As mentioned, Neil and I are now the proud owners of a very well rounded vintage/retro camera collection.  The Baby Brownie requires a lot of modifications to bring it into the 21st century without losing any of its charm or causing a major dent in my household’s finances ($50 to get film to Australia!  $50!!) and I am a little bit intimidated of the Minolta, with all its buttons and settings.  However, the Voigtlander VF101 seemed like an approachable camera.

First things first — batteries.  There were batteries stored with it, but because we had no idea how old they were, we felt it was best to replace everything.  Neil and I took it down to Vanbar Imaging in Carlton to seek their advice.  I understood that it took four 625 batteries, which used to be made with mercury.  Naturally those aren’t available anymore, and it seems that non-mercury equivalents are few and far between, Vanbar certainly didn’t sell any.  Nevermind, the Internet had been talking about using a lithium battery once a small modification had been made, but I couldn’t figure it out.  I was loathed to experiment and hope for the best, but with my Dad’s help (a lot of these entries are possible With My Dad’s Help) we got to the bottom of it.  This is awesome:

I won’t put mine back together for the sake of a tutorial but here is a picture of it from the manual.  With some good light, a couple of very small screwdrivers, my glasses (oh, okay, yes, and a beer, I was at my parents’ for dinner), I unscrewed everything.  The bit that you really need to remove is the red plastic casing from the bottom part that eventually screws back into the camera, but I found it easier to wield my screwdriver with the other parts removed.

I’ve stored all the tiny screws and pieces in an old 35mm film cannister container, except for one screw, which I dropped through the hole on the remaining battery pack part.  I then picked up a CR-123 lithium battery and with the positive polarity facing into the camera, screwed the battery pack on.  That tiny little screw helps the battery maintain contact so that the circuit completes, although you may find it unnecessary.

This is what you’ll have left after your handiwork.

After that, there’s nothing left to do but load it with film and fire off some shots!  I did some reading up on Rangefinder cameras and how they work, before proceeding to get silly.  My first roll of film (the colour film) yielded six great shots out of 24, but once I had some practice, my sucess rate increased!

xoxo Nyssa on the 27th July, 2010 | 1 comment
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My grandparents’ house in Maryborough is empty and on the market for the first time ever.  It was the house my Dad and my Aunty were raised in, a house my grandparents built themselves.  I was up there a couple of weekends ago, doing my share of the organising and cleaning — I was on clothes and kitch-stuff duty.  We came home with plastic tumblers, knitting patterns, lots of cardigans and polyester dresses, and some cameras.

My grandfather, Pa, was a keen photographer — an amateur photographer you might say.  Johnny brought it up the other day when I showed he, Kasia and Jane the cameras, that “everyone has a digital camera these days and it’s cheap, so you don’t think about it.  Back then, cameras and photographs really were an investment of time and money, so if you weren’t professional, you were a card-carrying ameteur photographer.”  Altogether there were three cameras, a Baby Brownie Special, a Voigtlander VF 101 and a Minolta XG-M.  You can see how Pa’s knowledge of photography grew, from the inexpensive “point-and-shoot” Brownie, to the Minolta SLR, a camera that lets you have complete control over every aspect of your shot.

It’s weird to own these cameras.  Not because my photography skills consist entirely of holding my breath while I release the shutter, but because… they’re Pa’s.  There’s a part of me that feels utterly terrible for removing them from the house, as if putting them back on top of the wardrobe will mean that Pa will be the next person to reach them down and the house in Maryborough will go back to just the way it was, complete with grandparents.  It’s not going to happen and if there was one thing that both Gran and Pa weren’t into, it was letting things go to waste.  These cameras work, the flashes they were stored with work, all the parts are there and they take beautiful pictures that I just didn’t appreciate enough during Slide Night as a kid.

Neil and I have done lots of research about these cameras and how to bring them into the 21st century, where film teeters seemingly on extinction and parts are impossible to find.  Mum and Dad are quite excited by our enthusiasm as well, so they gave us their Minolta 110 SLR (I learned that it’s a pretty crazy camera.  110 is cartridge film often found in spy cameras and it has an SLR lens) and informed us of a Box Brownie hiding up in Gymbowen somewhere.  Our vintage/retro camera collection went two cameras (an easy and cheap point-and-shoot Kodak, plus our $2 Polaroid) to six.

We plan on exploring these cameras and there’s been a lot of things we’ve had to learn, so I want to share them as well.  I’m taking the Voigtlander out this weekend so I’ll let you know about my mods to the camera and the results.

And then, somewhere, there’s a couple watching over us, looking forward to Slide Night.

xoxo Nyssa on the 12th July, 2010 | no comments
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