Category Archives: photography

The Panchromatic Perspective

This blog is going to be about photography. Well, mainly photography.

I’m a newspaper reporter and photographer in a rural part of Ontario. I take a TLR camera around with me wherever I go, as well as the DSLR I use for work. I’ve been an avid photographer and collector of cheap cameras since about 1998, when I was a newspaper reporter “the first time around.” In the last two years I’ve been picking up large numbers of old film SLR cameras in order to cannibalize the lenses. Thrift stores are a wonderful source of perfectly serviceable lenses, many of them much better than the kit lens that comes with your DSLR.

This past summer, I realized Walmart still offers one-hour photo developing for 35 mm film. I decided to see what those cameras in my collection could do. I went film mad for about a month. I got some good photos, but the 35mm quality and colour was not as impressive as I’d hoped. Then, I started reading about medium format photography, and went into full on “Mr. Toad” mode. By the middle of September I’d acquired four low-end TLR medium format cameras.

Lubitel and Yashica
My first TLR, on the left, was a Lubitel 166B, which I acquired for $30. The serial number indicates it was manufactured in 1980. I like the Lubitel, but soon discovered someone had taken the lenses apart and put them back together without calibrating their focus. I lost a number of photos before I realized the problem, and more trying to correct it. I eventually realized the focusing lens was rotating in it’s socket, ruining my careful re-calibrations. The Lubitel 166B is exactly what you’d expect from a Soviet camera. It’s blocky, ugly, non-intuitive, and in constant need of re-tuning. But, with a little patience it can take some excellent photos.

To the right of the Lubitel is my second TLR, the Yashica D. This Japanese camera takes fantastic photos, and has a much more intuitive and user-friendly design. As far as comparative national philosophies go, the Lubitel 166B and the Yashica D are pretty much the Battle of Tsushima in TLR form. The Yashica D cost $75 from a dealer in Toronto, and it was more than worth it. It’s a beautiful camera and it takes lovely crisp shots.

Seagull 4b1-2
Finally, I have two low-end Seagull 4B-1 cameras. I’m uncertain of their vintage, but one has a much lower serial number and rather beat up mirror. Each one cost me $50. In terms of quality, they stand somewhere midway between the Lubitel and the Yashica. I carry one in my car (in a case) for spontaneous shots. They take decent images and have much more flexibility than the Lubitel.

homemade scanner
Currently, I am either getting my photos scanned at Belle Arte in Hamilton, Ontario, or scanning them myself with this monstrosity. It’s a homemade light box, with a cardboard box on top. There’s a hole in the box, through which I photograph the negatives with my iPhone. The results are nowhere near as good as the professional scans, but decent enough. I am saving up to purchase a good film scanner.

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Filed under Lubitel 166B, photography, Seagull 4B1, Yashica D