I was nominated by Joyce Peng to do a 7-day self-portrait challenge: 7 days, 7 self-portraits, and 7 nominations to keep this going with other artists/photographers. I invite Kirk Lau to take the time to extend the fun.
I put a small twist to this challenge as well. I will be composing self-portraits through the viewfinders of different cameras.
The last of the challenge, I feature a very special camera. The 1955 Graflex Speed Graphic camera mounted with Kodak 178mm Aero Ektar f2.5 lens. Being large format, the focusing screen is again upside down and reversed left to right. At f2.5, the screen is super bright and you can see the bokeh clearly. Today I am holding my first camera, the Kodak Instamatic X15 which is in 126 format. This is the exact same camera that Dustin Hoffman used in Rain man!
On a recent trip to Hanoi, I took along grandpa and grandson Zeiss on that trip.
Grandpa Zeiss is a pre-war Super Ikonta B 532/16, equipped with a Zeiss Opton T f2.8 lens which was top of the line at the time. Grandson zeiss is a newly acquired Sony RX100 II, equipped with a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T f1.8 lens.
Let’s see how they perform. The 70 year-old grandpa that I acquired in a flea market in NYC years ago performed solidly with Ilford XP2 Super.
The Zeiss lens was super sharp as shown in the photos above. The first generation rangefinder is difficult to focus in low light conditions. For portraits, the dof at f2.8 is so narrow that a sharp eye is a must. Corner sharpness is not particularly good at f2.8 but for a classic portrait, the face or faces are usually in the center anyway. Down to f4 and above, the lens is sharp as a pin. The size of the camera is also quite small (for a medium format folder) and bringing it around was easy. The only complaint about this camera is the film advance system that limits only 11 shots per roll (rather than 12). This is fixed in the later version.
The newly acquired Sony RX100 II is a powerful little machine. Practically no noise at ISO3200 and a large aperture of f1.8, this little camera can handle most situations. This camera reminded me that taking photos should be easy (just like my 5d) and you can concentrate on composition rather than metering, focus etc. I particularly like the High Contrast Mono mode (HC BW) which I have taken the photos below with that.
The first camera that I learned how to use was my father’s Minolta SRT camera. It was heavy and was quite a complicated machine to use for a child. All I remembered was a lot of knobs and my father will be advising numbers like f5.6, 125 here or f8, f11, which at the time meant nothing to me.
My father later bought my older brother, Ed a toy 110 film camera from the Singtao newspaper shop. It was a much simpler camera and we had a lot of fun with it. This camera rarely produced encouraging result. I remembered one time, I put in a roll of 110 film, shot it and gave the roll to my father. A couple of days later, he handed me the envelop from the photo shop. I opened it up, there was only one print in the bag. I asked him what happened to the other photos, he replied, only one showed up. I examined the negative and only shot was exposed and all others were blank. It was quite a dismal experience and that was the last roll of 110 I shot.
My first real camera was a fifty cents Kodak Instamatic X-15, which I rescued from a local garage sale. After mild cleaning of the dusty box, I still remember I was quite excited when I first saw the shutter fire. See video here: http://youtu.be/Og1zzugSk7E
Right after, I rode my bike to the local photo hut and picked up a roll of Kodak 126 format ISO 200 film and started shooting. My first subjects of course were family members and other classmates. Success rate was low and I was lucky if half the roll was exposed correctly. I was however happy with the few shots I got and continued with it. Once I took it to a three week long US trip with only 12 shots! Think about saving your shots for the right moments! It will never happen again with the technology available today.
The Kodak Instamatic was easy to use, no focus necessary and no settings were available. The film was in a cartridge, and you simply pop it in the camera. You wind the film through the film advance and you trip the shutter. It was dead simple. A 43mm lens with fixed aperture of f11 and shutter speed of 1/90, even with 400iso film, indoor photography was hopeless and flash cubes were a must.
The images from the Kodak Instamatic were blurry and often wrongly exposed,
but for a ten year kid, it was an awesome experience.