I thought it may be fun to write a blog post about one of my favorite cameras in my collection, the Polaroid Land Camera Automatic 100. This camera is actually quite fun to use and also a little challenging. A friend of mine gave me this camera and after a little modification I was able to get it to work like it was nearly new. If you are a "Mad Men" fan, you may have seen this camera used in one of the series episodes.
Polaroid first started manufacturing the Land Camera Automatic 100 in 1963 and discontinued it in 1966, replacing it with the 240 and 250. One of the things that makes this camera pretty interesting is the fact that it was the first mass produced camera to include an electronic shutter. This camera is also the very first camera that Polaroid manufactured that uses pack film; one of the very things that later made Polaroid cameras so popular.
This camera is considered "Automatic" because when you press the shutter button it meters the light and then selects the correct shutter speed (10 sec. - 1/1200 sec.) dependent on the aperture that is being used. This is very similar to the Aperture Priority mode that is popular on most of todays modern cameras. The lens is 114mm, contains 3 glass elements, and its widest aperture is f 8.8. Aperture selection on this camera is very limited and only has two selections you can make. The first aperture setting is stopped down for shooting outdoors with black and white film or bright Sun light for color film. The second aperture setting is wide open (f 8.8) for indoor black and white photos and dull cloudy day shots with color film.
Now, I'm sure that many of you have heard that Polaroid has stopped manufacturing film, and your right. Fortunately, Fuji Film is still manufacturing pack film that can be used with most models of Land Cameras and its readily available and affordable. The film size is 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches and comes in ISO 100 Color (FP-100C) and ISO 3000 Black and White (FP-3000B). What makes things get a little tricky is this camera has ISO settings for 75, 150, and 3000 speed film. So, what do you do when your using ISO 100 film? I discovered after a little experimentation that you get the best results by setting the camera to ISO 75 when using ISO 100 film, without any changes this will slightly overexpose the film. To counter this, you can use the exposure compensation on the camera by turning the the front of the lens to get your photo to the desired brightness/darkness. The exposure compensation allows you to adjust the exposure by -1 / +2 stops.
The Automatic 100 has two different viewfinders, both of which are on the same assembly that swings up and latches into position. The smaller circular one is used to focus the shot and acts like a rangefinder. Basically when looking through it you will see two ghosted views of your shot and you adjust the focus bar (that moves the bellows forward and back) to get the two ghosted views to line up and appear as one. Once you have done this, you have properly focused the shot. The second rectangular viewfinder is then used to compose your photo right before you press the shutter button. I found out the hard way that the viewfinder is very difficult to reassemble once taken apart. There was a little dirt in the viewfinder of my camera, so I took the assembly apart to clean it, then spent well over an hour trying to get it back together.
One of the things that make this camera a little challenging (and fun) to use is determining how long to allow the film to develop before peeling it off its backing and thus stopping the development process. The development timing varies dependent on the temperature, if you peel it too soon the film is underdeveloped (blacks areas are not really black, and white areas are too light), peel it too late and it becomes a bit overdeveloped (the entire photo appears to be too dark). I've read that the newest FP-3000B black and white film now self terminates its development, I guess I'll find out when I get a few new packs and try it out.
Overall this is a pretty fun camera to use, and you get to see your results right away (almost like digital). One of my favorite things about using this camera is the fact that I usually get to meet new people while using it, because often they will notice how old or different looking it is and stop to ask questions.
On Friday, I discovered that we were going to have a full moon this weekend and I wanted to try and capture it using my new lens. Unfortunately, the weather has not been very cooperative the past few days. So, tonight I happened to look out and see a break in the cloud cover and the moon rising over the horizon in it. I figured I had a good 20 minutes to get my gear together and run outside to snap a few shots before the cloud cover got to it. The Moon was gorgeous, very large, and a nice rust/orange hue to it. I got everything together, beat foot outside, set things up and began to try and get a properly exposed photo. About 15 minutes passed and the cloud cover reached the Moon and I realized that my window of opportunity was over.
I immediately headed inside, transferred the photos to my computer, and discovered that not a single was was very good. They were either improperly exposed or not as sharp as I thought they should be. After a few minutes I realized why they were not sharp. It was the very reason the Moon had that awesome hue and looked so large. I was trying to photograph the Moon when it was near the horizon, so I was seeing the Moon through a lot more of the Earth's atmosphere than I would have if the Moon had been directly overhead. The atmosphere not only magnified the Moon, and gave it that beautiful hue (caused by the particles and pollutants in the air), it was also distorting it.
I think my Girlfriend was the smart one, she stayed inside and enjoyed the Moon rise from the warm confines of the house. I'll know better the next time.
In the meantime, I'm going to do a little research on photographing the Moon, and search for sites like this one to get some tips on getting decent photos of the Moon. You can find a table showing this years Moon phases by visiting Astronomical Applications Department of the US Navy .
I'll try again next month! (That is if the weather cooperates)
It's about that time of year again where I start preparing to spend a lot more time out and about taking photos. The first major trip that I have planned this year, is visiting the Middle Creek Wildlife Preserve. During the first few weeks of March, tens of thousands of snow geese stop there during their spring migration. The first year I visited there the area was inundated with approximately 190,000 snow geese and about 3500 tundra swan (yep, you read that right 190,000). This trip can be tricky to plan for far in advance, because you never know when the bulk of the geese will show up or when they will leave to continue their migration. Once they decide to leave, it's usually a matter of a week and most of them are gone.
In years past, I've been a little frustrated because the lenses I owned were not quite long enough to get the kind of photos that I was looking for. So for this year I purchased a new lens, and hopefully things will work out and I'll end up with some photos I'll be happy with.
You may be wondering why I have a photo of a Blue Jay in a post where I'm discussing snow geese. Well, that sort of leads me into a photography tip that I want to share. From time to time, I'll try and post some tips that I've learned about photography. I can't guarantee the frequency or quality of the tips, but will share them when I can and would be interested in any comments you may have about them.
So, on to the tip. Anytime you get a new piece of gear, whether it be a new lens or a new camera bag, try to take the gear out for a few small trips before going on any big trip you may have in mind. This will give you a chance to do a couple of things. First off, it will let you know if the new piece of gear is going to do what you are expecting it to. If it doesn't then you will have enough time to return and replace it with something that will. More importantly, taking your gear out for a few test runs will give you practice using it. There is nothing worse than being out with a lens or other piece of gear that you barely know how to use. You'll end up worrying and wasting a lot of time that you could be taking photos trying to figure out how to use it.
So why the Blue Jay again? Well, I just purchased a new lens and I've taken it on a few test runs. One being in a State park not far from me and I happened to catch the shot of the blue jay on that trip. You can take a closer look at the photo and a few others from that day by clicking on the photo of my little furry friend below.
So far, I'm pretty happy with the lens and have started to get a pretty good idea of how to use it to get some decent results.