Kodak Six-20

With the acquisition of this camera I’ve broken two of my rules for collecting cameras.

The first is that I would not acquire a camera that I could not or would not use. I’ve on occasion acquired a camera that was supposed to be working, but turned out to be non-functional. However, I’ve never bought a camera that I knew I wouldn’t use. I think it’s unlikely (but not impossible) that I will use this one. Although you never really know until you try to use it, I believe this camera works. Unfortunately, the film (620 film) was discontinued in 1995. Although the actual film is the same as 120 film (which is still available), the spools are different. The 620 spools are slightly shorter and have a smaller diameter. It is possible to cut down a spool of 120 film to fit or to re-spool some 120 film onto 620 spools in a darkroom or changing bag. Some people do this and sell the result, so it is still possible to get this film. However, it’s difficult to find and expensive. More important, I’ve read that the camera takes terrible pictures. I’m might get my hands on a roll of 620 film and try it out, or because of the apparently poor quality of the images I might not bother. I haven’t decided yet.

Second, I had long ago decided not to collect Kodak Folding Cameras. While they certainly have their charm I was afraid of going down that particular rabbit hole in case I couldn’t make my way out.

So why then did I acquire this camera? The reason is that I’ve decided to start collecting bakelite and art-deco cameras. This one is an excellent example of the latter. Unfortunately, these cameras tend to be old and use film that is difficult (and in many cases impossible) to obtain. Most of them look great though.

I’ve found a great site: Art Deco Cameras, which has a wealth of information on such cameras and how to use them. I imagine it will become my guide to finding addition leads.

This one is a Kodak Six-20 and according to Art Deco Cameras:

The Six-20 Kodak was introduced in 1932 but from 1933 it was redesigned to become the Six-20 model C. It is a self-erecting folding camera. It has angled ends to the body which is covered with pig-grained leatherette. It has a brilliant finders that swivels to cater for both portrait and landscape views. It does not have a folding frame finder. It features black enameled side panels with nickel lines. The shutter plate is octagonal with chrome and black enamel deco pattern as well as bright red highlights. It has a swiveling red window cover. The struts are chrome and ornate unlike the redesigned Model C which are quite plain.

It supported two combinations of lens and shutter. These are a Doublet lens coupled with Kodon shutter or a Kodak Anastigmat f/6.3 with a Kodon shutter.

I believe mine is the former i.e. the one with the doublet lens, which is a pity because if I did choose to use it I’m sure the latter would produce better images.

Art Deco Cameras also rates the cameras as to the extent to which they have the characteristics of an art-deco Camera and describes this camera as follows:

Iconic: Famous, well-known and celebrated

  • Produced during the main Art Deco period.
  • Octagonal face plate design with red highlights.
  • Ornate chrome struts.
  • Angled ends to body.
  • Enameled side panels with nickel lines.
  • Raised diamond and octagonal motifs
  • Pig-grained leatherette
  • Octagonal film winder
  • Chrome and black enamel brilliant finder

Taken with a Sony A7IV and Venus Optics Laowa 85mm f5.6

Trying out my newly acquired Pentax K10

After charging the battery I decided to take my newly acquired Pentax to nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, NY to confirm that it was working and see how it handled.

So how did things go. Well, the pictures weren’t bad for essentially quick snapshots. I even quite like a few of them. It was a very dull day and the camera/lens combination was not the best for those conditions: old sensor (2006 vintage) that’s not good in low light combined with a old, slow zoom lens (18-55mm SMC Pentax DA f3.5-f5.6). Added to that I made a stupid mistake: of course the camera was used and in my enthusiasm to try it out I forgot to check out how the previous owner had set it up. Turns out he’d set it up in a way that practically guaranteed slow shutter speeds. I thought they were ok for hand holding, but it seems that they weren’t and this led to soft and in some cases, blurry pictures. Still I enjoyed the 1 1/2 hour walk, the camera was fun to use and I learned a lot about it. I’ll do better next time.

Taken with a Pentax K10 and 18-55mm SMC Pentax DA f3.5-f5.6

Another new old camera

In previous posts I’ve mentioned that I had started to collect old digital cameras. This is the latest.

It’s a Pentax K10D and it’s a 10.2-megapixel (which is plenty for most purposes e.g. web site use, social media and prints up to 12″x8″ prints) digital single-lens reflex camera launched in late 2006. It was developed in a collaboration between Pentax of Japan and Samsung of South Korea, was announced on 13 September 2006 and released in mid-November 2006

At the time the K10D was hailed by Popular Photography and Imaging magazine as “an all-star player,” and was named as a finalist for their 2007 “Camera of the Year” award.

