My Top 19 of 2019 – End of Year Blog

This year has been a tough one. It’s been full of very big ups and very big downs for me. I can’t say I am too sad for it to end. I lost three very special family members in death. I spent two weeks in the hospital with a flare up so severe doctors could not get it under control. I then came home to find out I couldn’t walk.

It may have been one of the most challenging years of my life, but from pain and struggle, you can bet there will almost always be a blessing in disguise. From pain and sickness I often tend to express myself artistically because I just don’t know how else to process everything I am going through. In this case, this year I have been processing a lot of sickness and death. As the year draws to a close, and I go through my photos from the year, I have discovered that I have expressed these struggles through my photos.

The following are my personal favorite 19 film photos of 2019. This first photo is of my cat Midnight taken with my Canon TX on Fujicolor Superia Xtra 400 back in September. I can remember how happy I felt when this roll came back from the lab and I actually got the exposures correct.

This next picture is of my other cat Jasmine. Now this pic may seem simple if you don’t know the context, but for me it is special because at this point in October, I was stuck in my bed and you can faintly see the legs of my commode behind her. It is an embarrassing reality that for a while my legs were so bad I couldn’t even make it to my bathroom.

I took this picture while lying in my bed holding my Canon TX wishing I could be outside taking pictures like everyone else. I was so happy when it came back clear and exposed correctly. I was making progress in my photography despite my limitations.

This succulent plant is another one I shot a lot of since being confined to my house. Looking back at all the shots Ive taken of this plant, I can clearly see the progression in my knowledge of exposure.

If you follow me on instagram or Facebook, you have probably seen the many photos I have taken of these Pine trees. When I first started taking film photos again, I was confined to the yard and these trees in the distance were my favorite subjects to practice on. Each morning I would get up early (the prednisone I am on often didn’t let me sleep late), and I would go right outside to see what bird was up on top of the pine that day.

This picture was taken on my first outing since coming home from the hospital. I was in my wheelchair at a vinyl records store. I was just so happy to be out, and I can remember that feeling when I look at this picture.

These next two pictures taken again with my Canon TX on Kodak Gold 200 (my favorite combo then), are special to me because they were taken the first time I was able to walk down the block since coming home and discovering I could barely walk. My insurance gave me a very hard time about getting physical therapy for months. I only just recently was approved. Until then I had taken it into my own hands and slowly made progress walking around taking pictures in my house, then my yard, then finally in my neighborhood.

When I first came home I couldn’t even walk out of my front door and stand for more than a couple minutes before I had to go back in the bed because of the pain. Slowly I made progress and was able to go down the block where I took these pictures in my neighbors yard.

I took this picture after a doctors appointment, and it was the first time I had ever taken a camera with me to the doc. I suffer from severe anxiety from PTSD, especially before appointments. I realized bringing my camera with me was almost like having a support animal. I look forward to the pictures I will take afterwards and it has helped me get through these tough times.

I soon started to notice I like taking pictures of cemeteries and churches which I’ve found stems from the deaths I’m dealing with and the recent detachment from a religion and former beliefs I have been struggling with. It was all coming out in the photos I was taking.

As I kept progressing I started to find more places around my doctors offices that I never noticed before.

Fujica ST801
Rolleiflex Automat

Making videos for my YouTube channel also became a motivation. These two pictures I took recently in Tradition, Florida. You can see more from that day in my blog here and my videos here. I got to use cameras I never thought I would ever use. A medium format Mamiya 645 Pro, an Argus Argoflex Seventy-Five, and a Nikon F.

Nikon F Ildord Ortho Plus 80
Nikon F Ildord Ortho Plus 80
Argus Argoflex Seventy Five
Kodak Portra 400
Argus Argoflex Seventy-Five
Ilford XP2 400

This photo is one of my favorites. There isn’t any sentimental reason behind it. It was taken on my first roll of Fujicolor 400H, and I just love the colors.

The final picture of my 19 of 2019 is one I took of this ornament that I got to represent the memory of my Aunt Frances this Christmas. I had hoped she would make it to the holidays so we could celebrate them together, but she grew tired and she let go just before thanksgiving.

