Film Camera 2024 -1: Polaroid SX-70 – Results

Of course, after I got my hands the Polaroid SX-70 mentioned in the previous post I rushed out immediately, eager to try it out – right? Actually, that was not the case. I think that I acquired the camera and film in 2022. When I opened the film package today, I noticed that the film was made in 2021, which of course makes it three years old. Polaroid warns that you should not use film more than one year old, which may have been a contributing factor to what happened today.

So how did things go? Well, I put the film in the camera and the dark slide popped out as it should. So far so good. I left the house and walked down towards the Hudson River. On the way I spotted something that I thought would make an interesting picture. I carefully focused, framed the picture and pressed the shutter release. The camera whirred but no picture was ejected. After tugging for a while, I managed to get it out. Of course, the picture was blank. I continued walking and took another picture with the same results. The third picture at least ejected from the camera without any assistance with me, but it looked as if it had been taken with a 150-year-old camera rather than 52-year-old camera that it is. I continued walking and taking pictures and they all ejected and were all pretty much of the same quality. When I got to the last two pictures, I pressed the shutter release…and nothing happened. Frustrating, but then I remembered that while the old Polaroid film allowed 10 exposures, the modern variant only allows eight. I imagine that the first two exposures did not register on the frame counter, which showed that there were two left when in fact there the film pack was finished. When I got home, I couldn’t get the film pack out of the camera, but after some YouTube browsing I managed to figure out how to remove it and also how to clean the rollers (which now had some bluish grey gunk on them, probably from my efforts to remove the film from the camera when it wouldn’t eject by itself).

I don’t consider today’s efforts a total disaster though (although I might have done if I hadn’t gotten any pictures at all). I was bit disappointed with the results, but not at all surprised. It’s an old camera that’s been sitting around for a while. The film was beyond its sell by date. Clearly the camera is not working properly, but all things considered I quite liked the results. They have a certain vintage look that has a charm of its own.

I also wanted to see whether or not I’d like the instant camera experience. I was surprised to find that I did, and I intend to continue. I might see if I can get the camera repaired. I browsed around for a while and discovered that a lot of people had good things to say about Brooklyn Film Camera. I live close to NY City, so I’ll probably give them a call, and if possible, take it in for them to have a look. If they can fix it for a reasonable cost I’ll probably do it. If not I might consider getting another one that they already renovated. It’s such a beautiful camera that I wouldn’t at all mind putting it out for display.

All things considered it was an enjoyable experience.





Taken with a Polaroid SX-70. Pictures messed with in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Film Camera 2024 -1: Polaroid SX-70

Even when they were in their heyday, I wasn’t much into instant cameras. I guess I shouldn’t even say instant cameras because back then there was only one brand: Polaroid. However, I witnessed the death and resurrection of Polaroid and admired they way that a group of determined and dedicated individuals had brought back both the film and the cameras. Good for them!

So when I was thinking about what new kind of camera I could try it occurred to me to go for a Polaroid camera. It seemed to me that the Polaroid SX-70 was arguably the best of the bunch so that was what I got, along with some Polaroid SX-70 black and white film.

The SX-70 is a folding single lens reflex Land camera which was produced by the Polaroid Corporation from 1972 to 1981. It helped popularize instant photography…There were a variety of models beginning in 1972 with the original SX-70, though all shared the same basic design. The first model had a plain focusing screen (the user was expected to be able to see the difference between in- and out-of focus) because Dr. Land wanted to encourage photographers to think they were looking at the subject, rather than through a viewfinder. When many users complained that focusing was difficult, especially in dim light, a split-image rangefinder prism was added. This feature is standard on all later manual focus models…Though expensive, the SX-70 was popular in the 1970s and retains a cult following today. Photographers such as Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, Helmut Newton, and Walker Evans praised and used the SX-70. Helmut Newton used the camera for fashion shoots. Walker Evans began using the camera in 1973 when he was 70 years old. Not until the $40 Model 1000 OneStep using SX-70 film became the best-selling camera of the 1977 Christmas shopping season, however, did its technology become truly popular. More recently, it was the inspiration for the Belfast alternative band SX-70’s name. (Wikipedia).

I guess if it was good enough for Walker Evans it out to be good enough for me!

There’s a good review (along with some example photographs) at Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera Review & How to Use this Iconic Camera, by Sara Johansen. For another interesting take on this camera see: Polaroid SX-70 Instant Film Camera Review – The Pinnacle of Polaroid by James Tocchio on Casual Photophile, one of my favorite photography related sites.

