Smena 8M

My Smena arrived from Russia yesterday! The seller didn’t bother to clean it before he packed it, and it smells like it spent decades stuffed in a closet with someone who had a 3-pack-a-day unfiltered Sobranie habit, but it’s a real Soviet camera and it works! I can’t wait to try it out; I won’t have to wait long, as the next Lomographers meetup is this Saturday in Jackson (Louisiana, not Mississippi).

A lot of the so-called problems that I’ve read about this camera seem to be exaggerated. Supposedly it was very light, and combined with the stiffness of the shutter button, and the placement of the shutter cock which guarantees it will snag on your finger when it comes back up, it’s common to get camera shake blur in your images. I must hold my cameras differently than most people, because I haven’t noticed the shutter cock getting in the way. (That sometimes happens with my Land Camera, though.) It weighs about the same as my Lomo LC-A+, and while the shutter button is a hair stiffer than normal, it’s not like, outrageously hard to push down.

Another deal-breaker for a lot of toy camera enthusiasts is that the manual controls are confusing. Well, if they are, then they haven’t been using toy cameras for long, because they’re not only perfectly straightforward, they’re actually more helpful than most. Take setting the shutter speed: on top of the dial is a little array of clouds/sun that illustrate a variety of natural light settings from full sun, no clouds in the sky to heavily overcast, it’s storming right now. But if you prefer going by fractions of a second, no problem, those are at the bottom of the wheel, from B to 1/250.

smena controls

Same thing with focus: it’s marked both by distance in meters, and little drawings that suggest settings for what you’re trying to focus on. Head and shoulders of a person for the closest setting of 1 meter, through 2 heads and shoulders (1.5 meters), a little group of full figures (4 meters), and a group of trees (8 meters), to infinity. And aperture setting is totally normal, the ring is around the lens and goes from 4 to 16.

The only thing I’m kind of worried about it the film counter, which is separate from shutter cocking and fully manual. There’s a little dial with hashmarks that supposedly tell you when you’ve wound to the next frame, but a lot of people consider it to be totally worthless. Hopefully my first roll doesn’t come back with a lot of halfway double exposures.

Speaking of which, I think I finally figured out why I’d been getting so many double exposures with my Rollei A110 (which I got for hella cheap because it was broken, and then fixed). Lomography designed their 110 cartridge film to work in their Baby Diana 110, which shoots square photos. (I think making non-120 film mimic the square format is like something that would give Howard Roark fits, but never mind.) So each advance only moves the film enough to advance it to the next square frame, which is only about 1/2 as wide as a regular rectangular negative. Unless you’re shooting it in the Baby Diana 110, you need to advance it twice. I tested this theory (and really Lomography, thanks for the heads up–the Diana wasn’t even the first 110 camera they released!) at St. Mary’s in Weyanoke and sent the film to Dwayne’s a couple days ago, fingers crossed that my theory is right.

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“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.

speaking of cameras…

Look what came in the mail today!

It’s so tiny! 620 cameras usually were, which is why you can’t just bung a roll of 120 into them, even though it’s technically the same film. Even if you can get the camera closed, it will jam when you try to advance the film.

I am amost positive this camera was never used. Other than a small patch of rust on the bottom clip, she doesn’t have a single scratch or blemish on her.

The box it originally came in, proof that this was someone’s free gift for buying a Mercury Comet. The sender is “Mercury Comet Gift Headquarters”. Apparently, they used to make cars in Detroit. (That was sarcasm.)

And I received my Herco Imperial the same day! The seller shipped it Priority Mail the same day I paid (which was right after I won the auction), and he’s only over in Georgia. This one has a few light scratches on the metal faceplate, but I can live with that. (And I already knew about them, it’s not like the seller tried to hide them.)

Both of these cameras are in great working condition. The film advance knobs turn easily and smoothly, and the shutters trip crisply when you press the buttons. They both have take-up spools in them too, and it’s always helpful to have extra spools.

Now, if only it would stop raining long enough for me to use them!

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.


Silver Shade


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!