Vintage Camera


I admit it – I am smitten by the black models of the old metal bodied manual cameras. Why black? In the old days BP (before plastic) black was the color of the “professional” model cameras. Why? I’m not exactly sure, since there are so many contradictions here… perhaps the black was less conspicuous than the shiny chrome bodies, perhaps they reflected less light. (but then, some of the BIG lenses were made in a white finish, ostensibly to keep them from heating up too much in the sun.)

The fact remains that black became associated with the “pro” as opposed to the chrome “consumer” models. Now some cameras were made exclusively in black, pro or not, but that’s an exception. For some reason, fewer black models seem to have been made as well, and that adds to the mystique.

Consider this… the black was usually enamel paint on the brass body, which did not hold up as well as the chrome finish – consequently, the likelihood of the black enamel wearing off and showing the metal underneath was high, as seen from the ubiquitous ‘brassing’ that is common on black body cameras. A black camera with a mint (read as no brassing) finish usually fetches a much higher price than its chrome counterpart because of its relative rarity.

I am not sure what the production ratios of chrome to black models were in the manufacturing mix – there are probably more black-bodied cameras out there than we realize. Taking the OM line for example – the OM-1 to OM-4 are considered the professional bodies, there are far more chrome versions than black, which gives the lie to the notion that black = professional.

Now consider the consumer version of the OM bodies, viz, the OM-10 through OM-40/PC). Since they are for the regular Joe Amateur, they should be all be chrome, right? But no – it turns out black versions were made for these cameras as well. The OM-40/PC

was made ONLY in a black version with rubber armored bodies, so we won’t take them into consideration.

Looking at the all the OM-10 cameras that regularly show up on eBay, I was lulled into thinking that they were only made in chrome – then Bam! I came across a BLACK OM-10. Never saw one of those before. It was in great condition too – not a bit of brassing.

Sheer chance plays a big part as well. The first Olympus camera I purchased was a black OM-1.

It wasn’t because it was black or anything. I was looking at manual cameras in a pawn shop one day, it was just that the shop had 2 Olys, an OM-1 and an OM-PC and I picked the OM-1. At that time I did not not know anything about the Olympus OM System, it was cheap, and looked much more sturdy than the OM-PC with its rubber body. That’s all.

Most of the old manual lenses were black. The black lenses looked great on black cameras and looked good on the chrome versions, since the leatherette on the chrome was black as well, the black lenses blended right in. Lots of AF lenses were made in chrome/silver plastic bodies though. They look fine on the chrome bodies, but look hokey on the all black bodies. But that’s just my opinion.

All the lenses I have for my Minolta Dynax 800si (late 90’s manufacture, so naturally, big black plastic body) are black. I resisted the impulse to purchase the silver/chrome Maxxum AF lenses. Anyway, the only Maxxum lenses I purchased new were a nice Maxxum AF 50mm f/1.7 when I bought the camera. The other new lenses were a black Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5-6 and a black Phoenix 28-105mm f/2.8-3.5. The rest of my Minolta AF lenses were bought used off of eBay and Craigslist. Hey, I’m Joe Amateur, remember? I have to go Cheap.

Now for anyone on the trail of a black body camera, please watch out for touched up or repainted ones. That is a strict no-no. Besides, they look so fake and terrible. I’d rather have a heavily brassed black camera than one which had a mint looking refinished paint job.

I’ve heard that Nikon had a program years ago where professional photographers working for the leading pictorial publications of the 70’s could send in their battered camera bodies (hey, they were out in the Amazon, Siberia, Australia, Sahara, the Himalayas… what can you expect?) to Nikon, and they would refurbish them and send them back. Even repaint them. I suppose that if the factory did the painting, one could not complain.