It combines a 10.2 effective megapixel CCD sensor, coupled with a 22-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and a shake reduction system which also provides a dust removal feature to keep dust off the sensor surface. The K10D features a new image processor and is dust and weather-resistant featuring 72 seals throughout the camera. The camera was among the first digital cameras to support the DNG format natively. (adapted from Wikipedia)

There’s a good review of it on DP Review in which they conclude:

My first impressions of the K10D were very positive, a well designed and robust body with a clearly extensive range of manual functions and a fairly logical control layout. The positive experience continued in use with the large, bright Pentaprism viewfinder, fast auto focus and short lag times. Menus and playback are equally as snappy although I personally found the connected 4-way controller less easy to use than the K100D’s four separate buttons.

The K10D’s advantages over the competition are fairly clear; dust and weather seals, in-camera Shake Reduction which delivers at least some low light advantage with all your lenses, selectable RAW file format (although both are 10MB+), user definable Auto ISO, digital preview and those unique sensitivity-priority and shutter/aperture-priority exposure modes. It’s a camera which should provide more than sufficient ‘gadget satisfaction’ for even the most demanding shutterbug.

When we reviewed the K100D we thought Pentax had got their image processing just right, however the single element of the entire K10D equation which left us scratching our heads was just that. Either a poorly implemented demosaicing algorithm or a strange choice of sharpening parameters means that while the K10D’s JPEG images have plenty of ‘texture’ they can lack the edge sharpness we’re used to seeing from semi-pro digital SLR’s.

Pentax may well have been aiming for a smooth film-like appearance but I at least feel that the inability to tweak this out by increasing sharpness is a mistake. That said it’s unlikely you’ll see this difference in any print up to A3 size, it’s a 100% view thing so you have to decide if that’s important to you or not. To get that absolute crisp appearance you’ll need to shoot RAW, and use Adobe Camera RAW or another third party converter (as the supplied converter produces similar results to the camera).

With the criticism out of the way we return to the K10D as a ‘photographic tool’, something it does very well. It’s a camera you get used to very quickly and never really leaves you searching for the correct setting or control. It’s also a camera you can grow into, the unique exposure modes are both creatively interesting and useful, a range of options such as this encourage you to experiment. At just under $900 it’s a very strong proposition, so despite our reservations about the slightly soft image processing the K10D just achieves a Highly Recommended.

UPDATE 23/Jan/07: Pentax has today released firmware version 1.1 which fixes some issues and adds new functionality.

So why did I get it? First, even though I have a couple of cameras with CCD sensors I was keen to try another one. The CCD sensor is said to produce images, which are closer to the look of film than other sensors (with the possible exception of the X-Trans sensor found on Fuji cameras). Second, I have Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, and Panasonic digital cameras, but until now didn’t have one from Pentax. I don’t have a digital Leica either and I don’t see me getting one any time soon, much as I’d love to try one.

Taken with a Sony RX100 M3

More GAS: Nikon D800

For a while now I’ve been collecting old digital cameras. For how this started see: I don’t know what came over me

My latest acquisition is a Nikon D800, which I came across at a very reasonable price. I’d never tried a Nikon full frame camera and thought this might be a good place to start. It’s seen above with a battery grip and Nikon AF Nikkor 70-300mm f4-5.6 G.

The Nikon D800 is a 36.3-megapixel professional-grade full-frame digital single-lens reflex camera produced by Nikon Corporation. It was given a Gold Award by Digital Photography Review.

It was officially announced on February 7, 2012 and went on sale in late March 2012 for the suggested retail price of $2999.95 in the U.S., £2399 in the UK, and €2892 in the Eurozone. Shortly after the camera went on sale, Nikon’s UK subsidiary increased the price of the D800 in that market by £200 to £2599, saying that the original price was due to an “internal systems error”. However, Nikon honored the original price for all pre-orders placed before March 24, and added that no price changes would be made in other markets. (Wikipedia)

For a complete list of specifications see here:

I also came across an interesting piece on Ricks Reviews entitled: “Nikon D800, a 2022 review” in which he concludes:

The Nikon D800 still is a very impressive camera. Even today the resolution and dynamic range are high-end even compared to newly introduced cameras. That is very impressive for a camera that was introduced 5 years ago (Note: much the review is an updated version of a piece that was written in 2017 and updated in 2022. The author stands by his earlier comments). The Nikon D810 is a refined version of the original D800 and still is the go-to camera for professionals that need high resolution images. That say a lot since the D810 still uses (basically) the same sensor and AF system as the older D800. The camera is built to last and very durable. It is big and heavy, something you must be able to accept when you buy one. And to take full advantage of this camera you’ll also need sharp lenses, and most truly sharp lenses aren’t small or light either adding to the bulk and weight. Furthermore you need your shooting technique to be on the top of your game, use high shutter speeds to make sure you don’t have motion blur. And you have to fine tune the auto focus for all your lenses to make sure it is spot on. Only then you will see the magnificent image quality this camera is able to deliver.

