Over the years I have had many people want to know how I make my own 620 and 127 size roll film, so here are the directions (620 is very simple, 127 not so simple).
120 Into 620: Start with a new roll of 120 film and one each 120 and 620 empty spool. In your darkroom or inside a changing bag, roll the fresh 120 onto the empty 120 spool, taking care to keep the film in register to the backing paper. Keep pulling the paper backing tight as you go, and try to avoid handling the film with your fingers; I like to use powder free nitrile gloves. Once the film is on the 120 spool as though it had just been shot, work it back onto the empty 620 spool. When you come to the point where the film starts, pull the paper backing tight (on the 620 spool) and begin spooling film and backing onto the 620 spool. Once again try to keep the paper and film in proper register as you go. When you get to where the film is taped to the paper backing, remove the film form the backing, by carefully untaping it. Make every effort at this point to not tear the backing paper, film or tape--so go slow.
Now allow the film to spool around the backing and pull just the paper backing tight and lay it over the tape which holds the film in place. Continue to spool the paper backing until done, and tape with artist tape.
This operation takes me less than two minutes and in time you will get very fast as well.
Slitting 120 into 127:
This is more involved than the 620, 120 metamorphosis, so here is a list of the things you will need:
1) Paper cutter, either guillotine or rotary, however the rotary will have to be 32 inches in length minimum.
2) Two used 127 spools, preferably Kodak, as they fit the cameras the best.
3) Masking tape.
5) Artist tape 1/2 inch wide
6) Clear plastic packing tape (non-filament)
Take the used 127 backing and where the film was taped (remove any old masking tape) place a piece of packing tape, on the black side, centering it on the place where the tape for the old film was. This will allow you to use the backing paper many times without the film tape damaging it.
Now tape the 127 backing to a wall or counter in your light tight work area. I use the masking tape for this, after I have run the adhesive side over my pants leg, to reduce the tape hold. Make sure you put the start end up if taping to a wall. If on a counter, make sure, you make a mental note of which end is the start.
Set up your paper cutter so the fence is the exact width of 127 film. I used an old roll that came in a camera I purchased. Make sure it is straight and that it fits snuggly against the cutting surface so that the film cannot slip under the fence.
Now with the lights off, unspool the roll of 120 and separate it form the backing paper, as carefully as possible. You do not want the paper to stick to the tape and ruin it. Allow the roll of film to roll up naturally and put the backing side down (emulsion up) against the cutter table and the left edge against the fence. Slice the film as far as the cutter will allow (all the way with the rotary cutter), or about a third of the way with a 12 inch guillotine cutter. Be very careful with the cutter and, go slowly so you do not cut your fingers. With the guillotine cutter move the film up and allow the 127 to roll up on itself. Repeat the above cutting operation until you are done.
Now take the 127 size strip over to the backing and unroll it so the sticky side of the tape faces the backing (emulsion out). Feel for the packing tape and place the tape (on the film) near the middle of the packing tape and stick it down with only one finger in the middle. Alignment is critical at this step so make sure the film is even with the backings edges and going as straight down the backing as possible. Sticking the film with only one fingers allow you to adjust it more easily, and for the film to self correct as it is rolled. Feel to where the film ended on the used backing and cut the new film to length (trust me you can feel it) Remove the paper backing form the door or horizontal surface and roll it forward onto an empty 127 spool. Try to keep minimum tension as the film first goes on, as this will allow the film to center on the spool.
Once on the 127 spool roll it back onto the second 127 spool and make sure to keep it in register with the backing. If it does happen to get out of register, remove the tape as in 120-620 above. make sure you pull it nice and tight and that all the slack is out of the entire roll as you go.
Put a small strip of artist tape onto the roll to hold it until used. I like to keep some small rubber bands in my bag to hold the film on the spool once shot, and the tape in this step can be replaced with a rubber band.
If you were using an automat camera such as a Baby Rolleiflex, you could slit the 120 film and backing at the same time, and simply cut the film and paper backing to length. This however is not possible with red window film advance cameras, or with those that require you to align arrows for the start of the film.
