Wednesday, June 15, 2022

It's The Flattest Squarest Tube

Beware Humans!

We are about to encounter some disruptive reading ahead.

We can only approach if you have one of the following:




You might encounter several of the following emotions:






All objections will of course be logged, but ultimately ignored as we are going this way anyway.

All set?

Za_0g*)! will take your names and hand out refreshments.

Our E.T.A. is 46.21zp (A8933347821bp time).

P.S. Our Editor [Mister K.R.Zong-k-kl] is currently on holiday and we haven't had time to do the washing up.

'Allo Tosh, Gotta Toshiba?
'Allo Tosh, Gotta Toshiba?
That's An FST
That's An FST
Flattest Squarest Tube
It's The Flattest Squarest Tube
They Ain't 'Alf Built Well
They Ain't 'Alf Built Well
'Course Every Toshiba Component
Is Stronger To Last Longer.
Know What I Mean?
That's Good
That's Good
'Allo Tosh, Gotta Toshiba?
'Allo Tosh, Gotta Toshiba?

From another galaxy, though in reality only 37 years ago, here we have the brain-burrowing genius of great advertising. Even if you didn't want to buy one, you (well, certainly me) couldn't escape the fact that Toshiba was lodged in your brain for a considerable amount of time. 
Although there is some dubiety as to who sang it (some say Alexie Sayle [because of his great single "Hello John Got A New Motor" on which the ad was based] some say the late Ian Dury) personally I'll go with Dury - it actually sounds like him, albeit tarted up - Alexie was far too manic.

As for me (in a weirdly prescient move which pre-dated the advert by a few years) when I arrived in Dundee and got my College grant (yes, FREE Education - who could conceive of such a thing) I blew a small chunk of it on a Toshiba Ghetto Blaster (I think it was an RT-8155S). 
It was a fantastic machine, sounding great and taking an auxilliary input from my Akai 4000DS Reel-To-Reel (weird eh! but the majority of music I had, had been captured [or added] to reels of 7" tape - I wasn't going to lug my record collection to college, and I didn't have a cassette deck at home). 
The TOSH proved to be an all-round good egg of a buy for quite a number of years.

But what the hell has this got to do with photography you ask?
Aha, he said, fiendishly twirling his moustache, well, I could have entitled this "Ultimate Pano" or "Kamera Korner BARGINS" but didn't, simply because people would be rushing around and going crazy, creating alarms and looking for more ways to scalp us enthusiasts.
Y'see, at exactly the same time Toshiba (sic) were creating brain-burning ads and large lumps of plastic and metal that were ultimately bound for landfill, camera manufacturers were, I believe, reaching their peak.
It is easy to say that the peak had already been reached in the mid-70's and was tailing off, but I'll throw in the fact that, arguably, photography, and the ease of making good images (of which digital is the bastard child) really came into its own with supreme Japanese manufacturing techniques; universal camera automation and, above all, the sheer affordability that came in the 1980's.
My Olympus OM10, bought new with a 50mm f1.8 lens in 1980, cost me £105 (with a case!) - I took thousands of photographs with it - honestly, I did.
And more incredibly, apart from a lazy iris on the lens, it still works really well - the shutter blind auto-exposure system (sort of a checky effect) is still accurate; OK the foam has gone a tad, but a couple of new Silver Oxides and it is up and working, snappily, the way it should. 
That is astonishing VFM.
A 40 year old, reliable companion that helped educate my eye. 
It was an affordable investment to me at the time - one could say that it brought a whole new slant to life which is still with me.
And that affordability was the genius of economies of scale.

At the time, being a student, money was a BIG thing, as in you didn't really have any. You could though withdraw £15 in cash, old money, on a Friday, get really steamed on Friday and Saturday and still have ackers for the following week. 
So you can see from that even with the OM's £100 price mark (a not insignificant investment) the sheer reliability and simplicity and above all else relative affordability (for what was really a luxury item) made it a 'must have'.
If you were serious about trying this new-fangled thang on a student's budget, it was either the OM or a Pentax K1000 - they were both priced the same - but to me the OM felt futuristic whereas the K1000 felt decidedly old and clunky. So I bought it and fell in love with shutters.

