Thursday, May 13, 2021

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”– Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

Shooting at night can be one of the most difficult tests of not only a photographer but also a camera. There are limited sources of light and even when there is, it is a fickle mistress. I couldn’t think of a better way to test out one of the camera’s we have on offer, the Contax G1. This camera is famous for its ease of use, being that it’s the only autofocus rangefinder ever made (bar the later iteration of the G camera), but also its fantastic quality. So I couldn’t think of a better camera to try out my film shooting skills, especially because I have never shot on film before. 

5:50pm on Friday night - 10 minutes before George’s Cameras closes. The shopkeeper is digging through their ‘spares’ tub for stray film stock, looking for the highest ISO (light sensitivity), high quality film stock he could find for me; Portra 400 it is. This film is widely known as a sharp, fine grain, beautifully coloured, ‘professional level’ film. No pressure. 

Living in Sydney all my life it’s hard to be excited about seeing the sights of Sydney, but I was excited to see what Sydney had to offer through a lens, specifically the Zeiss 45mm f2. Since the day was gone, and night had well and truly come, I set the aperture wide open at f2 and it didn’t move from there, I needed as much light as I could get. I started at town hall and made my way along George Street looking for every, and all opportunities to fire the shutter. Even though I had never been brave enough to try it until now, I personally find shooting people the most interesting, I am definitely no Vivian Maier, but the spontaneity and the character is my favourite part; trying to be inconspicuous while pointing a camera towards someone, not so much. But the fantastic thing about the G1 is its autofocus, its ‘non-threatening’ friendly exterior, and its quiet shutter, which makes taking candid shots really easy. All you had to do was fire the shutter and the camera figures everything else out. It’s the most automated experience you’ll find in a rangefinder.

I looked for wherever there was obvious light; shop windows, lamp posts, trams, walkways, you name it. 
“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” - George Eastman, Co-founder of Kodak
I had managed to make my way all the way down to Circular Quay, and still hadn’t used up a roll of 36 exposures. I noticed an ice cream shop I’d usually pass was ‘throwing out’ some really nice light, but there was only one problem, there were no customers. So I parked myself opposite the shop and waited for someone brave enough to spend $10 on one scoop of ice cream. It took 10 minutes but finally, a father and daughter arrived to treat themselves. I only had one condition before firing the shutter; I wanted someone pointing at the cabinet, which without knowing, the subject delivered. 
Not too long after, I had ended up at the Opera House; I had finally run out of film. It took me about an hour and a half to take 36 photos which I was quite surprised with. 

So for someone who grew up in the digital age and was never exposed to film, what did I learn? Firstly, it is not as daunting as it seems. I think a lot of that is because the camera I chose to use for my first time was really a no fuss, easy to use, but professional camera. It was also a great thing to be able to disassociate from technology from a bit and not be distracted by a screen, I was much more meticulous and thoughtful because of the finite number of shots available, but also I had to pre-empt and compose in a way I hadn’t done before. The adventure of it all was really the best part and the photos were really just a plus.
The next day I took the negatives to Rewind Photo Lab in Glebe for developing. They processed, scanned and uploaded my photos the same day for only $15 - even though I took it in 15 minutes before closing. Fantastic service. 
- Michael
The above photos were taken by Michael using the 1994 Contax G1 with a 45mm f2 Zeiss Planar lens shown here.

There is nothing more exciting than unboxing a newly arrived watch

It has been a month since we attended the 2021 Seiko release presentation and placed an order for their new watches; quite frankly we are slowly wearing out of patience.  Every SEIKO delivery is loaded with anticipation and excitement, but receiving a delivery of newly released models is simply something special. 

The postman dropped off a small parcel early yesterday morning. "Only 8 watches! is that all?" Actually, we had received just four, two of each model. 

While the quantity was a bit of a disappointment, the watches themselves were super cool. "How can Seiko produce such an amazing mechanical watch, and sell is so cheap?" the apprentices asked. The answer is simple: Seiko is a huge, well-oiled watch manufacturing machine, and has been in the business of making watches for over a hundred years. From design, manufacturing, to sales and shipping, the entire process is run 'in house'. A modern company, with global presence on the rise.

And here they are: the 2021 release of four 'Air and Land' Prospex models. If you are new to Seiko: Prospex stands for Professional Specifications watch, and that reference was mainly to its divers capabilities. However, while the Air and Land are not diver’s watches, they are still fully waterproof to 20 Bar.  

