Saturday, December 26, 2015

Weight loss update

The big story is that I'm down from an estimated 265 pounds in early August (257 when I bought my scale) to under 210 pounds--more than 50 pounds in less than 4  months.   I've gone from obese to merely overweight.  The Eat to Live diet has been much easier to follow than I expected.  I'm not any hungrier than before the plan, and while there are foods I miss, no difficult cravings.

My breakfast started out as oatmeal with banana.  Now I almost always have a large fruit smoothie--mixed frozen fruit briefly microwaved but not thawed, a ripe banana and 4-6 oz of unsweetened almond milk.  This winds up about a pound total of fruit, or 24 ounces liquid with the almond milk.   I'm not hungry first thing, so I take this to work in a thermos.    If bananas get ripe faster than I can use them I freeze the excess on their last useful day and use them with a few seconds more in the microwave.   If part of the frozen fruit is berries, blend them first with the almond milk to break up the hard bits, then add the remainder of the other fruit.  Thermos should be dry, otherwise you wind up with little bits of ice.  Fruit is on the unlimited list, oatmeal is a whole grain, supposed to be limited to one serving a day--plus I like the fruit better.  Often I'll add cocoa, vanilla and another banana (reducing the other fruit and not microwaving if the bananas are room temp).

On the weekends I cook a large batch of something and divide that into single serving deli containers for lunch and occasional dinner through the next few weeks.  Also on weekends I try to experiment a bit, trying something new before I put it in my work lunch.  Alton Brown's Winter Soup is really good, but because it is time consuming I make a double batch.

For lunch at work I rotate chili (usually twice a week--same as before the diet, with mushrooms instead of meat) different vegan soups and bean dishes.  I'll also take 2 or 3 fruits, a cooked vegetable and a couple servings of raw vegetables like celery, cucumber, sweet peppers or carrots.   This is more food than I used to eat, and I need almost all of my lunch break to eat it.

Dinner is most often a large salad (Large as in a serving bowl for one person) with lots of different ingredients-mostly kale and spinach, sometimes mixed lettuce (not iceberg--it is OK on the diet, but I don't like it as much) or cabbage.  Cabbage gets shredded, the other greens get run through the slicer blade of my food processor.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts and seeds, usually half an avocado or a handful of canned beans or cooked frozen edamame.  Sometimes I'll add fruit, usually diced apples, sliced grapes and raisins, with a raspberry dressing and pistachios.  When I don't do fruit, I'll add raw onions and/or buffalo chickpeas (Frank's is milder than I expected here, sriracha sauce has a bit more bite)  At first I was entirely using commercial dressings that are supposed to be avoided, since then I've discovered a recipe for tahini-garlic dressing that I like, with Fuhrman-legal ingredients.  I add an extra clove of garlic, sometimes nutritional yeast, liquid aminos or fresh basil.  Other occasional salad ingredients are bell peppers, poblano peppers (mildly spicy) celery, carrots, radicchio, Mrs Dash garlic-herb.  Pomegranate turns out to be good in salad even with a garlic dressing.  I still have more nuts than Dr. Fuhrman recommends, and not entirely raw nuts.   Having lots of stuff makes a salad much more interesting--each bite is slightly different.

I'm no longer snacking after dinner or between meals (except when I run out of time to eat lunch I will sometimes finish on my next break), and that has been much easier than before the diet.  I've weaned off coffee and almost all caffeine, rarely drink diet or sweetened soda anymore--instead plain seltzer water with lemon.   If anything I'm a bit less tired than I used to be, and if I do need a temporary boost a can of diet pop is enough--that's every few weeks.

