Tag Archives: gear

Goodwill Hunting

Polaroid OneStep 600

Polaroid OneStep 600

So last week I was in Goodwill in Vinton, pretty much just killing time. Any time I go in there (or any Goodwill store) I make a bee-line for the electronics section to see what unwanted gems might have shown up since last time I was in.

Typically I’m interested in their motley of computer odds and ends and more recently any cameras they happen to have. Vinton’s Goodwill tends to have a rapid turnaround of cameras; last time I was in they had a matching pair of Polaroid JoyCams, before that they had a couple of 35mm point and shoot zoom cameras.

I’d sort of been hoping they’d have still had the two JoyCams; earlier I’d been listening to an episode of the Inside Analog Photo podcast where they talked about 3D photography and my fevered imagination had those two matching lenses sitting side-by-side in a homemade camera designed to put a stereo pair of 6×6 images onto 120 slide film. Probably for the best that the JoyCams were gone.

Vista View 35 XL

Vista View 35 XL

In their place were a couple of other Polaroid cameras, a One Step 600 and an earlier type which I can’t recall the model name of. The older camera was pretty beat up looking and the lens had some nasty gouges in it, but the OneStep was in excellent condition and found it’s way home with me, along with the most plasticy camera I’ve ever seen, a VistaView 35 XL, with fixed focus, fixed aperture and fixed shutter speed. About the only metal part is the hotshoe (which after some remedial work, turned out to be a real, live hotshoe capable of firing a flash). Putting film in it doubles the weight and quadruples the value of the camera.

It’s funny really, I never quite “got” the reasoning behind shooting Polaroid or plastic, toy cameras, yet in one fell swoop, I ended up covering both of those bases and am looking forward to trying them out with a level of anticipation that’s clearly on the wrong side of lunacy (and no, I haven’t been drinking Rodinal or anything to get into that state).

I’ve already run a half dozen frames through the VistaView as a test, before rewinding and reloading the film in my Canon. I’ll see how they go but I can see this being a fun wee thing loaded up with cheap store brand 200 film, or maybe some of that inexpensive Arista Premium rebranded Tri-X from Freestyle Photo. Or maybe I’ll have 8 inches of blank, fogged nothingness. Who knows, until the film is souped…?

As for the Polaroid, I have options for obtaining film stock. There’s eBay, where you’ll sometimes find a seller who hasn’t been overdoing it on the hillbilly heroin and prices their expired 600 film within the bounds of sanity. There is also, of course, the Impossible Project and their new, experimental PX600 variants. Best of all though, the new, rebuilt Polaroid themselves are planning a comeback for the 600 cameras and film.

Have Film, Will Travel

The sun sets over the gates at Newark's Liberty airport while waiting for the Belfast flight to board.

The sun sets over the gates at Newark's Liberty airport while waiting for the Belfast flight to board.

So, my brother getting married last weekend meant I had my first opportunity to travel by air with film since, well…about 1999 probably. Back then I knew no better, the film went through the x-ray scanners like all my other carry-ons and in truth I never had a problem.

But, Kodak recommend not x-raying if at all possible. What to do, especially in this era of intense security theater? What else might turn out to be a problem?

We traveled from Charlotte, via Newark, to Belfast, and back again several days later.

Arriving at Charlotte the TSA agents on duty were able to take my gallon ziplock of film (eight 35mm rolls in their plastic canisters) and perform a hand inspection. They were done before I’d picked up all my stuff from the other side of the x-ray scanner. Camera gear went through in the bag without a hitch. I left the camera unloaded.

Connecting at Newark, we didn’t have to leave the secured area at all (actually our departure gate was right across the walkway from our arrival gate, best transfer EVER). I loaded a roll of Ektar 100 and took a shot of the sunset, then another with the digital. Nobody freaked out about this, which was nice.

Things were a little less peachy on the return journey.

Again, had all the film in canisters in a ziplock bag. The camera and gear, no film loaded, went in the camera bag as before. The screener at Belfast International would not even consider a hand inspection: “the x-ray machine is film safe”; yeah mate, it bloody well better be. The camera bag, having been scanned, then had to be opened, its contents separated out, put in a tray, scanned again (along with the film, so now it’s been zapped twice, including the roll of Fuji Press 800 with wedding reception photos on it), then swabbed to make sure it wasn’t made of Semtex or something. Evidently it wasn’t, and I was left to my own devices to pack the bag as I saw fit.

Transiting through Newark, TSA again allowed a hand inspection of the film, but just like in Belfast, the camera gear had to go through again, separated out into a tray. OK, so how come this bag was OK in Charlotte but not Newark? I don’t object to the whole “separate it out into a tray” thing (much), but a little consistency would be kind of nice here so I know what’s expected of me. Maybe a more typical modern plastic-y camera would fare better than my heavy metal monster? Maybe the twelve AA batteries in the motor drive gave them a mild freakout? I’m sure it looks pretty imposing in an x-ray scanner.

Anyway, TSA in the United States are very accommodating when you want film inspected by hand. Indeed, I understand that they recommend you do it that way. No problems at all, quick and efficient, 10 out of 10. UK screeners, not so much, at least not at BFS. As far as they’re concerned, the machine is safe for film, end of story. My opinion? They could easily hand examine it, they just didn’t feel like being accommodating toward a customer, in typical British “rules are rules” fashion. That said, neither of the rolls I got developed this week had any apparent ill effects from the two trips through the x-ray system, even the ISO 800 stuff which had been exposed already.

I think I’d probably do the same thing again next time I make that journey, unless I had some really seriously fast or pushed film (1600 or faster), then I’d probably mail those rolls back home before going near a UK airport just to be safe.

The Week In Links: April 2nd, 2010

David duChemin had a crazy idea this week. Become a better photographer by not buying loads of gear. Thom Hogan is riffing on the same subject and the tendency to “blame the equipment“. Lord knows I’ve been guilty of that in the past, complaining to anyone who would listen about the limitations of my old digital camera, the inadequacies of its control interface, its lack of speed, and so on. Yet I used that very camera for a week in Costa Rica and never once considered the problems I’d been whining about just days earlier. I spent the time shooting great pictures of incredible scenery and enjoyed doing it.

Are you as forgetful as I am? This week I finished up my first trial roll of Ektar 100, switched it out for my first trial roll of Portra 400NC and was lucky to take only one shot before I remembered that I had to set the film speed manually on the F-1. I’ll pretend I was testing the overexposure latitude. Yeah. If I was following a checklist as suggested by DIYPhotography, even for something as simple as loading a roll of film, I might not have missed that glaring omission. Linked from a comment on the DIYP article, Scott Bourne seems to be on the same line of thought here, too.

I like where this is heading. Buy less gear. Enjoy what you have and quit worrying about what you don’t. Remember to reset it to sane defaults. Remember to bring it. Be ready to use it. Wise words.

On a different note, The Online Photographer has a new article entitled “Facebook: Ripoff and Appropriation?“. It does seem as though the folks at Facebook have comprehension difficulties when it comes to issues of privacy and copyright. Not the first time they’ve tried for a rights grab, probably not the last either given their track record on these things.