I hope that these directions will help you to use and enjoy your vintage 127, and 620 cameras more.
Ikoflex Focus Improvement--Ball Bearings!
I have been buying, selling and repairing Ikoflex cameras for some time, and have never been happy with the results of the focus CLA. They would always be stiff, no matter what I tried. The culprit turns out to be the focus helix pads, which are made of leather and backed with steel. These pads soak up the oil in the grease and squeegee what remains away, leaving the focus stiff. My long sought fix came in the form of two 3/32 inch tungsten carbide ball bearing, replacing the factory pads. These balls convert the sliding friction of the helix into rolling friction, and reduce knob force by over half. I also have been running experiments with Teflon pads and these are quite promising so far. Look for me on that in a later update.
After-market Bright Screens:
I get a lot of requests for installation of aftermarket bright screens, in TLR cameras. The only ones I can whole heartedly recommend are the screens made by the camera manufacturer in the first place. Or to put it more straightforward, I don't like any aftermarket screens of any type.
All of the aftermarket screens are soft plastic that scratch's easily, and so will lack longevity. I like to use the focus aid on my cameras, so what I see with a Fresnel screen is a bunch of grooves, which make focusing harder than the original darkness problem ever did. Some screens like those made and sold by Bill Maxwell, have the Fresnel soo fine, that when you look at it off axis, large portions of the screen turn dark, forcing you to change your angle of view. I have never seen the value in the Maxwell products, and this one fact alone is enough to drive me NOS screens from the major auction site.
So, I will happily install a bright screen, you provide with your camera, but I don't carry them, and have no intention of doing so in the future. Oh, if I am doing a CLA of your camera, I will install the bright screen for free. All others expect to pay me 30-45 dollars for the install.
Also, I now work with Rick Oleson and provide both the split screen and the bright screen, he manufactures. They are a reasonable screen at either 50-80 dollars, depending on the model. If I were to rank Fresnel type bright screens from best to worst, it would go thusly:
1) Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex. They are really great, but as they are smaller than the actual 2.25" x 2.25" the only camera they will work with is, and Ikoflex.
2) Rolleiflex factory screens either the one for the F, T, 'cord Vb. They are a very good screen indeed.
3) Ricoh, as put in the Diacord. Oh, the Yashica screens are good too, but not as good as a Ricoh. My friend Karl Brian says the Minolta Autocord is as good as Ricoh too, but I have no experience in this regard.
4) Mamiya RB 67 Screens. They can be cut down, to work in a Rollei product. I like them, but the micro prism is a bit hard to get in coordination with the area around it.
5) Beatie. The best of the aftermarket screens, however it is costly.
6) Rick Oleson. His products are good quality, and they are down in the rankings, but the price gives them high bang for the buck, so they are the ones I install most.
7) Kodak. Yes Kodak put them in the Reflex and Reflex II...
8) In the ultimate position, it is the Maxwell. The above listed problem, coupled with a very high cost, and his slow and sometimes, non service to paying custommers, make this the least desireable opinion.
Why I no longer sell Parts!
For some time I have sold parts for cameras to people that figured they had the ability to put the parts in their own cameras. This was never much business and I never made profit from it, when I considered my time to pack it and ship the parts. Well in the last few years I have begun to run out of parts for some of the failure prone systmes on the cameras I work on. So, now I don't have the parts to fix cameras, that are sent to me, costing me a great deal of time. So, considering I never know what I might need, I just can't spare the parts any longer. Sorry, pay me to install it, and I'll sell it to you (many times I throw the parts in on a large labor bill), otherwise, don't bother contacting me.
New 127 Film!
Fotokemica has now discontinuted all film porduction, and has left a large and very much missed void in the 127 film market. There are several film products avail from The Frugal Photographer. com, in both Black and White, and Color Print. They are more money but we can at least still use our cameras. Once I have used these productgs I will give an update of my results. There is also a new brand called Rera Pan, made in Japan by Kawauso-Shoten. I have used this film, and it is a good quality fine grain 100 speed black and white. I would recommend however that you respool it on to old steel spools and the plastic sprocket is rather weak.