A food processor is nearly essential, used daily. I'm happy with the  Cuisinart I bought based on online reviews.  A high power blender is almost as important, especially for smoothies.  I've shopped at thrift stores for temporary clothing until I figure out what my permanent size is--I was to the point where my original pants would fall off without a belt, but still well above my goal weight.   Even my head has shrunk slightly, I had to adjust my bump cap at work 2 sizes.  Weekly weight loss seems to have slowed from 3-4 pounds per week to about 2 pounds--that might be due to less exercise, could also be slowing as I get closer to the goal weight.  I've gone from size 42 pants to 36.

Even though I haven't been as strict on salt reduction as Dr Fuhrman recommends, I have tried to add barely enough salt to taste good.  Combined with much less packaged food my taste for salt has changed--I used to love Campbell's bean with bacon soup.  It is now too salty to enjoy, like several other packaged foods I've tried.  Finding a restaurant with food that matches the diet is a bit hard, so far I've only tried Chipotle Sofritas.   I could probably manage at most salad bars, but I haven't tried that yet.

Christmas I went off diet a bit--about an ounce of ham, a small piece of no-bake cheesecake and one piece of my favorite Esther Price chocolate.  Neither of the sweets were as good as I'd remembered, and neither made resisting going farther off diet more difficult.  If I go back to eating chocolate at all, it will probably be very small pieces of dark semi-sweet instead of milk chocolate with caramel.  

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Good Guys with Guns on the Daily Show

I just saw a video of The Daily Show's Jordan Klepper "testing" the theory that good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns, with the inevitable scripted comedic failure.  Apparently quite a few people believe that this is evidence debunking the concept, that this was a real test rather than a scripted comedy show.

I watch almost no TV, so I'm unfamiliar with Jordan Klepper--he appears to be playing the part of a stereotypical conservative blowhard.  Even assuming this wasn't scripted and he was trying to prove rather than disprove, the scenario was among the most difficult for a marginally trained person to deal with--Few people other than SWAT team members are trained in clearing a building, and the scenarios used as SWAT training are deliberately more difficult than most real life situations.  

Like most trainers, the one in the show thinks most people should have more training, and it was at least edited to appear that he claims that a lifetime of training is required to be effective.    In every case I'm aware of spree shooters have no more victims once someone else shoots towards them--even if the spree shooter isn't hit.  I have yet to hear of a good guy with a gun making things worse (for anyone but himself in one case) in a spree shooting.  It isn't plausible that the various gun control groups would ignore such a case if one existed.  (I also think it more likely that the trainer's actual views are that a basic CCW class does not qualify you for SWAT duty, not that basic CCW is useless)

The trainer also said that very few spree shootings are stopped by armed civilians--I think he said around 3%.  He didn't mention on camera that successful spree shootings rarely take place where it is legal for civilians to be armed--I don't know exact figures and they would depend on definitions, but I would be surprised if over 3% of spree shootings are where CCW is generally available and legal. The Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt is the only incident I'm aware of where concealed carry was legal and widely available.  California is one of the few remaining states where carry licenses are issued at the discression of law enforcement rather than based on objective criteria.  

Few if any gun advocates claim that a gun will solve all violence, or that everyone should be armed--most of us think that if you don't want to be armed, you shouldn't be armed.    Rather, the majority of people who have taken the time to obtain a license have reasonable expectations, and on balance will do significantly more good than harm even if they don't succeed every time.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Low willpower, successful diet

I'm a big fan of Penn Jillette (and Teller) partly for his act, but more for his overall attitude, politics and what he's done with his fame.  I listen to his podcast, Penn's Sunday School.  Recently he lost over 100 pounds in a few months on a vegan diet, advised by Ray Cronise.  Penn is writing a book, but he explained that the diet is based on Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live plan, with undisclosed modifications to be more effective.  (Ray's website is awful--poorly organized and extremely slow to load, so I haven't found a whole lot more about the additions other than it has something to do with cold temperatures helping to burn calories)

A while back Penn had Ray on the podcast.  I was listening in the car while eating Chocolate Riesen candy...A couple days later I ordered Eat to Live.

