6x9 Kodak folders and appropriate film choice?
I posted this in the "antiques" section because my question is historically oriented. On the other hand my antiques are weekly shooters so the moderator may see fit to move the thread to another forum.
I have used Yashica TLRs for a decade with good results. My 60s era Yashica lens produced negatives with pretty good sharpness and contrast on modern color and black and white negatives. The results are in the same quality ballpark as my Nikon with a prime lens. One day my GAS caused a craving for negatives bigger than 2 1/4 inches square.
I bought a Kodak Tourist 6x9 folding camera. It is the most basic model of 1949 with a one speed shutter and Kodet lens, but it's in perfect condition and fully functional with adjustable aperture. I had heard that it was soft, but I wanted to see if it was the sort of soft I could use, or just plain fuzzy. I have the original manual for focus and depth of field data. I ran three rolls of Ilford HP5+ through it using a Sekonic meter for incident metering. I respooled from the 120 factory spool to 620 myself without any problems. The film was exposed at EI 400.
I expected that the basic uncoated doublet lens would have low contrast, but it was so surprisingly soft/fuzzy that I think it will be a display piece.
HOWEVER, I was so enamored of the Tourist's robust construction quality that I sought out the same Kodak Tourist with a higher quality Anaston lens and multi speed shutter. This lens has a front element focus with basic distance markings. I shot a test roll of HP5 using a Nikon prime lens to measure distances and the Sekonic for exposures.
The negatives from the Anaston lens were sharper at every aperture setting. The distance scale was accurate from five feet to infinity, but wrong at shorter distances that I won't use anyway. Even though the negatives were much SHARPER than the cheaper lens results, they shared the same dramatically low contrast compared to every other camera I've ever used.
I used ISO 400 film because the maximum aperture of the '49 Anaston lens is f/8,8. The shutter speeds are 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, but with a 100mm lens I would prefer to shoot at the fast speed to prevent motion blur. In order to increase the contrast I'm thinking of pushing the film to 1600 and processing accordingly. It stops down to a minimum of f/32.
My first antique/historic question is this: Wouldn't the consumer films Kodak intended for this camera have been shot at around ISO 100 for BW or ISO 64 for color? The instruction manual does not give speeds in numbers or anything like exposure data, just general advice for circumstances. It seems to me that it would be very difficult to shoot such slow film with such a camera without either "the shakes" or frequent underexposure. There is a tripod socket, but there is no threaded cable release or self timer on this model, which seems to defeat the purpose of the tripod socket since you have to push the shutter.
Second historic film question: My granny's collection of 6x9 negatives from the 40s look more contrasty than mine from this week, pretty much like my properly exposed negatives from a modern camera minus sharpness. I know for a fact she only ever had basic consumer grade cameras and lenses, nothing fancy. Was the FILM back then dramatically more contrasty to make up for low contrast lenses?
If I remember correctly, in 1950, Verichrome Pan, which was the popular B&W film, was ASA 32. I think it changed to ASA 64 in 1956. Kodacolor was also ASA 32 daylight and ASA 10 with a filter for tungsten. The original Verichrome was an orthochromatic film, and later became panchromatic. I always thought Verichrome Pan was a fine film, although it was considered 'box camera' film by many. Yes, they were of higher contrast, but I don't think that much.
My experience with HP5 is that it is low contrast, especially if over exposed.
I would try some Pan F, which is more like the 1950 films.
Somehow we all took photos with slow lenses and slow films - maybe because we didn't know any better. My Dad took lots of Kodachrome slides with cameras with f4.5 and f3.5 lenses. Kodachrome then was ASA 10. Those slides still look great today.
Have a look at Efke films. These are "traditional" films, very much like the films made back "then".
And then do some development testing. You might need to look at you developer and/or times to get a more contrasty result.
I have a 1914 Kodak 6x9 (with Cooke triplett lens,) and a 1937 Voigtlander Bessa. I mostly shoot HP5 because I want the speed as I use filters a lot. I love uncoated lenses! Both of these cameras have waist level finders, and when you use the camera that way the camera is very steady. Few people using non-pro cameras in the 40s and 50s were shooting color film as it was very expensive. When I use it, I tend to shoot either Portra 160 or 400. I also agree that Pan F is a great film for these cameras if you don't mind the slow speed.
Kent in SD
IIRC the fastest film in normal use at the time was 125.
HP5 is less contrasty than Pan F. Shoot Pan at 50 with flash, might help.
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Not specific to Kodak cameras but have you checked bellows for pinholes? Also there are lots of internal reflections when the sun comes through unless the sun is "at your back". I sometimes thing our great-grandparents paid more attention to the lighting than our generation does.
Ah! Good information. Much thanks everyone. I shall obtain some Ilford Pan F and try it at the original range of exposure indexes. Nope, no pinholes in the bellows. I've got an Agfa Isolette with three or four holes in the bellows that I coated in liquid rubber insulator, so I knew what to look for in terms of light leaks. It's amazing to me that Kodak's bellows on both of their folders are like new when the Agfa's is relatively threadbare.
I was similarly surprised when I compared a pre-war Bessa to a Jsolette. One was about 20 years older but had leather bellows in perfect condition, one had vinyl(?) bellows and looked rather like a sieve. Shame I had to send the Bessa back because the 7.7 lens was hazy and I simply couldn't stand it being so slow — everything else was perfect, after 80 years. The Jsolette is too much trouble to repair and too much to CLA. I'm just going to avoid Agfa from now on.
Have fun with the Pan F — it's amazing in 35mm; I can only imagine what it's like in 6x9, and I may soon see what it's like in 6x4.5. If you decide you want slightly less contrast and a little bit of softness, put a stocking over it.
Pan F at 50 in 35mm with stocking:
I thought the Kodet was a single meniscus lens, rather than a doublet? Regardless, do have a look through the lens with the back open just to make sure the lens is clean (if you haven't already checked). Often times lenses on older cameras like this are covered with a layer of dust or haze even though the rest of the camera appears fresh; especially on the inside surface, where the previous owner may not have tried to clean before selling. On some, a good lens cleaning can make a huge difference in the contrast of the images. But in general, my experience with simple-lensed camera is that at f/16 or smaller you should be able to get surprisingly sharp and high-contrast images, so I would guess something is amiss with yours.
For what it's worth, I actually prefer using faster speed films (ISO 400) with cameras like this, just for the sake of being able to work at the smaller apertures.
Good luck with your Tourist!
A word of warning against Efke (and Foma, Lucky, Shanghai, etc) and cameras like these.
Originally Posted by LJH
The red window that shows the frame numbers will fog the film through the poor quality backing paper these films feature.
I've had plenty of old folding and box cameras, and they all did this.
The only ones that work well are Kodak, Ilford, and Fuji. At least if you shoot in daylight. Shading the window does not seem to help.
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