What's a good 126 camera?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Michael W, Mar 22, 2008.

  1. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    I feel like trying out the 126 format, just to see what the photos look like. I gather there were some top quality cameras made & also some plastic cheapies. I don't mind a plastic lens for that instamatic look, but I do like to have some level of control over focus & exposure.

    I'd appreciate if anyone can tell me some model names of the best quality cameras & also what are some decent plastic lens ones.
     
  2. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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  3. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I think the best of the 126 cameras is the Rolleiflex SL 26. It offers match-needle metering, three lenses (actually three front elements), a Synchro-Compur shutter with speeds from 1/2-500 plus B, a rapid-return mirror and a very nice image for focusing. The battery powers only the meter.

    Rollei also made the A26, a viewfinder camera with a push-pull operation, zone focusing, automatic exposure and a nice Sonnar lens.

    The Zeiss Ikon Contaflex 126 has true lens interchangeability. The metering system is battery-powered shutter priority. It lacks a rapid-return mirror.

    I haven't played enough with the Kodak Retina offering, but I recall that I was not impressed with it.

    The difficulty is in finding a camera that works. The first Rollei SL 26 I bought didn't work, and the second stopped working until I was able to free a jammed gear. Its mechanism is very complex to service -- even more than a regular SLR because the same amount of gears are jammed into a space that is roughly half that of a normal SLR.

    The Rollei A26 is a simpler camera, and these often work without too much difficulty. Generally, the companion flash that was sold with the camera either doesn't work or is missing the AC adapter that is required to charge the battery for the flash.

    I've yet to encounter a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex that works properly.

    Of the two, I prefer the Rolleiflex SL 26. I find it easier to use, easier to focus and easier to meter. It's much more straightforward in its operation.

    Both Rolleis and the Contaflex use the 625 mercury cell for the meter. You can easily substitute a hearing-aid battery with a rubber "O" ring in its place.

    I might also suggest a 120 camera (or even 127). You could get an inexpensive twin-lens reflex or perhaps a folding camera or even a Holga or Diana or one of the myriad other 120 cameras that offer the square format.

    In 35mm, there is the prewar Zeiss Ikon Tenax and Tenax II (great camera, but expensive) and the Robot. The postwar Tenax (with a Tessar lens) or Taxona also could be on your list, although either can be expensive as well (roughly $100 or more).

    I agree with you about the square format. It's terrific.

    I have reviews of both Rolleis on my site.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 22, 2008
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Can you still get 126 film, I thought it had gone the same way as 828 -same film format just repackaged in a 126 cassette.

    Ian
     
  5. elekm

    elekm Member

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    You can still get 126 film, although it's not easy to find. I believe both are made by Ferrania. One is marketed under the Ferrania name, while the other is available as an Adox product.

    Of course, finding a place to process it can be difficult.

    Also, for other cameras, I believe the Kodak Instamatic 104 is a highly regarded camera.

    I also meant to add that the lenses for the Contaflex 126 are of exceptionally high quality in construction. The normal lens is either a Zeiss Ikon Pantar (average quality) or a Carl Zeiss Tessar. The other lenses include a Distagon and Sonnar -- both Carl Zeiss lenses.
     
  6. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

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    The Kodak Instamatic 500 is very good, shown here at the Frugal Photographer site. The example I have was picked up for $5 at an auction and is in fine condition, with everything working. I have a Rollei A26 as well, but that is prone to problems and gives little in the way of control. Many of the cheaper Kodak Instamatics were made somewhere in the gap between good and interesting - in that no-man's-land of just plain boring. They are not plastic-y enough to have much personality and not good enough to be taken seriously.

    One warning: while your local quick photo joint may be able to develop this film (same size as 35), they may not be able to print it for you. I've been told that the sprocket holes on 126 film are incompatible with the automatic printers at the local places around here (western 'burbs of Boston.) If you don't have access to color printing for 126, you may be stuck with mailing it out.
     
  7. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    Many thanks for all the helpful replies. I now have a short list of cameras to look out for. One motivation to explore this format is that I am intrigued by these obscure niche formats that are just managing to hang on. I'm just starting to shoot 110 & also getting intrigued by Minox size film. Might as well do it now while the film is still more or less available. Also I'm aware that different film formats & sizes & cameras give different kinds of photographic looks and this is something that I want to see for myself. The bonus with 110 and 126 is that the cameras are pretty cheap if you're patient.