I am not going to bore you with technical specs. The most important bit: super comfortable 42.4mm case size. The overall profile is fairly low for a 20bar case so the watch sits very comfortably on the wrist, and feels very light. 

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the very delicate, slender seconds hand. It is so fine that you can actually see each and every 'tick and tock' of the mechanical movement. You won't find this refinement in any Swiss watches on the market, except probably in IWC chronographs. As a watchmaker, I am truly impressed. (For more excitement: check out the finish on the hands with high mag loupe!)

It would be unfair to spoil your enjoyment describing the dial finish and colour, but I have to say that new Prospex models offer abundance of 'visual flavour'. The key word is crispness and clarity, two very desirable horological dial properties rarely found in mid-range watches. 

Why should you invest in Air and Land 'tortoise'? My top reason: unbeatable value for money. Followed by excitement, refinement, practicality, robustness, waterproofness and comfort. Investing in Seiko is simply a guilt free experience. 

While we have only eight watches in stock, we would like to see them shipped to you today. Here is the deal: I am not going to discount a brand new, just released Seiko, but if you place your order today, and you will receive $100 credit towards your next watch - new or pre-owned. I am throwing in free delivery, extended 5 years guarantee, and the chance to win a ‘Captain Willard’ valued at $2,200 in a few weeks time. PLUS a Seiko carbon fibre pen. 
Black SRPG17K      Price: $795
Green SRPG13K      Price: $795
Blue SRPG15K      Price: $795
Gold/Brown SRPG18K      Price: $875

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The most advanced manual focus camera ever made by Nikon.

 

In the late 70’s to early 80’s, camera technology had started to move towards computer aided functionality. Camera companies, who used to rely solely on mechanical ingenuity, now had to invest in the research and development of microprocessors capable of reacting and working in the same way a professional photographer shooting manually would do. It was no small task, but this period saw the development and introduction of many technologies we take for granted today, one of these is that of exposure metering.

Now if you aren’t familiar with what Exposure metering means, the job of ‘metering’ in a camera is to evaluate what you’re shooting and determine the correct exposure settings for your image. 

In 1983, Nikon and Olympus, two Japanese powerhouses for innovation, were fiercely fighting it out in a neck and neck battle to produce an intelligent system for exposure metering, which would greatly aid the amateur and professional photographer alike. While both carried out technical innovations of exposure control, their ideas were quite contrary to one another.

Olympus’s technology, ‘Multi-spot metering’, introduced in the OM-4, took a sample of multiple ‘spots’ on the image and then set the exposure accordingly. This still required manual input from users as it was a somewhat basic idea and sometimes inaccurate, as it only took small samples and didn’t account for the whole image. 

Matrix metering on the other hand, the technology developed by Nikon and implemented in the FA, aimed to minimise user's judgment of the exposure compensation entirely, by breaking the entire image up into grid like segments and taking an average, it could determine precisely the exposure compensation required without the need for manual input. The technology was such an advancement for cameras, that the Nikon FA went onto win not one, but two of the camera industries most coveted awards - The Camera Grand Prix and the European camera of the year, specifically for this development. 
Matrix metering is now commonplace in almost all professional and consumer grade cameras, and is even the basis of exposure metering in smartphones being made today - and it’s all thanks to this development from Nikon.

In commemoration of winning the "Camera Grand Prix" prize in 1984, Nikon decided to release a limited edition FA, covered in 24 karat Gold. It’s usually silver coloured parts, such as the top and bottom plates, were covered completely in gold, with Lizard skin used for the leather detailing. 

During production of this limited edition camera, the engineers at Nikon, wanting to make the best product they could, consulted jewellers on how to create the perfect gold lustre on their camera. It is easy to see that their advice was of great benefit, the Gold body shimmering like brand new, still, after almost 40 years. They even went to the effort of gold-plating the coupling ring of the lens, as well as the Nikon logo on the lens cap - talk about attention to detail. 

Nikon had made only a few gold-plated cameras before the FA, in small quantities, which were reserved as commemorative gifts to their dealers. But the FA Gold was the first gold-plated model available for sale to the public, set aside for only the most premium customers. This model was only sold in Japan; it was sold as a fully functional ‘Trophy’ camera for Nikon loyalists or die hard Japanese patriots. 

It was a limited edition of only 2000 sets, housed in a crafted box made of the Japanese paulownia wood, and priced at 500,000 Japanese Yen, or around $7,500 AUD in todays money.
On today's offer we have a spotless Gold Nikon FA for sale, priced at $3,300. I can not think of a better and more affordable luxury camera to put on display in your home or office. it would also make a sophisticated present for a friend or business partner 'who has it all'. Think big- and you will be surprised! 