Thats my favorite 19 of 2019. I still have a long way to go with my health. I am not entirely away from my wheelchair yet, and I am still in a lot of pain. There are still a lot of variables with the new medication I am on and hoping it will finally put me into remission. Until then, I have found something to keep me going, and keep me fighting.

As this year comes to an end, I want to thank you all for your continuous support of this blog. I hope I have inspired someone to push their limitations, and I hope I can keep doing so in 2020. I have a lot more planned for this blog and for my YouTube channel. If you haven’t yet, please head over there and subscribe so you will know when I post my videos. Until next year, I wish you all a happy and healthy year to come.

The Argus Argoflex Seventy-Five

The Argoflex Seventy-Five was made by Argus in 1949 until 1964, and there were two versions; the first had the name Argoflex Seventy-Five written on the front and the second had the name Argus Seventy-Five. Later models replaced the words with the number 75. I happen to have one of each of the first two versions.

My Argoflex Seventy-Five came to me with a sticky shutter. I have a soft spot for this camera because I fixed the shutter and brought it back to life so to speak. It was my first success fixing a film camera. I never thought I would shoot with it, but I just had to after this.

My video fixing the shutter of my Argoflex Seventy Five

It has a beautifully big and bright waist level viewfinder that you look into to “show you your picture before you take it.” It was marketed as a modified TLR – Twin Lens Reflex “type” of camera, but it is basically a box camera. The manual says it is a modified TLR that has been simplified to the greatest possible degree.

While it is very simple to use, it does have some nice features.
It sports double exposure prevention with the shutter unable to take a a second shot until the film is advanced, and then a red dot appears in the lens to let you know it is ready.

The lens is a 75mm fixed focus lens with a speed of about 1/50th of a second and aperture of around f11.

It has two settings: Instant and a Time setting which is really bulb. The earliest version of the Argoflex has the Time setting above the Instant setting. The set pictured above came with the flash guard and bulbs. A genuine leather case could be purchased separately. My cameras both have the case but only the Argus Seventy-Five has the complete case and flash guard. I really like that the front of the case comes off and that there’s an opening for the flash guard to be attached even with the case on. Both models also have the tripod mount on the bottom.

The lens focuses everything 7.5 feet and farther away unless you have the slip on portrait lens that allows you to take pictures up to 3-4 feet away from your subject. There are also other accessory lenses and filters available to fit the 28.5mm mount size.

Close up taken with the slip on Portrait Lens on

With my first rolls I ran through the camera I didn’t have this knowledge and didn’t pay attention to my distance. This was the result with some Ilford XP2 400 taken at a local cemetery:

Not too bad I think. As you can see the lens is sharp down the middle but falls off around the sides.

Halloween Decorations in my neighborhood. Expired Fomapan 100 pushed 1 stop in development.
I love this camera so much I took it with me to my eye appointment to take pics while I was out.

The Argoflex Seventy-Five takes 620 film, but I have successfully been able to use 120 film in mine. Please refer to my video down below for how I did this. I basically just trimmed the rim around the two ends of the 120 spool and it fit fine.

In my last blog about the Ilford Ortho Plus 80 film, I talked about my day in Tradition, FL. That same day I also brought along my two Argoflexes. It was a day of a lot of firsts. My first time trying Ilford’s Ortho Plus 80, first time trying Kodak Portra 400, first time going out with my Mamiya 645 (blog on that at a later date), and my first time shooting color film in my Argoflex.

Kodak Portra 400

I highly recommend this camera to anyone that is interested in vintage cameras. I have tried many old cameras and so far this one has given me the best results. It is extremely easy to use apart from the bit of complication loading the 120 film, but other than that I would love to see parents helping their children learn film photography using one of these.

Ilford XP2 400

If you like these reviews check out my vintage camera reviews here. Also I have a new series on my YouTube channel called Aly’s Vintage Camera Cabinet where I will be showcasing a camera from my personal collection like this one, and shooting with it. If you haven’t already, please head over there and subscribe to be notified as those are posted.

For more pictures and info on my experience with the Argus Argoflex Seventy-Five please see my video below.

