A Photographer’s Kit
A few days ago I bought this camera case with contents, mostly because the price was irresistible but also because I was aware through Gary of the Film Advance blog that the Pentax MEs are nice cameras that can take (or be used to take) very good pictures – I would not be surprised to one day see a post in Gary’s very well written Favourite Camera series. Also, even though quite different than the Spotmatics I used for decades, they feel very familiar and comfortable to use. Finally, it was very interesting to me to obtain an entire photo kit that was in use until about 10 years ago, then abandoned like a time capsule. This post includes a discussion of the kit as well a test roll of film run through both cameras.
These cameras seemed like a good acquisition for use on the 52 Rolls Project, and at $50 (!) I reckoned I could easily get my money back if I did not like the cameras or other parts of the kit. I loaded one of the MEs with a roll of Kodak Max 400 that was in the case and probably expired about 10 years ago. I shot half of that roll in one camera (or at least I thought I did), and then moved it over to the other to test both of them for light leaks, metering and so on. I used all of the lenses from the kit in this initial test, and while I was out shooting I dropped into a thrift store and they had a 135/3.5 in good condition for $15 so I added it to the collection and shot a few frames with it too.
I have simultaneously published a post (Three – From a Time Capsule) on the 52 Rolls project using a selection of these shots converted to black and white. This is because the test film was badly degraded by time and likely indifferent storage. As a result, the shots are very grainy, lack contrast and are otherwise quite thin. I worked on all of these photos quite a lot to bring something out of the negatives, both during the scanning and in Lightroom. There are some things I could not adjust for though such as the grain and heavy curling of the film which would not flatten for scanning. Thus the scans are not as sharp as the film, though this might be a moot point since it is hard to see that missing sharpness amongst all the grain.
The other issue I ran into is that the roll of film did not advance in the first camera for about 12 shots – I did not notice though should have checked that the rewind lever was turning. For some reason it started advancing so I did end up with a half dozen pictures from that camera. This was enough for a initial test but I missed a bunch of photos I would have liked to see of my granddaughter out for a dinner, and of the wood fired oven used to make the pizza in. I think I did not load the film quite right as the mechanism is one I have not used before, but it is possible that either the take up spool slips, or that the button to disengage the take up is sticky and did not release itself for a while. The film advance just fine in the second camera.
Edit: I looked at the film take up “spools” which are wrapped with small white plastic bars that you slide the end of film into. The spools are designed to slip when the film is being rewound. The film is advanced by two toothed wheels. The take up spool in the suspect camera seems to slip more easily than the other one, but I don’t think that can be the problem. More likely I did not get the teeth through the sprockets and they just spun on the film for a while until they finaly clicked in. Probably the whole problem is operator error, though I suppose the toothed wheels might have not engaged properly, perhaps due to the rewind button sticking. A situation to monitor until the answer is clear, but not a show-stopper by any means.
Click on any image below to open the gallery for larger sizes.
On initial examination everything seemed in good order – the batteries in the cameras are still working and the light meters function quite well. When compared with an external meter, one camera is spot on, the other off by one f-stop. I tried swapping the batteries between cameras in case it was low batteries throwing one of them off, but the reading is still the same. Not a big deal, I just dialed down the ISO setting for that camera. The shutters too look like they are firing correctly. Most of the light seals are getting sticky and crumbling, but I chose to test the cameras prior to doing anything to the seals as they are mostly very narrow, set in thin grooves and not likely to leak much anyway. The main hinge seals are felt or other substance that is not foam and seem to be in good condition. Close examination of the images suggests that both cameras have minor light leaks on one long edge of the door, but that the hinges are fine, so I will replace the seals in the grooves, but not against the hinge.
The Pentax shots with the fish-eye attachment have a worrying line through the middle (one that is not present with the digital Canon shots) but it turned out to be some kind of scanning artifact as the negatives are fine, which is a big relief. As you can see, those shots are quite under exposed – I guess there is a lot of sky involved in the exposure metering and I will have to modify the exposures when using that attachment (if I ever do so again) with sky in the view. The attachment is designed to work on a 50mm lens, which is one of the missing test shots. With that lens there is no view of the inside of the inside of the lens, but every bit as much distortion. I think that this attachment will get used on a 50mm m42 mount Takumar lens mounted on Canon DSLRs for video purposes – it can make for an interesting effect, though it is not actually as wide as it looks. I did a test mounting it on the DSLR with a 50mm lens, and compared it to my 16-35mm Canon lens – it appears to have the same field of view at about 18mm. I did find it easier to focus on the 35 and 28mm lenses though – I have not experimented with f-stops on the 50, but expect that I was shooting it too wide open.
It is interesting to see an apparently complete kit abandoned mid-use which had been carefully assembled and apparently in use until about 2004 or so (most of the film expires in 2005, one roll in 2006). It is especially interesting to compare with my own Pentax Spotmatic kit that I used for field work in the 70s, 80s and early 90s with subsequent sporadic use until 2004. There are some overlaps in lens, I had more bodies, but usually only two working at any one time, one for black and white and one for colour. I usually shot Kodachrome, while this kit has only print film. My case was/is a water proof Pelican from 1982 (baby blue) with blue foam – it often served as a seat in the bottom of wet zodiacs and shows that use now. My lenses were not so wide because distortion was an issue for my work, all my lenses were primes and included a 100mm/f4 macro (my favourite lens of all these) and 200mm/f4 (rarely used and not often carried) as well as various 50s and 55s – f1.4, f1.8 and f2 and the two 35/3.5s (I have adapted all my lenses for use with my DSLR and relied heavily on them for years – now they tend to be used for video). I had extension tubes that I used quite a bit. My flash was a Braun, similar to this one, but with built-in pistol grip. I too had extra cables for the flash so I could fire it off from quite a distance. My filters were skylight, uv and polarizing, but I did not take portraits or similar shots, or even arty photographs so needed little else (I did not understand the use of coloured filters for black and white photography). My camera case included small scales, mm and cm, for technical shots of in situ finds, and an air bulb with brush. I had photo flood lights and a bracket to hold two bulbs though I rarely used them and then mostly for copy work or artifact plates for reports. My tripod was a Velbon that could be set up flush with the ground, important in my work. It was quite light weight, appreciated when hauling gear through the bush. I still use the tripod, Pelican case and some lenses for field work, though worn heavily.
