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The Best Polaroid Camera - Polaroid 600SE

polaroid 600se

Last year, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a unit of Polaroid 600SE aka GOOSE instant camera at a relatively low price on ebay. I've been dreaming to get this camera for a very long time . Thanks a lot to my Polaroid fanatic friend , Afoi for the poisoning lol.

The Polaroid 600SE is truly an awesome instant rangefinder camera ! It is the “flagship” professional cameras for  Polaroid, based on the Mamiya Press design which both the Mamiya and Polaroid have been discontinued for many years. The camera have inter-changeable lens mount and it utilizes Mamiya lenses that produce amazingly crisp images. Being a medium format, the details and bokeh (out of focus rendition)  is indeed awesome. The subject is pin sharp while the bokeh is buttery smooth. The standard lens which comes along with the camera is a fixed 127mm f4.7 lens with Seiko leaf shutter.  There are additional lens option such as the Mamiya 75mm f/5.6  being the wide angle and the Mamiya 150mm f/5.6 as portrait lens are sold separately. I can't comment on these as I haven't got the chance to try out other lenses just yet.

 

Tips on Using the Polaroid 600SE

Using this camera at first seems a little quirky for most people, it’s LEFT HANDED and not to mentioned it weighs a ton ( almost 1.7kg ) !  You could easily use this as a dumbbell substitute when you feel like working out. Operating this camera is fairly easy as this is a fully mechanical, just need to remember the sequence. For those those is used to shooting with film medium format camera it would be pretty much at home for them. Here are the steps in short:

1. Getting the film - This camera uses the Fp100c ( color film 100 iso ) and Fp3000b ( black and white 3000 iso ) instant film manufactured by Fujifilm. It's sad to say that Fuji in the recent month has just discontinued the black and white FP3000b film pack hence if you have the chance....do stock up ! It's one of my favorite instant film and the flexibility of 3000 iso is simply awesome. A packet is around RM65 now for a box of 10 exposures. I used to get it for as low as RM46/ box previously before the announcement of discontinuation.   If you could buy in bulk, you could certainly save some money but do bear in mind of the expire date.

2. Load the film into the film back - This is one tricky part which most people got it wrong. First, make it a habit to check and clean the rollers of the film back. The built up gooey like substance from the fp instant film will hinder the movement of the roller. Just use a damp cloth and to clean the side of the roller contact point when necessary. Just make sure the roller moves freely as the added friction might cause the film tab to break and the entire pack of film will be wasted.

To install, pull up on the latch to open the film holder door, the door does not open flat hence don't force it. Always hold the film pack by the edges, not in the center. Slide the pack in at an angle, then push it down into place. If done correctly the film pack will be flush with the sides of the holder. Check that the white tabs are not caught between the pack and the holder. It needs to hang out of the film case. Close door and latch the metal hook to the holder. The final outcome should be as below. You would need to pull out the first sheet of the film to start using. That would get you at frame no.1 as indicated.

3. Metering - As the camera doesn't have a built in light meter, one would have to use an external light meter instead. I would suggest that you get the awesome Voigtlander VC2 meter and attach it onto the hand grip hot shoe. This is interchangeable with most cameras like Leica M and Nikon SLRs. If you have other light meters, feel free to use it too. I wouldn't suggest to use sunny 16 rule for instant film as the exposure latitude is not as wide as normal film . Further more price per exposure is relatively high around Rm6 per shot hence you would really want to get it right the first time.

4. Remove dark slide - Remove the dark slide when you are ready to shoot. Pretty simple and no explanation needed. Make sure you keep the dark slide back on when it's done as finding a used / replacement would be a bit costly.

5. Cock the shutter - you need to cock the shutter at the lens before pulling the trigger with your left hand. Just pull the lever down towards the left side until it clicks.

6. Exposure , Focus , Shoot  - Set the shutter speed and aperture on the lens.  Focusing on the 600SE is pretty much like all other rangefinder camera.  You just need to focus the image by aligning two images together at the little square box in the middle. Once done, just pull the trigger at the hand grip.

