Sunday, December 19, 2010

Konica Instant Press

No pseudo-clever title for this article. Most instant Polaroid cameras are made by Polaroid, but there are a few companies that make Polaroid compatible film cameras. I've already talked about Keystone cameras, and there are a couple of NPC cameras that are clones of the 185 and 195 (at least in name) that I haven't used. I've talked about the Moment, a Russian type 40 clone. Fuji also makes proprietary cameras, as well as the high-end, fully manual  Fotorama FP-1. Kodak also made instant cameras that used Kodak instant film. There are also many cameras that use Polaroid backs, such as Mamiya, and just about every other medium format camera (and even some 35mm and large format cameras). There is one more important Polaroid peel-apart compatible camera (hint...it's mentioned in the title).
The Konica Instant Press was released in Japan in 1983, and sold outside of Japan in 1984.

This is the first fully manual Polaroid clone, created a good 10 years after the 195, followed by the Fuji FP-1 around 1995. It was originally marketed as a professional camera for proofing and for real estate, etc. It was only produced for a couple of years, 1983 and 1984, I believe, and seems to have passed under the radar for the most part. It's value was never underrated, though, and it has consistently sold for $700 to over $1000 since the mid-1990s (unless you get lucky and find a deal). It is fairly rare, though it can be found on eBay and Craigslist every so often. So...why so special?

The Konica Instant Press:

An overview from the manual...

The camera is a folder, meaning that it has bellows and that it can be folded into the body for compact storage and protection of the camera elements.

The bellows are actually the weakest part about the camera. They are much thinner than those present on the 180/190/195, and seem to be prone to wearing out (more so than the Polaroids, which get leaks along the edges). I had to tape up a line of leaks along the top of the bellows (or is it bellow, singular?).

The camera is made of both plastic and metal parts. The body is mostly plastic while the viewfinder is all metal. The pack holder is basically just a Polaroid back stuck onto the camera.

You can see that it has a tripod mount on the bottom, and this one has some exposure guides on back in Japanese, so one could assume that this camera was an import and not a domestic camera.

The camera takes all Type 100 pack films. I read in a book that it takes Type 80 as well, but this is not true. It does not have the notches that allow for the extra tabs that Type 80 packs have (to prevent the film pack from sliding back into the camera). It would be an easy mod, but not really necessary at this point with Type 80s being relatively rare (and I have plenty of other cameras that I can use for Type 80s).
It has a plastic left-hand grip, which I find to be a bit slippery, so I grabbed a Konica strap from eBay.

The Konica Instant Press features a 110mm Hexanon lens (the FP-1 has 105mm, while the 180/190/195 have 114mm lenses).

Aperture is 4 to 64 (the FP-1 is to 5.6, 190 and 195 are to 3.8, and the 180 is to 4.5). So it has the advantage of opening almost as wide as the 190/195. The aperture is also a slider, not clicking into place, so you can use apertures between the settings if desired.
Shutter speeds are from 1 to 500, with a B and T setting. This is comparable to other Polaroid manuals, except for the inclusion of a T setting, which allows you to keep the shutter open until you press the shutter button again. Neither the manual Polaroids nor the FP-1 have this setting, which is a great feature for long exposures. It also has a flash mount. Filter size is 49mm, allowing you a full range of filter and hood use. The manual Polaroid cameras seem to use a unique filter size that requires a Polaroid brand filter (UV, yellow and ND).

Firing the shutter is a two-part system, like all other manual Polaroids. You cock the shutter above the lens, and fire the shutter via a button on the cover (with the camera open, of course). The shutter button allows for timers and cables, as well (the Polaroid manuals can only use a Polaroid cable that fits over the shutter button).

Focusing is actually similar to the old Polaroid Type 40 cameras, such as the 110 series, via a knob on the side of the camera (the cover).

The Polaroid manuals' focus consists of left and right finger grips, allowing you to directly slide the bellows section in and out (this is actually the same for all automatic folders, as well), while the FP-1 has a dial for focusing. While I'm used to the Polaroid method, I find the Konica focusing allows for an amazing amount of precision. I'm not sure if the camera actually produces a sharper image, or the focusing dial is just that much more precise. It is extremely sensitive and accurate. Focusing is done through a single viewfinder, with a center circle that brings two images together until they "match", bringing the subject into focus...much the same as most focusing systems. This brings up another advantage that the Konica has over the Polaroid manuals...the Konica allows you to focus as close as 0.6 meters. This is closer than the FP-1's 0.8 meters, and much more so than the Polaroid manuals' 1.2 meters. This means the camera basically has built-in close-up ability. The precision focusing is a blessing for this close-up work, as even a slight difference in focus means a blurry subject.
The viewfinder is large and bright, and features moving guidelines within the finder depending on focus.

So the area within the guidelines is the image area. It took me a a couple shots with my subject not being in the photo before I realized this!

I was using the entire viewfinder, as one would with a Polaroid manual camera. I'm not sure if the FP-1 has the same method or it uses a full viewfinder. Once I figured out what was going on, it's really nice to have accurate frame lines, particularly when shooting close to a subject.

