31 May 2015

I've been so focused on trying to get a camera that I haven't really been writing. I'm trying to build the cyberpunk short in my head. It is based on the old future noir feature that I had written years ago- which Southside of Elsewhere was a prequel. This cyberpunk short will predate Southside by at least 20 years.

The setting is in the early 90s. The hardest part will be trying to make sure that only certain items make it into the film.


29 May 2015

Obsessed, it seems.

Well... yeah. I am out of control.

The actual Bell & Howell 240ee that I ordered off Etsy for $40.
I bought yet another camera off of Etsy- a 16mm Bell & Howell 240 Electric Eye (from 1957). I went back and forth on getting this particular model, but I figured it was inexpensive ($40) and I didn't think I would be changing out lenses. It has a 20mm (which is like a 40mm on a 35mm camera) and a battery operated aperture... though you can still use it manually. It is not a reflex camera, but I am getting used to the fact of actually having to measure my subject with a measuring tape.  The other thing is that the seller told me this thing is virtually unused. He's convinced it sat in a closet for decades. That could be good or bad, but either way, I'm committed.


Another reason I bought it (silly as it is, but nerdy cool at the same time) is that this particular model (but not this particular camera) was used by Orson Welles when he filmed the documentary "The Land of Don Quixote" in 1962. Welles' camera went to auction and fetched $37,500. About $36,460 more than what I paid for mine. I could finance a feature for that kind of dough.

The more I got to thinking, the more it made sense to simply go the 16mm route. I can get a decent (though vintage) camera for under $100, and film for about $10 more than Super 8. Processing is actually cheaper at most labs- they're geared for 16mm, and there is simply more film stocks available for it. AND... it is much higher resolution than 8mm (of course), it looks 1000x better. You can also blow 16mm film comfortably up to 35mm. It just made sense.

So I will be shooting my cyberpunk short on the BH240. I am trying to decide on film stock. I do know I want to shoot it in color and at night, so I'm looking at 250D and 500T stocks.


I was on my way to my father-in-law's house for a big family dinner when I decided to stop at a local thrift store on the way home. I go at least three times a week looking for deals, and Thursday ended up being a Holy Grail moment:


A near mint condition, fully functional Canon Auto Zoom 518 for only $20. Yep. I couldn't believe it either. It came in the case. I'm severely mad at myself for losing the lens cap in my car- I can't find it. It did come with a cartridge- ektachrome 260. The lens is beautiful- and it's is clean with no signs of use- not a scratch or smudge.

So... yeah. I'm obsessed. But I love it, and I'm having fun. Now it's time to BUY SOME FILM and go out and shoot!!


20 May 2015

Pleased as Punch

Minolta XL401

Actual photo by the seller of the Argus/Cosina 708 I bought.

I got the Minolta XL401 as well as the Argus/Cosina 708 in the mail on the same day! I am pleased to report that both cameras are amazing- for different reasons.

The Minolta XL401 is fantastic. I want to shoot my first film short with this (noticed I said "film" then "short"? Yep- a short film made on FILM). While the highest frame rate is only 18fps, the 220 degree shutter and the f1.2 lens will make shooting at night possible- especially if I use Kodak Vision 500T film. I want to shoot in low available outdoor light at night. I think it has a unique look and it will suit the cyberpunk short perfectly.

The Argus/Cosina is also in great shape, it does shoot 24fps. I was a little worried about the auto exposure... it doesn't seem like it's working with a new Wein Cell Zinc photocell battery- but I am able to change the exposure manually. It's a little feisty, but it is possible. The difference in ergonomics is very apparent in the seven year difference between the two models. The Argus/Cosina is heavy- probably 5x heavier than the Minolta. The Minolta seems more available. Plus it has the Intervalometer- which is going to be fantastic for some special effects.

SO, now it's a matter of buying some more film stock. I'm trying to be smart about it. I need to practice- I'm seriously thinking about buying a case of 20 rolls directly from Kodak. It will be about $500. But the cameras are just shelf queens without film. I need to start getting something going!

15 May 2015

Rolling along


The Revere Ranger 8mm camera came today. It works perfectly, but smells musty. I believe it was stored in a very wet environment. I think it will dry out here in our Utah dry air, but still, not the most pleasant smell. The lens is also dirty- just waiting to find something good to clean it with.  Other than that it runs great.


The Bell & Howell Microstar Z XL came yesterday. It is in mint condition- looks like it has never been used or is dusty. And to be honest, this was probably a cheap camera back in the day. Very few controls- or indicators. The exposure is fully automatic. It has an auto/manual zoom that works when the film motor trigger is working. And the crazy part- it takes 4 AAA batteries! Also, it has a fast lens (which is what attracted me to it) at f1.2. I'm not sure how sharp of a focus I can get with it, but I think it would make a good backup/casual camera.




