integral film, not pack, in which case I could always wait for/hope that TIP releases it for the Polaroid Mio. I know Mio owners can shoot Fuji Mini Instax, so it stands to reason that the opposite should be true.

So many variables!

ETA: Reading the specs of the Super Shooter a little more closely, I think it can actually shoot both Type 80 (square) and Type 100 (rectangular) film. It looks like Polaroid made very few models of pack film cameras that wouldn’t shoot both. Basically, if a camera could shoot Type 100, it could shoot Type 80, because a square can fit into a rectangle. Cameras that were designed to only shoot Type 80 (ie. the Square Shooter) couldn’t shoot Type 100, because a square is smaller than a rectangle.

So long story short, it looks like I can shoot the tinted Type 100 film with my Super Shooter, in addition to normally colored Fujifilm FP-100. In which case, the Polaroid 250 will go onto my Cameras That I Would Like To One Day Own list and off my Cameras I Must Own Immediately list.

ETA (again): A little more research into TIP’s integral film leads me to believe that it’s not worth the money to buy any right now. It’s nowhere near to perfection — extreme light and temperature sensitivity, images fading or speckling, crystals forming in the photo — and probably shouldn’t even have been released. I guess it’s basically like a beta test for instant film, but it sounds like it’s giving TIP a bad reputation.

now that i’ve (temporarily) sated my lust for box cameras, i’m moving on to polaroids

I’ve been thinking of getting a Polaroid ever since The Impossible Project launched. They have some mind-blowingly amazing tinted films, like Silver Shade, Blue, and Chocolate.

Blue

Silver Shade

Chocolate

I know a lot of people have been comlaining about the price of film from TIP, and it definitely isn’t cheap, but I think they’re missing the point. This isn’t film you take to the company picnic so you have something to put on the breakroom bulletin board. You have to think of these photos as one-of-a-kind, very small pieces of art. Thought of like that, $1 or $2 a photo is cheap. My main beef with TIP is they run out of stock a lot. I guess they weren’t anticipating the popularity of the film!

However, I think the first Polaroid I’m going to get is a mid-’70s Super Shooter. There are still a few floating around. The main problem seems to be with previous owners having left the batteries in the camera, resulting in massive corrosion. But if you look hard enough you can find some non-corroded ones on eBay or Etsy.

It uses the old Type 80 peel-apart film, which TIP does sell (in chocolate). But the neat part is that it can also shoot Fuji Type 100, which is still being produced. I didn’t think anyone was still making peel-apart instant film, but apparently it still gets used for things like passport photos pretty often.

Eventually I’m also going to get a type 100 Polaroid (probably a Polaroid One), so I can shoot all that gorgeous tinted film. TIP sells cameras, but they are horrendously overpriced. I would also like to have a Holgaroid back, but I might ask for that for Christmas.

Not immediately, however. I’ve been going a little too wacko with the cameras lately. Not having to pay rent every month kind of went to my head. I have a job interview on Friday, though!

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