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Q. I just returned from Germany with a present from a relative and was wondering what you could tell me about it. The camera does not say Kodak, but Rochester, NY, U.S.A. It has a Wollensak lens (mentioned between the f/stop dial and the lens barrel), f/8-128, but does not say what focal length it has. The shutter goes from 1-1/100 sec plus B & T, and all speeds are in working condition. The film size seems to be 31/2x41/2". Is there still film available for this camera, including holder?
A. According to my copy of Kodak Cameras: The First Hundred Years, most of the plate cameras offered by Kodak in the early 1900s were made in Europe. Many were made by Nagel and had the name Anca on the body, but none of those illustrated have a Wollensak lens and they don't look like the photos you provided. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique & Classic Cameras, 2001-2002 only shows movie cameras having the Wollensak Optical name and they were made in Chicago, so the Rochester, NY, U.S.A. on your camera would not apply. I skimmed through both of these books and several other reference books but found no cameras identical to yours, though several models did have the rather unique dual cylinders on each side of the lens that I assume had something to do with the shutter. The rear view of your camera shows a ground glass with a lift-up shade/protecting hood. It looks like this back could be removed via the hinged lock at the top to replace it with a sheet film holder. It probably accepts the European film size of 9x12cm, which was fairly common before 4x5" size film replaced it in this country. Locating a cut film holder that fits your camera may be difficult, especially since you don't have the brand name of the camera.
Midwest Photo Exchange (3313 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43202; (614) 261-1264; www.midwestphoto.com) often has older view camera accessories, so you might want to check with them. The camera you acquired is quite handsome with its black wooden body and red interior and bellows. Even if you cannot locate the correct size cut film holder to use it, it sure makes a nice old photographic item to display. By the way, I believe the apertures indicated on the lens would be the older US stops, not f/stops as have been commonly used for at least 50 years now. Since it closes way down to 128 I seriously doubt it is an f/stop.
Q. I'm trying to confirm the identification and determine the value of a camera I recently received as part of an inheritance. I am not having much luck. I believe the camera is a Compur, and have been told it was manufactured in 1901. Around the lens is print reading Steinheil Munchen Doppelanastigmat Unofokal 1-13.5 cm No. 191289. While I haven't yet used it, the camera seems to be in excellent condition with a leather case and a thin metal case that still holds what appears to be strips of old film.
A. I have never heard of a Compur brand camera. There is, however, a Compur brand between-the-lens shutter that is often used on view cameras. Possibly this name is located on the shutter and not the camera body itself. The Steinheil 135mm lens was used on many German cameras and is a typical focal length for cameras taking images either 9x12cm or 4x5" in size. One book does mention several Steinheil cameras dating from 1895 to the 1930s. Some of these are folding plate cameras that take interchangeable metal sleeves in the back that hold a single sheet of 9x12cm film. This is probably the metal case you refer to.
Leica IIIa Repair
Q. I have a 1939 Leica IIIa with a '56 collapsible Summicron 50mm f/2 lens. The image quality is excellent, even by today's standards. Upon visual inspection, the shutter is starting to come apart. Leica has not serviced screwmount cameras for some time. Do you know any place that can handle what appears to be a shutter replacement? I love using this IIIa for all the reasons Jason Schneider listed in his article in addition to the image quality. I hate to think it may become a display shelf queen.
Wesley Chapel, FL
A. I do know of some facilities specializing in Leicas that have been suggested by our readers. One highly recommended firm is Photography on Bald Mountain (113 Bald Mountain, Davenport, CA 95017; (831) 423-4465; www.baldmtn.com). Another reader recently said he has had his newer Leica M3s repaired several times by Don Goldberg (DAG Camera Repair, 2128 Vintage Dr., Oregon, WI 53575; (608) 835-3342; www.dagcamera.com), whom he said is fast, fairly priced, and does excellent work. There is repair information on the Leica Historical Society of America (LHSA) website at: www.lhsa.org. This might be primarily for members of LHSA but should be a good place to start looking. As always, when having older equipment repaired, be sure to contact the firm first and explain the problem to get an estimate prior to shipping your camera.
Pre-Flash Exposure Woes
Q. I am using a Canon EOS Digital Rebel. I have no problems with exposure using either the built-in flash or the Canon external flash unit. However, I have two old remote flash heads that I tried to use in conjunction with both Canon flash units. The remote flashes work with a sensor that sets them off when the main camera unit fires. However, when I do that I get a very dark photo rather than a well exposed one. All three units fire at the same time, so you can see why I am confused. If I turn off the remotes, the exposure is fine. I called Canon but they could not come up with an answer. I previously used these units with my film cameras (not the Canon) and had good results. I have tried various combinations of shutter speeds and f/stops, but still no proper exposure. Any ideas or suggestions?
A. Unfortunately this is a common occurrence when attempting to use an older slave flash designed for film cameras with a digital camera of any type. Digital cameras typically emit a pre-picture-taking flash. This triggers the slave, which then fires prematurely, that is, before the actual picture-taking flash built into the digital camera fires. Since these pre-flashes emit light at about 1/1000 sec your eye does not detect the minute lag in time from the pre-flash and picture-making flash firing.
There are a number of new slave flash units that have a sync switch adjustment so they can be set for normal (film) flash or pre-flash sync. The Morris and Sunpak units are moderately priced and can be placed most anywhere around the subject where they can "see" the camera flash and then fire. If you want to use your older hot shoe slave flash units Morris offers the small Digital Flash Trigger DS-3 slave. It has a female hot shoe contact socket on the top that accepts your shoe-mount flash. It has a sensitivity range of 100 ft and a touch fastener kit that allows it to be attached to most any surface. The MSRP is $39.
ToCAD America offers the Sunpak Digital Camera Flash Adapter, a bracket having a built-in and adjustable sensitivity slave trigger that accepts any hot shoe-mount flash. The bracket can be fastened to the camera's tripod socket or can be placed on a tripod or other stand to hold the slaved flash away from the camera. Any flash used as a slave in this manner will just emit its full flash intensity when the camera flash fires, so there is no control over the amount of light emitted. Depending upon the GN of your old flash heads you might get too much exposure, so you might have to position the flash farther away from the subject. If they have variable power levels you can make an adjustment, or simply weaken the light emitted by covering the flash head with one or two layers of white handkerchief to cut the intensity by about half. I'm sure one of these slave accessories will solve your problem.
VC Filtration For Dichroic Heads
Q. Could you help me find a link that shows the generally accepted filtration values for printing variable contrast paper using a dichroic head? I cannot find a guide for dialing in contrast levels anywhere on the Internet. The only thing I can remember is that dialing in 40m and 7y equals a 21/2 contrast grade.
A. To obtain an expert answer to your color enlarger filtration question I forwarded your e-mail to Darryl Nicholas our darkroom expert. Here are his comments for your consideration: "The answer to the reader's question is a tad complicated...there is no such thing as a set of numbers because different settings produce different results on different enlargers (enlargers are not color calibrated)...and different settings produce different results on different brands of VC paper...it varies all over the place. Years ago I did some calibrated tests with different papers and different enlargers and published the data in my ColorBAT Darkroom Handbook. I have attached a PDF version of Chapter 123 in which I discuss all the various factors. The entire ColorBAT Darkroom Handbook is available on a CD-ROM in PDF format for $19.95 plus $5 S&H. The last 3-4 pages include charts of how different enlargers perform with different VC papers." I hope you will be able to glean the data you seek from the portion of Nicholas' handbook that was forwarded to you.