    I don't think I'll have any problems with processing as I give all my film to Steve at the Lighthouse. He did some 110 for me the other day & I saw he had also processed some Minox C41. I have access to 2 colour darkrooms so I will probably just do proof sheets & then print any frames that look interesting.
     
  8. Absinthe

    Absinthe Member

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    One note on 126. There are somewhere some plans to make pinhole cameras with it, basically using a piece of matt board. There is a cruciform pattern that folds into an open box that fits between the two sides of film cartridge. You fashion a pinhold from whatever material, and use black electrical tape to connect it. And you carry a nickle to advance the film. I remember doing this back in perhaps the 6th grade. I am sure the instructions are on the internet somewhere... :smile:

    Here is a quick google result
    http://www.pinhole.com/archive/372
     
  9. robridge

    robridge Member

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    The Fugal Photographer site has details of a simple 126 cartridge pinhole - haven't tried it myself but it looks feasible (and cheap!). My own choice of 126 camera would be my trusty Instamatic 500 - great lens and a surprisingly accurate Gossen meter - it is also well engineered and feels "right" in the hand. If you can put up with zone focusing then it is a good buy. Film is still available although the Solaris 126 can have some quirky colour rendering (personally I like it but others don't). Good luck with your hunt
     
  10. dynachrome

    dynachrome Member

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    I also have an Instamatic 500. My favorite 126 camera is probably a Minolta Autopak 700. It looks like a 35mm RF camera and can be operated fully manually. If my memory is good, Dwayne's in Parsons, Kansas still processes 126 film. Somewhere I have an Instamatic 804 which used to belong to my sister-in-law's grandmother. It has RF focusing and manually adjustable shutter speeds and I think apertures. The think's heavier than an Argus C3 and all gunked up. I'm sure it would be a fun repair project for Ken Ruth. No 126 collection would be complete without an original Instamatic 100 which accepts AG-1 flashbulbs. That one came from my father's wife.
     
  11. lens_hacker

    lens_hacker Member

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    I have the Instamatic 500- the story goes that it started out as a half-frame 35mm camera. Zone focus, but full shutter and aperture control. A good Xenar lens.

    The Instamatic Reflex takes the "most excellent" Retina lenses, including the superb 50/1.9 Xenon. The 126 format does not do that lens justice, and I always ended up using a Retina IIIS or Reflex-S with it.
     
  12. DBP

    DBP Member

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    My favorite Instamatic is a 104, with a dive housing!. I'm not sure what you were supposed to do after the four flashes on the cube were used, surface to reload? I've used it in pools, but not at any greater depth.
     
  13. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

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    I know I had this bookmarked someplace! Sorry it took me so long. Good luck.
     
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  15. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Ricoh made an SLR called, IIRC, called the 126flex. The mirror was the shutter. It had screw in lens add ons, not really components--sort of like Rollei Mutars.
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Wow. I had no idea there were so many 126 cameras. I think we had a Kodak Instamatic 100 when I was a kid. The film is the same width as 35mm (with fewer perforations), isn't it, so it could be processed on 35mm reels?
     
  17. elekm

    elekm Member

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    Yes, you could home process with C-41 chemicals (that's the only option now as there is only one emulsion left).

    The Wikepedia entry says that most 35mm commercial film processors should also be able to handle 126, but you'll probably need to convince the tech running the machine of that.

    I'll shoot a roll and see if I can get the guys at Ritz to run it through their machine. I'm pretty friendly with them.
     
  18. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    If you want square negs from 35mm film, why don't you treat yourself to an original Robot. Now that's a camera!! And, unlike the 126, it has a pressure plate to hold the film flat.

    John, Mount Vernon, Virginia
     
  19. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Most minilabs that process 120 film can process 126, a few older labs may even have the 126 processing cassestte and printing mask. When looking for a 126 camera make the back closes tightly to hold the cassette in place. The large 126 plastic cassette is prone to warping. 126 has about the same film area as 35mm but square. My wife had the Kodak SLR as she wanted quick foolproof loading, shot with it for years but at some point the back became lose and prints were out of focus, she got a high end 110, but the print quaility was so poor that took over one of my Nikions and learned to load it.
     