7. Removing the exposed film - Unlike most of the Polaroid cam which we a familiar with since our childhood where the film will be ejected automatically from the bottom of the camera with a loud winding sound, this 600SE operates rather differently. It's a two step process. First you have to pull out the white color film tab manually to activate the developing chemicals as per dig.40.  Then the second film tab will eject from the film back. Just pull the entire sheet out ( dig.41 ) in one single motion. It could be a little tight for the first few sheets but once you reach exposure 4, it should be a lot easier. Just wait for around 40 sec and you may peel off the instant film starting from the edges as per dig.42.

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Features

  • Variable aperture and shutter settings: Enables better stop- action and depth-of-field
  • Bright-image coincidence type rangefinder: Ensures sharp focus and accurate framing
  • Sturdy hand grip with adjustable hand strap: Simplifies handling and operation
  • Comes with standard Mamiya 127mm f/4.7 lens ~ produces incredible crisp, full-range images
  • Other coated, color-corrected lenses available

Specification

  • Shutter: 1/500-B with X-synch for flash
  • Flash: Uses conventional flash with X-synch
  • Interchangeable backs for flexibility ( Polaroid or film back )
  • Die cast aluminum body
  • no built in TTL metering. I usually use my iPhone light meter application and it works great

( Spec sheet plugged from camerapedia )

Below are some of the images which I have taken while experimenting with this camera. I’m using the Fujifilm FP3000B film for this series and it’s great for indoor studio purpose due to the 3000 ISO. This film is very stable as compared to the IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT Polaroids which I will touch on later when I have time. I’m not a big fan of the the color version of the Fuji FP100C as the pictures always turn out more cold. Not sure why but some pack might turn out nicer than the other even it’s shot under the same exposure. I have tried two packs which the color is slightly more magenta and I love it lots but I’m still trying to figure out why the variation.

So what’s the verdict you might ask ? I think it’s an awesome camera to have specially for those who love instant film. Image quality is superb and being medium format, the out of focus rendition is really smooth and tonal graduation is awesome. However, it’s really huge and heavy. Lugging it around for street photography is a big no no. You will ended up pulling a crowd instead of being discreet. More suited for studio or portrait use. Hope you like sharing and stay tuned for more ! Thanks

 

PS : Feel free to download the user manual HERE

film photography malaysia polaroid600se
film photography malaysia polaroid600se

Caution  !!

The Polaroid film process uses a caustic jelly which is safely packed inside sealed containers within the film pack. If accidentally you should get some of this jelly on your skin, wipe it off immediately to avoid an alkali burn, wash the area with plenty of water as soon as possible. It is particularly important to keep the jelly away from eyes and mouth.

 

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Which Film Camera to buy for beginners ?

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Which Film Camera to buy for beginners ?

So many film cameras in the market, which one should you buy ? Here are some tips for those who is starting out :

1. Keep it simple - The simpler film camera is , the less likely the camera will fail. Even if it fails, it would be easier and cheaper to repair. One have to consider the age of these film cameras could be as old as your parents A Leica M3 would probably be around 65 years old by now. I would suggest to get a camera with full mechanical function which does not rely on battery to operate.

2. Work within your budget - There is a huge range of film cameras in the market and their price varies from USD 40 all the way to USD 40k depending on the brand , rarity and condition. The Nikon FM or FE2 , Canon Canonet, Olympus 35SP, Yashica 124G, Minolta Autocord and Asahi Pentax are pretty affordable for newbies.

3. Type of cameras, Rangefinder or SLR - This depends on your shooting style. I would suggest rangefinder style camera if you love to shoot streets, travel and journalistic as rangefinder is more suited for the wide to mid range zoom lenses. The size is compact , less obtrusive and usually very light. Go for SLR if you love doing portrait , macro, sports or wildlife. What about TLRs you may asked ...well I wouldn't recommend it as your first camera as the number of shots per roll is a lot less as it is a medium format camera. You will only get 12 exposures for roll of film hence make your learning curve a lot more expensive.