Ilford Ortho Plus 80 with My Mamiya 645 Pro and Nikon F

120 film in my Mamiya 645 Pro

Last week we had a nice cool front come through here in Florida, and since I wait all year long for this weather, I just had to get outside. I went to Tradition, Florida, a small town nearby, to walk around and take some landscape pictures with the new Ilford Ortho Plus 80 film.

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I have been dealing with a lot of pain in my legs from a Crohn’s disease flare up and long hospital stay back in June. This cold front was a good opportunity to go out and walk, and try to strengthen them.

120 film in my Mamiya 645 Pro

About the Film

First off, the definition of Orthochromatic: sensitive to all visible light except red. Orthochromatic film can therefore be handled in red light in the darkroom but does not produce black-and-white tones that correspond very closely to the colors seen by the eye.

The Ilford Ortho Plus 80 film was recently released in the 120 and 35mm format. Previously it was only available in 4×5 sheet film. It was designed as a copy film, but works great for landscapes because it is Orthochromatic. It’s my understanding that this means it is more sensitive to greens and blues than traditional panchromatic films, and therefore it will expose those colors lighter. This also means it is not sensitive to reds, so they will render darker, especially if you use a red filter, you’ll end up with blank pictures. For more technical info on the film visit Ilford’s website here.

A Day in Tradition

Tradition Square
35mm film in the Nikon F
Note how dark the greens rendered

When preparing for this day I decided to use the 80mm lens on my Mamiya 645 Pro because I thought it would be a good focal length for landscapes, and I chose the 43-86mm Nikkor for my Nikon F with the Photomic FTn meter because I wanted to bring a zoom lens so I’d have the option to take wide landscapes and closer pics if I encountered any birds. I normally use my 35-200mm Nikkor, but it’s just too heavy and I already knew this was going to be very hard on my legs as it was.

After choosing my lenses, I loaded up the 120 film in my (new to me) Mamiya 645 Pro, and 35mm film in my Nikon F and set out for Tradition.

120 film in my Mamiya 645 Pro
35mm film in my Nikon F taken with the 43-86mm lens

The day was beautiful. The sky was very blue, and the sun was out in full force, so I knew my pictures were going to come out pretty contrasty. I was especially excited to test the film by taking pictures of the red brick bridges in town, fully expecting them to come out black. Instead, the red brick rendered nicely and the green foliage came out very dark. I am not sure why that is. I suspect it had something to do with the direction of the orange sunlight.

In one direction the bridge came out perfect.

120 film with the Mamiya 645 Pro

Then from the other direction the bridge rendered very dark. I suspect it had to do with the sunlight, but I could be wrong. This was my first time using an orthochromatic film so I am not very experienced.

35mm with the Nikon F

First, I walked around the town square where they had the Christmas decorations set up. It was a very busy day, and the traffic around the square was heavy, so I didn’t stick around there long.

35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
120 in the Mamiya 645 Pro
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm In the Nikon F
35 mm in the Nikon F
35mm Taken with the Nikon F

Next, I drove closer to the residential area where it was quiet and there were lakes. I figured that would be perfect for this film.

120 film in the Mamiya 645 Pro
120 in the Mamiya 645 Pro
120 in the Mamiya 645 Pro
An Osprey
120 in the Mamiya 645 Pro
35mm in the Nikon F
120 in the Mamiya 645 Pro

At this point, my legs were starting to hurt pretty bad, so I decided to head back to the town to finish up my rolls with the bridges I passed on the way in.

35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F
35mm in the Nikon F

My Thoughts on the Film

Overall, I am very happy with how these pictures came out. I really love the contrast. The grain is so fine it’s almost non existent. The sharpness is great in my opinion. I’m really happy with this film. I find it to be in the middle of the lighter grays of Ilford XP2 or Ilford Delta 400 and the harsher blacks of Kodak Tmax.

For more on my day in Tradition, check out the video on my YouTube channel to compare how the film rendered the real life tones of these pictures.

The First Electronically Controlled Camera – the Yashica Electro 35

The Specs

The Yashica Electro 35 looks like a robot head straight out of a Jetson’s cartoon, but I love that about it.

It was a very popular camera in its day selling 8 million copies in its 15 year run. Ads called it the computer that takes pictures. With that kind of reputation, no wonder it was so popular.