From the start, I also knew that when the bug bit seriously, I had to get better cameras. 
I became totally enamoured by the square (courtesy of DOJCA's vast collection of student loan Mamiya 330s) so would consequently glue my nose against Jessop's windows staring at the lovely Zenza-Bronica SQs they had on display - they were gourgeous
Of course they weren't Hasselblads (as far as I was aware - though I hadn't even seen one in the flesh!) but they were their equal in my eyes. 
If only I could have got one, I could have lurched off into the blue yonder to take landscape photographs that would move people . . . sigh.
And then reality bit.
Who gave a damn about pictures of hills and weather and trees (well I did - it made up a chunk of my degree show); landscape was dreadfully unfashionable, and as is often the way of dreams and hope, my ambition was throttled by hard reality and the need to find employment.
No back up, no money and my aspirations of becoming a landscape photographer/"fine-art" printer died in the cocoon.

And then . . . . in a planetary orbit somewhere down the line . . . .

A piece of luck, magic and puntsmanship happened. 
I borrowed money from my son's Uni repayment fund and I found myself with a Hasselblad 500 C/M.
Made in 1985, it had belonged to a retiring professional who had bought it as back-up, and had had it regularly checked over by Hasselblad - the wonderful, tactile body cost me £335; my first lens (the 60mm Distagon) cost £439. 
The body (from pretty much the same era as my old Toshiba - still wearing a dayglo tracksuit with shoulder pads) hasn't gone to landfill, and in fact (based upon today's prices) would currently have been able to buy three versions of its secondhand self in old money; in other words sublime engineering doesn't seem to go out of fashion, it just seems to accrue more value.
When I received it, I knew I held something special, but more importantly, the ghost of that young landscape photographer in me was moved to eventually come alive again and I give thanks for that.

Hasselblad 500 C/M,Hasselblad 40mm CF/FLE Distagon,Ilford HP5+,Kodak HC 110 Dilution B,© Phil Rogers Dundee,
Homeless Encampment - Dundee 2022

However this is rambling off-piste on a grand scale - so I'll find the track again, let you have a breather and a wee, and we'll get cracking on.

I have a friend who collects antiquities and he always says (when asked [by me] about the cost of something he has bought):

"Well, they're not making them anymore . . . " 

To which I would add, with the way prices on pretty much any old film camera are looking these days, have we hit a sort of ceiling or are things going to continue rising in cost exponentially, given:

"they're not making them anymore . . . "

It's a thorny issue.
For instance, who would have thought the lowly (yet lovely) Olympus Trip 35, would be snapped up by newbies for the equivalent price of my old OM10 (or even more). 
It's a fine camera, but hardly the dog's wobblers.

And so it goes on - as someone who uses a 500 regularly, can I truly justify (on average) £120+ on a useful Bay 60 coloured filter? Or £350+ for a replacement waist level finder?
Has avarice and the ability to finance and then horde, turned what used to be a thoroughly enjoyable, egalitarian hobby into something that is starting to look like the art and investment world?
During WW II, they had a word for it: PROFITEERING.
I mean, c'mon, £1000+ for a Leica M2 body
£2500 for a M6?
Both great cameras, but that great?
Is marque valued over ergonomics?

Which begs the question, is it really time to act on all those Minolta Dynax' or Canon EOS, or Nikon prosumers?
Are the likes of the Canon Sureshot et al, tomorrow's Trips?

Knock yerself out  - snap 'em up now - they're decent, well made cameras; (currently) supremely cheap enough that if the electronics fail, you can nab another and carry on - you could probably buy nearly a hundred (or more!) of these old things for the current cost of a 500 C/M and 80mm Planar.
Much to my chagrin, a few years back I contributed to this madness by selling a Nikon AF600 (which I'd bought for a fiver) at a massively over-inflated price . . . it's a plastic auto-Nikon with a decent fixed focal length lens, but hardly LEGENDARY - an attribute you will find on the net . . . 