Cameras Using 127 Film:
Ricoh Super 44, this is a very nice TLR for twelve 4cm x 4cm images. The cameras are well made the lenses are good coated optics and the shutters have a full range of flash synched speeds, yet these still sell for 40-50 dollars, and I can fix one for 75 bucks.
Zeca Goldi, or Weston Speed Camera. I have two of these and they come in two formats 4cm x 6.5cm and 3cm x 4cm. Both are strut folding cameras with red window film advance. They tend to have Derval shutters with speeds 25-100 and T, B, with a Radionar lens, but some have Compur shutters and Tessar lenses. These are 1930's cameras and have uncoated lenses, so they make great color, but lack contrast for black and white. Expect to pay 20 dollars for one and 30 dollars to have it CLA'ed. Here are some pictures takens with a Zeca Goldi:
Post War Gray/Black Baby Rolleiflex, in the past I have flat out refused to work on this model of camera, as they are very different (read frustrating) to work on, and I was having trouble making them work reliably. I have spent the better part of the last three years, tinkering with them in my free time, and can now offer repairs to his model.
When working right, and this is a big caveat, this camera really takes a back seat to no other 127 camera! They are flat out awesome performers that will make excellent images, in both black and white and color, and use readily available and inexpensive Bay I accessory. The Autostop film transport is a real joy to use, and so is the auto-shutter cocking, they are good quick users with good lenses, light, and are handy to use. How could you ask for more. Keep in mind they are 250-500 dollars on the used market, and will require a Baby Rollei set of neck strap lugs.
Buying Cameras on eBay:
Over the last 12 years I have been active on ebay, I have purchased perhaps, 520 cameras. Of those cameras, not one was as stated. NOT ONE! They all had problems not noticed by the seller, they inevitability looked much worse than the pictures let on, the lenses were never in good focus, and the shutters speeds were never accurate. For me this was and is, no problem at all. I just set the camera aside and repair it at my leisure. For you the non-camera repair person, this is a real problem, and can lead to many costly repairs. So, before you buy a camera on ebay, I would recommend that you question the seller, and ask when the last time this camera was serviced, and if they have ever used it. Make them offer you a warranty, and get it in writing. If the camera has problems, get a repair estimate and tell the seller--demand part of the purchase price back. Who knows, maybe you will actually get what you ask for. And if the seller is a jerk, leave negative feedback--it is your right to do so, and helps protect others.
For many years Micordol-X was the only developer I ever used, and was very happy with it. Then I got distracted by the exotic charms of Pyro developers only to tire of the hyper dilutions, and funny stains in my darkroom sink. So after an exhaustive Internet search I have come up with a formula for Microdon-X:
100 g Sodium Sulfite
5g Metol (You can use up to 7.5g if you like)
30 g Sodium Chloride (kosher table salt is just fine here)
2-3g Magnesium Sulphate (Epson Salts)
Water to make 1 litre
I have now used this formula, and it works best with Agfa-Pan, and other old style films, like Adox. With T-Max I have found a loss of about 1-1 1/2 stops of speed, and it makes things rather low in contrast. Here is a list of speeds that have worked for me:
Adox CHS 50--9 minutes
Agfa-Pan 100--8.5 minutes
T-Max 100 shot at 50--10 minutes
Why I no longer accept PayPal!
On December 11th 2018 I had a number of fraudulent charges on my PayPal account, the name that the charges went to, was a Steven Geary in Australia. These charges emptied my PayPal account, my bank account and maxed my secondary funding source, a credit card. When I discovered these charges to my account, I went immediately to the resolution center on the PayPal website, and found that it did not really work, and it was stuck in a logic loop. So, I searched for the phone number on the PayPal site to call to report a problem… Couldn’t find it! Next, I googled the number and found it that way. When I contacted PayPal via phone, I got an automated system to report the fraud. So, I reported the fraud, and hung up. I got a series of emails that stated I had opened a Fraudulent Transactions Case, and they would be reviewed in the next one to three days.