You may recognize the camera from the Spiderman movie with Andrew Garfield. Somehow he didn’t cause the same surge in popularity for the Electro as Kendall Jenner did for the Contax T2, but I digress.

The Yashica Electro 35 was the first full frame electronically controlled camera when it came out in 1966. (The Yashica Electro Half released in 1965 was a half frame camera that was the first electronic Japanese commercially available camera). It has an electronic magnet in the shutter that gave it it’s name. Yashica became well known for their electronic expertise after this.

There have been several different variations and two colors. The original Electro 35 from 1966-1968 had ASA/ISO speeds of 12-400. In 1968 they came out with the 35G with ISO 12-500 and in 1969 the 35GT, which was just a black version of the G.

In 1970 Yashica decided to up the ISO speeds to keep up with the advancements in film and they came out with the GS and black GT with speeds of 25-1000. They also had contact points in the electronic wiring that were gold plated.

Finally, in 1973 until 1977 they made the 35 GSN and black GTN with the same speeds, but added a hot shoe instead of the cold accessory shoe of all the previous models. There was also the 35 CC, GX, and FC but I wont get into those here.

My Yashica Electro 35 GS

The camera is aperture priority meaning you choose your f stop based on your lighting conditions and the camera picks the shutter speed. On the lens barrel there is also three pictures below the aperture ring to help you out if you aren’t familiar with how to choose an f stop number. There’s a set of squares indicating indoor lighting, a cloud for cloudy days, and the sun for bright conditions.

There is also three shutter speed settings on the lens to choose from: Flash, Auto, or Bulb mode. That is the extent of the control you can have over shutter speed.

The manual for the camera brags of perfect exposure instantly determined under any light condition by means of the electric circuit consisting of transistors, condenser, and CdS cell. Even candlelight dimness or night photography is possible without flash. They were so confident in this that they didn’t give the camera a hot shoe until its last model.

I wanted to put this to the test by taking a shot that I had previously tried to take with several of my other cameras including my Nikon F, but have never been able to get because the lighting in my back porch is too low.

Its not a great picture but I love the leaves on this plant that I have worked hard to keep alive. So I am glad to get a picture of it at all.
Its nothing special but I had been trying unsuccessfully to get a shot of this scraggly plant on my porch many times before. I was surprised when I got my roll back, that the exposure actually came out despite being taken hand held.

If you do use a flash, it syncs at all speeds and has a PC socket on the side.

It is a solid metal camera that feels great in the hand. It isn’t as light as a compact camera or even a plastic 1990’s point and shoot. Weighing in at 1 pound 9 ounces, it feels more substantial than they do.

It doesn’t have a mirror inside like an SLR, so that mixed with the electronic Copal shutter makes it virtually silent. It is so soft that I feel like I have to be delicate when I wind on to the next frame after a shot. I guess you should be delicate anyway considering the famous “pad of death” these cameras can be known for. That is the piece of rubber inside the film advance that over time can degrade and be a royal pain to replace.

On the literal bright side, the viewfinder is big and bright with frame lines and automatic parallax correction. The lens isn’t coupled to it, so sometimes I forget to take the lens cap off because I can still see through the viewfinder with it on.

The rangefinder patch in the viewfinder is hard to make out. This may just be my camera or my eyes, but I have a very hard time seeing the rangefinder and lining it up to focus a subject even in bright light.

Holding the camera is a little bit hard as well, especially with the case bottom on. There is slightly more space on the left hand side of the lens than there is on the side you need to grip for the shutter release. This is only a minor issue though.

An ad for the Electro 35

The lens is a Yashinon DX 45mm f/1.7. It has 6 elements in 4 groups with a 55mm filter thread. The close focus is 2.6 feet (0.8m) which I keep forgetting until I get pictures back with my subject out of focus.

An example of when I forgot the close focus range. But it is also an example of the low lighting situations this camera can handle hand held. This was at night with only a small light on. My other cameras haven’t been able to give me shots in this setting without a tripod and cable release.

The shutter has a locking ring around the shutter release button that prevents accidental shots and battery drainage. There is also a battery check button on the back that lights up. This will let you know if your battery is dead, or when you first purchase one of these cameras, this is how you know if your camera will work or not.