Given the recent selling price of an Andy Warhol screen print (not even the original photograph, that was by Eugene Kornman) when the world is awash with art, are we looking at certain of the great photographic manufacturing names entering into the realms of Raphael or Picasso, or even Rolex and Omega,  FabergĂ© and Tiffany etc etc.
It is a chilling (yet stupid) thought, because where does it stop?
All it needs f'rinstance for some net-twat to proclaim that the old giveaway red panoramic cameras are brilliant and the next thing you know everybody wants one, and, ahem:

"they're not making them anymore . . . "

In reality though, yer plastic fantastic is not the main monkey business.
It's the big jobs.
Though a Leica is a fine machine, does it handle any better than, say, a Canonet to justify the price difference? 
A Hasselblad is also a fine machine, but in reality (though you buy one because it is a system camera) does it handle any better than a Bronica SQ, or even a Rolleicord?
An X-Pan now goes for as much as a secondhand car . . . . yet, the red panoramics or indeed any 35mm compact with a panoramic setting will produce nearly the same format (though not the same square millimeterage - 1584 sq/mm if you need to know). 
In fact the above-mentioned Nikon AF600 had panoramic mode AND a fine lens . . . see what I mean,

I have a feeling the market is being dictated by wheelers and dealers who don't use film cameras on a regular basis, nor really know that much about what they are selling save the name (and all important net-reputation) - a case in point is the 40mm M-mount Minolta Rokkor lens originally made for the Leica CL. A startlingly sharp lens, yet (because it isn't German or even Canadian and an old bit of info that it won't focus as accurately on a M . . . though apparently it does) widely ignored by a chunk of the Leicaphile community. 
If it is an ideal focal length and incredibly sharp, who wouldn't buy one to go with their M? 
Oh wait a minute, it isn't one of The Pantheon. It's too cheap. Jap-Crap. Move on, move on.
The same goes for Canon L39 lenses - easily the equal of their Leitz equivalents, probably better in regard to age related issues, and yet . . . . 
I could slap a new/old Zuiko on my OM10 and go out taking photographs - I'd come back with results that were pretty damn good - those Zuiko wides were always lovely. 
I could buy a Nikkormat (still incredibly cheap for such a reliable machine) and take advantage of all those great pre-Ai lenses and arguably take as good (or better) photographs as I do with my M2.
At the sizes I enlarge negatives to, why not ditch the Hasselblad - a Rolleicord would probably do me fine.

What I am saying is:

Just because a camera has a legendary name, it doesn't mean it is imbued with magic.

It just means that the people who were fortunate enough to be able to make a living or a name from photography, chose the legendary brands because of availability/reliability/reputation, AND THEN, created magic.

It's like guitarists who buy their heroes guitars so they can sound like them.
It ain't going to happen. Not ever, not at all.
Guitar magic comes from the soul, your fingers and your heart. 
Add in physicality, stance, grip; the million minutiae that go to make a person AND THEN, that person's ability to put something of their self into the machine they are using.
It is as individualistic as your fingerprints.
Yet a whole decades-old industry has been built upon the premise of:

Certain instruments, if used correctly, might just make you:



c. BE

 your favourite player.

There are great parallels with photography.

The salient point is though, with guitars there are still cheaper instruments being made. And the thing about them is, they allow proto-musicians to find their own voice

When film cameras were cheap and plentiful, yep, they allowed the photographer to train their eyes and hone their craft - find their own voice within the world of traditional photography as it were. 
But that went with digital and the rise of the phone.

Jings, it must be really hard if, say, you are in your late teens, mad to take photos, want to try film, buy a Lomo, enjoy it but get frustrated, want to try something better and discover you have to mortgage your kidneys to get something that my generation took for granted.
Maybe though, at this moment in time (2022 for all you time travellers) it is time to kiss those kidneys goodbye, because, as I said:

"they're not making them anymore . . "

The film camera as style icon/fashion accessory/hero machine/investment piece . . . it is coming, if, indeed, it isn't here already.

Investors have already moved in and enthusiasts are being driven out.

There are parallels with the tech/housing crisis in the States (go on - look it up!) - what a strange world. Tom Joad must be spinning in his grave.

Please note:

We have now passed through the main turbulence and are about to enter an area of space known as "DEEP SADNESS".

Many come out of the other side in reflective mood but with mayonnaise stains on their ties.

Those sandwiches Za_0g*)! is handing out are a bit rank aren't they.