The Nutritarian diet recommended by Dr. Fuhrman is relatively simple, although it will require major changes to the diets of most people who need it.

The strict form of the Fuhrman diet is (from memory):
Try to eat at least a pound of raw green vegetables per day, unlimited maximum.
Try to eat at least a pound of cooked green vegetables per day, unlimited maximum
(These are the most important)
Try to eat a half cup of beans or legumes per day, unlimited max
Unlimited fruits and colorful vegetables
Limited starchy vegetables--corn, potatoes, squash.
A few ounces of nuts and seeds, raw are preferred.
No meat or dairy
No processed grain
No processed sugar
No processed oils or fats

A less strict version allows under a pound per week of animal products.  There is no counting calories or restricting amounts of the main foods.  Fat is OK from most unprocessed plant sources.   It appears that vegans should take a B12 supplement, but other vitamins as needed.

It was a week after the book arrived and I started the diet that I got a scale--I was surprised at being "only" 257 pounds.  "Loose 20 pounds or more in 6 weeks" on the cover appears to be a bit conservative--I lost that much in the first 4 weeks I had a scale (a week or so after starting the diet).  Last 4 weeks I've been tracking my weight on the fitness app on my phone, average weekly weight has dropped 3 pounds each week.

It has taken a bit to figure out meals.  I love salads, so that part hasn't been a problem--I have a mixing bowl full of kale and spinach, raw mushrooms, red or green onion, half an avocado, maybe bell peppers, carrots, celery, lettuce,  radish, edamame.  I'm not completely on the diet for dressings, I use one of several commercial lite dressings which have more fat and/or sugar than Dr Fuhrman recommends--but I try to go easy on them.  I also like beans.  Even before the diet I was in the habit of making 2+ gallon batches of chili to freeze for lunches, I just left the meat out of the last batch.  I'm now adding mushrooms instead of meat to a lot of dishes.   Sometimes I'll just have a family sized package of microwave veggies or a vegan soup and a smaller salad.

Other areas where I haven't followed the official version--I haven't worried much about salt other than going to the low end of tasting OK,  I didn't throw away all my low-meat foods in the freezer (but I'm replacing them with no-meat) and I haven't cut out caffeine yet.  (I've been reducing caffeine for the last few years anyhow by necessity, since drinking it past about 2pm affects my sleep)

The most amazing part of this diet to me is the low amount of willpower needed.  I miss some of the things I've had to give up, but since I can eat as much as I like of other things there's very little struggle.  It seems easier for me to entirely give up the candy bowl at work than to have a reasonable amount.  It is odd to me that a fruit smoothie is considered better than a bowl of oatmeal (Oatmeal is allowed but limited).  If you're going to do smoothies, get a really good blender.   I bought a 3 horsepower Oster Versa blender because reviews said it was nearly as good as a Vitamix at less than half the cost.   I'm going to want a better food processor, I've got a mid size.  I've lost several inches around the waist--I can now take my pants off without unbuttoning them.   I've got a way to go, I'm still officially obese--but I'm moving in the right direction for the first time in decades.

Another thing is that this isn't meant to be a temporary diet--If I go back to my old habits, I'll go back to my old weight.  Rather, once I'm down to a decent weight I'll be a bit less strict, but I expect to stay on something close to this forever.  If it continues to work as well as it has, it will be worth it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bell & Howell Auto Reflex (Canon EX/EE)

In the late 60's and early 70's, Bell & Howell were the US distributors for Canon cameras. The Bell & Howell Auto 35/Reflex is the US version of the Canon EX/EE introduced around 1969.   Shutter priority auto exposure with manual capability.

Rather than fully interchangeable lenses as most SLRs, it has a combination lens--the rear elements, focusing mechanism and diaphragm are fixed, the front elements are changeable with a simple screw thread.  In theory this is an optical compromise--but with the advantage of much cheaper accessory lenses since they only require the front optical elements and no mechanical parts.

