GreyMatter, Personal

Going Classic

The first photograph I ever shot was on my father’s twin-lens-reflex Ross Ensign Ful-Vue Super.  The camera was from the 1950s, the roll was a black & white 120 format, and I was hooked for life!  I’m not sure if the prohibitive cost of photography at the time played any role in making it inaccessible, and therefore, more desirable.  All I knew is that it was magic to be able to press a button and get a detailed image of that memory, once you came home and got the roll developed and printed.

Many years later, through most of my school and college days, all I could afford was to read up on photography.  So read, I did.  I would borrow books from friends and from the library, and would read up every thing about mastering the skill, even though I couldn’t really afford a serious camera to practise with!  It was only through the generosity of friends that I began experiencing the joys of using a real SLR, first with the K1000 and then with the Zenit XP12.

As so often happens in Life, over the years my disposable income increased but the time available to spend it kept decreasing… I could now afford to buy all the “gear” I wanted, but could not make the time for a passion that had gripped my interest as a young boy.  Sure, I kept upgrading the aim-and-shoot cameras in the house, and embraced the digital format, and shot a thousand family photos.  But, it wasn’t quite the same.

So, in 2008, when I got back in touch with Photography, it was with a vengeance.  I started reading extensively on it, and participating actively in forums, and shooting as much as I could to focus on improving my skills.  I also managed to upgrade some of my hardware, by taking a long, hard look at what was really relevant to my interests.  Finally, I launched a photoblog to save and share some of my favourite photographs.

All through this time, I longed to go back to my roots in old-school Photography.  The first step was to get a modern-day film-based SLR, and having a bag of Nikon lenses by then, I settled on the excellent Nikon F75.  But, I also wanted a completely manual, mechanical and metal kit (MMM).  Many months of searching yielded an excellent Super Takumar 35mm lens, and then weeks later, the legendary Pentax Spotmatic.

The Pentax Spotmatic comprises a range of 35mm single-lens reflex cameras manufactured by the Asahi Optical Co. Ltd., later known as Pentax Corporation, between 1964 and 1976. The original 1964 Spotmatic was one of the first SLRs to offer a through-the-lens (TTL) exposure metering system, initially using average metering and later center-weighting. Despite the name, the camera did not use spot metering, although it had this feature in an early prototype.

Now, only a rangefinder was needed to complete my quest.  I’m happy to write that, as of last week, I was able to acquire a classic Petri 7s rangefinder from an enthusiast who had lovingly maintained it all these years.

The Petri 7s was introduced by Petri in 1963 as a variant of the Petri 7 which was introduced in 1961. The main difference being an improved film advance lever and frame counter. It took 35mm film, had a coupled rangefinder, and an around-the-lens selenium cell light meter. Production ended in 1973. The 7s was available with either a 45mm f1.8 or f2.8 lens. The shutter had speeds up to 1/500, and the viewfinder used Petri’s Green-o-Matic system.

I’ve shot many a film roll on the F75 as well as on the Spottie;  The joy of handling a machine that was built to perfection decades ago, and still runs without a whimper, is not comparable to most things in Life.  Not to mention the fact that there’s no better way to learn the ropes than going back to the basics when you had to know something about the Art to make a photograph happen!

I’m just glad I now have a piece of history in my camera bag!

Read More:
Massive Guide to TLR Cameras
Wikipedia : Rangefinder Cameras
Butkus: Vintage Camera Manuals