"I'm not planning to shoot film," I said for most of the last however long I've been interested in photography. Except, I started flirting with film with the Kiev 60. The seller suggested I hit up the Seattle Photography Show in Kent, WA.
So, I did.
While I was there, a few things caught my eye. On the digital front, old Olympus DSLRs with the 4/3 sensor, a few lenses for my current camera like a circular fisheye, a very complete Ricoh GXR system -- which features interchangable sensor + lens modules rather than interchangable lenses like a normal system -- wooo, and the ridiculous Sigma dp2 Quattro camera.
Naturally, all of these things commanded prices larger than I was willing to pay, because they are nice, and not just a lark.
But, there were a few bargain bin things that I was interested in. I wound up walking off with two different $5 cameras. (Spoiler: they're both fun, and they both work!!)
Of the cameras I picked up, one was in a bargain bin full of $5 cameras. It was a tiny compact, and it caught my eye because it was a Ricoh. I'm super fond of their modest, but capable pocketable digital cameras, and I figured for five bucks I may as well explore their analog lineage.
The camera was a Ricoh 35 ZF -- it had a 40mm f/2.8 lens. The seller had no idea as to whether it worked, but mechanically it seemed okay, and that's all I needed.
More on the Camera
It turns out, that the "ZF" stands for zone focus. The camera is manual focus, and provides you with no mechanism to see what's in focus. (The focus ring does have stops for "close to a person", "full body", and "infinity"-- so what more can you want?) For my first roll, I went for high ISO film so that I could mostly leave it stopped down and set to infinity.
Quoth the manual: (courtesy of butkus.org, I don't have one f'real.)
EASY ZONE FOCUSING will emancipate you from troublesome focusing. The 3 zone-focus marks corresponding to the approximate distances will be helpful to your picture taking convenience.
The camera supports full manual exposure, or shutter-priority auto-exposure.
Except, of course, the electronics in mine are in poor shape. The battery had been left in, and it had corroded. I cleaned as much corrosion off the inside as I could, but unfortunately, there was a solder joint that was both weak and corroded, so it will need more work to ever function in its semi-automatic modes again.
I should also note that the camera has a leaf shutter -- the shutter is in the lens, allowing for faster flash sync speeds and a quieter, stabler shutter release. In practice, closing the shutter sounds kind of like clicking a weirdly springy pen. Film advance isn't too loud neither, so the whole thing is relatively stealthy as far as sonics are concerned.
Lastly, I am an idiot, and I failed to properly understand film loading & rewinding. I mean, it's my first roll of 35mm film, so you can cut me some slack. Anyway -- I think that's why we got some marks on the negatives. So, eh, blame me and not the camera for that.
Out & About
The Ballard Locks
I first took the camera out to the Ballard Locks, which Spencer and I were visiting.
Compared to shooting the Kiev 60, it's so... small, light, and easy to take pictures that aren't going to turn out so well, since I get three times as many shots for my money.
One interesting happening at the Locks was that there were a couple of seals, busy trying to poach salmon. (Theoretically, they try to keep them away to keep the salmon population healthy.)
With a manual 40mm lens, I was watching the seal with my human eyes, but I did a surprisingly good job of capturing the carnage as seagulls fought over stretchy salmon scraps afterwards.
Gas Works Park
Gas Works Park is always a treat, one of my favorite places in Seattle.
Darker frames and receding daylight bring out the worst in the artifacts that I imparted on this roll.
Spencer & I walked downtown, and then to Belltown, and I figured I may as well take some snaps along the way.
Concert Film Photography!?
Spencer, Chelsea, and I went to see Daði Freyr, probably best known as the Icelandic entrant to Eurovision for 2020 & 2021. If you haven't heard any of his music, I'd certainly recommend either of his Eurovision submissions, or the cover of Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA" that he posted to promote his U.S. Tour.
I was pleasantly surprised that the venue was not just packed, but sold out. I was curious whether I could get a passable shot out of my manual focus, manual exposure, 35mm film camera. I took this shot at a particularly bright moment:
(By passable, I mean... no worse than a cellphone shot from the same vantage point would have been.)
As for the show, this was an actual conversation I had with Chelsea (who has spent quite a lot of time in Iceland.)
"Is his between-song banter this awkward because he's him, or because he's Icelandic."
"Cause of him."
"I love it."
I was surprised thet Daði played both of his Eurovision songs before encore time, which led me to wonder what he was possibly going to do during the encore...
Well, he started by coming out the door stage right (just by Chelsea, Spence, and I) and dispensing high fives before crowdsurfing back on the stage.
"You know how sometimes you buy a CD, and there's a bonus track, and it isn't really any good..." he explained after getting back on stage.
"That's what this encore is like."
Then he launched into an absolutely banging cover of "All-Star" by Smash Mouth.
We loved it.
To conclude, I like the camera, and many of the images that I captured on my first roll of film through it, despite my foibles. Certainly the viewfinder does work for framing, or most of these shots would be wayyy more dubious.
Fundamentally, the idea of not being able to confirm manual focus is both limiting and freeing. If I'm estimating focus, then I can estimate framing too. It would be fun to shoot from the hip for a whole roll of film and hope that I judge my shots right, though risky with the 40mm focal length.
I'm not sure that I'll go through the work/expense of repairing the camera, but I am sure that I'll put a couple more rolls through it. It absolutely works well in manual focus mode, and it is compact & light & fun.
So, I can't imagine not throwing some B&W in there come winter. It's $5 well spent.
I just wish someone didn't leave a corroding battery in there!
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