Tag Archives: camera

My Photographic Time Tunnel – About Leica and Serial Numbers

It was and it’s still is a dream to hold a Leica camera in your hands and use it as a tool for taking pictures. Ever since I’ve started my Photographic Time Tunnel journey I was hearing about Leica cameras, held by legendary photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andreas Feninger and even the Israelis Alex Levac and David Rubinger. One story that captivated my imagination was about a Leica without a serial number. I’ve heard it from Aaron Gurevich, a camera collector I once met, who knew the owner of that unique Leica. The story, that sounds much like an urban legend, is about a Jewish war survivor who lived in Germany after WWII and was treated at the Red Cross hospital near Wetzlar. As a patient who was enjoying the benefits of the Red Cross health care, he was given a weekly amount of cigarettes packages. I believe that in those days they knew less about the negative effects of smoking, so this guy could enjoy the positive effect while relaxing on his balcony. Getting cigarettes in those post-war days was a very difficult thing, so one of his neighbors who had a hard time living without smoking, made a deal with him: The neighbor will receive one package of cigarettes a week, and in return he will give that Jewish patient a part of a camera, that he will steal from the factory where he was working. Luckily for the both of them, the patient didn’t need so much cigarettes and he thought that a camera could be a cool thing to have, so he agreed to go forward with his neighbor’s deal. And so the weeks passed, when one could smoke again, and the other collected camera parts. After a few months the neighbor requested a double package of cigarettes and in return he delivered the outer shell of the camera – the body. At the following weekend, with all the camera parts in hand, the neighbor sat and assembled the camera, exactly as he was doing at the factory. The camera was a Leica, and since it didn’t leave the factory doors as a product, it didn’t held a serial number. Many years has passed and the Jew left Germany and moved to Israel. By the late 70th he sold the camera to a photographer and camera collector by the name of Ezriel Kalman.

When I’ve heard that story I set a goal to meet Ezriel and get to the bottom of the tale. Ezriel Kalman has a little camera shop at King George Street in Tel-Aviv. I knew this place with its little display window, stuffed with old cameras, but it was always closed. I assumed it was one of those places frozen in time, waiting for some legal lawsuit to be settled between the children of the owner (I know a camera shop up in Herzliyya Main Street, which stands like that for the last 12 years. I even called one of the children so he might let me peek inside this time capsule, but he didn’t even want to hear what I had to say). Anyhow, I was informed by the friend who told me the story of the numberless Leica that the shop is not abandoned, and if I want to meet Ezriel I better visit the place early in the day.

I met Ezriel sitting in front of his shop, talking with the elderly by passers. He maintains a special corner with bowl of water for the dogs, which he loves dearly and has an informal dialog with. To my surprise it didn’t take long into our conversation, until he voluntarily told me the story of the numberless Leica, with some minor changes from what I originally heard. You know how those stories change from one teller to another, until you hardly recognize the specific details. But the story still contained a Leica and it didn’t have a serial number on it. I told Ezriel that I would love to see that special camera and try to make it work for my article, but he firmly said that he won’t take it out of the safe and that he is afraid that the people at the Leica Company will hunt him down for it. I was a little bit disappointed, although the whole time I suspected the story was too good to be true. Ezriel noticed the disappointment in my eyes, and said he has a better Leica to show me. How could it be any better? Well, it was his father’s Leica, which he bought in Bucharest at early 20′s. Actually, I prefer to see and renew a camera that served a few generations of the same family. We scheduled a meeting for the next week, so Ezriel will have time to dig some photos his Leica produced back then in the 30′s and 40′s. That gave me enough time to do some research about Leica – the Rolls Royce of cameras.

Well, Rolls Royce might be the wrong equivalent, since the story of the Leica is really the story of how film cameras became smaller and easier to use. Leica is actually all about being more compact and accessible (If you’ve got the money to buy it). It all started with an optical engineer by the name of Oskar Barnack, who worked at the Ernst Leitz Company. Oskar loved photography, and the story says that he suffered from asthma and had difficulties carrying all the heavy photography equipment to shoot outside, so he was experimenting with minimizing the camera equipment and film. In those days, I mean 1911, everything was huge (Equipment and the size of film), so making it smaller was an essential part in evolution. Oskar Barnack wanted to utilize the standard 35mm film used by Edison and the Lumiere brothers for the movies industry, and instead of using it vertically as in fast running film cameras for the moving pictures, he placed it horizontally in the stills camera, making a frame of 24x36mm picture size negative.

It took Oskar many years and some prototypes until the company authorized the manufacture of his first 35mm camera, and in 1925 the first batch of cameras where commercially available to the public. Ernst Leitz Company called them Leica, which is taken from the words Leitz Camera. The small camera was a great success – so small in size, it was all that Oskar Barnack meant it to be – a camera you could take with you outdoors and take pictures while having fun. Today we are used to small size cameras combined even in our cellphones, enabling us to snap as much as we want, but back in 1925, a camera so small was a great invention and the beginning of a new era in photography. An American advertising poster from those years showed that the Leica fits inside the shirt pocket, and announced that this is the “Camera of the Future”.

“Leica II” that came in 1932 was another leap into the future, with the extraordinary Rangefinder mechanism incorporated into the camera. That made the Leica even better, making it easy to focus the lens on the subject. Today we take things like comfortable camera size and easily to achieve focus for granted, but in the early 30′s of the 20th century, these innovations where truly a great leap. With these new tools in the market, a new generation of photographers emerged with the art of Journalism and Street Photography.

