New Blackbird, Fly; First Impressions

Discussion in 'Lo-Fi Cameras' started by 2F/2F, Dec 22, 2008.

  1. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I shot my first pix with my BBF today. I would like to share my thoughts on using the camera.

    I can't comment on the pix it makes yet, as they are unprocessed. This is more of a commentary on my first impressions of using the camera.

    Pluses:

    - Extremely FUN to shoot (!)

    - Takes 35mm films

    - Weighs nothing

    - Has a hot shoe

    - Has a pretty wide lens (33mm covering 36x36 format)

    - Can be focused from 0.8M to infinity via scale.

    - Actually has known apertures and shutter speeds ('125 fixed, and f/7 or f/11 selectable), so you can get many decent exposures with transparency film, especially if you use a fast film and carry ND gels and some tape with you.

    - Easy to operate: aperture lever, shutter lever, focus, and advance do not feel awkward in any way

    - Well designed. It is not a toy designwise. It was made to be shot by "actual" photographers, for sure.

    - Has a self cocking shutter that is not tied to the film advance in any way.

    - Is relatively quick to use. Film advance is quick and has a click stop, so you don't have to babysit while advancing.

    - Bulb mode is simple to use, although there are no provisions for attaching a cable release. Bring a black box to use on bulb.

    - Sportsfinder is a welcome inclusion. Very, very handy.

    - Small and goofy looking, yet could probably snag some quite nice pix, as nobody would take you for an "actual" photographer.

    - I simply love composing in the TLR method and aspect ratio.

    Minuses:

    - It is a bit slow to load, although not terrible. Certainly could be done more quickly than a Leica once you get the hang of it.

    - It is overpriced. I got mine for $75 each because I got three at once (one for myself, and two for X-mas gifts), but I still feel that this is a bit high, and I would really have to think long and hard before paying Freestyle's asking price of $120 (unless I was actually making money with the camera - HA!).

    - Even though you look through a viewing lens that is coupled via gear to the taking lens, it is still scale focus only. As you change focusing distance, the image in the viewfinder does not change focus. This is a big deal, as I thought one of the coolest things about the camera would be that it is a true reflex camera, which would make it great for close focusing....well, IT ISN'T!

    - If using the 24x24 mask, you still only get 36 pix per roll.

    - Although it is relatively well designed, it is not terribly well built. I am not entirely confident that it will stand up to the heavy use I would like to give it. I am worried about some plastic moving, clicking, switching part giving up the ghost. Only time will tell. I certainly plan on using it till it breaks.

    - The masks seem cool, but really have little use. You might as well just shoot 36x36 all the time, and crop as desired. Perhaps if they help film flatness, they might be worth using.

    - Non-perf films will not register on the film counter, and may not even be usable at all without making a small hole for the takeup spool to catch.

    - Viewing must be done from a distance. You can't put your eye right up to the WLF. Since you can't see the focus anyhow, this really isn't such a big deal.

    - No cable release threads

    - Would have been very easy for them to have included filter threads or a gel filter slot, but there aren't any.

    - Tripod threads are on a small "island", which I have always found to be a very stupid design. They will work, but won't be as stable as they could be.

    Although the minuses are a much longer and more detailed list, my overall impression of the camera is a good one, and I will be using it quite a lot.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 23, 2008
  2. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Very interesting and thorough quick-take on this camera. There is one under the tree for my daughter, who is nearly as passionate about film photography as I am. (She is a 3rd year Communications Major at the University of Windsor.) I had a quick look when it arrived from the Vancouver Art Gallery store, and was quite impressed with what I saw. Thanks for explaining the focusing, as that had me a little confused. I had expected to be able to focus on the screen like with my Rollei or Bronica. I have heard that the winding mechanism was not too sturdy on the pre-release versions of this camera, so I am hoping they have addressed this weakness. As for filter threads, that should be easily remedied. If the lens molding is similar to a Holga, an appropriate filter adaptor can probably be fitted without too much difficulty.

    Thanks again.
    Cheers,
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2008
  3. thebanana

    thebanana Subscriber

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    Can you elaborate? I'm not sure what this means.Thanks.
     
  4. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Hi,

    Glad you found some use in the post, Tom. It really is a fun camera, and I am sure your daughter will take some great pix with it.