 The diameter of the 125mm front element is large compared to conventional lenses of similar focal length--see the comparison to a Minolta f2.8 135mm below.  Front to back is about the same but the Minolta has a much smaller diameter despite a wider aperture.   Only 4 lenses were available, 35, 50 and 125 shown above, and a 90mm.

Aperture is either controlled by the auto exposure system, or it can be manually set by a dial around the rewind crank. In either case the aperture value is only visible via a needle display in the viewfinder, the dial only has 1.8 and 16 marked.  Lenses are either f:1.8 for the 50mm or 3.5 for the others, it is necessary to reset the film speed dial when changing from one type to another.  A peculiar result of this arrangement is that the maximum film speed is greater with the 50mm lens than the others.  The maximum marked is 800, but the 3.5 lens can only use about 500.  (Theoretically the 1.8 lens should be able to use around 2000--2 stops past the max of 500)  At the time 35mm film maxed out around 400.

The main distance scale is only accurate for the normal lens.  On the accessory lenses there is a scale on the lens, with a dot on the focus ring. To use the scale the lens ring needs to be rotated to match, it appears to be easiest to set both to infinity.  Unlike the normal focus scale the dot moves and the scale remains stationary.

The viewfinder is a bit odd for a film SLR (but somewhat similar to modern DSLRs), likely to allow a bright screen despite relatively slow f3.5 lenses--the finder has no matte screen to judge depth of field, only a microprism for focus, and an uncommonly bright fresnel screen that is far more "in focus" than the film will be.  An additional advantage in an old camera is an exceptionally clean screen--since the rear lens never comes off, there is less opportunity for dust to stick to the focus screen.

Like the Sears Auto 500 from earlier, this is an easy to use automatic SLR with compromises to meet a price--but the photographic compromises are considerably less.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sears Auto 500 (aka Mamiya 528 TL

The Sears Auto 500 TLS is a Sears labeled version of the Mamiya 528TL, a camera with an odd set of features.  It is a leaf shutter SLR with a fixed lens, giving the bulk of an SLR without the advantage of interchangeable lenses.  Shutter priority automatic exposure, with the aperture it has selected visible in the viewfinder.  The Mamiya version was introduced in 1967, I'm guessing the Sears version about the same time.

While the camera is operated like almost any other auto exposure SLR (except the shutter speed is around the lens) internally the sequence is complicated--the shutter must be open most of the time to focus and frame the picture, with the mirror blocking light from hitting the film.  In addition to the steps needed by a normal focal plane shutter, the shutter must close, wait for the mirror, open for the exposure, close, wait for the mirror again, then open.  All this with springs, cams and levers rather than electronics.  The aperture has only 2 blades, the lens isn't very fast for the focal length, and it is only a 3 element front focusing lens.  As far as I can tell, the main purpose for all this is essentially the status of an SLR, with the ease of automatic exposure on a budget--it lets its owner claim SLR status.  I believe the price in 1968 was $89, extremely low for an auto exposure SLR.  At the time metered manual true SLRs were typically twice that for budget models--Minolta's base model SRT 100 was around $175 and was metered manual rather than auto exposure.

This one appears to work fairly well, although I have not tested it with film.  Shutter speeds appear accurate, the meter responds to light and the aperture changes as it should.  The only problem I can find is that the stop on the lens is missing, so it does not stop at infinity, and without the stopit is possible to unscrew the front element entirely.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Praktflex FX AKA Rival Reflex

I bought this Praktiflx from Ebay, listed as "Praktiflex with original case"...except the case was labeled Rival Reflex.  Further research says that this is a version of the Praktica FX, one of the successors to the original Praktiflex.  This was sold under various names, including both Praktiflex FX and Rival Reflex.  I found an ad where the Rival Reflex was sold by Peerless Cameras, while the Praktica version was sold in the same ad for $10 more.  Some sources say that many of the alternate names were merely glued on badges--however all the pictures of the Rival show a screwed on badge.  It also appears that the usual practice on a rebadged camera was to (usually crudely) deface the original logo beneath the badge.   I'm pretty sure that this camera was not rebadged.   (click on pictures for larger versions)