In the meantime, I went to my bank and closed my checking account and disputed the PayPal withdrawals. My bank here in Stevens Point, was super helpful, and I have nothing but praise for them. I opened a new account, and all was good there.
On December 12th I got the emails from PayPal telling me, that the investigation into my fraud claim hand found that the Transactions were consistent with my past usage, of my account, and the claims were denied for lack of evidence of fraud. So, I logged on to my PayPal account and printed up the transactions and found that now PayPal was posting the fraudulent transactions to my credit card again. I called my credit card and cancelled it and disputed all the transactions as well. In this regard I was successful. Next in this sad narrative, I called PayPal again, and waited the 30+ minutes to get an actual operator on the phone. This is where it got really weird. The operator kept telling me that the transactions were consistent with my past use of my account and that there was no evidence to prove fraud. She insisted that "If you did not make these payments, then someone in your house did! Who did you give your password to?" I kept telling this moron, I lived alone, and I never give out my passwords to anyone. I finally got tired of arguing and called the operator a choice name, and hung up.
Having been unable to penetrate the bureaucracy, I went back to my PayPal account and found that there was no longer any record of the fraudulent transactions on my account, nor was there any money in my account. I believe this problem was either an external security breach to PayPal or an internal employee generated problem. I am leaning to the employee because when I first encountered this problem, my password for the account had been re-set, but there was no email telling me it had been re-set. I believe this can only be done by an employee, who has access to the internal protocols of the PayPal system. This would also explain why the "Watchdog" I spoke with was so addiment that it was my problem not PayPal's. This cost me around 500 dollars, but I wonder how much was actually taken. I just can’t believe I was the only person affected.
What Model of Rolleiflex TLR to Make Your Fisrt Rolleiflex
I get ask a great deal about which model of Rolleiflex to buy for a first foray into the world of Medium format TLR photography. Here is my opinion gained after decades of working on the entire Rolleiflex line:
1) Do not buy any Rolleiflex product that has vinyl covering. When Rollei started cutting corners to the degree that they were trying to save a nickle on the coving of the camera, the rest of the camera was also compromised, and cheeply made.
2) Unless you know the history of a 2.8 camera and it is in clean, virtually unused condition, avoid all the 2.8 lensed cameras. I know this flys in the face of convention, but allow me to elaborate. 2.8 cameras were virtually all used by pros back when they were new. So, they saw a bunch of use by people that may, or may not have purchased the camera, so they were used hard. Now fast forward 60-70 years, and they are flat worn out. Besides, you spend a fortune on a 2.8 Planar camera and what do you get, half an f-stop faster lens, than a 3.5. Also, only on rare occasions do I find a 2.8 lens on a Rollei that out performers a similar lens designed 3.5 Rolleiflex. So, to state it more clearly: 3.5 Planars and Xenotars, are nearly always sharper at f-3.5 than 2.8 planars and Xenotars f-4; and almost never does a 2.8 look good wide open on my lens test equipment.
3) Avoid any Rolleiflex that has the self timer in the shutter. This is all 2.8 cameas model C and later, all 3.5F models, post war Baby Rolleiflex, And the T. On the earlier cameras the self timer was outside the shutter, and if it failed all you had to do was discharge the shutter from the trigger. On cameras with the timer in the shutter, if it fails, you send the camera to me. Oh, and where a slow speed escapement may be well made on a shutter, the self timer is typically not. They fail with regularity. Probably 50% of my warranty work is with hung up timers! YUCK!
4) This is on the same lines as 2, never buy a Rollei that has a Solenoid mounted to the camera. It has seen pro use, and is more than likely worn out.
So, this leaves all the Automats, all the 3.5 letter modes up to E3 3.5F3 and later, and both new and old Standards, and all the pre war babies. So that's only about 2 million!