3. Keep it small - There is a saying ' The best camera is the one with you ! '. I would suggest to start out with a camera which is small and portable so you would use it more. We understand that huge and bulky cameras such as the Hasselblad  500cm and Mamiya RZ67 looks uber cool but it require quite a bit of muscle to lug it around. It certainly not an everyday camera for you to learn. First the number of exposures are greatly reduced ( the Hassie 500cm only clocks 12 shots ) , the processing fee is pretty much the same hence the cost per shot is a lot higher !

4. Availability of film format and place to process the negatives - Through out the years many film format has already been discontinued. Hence if you found a camera with the below format kindly avoid them at all cost unless it plan to keep the camera as a paper weight or a display item - 220 ( discontinued ) , large format 4 x 5 and 8 x 10

5. BATTERY type - Many of the older film cameras out there uses mercury battery which is no longer in production. Always check if there is a replacement / substitute battery which you could use. If not it would be pointless to own a camera which you can't operate unless you are a camera collector.

 

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Buying your first classic film LEICA M ?

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I can still remember the day I first got myself a Leica camera. It has that mystical feeling or aura which I simply can't put it in words. My hands were sweating and my heart were racing when I was opening the DHL box after longing to own my dream camera for such a long time. The process is indeed rather daunting specially not everyone has the luxury to test every single one of the Leica M ( both film and digital ) in the market and pick the one that suits you perfectly. I am based in a Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and access to vintage film camera is already hard due to the lack of demand and popularity here. Hence I am writing this article to help out those who is keen on getting their very firstfilm Leica M. Below are some points to consider :

1. Do you need built in light meters ?

2. Favorite focal length ?

3. Budget ?

4. Purpose intended for ? Use or collection ?

 

NON LIGHT METERED M

Leica M3 - Around USD 1000 to USD 1300

Let's start off with the great grandfather of all M's ....the Leica M3. This is the first M every created by Leica dated back in 1954. The M3 is extremely well made, with brass top and bottom and the amazingly huge 0.92x viewfinder is a class on it's own. It has the largest viewfinder and focus patch ever made on any Ms to date. The widest frame-lines is 50mm hence if you are using a 35 or a 28mm lens, you will need an additional viewfinder mounted onto the hot shoe. The cocking and winding mechanism is buttery smooth and it's joy to use.  This camera doesn't come with a built in meter ( as it wasn't even invented yet back then ) and doesn't require any battery to operate as it's fully mechanical. Hence you might need an additional light meter or sunny 16 metering method when one.

As the production life span of the M3 is around 12 years , there are minor updates being implemented along the way hence later / bigger serial number would be more sought after by collectors and users alike. Early production M3 starting from approximately around ( 700,000 ) would have a double stroke cocking mechanism, which means you need to turn the film lever twice to advance one frame. German has always been really safe and precise with their engineering and it's actually a safety factor to avoid film breakage. This function was later changed to single stroke as it reaches 850,000 production number. Go for serial number 950,000 and above and you will be sure to have all the latest and greatest upgrades such as even larger viewfinder, self timer, modern strap lugs and unbreakable metal pressure plate. A chrome M3 will set you back around USD 1.2k while the rare original black paint one is about the price of a kidney : )

Pros : Highest magnification M ever produced ( 0.92x ) hence perfect for 50mm shooter, amazing built quality , silky smooth mechanism , works great with summilux and noctilux , believe to be built without compromise and manufacturing cost in mind . Historic value as it is the first M ever made !

Cons : No light meter , need additional viewfinder to use wider than 50mm focal length , slower film loading mechanism ( but fool proof ) , needs to hunt around for a really good unit as it's the oldest M of the lot. Iconic camera hence most sought after.

 

Leica M2 - Around USD 650 - USD 900

The M2 was created a year or two after M3 was launched based on feedback gathered from photographers.  It's a more affordable version of the M3 as many photographers couldn't afford the M3 back then. Hence some functions and features were removed to keep the price down. The automatic film counter on the M3 was replaced with a cheaper manual reset version. Secondly early production M2 doesn't come with a self timer function but later it was added back during halfway of the production cycle. The viewfinder magnification was reduced from the whooping 0.92x to the more modern 0.72x to cater for 35mm focal length.  The outlook is still pretty much the same as the M3 except for the top penal which has an obvious rounded film counter. The build and feel is still as good as the regular M3. For the price it makes a good first M camera for most user due to it's attractive price point. One can always add a Leica MR4 or Voightlander VC2 pocket size light meter on the camera hot shoe which makes life a lot easier.

