Sometimes I’m not sure whether these posts I do on whether or not I’ve been able to make these vintage cameras work are more about the cameras, or about the content of the photos I’ve managed to snap. This is one of those posts, and explains why I’ll share more of the photos from the roll than I usually would.
The Ansco Regent doesn’t appear to have been a particularly memorable camera, nor sophisticated for its time. Most of the ones you’ll read about online have sentimental value (“my grandfather’s old camera”) and often damaged or aged bellows have rendered them unusable. The Regent is a 1953-ish 35mm camera that was actually just an Agfa Solinette II, manufactured in Germany, important and rebranded by the Ansco company. A German Wikipedia article on the Agfa version characterized the 1952 Solinette as “obsolete pre-war technology.”
It has aperture settings from f/3.5 to f/22, shutter speeds up to 1/300 second, and among other things, has a handy indicator on top of the lens to help control depth of field. Mine has a 50mm Apotar lens and Prontor shutter, and the camera is focused by a ring which moves the entire lens/shutter assembly. It has a timer, but the shutter has to be cocked manually with a switch on the side of the lens.
Mine is a bit tricky to operate, because the grease inside the lens which lubricates the focus mechanism appears to have gummed up. The teeth on the ring are pretty painful and it’s tough to get a grip, but by brute force (and a screwdriver) I was able to force the ring loose (it was frozen in place), though I needed a coin or another metal object to help me focus the camera when I was snapping photos. I thought about disassembling it and cleaning it, but the company seems to have favored rivets over screws. I decided to see what kind of photos I could get out of it before making that decision.
I chose as my venue the Mylapore Festival (I’ve posted about previously) that took place in early January. The festival included many different community and family-oriented activities, including a kids’ art contest (photo above) and both adult and kids’ “kolam” contests (photos below). I was really impressed with the sharp, colorful photos I managed to get from the camera in spite of the less-than-enthusiastic reviews.
The women were allocated one of 100 squares marked out on the city street. Nearly every square was taken on both days the contest was held.
You don’t have to be Indian to participate. Nor do you have to be a woman. But they formed the large majority of contestants.
Kolam making is passed from generation to generation. Most designs start with an array of equally spaced dots. The design is formed using rice flour.
Girls of all ages participated in the younger iteration of the contest. Many of the younger girls had their grandmothers helping or coaching.
I also took shots around the neighborhood which I’ll share below. Some of the photos have bright spots or “smears” on them. These are evidence of a pinhole or two in the bellows, allowing light in. This can make for interesting effects, but not always desirable ones.
These kids really wanted us to take their picture, and they were all laughs and smiles. Once I agreed to take their picture and lined up the shot, they all turned somber on cue.
Carousels come in all sizes.
This kid is definitely in need of some ice cream. And I’m going to have to figure out where the bellows are leaking light.