They originally sold for around $140 in a kit, but today they can be found on eBay for $30-$60. Unless you have an Uncle like me who sends you boxes of cameras to resurrect. That is how I got my Yashica Electro 35 GS. I cleaned it up. Removed the battery corrosion and bought a battery adapter.

The original battery for the camera was a mercury battery that is no longer legal to own in America. So you can get an adapter for modern batteries. I got mine from Friendster Vintage on Ebay. They specialize in Yashica Rangefinder battery adapters. See my video for more info on that and this camera.

My YouTube Video showing how to use the camera and some pictures I took with it.

The metering system was the first of its kind at the time. It is not TTL (through the lens), but it is controlled by CdS cells located in the small window above the lens. There is a red light and yellow light in the viewfinder that are coupled to the two lamps on the top of the camera.

Slightly press the shutter button and the lamps will either light up to tell you how to proceed, or they won’t and you can then take your shot. The correct exposure is given when the red lamp doesn’t illuminate. The red light means there is too much light and you need to turn the aperture ring to the right until it disappears.

If the yellow lamp lights up, that’s an indication that there is not enough light and you need to turn the aperture ring to the left. If it still doesn’t go away, then you need to use a flash or a tripod and cable release. If you don’t have a cable release, the self timer lever can be used which is located also on the lens barrel. It will last 7-8 seconds before tripping the shutter.

My Electro 35 GS top plate

My Thoughts on the Camera

Overall, I really like the camera and I will be shooting with it and making more videos/blogs in the future. I wasn’t too happy with it at first. The lab I was using, emphasize was, somehow turned that roll and 10 others yellow, so I ended up only liking 2 out of the 36 exposures.

I ran a couple more rolls through it and was way happier this time around. I tried a roll of Fujicolor 200.

One of the yellow pictures after I tried to fix it in photoshop
Taken indoors in low lighting
I really like the color from this roll of pictures.

Then I tried a black and white roll of Ilford HP5. I really like these.

A squirrel racing by on an electrical wire above me.

That’s the Yashica Electro 35. If you enjoy reading my camera reviews please check out my other ones about my Canon TX, Rolleiflex Automat, Fujifilm Discovery, or my photo essays. Sign up to be notified through email when I post more reviews.

To see more of my photography, check out my portfolio website where you can also see some of my vintage camera collection and be sure to follow my instagram and subscribe to my youtube for more reviews.

Shooting 35mm film with a Rolleiflex Automat

I bought my Rolleiflex Automat in 2014, before I really knew anything about film. All I knew was that it was a beautiful camera that I had always wanted since I first saw Natalie Portman with it on the movie Where the Heart Is.

I went on Ebay and quickly found that the prices for this camera were pretty steep for me. I shopped for a while before I finally found a really good deal for a Rolleiflex Automat. Its not the most desired model, but I didn’t care. I often tend to go in the opposite direction of what’s popular.

It was in pristine condition and very well taken care of over the years. It was from the original owner and came with all the original paperwork, manuals, and a lot of accessories.

The day it came in the mail, I had just missed the mailman and was so upset because it was a holiday weekend and I didn’t want my camera sitting in the post office. I tracked down the mailman and got him to give me my package. I’m too embarrassed to even say how I tracked him down. Yes, Rollei had me going temporarily insane.

But can you blame me? Look at this beauty.

When I first held it in my hands I was instantly in love with this camera. It is a brick, but not like an Argus C3. It is an elegant brick if you will. It’s not as heavy as other medium format cameras. Even hanging around my neck, it’s not as bad as my Nikon F. You can just tell while holding it that it is intricately designed and well thought out.

Even the accessories come individually paired with small leather cases. The box for the Rollei is also beautifully designed with ornate markings.

To find out what model you have visit the Rollei Club website. My Rolleiflex is the 3.5 Automat MX model. It has an f/3.5 Xenar taking lens and an f/2.8 Heidosmat composing lens on top. The shutter is a Synchro-Compur which was really just a Compur Rapid with M synchronization. This model was made from 1951-1954, and it was given the name Automatic MX because there was no need to line up the film backing paper before closing the back; it has an automatic stop at all frames, even the first.

