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.
Good 620 Cameras, for Fair Prices
Kodak Duo-620 Series Two
The Kodak Duo 620 cameras are all excellent picture takes that use 620 film. The lenses are of the Tessar design and of course are labeled Ektar, and place into a high end Compur shutter. Production of this camera was by Nagel in Germany, and the whole camera is of exceptional quality. In the current market they are selling for 20-30 dollars in working order. I can fix one for 45-65 dollars. Making this one of the best deals on a 6x4.5 folding camera around.
Kodak Medalist, and Medalist II
These are just about the top camera ever made by Kodak in the US. Big, heavy, well made, with the high end five element Ektar; this camera is no pretender, it will out live all of us, and keep taking great pictures. My lens resolving test have show that the 100mm f:3.5 Ektar will resolve 320-325 line pairs per millimeter! that is as good as any lens I have ever come across and puts it into a class with the 85mm f:2 Sonnar, and the 75mm f:3.5 Planar fitted to the Rolleiflex line of cameras.
These cameras take 6x9 cm images on 620 film with auto shutter cocking, and exposure spacing. The lens is coupled to a range finder of the split image type, and retract for easy storage. Images are composed with the use of a telescopic finder, that has auto parallax correction. On the model I the camera has a fine focus knob, and self timer, fitted to the Kodak Supermatic B-400 shutter. On the II model, the timer has been replaced with a flash retard, and is "X" synched at all speeds. These cameras have some coffin corners about them, least of which is, that they are prone to jamming when the shutter is cocked when the lens is retracted. However when handled properly, they are truly awesome cameras. Expect to pay at least 450 dollars to have the camera completely gone through.
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 culpret 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.
This is not a cheap repair however, as the cost of the balls is over 10 dollars to me, and then the install requires some adjustment. So the total added cost is 30 dollars above all other costs, but it is well worth it, in the long run, and you will know where the extra money went.
Aftermarket 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 scratchs 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.
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 dollars for the install.
Some Real "Sleepers" That Use 620 and 127 Film
Here are some cameras that are excellent performers for little capitol investment. I have used or tested each and believe me they should not be passed up.
Cameras Using 620 film:
Kodak Duo 620 Series II, this is an excellent folding camera for 16 exposures 6cm x 4.5cm, which has a Compur Rapid shutter with speeds B, T, 1-300. Lens will resolve 325 line pairs/mm! These are selling on ebay for 15-20 dollars and can be worked on for 45-60 dollars.
Kodak Tourist. These come in several variants with the Ektar lensed, 1/800 speed Supermatic shutter models being very desirable. This camera is also designed to shoot a variety of formats, but most people shoot them 6cm x 9cm. The lenses are as good as any German glass and will resolve 300+ line pairs/mm. Expect to pay 35-60 dollars for the 1/800 speed model, and expect to pay 60-90 dollars for a CLA.
Argus Argoflex. See Camera Blog (first page) for the camera details. 620 only models of this camera sell for 1-5 dollars! The lenses are every bit as good as most German products and I can CLA the shutter for 45-60 dollars.
Cameras Using 127 Film:
Foth Derby. These commonly come in two models, those with f:2.5 lenses,and those with f:3.5 lenses. The camera is a small folding, focal plane shuttered unit, with zone focus and a Telescopic finder, which uses the red window advance for 16 exposures 3cm x 4cm (2x the area of 35mm). The shutter speeds are 25-500, with some Leica-esque speeds like 1/75. As this is a very old design the f:stops are 18, 12, 9, 6, 4.5, 3, 2.5, which makes them a bit counter intuitive to use. The lenses are flat out awesome, making well over 300 line pairs/mm, and because they are uncoated they produce stunning color. Expect to pay 15-25 dollars for a good working example, and 45-60 dollars to CLA one.
Photos taken with my Foth Derby on E-100G, shot at 1/25 second at f18. Altohough the color seems muted, keep in mind it was January, and about 3pm, which made for some very bluish pictures.
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 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.
New 127 Film!
Fotokemica has no 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.
Compur VS. Prontor! and the Winner IS?
I get ask to quote service on many cameras that have either a Prontor, or a Compur shutter and I typically end up working on about three times as many Compurs. Since I like to keep my work varied and interesting, I buy lots of cameras with Prontor shutters and fix them for myself; so I have enough experience to give a good answer to the question in the title.
Prontor shutters were designed to be run dry--no lubrication whatsoever! At the time they were new, this meant that they would be more reliable, and give more accurate service, as there was no lubrication to migrate and foul delicate moving parts. So we fast forward 50 years and we now have cameras that are in good shape, are selling at a very fair price, however there Prontor shutter is shot. So, to save some money you can buy a camera with a Prontor, but it is a gamble as to wether you will be able to use it, or if it becomes parts.
Pros: Taking all of the above into account, if the shutter is in good shape, the basic design of Prontor shutter is very good, they will almost without fail hit the advertised top speed, and they are relatively easy to work on. So they do have there good side. The other positive from a repair persons stand point is that with the addition of modern lubricants, proper function can be easily restored.
Cons:The self timer is a real pain to get to run and in the SV, and SVS model it will jam the entire shutter when not firing. The flash points are thin and not the most reliable.
Compur Shutters come in many models, however the most commonly seen today are the Synchro, and Rapid models. These shutters all suffer form the same problem--they are typically fit too tightly together and will not hit the top advertised speed. Darn those Germans and there tight tolerances. Compur shutters were at one time the premier shutter made anywhere in the world. The workmanship is unequaled by either American or Japanese manufacturers. So they tended to be put on the most expensive cameras, of the day.
Pros: They are very well made. I think of Compur shutters as the ACME of design and workmanship, they will give years of service, will perform accurately and will take quite a lot of abuse, and rough handling. They are easy to work and cheap to CLA. All the parts inside except springs are chrome or nickel plated, so they virtually never wear. Simply put they are the best shutter ever made.
Cons: Like many German engineered items, they can be overdone. The Synchro-Compur MX-1 is an absolute maintenance hog, and will malfunctions regularly even when properly serviced at regular intervals. This is the shutter that has the little green lever to switch the synch from X to M. That said the later Synchro-Compur shutters are a real dream to work on and are orders of magnitude more reliable.
The Winner--Compur By a Furlong!
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
Next Up--Crawley's FX-37
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 done.
So, this leaves all the Automats, all the 3.5 letter modes up to E3, and both new and old Standards, and all the pre war babies. So that's only about 2 million!