In this project suggested by the folks at Against the Grain, I am taking a year’s worth of photos without developing any of them until the very end. I am using the same film – Kodak Tri-X – but shooting with a camera manufactured in a different decade each month, starting with the 1890s. You can read about the project in more detail here.
On this page, I will keep track of my monthly progress – more for myself than anything else. A year is a long time! Check back in September 2018 to see the results!
September 2017: 1890s – Rochester Camera Company “Cycle Poco”
The Cycle Poco is my oldest camera, having been manufactured somewhere between 1897 and 1903. It’s a brass and mahogany thing of beauty hidden inside a pretty unremarkable, beaten-up black box. Before this project I had only taken two photos with it, and it took some time to re-learn its peculiarities, such as its tendency for the sheet film to fall into the camera and get stuck there (and ruined) when I put the slide cover back into the holder. I used Tri-X 320 and probably ruined at least 4 of the 10 sheets, but the rest are stored in the freezer. I also, on a lark, checked eBay and found a leather case and 4 additional film holders – meaning I can now take a total of 10 photos (2 per holder) per outing, rather than the two to which I was originally limited.
October 2017: 1900s – Kodak No. 3A Folding Hawk-Eye Model 1 and the Kodak No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak Model B-4.
So I basically cheated this month, because I’m using two cameras I have never used before and there is always a chance they don’t actually work. I had considered a pair of No. 1A Folding Pocket Kodaks but neither shutter was working properly, even though they both used to work fine. The Hawk-Eye is kind of a mystery, because I had previously catalogued it as a No. 1A Folding Hawk-Eye, but it seems I was wrong. It looks like a 3A, but it uses 116 film like the 1A instead of 122 film like the 3A. And strangely, has an aperture setting but no shutter speed setting. It’s missing the leatherette on the front but appears to be in working condition.
The problem with these early cameras is that they were manufactured at a time when ISO 50 film was the norm. So with ISO 400 film on a bright sunny day you’d have to choose apertures like f/64 or f/128 (which the camera has) but my iPhone light meter app simply doesn’t go that high. So you have to either wait for a cloudy day or shoot as the sun is starting to set – about a 20-minute window. So I’m not sure these will turn out – but I’m hopeful!
November 2017: 1910s – Kodak No. 0 Kodak Brownie
I thought this month it was time to try something simpler. The Number 0 is a humble little wood-and-cardboard box camera that sold for a buck 25 during the first world war that uses 127 film. To stick with Kodak Tri-X film, I had to cut down a roll of 120 – it’s always a tight fit and it seems I lost the first few exposures because the numbers don’t line up with the little window. Let’s see what kind of pictures we can coax from it.
December 2017: 1920s – No. 1A Autographic Kodak Junior
This month, I’m taking a risk – I’m using a camera that is completely untested – at least in my hands. It’s also not 100% certain to have been manufactured in the ’20s – I’ve narrowed it down to 1915-1925. I’ve spooled a roll of Tri-X 120 into a 116 backing paper – so a couple of mm will be missing top and bottom, but otherwise let’s hope for the best! I’ll be using it without the cable release.
January 2018: 1930s – Kodak Six-20 Model C
For January I’ll be shooting with another untested camera – in addition one that has a few pinhole leaks in the bellows. I think I have them all sealed up with electrician’s tape.
This camera, from 1932, is supposedly the one which, along with the Six-16, Kodak introduced to start using 620 and 616 film. So I’ll be respooling the Tri-X.
February 2018: 1940s – Ansco Shur-Shot. Falling a bit behind here, but there are only 8 frames on a roll of the 120 film that will go in this box camera. I’ve taken photos with it before and they turned out pretty well, so I’m hopeful this will also yield some nice results.
March 2018: 1950s – Kodak Signet 35. The Kodak Signet 35 was Kodak’s top American-made 35mm camera of the 1950’s and the first of the Kodak Signet camera line. The Signet 35 originally sold for $95 USD (app. $810 USD in 2007). The design was by Arthur H Crapsey, and it was made between February 1951 – March 1958.
I have managed to get some good images from this camera, but have not yet done a full review as I usually do. Here is what I’ve got so far.
April 2018: 1960s – The Kodak Starmite II. I bought an “outfit” on eBay that appeared to be virtually unused, with 3 of the 4 bulbs that came with the camera unused, the camera still in the box and in pristine condition, so it should work. This is a fun little plastic cameras that, with its look and name, embodies the 60s for me.
May 2018: 1970s – The Canon FTb, from the early 1970s, is a nice SLR from which I have gotten great results – some of my favorite photos – even if the Kalimar 80-200mm lens I have attached (the only compatible lens I own) isn’t quite stellar quality. The exposure meter on the camera doesn’t work, and if I remember correctly, I have to compensate for the length of the lens by allowing more light into the camera than you’d normally need. We’ll see what happens!
June 2018 – 1980s – For the 1980s, I’ve chosen the humble Kodak Instamatic X-15F. The X-15F was the final model in a long line of Kodak Instamatics manufactured in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s to accept the 126 cartridge. Nearly all of them are simple, cheap (made from plastic) and have simple, low quality lenses. I believe they take square pictures (24mm by 24mm?) but we’ll see what comes out! I believe this may be the only 1980s-era camera I own, so I’ll need to figure out how to respool 35mm film into a 126 cartridge. I know it’s possible and that other people have done it, but for some reason I have never managed to get it right and I always give up when it goes wrong. We do know this particular camera probably works, because when it arrived via eBay, it had a roll of pictures inside it, which I developed.
July 2018 – 1990s – The Ricoh Kr-5 Super II (what a mouthful!) is one of my favorite cameras for producing reliable results. Everything is manual but the light meter works and it’s easy to focus through the lens. It was introduced in 1993 and is great for students of film photography. Here some of the many photos I’ve taken with this one.
August 2018 – 2000s – Nikon F100. Made between 1999 and 2007, the F100 is not only my only film camera made in the current century, but also my go-to camera these days. According to the Fstoppers website, “the F100 was Nikon’s state-of-the-art prosumer / high end 35mm camera, falling just under the professional F5. The F100 was, at the time, one of the best featured cameras ever made and still remains the 135 camera of choice for film enthusiasts, wedding photographers, and many fine artists.”