K7665 - Nikon FA 84’ Grand Prix

Limited production of 2000 units
35 mm SLR
Nikon F Mount 
Matrix metering
Electronically assisted mechanical shutter
Shutter speed up to 1/4000
Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 with gold embossed lens cap
Manual aperture adjustment from F1.4 to F16

Comes with the original wooden display box and outer box

Overall condition: 9/10; very good


Monday, May 10, 2021

Apprentice Corner - Andrew restoring a Charles Leon Guinand Rattrapante

The rattrapante, which roughly translated from French means to catch up or recapture, is a rare and exceedingly expensive type of chronograph. Also known as a split seconds chronograph, the rattrapante is not to be confused with a ‘flyback’ chronograph, which merely allows the user to restart the counters without having to stop them. Generally, the rattrapante design calls for two column wheels activated by separate pushers. The chrono is started, stopped, and reset by the standard two pusher (or single pusher) system we all know and love, whilst a third pusher usually at eleven o’clock lies dormant. In addition to this, the centre sweep seconds hand of the chronograph has another hand (often unfathomably thin) superimposed beneath it in such a way that it cannot be seen. When the chronograph is started, both the sweep hands move as one and it is nigh impossible to tell that two hands even exist. Until of course the split seconds pusher is depressed. This action stops the lower (some modern versions stop the upper) hand whilst the other hand continues; thus ‘splitting’ the hands. The same pusher can then be pressed again to reset the hand back to its native position, hidden away beneath the main sweep hand. As such, the hand appears to rapidly ‘catch up’. This could allow a person to stop the split at the end of a lap to record that time, whilst the other hand continues to time the whole race. Or for timing individual artillery firings in a military array. They are extremely difficult to manufacture, even with modern machinery, and to see one in action is truly quite mesmerising.

The first pocket watch with a stoppable seconds hand was invented in 1831 by Joseph Thaddaeus Winnerl (master to one Ferdinand A. Lange – founder of A. Lange & Sohne) however it wasn’t until seven years later did Mr. Winnerl add a superimposed hand that could be split and resynchronised, to his design. This complication could not be reset to zero until 1844 with the invention of the heart shaped cam thanks to Adolph Nicole, though it took no less than eighteen years for the two developments to be manufactured together in watches. Then in 1880, Auguste Baud enriched the chronograph by adding a minute counter. As such, the chronograph, aside from materials and efficiency advancements, really has not changed since.

Split second timepieces were first used for recording race horse lap times (surprise, surprise), but the military industry really fuelled their manufacture. One such manufacturer founded in 1865 in the little Swiss town of Les Brenets, was Guinand. The company was run by brothers Julien-Alcide and Charles Leon Guinand as the two master watchmakers saw the opportunity that existed to be one of the first companies to produce stopwatches and chronographs en masse. They would go on to supply chronographs to the military forces of Britain, France, Italy, and Germany amongst others. After the first ‘Great Depression’ in the 1870’s, the young company was put under enough stress so as to lose Julien-Alcide and see Charles Leon take on sole management. However he dug his heels in, developed a newer chronograph on his own, and sought to add to it some of the nifty new chrono features coming out of Germany mentioned above.

The very first split seconds chronograph with minute counter had only just been invented a year prior to Guinand mass producing them in 1881. An absolutely amazing feat of engineering and manufacturing in, financially, the worst environment the world had ever experienced. Even today, only a handful of brands possess the ability to make rattrapante watches and fewer still would dare to undertake the task of making more than a few. All of this making C. L. Guinand that much more prominent. After the turn of the century and the addition of tachymeter scales, Guinand was more popular around the world for timing devices than our humble Omega is today with the Speedmaster. By the end of World War II and while being led by Georges-Henri, Charles Leon’s son, Guinand was a synonym for rattrapante. So much so, that they were one of very few brands to make it through the quartz crisis a few decades later.
Then some years later in 2020, a lowly watchmaker’s apprentice in Sydney, had compiled enough experience to be allowed the chance to respectfully overhaul a C. L. Guinand, Le Locle, rattrapante stopwatch. This stopwatch may be placed in very the early 1900s however, another development by the aforementioned Auguste Baud in 1880 might state otherwise. As well as adding the minute counter, he also relocated the split seconds mechanism from under the dial to the case back side of the mechanism. A feature that this particular stopwatch does not possess. Safe to say it’s from the turn of the nineteenth century-ish. To speak about its use would be to say it does not contain precious metal, nor is it a decimal counter (counts to 10 and 100 seconds rather than 60) so we may rule out military and scientific commissions. More likely this was used to time race type events, however almost anyone back then and today could benefit from a proper chronometer grade mechanical stopwatch. Need I suggest the ability to ensure meetings stay on track?