In many ways this camera is very similar to the Kine Exakta.  Like the Exakta it has a fixed waist level finder with ground glass and a magnifier, no focus aids.  A flip up cover lets the finder box double as a sport finder for standard lenses. Film advance is by knob rather than lever and the film counter is manually reset.  The back cover has no hinge, comes off entirely when changing film.  Shutter is a standard cloth focal plane. The shutter control is a dual range dial that rotates when the shutter is released and rotates back when the film is wound.  The upper dial selects fast or slow speeds, while the lower dial selects 1/25 through 1/500 or 1/2, 1/5 or 1/10.  B is available on either range.   Touching the dial as it rotates will affect the shutter speed.

The lens mount is a very basic 42mm screw without the usual bar to operate a "modern" automatic aperture lens.  Instead the camera has an automatic aperture lens, similar in operation to many Exakta lenses.  In this style the lens has an arm that aligns with the front mounted shutter.  Pushing the button on this arm stops the lens down, pushing more trips the shutter.   On a camera without a matching shutter button this lens can be used as a preset, where the aperture is pre-selected on a ring while leaving the lens wide open with a lever to stop the lens down to the pre-set value.   Note, the Exakta version has the shutter and therefore the arm on the other side of the lens mount.

The FX in the model name refers to having both F and X flash sync available.  This was the 3 sockets that look like pop rivets on the body to the left side of the lens.  My camera came with an adapter to convert to a standard PC flash socket, unfortunately it has to be removed to change the lens.  Since the adapter hasn't been lost, I'm guessing that this camera didn't have any auxiliary lenses with it.

While the automatic aperture is a significant improvement over manual or preset lenses, it is still bulkier and more difficult to use than a rangefinder from the same era.  I'm not sure about relative prices at the time, eventually Praktica became a bargain brand, generally lagging behind Japanese competition.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Exacta Varex

The VP Exakta was a single lens reflex camera using 127 film, often called Vest Pocket film after the Kodak Vest Pocket camera that popularized the format.

The Kine Exakta (also spelled Exacta, depending on the country it was exported to)  was the first mass produced 35mm SLR, introduced in 1936.  It was based on the VP Exakta .  Kine indicated 35mm cinema film.   It included a single stroke wind lever (most cameras still used knobs) a focal plane shutter and a wide variety if interchangeable lenses.  This camera is a 1952 VX, the US version of the Varex VX--very similar to the Kine except for the interchangeable viewfinder.

While the modern 35mm SLR dominated serious general purpose photography from the late 60's until digital,  early SLRs were specialty cameras, significantly more difficult to use than most other cameras.

These early Exaktas had waist level viewfinders showing an image that was right side up but reversed left to right.  This made following moving subjects difficult, so the viewfinder hood had square holes cut in the front and back to use as a sports finder roughly approximating the view of a 50mm lens.

Focus was via ground glass, with a magnifier for fine focus.  No split image or microprism, so more difficult to focus than a rangefinder.  The mirror requires more distance between lens and film making wide angle lenses difficult.  On the other hand, since you use the taking lens to focus telephoto and macro lenses can be focused accurately and without parallax.  Rangefinders had difficulty with both.

The aperture affects the image in the viewfinder--smaller apertures dim the image and hide focusing errors, so it is necessary to set the aperture after focusing, then use the dim image to frame the final shot.  The procedure for taking a picture was to wind the film, calculate exposure (few cameras had meters yet, so use experience or a handheld meter), set the shutter speed, compose the picture in the reversed viewfinder, focus, set the aperture, re-frame the picture in the dimmer viewfinder then take the shot.  As soon as the shot is taken the view goes blank until the film is wound again.