You can see that the camera produces a lovely image when shooting close! This was shot at 125/f11 and it is still loaded with bokeh (though some hate to use that word). A couple more shots close up...

Again, the pinpoint focusing is wonderful. It also shoots nicely from a distance.

So how does it shoot compared to other instant peel-apart cameras? This is really tough to answer. It definitely seems to produce a sharper image than most other cameras I've used, comparable to the 600SE, which can produce amazingly sharp images. This is probably a combination of the nice lens and the very accurate focusing. I attempted to (generally) take the same shot with multiple cameras and the same pack of Fuji FP-100C and the same exposure settings (f11 and 60). The framing isn't always the same, and the sun decided to peek out through the clouds while I was doing this, but it's still a somewhat interesting comparison.

Konica Instant Press

Polaroid 190

Polaroid 180

Polaroid 190 (I'm currently having issues with the focus on this camera)

Converted Polaroid 110A

Converted Gomz Moment

And one more with the Konica Instant Press

I also took a shot with the 600SE and 50mm lens, but I forgot to remove the dark slide, a definite annoyance when using that camera. And I took a shot with the Colorpack III, not realizing I had the rollers out...so I produced this vaguely amusing mess.

So, yeah, I like the Konica Instant Press a lot, and I will be using it often. It has some distinct advantages over the 190/195, and once I get the right filters and a decent hood, I think it will produce some fantastic images. Though I won't stop using my 190, the Konica will have a spot on my car seat next to it. The 600SE is a different beast altogether, so it can't really be compared to any of these cameras in terms of quality or portability, but the Konica is certainly a viable alternative to the 180/190/195 and you could easily just use the Konica and not own the others. Compared to the FP-1, I can only say from my very limited experience of having messed around with Artsyken's camera while in Japan. But I wasn't too keen on the dial focusing, which seemed a bit stiff. The Konica focuses a bit closer than the Fuji, 0.6m compared to 0.8m, and the Fuji the lens only opens to 5.6, while the Konica is 4, which seems to be a distinct advantage. Owning the Konica (and various other Polaroids), I personally don't see any reason to also own the Fuji FP-1. But it probably is a nice camera on its own.
The manual for the Konica Instant Press can be found online here.

Introducing...The Konica Instant Press!

So, when is too much...too much?

Edit from the future!
The camera was having an issue with firing the shutter. It wasn't the shutter itself, rather the mechanism between the button and the lens. I was a bit wary of taking the camera apart as it wasn't cheap and I didn't want to mess up the focus. Turned out to be pretty easy (mostly) to remove the front, and you can't mess up the focus as it is a separate mechanism in the hood of the camera. I figured I would post shots and a short explanation for those interested. Though I discovered none of this was at all necessary by the time I was done.
First step is to release the bellows, which only requires the removal of four screws from the inside.

There are two rails that hold the lens board in place. To remove the board, you remove three screws to take off one rail, and the front piece is loose.

Removing the lens is easy in concept, difficult in execution. You just need to remove the screw from the back that mounts the camera on the board. But they had three dollops of glue on the threads that made it extremely difficult to remove. I cleaned the threads while apart so it was much easier to put back together.

Under the lens, it looks like the Showa production date for the camera, or at least the lens.

So I had two problems. At first, pushing on the button didn't release the shutter. It would stop maybe 1 mm short of firing the shutter. I could reach around the front and push it all the way to fire. But then the mechanism started to bind. Before I took it all apart, I couldn't really tell what was going on. But there are basically three parts to fire the shutter. The button presses down on a bar. This bar pushes down on another part that connects with the shutter mechanism, firing the shutter.

After looking at all of this and thinking about it for awhile, the fix was actually pretty simple. The binding was fixed by pushing up on "2" (top photo) with my thumb, which bent it back into place, so it moves straight and does not catch on the surface of the board. The second fix...I actually can't figure out why the piece doesn't push down far enough. It is seriously like 1mm or less short. I tried bending it a bit, but it needs to pretty much be flat to fire at all focal lengths, as a different amount of surface makes contact depending on how close or far you focus. So I just took two small pieces of black electrical tape and made "1" slightly thicker on the bottom, so it had enough to push the proper distance. That's all it took. And I could have done all of that without taking apart the camera. Still, and interesting learning exercise.
A quick video of the shutter working properly...

video
Until next time!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Reclaimed Fuji intant negs!

I'm certainly not the one to think this up, though I've tried similar with Polaroid film in the past without success. There is currently some activity in "reclaiming" a full color negative from Fuji FP-100C. There is a good thread on Filmwasters and they also cover it in a video podcast I believe, but I figure I would quickly go over the process here, as one can never have to many useful Internet resources!
First off, don't be put off thinking this is difficult. It took me awhile to get around to messing about with this, and it took me about five minutes to make my first color negative, plus drying and scanning time.
Basic supplies are bleach, a brush, some kind of surface such as glass or a piece of plastic, and water. Also, of course, the remains of a Fuji FP-100C...the back side that you would normally throw away (you'll see what I'm talking about in the step-by-step).
So you have your bleach and brush...