Photography has always been regarded as a bit of a "retired dentists'" hobby, as in you have enough money to fund something that has never been (and is now more than ever not) cheap
Vanishingly so these days, wouldn't you say?
There they were at dentists conventions (sic) wielding M6's, not because it necessarily meant anything, but because, like all good dental machinery, an M6 (et al) was a finely put together machine that (deservedly so) was to be admired.
Even Her Madge, Elizabeth II had a M6 ff's sake . . . 

However, at current prices, a Leica M6 is a thing that few film enthusiasts will ever be able to admire (let alone fondle.) 
They're now only touchable by 'serious' buyers. 
And as such, are you, the enthused enthusiast, being forced into an investment/speculate situation simply because of the movements in the market.

To draw parallels with the guitar trade, I certainly know now, that back in 1989/90 when I was offered a 1962 Fender Stratocaster for about £1200 (but turned it down because I didn't have the money and didn't like Strats [!!]; or even way back, mid-1970's [when hair and 'rock' were the thing so why on earth would anyone want a 'country orientated' early/mid-60's Fender Telecaster for about £150 - and believe me, Wardour Street and Charing Cross Road were awash with these things]) I wish I'd had the gumption (and the cash) to take a punt.

Hindsight is a rare thing:

Ten or Fifteen years back there were thousands of secondhand M6's around. They averaged around £700.
Now, as with all things Leica and film-based (though curiously NOT the old, L39s [in my opinion, the proper spirit of the Leica]) the market is as dry as a desert, unless of course you have a King's Ransom to spare
Weirdly this dearth doesn't apply to certain useful accessories, which says something.
As for the cameras and the likes of the close-range Summicron, or indeed the 35mm Summi, they appear to have all gone into collections, to have new hand-stitched Italian leather suits placed on them; to be oggled by one's friends; dusted and cleaned with balsams and balms on high days and holidays . . . 
A world far removed from their original intent as an intuitive, small, precise, window on the world.

The hunka-hunka chunk of Swedish engineering that is my 500, designed for professional use (imagine, some of those 1980's 500s that people are paying well over £1000 for, could have possibly been seeing hundreds of rolls of film a week through them in a big studio - they were after all a professional tool) is now a thing lusted over and I believe, being increasingly bought for its aesthetics and investment value rather than its original purpose as a maker of supreme quality images.

A sad old world where yet again, money is valued over art. Where, controversially, talent is possibly being held back by market forces.
A case in point, I met a lad a year or so back - totally enthused - photographing around the back of the Art College. We were both masked and careful. 
We chatted. 
He clearly had talent and an enthusiasm that was infectious - he named names from the Pantheon Of Greats and I mentioned a few he'd not heard of; he really wanted to use film on a regular basis.
He was using a cheap Digi-Canon, because he said he was unable to afford a decent film camera (and indeed all the extra stuff required to remain film-based.) 
I felt a little (shall we say) circumspect with a SWC/M on a carbon fibre Gitzo with Arca ballhead . . . .
I hope he finally managed to afford to get something, because you could tell, with the right tools this bloke would have flown. 
You don't get to talk with that much vim, without being in love with the thing.

I could go on, but I won't, I do however feel that we're entering a new age in camera use. 

Please could all passengers hand their litter to Za_0g*)!

Entertainment will commence in 3 minutes.

It was going to be a Space Cowboy adventure with James T.Kirk (Clone 4) riding into town and sorting out bandits, but unfortunately our Prime account has been increased to 4.2 Zongs per solar year and seeing as we are a budget operation we are no longer able to subscribe.

Za_0g*)! however has found an old Betamax machine and we have rigged it to show a Third Generation copy of Mork And Mindy.
Oh boy, I am looking forward to this!
Nano Nano!

A lot of these cameras are old (well, certainly ageing) yet serviceable machines, but the way things are going, in reality, and in an alternate universe, would you take your 1930's Frazer Nash out to Tescos, or your '60's Lamborghini to your local supermarket car park?

Are we getting to the point whereby (because of the likes of the red dot spotting camera snatchers - they do exist btw, ask Za_0g*)! ) you don't take your pride and joy out, simply because it is too valuable or precious?