I’d pretty much agree with everything he says.

Sample images:

Taken with a Fuji X-E3 and Fuji XF 35mm f1.4 R

Another new (used) camera: Fujifilm X-E1

In an earlier post I noted that I had started collect older digital cameras. Over time this has led to the acquisition of Canon EOS 5D; a Nikon D80; a couple of Micro 4/3 cameras – Lumix GF-1 and Olympus OM-D E-M10. I used to own a Fujifilm HS-10, which I didn’t like and eventually gave away. But I’d never used a Fujifilm X series camera. After waiting a while I found an X-E1 with a 35mm f1.4 lens for a very good price (the camera/lens combination cost less than the cost of the lens alone so the body was essentially free).

The Fujifilm X-E1 came out in 2013 and features:

  • 16MP X-Trans CMOS sensor
  • ISO 200-6400, 100 – 25600 expanded (JPEG only)
  • 2.36M dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • Same control layout as X-Pro1, including top-plate shutter speed and exposure compensation dials
  • 2.8″ 460k-dot LCD
  • Built-in pop-up flash
  • Full HD movie recording with built-in stereo microphone
  • 2.5mm stereo microphone socket
  • Compatibility with wired remote control units (via either the USB port or mic socket)
  • Available in silver or black

A contemporary DP Review article concludes:

Conclusion – Pros

  • Unique camera design makes you want to take pictures
  • Excellent JPEGs, little need to shoot raw most of the time
  • Reliable metering and AWB systems, good color (with choice of ‘film modes’)
  • Dials for exposure controls allow for easy check of settings by glancing at the top deck, particularly with prime lenses
  • Impressive image quality at all ISO settings – good resolution and low noise
  • Built-in flash is handy for fill lighting in a pinch
  • Film-simulations offer quick access to different color modes and black and white filters
  • Use of electronic viewfinder simplifies interface while maintaining most important features
  • Quick menu gives fast access to most digital controls not covered by dials or buttons
  • Built-in level helps when capturing landscapes
  • Various bracketing modes are easy to set via the Drive button
  • Relatively quiet shutter
  • Excellent available prime lenses

Conclusion – Cons (my reaction in parentheses)

  • Built-in level isn’t always as accurate as we’d like
  • Relatively slow AF makes photographing children more difficult (Agree, but I mostly take pictures of things that don’t move)
  • Framerates in continuous shooting mode aren’t completely consistent (Have not observed this)
  • Camera disables RAW shooting without warning in some bracketing modes (Have not observed this either)
  • Relatively low-resolution rear LCD compared to some peers (It’s good enough for me)
  • Panorama mode can result in visible banding in plain tones (Don’t often use panorama mode)
  • Auto ISO often chooses too slow a shutter speed (specifically problematic with the longer primes) (Yes, but easy to work around)
  • Minimal control available in video mode (Don’t shoot video)
  • Continuous drive mode saves files with a different name, sorting them to the bottom (Don’t even understand what this means
  • Large and chunky build won’t suit everyone (It does suit me though)

Overall Conclusion

There’s a lot to be said for form as well as function and there’s no question the Fujifilm X-series cameras elicit a certain response from those of us who enjoy both photography and well-built gadgets. What’s great about the X-series cameras and lenses is they don’t just look like old photographic tools, they integrate digital and analog controls very successfully. Also, the old-style analog dials are really excellent ways of helping conceptualize things like shutter speed and aperture, the two main elements of photography one has to understand to use cameras effectively.

Those who already understand the concepts generally have no trouble understanding numbers on an LCD, but those who are learning can benefit from seeing the numbers laid out in a linear fashion; and the truth is I still find it helpful to turn a dial to adjust aperture, as I can do with the X-E1. For beginners, having that dial wrapped around the lens completely differentiates it from the body-bound shutter speed dial.

When using one of the XF prime lenses, the main photographic interface elements are right up front and visible, in the form of physical dials. Photography students would do well to secure a prime lens for this reason (as well as others).

Kit lens users will have to pay attention to the numbers on the LCD.

But that’s not all Fujifilm did right with the X-series cameras. Their simple button arrangements also make accessing common functions convenient. Important functions like Drive mode, Exposure, and Autofocus are dedicated to three buttons left of the LCD – a good position to adjust each setting. At first having a button for Drive mode seemed unnatural compared to a dial, but Fujifilm’s inclusion of fast access to bracketing modes made those even more useful. The Quick Menu allows access to almost all the other important adjustments the average still photographer will want to make, including things like ISO, resolution, and aspect ratio. Only one analog control needs fixing: the somewhat loose Exposure Compensation dial, which can be rotated accidentally, both in the hand and when being carried around or put in and taken out of a camera bag.