Thanks to the high grade hand craftsmanship of Guinand, the stopwatch needed only a clean, re-lubrication, and tune. Largely easier said than done. Short of reading about them I had only up until this point seen a single vintage WWII rattrapante pocket watch and a single modern rattrapante wristwatch (at the boutique of none other than A. Lange & Sohne, king of the triple split seconds). However this was an extremely complex movement, masterfully designed to be completely serviceable and adjustable. All whilst looking suspiciously similar to the Minerva and Lemania parents of the Speedmaster that were developed several years after Guinand was a force to be reckoned with. You may be wearing a derivative of Mr. Guinand’s chronograph right now... All of this making the task to overhaul a little more familiar for me.

In any case, here we have the stopwatch itself. Completely overhauled and ready for the next artillery forward observer, Caulfield Cup spectator, or schedule filled solicitor, to make good use of this fantastic example of the driving force behind today’s modern mechanical stopwatches, chronographs, and triple split second flyback marvels of horology.

Andrew

Service overdue by 650 days

 

No, this is not a stock photo - my car is actually almost two years overdue for a service. Before you (rightly)  call me an irresponsible car owner: there is a valid explanation. Since 2019, that car has been parked in garage and driven for less than 2,000 km. 

Many of you, watch collectors and enthusiasts, use the same excuse. "I have 20 watches I wear in rotation. Low mileage, no need for service." 

Technically, if your watches are 5 years old, or have not been serviced in the past 5 years, then they actually do. Of course, I am not here to judge you. The purpose of this short write-up is to help you understand the timeline of the disintegration process in mechanical watches, and hit the brakes before its too late, too expensive, or both.

1. "My 10 years old watch is perfectly fine, it just no longer holds full power reserve". Loss of power reserve (watch stopping overnight) is the first sign that a watch is overdue for an overhaul. Paradoxically, some watches with poor power reserve will still keep reasonably accurate time, therefore good timekeeping alone is not a sign that a watch should be worn. The right thing to do: stop wearing that watch and have it overhauled. 

2. Watch stopping while worn on the wrist. Think of it as a red engine light: a last and final warning that if no immediate action is taken, the watch will be dead in matter of months. 

3. “There is some rattling inside, but the watch still keeps reasonably good time if I wind it every few hours, by hand.”

Rattling is never a good sign. Actually, the very first thing I do when inspecting a watch is to check for ‘rattling’. Rattling means that some watch components are heavily worn out, disintegrating or already floating lose inside the case. The fact the watch no longer winds itself means that the entire auto winding section has failed. Broken jewels, worn-out arbours, lose screws. Ratting is expensive!

4. The watch has stopped completely, and even winding it manually won't get it going. It’s dead. Unfortunately, this is the time when most watch owners decide to take the watch for service. Again, unfortunately, cleaning and oiling will no longer be enough to return the watch in good functioning order. The engine has 'overheated and seized up'.  An expensive and time consuming rebuild. You’ve killed it.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that a watch worn on rotation has to be serviced as frequently as the one worn daily. However, it is very important that you watch for that first ‘service overdue’ sign: the loss of power reserve. If a watch worn for 8 hours or so does not ‘last’ for at least 24 hours of the wrist, then don’t wear it anymore, have it serviced. Beyond that point, you are on borrowed time, don’t push your luck.

Enjoy your watches, but do take good care of them. Remember – they are built to last for many  decades, and if you look after them, they will. 

Getting there, slowly, one camera at a time!

 

Our little "vintage camera project" is progressing just fine. The cabinet is half full and our excitement is growing with each newly acquired camera. Michael, who is in charge of acquisition is doing a good job; he has a keen eye for detail and knows his stuff. Our goal: to create a unique 'camera boutique' in the heart of Sydney's CBD. 

Obviously, it will take months or perhaps even years to acquire the 'right' stock. We have set our goals fairly high: we would like to stock all original sets with boxes, documentation and as many accessories as possible, in the best condition we can find. In other words, collectable, vintage film cameras that will continue to attract both serious collectors as well as photographers, amateurs and pros.