With most other cameras the procedure would be to set both shutter and aperture in advance, frame and focus in one step and push the shutter.

A slight improvement was preset lenses, adding a preset aperture ring.  This did not control the aperture, rather it set the minimum aperture available on the other ring so the photographer could stop down by feel.  Eventually semiautomatic and automatic aperture lenses were introduced. These had their own shutter button over the camera's button, and pressing this would adjust the aperture before tripping the shutter.  Semiautomatic apertures didn't re-open automatically, there was a separate lever or button.

In 1949 Contax introduced the first SLR with a pentaprism--this allowed a normal view through the lens--right side up and unreversed.  Exakta began a series of running changes working towards an interchangeable viewfinder.  In 1950 all the pieces were ready, and Exacta introduced the Varex/V with an available pentaprism finder.

$269.50 in the 1952 Sears Catalog

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Revueflex T

Revue was a brand sold by the German photo giant Foto-Quelle  (Google translates as Foto Source).  Cosina is a Japanese company known for building cameras to be sold under other brand names, both private label like Revue and for other makers like Nikon and Olympus.

The Revueflex T is a variation of the Cosina SLR (with SLR being the model name, not just a description).  As best I can tell, this was introduced around 1971--one source puts the original SLR model at 1968.   Universal M42 screw mount with stop down metering, Copal Square type vertical metal shutter with 1/125 sync speed.  Appears to have also been sold as the Carena 1000, a house brand of Photo Porst, another large German  photo retailer.  A very similar camera was sold as the Vivitar 220/SL with similar features and layout, except the shutter speed was on the top.   Vivitar is a distributor only, not a manufacturer.

Chinon, Cosina and Ricoh all made a number of cameras with this basic layout--shutter speed dial on the front rather than top and a vertical metal focal plane shutter. These shutters were made by Copal as drop in units, simplifying the camera design, but also dictating the control layout.  The Copal Square was an extremely durable shutter especially when de-rated to a max speed of 1/1000--most were capable of 1/2000.   (Ricoh made some models derated to 1/500--probably an artificial limitation for the cheaper model)

Other than the metal shutter, not a particularly noteworthy camera, but representative of the many cameras of smaller makers that copied the Pentax Spotmatic format.  However because of the name Cosina SLR a difficult one to track down (As if Ford had a model called Truck)--I tried to figure out the OEM model that matched this and originally failed--the closest match was the Vivitar 220/SL.  I stumbled across the picture above on a page of Google Images searching for Vivitar Cosina, and when I looked at the source page I found the specification matched my camera, and the differences were limited to trim.    While the source page had both the Vivitar and the Cosina SLR it didn't note the similarities, nor did it mention the Revueflex.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My first good camera

As a fairly young child I was interested in photography.  My parents had an Instamatic--I remember it clearly enough that I was able to figure out it was a Model 100, with pop-up flashbulb holder.  (Later cameras used cubes)

When we lived in Kentucky in the early 70's I got my own 126 Instamatic camera.  I don't remember it as clearly, but it was a lesser version using more plastic.  I think mine took Magicubes--these did not require a battery, instead they were fired via a tab rising from the body of the camera.  I loved taking pictures, but had to pay for my own film and processing so didn't take many.

When I was in high school around 1979 or 80, I became interested in photography again.   At first I borrowed a camera from the yearbook, a relatively recent Yashica, with manual exposure via LED in the viewfinder.  None of the yearbook staff were Sophomores, (the first year at my high school) so there were few pictures of sophomores--many of my pictures made the yearbook.

I started saving money, and when I had enough bought an Olympus OM-10, a 2x Teleconverter and a manual adapter.   The OM-10 is an aperture priority automatic, somewhat smaller than the usual SLR of the era. Shutter speed display via LED dots in the viewfinder.  I picked the Olympus because that combination was the least expensive name brand camera with both auto exposure and manual shutter speeds.  Serious photographers had to have manual shutter speeds.   Serious photographers didn't use teleconverters, but high school kids on a budget did...  I carried that camera through high school, taking pictures for the yearbook and school newspaper.  I eventually lost the manual adapter and didn't replace it,  and finally lost the camera when I was in Air Force tech school.  

At around the same time I bought the camera, I wound up buying an enlarger and accessories at an estate auction and setting up a darkroom in a basement room.   The auction included various expired chemicals and paper, some of the paper had expired 30 or 40 years prior--I had some fun with those, but they were pretty fogged and couldn't get much of an image.  The enlarger was also very old and meant for medium format, not 35mm.  I had to modify a film carrier and raise the rails to get reasonable sized enlargements.   I bought film in 100 foot rolls and re-rolled into my own cassettes--If I remember right I could shoot a 36 exposure roll of Tri X, develop the film and print a contact sheet for around a dollar.  I didn't have the setup to develop or print my own color--I did it a couple of times at either the high school darkroom or the college where Dad taught so I shout mostly black and white.  I disliked flash (since I didn't own one...) so shot mostly Tri X, often pushing it a couple stops to 1600 instead of the rated 400.

The camera in the picture is a replacement that I bought via Ebay.  If you are in the market for an OM-10 get one with the manual adapter.  A bit less common, but no real price difference--and if you don't want the adapter you can likely sell it separately to someone else for about the cost of an OM10 body.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Instamatic 500

 The Instamatic system was a huge hit for Kodak.  Most of the Instamatic cameras were simple and inexpensive-Other than simpler film loading not much different than previous cameras, with a simple meniscus lens and single or two speed shutter.

At the time Kodak's European division had separate management and very often produced much higher quality cameras--like this Instamatic 500 made from 1963-67.   Unlike ordinary Instamatics, this was scale-focus metered manual with a 4 element lens and full control of shutter and aperture.  Also unlike ordinary Instamatics, it was $95

Metering was via a Gossen Selenium cell--Gossen was known for separate handheld light meters.  This had the meter pointer visible in the viewfinder.  

Viewfinder showing frame lines and meter reading underexposed.   Film speed is set via notches on the cartridge.

Properly exposed meter indication. Oddly for a selenium meter this one is still functional after 50 years, although I have not verified accuracy.

Lens collapses for storage--this also locks the shutter.   Uncluttered top with only hot shoe and shutter button.

Like most paper-backed film, the counter is numbers on the paper.

Zone (guess) focusing is a handicap, especially with a lens this fast--wide open apertures were probably best left for distant subjects.  However, zone focusing is still considerably better than no focusing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fotron Camera

The Fotron camera was sold in the 60's door to door at absurdly high prices--from $150 to $500  This was roughly the price range of complete name brand Japanese SLRs at the time, and quite a bit more than auto exposure rangefinders with far better quality, and almost as easy to use.  Marketed towards women, "especially the 99 out of 100 wives who refuse to fuss with their husband's cameras" (a quote from a Fotron ad)

The Fotron is astonishingly large, especially considering the features and quality--Basically similar to a 126 Instamatic (although introduced several years before the first Instamatic) with the addition of electronic strobe flash and electric winding.

Like the Instamatics, film is paper-backed unperforated 35mm in a cassette--the Fotron uses Kodak's 828 roll film inserted in a proprietary cartridge rather than 126 Instamatic. Film was returned to Fotron for processing, and it is evident that the cartridge was meant for multiple uses.  The cartridge comes apart with a single (proprietary) screw into a threaded metal insert.

Rather than  a film door, the cartridge snaps into the back of the camera.  When you snap it in it automatically winds to the first picture.

Operation of the Fotron is odd--Separate "indoor" and "outdoor" power buttons, then 3 separate shutter buttons marked Near, Medium and Far.  You were instructed to push the appropriate power button, wait until the light in front of the lens flashed 5 times, then aim and push one of the shutter buttons.  Bright sun at medium range was not recommended.  When the camera is off, a flag blocks most of the viewfinder, a tunnel with plain plastic covers at each end, no optical elements. To preserve battery life you were asked to turn the camera off between shots.  Charge time was 18 hours for a single roll of film, up to 72 hours.

Internally, the camera is also unusual.  Power is by a large 500mfd capacitor (roughly the size of a 4 oz juice can) at a relatively high voltage.  I didn't measure it, but it was enough to give a significant tingle when I accidentally touched it. Mine is still working, although operating the camera it sounds abnormally slow and weak--I don't know if that is dried lubrication or weak power.  A series of cams and levers operate the camera from a single motor on the opposite side from the capacitor.

The lens is no bigger than an instamatic, appears to be a cheap 2 element with a plain clear cover on the front camera housing.   Single speed rotary shutter,  2 position swing away aperture plate.

Aperture and focus are controlled by the combination of shutter and indoor/outdoor control, with no compensation for actual lighting.

Far, the lens does not move.  Aperture plate is in for outdoor, out for indoor.
Medium, the lens moves forward a bit, aperture out.
Close, lens moves forward more than medium, aperture plate stays in lens.

No shutter speed control, no exposure meter, no automatic exposure--what appears to be a metering panel around the lens covers a pair of neon lamps that indicate the flash is ready. According to what I've read, the flash always fired.   Eventually there was a class action lawsuit saying that the camera was vastly overpriced, with an actual value around $40.  Compared to cameras of the era that's probably about accurate, with most of that price for the flash.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Depth of field

Depth of field control is one of the most important ways that DSLR and other large sensor cameras are better than point and shoots or camera phones.  Depth of field is affected by the distance from the subject, the size of the sensor (or film) the aperture of the lens and the focal length.  Smaller sensors have more depth of field.

These pictures were all taken under the same conditions except aperture--Pentax Kx with 50mm prime lens at various F stops.   The buds were near the minimum focus distance--if the subject is farther away the background will not be as blurred at a given aperture.

 f1.8.  Normal DSLR zoom lenses do not have an aperture this wide/fast.   Virtually no background details visible.   (click any picture to embiggen)

f3.5.  The widest aperture available on most short zoom lenses, (although many change to 5.6 at 50mm)  Beginning to make out the buds farther back.

An example of distance affecting depth of field, this is also same camera and lens at f:3.5--but since it is focused farther away the background is much clearer. 

f:7--Buds are almost there, beginning to see the bushes farther back. 

f:13  seeing individual branches on the bushes in back

f:22, the minimum aperture most cameras have.  Buds farther back now show some details.

It is unfortunate that modern cameras don't have a good method of showing depth of field.   In the 70's, a manual focus version of the 1.8 50mm used here would have been the standard kit lens.  Zoom lenses are quite a bit slower, and therefore dimmer--the kit zooms for my camera are typical, letting in 1/4 to 1/8 the light compared to the 50mm.  To counter that the viewfinders have been modified to brighter ones that makes everything appear to be more in focus than it will be on the final picture.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Time Warner Cable bait and switch?

I want to see about upgrading my Internet speed.  I log on to my account, see this:

...which brings me to this:

$10 per month sounds reasonable, so I go on.

A few minutes later, I get this in email:
...of course, "we are experiencing higher than usual call volume...". Eventually after 2 different people I find that the reason they need additional information is to see if I'm OK with $20 more per month instead of $10.  "We have to take Turbo off to add Extreme, that's $10, but then we have to add it back on, then... "I found you a better package"  "But it's still $20 more, right?"  "Yes"

I'm logged on to my account, the system sees what my services are and how much my bill is...but can't figure out that I can't actually get that rate.  Riiiight.    I'm sure their lawyers have insured that they aren't quite technically legally engaging in bait and switch...but I've got a different opinion.