Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Weston Exposure meters

The Weston Company has a very interesting history, the founder was a British born American citizen Edward Weston an engineer with hundreds of patents to his name.

The company made a range of products from the speedometers used on Harley Davidson motorcycles to long life arc lamps.

As well as being a prolific inventor he was also a keen photographer and along with his son (he must have had some spare time) called Edward Faraday Weston they invented the worlds first photographic exposure meter in the early 1930's in fact the early prototypes were used on the film 'Gone with the Wind'.

Weston had two factories, one in New Jersey, America and one in Middlesex in Britain, the British model being slightly different and distributed by the Ilford Photo company.

Practical Use
Here at Photo Utopia we're not afraid to use antiquated photographic equipment; in fact it is one of the reasons for this blog.
The question a lot of you will be asking is why a handheld meter? Further to that why trust a meter that is over half a century old?
Don't they drift and become out of tolerance?
I have three meters currently, a Minolta spot, Sekonic Digilite and this one – a 1960's Weston, and I can honestly say hand on heart that this is one of the most accurate meters I've ever used at any price.

For everyday photography I normally use cameras with built in meters, even then a hand held is a great addition to you photo-bag.
It has a Selenium meter cell thus using no batteries–magic eye!

Concave invacone
For accurate metering hand held units with an invercone (the translucent white attachment) can be used to take incident light readings which overall I have found to be more accurate than the reflected type or the ones built in most older film SLR's.

Incident readings are taken with the meter cell (covered with an invercone) pointed at the camera, in other words they measure the light falling on the subject.
The Weston strength is the quality of the invercone which is a concave rather than domed device, and is more accurate because of that clever design.

Even in bright light with transparency film the Weston gives readings that are very accurate, tested against my other 'modern' meters confirms that fact.
Furthermore the dozen or so Westons I've tried or used over the last twenty years seemed similarly accurate, coupled to that I've been told if the needle functions the unit is probably OK

Rolleiflex 3,5F Provia 100 metered with a Weston
Most people are worried about using selenium meters of a certain age, but I've been quite lucky and have never found one that didn't work–others experiences may differ, but at the price these seem to go for on auction sites (I paid less than £10 for this one)  they make a cost effective choice for those who want to try a hand held meter.

©Photo Utopia 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nikkormat EL

The Nikkormat EL was Nikon's first foray into the world of aperture priority (you set the ƒ number and the camera sets the speed) electronic cameras in 1972.

The model is a much overlooked by modern buyers compared its more glamorous FE/FE2 successors, perhaps people are worried investing in such an old electronic device fearing failure or out of tolerance forty year old electronics.

I decided to take a chance on one I found for less than £50 in a well known UK camera shop, after all the unit came with 6 month warranty–what could I lose?

My fears were totally unfounded, the camera arrived and checked out flawless against a known good meter all shutter speeds and mechanics seemed fine, the only issue I could see was the foam mirror dampener and possibly rear light seals so a kit was ordered from a well known auction site and fitted in less than an hour
at the cost of about £5.

The Nikkormat build quality is from another age, everything from the metal shutter dial to the re-enforced strap lugs are made to last even the shutter speeds are etched into the metal rather than just screen printed — everything feels solid.

Clear and easy to read controls, with a solid feel.
Another thing I like compared to the Nikkormat FT is the control placement, which to me is perfect, shutter dial top right (compared to lens mount) ASA dial under the re-wind knob (rather than on the fingernail breaking flange) with nice locks for the film door and ASA setting.
In use the camera feels very positive, the weight is well balanced with most common lenses and wind-on is smooth; the shutter... I just love the soft ssschtick sound just love it!

The batteries are very easy to get hold of type PX28/4SR44 which is a 6V cell. The Cds meter is a little tougher on batteries than later SPD types so you might like to keep a spare handy.

The metering is by match needle on the left of the large relatively bright screen:

In manual mode just line up the green and black needles

I put through a roll of Poundland Agfa Vista C41 and was pleasantly surprised by the results, the meter seemed pretty accurate, especially for one with a simple centre weighted area.

The best way to really give it a test is to put it on auto with a roll of E6; that type of film having less margin for error with exposure.
After all the main reason for buying the camera was to have a 'lazy' camera to take on holidays and trips.
Loaded with Agfa CT Precisa which is a budget slide film (actually made by Fuji) I took the film to the beach for the day:
Just about every frame came out perfectly
The automatic meter and Nikons early attempt at making the associated electronics have proven to be a very robust and durable one, my initial fears at buying a forty year old electronic camera were totally unfounded.

a nicely saturated well exposed slide.
So next time you see a Nikkormat EL for half the price of a later Nikon FE don't dismiss it out of hand because of its age, its a well made camera that should last many years of picture taking.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Agfa CT Precisa E6 film

This particular film can be found very cheaply in quite a few outlets, and although 'Agfa' by name is a totally different film from the boxes you may find of CT Precisa with the Agfa rhombus logo from before the bankruptcy most of which will be out dated by now.
This film is in fact made in Japan by Fuji and is actually a pretty good emulsion in its own right, probably very similar to RDP.

One of the things I've always liked about Fuji films is the way they render European skin tones, they accentuate the sun tan and coupled with the nice saturation give nice tones.

warm skin tones and good saturation
Beach huts in Blue

The colour saturation and to my eye accurate rendering of tones and colour make this film a little bit of a bargain, well worth getting a roll if you've never used E6.