However, I have never heard of any of the other manufacturers having such a program, so I’d consider a new paint job on an OM as fake as a $3. bill. That said, an individual collector may decide to have one of his many bodies refinished with glossy black enamel and some jazzy leatherette. More power to them. A little brassing and paint loss, even a small ding or two never hurt a camera. Besides, they ARE from 30 years ago. And if one plans on using them as real shooters, a little wear and tear is to be expected.

Everything changed as manufacturers realized that they could make the bodies much more cheaply in plastic. One small glitch though – back then, the coating technology was not so advanced as now, and “chrome finish” on plastic looked awful and wore off really quickly. It was far easier to make all the bodies in black plastic. That became the new norm, and has stayed with us ever since.

Things changed again in the late 90’s – it became possible to make “chrome look” plastics, and lots of the later consumer model SLRS changed to the chrome/satin finish. Some point and shoots were even made in a “champagne” colored plastic body. With the coming of the digital point and shoot cameras, hard-wearing chrome plastic came into its own. So did colored plastics. But that’s another story.

Anyway. The ‘black’ bodies extended to the point-and-shoot cameras and the rangefinders as well. I have a black Olympus Trip (I love this one)
and a black Olympus 35 EC.

Recently, I found a black Yashica MG-1, a black Ricoh 500G (this is one case where the silver one looks cooler, but that just me). Rounding off the Black cameras are a Honeywell-Pentax Repronar Camera body with bellows,

and a black Ricoh CR-5.

I also have a black Yashica Dental Eye

( an FX3 type body, I believe).

The black models usually cost an average of 3 times the price of a regular chrome (and in some cases, where the camera is in excellent condition, much more.). Rounding off my black collection is an excellent Olympus OM-2n.

Keep in mind that the coating is just skin deep. Black or Chrome, it’s still the same camera. Don’t go out of the way or way over your budget to get one, unless you are comfortable with the price. Above all, make sure it’s a shooter. What good is a camera that’s only fit for a display case?



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This work by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympuszuiko.

Some more Fall pictures. These were taken near Dufief Pond, and at Morris Park near Rockville. A couple are from Turkey Run State Park off of the GW Expressway. This year, Fall was pretty spectacular, even if it seemed to come a little late. We had a generally warmer than usual Fall this year, and the rains came just as the leaf color was reaching it’s peak, so I probably did not get the very best pictures, especially since I was only able to get out during the weekends.

Nature waits for no man… and so it is with Fall colors. I wish I could take a week off during the peak Fall days, but that usually impossible because it’s the busiest time of the year at work. Most offices are winding down projects and programs in preparation from the Holidays, and being able to get outside and spend some time communing with Nature is a welcome respite.

These pictures were taken on short hikes with my daughter Sunny – she loves being out in the woods. I was using my black Olympus Trip 35. I don’t get that one out much, since I am afraid that I will scratch the black finish. The Olympus Trip 35 never ceases to amaze me – the simplicity of the camera belies the extremely sharp lens with its beautiful color rendition and forgiving zone focus system. You can hardly ever go wrong with this little camera.

Compare these with the pictures of Dufief Pond taken with my OM-2n and Tokina RMC 70-210 f/3.5


Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Morris Park
Olympus Trip 35 – Morris Park
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run

Olympus Trip 35 – Dufief Pond
Olympus Trip 35 – Morris Park Woods
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Turkey Run
Olympus Trip 35 – Morris Park
Olympus Trip 35
Olympus Trip 35 – Berries, Westminster

Photographed with an Olympus Trip 35, Fuji Super 200 film. Zone Focus at 6ft, 10 ft and Infinity settings.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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Earlier this summer, I as testing my Toyo 500mm lens, happened to stop by at the Lady Bird Johnson Park off GW Parkway. The Navy memorial is located at one end of the park. Park affords a great view of the Washington Memorial and the Jefferson Memorials across the Potomac river. The other lenses I had that day were the Zuiko 200mm f/4 and the Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 and the reliable old Olympus OM-2. I figured it would be a great to be able to compare the lenses, so busily switched lenses for these shots – the early summer evening ensured that there was lots of light on the Memorial buildlngs, but most of the Potomac river was in shadow. It was a challenge to handhold the Toyo Fivestar 500mm lens for the shot of the Washington Memorial. Next time I’ll remember to lug a tripod along.


Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 at 35mm
Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 at 70mm
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Toyo 500mm f/8 at f/11
Toyo 500mm f/8 at f/11
Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 at 70mm
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Toyo 500mm f/8 at f/11

Photographed with an OM-2, Zuiko 35-70mm f/4, Zuiko 200mm f/4, Toyo Five Star 500mm f/8. Film was Fuji Superia 400, and exposure was calculated with the Sunny 16 rule. Exposure for all 3 lenses was 1/500 at f/11, using a Polarizer.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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First roll off my Olympus 35 RC. I finally got around to changing the seals on this old mechanical beauty – the Olympus 35 RC was one of the last mechanical Rangefinders that Olympus made. The RC has an Auto mode – it’s a shutter priority system. You set the shutter speed, and when the camera is on Auto, it will set the Aperture. I prefer using the Sunny 16 rule, and was glad that the RC offered a manual override that allows me to set the aperture as well.

I was very curious about this particular camera – it’s very similar to my Ricoh 500G, and I had been looking for an Olympus rangefinder for a long time. The camera is a joy to use.. the operation feels smooth and precise, and feels comfortable in the hand. The Olympus RC details are in the in the Olympus Cameras page along with a description.

All of these pictures were taken near my brother-in-law’s house in North Potomac, and in the grounds of the park adjoining the neighboring Dufief School. As can be seen, the lens on the Olympus RC is outstanding. I love the way it renders the Fall colors. These old cameras had single coated lenses, and that did something magical for the color and bokeh given the right lighting. This is something that I feel the new multi-coated glass/optical plastic lenses cannot replicate. But again, maybe it’s just my imagination.


Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC

Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC

Photographed with an Olympus 35 RC rangefinder camera, Fuji Super 200. Exposure was 1/250 at f/8 and f/11


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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I found this little camera on eBay a few months ago, and just got around to running a roll through it. It was in generally good condition, even had a tiny 22.5mm UV filter on the Zuiko 28mm f/3.5 lens. The reason I took so long to clean up this camera was the light seals – the Pen EE has a slide-off back cover, not hinged like a traditional camera – so there is a very substantial seal required on the inside of the bottom cover. My curiosity about the camera finally made me give in and get the seals done.

Yoshihisa Maitani designed the Pen EE. Maitani gained fame as the designer of the exquisite Pen F interchangeable lens cameras and the legendary Olympus OM series cameras. The Pen camera dates back to 1959, but the Pen EE is from 1961. Olympus went on to make many more versions of the ‘automatic’ Pen EE cameras all the way into the 1980’s.

There were 2 versions of the first Pen EE, I have the older version with “Olympus” across the front, instead of “Olympus PEN”. The original version also has the leatherette cover instead of the ‘basket weave’ covering of the later model. One more difference – the older Pen EE has a 1/60 second shutter speed while the later basket view Pen EE has 2 shutter speeds – 1/250 for the Auto mode and 1/30 for the Flash setting.

The Pen EE is a Half Frame camera – that means 2 images for each frame of 35mm film. The 35mm format is 24x36mm, so half frame is 24x18mm in vertical format. It’s a small image, but the 28mm Zuiko lens is sharp enough to enable nice quality prints up to 8 x10 inches if used with a tripod, and 5×7 inch prints easily when hand-held. The film ISO range only extends to 200 ASA. The 28mm f/3.5 lens provides great depth of field, so it’s a point and shoot camera.

A fixed 1/60th second shutter speed on my Pen EE. That’s it. It’s the same if you set it on Auto or Flash on the original Pen EE. In the Auto mode, the selenium cell light meter sets the aperture automatically, while if you use the Flash mode, you can set the aperture from f/3.5 to f/22, but still at 1/60 second. That’s tricky.

