Friday, November 30, 2012

Caveat Emptor - The Leica Sniff Test

Well shipmates - 'tis time to keelhaul your dandos, because the Old Grey Mare is a grungin' in the meadow . . 
Yes, it's time to clamber aboard the Happy Shippe FogBlog and set sail on the seas of improbability!
And what a week it's been . . .
Start of week:
Quiet. Too damn quiet. Somethin' was brewin'
Sheephouse clambered up onto the deck shouting,
"It's all about photography!" 
He was clutchin' some sheets of paper, and he'd spilled his lunch all down his shirt, so I thoughts to meself, Oh yes, it's got him bad.
Later in the week:
We's discovered that there was a stowaway on board. 
Firsts I thought it was another cat. 
Mog was acting funny and we chanced to see a slinky figure sulking around the galley. 
But luck was with us and we trapped it with a barrel o' good salt Herring.
'Twas a strange creature - it ate a great mouthful o' Herring, chewed and then spat the whole lot back out on deck, proclaiming,
"Nassty, salty fishes. Not sweet. No. Ruined, ruined!"
and ran off.
We couldn't find hide nor tail o'him, but on Friday we had him.
He must have been powerful hungry, for Matey Mate (the Ship's Mate, believe it or not - what a happy happenstance o' namin' that was for his parents) said we should use some of the remnants of the Ramen disaster from last week, to trap him.
We shoved a bucket of Prawn/Beef/Chicken/Kimchi flavoured noodle-bilge into a quiet corner and stayed on watch. 
It worked.
"Hmmm. Nices wormses. Wormses good. Sso tassty for nice Smeagol. Happy Smeagol. Nice food. Plenty too. Not nassty, like nassty, salty fishes."
He slurped away some more, and spoke some more.
"More than enough here Precious, Plenty for us. 
But we don't like that nassty catses, oh no! 
Not catses. Catses eat fishes. 
Smeagol loves fishes more. 
Nassty catses eat Smeagol's fishes. 
Maybe nassty catses has to go! 
Maybe when it's sleeping Precious. 
Maybe when it's dreaming of mices, we creeps up and throttles it. 
Hmmm, then no more nassty catses"
I'll tell ee mates, that was enough for me. I broke cover with the burlap sack I had, popped it over his head and lashed it tight. 
It was a struggle to get him onto deck, but I managed.
"Threaten my Mog would ye!" I shouted as I held him over the waves.
"No, no, Nice catses, nice catses. Maybe share nice fishes with nice catses!"
I didn't wait to hear any more but pulled off the sack and dropped him over the side, shouting,
"There's plenty o'fish for you in there matey!"
and we sailed on, for it was a strong wind and we was makin' good time. 
I used my spyglass and saw him lithely clamber aboard some flotsam and start sculling off in the opposite direction.
A curious creature and that's no mistake.
Anyway's me hearties, we arrived back in time for Mr.Sheephouse to dash into the printers and set the type and pull a few copies of his broadsheet.
Oh yes, an eventful week and no mistake!


This week's FB is all about photography, which is a relief because I thought I had lost it!
Anyway, I chanced upon a copy of the 1974 Leica Manual in my local Oxfam recently - it was a decent price so I bought it.
If you've never read a copy, I can recommend it! There are lots of different ones out there, but they do seem to be climbing the charts with regard to pricing . . . anyway, in trawling through its pages I encountered a picture of a Japanese gentleman doing something rather extraordinary . . .
Here he is.

"Hmmm - smell like it hasn't been aired in long time."

Curious isn't it.
Reading the text, I discovered that as well as the usual visual and aural inspections that one should normally make when purchasing a new secondhand camera, there was another . . the olfactory test!
Yep - I was a bit astounded, because I have never heard of such a thing. Sniffing a camera? That's a bit, how shall we say . . . deviant, isn't it?

I say I say I say sir. 
Wot 'ave we 'ere.
A little illicit camera sniffing?
Oy say Sir. 
That's illegal 'round these 'ere parts. 
Aven't you read By-law 136, Subsection B, Paragraph 2?
It cleary states:
"Anyone involved in, or indulging in, the nasal inhalation of camera air for such purposes that are outwith the normal olfactory motions of product purchase, will be prosecuted"
In uvver words Sir:
If you are are caught havin' a nifty snortle of your camera, you are deemed to be in breech of said by-law and as such will be asked to face the correct consequences of such actions.
In uvver words Sir:
You're nicked.

Something along those lines.
The only reference to sniffing cameras I can find is more akin to that new car smell thing where people go and luxuriate in acres of tanned leather, so for instance, you unbox your camera and sniff the new smell. Nowhere have a I seen it being an essential part of the used camera buyers armament.
Well folks, here it is, right now. Buying a secondhand camera?
Take the lens off and sniff the bloody thing!
Have a really good snort, savour what you smell and sniff again. **
Well, readers of FB will know that I recently purchased a very nice Leica IIIf RD DA (serial number 72****) - it was made in 1954 and you know what, in the short period of time I have owned it I have become rather attached to it . . wanting to buy it little treats like a case and a new strap and so on. I am glad I didn't though.
Its 3 month guarantee ran out this week, and I thought last weekend, I had better give it a quick going over just to make sure there was nothing untoward that was going to show up (typically) the day after the guarantee ran out. It has had a hazy finder since I bought it, and I accepted what the vendor said about it being a little hazy . . it didn't bother me that much and didn't seem to be too bad. To be fair, he had offered to get it cleaned at a discounted price, but I opted to pay what he was asking with a Russian lens chucked in to the bargain.