In a time when everyone is a photographer, and when millions of instant digital photos are taken every hour, classic old fashioned film cameras offer something different: a moment to pause and compose, capture with passion, delayed gratification rewarded with the timeless value of a precious moment, framed for the next generation. Values we firmly stand for, values which we promote.

Similarities between mechanical watches and mechanical film cameras are too obvious. We also believe that learning more while sharing the little we already know would be of benefit to you, our subscriber. And if you are excited about cameras, feel free to drop us a line, when you have a minute or two. 

Almost forgot: if you have a camera tucked away that you no longer have time for, then do let us know. We will do our best to make you a fair offer and promise to find a new home for it. Photography books wanted too!                         

Nikon vs Leica: They learnt from Germans, and then they beat them

 

The 1950’s was one of the most significant decades in the history of mechanical production. Post World War II saw the battle continue between Japan, Germany, America, and the Soviets - this time in the form of economic expansion and industrial revolution. Technological advancements were happening faster than companies could keep up, and all of them were trying to outdo each other in what would become one of the fiercest flexes of sheer production muscle in history. This period would come to be known as ‘The Golden Age of Capitalism’.

One of the most iconic battles of this time was that of the ‘Rangefinder’ camera. Leica, Canon, Zeiss, and Nikon, were all battling it out for market supremacy, innovating and adapting to market needs, to provide the ultimate camera. Each factory was run like a war time campaign, with a tight lid held on any and all information and advancements; with each company trying to bring their product to market before their competitors even caught wind of what they were making. Ironically, Nikon owes a great debt to the skill set they learnt from German camera and optical technicians that taught their head engineers Pre World War I, but that is a story for another time. 

In 1953 Leica released what would become one of the biggest blows in the fight for Rangefinder supremacy, the Leica M3. The Leica M3 was far beyond any of the offerings from their competitors, both in quality and functionality and is still, to this day, regarded as one of the best cameras ever manufactured. While Canon and Zeiss focused their efforts on becoming a more affordable variant to the M3, Nikon did not give up without a fight. With the lessons they learned from building their first iterations of the S series rangefinders, they began to muster up all the brainpower and innovative thinking they had and started working on what would be one of the crowning jewels in their long standing history of achievements, the Nikon SP. 
In September of 1957, the Nikon SP was released. The SP was not only the most advanced camera ever created by Nikon when it was released, but it also outdid the Leica M3 in many aspects. One of the main advancements that it is widely known for, is the primary internal parallax optical finder and secondary optical finder, which has frame lines to accommodate 6 different focal lengths without the need for an external optical finder. During Nikon's release campaign, the NBC network, which broadcasted all over the USA, introduced President Nagaoka, Masao of Nippon Kogaku (Nikon). He stood in front of the TV camera with pride declaring, "Japanese cameras have now gained a victory over German cameras."

It set Nikon on the same playing field as Leica, who had been the pinnacle of Luxury cameras for decades prior. The efforts that went into this innovative camera, the SP, would pave the way for Nikon's success with their F series; with the first F series Nikon sharing many of the same parts. The SP was the last of the major blows in the Rangefinder war of the 1950’s, with manufacturers shifting focus and releasing their first sets of SLR cameras only two years after the SP’s release. Although this quick shift in market demand overshadowed the achievement of the SP, it is still widely regarded by many collectors and enthusiasts as (one of) the ‘best’ rangefinder cameras ever made. It was, and still is, the pinnacle of Japanese luxury rangefinders. 

This chapter in Nikon's history is a testament to not only them as a brand but Japan as a whole, and it solidified their position, in regards to manufacturing capabilities, as level with Europe.

You can read more about the SP on Nikon's website:
https://imaging.nikon.com/history/chronicle/history_e/index.htm#id06

According to “Nikon Rangefinder Camera: An illustrated History of the Nikon Rangefinder Cameras” by Robert Rotoloni, only 22,348 Nikon SP’s were ever made, with most of them nowadays in a heavily used condition; which is to be expected from a camera model over 60 years old.

Today we have for you an original Nikon SP set in fantastic condition from 1960-1961. The Nikon SP is a collectors item but also very much a camera that can be still used today.
K7651 - Nikon SP Chrome (1960 - 1961)

Nikon SP body - Chrome
35 mm rangefinder camera
Nikon S mount 
Mechanical shutter - up to 1/1000 
Parallax primary optical finder - with secondary finder
Nikkor 50mm f1.4 with lens cap and hood 
Original SP leather case and strap

Comes as a set with original box, manual and leather case.

Overall condition: very fine