I wanted to use the Sunny 16 rule with the camera, but the slowest print film available to me is ISO 100. Now the Sunny 16 rules says that for film speed for 100 ISO, the shutter speed will be 1/125 second at f/16 in bright sunny conditions. With the fixed shutter speed of 1/60, I would end up with pictures on the overexposed side by one stop. To compensate I would have to close down the shutter by another stop to f/22 to get an equivalent exposure.

The alternative is to set to f/16 and deal with the overexposure later with digital correction (by increasing shadow). In most cases, this will be fine, since the film has enough latitude to handle some overexposure and still produce a decent image. However, since the best color reproduction usually requires a slight under-exposure, it may still be a little too much.

This also means that to use the Pen EE in manual mode with Sunny f/16, we are limited to 100 speed film or lower. 200 ASA film would overexpose by 2 stops, and while film has a great deal of latitude, that much over-exposure would be difficult to correct. Of course, in shade or in cloudy conditions, the aperture range is more than adequate.

In my case, I tend to overexpose an additional stop in cloudy over cast conditions – instead of closing down the aperture, I was actually opening it up from sheer force of habit because of conditioning with my Ricoh 500G and Olympus OM cameras. Now that I’ve a chance to examine the results, I would say f22 for Sunny conditions, f/16 for slight overcast, and f/11 for shade (f/8 and f/5.6 only if you are really unsure.)

As far as the film development goes, any photo processing lab can handle it since it’s just regular 35mm film processing. My advice is to have them develop and put it on a CD, and make a special note to NOT cut the film into strips. Don’t ask them for prints. Later, you can split the half frame images apart using cropping software. Make one copy of each digital image, and then crop the left side from one copy and the right side from the other copy. You can then save to a CD/Card/flash drive and get it printed like any other digital image. I use Walmart’s one hour service and they do a great job, costs $4.23 and beats sending it a specialty processor out of state.


Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE

Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE
Pen EE

Photographed with an Olympus Pen EE (28mm f/3.5) on Fuji Super 100 film


Pen EE Camera #168426
Pen EE Camera #168426

Pen EE pictures photographed with a Panasonic Lumix DMC LC-20 2 megapixel digital camera


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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The Honeywell Repronar 805A slide copier was made by the Heiland Division of Honeywell. The camera is an Asahi Pentax with fixed bellows lens 50mm f/4, mounted on a bellows rail with a rack and pinion mechanism for advancing the lens or the camera body. There’s more on the Honeywell Repronar in the Macro photography section.

Although the whole camera assembly is mounted on a vertical stand with the lens pointing down towards the stand base – there is a flash strobe built into the base for copying slides and such. Once upon a time, this was standard equipment for most professional labs and school photography departments.

These days, as schools and colleges close down their photography departments; I’ve been noticing these items come up on EBay and going pretty reasonably. This is a heavy beast, and the shipping will cost almost as much as the item itself.

The Repronar comes WITH the camera and lens, so what’s not to like? Also, the camera is a very early BLACK Pentax SLR without a prism. It comes with a waist-level viewfinder (actually, eye level, when the camera is mounted on the Repronar base.

The real beauty of this system is that it has a scale device attached to it which makes setting for different magnifications very easy – the magnification range is 1/2x, 2/3x 1x, 2x, 3x and 4x. Just set the required magnification, fine focus and fire away. Using the flash is simplicity itself. Turn on the flash switch in the base, make sure the camera sync cord is connected and fire. The camera assembly can also be dismounted from the base and used as a bellows mounted camera provided you can stabilize the system horizontally.

Although the system can be used for transparent and semi-transparent subjects (flower petals, insect wing details etc) with the built in flash, the Repronar really comes into its own as a Macro system if you can get enough external lighting to the mounting platform. The best way to do this is to take the whole thing outdoors and place it on a table in open (sky illumination or in sunny situation. Mornings are best. All that remains is to set the magnification and provide sufficient exposure.

