A couple of days ago, I posted about some “found film” that had come from a 1950s Ansco Anscoflex. I had originally bid on an unidentified roll of film on eBay, and when I found out that the seller was also offering the camera on which the roll had been found for sale, I bought that too.
This is a neat little camera, different from any other I’ve ever seen, where the front cover slides up like a garage door, simultaneously opening up two aluminum “barn doors” protecting the large viewfinder on the top surface. You hold this camera at waist level and look down, and can clearly see where the square lens in the picture above is “looking.” It’s a “pseudo” twin lens reflex, because the photo is actually taken using the smaller, round lens, just below. The camera winds with a back-and-forth of a large knob on the side, and is made of cool aluminum painted a deliciously 1950s shade of green, with a matching leather cover and a large flash reflector. Mine was in pristine condition – but the shutter didn’t work properly.
Fortunately, with a little bit of searching, I found this set of photos on Flickr, in which another Anscoflex owner completely disassembled his camera and provided photos on how to do it. This not only allowed me to thoroughly clean the camera, it also let me get at the shutter mechanism, where I could see that one of the springs was just lacking a bit of tension to get the mechanism to work. So I took out the spring, bent it a bit to increase the tension, and put it back. Then the shutter worked like a charm!
Now it was time to head out to the beach for a test of this camera. The results were outstanding! I’ve posted some of them below. Despite the simplicity of this camera and inexpensive lens and other components, I think you’ll agree the pictures that came out of this 1953 camera are pretty impressive for a camera of that era.
It’s Wilson in India! Reminiscent of the Tom Hanks film, it’s actually a volleyball, washed up on the beach.
My dog had a fun day testing out the camera as well.
If you look carefully at all the photos, you’ll see a set of gray lines running vertically toward the right side of each exposure. Sometimes it runs at a slant – because I have a hard time holding this camera straight, I’ve gone back and straightened the shot. But the lines come from some sort of irregularity inside the camera, probably on the rollers that allow the film to go through the camera. The photos we had from the 1950s have the identical lines. My daughter noticed this and pointed out that this was a line that stretched from 1953 to 2013, and from Toledo, Ohio to Chennai, India.
Some people do fancy setups with their cameras to achieve this effect. This is what having a shutter that is always 1/60th of a second does for you.
The cool thing about medium format cameras is, there is so much detail in a square of film that’s 6 cm by 6 cm, as opposed to, say, a digital image in a modern camera (yes, it’s true!) that you can crop it and still end up with an amazing amount of detail: