Fruitful day at the flea-market

This weekend’s trip to the flea-market netted 4 nice little pieces of photographic equipment.

It was a fairly large flea market located in a multi-level car park. My wife seemed to be finding more things to her liking than I was with used cameras. I was almost resigned to going home without anything, when at the final level of the flea-market at the top of the carpark, someone was selling old photographic prints and mounted photographic slides. Other items strewn around the table included some really junky old cameras from the 70’s and 80’s.

Well, junky to most people but interesting to others. They were a plasticky Russian Zenit 122 SLR with a 58mm f2 lens mounted on it, a Pentax ME super SLR with a SMC Pentax-M 50mm f2 lens on it, a Chinese Seagull 4A-109 TLR and finally a super cheesy plastic Nishika N8000 camera. Lucky for me the other person rummaging through the stuff on the table was not interested in these Russian, Chinese cameras. The only camera there with some quality was the old Pentax ME. The Nishika sounded Japanese but it was made in China and marketed by a company based in Nevada!

Why were these interesting to me?

Let’s start with the Zenit 122. Really not a remarkable camera. Made mostly of brittle plastic, it will break the moment you drop it. Only 6 shutter speeds on the shutter dial: B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and, drum roll, a top speed of 1/500. At the bottom the words “Made in USSR” – the USSR was defunct since Dec 1991. However what made me pick this up was the lens. Yes, you guessed right, it was a Zenit Helios-44M-4 58mm f2 lens. This is a later version that was multi-coated (MC). Probably among one of the last to come out of production from the old Soviet Union – its serial number was 90xxxxxx. The first 2 numbers to my understanding denoted the year of manufacture. As noted in my previous blog, the Helios 58mm f2 lenses while not the most advanced of design and manufacture, had a most peculiar quirk that give the photos it took a swirly bokeh under the right conditions.

As for the Pentax ME super, it was to bundle the purchase to get a better price overall. Really didn’t need to have the camera but the price bundled up was too good to let go. Furthermore the camera and the SMC Pentax-M 50mm f2 lens were in good condition.

The Seagull TLR is trashed by many people in various chat groups, mostly comparing it to the Rollei and Yashica TLRs. I doubt a majority of these people have ever used a Seagull TLR. I had a Seagull 4A-103 TLR and it gave me pretty good quality 6×6 slide photos. At f8, it was pretty sharp edge to edge. The 4A-109 is the last 4A TLR model that the Shanghai based Seagull company was to make, as a consequence of declining sales from the digital revolution. Other than its collectible value, I will be sure to give this TLR a test run.

Finally, the Nishika. It is completely made of plastic except for the base. All the features like the pentaprism, powerwind handle, LCD screen and electronic hotshoe contacts are fake! Reminds me of toy cameras from the 80’s and 90’s. It also has a weird lens arrangement or lenses – four of them in fact. For most people this is junk. But for other people, including me, this is a unique quirky camera from the past. It is essentially a point and shoot camera with four plastic 30mm lenses. It has 3 apertures – indoors (f8), cloudy (f11) and sunny (f19). Only one shutter speed of 1/60 sec. No film ISO dial – you are advised to use ISO 100 or 200 film. But ISO 400 film could be used too, unofficially. The only control you have are the 3 apertures and a non-TTL flash can be attached for very low light shooting. The hotshoe is a hotshoe and nothing else. It doesn’t communicate with the camera. If the light is too low, the camera projects a big red dot in the viewfinder to tell you. But you can still take a photo despite this.

What the four lenses of the Nishika N8000 does is it takes 4 photos of the same scene at the same time from slightly different horizontal angles. It does this on 2 frames of 35mm film. So if you put in a 24 exposure roll of film, the Nishika will give you 12 “3-D” photos. When the company was still in existence, you could send your exposed roll of film to them and the company will produce lenticular 3-D image cards where you could view the “3-D” image as you tilt the card horizontally from side-to-side. Unfortunately the company went bankrupt and was investigated by US federal authorities for illegal marketing practices.

These days the Nishika still has a use for film enthusiasts. Taking the four images produced, one could superimpose them into 1 gif image and produce quirky moving 3-D images.

As a bonus to this bundled purchase, there was a roll of exposed Lomo-film in the Zenit. I exposed the last few frames of the undeveloped roll to sunlight when I opened the back thinking that the film chamber was empty. I don’t know how long it has been in there. After developing, it turns out these were photos of someone’s visit to the Naksansa temple in South Korea at dawn and early in the far east morning – with weird colors from the old film and me partially opening the back! Enjoy!

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