Pros : Wider 0.72x viewfinder makes it more suitable for 35mm focal length, same amazing built quality as the M3 with silky smooth operation, flare proof viewfinder and more affordable as it's often overshadowed by the more bling up M3. A real workhorse.

Cons : No light meter, slower film loading mechanism as M3, manual reset film counter, no self timer on some earlier units ( if you are into selfies )

 

Leica M4 - Around USD 1400 to USD 2000

There are a few variation of this cameras being produced, the original first production M4 and the later M4-P and M4-2. I would suggest to stay away from the later ones as they were never really sought after. The M4-P and M4-2 were made during the economic down turn of the company, production was moved from Germany to Canada and many of the parts were replaced with lower quality ones. The original M4 is still the best among the rest in my opinion, it still has the same construction as the M2 and M3 with a modern film winding mechanism , easier film loading method and the same 0.72x viewfinder magnification. Again the black version is more sought after by collectors due to it's rarity. Many regard the M4 as the last best classic film M ever produced.

Pros : Modern film loading, modern film winder, still made the same way as the M2 and M3 with top notch materials.

Cons : High price due to it's collectability and rarity as production life was not as long as it's older siblings.

 

METERED M

Leica M5 - Around USD 800 to 1300

The M5 is the most unique of all film Ms. It's the first M with a built in light meter and the operation was rather primitive but highly accurate. The cds light sensor moves into the front of the shutter curtain once the film is cocked and moves out of the way when the shutter fires. The size of the light sensor is rather small hence it operates like a spot meter. Due to the moving mechanism, some wider angle lenses such as 4/21mm and 3.4/21mm Super Angulons which has a deep protruding rear elements which extends almost to the front of the shutter shutter on the camera when mounted. The earlier version of the collapsible lenses should be avoided as well as these lenses might hit the light sensor moving arm and cause great damage.

Besides that, the M5 body shape and ergonomics was redesigned ground up. It borrowed many of it's design ques from the Single Lens Reflex ( SLR ) camera which was just introduced in the market during that time. The body was larger for better grip ( like an SLR ), the small shutter speed dial from the past was replaced with larger ones which overhangs on the sides with allow the index finger to maneuver it easily, strap lugs position been changed for more ergonomic , film winder been switched to the bottom plate for easier operation. Some calls it ugly but I think it's a beauty. Due the larger body size, it balance with the heavy 50 Noctilux or 50 Summilux really well but when mounted with smaller 35 mm lenses ...it does looks weird. The M5 wasn't loved by much and it was discontinued not long after making it one of the shortest production life M ever made.

Despite it's 'ugly ducking' moniker,  the M5 is one of my favorite so far. The metering is spot on accurate, fast and ergonomics maneuvering and it balance with my chrome 50 Summilux really well.

Pros : Ergonomics , love the spot meter , reasonable price, 1.35v mercury been discontinued hence replacement Wein Cell is not as easily available.

Cons : Big and bulkier than a regular M, collapsible and wider lenses might not be compatible, doesn't looks like a regular M which most people love.

 

Leica M6 - Around USD 1400 - USD 1800

Leica M6 started it's production life from 1984 to 2002 hence there have been quite a few variations and improvements being implemented along it's production life. The M6 has a few variations ...the Classic and the TTL version and all comes with 3 variations of viewfinder magnification 0.58x , 0.72x and 0.85x

Viewfinder comparison

source : http://lavidaleica.com/content/overview-m-system

source : http://lavidaleica.com/content/overview-m-system

The M6 Classic is the early production units for this model. The design ques was brought over from the older Leica M4 with an additional light meter and the self timer function was removed. None of the M5 elements or design features were carried over. The shutter speed dial, film release lever and etc is basically identical to the M4. The body material is no longer using brass as per the older Ms and some components has been switched from metal to engineered plastics to make it more affordable to the masses. The sought after Leica script engraving on the top panel has been removed as well and the viewfinder is more flare prone compared to the older Ms. When shooting against strong sun light at certain angles, the frame lines as well as the center focus patch will be blinded making focus impossible.