Lieca IIIf RD DA RF 'Haze'.
Don't just take such descriptions at face value my friends.

Anyway, in checking it out last weekend I did something I hadn't done originally. I used my small Photon torch to shine a light through from the rear of the camera, through the viewfinder and rangefinder windows, fully expecting them to just be hazy. I donned a pair of reading glasses, because to be honest, working with computer screens all week, my eyes are fast becoming shot. Anyway, what did I see? Hmmm. Curious. Hmmm. Bloody hell! FUNGUS!!
Was I annoyed and upset? YES. How can haze be fungus? Well, it can and was.
And to this I will say: Caveat Emptor.
Check and double check everything. In fact treble check everything.
My brain is funny sometimes. Illogical and then all of a sudden, everything drops into place.
A Japanese man doing something deviant jumped into my head. And so did my own actions when I purchased the camera. I had unmounted the Jupiter 8 lens it was supplied with and my nostrils were tickled with quite a 'musty' smell - you know the sort - it just smelled like it hadn't been aired in a long time. It wasn't too bad, but it was there, and I (in my naivity) just thought it was the smell of a camera that had been unused for a while and that it would dissipate fairly soon. Of course, eventually putting 3 and 3 together I realised that the reason it smelled 'musty', was because there was fungus growing inside the camera.
Re-reading the text of the Leica manual again, sure enough, it clearly stated the very same thing:

"Now a word to those of you who would stick your noses into a Leica. Do it! The telltale odor of mildew or fungus growth is hard to mistake. If you detect it in a used camera it means trouble."

There, writ large in black and white.
Sniff your camera!
Why on earth have I never read this anywhere else?
I have read screeds about buying cameras, and yet this very obvious and seemingly silly piece of advice is missing.
Well, I exhort you now:
Go forth and SNIFF.
I have gone over all my others with a fine tooth comb, however what I am more bothered about is that I have had a vastly infected camera nestling up tight with my (not exactly slight) collection. I have also recently purchased a nicely ancient uncoated 1934 50mm Elmar which has been mounted on the IIIf's body, so I will have to watch that too.
I am rather cheesed off to be honest - the whole thing has been a waste of time and postage and expectation, however the vendor has accepted it back no questions asked and I have scraped together some more money, and hopefully should receive a nice little 1960 Leica M2 soon.
But back to sniffing - it is as basic a check as anything - probably the most basic thing you can do when checking a camera - I exhort you to do it!
If you've read about fungus, you'll know that fungal growth in cameras doesn't just appear overnight - it often takes months and years to establish itself, so it was pretty obviously there when it was described as 'haze'.

The importance of a torch test

Shelob's Lair
Shelob's Lair

Can you spots me in there my Precious?
Nasty smelly caveses - we hates them.

Even innocuous bits inside a camera viewing system can mean trouble

Strangely when viewing normally through the VF and RF windows, this was all just apparent as 'haze', it really was - to my naked eye it looked a bit iffy but nothing drastic - it has taken the power of the mighty Photon II torch to bring it out in its full, nasty glory.
So there you go - Sniff Sniff Sniff.
In the words of me old mate Gollum:

Bests to check your nasty caveses my darlings.
Curse us and crush us - nasty stuffses inside.
Bad surprises for the unwary. Poor Precious, poor Smeagol!
Oh yes.
Goblinses and nassty black beasties and webses
But we're not going back. No. We're not. 
Some nice fishses and cool water away from the burning torchses.
What's it got in its camera Precious?
Not fair.
What's it got in its camera?

If this has interested you at all, I have done a wee squinty pdf of the original article by Norman Goldberg. It is a wise selection of advice, which, whilst Leica oriented, is actually of use to anyone buying a secondhand mechanical camera.
Feel free to download it here
Obviously the Leica Manual is copyrighted material. The publishers were Morgan & Morgan of New York, however in checking around they don't seem to exist any more, also Mr.Norman Goldberg who wrote the piece obviously owned the copyright, however he died in 2006. You can find an intersting article about one of his inventions here
So to conclude and wave goodbye to my IIIf, I thought I would include a photograph from the last film I put through it - Ilford HP5 at EI 320, developed in HC 110 Dilution G for 20 minutes.
I still have the 1934 Elmar lens though (which I purchased from a different vendor) - that I am keeping, and I am trying to negotiate a semi-swap/trade-in for another Leica.
Hopefully this one won't smell musty.

Beyonce And The Imagination Witch

So that is farewell to my 1954 Leica IIIf - a real shame as I don't think I have enjoyed using another camera quite as much. And before you ask, yes I could get the vendor to clean it all up and get it back, but can they really eradicate everything? The seeds of doubt would be sown and would grow into an expensive paranoia, so it has gone out of my life. I hope someone else finds it as nice to use as I did.
As usual, thanks for reading, and God bless.

** Camera Sniffers and Camera Sniffing are ® Sheephouse Inc. 2012

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