After one month, I have finally worked out a deal with that seller on Etsy. I am going to get a Minolta XL 401. I'm excited to get this camera. Sure, it only fires at 18fps, but it has a built in intervalometer for time lapse. That's crazy. Plus, it has a fast lens f1.2, and only takes two AA batteries. The Rokkar lenses are supposed to rival that of Canon, but we'll see. Honestly, I think it's a better option than it's direct competitor the Canon 518. The other thing I'm excited about is that it has split image focusing. Again, I hope it's a good camera. If not, I'm not going to go through this whole month long process again.

There's another camera I've been checking out and talking to another seller about. It runs but now I have to wait until payday to get it. Grrr. But all these cameras and no film? I need to get something going, and soon.

UPDATE
And the Minolta Autopak-8 that I JUST FIXED, busted. I think the shutter is stuck- it's not running, registering light or the battery check won't even budge. Yes, I did check the batteries with my multimeter and even put in fresh batteries- nothing. I don't know what happened. Probably because I was playing with it too much.

So, in a fit of despair I fired off and bought the other camera I was looking at on Etsy. It has to be the last one. I'm into all of this by about $350 and I know my wife isn't happy (but she's been tolerant). This last camera is an Argus/Cosina 708... it boasts 24fps and it looks pretty good. From what I've read about it it's a reliable camera- the vendor was nice enough to answer all my questions and even get a new battery compartment for it! I don't think I can afford to buy anything else- including film for a while. Dumb, dumb dumb. It's a crazy endeavor to go into... but I'm hooked.

13 May 2015

One Ring to Fix the Zoom

Minolta Autopak-8 K11

I was a little disappointed when I got my Minolta Autopak-8 k11 a couple of weeks ago. It worked, but marginally. Cosmetically it looked good, but there was a ring at the base of the lens that seemed to jam the auto zoom mechanism and the zoom lever was missing. It took a bit of brute strength to change the lens angle... which all but made the camera useless.

I got to fiddling with the dang thing yesterday. I popped the ring off with a small screwdriver and managed to re-mount it on the lens base correctly. It took care of the jam—now the auto zoom and zoom lever work freely and the camera functions exactly like it should. I shot some footage with it on some Kodak Tri-X. I'm waiting to expose the other roll with the BH Microstar Z I'm getting later this week, and then I'll send them in together and compare. Hopefully all will work great.

After fixing the zoom, I detailed it. The camera was dirty with finger smudges and some old grime. It's a solid piece of work- made out of metal. It's also heavy. I wish the f1.8 lens was faster- I really want to put it to work in some low light situations especially since it has a 24fps setting. It seems to be in good shape and I'm looking forward to using it as one of my main cameras.

11 May 2015

lo-fi mofo

Man, I've got to tell you... I'm having a hell of a time trying to find something decent when it comes to this old format. I've had nothing but problems with marginally working or broken cameras. On top of that, I still haven't seen the items from the Leicina seller. I even cut $50 off my order to accommodate him. It's frustrating. Luckily he's been patient with me, and he told me that he has a lot of cameras. I gave him a list of what I'm looking for, hopefully he has something!

I should be getting the Revere Ranger very soon. I almost cancelled the order, but luckily everything was in the order and if anything they're good, solid cameras. Whether or not I am ever able to shoot with anything is up in the air. I'm just waiting for BHphotovideo to get more Fomapan 8mm film.

It looks like it has never been used... fingers crossed!
I have been asking lots of questions with many of the Etsy sellers. I'm finding that most of which are severely marked up on that site. So, I did what so many people have done for over 15 years... I turned to Ebay. I bought a "buy it now" camera- a Bell and Howell Microstar Z camera for only $3.99 +$11.58 shipping and handling! AND the best part is that it looks brand new in the box!

Okay, okay, I know it could still be broken, but I had to take a chance. This is under $16 total- that's two lunches. It also does look minty. The thing that really sold me on it was the fact that it's got a f1.2 lens. It's still an 18fps camera, but something is better than nothing at this point. Especially since I still have some Tri-X film that is unopened.

I really want to shoot in low light. I have an idea for a technoir-analogpunk film. I want to shoot it in color in extreme low light- and that might include some Kodak Vision 500T.  I have been getting my cassette recorder ready, bought some audio cassette tapes from Walmart (yep, they STILL sell them from a brand called Onn). We're going to do this like it's 1999.

I'm amused by the fact that I'm excited about shooting with such lo-fi equipment. I could get a better image and sound from my iPhone... but so can everybody else!

09 May 2015

Analogpunk

Kodak Automatic 8
It seems as if the replacement Leicina isn't panning out. I decided just to use my credit to get some smaller items that add up to what I spent to begin with. It's fine. I'll get a nice little Kodak Automatic 8 which looks to be in good condition and might come in handy. I'll also get some good d-mount lenses to use on the Revere 88 and Ranger, and a flash for my 35mm slr.

Yashica d-mount lenses
It's not a let down. I was also worried about the other Leicina especially when I had read that many people seem to have problems with them. They have beautiful glass, but can have a tendency not to be very sturdy.