On the other hand, the M6 TTL which refers to FLASH TTL and not exposure TTL came out on the later life of the production cycle.  Both Classic and TTL has in camera through-lens metering hence it's rather misleading Leica newbies. The only difference is manual flash or TTL automated flash that's all. The TTL cost a fair bit more and it sucks battery like no tomorrow , well for my unit at least. The classic can last me 20 or so rolls of film per change while the TTL would probably do 5 to 7 rolls if I am lucky. The camera will constantly consume battery when it's cocked or the shutter speed dial wasn't set on OFF mode.

Having both the Classic and TTL version of the M6 in my collection, I would say go with the classic as it has way longer battery life and a few mm smaller as compared to the TTL siblings. Also it's cheaper too !

Pros : A workhorse, built in metering , abundance to choose from with different viewfinder magnification options, easiest to hunt for a good unit, built in light meter , uses 1.5v LR44 battery which are easily available.

Cons : Lower quality materials used as compared to the earlier Ms but still very dependable , flare prone view finder.

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Hasselblad 500cm / 503cx Tips and Review

Hasselblad 503cx

As a photographer, I have always been curious to know how does it feels  to actually hold and shoot the world’s first camera which travels to the moon. The brand Hasselblad or Hassie in short has been synonym with amazing picture quality and workmanship as well as high flexibility. I can still remember the day clearly when I first collected the camera from the KLIA custom ( i got it off ebay ) . Opening up the parcel with utmost care and assembling the camera part by part while in the car until it finally take shape is truly hard to forget.


The 500cm as well as the rest of the Hassie are modular system cameras which allows user to mix and match the components whichever suits their needs. In other words, the photographer have the flexibility to choose different bodies, film or digital backs or even Polaroid back,  waist level or prism finder, focus screen as well as manual or motorized winders as per one’s preference / needs. I have both the 500cm as well as 503cx and they are almost identical. The only difference between these two siblings is the 500cm the more down to earth brother while the 503cx come with palpas internal coating at shutter curtain and mirror chamber which supposed to have a slightly better light absorption. The 503cx has the ability to do center-weight TTL Flash metering with appropriate SCA modules with certain capable flashes. Hence the 503cx has an ISO dial on the left side of the body as shown on the image on top. I use the 500cm more for natural light / out door shoots while the 503cx more for studio application as well as a back up. Both or can I say all the film Hassei runs on 120 / 220 film and it shoot 6x6 format which is Square ...think Instagram ! : )

I have replaced the original split focusing screens on these two Hassie with a high brightness Accumate screen which works really awesome. The clarity and brightness improved tremendously. I have also purchased a metered prim finder to go with it. I would highly recommend these two combination though the upgrade is not cheap. Prob will set you back around USD 350 for one set.

Starting with the body, the built quality and material used is indeed top notch. This Swedish made camera is cast out from an aluminum alloy body which is indeed very solid. The Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 CF T* is one of the fastest lens in the Hassie line up. It’s small and light weight despite it’s metal construction. The focal length is almost equivalent to a 50mm lens on a full frame camera hence it's very useable. The CF*T lenses is the second generation Planar and it comes with Zeiss T* coating which helps with flare reduction. What I love most about this lens is the creamy bokeh as well as the amazing color reproduction. It’s to die for ! The sharpness is good even wide open. Being a medium format, the subject on the image just pops right out of the negatives / scans. I am starting to understand why Rolleiflex 2.8F , Rolleiflex SL66 as well as the legendary Contax 645 ( f2 version ) uses the 80 Planar lens. All the Hassies lens have a locking EV value on the aperture ring and shutter speed ring hence changing depth-of-view ( F stop ) while maintaining the same exposure during middle of a shoot is really a breeze.

