Tagged: challenge

52 Cameras – Diversion – Results

We've completed the Pdexposures $20 challenge. To recap the goal was to buy, load, shoot, and process for under $20. Beth and I both took a shot, and our initial quest is documented here.

Part 1: Kodak Pony 135

My Pony 135 was manufactured sometime between 1950-1954. It's a lightweight Bakelite and plastic assembly with the lens and shutter mechanism mounted in a collapsible tube. The shutter goes up to 1/200 and the lens opens to f4.5. Film advance is via the knob on the right, with a rotating dial for the counter. A small lever on the back must be tripped to release the mechanism before winding, and another lever on the lens manually cocks the shutter. There is no double exposure prevention. The knob on the left rewinds the film. There is another dial on the top plate which serves as a film type reminder. Shutter release is on the top plate next to the finder.

Focus is “guess” only with indications in feet on the lens. There is no meter.

I enjoyed shooting with it. Everything is manual, but that's easy on a sunny spring day. Beth and I took a walk around downtown Newburyport after an appointment. I had one accidental double exposure, and near the end of the roll I began to feel the shutter was running a bit too slowly. This was confirmed when the photos came back from the lab. My biggest mistake, however, was not giving the camera a good dusting before use. Years of flea market dust made its way onto my negatives, spotting them. I'm hoping for better results next time.

Camera: $8.00 Film: $2.94 Processing: $8.49 (Dwayne's, negatives only, after shipping)

Total cost $19.43


Part 2: Mamiya EE Super Merit

Hailing from 1962-ish, I believe this to be a Mamiya EE Super Merit. It has no model name or number marked on it. It's a shutter-priority auto exposure rangefinder. It uses a selenium cell around the 40mm f2.8 lens. Shutter speed is adjustable from 1/30 to 1/250 with no B mode. Exposure may be overridden and manually set with a ring on the lens. Focus uses a small round RF spot inside the viewfinder, and a needle indicates the selected f-stop at the bottom of the window. Shutter release is located on the front of the camera. Film advance and rewind are via the commonly accepted modern style.

Beth shot a bit with it on our safari then lost interest. She loves the rangefinder but is more of a fan of 90s automatics for her regular shooting. (I'm working on her!) She was also put off by the lack of a strap. the body has no lugs, the case is long gone, and a fear of dropping it dampened her fun. Even though it's not worth much, she's too respectful to risk dropping a camera. I packed it with me on a hike to Tuckerman's Ravine and finished the roll.

Of note is the fact that I discovered another local drugstore which still has a mini lab. Processing was thus much cheaper. It had a few dust issues, but nothing like the Pony above.

Camera: $7.00 Film: $2.94 Processing: $2.19 (CVS, negatives only)

Total cost: $12.13




We proved it is possible to do it for $20, and I learned a few things along the way. I count this as a win, even if Beth's camera beat mine by $7.30.


52 Cameras diversion – the Pdexposures challenge

The crew at the Pdexposures podcast have issued a challenge for the month of June: You have $20 to spend. Make it look good.

Full rules are available at the link above, but in a nutshell you have to

  • Buy a film camera
  • Buy a roll of film
  • Shoot
  • Develop

for a total of $20 or less. There are few restrictions, but the cooler the camera the better. I thought it sounded like fun, and Beth was up for tagging along.

We worked things backwards to figure our budget. The first step was film. The cheapest local source is Walmart: $2.94 for 24 exposures of Fuji 200 ASA color. We each bought one. 400 ASA is only $1 more if you want it.

Developing was a little harder. My first stop was the local drugstore mini lab, only to discover that it was removed last month. (I never cared for their quality anyway. Its loss was a self-fulfilling prophecy.). Unfortunately it was replaced by a mail-order service which returns a CD instead of my negatives. Don't ask me why. They won't be getting my business.

That left mail-order. The cheapest service from Old School Photo Lab is $11 with shipping included. I love them, but that would only leave $6.06 in the camera budget. Eventually I discovered that Dwayne's Photo, the guys famous for being the last lab to process Kodachrome, could do negatives only for $8.49 on my doorstep. That would leave us each a slightly better $8.57 for a camera.

I am fortunate to live in the same town as one of New England's premier flea markets. In fact my parents live only a 5 minute walk away. Beth and I stopped at a local cafe for iced tea and fresh doughnuts, left the car at Grampy's house, and set out on the hottest Sunday morning of the year to stalk and capture our prizes.

Some days the market is full of vintage filmy goodness, others are a bust. We got lucky. We added numerous cameras to my collection, and we came home with three challenge candidates. I chose a Kodak Pony 135 for $8, and she landed an old Mamiya rangefinder for $7. The Mamiya has no markings on it, but research leads me to believe it is a 35EE variant. The third option is a Tower 55B if either of them fails.

I've already shot my film and shipped it to the lab. I confess I've also exposed a few frames in the Mamiya just to get a feel for it.

The challenge runs until the end of June, so it's not too late to have some cheap film fun. Go buy an old camera and start shooting!

EDIT: see the results