Here is a quick tip list on letters for the HELP! desk:
Please confine yourself to only one question per letter. Both postal letters and e-mails are fine, although we prefer e-mail as the most efficient form of communication. Send your e-mail queries to firstname.lastname@example.org with Help in the subject header and your return e-mail address at the end of your message. Although we make every effort, we cannot promise to answer every HELP! letter.
When sending a response or suggestion that refers to a published letter please include the month and page of the original question.
All postal letters to HELP! must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope to be considered for reply. We will respond to e-mail queries with an e-mail.
Q. I'm writing in reference to a popularly advertised toy/hobby item of the 1960s, the Gabriel U-2 Spy Plane and the integral (though it could be used separately) Spy Camera. This was a neat, black plastic little 127 miniature camera that was designed to work in a sequential fashion while lofted by the model glider. It was based broadly on the famous U-2 spy plane. The model airplane was launched by an extended bungee cord catapult. It was not radio controlled, despite TV ads showing helmeted kid missile tech types ducking behind a field radar set, or what appeared to be a parabolic reflector. Given the current hiatus of technical toys, the Gabriel Spy Camera does deserve some horn blowing! I heard they were also made (and in better quality) in 35mm. It is believed that Gabriel Industries was located in Jersey City, New Jersey, my hometown. Information please on this high-flying `60s spy toy. I would like to know what they are worth today in either 127 or 35mm format.
K. Chris Hamel
Jersey City, NJ
A. I looked under Gabriel, U-2, and Spy Camera headings in the index of six of my best reference books and only found this interesting camera item mentioned once, but there was not much information given or any current price. The one reference in McKeown's Price Guide to Antique & Classic Cameras 2001-2002 said, "Kit containing a 127 film camera and parts to assemble a model airplane which carries it. A wind-up timer fires the camera, which takes 16 exposures per roll. No sales data." The firm listed was Gabriel Toy Co., Jersey City, New Jersey. Sorry I could not locate anything more detailed. If any readers know about this vintage toy camera please get in touch with us.
Q. I was directed to you by Pentax. I own a Pentax IQZoom 900 and the shutter is stuck. Is there a place where it can be fixed? The camera is about 15 years old and still works great. I live in the South Central Pennsylvania region.
A. In each issue of Shutterbug our Service Directory contains several pages of ads for firms that repair older equipment. Skimming through the current issue I noticed only one firm that specifically mentions Pentax: Photo Tech Repair Service, Inc., 110 East 13th St., New York, NY 10003, (212) 673-8400, www.phototech.com. In the Pennsylvania area there is Camera Repair Service, Inc., 433 Market St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222, (412) 261-5225, www.camerarepairservice.com. Finally, there is one West Coast firm that claims "repair when parts are no longer available" that I have heard very favorable comments about: Photography On Bald Mountain, 113 Bald Mountain, Davenport, CA 95017, (831) 423-4465, http://home.pacbell.net/baldmtn. As I suggest for any repair work, contact the firm(s) first and describe your problem, then ask if they can repair your camera. Be sure to get a quote before committing to any repairs, as it can be more costly than the camera is worth today. Good luck.
Digital Ever-Ready Case
Q. I just purchased my first digital camera--a Nikon D70 with the Nikon zoom. I'm a Leica R7 owner as well as an owner of a Contax G1 and a Yashica T4. For all of these cameras I have ever-ready field cases which allow me to flip open the top of the case and shoot the picture. I purchased the soft Nikon ever-ready case for the D70 and guess what? You have to remove the entire case to take a shot. Do you know of any manufacturer that makes a traditional ever-ready case that I can use for the D70? Most of my photography is outdoor shots of old cars and I like the protection of an ever-ready case. If it has an open space in the back to view the image, fine, but if it doesn't, I can work around that. I also purchased a gadget bag to carry the camera and the accessories in as well, but I still feel that an ever-ready case is my best bet. Any suggestions?
A. I have not seen leather ever-ready camera cases supplied with new cameras for many years. The only exceptions have been some manual SLRs made in China. I checked some general photo equipment catalogs I have and found that Porter's Camera Store does list a number of custom-crafted SLR ever-ready cases. They do show some for Nikon products, but not for their digital cameras, so I doubt if they have any flap for access to view the LCD on the back. Some digital cameras I have seen have radically different body design from traditional film SLR cameras, so I don't know how these cases would work with your Nikon D70 camera body. Even the tripod screw that holds the case to the body might have a different location. But, they should be able to let you know if it's compatible. Contact Porter's Camera Store, PO Box 628, Cedar Falls, IA 50613, (800) 553-2001, www.porters.com. If this does not solve your problem, you might want to consider a soft pouch case such as those offered by OP/TECH and Zing (The Tiffen Company, LLC, 90 Oser Ave., Hauppauge, NY 11788, (631) 273-2500, www.tiffen.com). The OP/TECH SLR soft pouch has a unique retaining strap that holds the case from the lens so the removed case remains conveniently nearby. You can obtain more information at OP/TECH USA, 304 Andrea Dr., Belgrade, MT 59714, (800) 251-7815, www.optechusa.com. I hope one of these ideas works for you.
Q. I have a Braun F900 flash unit that I bought years ago. It has not been used for quite a while and the batteries will not hold a charge any longer. Is Braun no longer in business or are they under some other name? Can you refer me to somebody that replace the batteries?
A. I don't believe Braun equipment is offered in the U.S.A. any longer by any firm. Looking through a recent issue's Shutterbug Service Directory I found several firms that indicate they work on older flash unit batteries, so you might want to contact them and explain your battery problem. Here are two such companies: Chambless Cine Equipment (13368 Chatsworth Hwy., Ellijay, GA 30540, (706) 636-5210, e-mail: email@example.com) is a battery rebuilding service; and Holly Enterprises (15848 Rayen St., North Hills, CA 91343, (800) 988-7111) does repair work on a variety of batteries and strobes. Hopefully one or both can get your Braun flash operational again.
Q. Yes, digital capture is now the rage, but I'm trying to go back into film's history. I'm attempting to track the film canister/color coding used by Kodak in the 1950s (?). My goal is to match the film/film canister colors with the film can colors once used by Kodak. I've tried Kodak and the Eastman House, but came up with very little. If memory serves me correctly, Kodachrome cans were red/yellow, Kodacolor was black/yellow, and Panatomic was brown/yellow. But that's only three of many. Unfortunately, most of those early-colored aluminum cans that held film have long departed. Any insight or reference you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Shutterbug is a great magazine!
A. I, too, remember the color-coded film canisters offered by Kodak in the 1940s and `50s I believe. Most were metal with a colored screw-on top. I'm sure I have one or more buried somewhere in the older photographic stuff I just cannot throw away. But, as to finding a listing or code indicating which can colors were used for which film--I don't know if such a thing exists, or where you might locate this information if it does. You said you contacted Kodak about this. Have you called their hotline at (800) 242-2424? They have an extensive database available there and have helped me answer many questions in the past. The long-extinct Photo Lab Index might have contained this data. So, we will print your letter and ask any readers that either know of a reference source or can remember the color-coding system to contact me and I will sure send the data forward to you. We are pleased you continue to like what you see in Shutterbug.