Half a year ago, my mother-in-law asked me if I could use an old Petri 7S and a Minolta SRT101 they had laying around and after some quick research online I responded “most definitely!” The Minolta will be the subject of a later post – this one is about the Petri.
The Kuribayashi Camera Industry, a Japanese company founded in 1907, changed its name to the Petri Camera Company in 1962, and in 1963, began producing the 7S, which Wikipedia refers to as a “cult classic.” Wikipedia calls it “the Circle-Eye System coupled rangefinder leaf-shuttered model, that was used by some professionals in the 1960s, and that was so well built that this model is still used by enthusiasts today and has a following amongst street photographers.” It was in Japan where my mother-in-law’s husband Ed, a former marine, picked up the camera while stationed there.
What all of the “circle eye rangefinder” jargon means is that the camera has a selenium light meter that encircles the lens. and a rangefinder to allow focusing through the viewfinder rather than estimating distance or settling for a camera that performs somewhat decently at all distances. Based on varying luck I have had with selenium-based light meters on older cameras, I expected I’d still have to rely on my own eye and experience for setting aperture and shutter speed, because the selenium tends to wear out over time, based on factors that make any sort of “Kentucky windage” method unreliable until you get to know the camera pretty well.
I first took the camera out to a local community festival and its annual Kolam contest (which I wrote about last year). The camera is fun to use – it feels solid in your hands, and its shutter makes a pleasant and satisfying click when activated. I was pretty excited about the results I’d be getting.
Unfortunately, the photos I got all had a greenish sort of tinge, with dingy-looking colors. I was disappointed and set the camera aside for a few weeks. Eventually I would load it with black and white film and carry it around as an extra camera from time to time – a few shots here, a few shots there. This time when I developed the film, I was amazed at the results! These beach photos, for example, taken at the popular tourist destination Mahabalipuram:
Or this temple at Tirukalukundram:
The second photo above shows bundles of cloth tied to a tree above the temple steps. I believe these have been hung here by women seeking to become pregnant – according to some traditions, a stone is hung within a piece of cloth to signify a baby in a cradle. Of course I could be completely wrong!
In any case, this camera has definitely proven itself as a great camera for black and white photos. I could probably err on the side of more light versus less, but I was pleased that virtually every shot on both rolls was extremely sharp and in focus. As a final photo, this man in a village asked me to take a picture of him with his son but then was kind of upset with me when I couldn’t show him the result. Finally he accepted that I would get the photo and print it for him at some time in the future!
To see all of the photos taken on the Petri 7S, check out this Flickr album.