Of course, the elephant in the room is video. Although the X-E1’s design philosophy is based around giving you all the direct manual control you could ever need, this does not apply to video, which overall seems as much of an afterthought as it is in the X-Pro 1 and X100. For now, the X-series is simply not competitive with its peers in terms of video functionality.

As impressive as the Hybrid Viewfinder is on the other cameras in the X-series, the X-E1’s electronic viewfinder is excellent. Compared to the X-Pro 1’s finder in electronic mode, the X-E1 offers a better and higher-resolution image, but of course it can’t pull of the X-Pro 1’s impressive trick of switching to an optical view for those times when you want a literal ‘window’ on the world in front of your lens. The X-E1’s EVF cannot replace the X-Pro 1’s OVF but if you don’t really need or want an optical finder, the X-E1 is clearly a better choice than the X-Pro 1, thanks to its superior EVF and lower overall cost.


Arguably, it was very important that the X-E1, being the first ‘prosumer’ offering in the X-series, could be coupled with a zoom lens, and fortunately the new 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens performs very well. Although pricey compared to typical ‘kit’ options, the higher cost is justified by very good optical performance, and solid image stabilization, with an unusually fast maximum aperture.

In addition to the 18-55, the X-E1 owner can also mount any of Fujifilm’s high quality XF prime lenses, the 18mm, 35mm, and 60mm, and now the new 14mm as well. After using all of them, I settled on the 35mm for most of my shots; its 53mm equivalence was just about right for most of my favorite subjects.

The built-in flash, while handy, produces the typical harsh frontal illumination we like to avoid. However, we liked the (undocumented) ability to bend back the flash to bounce light off the ceiling for a slightly more natural look, especially when shooting interior portraits.

Image Quality

Image quality is where the X-E1 shines, turning out JPEG images with extremely low noise, even at its highest ISO setting of 25,600. Contrast can be a little low in default JPEGs but this can be tweaked, although switching to Velvia film mode pumps contrast and color a little too much for most situations.

Shooting in Raw mode gives you a lot of control over brightness and color adjustments post-capture (as well as noise and sharpness) but X-E1 buyers should be aware that Silkypix, which is bundled with the X-E1, is one of the least enjoyable raw-conversion platforms out there, despite being very capable. Fortunately, after shaky beginnings, third-party raw support is finally pretty robust, with both Capture One and Adobe offering good support, closing the gap between the X-E1 and its conventional bayer-pattern competition when it comes to shooting and processing raw files.

If you’re a user of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, or Photoshop CS6 and you haven’t already downloaded the release candidate of Adobe Camera Raw 7.4, we suggest you do so immediately.

It’s also worth noting that as we’ve come to expect from Fujifilm’s X-series, the X-E1’s built-in raw converter is excellent, offering all of the essential tonal and color adjustments that make shooting raw so useful, and delivering JPEGs that match in-camera JPEGs in terms of quality. The recent emergence of robust third-party raw support makes the X-E1 even more attractive, since it effectively makes it less of a risk. If you buy an X-E1, you don’t need worry that its raw files won’t fit into your usual workflow, which fundamentally alters the camera’s value proposition, and indeed that of the X-system as a whole. Both the significantly improved third party raw support and the development of lenses like the new 18-55mm zoom signal the maturation of the X-system for enthusiasts, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.

The Final Word

Overall, we really enjoyed shooting with the Fujifilm X-E1, and I’m very pleased with the images I got out of it. The camera crashed on occasion (it wouldn’t be a new X-series camera if it didn’t have some bugs…), leaving buttons unresponsive, and focus and exposure sometimes delivered odd results, but powering off usually cleared the error.

Ultimately, the Fujifilm X-E1 is a great little camera with a unique, retro design aesthetic, which works with a slowly growing selection of impressive lenses, and brings home images from both bright and dark places that rival some pretty heavy hitters. From the simple slab-sided design to Fujifilm’s enthusiast-friendly control logic, the X-E1 is tuned for the enthusiast photographer who likes straightforward controls and a no-nonsense emphasis on still photography. As such, despite it’s sub-par movie mode and less than stellar autofocus performance, it earns our coveted gold award, by a whisker.”

Below some pictures taken with this camera/lens combination during my first outing with it walking around my neighborhood.

Camera picture taken with a Sony A77II and Minolta 50mm f2.8 Macro lens. Other pictures taken with a Fuji X-E1 and Fuji XF 35mm f1.4 R