Sunday, December 21, 2008

Garage Flag

Strongsville, Ohio.

Off Season

Before Eisenhower approved the national system of concrete arteries for moving the military around the country, travel by car took place on a network of regular roads with intersections, lights and traffic. Much slower than booming down the endless freeway. Motels proliferated so that Mom, Dad, Buddy and Sis could pull in for the night and continue on the next morning. Before Interstate 71 became the primary north-south highway through Ohio, Route 43 was the main stem for travel between Columbus and Cleveland. This lovely artifact is near the border between Strongsville and Middleburg Hts., formerly outlying regions but now part of the exurban sprawl spreading from Cleveland.

Clearly much has changed since it first opened. I found three recent reviews online, one of which was favorable. The other two were not, which made me sad.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fly Away

The commercialization of the toy camera movement has resulted in some rather mind-boggling boondoggles, the latest of which is pictured above. The Blackbird Fly twin lens reflex camera is aimed directly at the checkbooks of the Lomographists who are happy to shell out big bucks for marked-up Holgas, ersatz Diana clones and the very limited, one-note Lomo fisheye camera. The Blackbird Fly, or BBF as it's currently being marketed by Japan's Superheadz, however, is in a class by itself, retailing for $120US. Instead of 120 roll film, this overpriced Harajuku bauble shoots 35mm film and provides for three image sizes: square, rectangular, and a full-strip exposure that extends the image over the sprocket holes. There's a sluggish plastic lens, pictogram range focus and two aperture settings: cloudy and sunny.

Online comments about the Blackbird Fly run to the ecstatic, though it's not clear if all members of the amen corner are actual users. Almost everyone compares it to the Rolleiflex, which is categorically correct (yes, it is a twin lens reflex camera) but qualitatively silly. A better comparison might be to the execrable Seagull, a $100 Chinese TLR best known for breaking after the second roll of film. I imagine the BBF is sturdier than that, though the Seagull most likely has a better lens.

I can't imagine what demand this item fulfills. There's no advantage to the TLR format when shooting 35mm, and the negative seems a little small for a low-resolution plastic lens. It's a high price for a bit of vignetting and a sketchy image. I'll continue to bring out my modified Holga (relatively cheap at $40, including modifications) when I want the low-tech look.

There's also the far more affordable option of creating low-tech images with old thrift store cameras. I picked up the plastic camera pictured below for $3 at a thrift store in Dunedin, Florida. The images are pretty good (it was not a cheap camera for its time, retailing for $44 in 1957), and it's an exercise in toy-style shooting, with its approximate range focus and "exposure values" instead of F-stops.

And of course you can't beat the rudimentary images you get from these throwaway, focus-free shooters, found on the crap shelves of thrifts everywhere. Note the price on the one on the left. Below, an image from the Bell and Howell. Just as delightful as the images from the expensive poseur prop.

Frankly, I'd rather spend the $120 on processing and printing film.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Light Zanging Freely

Light zanging freely among the elements of the uncoated 85mm Agnar lens on the Agfa Isolette I, a German post-war folder from 1950, which was also marketed in the United States under the Ansco brand.

Old Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Superior Avenue.