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Friday, 25 September 2009


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So how many FPS does this Ansco do? I've been told real cameras do at least 4.5fps.

Delightful pictures in those photo essays, and I can imagine Herman having a great time taking them. If that isn't the spirit of photography, what is?

Wow. Memories of Eugene. When I lived there I used a crappy low-tech EOS 10D.

No way. Cheap box cameras like the Ansco typically had a single meniscus lens, not even a doublet. That's not going to record the sort of resolution shown in these photos. And you can see the skies were darkened with a red filter.

This doesn't pass the smell test. We need something more, to prove that the Ansco did indeed take these surprisingly-sharp negatives.

Great Pictures. I think this is a perfekt beginning for a weekend which might otherwise have ended with drolling over reviews of fancy new equipment instead of using what I already have.
Regarding puns; "Duck soup" doesn't sound too serious to me

There are no great individual masterpieces here, (so far as I can tell), but OH what a great pleasure it was to view. Thank you for sharing it.

Reel photography makes a comeback!

I love it when people make great photographs in spite of the fact the camera is not an all singing, all dancing, make your lunch ubermarvel.

"No way."

Way. All the pictures on Herman's three pages were taken with the camera illustrated, on the film stated.

Herman confirms that the lens is a single meniscus lens, not a doublet or triplet. It's interesting the multitude of sins a smallish aperture, good light, and adequate focus distance will cover, eh? Also, bear in mind that small JPEGs "mask" any shorftfalls in resolution you might notice in a print. It doesn't take much to have enough resolution for a small JPEG, as anyone who has taken an apparently perfectly sharp-appearing small JPEG and enlarged it can attest.


Mike- definitly one of your more inspiring posts- at least for me.
An old camera showing life- even more important, same for the photographer!
From 'old' Fred

I love how he uses the pretty extreme curvature of field to his advantage and I'm sort of curious what it would look like wide open at f/16

Nothing like Large Format photography--Probably most of those cameras had a variation of the "Chevalier Achromatic Landscape Lens" Or the worst case the "Wollaston Meniscus Landscape Lens" Both stopped down to ƒ11 to 16 will give you excellent photos on B&W film. These lenses where designed before 1830--Even the first roll film was only blue and green sensitive. So Leica lenses were not needed to make great photos.

A big neg gives you the chance to go very far with small apertures before diffraction starts to be noticeable. With a 6x6 camera like the Agfa's Isolettes you could go to f/32 and produce astounding images. I tried that with slide film, and since the triplets in the Isolettes already had very nice coatings, with just a few elements you got great contrast and saturation too. With a tripod, an aperture beyond f/22 and good focus and DOF technique most of these cameras, even this single lens one, can better most 35mm options. And with zero grain or noise and beautiful gradation at these sizes, the outcome looks way better even when resolution is not top notch.
It's easily doable and repeatable, it just relies on huge amounts of film surface.

[indent]We need something more, to prove that the Ansco did indeed take these surprisingly-sharp negatives. [/indent]


You supplied the "something more," now I have no doubt about the authenticity of the photos. Actually, I've never used a box camera, but I have inspected negatives which my ancestors shot, and they were never close to the quality of the Ansco shots.

Since the single meniscus lens is this good, I'm tempted to acquire a super-box, like the Chevron with its superb Ektar. I've rolled 620 film before and can do it again.

This is how I remember photographs looking. I use a digital SLR and I think it's great but I also love the look of these photos. These photos are easily recognized as being not digital - even though they sort of are because they've been scanned. This old camera has many 'flaws' but perhaps that's what gives these photos the look they have. I like them.

Some bemoan the demise of the box camera. I bemoan the fact that Bike Friday no longer makes recumbents.

These are cool pictures with a neat camera. A few years ago, I shot a series at the NC coast with two identical Ansco (Shur Shot) box cameras. One was loaded with TMX (100) for bright sun use, and the other loaded with TMY (400) for cloudy/shade. I figured the lenses to be about f/13 and they produced images with a reasonably sharp center and nicely soft corners. (I'd post those images, but they're old fashioned silver prints and I haven't scanned the negs.)

The nice thing about those Ansco cameras is that they use 120 film natively- no need to respool to 620. (Watch out for Kodak box cameras- they're likely to use 620.)

I wish this single-element lens effect could be replicated effectively in digital, but Lensbabies just don't cut it. The key seems to be that a single-element lens has just such a smooth focus gradient out to the edges of the (large) 6x9 cm negative size, whereas the small area of even a full-frame digital requires a lens with severe aberrations to produce out-of-focus corners that the resulting bokeh is terrible. Maybe there's something to physics after all...

I really like these photos. Even more than the look of a single shot the essay creates a whole greater than the sum of the parts and here we are graced with a masterful story teller.

I live in Eugene and am inspired to take my D300 around my pretty city and record it. I may even go single focal length on aperture priority and use the old tried and true "foot zoom" method. Hey, photography is all about light...more or less...

One of the neat things about these cameras is that the design of the camera and the design of the viewfinder are well matched so that what looks good in the viewfinder looks good in the photograph. If a composition looks good in a postage stamp sized washed out screen with a lot of flare it probably will look good in the print.

These images have a distinct look to them, I agree. I recently discovered a very nice quality in shooting with a Pentax DSLR and one of the manual 50s wide open. I think it can be done in digital, may be the answer is an old 28/3.5 used wide open for the wide normal view, or something like that. The older coatings produce very special contrast (or lack of it).
I also find very exciting the B&W in-camera color filtering in the K20D. Used together with an old fixed lens it makes for a different way of shooting. Being able to see a final filtered B&W image of the scene you have in front of you, I find that motivational. A good old fixed lens should be able to produce those dreamy looks wide open and also serious sharpness and contrast when stopped down.

We love Herman and his cheery yellow made-in-Eugene SatRDay

Here's our page on his wonderful black and white photos.

He also has a delightfully witty book on our shelves, Churches ad hoc

Thanks for capturing him in motion!

"the captions might seem shocking (there isn't a pun anywhere)"

Oh gawd. I don't know of other countries, but here in the UK, editors seem incapable of making a headline without some lame pun. Is their job really so soul-deadening that they have to grasp at creative straws of such a puny size?

I love the pictures.
They have a real timeless quality.

Once again shows what a good photographer can do with simple equipment.

What a great job he did with such minimal equipment. We're spoiled these days, aren't we?

a more modern equivalent with a similar design would be the polaroid "big shot" with its single element plastic lens and small(ish) aperture. the photos it generates sometime seem to have no right coming from what is mostly a big plastic box.

I believe it was Steichen that said, "No man is as good as the simplest camera." Virtually all my work is digital now, but I love to take out my Plastic Fantastic Holga's for a special look. Good work, Herman!

The Ansco box camera is not a toy.
It has a real glass lens. It helps if the
photographer also has a glass eye.

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