It’s certainly a beautiful camera, and a technological marvel to boot.

Taken with a Panasonic Lumix GX85 and Leica DG Summilux 15mm f1.7

My Photography in 2023

Before I start to write about my photography in 2023, I think it would be good for me to talk more broadly about my photographic journey.

My interest in photography started in 1974 when my wife bought me my first serious camera: a Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII film camera, which I used extensively in the 1980s and 90s, along with a Canon AE-1, which I acquired several years later. At some point in the early-mid 2000s I switched to digital photograph, but somehow my interest in photography had waned. I didn’t feel like going out to take pictures and only took pictures of family vacations, family events etc.

Things changed in 2010. I had lost my primary digital camera. I later found it again but by that time I had purchased another one: A Panasonic Lumix LX-3. I loved this camera (still do). Somehow it reignited my love of photography, which was just as well because retirement was looming in 2012, and I needed to find something to do with myself.

After that I split my time between photography and doing things (plays, shows, meals out, travel etc.) with my wife. It was a good time.

This went on until late 2020 when my wife of 43 years unexpectedly passed away after a thankfully very brief illness (not COVID). This was a very tough time for me and I had to find something to keep me occupied, or I would have gone mad. Of course, that thing was photography and between late 2020 and late 2021 I was constantly out taking pictures.

Late in 2022 I volunteered to work for our local Historical Society. This was something I had been meaning to do for some time, but never gotten around to. Since then, I’ve been there virtually every workday from 9:00am-4:00pm. This doesn’t mean that I have given up photography. Far from it. I still take photographs, make photobooks and the occasional prints; collect old cameras and photobooks etc., just at a slightly diminished pace than before.

So photographically speaking this is what I’ve been doing during 2023.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Despite my commitments to the Historical Society, I’ve managed to get out on quite a few photowalks:

In addition to the above I walk a lot around the area where I live and take many pictures. All told I kept about 1,500 photographs in 2023. I took a lot more.

As in previous years I’ve created two year-end posts featuring my favorite photographs, one on favorite black and whites; and the other on favorite color photographs.

BLOG

I maintain and will continue to maintain this blog, which I started in 2012. In 2023 I made 366 Blog Posts. The total number of posts since I started the blog is 4,359.

WEB SITE

However, I have also become a little tired of the blog format. I will keep the blog as a kind of illustrated diary of what I’m up to, but in 2023 I created a more traditional website for myself. You can find it at hgdphotography.org.

NEW DIRECTIONS

In previous years I’ve tried some more experimental (for me) approaches e.g. Macro Photography, Street Photography etc. In 2023 I tried my hand at infrared photography. I enjoyed it and will probably do more. I also want to learn more about video. I have cameras that can shoot video, but I didn’t have software to edit the results. I’ve now acquired some. I haven’t done much with it in 2023 but anticipate doing more in 2024.

I like to see my photographs in print but have little wall space to display them. So instead, I’ve focused on creating photobooks (more precisely ‘Zines’) of my work. In 2023 I created (or substantially modified an earlier version of) the following:

  • Opus 40. A remarkable large environmental sculpture in Saugerties, New York,
  • Golden Anniversary. Documenting my friends Marc and Rozanne Prisaments’ 50th Wedding Anniversary.
  • >A Tree:(revised): Around the Neighborhood No. 1. A series of photographs taken at the same time of single nearby tree.
  • A Pond: Around the Neighborhood No. 2. A series of Photographs taken around a nearby pond, which was once the outdoor pool of a famous resort hotel now gone.
  • Infrared. My attempts at infrared photography.
  • Quinceañera (revised). Documenting a friend’s granddaughter’s celebration.
  • Rivertowns No. 1: Along Albany Post Road, Tarrytown (revised). Part of an ongoing series of photographs of towns along the Hudson River.
  • Rivertowns No. 2: Dobbs Ferry. Part of an ongoing series of photographs of towns along the Hudson River.