The problem with macro photography with the bellows and small apertures is getting sufficient image forming light. High magnification coupled with a reasonable depth of field means using extended bellows lengths, and small apertures. I was using Fuji 100 film for greater resolution and set aperture for f/16 for maximal depth of field.

There’s no light meter or TTL metering on the Repronar, so I tried to use a chart and then tried to figure out the exposure factor to compensate for the reciprocity failure. Finally I went with common sense, and the Sunny f/16 rule. Sunny 16 rule says that for 100 ASA, I’d need a 1/125 second shutter speed at f/16. Allowing for the light loss, for 1x magnification, I figured doubling the time to 1/60 second would give me the correct exposure.

Since the Repronar is designed to always work with the Flash, I figured it probably syncs at 1/60th second fixed, so the exposure would be correct for 1x magnification at least. For magnification greater than 1x, I decided that I’d set the Pentax camera to B and guesstimate the exposure length. Since at 1x magnification, the fixed 1/60 sec at f/16 would be sufficient exposure, I used 2 seconds for the 2x, 3 seconds for 3x and 4 to 5 seconds for 4x magnification. The guesstimates turned out fine, as can be seen from the images. Next time, I may use a Weston 6 Exposure meter. Or maybe not.


Tulip Tree leaf, Leafminer Trail 1:1, Flash mode
Tulip Tree leaf, 1:1, Flash mode
Dogwood leaf, 1:1, Flash Mode
Dogwood leaf, reversed, 1:1, Flash Mode
Carpenter Bee Wing, 2:1 (2x on film), Flash Mode
Pin Oak Acorn, 2:1 (2x on film), 2 sec at f/16, Daylight
Cucumber Flower, 2:1, Low Flash Mode
Cucumber Flower, 1:1, Flash Mode
Cucumber Flower, 2:1, Flash Mode
Crushed Chili Pepper, 1:1 (1x on film), 1/60th sec at f/16, Daylight
Crushed Chili Pepper, 2:1 (2x on film) 2 sec at f/16, Daylight
Crushed Chili Pepper, 3:1 (3x on film), 3 sec at f/16, Daylight
Crushed Chili Pepper, 4:1 (4x on film) 4 sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, 1:1 (1x on film)1/60th sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, 2:1 (2x on film), 2 sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, 3:1 (3x on film) 3 sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, 4:1 (4x on film) 4 sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, Obverse 3:1 (3x), 3 sec at f/16, Daylight
US Quarter, Obverse, 4:1 (4x) 4 sec at f/16, Daylight
Ghostly Chile Pepper flower, 1:1 (1x) 2 sec at f/16
Nasturtium flower, 1:1 (1x) 2 sec at f/16

Photographed with a Honeywell Repronar Asahi Pentax Camera, 50mm f/4 Bellows lens, Fuji 100 film at f/16. Exposures as indicated in captions. Flash mode photographs used the built in Repronar flash in the base of the unit. Morning light was used for daylight pictures.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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Here are some additional pictures from the Fujicarex II camera. The office building and apartment block are in Alexandria, VA. The Orthodox church is the St. Peter and Paul Antiochan Church on River Road, Potomac MD. I used the 50mm f/1.9 interchangeable front element lens.


Fujicarex II- 50mm f/1.9
Fujicarex II- 50mm f/1.9
Fujicarex II- 50mm f/1.9
Fujicarex II- 50mm f/1.9

Fujicarex II- 50mm f/1.9
Fujicarex II- 50mm f/1.9
Fujicarex II- 50mm f/1.9, 1/125 at f/16
Fujicarex II- 50mm f/1.9, 1/125 at f/11 – slight over exposure

Photographed with a Fujicarex II camera, 50mm f/1.9 front element interchangeable lens, Fuji 100 film


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