By way of comparison is a list at the bottom of this post of everything that is included with this Pentax ME kit.
I infer from the kit that the camera was owned by a serious amateur who probably shot, or at least experimented with shooting portraits hence the two soft filters – given how expensive they are, there must have been serious intent. The 28mm lens also suggests an interest in landscape photography. The Izumanon fisheye attachment could mean any number of things (the top photo is taken with that lens mounted on one of my 35mm Takumars) – optically it is an appalling device, but might have some interesting artistic applications. There is a wide variety of negative film for both black and white and colour but much more variety, and more ‘serious’ black and white film which along with the red filter suggests a particular interest in b&w photography. What the lights with their very small incandescent bulbs might have been used for I am not sure – if there was a macro lens or attachment, that might explain it. The cameras show some signs of use on a tripod. Their straps were removed, including the strap clips. The wrist strap that screws into the tripod mounting hole suggests it might have been a substitute for neck straps though even then it would be hard to get out with both cameras. Perhaps only one camera was used at a time with a particular purpose in mind. The cameras and lenses show signs of use, but careful use in good conditions. The long zoom lens is like new and probably rarely used. One body had a 50mm lens mounted, the other had the 28 mounted.
The above shot solves a mystery posed in an earlier post Letter Writing Station #1 which I thought might be an art installation. In fact, they are letter writing stations, complete with nice stationary and typewriters – part of a small store/kiosk in this entry way with the delightful name The Regional Assembly of Text.
The initial camera tests, while promising, are a bit disappointing due to the film quality. It appears that they are giving mostly good exposures, and the lenses seem to be good to excellent. The cameras are very nice to handle, very familiar to a long time Spotmatic user. It would be nice to have a manual over-ride (as some later models do) so that shutter speed could be selected, though I am generally an aperture priority shooter, so mostly that will not be a problem. The speed displays in the viewfinder so it can be adjusted with the aperture, if shutter speed is important to a particular situation. I am definitely fixing the seals and putting new film through these cameras to give them a real chance to shine. I suspect that they can take excellent photos and that I will use them quite a bit in the future. I love their size and feel, and they look nice too. They feel very well made in a way that most modern cameras do not.
Below the following table is a gallery of all the images taken during these tests, be sure to check it out!
|Pentax||SMC Pentax-A||28mm/f2.8||Asahi Pentax Lens Cap|
|Pentax||SMC Pentax-M||50mm/f2.0||Pentax Lens Cap|
|Pentax||SMC Pentax-M||50mm/f2.0||Pentax Lens Cap, Asahi Rear Cap|
|Japan||C-NPS UV Filter||49mm|
|Tiffen||UV Protector Filter||49mm|
|B+W||49ES Soft Image||49mm||B+W Case and cloth|
|B+W||49ES WZ1 filter||49mm||B+W Case and cloth|
|Hoya||Red 25A1 Filter||49mm||Hoya Case|
|Izumanon||Extrawide 90 Attachment Lens Fisheye||49mm filter thread attachment||Izumanon Lens Cap, Soft Leather Case|
|Pentax||SMC Pentax-M||Zoom 80-200mm/f4.5||pentax hard case, pentax front and rear caps|
|Japan||C-NPS UV Filter||52mm|
|Braun||340 SCA-100 Vario-Zoom||Flash||short pc cord|
|None||PC flash chord||3 ft|
|None||PC flash chord||10 ft|
|Fuji Superia X-Tra||24 – 400ISO||Exp July-Aug 2004||7 rolls|
|Fuji Acros Neopan SS||36 -100ISO||Exp 2005?||1 roll|
|Kodak Black and White c41||24 – 400ISO||Exp 08/2005||1 roll|
|Kodak Max||36 – 400ISO||Exp 2005?||1 roll|
|Ilford XP2 Super||36 – 400ISO||Exp 2005?||2 rolls|
|Ilford Delta 100||24 – 100ISO||Exp 06/2006||1 roll|
|Ilford Delta 3200 Pro||36 – 3200ISO||Exp 02/2005||1 roll|
|Kodak Tmax 400||24 – 400ISO||Exp 2005?||1 roll|
|Ricoh||Soft P&S Camera Case|
|Canon||Wrist Strap – tripod screw mount||vintage|
|None||Aluminum Rigid Case||adjustable compartments|
|None||Lights, clip on||switch on cord, 25 watt spots, 1 good bulb||2 lights|
Click on any image to open the gallery and then use the arrows to scroll through the other images.
Camera photos shot with Canon EOS 5Dmkii, Canon 16-35mm/f2.8 except top which was with SMC Takumar 35/3.5 with Izumanon Extrawide 90 Attachment Lens.
Colour photos shot with both Pentax MEs with a combination of Pentax k-mount lenses including 50/2, 28/2.8, 80-200/4.5 and 135/3.5. The Izumanon Extrawide 90 Attachment Lens was mounted on the 28/2.8.
If you see an advertisement below, it is there because WordPress makes it so and I don’t pay them money to stop ads.
If the ad is inappropriate or tawdry and you don’t like it, then click on the “About these ads” link above the ad and file a complaint with WordPress.