A couple of months ago, ailment I wrote about my first tries using the Kodak Vigilant Six-20 to take pictures. I experienced some unexpected light leaks from extremely tiny holes in the bellows, and figured out how to plug them up so I could use the camera; and I used a modified 120 film spool as a takeup reel for my second roll of film. So, what came of all of that?
Well, long story short, it all worked. Pretty much.
I guess I need to qualify that a bit. 🙂 First things first: the light leaks from the bellows have been fixed. None of my photos were haunted by weird little “spirits” floating around in them. So that’s great! I took the camera along on a Flickr Photo Walk and it worked nicely. It definitely was the most unusual camera at the gathering!
Unfortunately, when it came time to get the film developed, I discovered that the modified 120 spool hadn’t wound the film very evenly. To my disappointment, as I removed the spool from the camera, the film was buckling up beyond the reach of the “ears” of the spool, allowing light to get to the exposed undeveloped film. Oh no! I assumed the worst: that all the photos would be ruined by light exposure.
But it actually turned out not too bad. Only one of them (pictured on the right there) was actually affected by it. Pretty significantly, as you can see, but at least I know what caused it. Not only that, I have an idea of how to avoid it in the first place. The first 120 spool I modified, I was pretty aggressive about cutting down the “ears” of the spool to make it fit in the camera. I took off more than I needed to. So, when I modified the next spool, I didn’t take off so much material. Next time, there should be no problem.
The only other issue (you knew there had to be one) was with focus. This isn’t a surprise to me, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. The Vigilant Six-20 is not an SLR, it’s not a Rangefinder, and it’s definitely not autofocus. So, it’s up to you to guess the distance from your subject properly, and spin the focus knob till it matches your guess. I do that, and then I stop the aperture down a bunch to keep as much in focus as possible. Problem is, you can’t confirm before you take the photo, so you can’t be sure how sharp the photo will be. Boo! And you can see that problem in the photo on the left. Ignoring the boring composition, it’s definitely not properly in focus…
(As a side note, Travis sent me a link to another geek like me that’s using vintage medium format cameras to take photos. That guy uses an SLR to focus and meter. First, he gets a shot with the SLR. He lifts the exposure settings from the SLR, just as I’ve been doing, but then he reads the distance from the focus scale on the SLR lens and uses that for the Folder camera. DUH. Now why didn’t I think of that?? I was so close!)
It’s also really difficult to tell what it’s actually aimed at. Many of the photos I’ve taken with the Vigilant have been at a vaguely drunken angle. And that’s not at all what I remember seeing when I took the photo. It also makes it difficult to make for good compositions. I’m afraid that this just goes with the territory on this camera.
I’m definitely going to run more film through this camera in the future. It’s fun to get interesting results out of this old equipment. It’s also shown me that if I’m going to do anything “serious” with film cameras regardless of size, I need to be able to set the focus very accurately and compose properly. That’s valuable to know for the future…