PHOTOBOOKS

In 2023 I continued to add to my collection of Photobooks by and about renowned photographers with the following:

  • Dream Street. W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Project by Sam Stephenson.
  • Looking at Images. A deeper look at selected photographs by Brooks Jensen.
  • Dido Moriyama by Bruna Dantas Lobato.
  • The Americans by Robert Frank.
  • Infrared Photography: Digital Techniques for Brilliant Images by Laurie Clein et al.
  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.
  • Richard Misrach on Landscape and Meaning.
  • Mary Ellen Mark on the Portrait and the Moment.
  • Graciela Iturbide on Dreams, Symbols, and Imagination.
  • Peter Lindbergh on Fashion Photography.
  • Then: Photographs 1925-1995. By Alexander Liberman.
  • Larry Fink on Composition and Improvisation.
  • Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors and the Nude.
  • Time in New England by Paul Strand.
  • Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams.
  • The Portfolios of Ansel Adams. By Ansel Adams.
  • 1975 Masters of Contemporary Photography: Duane Michals. The Photographic Illusion: Using the Mind’s Eye to Created Photos for Collectors and Clients.
  • 1975 Masters of Contemporary Photography: Art Kane. The Persuasive Image: How a Portraitist and Storyteller Illuminates our Changing Culture.
  • 1975 Masters of Contemporary Photography: Elliott Erwitt. The Private Experience: Personal Insights of a Professional Photographer.
  • Let us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans.
  • Eudora Welty. Photographs by Eudora Welty and Reynolds Price.
  • Josef Koudelka: The Making of Exiles by Josef Koudelka.
  • Ansel Adams. An Autobiography. By Ansel Adams.
  • Atget. By John Szarkowski.
  • The Living Sea. By Hussain Aga Khan.

CAMERAS

I’ve added a few new (to me) cameras to my collection of old/inexpensive cameras. My current focus is on medium format and older digital cameras:
Of late I’ve focused on medium format, and older digital cameras and added a few new cameras to my collection of old/inexpensive cameras:

  • Canon PowerShot Pro 1.
  • Sony Cybershot DSC-R1.
  • Sony Cybershot DSC-F828
  • Pentax K10D
  • Yashica Mat-124G
  • Petri RF
  • Kodak Art Deco Six-20
  • That’s about it other than for me to with anyone reading this a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

    Another new/old camera: The Canon Powershot Pro 1

    I first came across this camera on a YouTube video entitled: What makes this 8mp CCD camera so special? on YouTube Channel called Snappiness (which I can heartily recommend to anyone who’s interested in older digital cameras).

    There’s a good review at Canon PowerShot Pro1 Review.

    I was intrigued enough that I decided to get one for myself. Why? Well, I must admit that the major reason was that red ring on the lens. If you’ve watched the video above, or read the review, or are just into Canon cameras, you’ll know that the ring indicates ‘L’ series glass: the best that you can get for Canon cameras. I wouldn’t normally want to spend the money that Canon ‘L’ series glass commands. I was sure that this was a marketing gimmick. How could you possibly get this type of lens on an admittedly very old (2004 vintage) sub $100 camera.

    When it eventually came, I went to our local park to try it out. You can see the results below.









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    The review above concludes:

    The PowerShot Pro1 is a camera designed to be familiar to current Canon owners, easy enough to use for first time buyers and yet still provide a semiprofessional feel and feature set. Canon has borrowed from its professional lens line to put an L quality label on the lens system to indicate that this is a new lens and it has been designed to fulfill the high-resolution requirements of an eight-megapixel CCD. In use the Canon felt slightly slower than I was expecting, certainly not much faster than the G5 and I didn’t see any marked improvement in speed overall from that camera.

    Overall image quality was good, that L lens proving it can deliver the resolution and that Canon’s reliable DiGiC image processor can turn out a quality image with good tonal and color balance and no noticeable artifacts. We had two areas of disappointment from an image quality stance, firstly the lens exhibited noticeable lens shading especially at wide angle and/or maximum aperture, secondly noise levels were high enough to be seen at ISO 100 and progressively worse at higher sensitivities. This is clearly a trait of the eight megapixel sensor and while we commend Canon for taking a ‘purist’ approach to image processing these levels of noise really should have been tamed with an (optional?) noise reduction feature.

    The Pro1 left me feeling neither hot nor cold, the camera delivered as much resolution as we had expected with on the whole good image quality but didn’t really perform as we would hope ‘across the board’. I didn’t see any major improvements in performance and ‘usage feel’ and was left slightly disappointed by noise levels at higher sensitivities and the potential lens shading. That said there’s little doubt that the Pro1 can deliver great images when used carefully and should certainly be in the top three on your shopping list if you’re considering an eight-megapixel prosumer digital camera.