And your Fuji FP-100C remains, which you can tape to the glass if you want, solid black side up. The idea is to remove the black backing on the negative without getting bleach on the other (emulsion) side. I taped my first down, then didn't bother after that and I didn't have any problems.

Then you dip your brush in the bleach and begin applying it to the black surface. I added a little scrubbing motion with the brush to loosen the backing faster.

You can see the black stuff coming off. It's probably a good idea to wear gloves, but whatever. Rinsing it under water shows the black stuff draining off and an image underneath.

Holding it up to the light. you can see the image (yes this is a different neg than seen above)...

Keep brushing and rinsing, or you can apply the bleach and leave it sit for 5-15 minutes and then rinse, and you will eventually wash off all of the black stuff and be left with a nice color negative. The emulsion side has developer goop on it, which should be gently rubbed off under water before or after working with the bleach (sodium sulfate will wash it off in a snap). The image is in/on the plastic, like a true color negative.

Hang to dry and you have a large color negative ready for scanning! It really is as simple as that. So I scanned the negative. Uncorrected, it is faded and somewhat sepia in nature.

And after some color correction done in Photoshop, we have a photo with a very lovely tone. You can see where the bleach got on the emulsion side to the left.

Here is the original print for comparison.

And another example, before and after color correction...a shot of the preparation of my next blog post in a few weeks.



That's it! Makes me sad about all of the Fuji negs I've thrown away in the past, particularly from my Japan trip. There are other methods out there on the Interwebs. Some use paper towels or sponges, some use different chemicals. Experiment and see what works for you.
On a side note, I thought to try this with black and white film, to see if I could get something similar to Type 665. It works...sort of. I chose to use Fuji FP-100B, because the 3000B already has a scannable negative. And I figured it would be most similar to FP-100C. The big difference is that the image on 100B is on the developer, not the plastic, so it washes off, and washes off very easily. So...it is possible to remove the black backing from FP-100B, but you can't get any water on the other side. This is very difficult to accomplish when you are trying to rinse off the bleach and black coating. After a couple failed attempts, I chose to just use the paper as a handle and painted and rinsed very carefully.

I still got water on the opposite side at the very end of the process, but it mostly worked. After drying and scanning, here is the negative as it naturally appears. Oddly enough, the image was positive in different print I washed, but here it is negative.

After reversing, converting to black and white (the image is purple otherwise), and adjusting contrast, this is as good as this one gets...


A bit messy. The original print for comparison.

Here is another previous, mostly failed, attempt with FP-100B with much of the image washed and scratched off. This one I attempted to tape down to seal off the emulsion side. Print and negative...

I believe that this is definitely a doable process with FP-100B. A few workarounds that might help would be to let the goop dry completely so that it takes longer to wash off, and to paint the bleach on and let it sit for awhile, with luck reducing rinses. Taping it down to seal the underside almost worked, but after a few rinses and bleaches, the tape just bubbled up. But a careful process would make this a viable process...though it doesn't provide the same high quality negative that FP-100C does.
And this does not work with Polaroid films, as the black backing doesn't dissolve from bleach.
I also wanted to try Type 689, as it seems similar to FP-100C, or an earlier version. Some people believe they are they same film, but this experiment kicks that idea out the door.
For some reason, I saved a bunch of Type 689 negatives (and other types). No idea why, but glad I did now!

The process is the same, though the black backing is a bit more tenacious and requires some scrubbing. The other difference with 689 is that it has an opaque coating on the emulsion side, as well, which FP-100C does not have. This washes off with warm water, leaving a lovely blue negative underneath.

The negative is actually very dense and a monotone blue...so when it gets scanned and reversed, it is sepia/orange. This is a scan after some adjusting of contrast in Photoshop...

Super orange! But, we can treat it as a black and white negative, which it basically is as it has no color to it (except orange), and we get a decent image.

Pretty cool! Too bad Type 689 is relatively rare at this point. I also tried Type 669, 690, and 667, but the back doesn't come off of any of them with bleach.
So, to summarize, the following film types have been tested by me (or verified by others as with the Fuji 4x5) as working for negative retrieval (a few) or not working (most).

Working (backing removable with bleach with transparent negative)
Fuji FP-100C, FP-100C Silk and FP-100C45 (emulsion will discolor and deteriorate with extended exposure to bleach)
Fuji FP-100B and FP-100B45 (emulsion washes off if not very careful)
Polaroid Type 689 (very dense blue negative)

Not working (possible to remove black backing but emulsion is opaque)
Fuji FP-3000B (emulsion opaque, but already has a scannable negative image)
Type 667, 107 and 47 (emulsion opaque, but already has a scannable negative image)
Type 669 and 108 (can scrub back off but black underneath, emulsion opaque)
Type 690 (can scrub back off but black underneath, emulsion opaque)
ID-UV (can scrub back off but black underneath, emulsion opaque)
Chocolate and Blue 100 (can scrub back off but black underneath, emulsion opaque)

In closing, another reclaimed negative saved from last year...

Anyway, another something to mess around with. Next up I will be reviewing the Konica Instant Press! Until then...