In an era when the agricultural, reliable, metal and glass breeze-block that is the Mamiya RB67 is on the highway to £1000+ (!) and it's sibling the RZ has now gone stratospheric (though curiously nobody gives a shit about the Bronica GS1), do we have to rethink how we approach our hobby?

It is really hard to see further down the line - the future is far muddier than it was even 5 years ago. 
Will film become something manufactured in ever decreasing circles? 
I mean why, these days, would anyone bother using Kodak unless they are either vastly rich or mad? Sorry American cousins, no idea what it is like with you, but it is double the price of everything else over here and thus (to me eyes) they've totally written themselves out of the UK film-buying market.

If, because of current pressures on world commodities and resources, film, chemical and paper prices rise to the extent that for the average Joe, they are unviable, sic:




Where does it go from there?
Despite the "Analog Revolution" maybe people will just think:

Fuck it - I never print anything anyway, why not just save money, go totally digital, view it onscreen and be done with it.

And yes, I haven't been living in a cupboard  - I do realise people use film and scan it - that's fine, but to be honest how many of those scans are ever printed? 
Made into a PHOTOGRAPH to be hung or passed around? 
I would estimate approximately 75% of all scanned film ends up as Flickr feeds and goes nowhere else.
Actually, when  you look at it like that, logically, apart from the process of using a film camera (which is always enjoyable) and processing film (which is always a voyage of discovery) scanning seems to be a largely pointless activity. You could get the same end result (images viewed only on screen) using a digital camera.
It's a controversial statement I know, and I am still not sure how I feel about it.

But if cost starts to factor more and more and people realise that they could achieve the same end result just purely digitally and film sales start to retract to the extent that it is no longer a viable medium . . . . where do your investment pieces go then?
It'd be like a gun without bullets.
Or a Lamborghini without petrol.
Beautiful to look at, but effectively as useless as an Instamatic.

I hope I am raising more questions than answers, as it has always been my intent to get people to think about this wonderful hobby. 
If it makes you question things, then good, but it'll do little to the current state of profiteering.

It's funny y'know but Bruce (from the Online Darkroom) and I have a sort of camera watch thing going on (he recently sent me a pic of a guy in St. Andrews carrying a Fuji GW690 f'rinstance). He's beating me though, because apart from a couple of Japanese girls in Dubrovnik and Rome; a bloke with a Trip in Jedburgh and a kid with a Minolta in Edinburgh, I have never spotted another film photographer in the wild in the past 15 years. 

WTF is going on?

For all the "Analog Revolution" is film photography dying on the vine?
Are we already in the raisin stage   - a few old wrinkled fruits left whilst the rest of the crop have dried beyond redemption?
Remember good old film is nothing more than oil, silver, chemicals and energy. 
Will it even exist when $100+ barrels of oil and Vlad's squeeze on minerals/resources/food/energy mean that it is no longer viable to produce?
In economies of scale terms (and I have no idea how Harman/Ilford do it these days, but I love them for their commitment and quality) everything is moving in tighter circles.

Could we (that's you and me!) be the last of the WET photographers?

It is a chilling thought, yet one which demands (in a nice way) that, for the moment, could the investment market please just piss off and leave the use of (and ability to afford) these working machines to people who can still appreciate them and practice their craft whilst there is still film left to use.
I think we're on a Razor's Edge with film. 
If it becomes too expensive, we stop using it. 
If cameras (tools, not toys) become unaffordable then we stop using it.
Simple as that. 
And when it is gone, it is gone.
It'll be as antiquated as glass plates.

Certainly there are still plenty of cameras out there, but remember you are dealing with a finite resource
OK you'll say, you can still buy new cameras. 
OK I'll say, thank you for the Alpa 12 (approximately £10,000 with lens - wonder how many they sell a year?) but feel free to keep the Lomo.
So the non-superstar photography enthusiast is left with what is left - see what I mean?

If you're like me and you have a few (!) cameras, look after them - they're treasures. 
Though even then, I wonder (50 years down the line) who there will be with the specialist skills to look after them. 
The madness of a Leica CLA (after all you can't have your pride and joy going around with soiled underpants) means that all the Leica specialists in the UK seem to be booked up all the time - there appears to be little headroom.
Are new guys and gals being trained?
Who knows.
If I was really young and mechanically-minded I think I know what I'd do . . . 