    The "black box" statement was a bit unclear. I meant a black 4x5 film box, a hat, etc., to start the exposure without shaking the camera. You also need to wedge something in there to keep the shutter from closing. I will likely jury rig a cable release socket above the shutter, or some sort of latch that attaches to the bottom of the camera and hooks onto the release lever to hold it down. Thank heaven for epoxy!
     
  5. PVia

    PVia Member

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    Hi 2F...!

    Hmmm...so where do you get a neg carrier for it? DIY? Shoot 24x24 and mask a regular carrier?
     
  6. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Hi,

    Step one is to get a 36x36 pic that is worth printing.

    If I get one (or more), I think I will probably just use a homemade AN glass carrier in my Omega 2x2. I can also stretch the film across my 6x6cm holder, with black cardstock or photo tape as a mask.
     
  7. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    One thing I forgot to mention: The instructions are actually good. The pix are good and the copy can actually be understood. It helped with loading the camera the first time.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 24, 2008
  8. cdholden

    cdholden Member

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    I'm glad to see you got a hefty discount. For 35mm, I'll stick with my FD gear. For 120 clams, you could just as well get a used TLR that shoots 120 film and have bigger negs (mucho lovin' for my Yashicamat 124G!).
    I agree with your big minus of scale focusing. I like TTL focus of a TLR. For scale focus, I'll stick with my old folders (6x9 Ikonta & Bessa).
    Thanks for the comments. It's always good to hear from someone who has used the gear, not just pasted a link to a specs page.
     
  9. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Well, we raided the tree this evening and unwrapped my daughter's (orange) BBF. It feels remarkably substantial for a plastic camera; It is definitely not a Holga. She took a number of shots around the family gathering this evening. I suspect that most of it would be pretty much underexposed, but it was good to see her getting a feel for the camera. (she is deathly afraid to touch my Rollei) She is really excited to use this camera (and her spanking new N80... $42 in the box!!!) for her photography course starting in January.

    Cheers, and ho ho ho...
     
  10. Poohblah

    Poohblah Member

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    36x36?? Do the negatives go from edge to edge then, including the sprocket holes?
     
  11. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    $42!! I just paid $120 to have mine fixed and CLA'd by Nikon. Oh well, I'll console myself with the thought that mine has sentimental value (1 Sentimental Value = $78). I'm sure she'll love it.
     
  12. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Yeah. Pretty neat. However, this is why I am interested in non perf. films for it. Apparently, they won't operate the click stop on the advance knob, but other than that, they should work ok. I am thinking about splitting some 70mm non perf film for the camera.
     
  13. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Great review. Concise. Informative. Thanks.

    This thread is an example why APUG should be considered and promoted as the premier resource for traditional film photography on the net. We really should have more threads like this on film cameras, on film products, on film processing, etc...

    Regards, Art.
     
  14. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    [edit... didn't notice that the question had been answered... gotta learn to read on to the next page...]
    Yup, there are two masks, one 24x24 (I think... I'm not holding the camera right now) one 24x36, and without either mask, it fills the frame to 36x36, including the sprocket holes. As 2f/2f has said, loading the film is a little challenging the first couple of times, but eventually you get the hang of it. I've been trying to be a good dad and not monopolize my daughter's new toy, but I have worked with it a little bit. So far, I'm quite pleased, though I have not seen any pictures from it yet. I suppose that would be the real telling point, as any discussion of cameras is quite pointless if we don't consider the final images.

    Cheers,
     
  15. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    No kidding! I think she got an amazing deal... and it was brand new. I've been using an N80 for the last four years, and I think it is a wonderful camera. For a "modern" 35mm, it is a pretty nice tool. It will never take the place of my medium format gear, but for 35mm, I'm very content.

    cheers,
     
  16. Hamster

    Hamster Member

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    Seems that trendy crowd are already catching on to this TLR and they are available on ebay with deep discount.

    All the better! More people get used to the TLR way of seeing things and more films gets sold.
     
  17. tac

    tac Member

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    Not to quibble TOO much; In my experience, once you get the hang of it, a Leica is quicker to load than a Nikon.
     
  18. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I am talking about a LEICA. Something like my IIIa and IIIc, not the posh new fangled models with the sissy door.:tongue:

    Though, to be fair, by saying "Nikon", you might actually mean a NIKON. Something like my F, which is a little bit closer to LEICA loading speed (and a lot harder to hold the door in your teeth than the bottom plate of a LEICA).

    The Barnacks are pretty quick if you take the lens off and open the shutter on bulb, or, preferably, throw a business card over the sprockets.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 11, 2009