  20. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    Luck of the draw - I have a Minolta Autopak 700 on the way as well as 10 rolls of Ferrania 126. A few of the cameras mentioned above sounded good, I just happened to snag a Minolta first. Will now keep a lookout for bargains on some of the other makes. Thanks to all for the advice. I hope to be shooting this stuff next week.
     
  21. rembrant

    rembrant Member

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    If it's a case of money to spare...why not. However....126 is really a very limited format now,as is 110. If your aim is to try something other than 35 mm,I'd suggest Medium format.
     
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  22. Murray@uptowngallery

    Murray@uptowngallery Member

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    Sorry to diverge form the thread's intent, just once, for Lens-hacker -

    I couldn't PM or email you.

    I know lens preferences are highly subjective, but I was interested to see your comments on the Retina interchangeable lenses.

    I have a Retina Reflex that needs a shutter CLA, and the only comments I ever found on the lens 50/1.9 was someone's comment that it was horrible.

    With that bias, I have been ambivalent about expectations from them. I'd like to read more along the lines of the 'most excellent' comment...I think they differ from Japanese SLR lenses in being single coated, but still 6-el Planar.

    Thanks
     
  23. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    I have a 126 camera and some film rolls. How do you process it? does it fit on 120 rolls? What is the difference?
     
  24. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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  25. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    I have a Retina Reflex III (and also a Retina IIIS, which is a rangefinder camera that takes the same lenses). I would say without hesitation that the lenses are state-of-the-art late 1950s single-coated. What can be "horrible" about the camera is its very complex design, with its "Hasselblad-style" Compur shutter and loops of string inside the body linking the shutter, aperture and meter. These linkages stiffen up with time and in this state are very easy to force and break! The value of a Retina Reflex in excellent order but with a gummy shutter is about $25, estimate for CLA $200 if you can find someone willing and able to fix it!

    Regards,

    David
     
  26. edz

    edz Member

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    The DDR Texax and Taxona cameras, I think, are cheap these days. The Tenax I was nothing special. The Tenax-II, on the other hand, is an interesting camera and was meant to go head-on-head against the Robot IIs. Mechanically its not in the league with the Robot but its got good glass and some interesting features. Robot IIs can be found for "affordable" prices--- its really the one with the F- numbers (F for Flieger or Air force) that fetch a premium--- and are cute cameras. The 1s are less usable but more expensive (similar league to the F IIs). For $100 USD one should be able to find without too much effort a nice Robot II or IIa . The IIa can take normal Kodak film cartridges and does not need the T cassettes (there is an adapter to use them since the cameras work much better with the T cassettes). For sending film out you'd need, however, still a special box since it was not until the Robot Star that they got a film rewind. Robots go all the way up to the Royals--- and in the Star format to the current OS 35 F espionage camera. The science and research version of the Royal (and all the wind-up Recorders) can even take an outboard electric or spring motor and external film magazines for 10 meters, 30 meters and even 100 meters of film. Such gear is of a quality, in my opinion, beyond what we might associate with the best of Leica. Available today for less than a (its then contemporary) M3 they are still not cheap---- and prices are moving in an upwards direction. The choice of glass is, compared to an M3, quite limited (30mm, 38mm, 40mm, 45mm, 50mm, 75mm, 90mm, 120mm, 150mm and longer, most Schneider but also the 50mm Sonnar, 28mm Enna and some telephoto Kilfitts) but all excellent (and the "better" Leica glass will anyway probably cost more than an entire Royal camera outfit).
    To "start off" I'd suggest a Robot II. They are cute, work well, are widely available at good prices and take great pictures. If you send film off don't forget to mark on the envelope Don't cut negative. The continuous printing machines work well but the automatic cutting machines will tend to foul up. Most labs will charge the price for the smallest end of the paper so a 10x10 will cost the same as 10x15cm, 13x13cm the same as normally a 13x18cm etc.

    With modern films its a very interesting non-standard format: square, 50 pictures to a 135/36 roll and processable by nearly any large scale lab (drugstore prints).