In any case, and in the end, I want to try to get some filming done and I want better control of the image- the same sort of control I am used to with an SLR- exposure and focus. I also don't want to be relying on batteries. Crazy, right? But I love the idea of wind-up cameras. No worries about batteries dying. The trade off is limiting a shot to about 15-20 seconds at 24fps.

I've been thinking about sound for all of these future films. I had the notion of going all out and just using an old tape cassette but then I started thinking of the hassle when I am going to be dealing with a film camera. Then I thought about my old Zoom h4n- it's great, but bulky. I only need a scratch track... I downloaded a free Recorder app on my iPhone. I can just shoot wild sound with that. A bit of a cheat.

Maybe I'll just stick to using my old tape recorder. I like the idea of going all analog on the production end of it. Call it the artistic style of Analogpunk. heh.


CASES ON A BUDGET
I don't have cases for most of my cameras. The ones that I do have are old, smell like smoke, or have broken zippers. I'd love to keep things looking authentic- but sometimes newer cases are cheaper and provide more protection for the cameras. I'm going back and forth on this. Style vs. functionality.

I haven't found much in the realm of thrift store finds. Many of those bags stink. I had an idea of using shaving kit bags for the smaller cameras. And frankly, an $18 Walmart Camera bag might just have to do. Backpacks with some custom foam lining? Again, a punk attitude.

07 May 2015

Clockwork: Camera

Regular 8, Standard 8, Dual 8, 2x8mm... they're all the same thing. I'm not going to rehash Wikipedia's entry on Standard 8mm film- you can read about it there if you want to know exactly what it is.

There is a plethora of Super 8 cameras and stock out there. That's great- I love Super 8. In my experience, it's harder to find a functioning camera- there's so much that can go wrong and often times the little DC Micromotors bite the dust rather easily.

Enter Regular 8mm. Most of these were made between the 30s to mid 60s. That's 30 years of consumer dominance. Ebay and Etsy are a testament to that- you can find hundred, if not thousands of old spool loading, wind-up clockwork driven cast iron or aluminum cameras.

Many of them had d-mount lenses which allowed manual exposure but were mostly fixed focus. Some of the more deluxe models allowed focusing- which required using a measuring tape (or guesswork!) to the subject and a corresponding dialing of the lens. Personally, I prefer this method. I love reflex lenses, but unless it's a split diopter, it's still guesswork. Often times it's hard to keep your eye right on the image... and too much can go wrong.

My little Revere Model 88 is 70 years old. It STILL works well. The lens is a little scratched, and the focus might be a hair off... but with care it should last another 70 years.

I just bought the sister model to the 88- a Revere Ranger Model 80!


This one was on Etsy for $16 (plus another $15 for shipping). It's very similar to the 88 but is a bit more streamlined. I'm hoping the lens is in great shape... but regardless, I'll have fun with it. You can see the results of one in action from the Radical Dad's Recklessness music video.  Honestly- in my opinion, it's the flaws that make it organic and a highly desirable look... and certainly not computer generated by a plug-in.


I think many of the flaws you see here are from the telecine process- it looks like it was videotaped off the wall. Many examples of digitally scanned images seem to strip the strobing and add more detail and color saturation. As much as I like the above video, I'll probably strive to get a bit more of a cleaner look like this:

 
Expired Regular 8mm Film from lealar on Vimeo.
I'm looking forward to getting some new film into these cameras and to push my filmmaking into a new- and old- direction!

03 May 2015

Getting Set Up


ANOTHER thrift store find- this one I am extremely excited about! It's a Keystone Automatic 98 projector in near mint condition. It's a little dusty but it fired up like a charm. It even has the original take-up reel which stores on the bottom. And the best part? It was only $15.

This projector is for Regular 8mm film. That's fine as I have my trusty old Revere 88 and I'll soon be getting the replacement camera from the non-working Leicina Super I sent back. I'll be getting another Leicina, the 8sv.


It's a Regular 8mm, the only power functions are the motor. Focus and zoom are manual. Hopefully this will cut down on the amount of problems I found with the Super.

The thing that most excites me about this is the Leitz Wetzlar Leicina Vario 7.5-35 mm f/1.8 Wide Angle to Telephoto zoom lens. I'm counting on a sharp picture with this.

So, my only concern now is trying to find stock. There are a few places that sell it— though it feels like at a premium. It's a shame since there are so many Regular 8 cameras out there.

Why Regular 8 all of a sudden? No real particular reason. It will be helpful in learning on how to  change out rolls when I make the jump to 16mm. Plus, no one is really doing any projects with Regular 8mm. The only one I found on any sort of commercial level was this music video shot on a Revere Ranger 80. Other notable regular 8 footage is from lealar on vimeo. As a matter of fact, his footage is what made me seriously consider exploring it more.

On the Super 8 front, I should be getting my Kodak BW Tri-X film any day now. I'll be testing the Minolta with it, and perhaps the Argus, though I'm not too confident in that one. To be honest, I'm not severely confident with the Minolta, either. We'll see what happens.

The adventure continues...

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