    The review mentions the following ‘Pros’ (remember these were pros in 2004. Most of them wouldn’t be very special nowadays):

    • Very good resolution, joint best of group
    • Wide angle seven times zoom lens, fast at wide
    • Selectable color space (sRGB / Adobe RGB)
    • Good shot to shot times
    • Good flash performance
    • Time-lapse feature
    • Relatively compact and lightweight
    • Good ergonomics, decent hand grip, zoom ring
    • Wide range of accessories available
    • Some unique features (ND filter etc.)
    • Clean image, quality image processing thanks to DiGiC
    • Large 2.0″ Tilt & Twist LCD monitor, 235,000 pixels
    • High resolution electronic viewfinder
    • Supplied IR remote control

    I’d agree.

    As for the ‘Cons’:

    • Vignetting / lens shading at maximum aperture
    • Visible noise from ISO 100 upwards
    • Slower than expected startup time
    • Limited latitude of image parameter adjustment
    • No AF assist lamp
    • No live view histogram
    • Lower than advertised continuous shooting speed
    • Long CF write times for Super-Fine images (4.8 sec)
    • Disappointing battery life – camera bug?
    • Poor automatic white balance in artificial light
    • No WB fine tuning

    None of these bother me too much. Once upon a time the “Visible noise from ISO 100 upwards” might have bothered me. But with the kind of noise reduction available nowadays it’s not really much of a problem.

    I rather liked it. It’s small, light, has a decent zoom range (28 – 200 mm equiv). I liked the ergonomics. It’s fits into my current passion for collecting older digital camera. And it really is very sharp for a camera that cost next to nothing.

    Another newly acquired old camera: Sony F828

    I continue to collect older digital cameras. While reading about another new acquisition (See: Another recently acquired old camera: Sony R1) I came across information on its predecessor the Sony Cybershot F828. It looked interesting and was inexpensive so I decided to get one.

    In its January 2004 Review (yes the camera is almost 20 years old) DP Review wrote the following:

    The Cybershot DSC-F828 was announced on 15th August, this new camera is very obviously a development of the DSC-F717 design. Just under a year since the F717 and Sony’s flagship prosumer digital camera has certainly undergone a large number of changes, not least of which is the switch from the electronically zoomed five times lens of the F707/F717 to an all new mechanical zoom seven times lens with Carl Zeiss T* coating and a wide angle 28 mm equiv. capability. Sony has also chosen to go with their latest sensor, the all new eight megapixel four-color (RGBE) 2/3″ type (8.8 x 6.6 mm) CCD. Ignoring all other changes this makes a formidable combination, a high quality mechanically linked zoom lens combined with the resolution of an eight megapixel CCD. This camera is arguably the most important prosumer digital camera this year.

    And concluded

    There’s no doubt that physically the DSC-F828 is one of the most unusual and arguably best designed prosumer digital cameras. It took the successful design of the F717 to the next level with a mechanically linked zoom lens, full black metal body, new control layout and improved EVF among others.

    Sony has clearly concentrated on giving digital camera owners the full SLR experience without the need to carry multiple lenses. Performance was on the whole very good, with fast startup times, short shutter release lag and better than average focusing speed. From a feature set point of view the F828 is strong although still not up with the likes of Minolta’s excellent DiMAGE A1 nor the Nikon Coolpix 5700.

    It’s a shame that Sony couldn’t directly document that the ‘Real color’ mode of the camera is actually mapped to a known color space (sYCC) and perhaps even have provided the color profile for this color space so that owners could make proper use of it.

    Where the F828 starts to disappoint is image quality, many observers had concerns about the very small pixel pitch of the camera’s eight million pixel sensor knowing that it would most likely lead to noisier images but what we weren’t prepared for were chromatic aberrations. This came as a surprise especially considering the F828’s lens carries not only the Carl Zeiss name but also the ‘T*’ notation indicating the use of special lens coatings. So in reality the F828’s biggest issue becomes chromatic aberrations, with noise a second place.

    Throughout the latter part of writing this review I had an ‘Above Average’ rating fixed in my mind, higher than average noise at ISO 100, the green hue shift issue and the chromatic aberrations problem dominating the final conclusion.

    However after going back through the advantages the camera offers, the extra resolution, the ability to produce very good images with a little experience, the flexibility of the lens (wide angle, reach, fast maximum aperture, mechanical zoom), the improved build quality and feature set the DSC-F828 just scraped through to a Recommended rating. (That said I am still on the edge of an ‘Above Average’ rating).

    So about what you would expect for a 20 year camera. But there’s something very special, even unique about this camera. But that’s a topic for a future post.

    Taken with a Sony A7IV and Sony FE 24mm f2.8 G.