It would be nice if, in say 50 years time when I am pushing up the daisies, some young buck was OUT THERE with a remnant of my humble collection, taking images, feeling atmospheres and kicking the ball further down the field.
My rictus grin would be enormous, yet sadly I can't see it. 
There are too many people pissing in the pool and making it desperately unpleasant for us swimmers, and not only that, someone has taken the plug out . . . .
Looked at in terms like that, it is GRIM.

Hasselblad 500 C/M,Hasselblad 40mm CF/FLE Distagon,Ilford HP5+,Kodak HC 110 Dilution B,© Phil Rogers Dundee,
Sunshine As Grafitti - Dundee 2022

Don't you think it is a sobering thought (tinged with deep sadness) about what has been lost in the exodus to digital?
(F'rinstance 1506 separate parts, assembled by hand, in a Nikon F2!)
And what is still being lost in over-weighting the market (£3000 for a 500C/M and 80mm? . . . . on Ebay as of today from a well-known dealer . . . c'mon)
You're talking around £15,000 for a new Leica M/A and a 50mm Noctilux - hardly student money - see what I mean about retired dentists?
Where is the affordability in the market?
Is my current viewpoint terribly pessimistic? Maybe, but I would always say I am a pragmatist before anything. 

Looking at it another way, us seasoned old geezers and galzers, raised on Brownies, Instamatics and then proper toys, have probably got on average 25 years left.
Everything we've taken for granted is going to get worse from commodity prices to weather to over-population.
So unless we can get ourselves into the future that was always sold to us back in those days of yore: y'know, personal space ships, holidays on Mars, we're stuck on Planet Earth.
But What about the Neu-Philanthropists? I hear you cry . . . 
Well unless we can afford to buddy-up to Bezos or Musk [sic] and get ourselves cryogenically frozen and aboard the next ship outta here, then there's no hope. 
Remember "SPACE!" is currently being monetised and besides, can you imagine a generation of baby-boomers in space? All those weightless Zimmers and broken bones, and not only that, I can't really imagine nipping into a Jessops for a roll of HP5+ when you're orbiting PA-99-N2 and persuading your team mates that you really need that last supply of Java to make some Caffenol . . .

So if we're stuck here, dealing with two finite resources (cameras and film) then surely the logical thing would be for people to be able to afford both and keep the ball rolling.

Of course all this pontificating on my behalf will change nothing.
I know for certain that I will never pop my clogs with a Rollei 2.8F in my hands, or an Alpa, or an Ebony View, or a Linhof 617, the way things are going even the more modest machines are being priced way beyond the reach of most people.
Some Hasselblads are now nearly 150-200% more expensive than they were even a few years back.
And that's not just Ebay . . . dealers, we really are watching you.

What a fucking shame.

Some serious thinking needs to be done on this. 
Remember it is no longer the 1970's or even the '80's. 

Nothing is a surety any more - when it is gone it really is gone.

So, to all you enthusiasts out there, I salute you and your wallets - hope you can find (or have found) something affordable to fall in love with and more importantly can afford to feed your passion.
Please start talking about this.
I agree profits have to be made by everyone, that is after all the world we've sewn ourselves into, but there's no need for the way things are going.
Over and out.

We are going to be landing in a few minutes.

Please ensure the following are firmly fixed:

Seat Belts



Za_0g*)!is handing out sick bags.

Please ensure you know how to use one correctly.

Message from Herman:

I put the above thinking down to reading too many apocalyptic SF books when I was a youngster - it sets your brain in survival mode, and you have to think everything through down the line - in other words try and figure out all scenarios and the cost is just one of them. 

Regular readers will have spotted, the pics aren't square. That's right, they're 645 from an A16 back. Lens was a (cough cough, looks at shoes, cough) newly acquired 40mm Distagon. I sold some old guitar stuff and afforded it that way - it was a good price, and is a heck of a lens. Not quite the same as a Biogon - more modern looking - but certainly incredibly sharp and (more to the point) easier to compose with.
Over and oot.
H xx