Monday, August 11, 2014

Another Cheap Camera

When I find a fairly decent, innovative film camera at a yard sale or thrift store for $10 or less, why wouldn't I buy it? Just trying it out and comparing it to others in my collection is a lot of fun, and the results can often be rewarding. In this case, I'm featuring a Konica C35 EF Viewfinder Camera.

Konica C35 EF With Kodak Colour Plus 200

Konica C35 Stock Picture

It's certainly an eye-catcher. I paid $10 for it. Too much? Who cares. It has a 38mm f2.8 Auto-Exposure, manual focus lens, all metal construction, a good textured grip, exceptionally good mechanics as felt by the film advance, Cds Exposure meter which is highly visible in the bright viewfinder, and a self-timer. There's also a built-in flash powered by two AA batteries. The Exposure Meter is powered by a small mercury button battery, or equivalent. Exposure Mode is strictly Automatic, although the film ISO is manually set on the front of the lens, so a +- EV can be achieved by setting this above or below the rated film speed. The focus is similar to the Olympus Trip-35, with four select-able Zones (in-between stops would make it eight). Also, similar to the Trip-35 is the combined two-bladed Leaf Shutter / Aperture; an arrangement which I feel is for cost-cutting, and probably has a negative effect on image quality. Let the results speak for themselves:

Konica C-35 EF
Olympus Trip-35
The above two compare the Konica with the Olympus Trip-35 with similar subject matter. Although the anomalies are somewhat similar, I feel the Trip-35 is better in this instance, and it also adds the benefit of being the world's only Auto Exposure camera that works without batteries.

Back to the Konica

Konica C-35 EF with B&W By DxO FilmPack 3.0
One thing rather interesting about this camera is how it seems to expose much better when pointed into direct sunlight - scenes which are not brightly lit tend to overexpose a bit. It's easy to compare the C35 with the Olympus Trip-35 for image quality - it is somewhat similar, although I think the Olympus is slightly better. Zone Focus is not my strong point - I find it hard to estimate distance, but the Konica, with it's 38mm lens is more forgiving than the Trip-35, with it's slightly less wide 40mm f2.8.

It's also a good camera to compare with the Russian made Smena Symbol. The Konica C-35 uses "symbols" for Zone Focus, whereas the Smena uses them for exposure, by setting the shutter speed. It is a totally different way of thinking, but these are certainly two cameras that compete in the same class. The Smena is totally manual and does not use batteries, nor (naturally) is there a built-in flash. However, the Smena separates the Leaf Shutter from the Aperture, both of which are multi-bladed, which is a far superior choice of mechanism, and I believe the results show it - the Smena Symbol might be quirky, fully manual with no light meter which might slow you down, and, except for the lens barrel, is all plastic, but I believe it is the better camera as far as image quality is concerned. Here's a little reminder:

Smena Symbol with Kodak Color Plus 200
They're both great compact film cameras of that most interesting 70's vintage, but when it comes right down to the image quality, the Smena has it by a small margin, and so does the legendary Olympus Trip-35. If you need a flash to shoot indoors, or the convenience of Auto Exposure, then the Konica C-35, with fully automated flash output, is the logical choice.

Note that all of these cameras are contenders in the realm  of "Lomography", which is a phenomena that is growing way beyond adherence to cameras built in the Russian Belomo factory. Lomographer Blogs are popping up everywhere with reviews of all of these cheap, but very effective cameras.

I scan all of my film using the lowly Epson Perfection V500 Flatbed Scanner. It is a great scanner for these kinds of low-end cameras, but I've found that in doing scans of my Canon EOS series, for which I share lenses between both film and 35mm digital bodies, the scanner becomes the weak link, although with some tweaking and know-how, it is certainly adequate. But at this exceptionally fun end of the camera spectrum that has become known as "Lomography", the V500 easily reveals the differences from one camera to another using the same film, which means it is more than adequate.

In my heart, film photography certainly lives on, and I'm hoping that it will still be around for many years to come.

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