Updated: Feb 20
Some of the biggest mysteries in history:
1. Who killed JFK?
2. Where is the Ark of the Covenant?
3. Was Atlantis real?
4. Would my recently purchased eBay cameras work?
Take a deep breath. I know mystery #4 probably keeps you up at night…taunting you in your nightmares. Trust me, I can relate. We cannot let this mystery control us, however, to overcome its power, we must solve it. We must…test the cameras.
Months prior to this journey I had purchased a few cameras with uncertain capabilities:
1. Minolta X-370N + 50mm f/1.7 lens ($20)
2. Konica C35 MF + Hexanon 38mm f/2.8 lens ($1)
The Minolta arrived wrapped in a disgusting, stiff, yellow, crusty Hanes sock. After swallowing the vomit in my mouth, I slid the camera out of the sock, shipped the sock off to the CDC for analysis, and examined the machine. The camera appeared to be in good condition, powered on, light meter worked…I was told it would work by the previous owner but given his shipping practices, I had my concerns.
The Konica was purchased for $1. As such, when the owner said it powered on but hadn’t film tested the camera, I was willing to take the risk. The beauty of this camera is that it took AA batteries, so once again, I wouldn’t need to invest another $10 to buy a 2CR5 or CR123A battery. Upon unboxing, I was taken aback. The camera was in mint condition. The camera itself is a brick. I would not want to run into a C35 MF-wielding assailant in a dark alley. Initial tests left me concerned. The shutter speed did not seem to vary regardless of lighting. In a dark bathroom, I would hear a loud, labored, click and film advance. When pointed directly at the sun, I would hear the same, loud click and advance. Maybe this was why is was being sold for $1.
As a result of my initial concerns both cameras sat on the shelf for months. At night I would toss and turn in bed as the camera’s haunted me in my dreams, producing blurry, overexposed images. After months of this torment, I awoke one night in a cold sweat. I couldn’t keep doing this to myself. This weekend I would find out once and for all if these cameras would become active contributors to my 35mm arsenal or if they would find their way to the dumpster.
The weekend came, both cameras were loaded, and we headed to Annapolis for an afternoon gamble. I wielded the Minolta and gave the Konica to my wife, to capture a few images during the day. As we walked, we snapped; each shot wondering if we were just wasting our time and my film. To our benefit, there was a lot going on as a result of a small art festival. Bands were rocking, kids were playing, bubbles were being blown. All of this along the beautiful, old, cobblestone streets of the almost 400-year-old city. While Puritans no longer exist, I must say, after being exiled from Virginia, they built a heck of a city.
Occasionally during this walk, we would switch cameras. I found myself thinking differently, snapping differently upon switching from one camera to another. When the SLR was in my hands, I focused more on leveraging the large aperture lens. With the point-and-shoot, maybe out of fear of missing the focus, I seemed to focus on wider captures. On a similar note, as I slowly killed the film, frame by frame, I attempted to diversity my images, whereas my wife appeared to be taking revenge on me for years of taking pictures of her against her will. Shall we say…a taste of my own medicine. Well let me tell you, this medicine didn’t taste too bad (think bubblegum-flavored amoxicillin you took as a kid). The love between me and the camera was mutual. For a second, I felt like a 6’2” 160-pound model with high cheek bones and flawless skin. Only for a second.
We eventually made our way to the Naval Academy, where after much convincing, I was able to get the guards to forgo an X-Ray inspection of my cameras. While the convincing required more effort than I would have liked, the "People still use those?" look on their faces was priceless. Once inside the Academy, you are transported to another time...another architecture, specifically, the Beaux-Arts, which draws upon the principles of French neoclassicism while incorporated Gothic and Renaissance elements. No, I'm not an architecture buff, I just know how to use Wikipedia. Architecture aficionado or not, the buildings are stunning both inside and out...at least superficially.
Unfortunately, recent reports indicate the infrastructure of these beautiful buildings are in a dire state but that is a discussion for another time.
After successfully tiring our legs, we began the trek back to the car as a warm, easterly wind caressed our faces. By the time we reached the car, we'd finished off both rolls. I was anxious to see what would come of this film...what would come of these cameras but before developing, I needed to something very important: nap.
Given the images, you are well aware that the developing went off without a hitch and the cameras performed extremely well. The cameras will remain on my shelf, the dumpster shall remain in the parking lot, and never the twain shall meet.
Camera: Minolta X-370N + 50mm f/1.7 lens, Konica C35 MF + Hexanon 38mm f/2.8 lens
Film: Kodak TMAX 400 (shot at 100), Artista EDU Ultra 200
When: April 2019
Where: Annapolis, Maryland