The MX designation is for the bottom right lever for flash synchronization. The M is for the M class flash bulbs and the X is for connecting an electronic flash, although most photographers at the time stuck with the bulb flashes.

The camera uses 120 film and gives 12 frames with 6 x 6 square images. The first problem I came to was the medium format. I knew nothing about this film, and at the time there wasn’t much access to it yet. After some research I found out I could get the Rolleikin 2, an adapter that would make it so I could shoot 35mm film in my, now favorite, camera. So I went back to Ebay and found the set that went to my model.

The Rolleikin 2
Picture Courtesy of The Classic Rollei a Definitive Guide by John Phillips

I installed the kit and changed the pressure plate in the back door to adapt to the 35mm negatives. I was so happy that I could modify the camera to my needs and be able to shoot with it.

I immediately started taking pictures. At this point, as I mentioned above, I didn’t know much yet about film photography other than using compact cameras when I was a kid. I briefly had a Canon EOS Rebel G when I was 12 years old, but sold it when digital came out. So I was essentially experimenting with this camera. Not many people start out learning film photography with a camera like this, but I didn’t have anyone guiding me in the right direction.

I got my first rolls developed at a local shop and didn’t get my shots back for weeks because the demand was so low at the time that the man who did the developing only developed film once he got 5 rolls or more at a time.

Once I finally got them back I was hooked. They were sharp and I loved the contrast of the black and white shots. I was actually surprised that I was able to get the exposures correct considering I had no meter and no experience.

These pictures are yellowing already. I guess the paper isn’t very good quality. But these were taken with Kodak Tmax
Toy Photography
These pictures are yellowing already. I guess the paper isn’t very good quality. But these were taken with Kodak Tmax

I have been shooting only 35mm in this camera since I got it, but soon I will be uninstalling the Rolleikin, taking off the training wheels so to speak, and running a roll of 120 film through it. Until then I’m going to cherish this format in the Rolleiflex for just a little bit longer.

Ilford HP5 400
Ilford HP5 400
Ilford HP5 400

Recently, I decided to take the camera out to take some street photos. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have not been able to get approval for physical therapy since being in the hospital back in June, so I have been rehabilitating myself. Going out and taking photos even just in my back yard has helped tremendously. So this was the first time I would walk around downtown Stuart in a long time. There weren’t many people around, because it’s Florida and people don’t really like to go outside, so the shots are more or less of architecture. I really enjoyed myself. It never ceases to amaze me how much joy this hobby has brought to my life, just in the short months since I came out of the hospital.

Check out my YouTube video to see more from of my day out taking photos with the Rolleiflex.

Please check out and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more cameras and photography

To make this a proper review of shooting 35mm film in my medium format Rolleiflex, I have to mention the cons as well as the pros. My main complaint of using the Rolleikin is that the mask in the waist level viewfinder is very small and often I have a hard time seeing the entire picture that will be taken, but I tend to have this problem with all of my cameras because I have bad eyesight.

Another issue is the film advance. There is a square mechanism that gets installed inside the camera that the 35mm film runs across and snags onto the sprockets of the film. In order to advance to the next picture, you have to press in the film counter button that comes with the Rolleikin, this releases the film and allows you to turn the winding lever to advance to the next frame until the film re-catches.

The issue I have run into is the film snagging way too soon or not at all. I am not sure why that is. It doesn’t happen every time. This has resulted in partial double exposures as well as entire rolls of film never advancing the whole time I was shooting with it.

Ultimately, I have had far more good experiences and results than bad with the Rolleikin. I do highly recommend this set up if you want to shoot 35mm film as a more economical choice than medium format. I also highly recommend it for beginners.

Now I know the Rolleiflex is not a beginners camera, but it’s also not very hard to learn to use. So if you inherit your grandpa’s Rolleiflex, or find a good deal, by all means, don’t be intimidated. Pick up a Rolleikin adapter (there’s different types depending on what model you have. See my video above) and learn to shoot film using the cheap stuff first and then roll into medium format.

To see more of my photography please visit my website and my instagram. Comment below if you’ve ever used the Rolleikin in your Rolleiflex and your thoughts. Leave links to your shots taken with your Rolleiflex. I’d love to see them.