In term of useability, the camera is pretty light for a medium format and it's so easy to size it down when you are traveling. Just replace the metered prism finder back with it's original waist level finder that would save you around 160gs easily. The Hassie fits perfectly into a Billingham Hadley Pro with two additional film backs being stored on the front pouches. Just awesome !

For first timer, using the Hassie is not an easy task. There are a lot of steps involved and the most crucial is to fully wound / cock  the shutter before you remove the lens or film back. There is a coupling system between the camera body and the lens right at 6 o'clock of the lens mount. It needs to be aligned accordingly ( in the horizontal position ) in order to mount the lens correctly without damaging the camera.

If the lens is removed when the shutter is not cocked, the cam on the lens will spring to the vertical position. You would have to use a small screw driver to turn the cam clock wise as per the arrow indication until the slot is aligned with the red dot on the left as per below diagram. Only then you can mount the lens back to the camera body.

On the right side of the camera body, there are also two indicator who show the status of the shutter, RED = Uncocked  WHITE = Cocked. Both indicator on the body as well as the film back needs to match as well in order to mount. Hence as a general rule of thumb, make it a habit to  cock the shutter all the time right after you fire a shot and you should be pretty much save from damaging the camera. Don't ever remove the lens when the shutter is not cocked else you will risk damaging the camera !

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Pros : It's modular and very versatile. Very well built and the Zeiss  80mm f2.8 CF optics is amazing even shot wide open. I absolutely love this glass !  I love the replacement accumatte focusing screen too. It's among the brightest in the market which makes focusing such a breeze.

Cons : The body and lens coupling can be a little tricky for new user . Make sure you spend time to read the user manual thoroughly before using it . It's also not cheap.

Buying tips : The price for the 500cm has been escalating quite a fair bit for the past two years specially with the Zeiss 80mm f2.8 CF*T lens.  I foresee this particular model will appreciate it price and become more collectible as it is really well made and a true classic. As the Hassie body is really simple in construction ( which basically is just a small mirror box ), it's pretty much problem free.

 

Click here for SAMPLE IMAGES

 

 

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Olympus 35sp review

The 35sp was the only compact rangefinder to have a build in spot meter, hence giving it an edge over it’s rival such as the Yashica Electro, Canon Canonet, Monilta Hi-Matic and such. If you are not familiar with rangefinder cameras, click here on my past article 'What is Rangefinder Cameras ?'
The camera come equipped with a fixed 42mmf1.7 Olympus Zuiko lens. Being a prime lens, the optics are indeed very sharp. I truly enjoy the focal length as it is a good compromise between a 35mm ( street photography ) and 50mm (portrait lens). This camera utilizes the leaf shutter mechanism hence it’s possible to hand held at really low shutter speed ..say 1/15s.

On the streets
Using this camera is very fun. It’s basically “like” a point and shoot camera once you set it on A (automatic) mode. The camera is constantly on shutter priority mode when it’s on A . Don’t get mislead by A as Aperture priority like on all modern camera.  Hence the user selects the desired shutter speed, the camera will automatically determines the suitable aperture setting based on the light reading. I normally max out the shutter speed at 1/500s so the camera will be forced to use the min possible aperture setting.

The camera also allows manual operation but the operation is a little tedious. One would have to read the Ev value based on meter reading and set the Ev value manually on the lens for a perfect exposure. I personally find it slow hence more suited for photographing still life or landscape with this exposure method .

Another nice feature on this camera is the close range focus throw . Which mean with a slightly more than a quarter turn it bring the focus from closest to infinity. So with a little practice, shooting moving subject would not be that difficult.

This camera basically come in two version. The Olympus SP as shown here and the Olympus SPn which is basically an identical camera but with an additional battery check button. The SPn is a lot harder to find due to the low production quantity hence will normally fetch higher prices among collectors.

 

Summary

Pros : Good optics . Small and light which makes carrying it whole days is not a problem. Light meter is fairly accurate and rather spot. Really easy to use and good for everyday cam.

Cons : It's not cheap. A good copy might set you back around RM 1200.

 

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