I didn’t know what kind of Leica Ezriel’s father bought in Bucharest, but after getting all this information on the history of Leica, I was ready for a surprise. Any Leica camera could have been a treat, but when Ezriel unfolded the camera from her warn leather cover I couldn’t be more amazed. Not only was it a “Leica I” model, the serial number engraved into the metal body of the camera showed a three letters number: 671, which means this camera was from the very first batch of 870 Leica cameras made in 1925. “Is it still working?” I’ve asked Ezriel with a slight thrill in my voice. “Yes” he said, a little surprised by the question, “Like always”.

 (Ezriel Kalman’s Leica I with serial number 671)

I was eager to try the camera out, but Ezriel seemed reluctant to let the camera out of his hands. In the process of gaining his trust I questioned Ezriel about the history of his camera. Ezriel was born in a little village in Romania called Hârlău (in Moldova) where his father owned a successful photo studio. In those days the custom was to attend the studio and have your whole family engraved on photo paper by a professional man. Ezriel’s father that always thought about new ways to expand his business, heard about the new German invention called “Kleines Bild Film” which means “Film for small pictures”, and took a trip to Bucharest where he had a chance to purchase the magnificent Leica. The idea was simple: on the weekends Ezriel’s father took the Leica to the center of the village where people used to hang, and he photographed them at the street or at the park. Since film could only be developed much later at the studio, each potential client received a card inviting him to come and buy his photo. This line of business was very successful, and soon enough, Ezriel helped his father on the weekends and holydays taking the “Street Photos” himself. The Second World War came, and the Jews of Hârlău had hard time making a living. Ezriel couldn’t go to school, so his father decided to educate him with his own profession. After his father death in the early 60′s, Ezriel left Moldova and came to Israel, where he opened a photo studio. Though he didn’t use the old Leica anymore, it still has an honorable place in his ever growing old cameras collection.

(A photo of a family in Hârlău)

(Two lovers on a bridge)

(Ezriel in work with the Leica)

In recent years, long retired Ezriel Kalman enjoys coming to his little shop every day and occupy himself with buying and trading cameras for his collection. In the few hours I stayed with him in front on his shop on King George Street, only one woman stopped to ask if he is interested in buying her father’s old Rolleiflex. Many other people came to chat with Ezriel on topics ranging from politics to the Olympic Games, or have their dogs enjoy some cool refreshments. I guess it is a great way to pass the time when you’re retired…

It was almost noon and Ezriel finally realized that the only way he could get rid of me was if he would let me load his camera with film and have a little fun with it. I had an idea, why not recreate the old days of street photography and take photos of by passers as if they are potential clients and would come later to acquire their photo. Ezriel, now a little bit tired, agreed to play along, and as in happened, he even enjoyed it.

(Ezriel Kalman with his Leica today)

Loading the “Leica I” with regular 35mm film turned to be more problematic then I anticipated. In this early version of Leica you have to remove the lower cover of the body and insert the film to the exact location behind the shutter. Though Ezriel camera was a German Leica that could stand the wrath of time, it still had 87 years behind it, and thus rejected our efforts in loading the film. Ezriel had an Idea. He unscrewed the lens and helped the film to its place by shoving it while the shutter was open (The camera has a Z option for having the shutter constantly open). While the lens was out, I had time to check it out, and realize the condition of it. The lens is a 50mm f/3.5 Leitz Elmar made especially for the Leica by Professor Max Berek, who adapted the Cooke triplet photographic lens patent (From 1893) that managed to eliminate most of the distortions (at the outer edge) lenses of the time had suffered from. The lens had no coating (that was applied to commercially sold lenses only after WWII), and since it hasn’t been cleaned for at least 50 years it was very foggy and had some ugly spots on it. Either way I was happy to see what it has in store for us. Nowadays people use all sorts of different filters to make photos look like they were made 50 or 100 years ago (we all do it on Instagram), so why not having the real deal?!

(Leitz Elmar 50mm Lens)

After succeeding with film loading, Ezriel suggested that we adjust the aperture to f/9 and the shutter speed to 1/200. We took turns with the camera and placed our faith on the good nature of the Tel-Avivians crowd. It wasn’t easy, since people today tend to take a better care of their privacy, but some easy going spirits donated their bodies for the sake of old time analog photography. As always, I’m using modern Fuji color film, in contrast to the old camera. Here are some photos that came out from the Leica’s belly:

 (Ezriel neighbor at King George Street – The optic store)

I wish I could have more time with Ezriel Leica. Running along with a camera like that could lead to great adventures. But what can I do?! This Leica, with that unique serial number, belongs inside a safe or a museum. I really should learn how to settle with my father’s old Yashica and the DSLR Canon… They are not royalty equipment, but as Ezriel said to me when we just met, it’s not the camera that makes the photo, but the men who pushes her buttons. He is right of course. Cameras are just tools… But we humans need inspiration. And challenge. What will be the next challenge for me now, after writing about a first model Leica? Who knows…? If you have any ideas I would be most grateful if you write to me: berman.yaniv@gmail.com

Thanks:

Ezriel Kalman, Aaron Gurevich, Amir Kriezberg and the people of Tel-Aviv who agreed to model for this article.

You are welcome to watch Leica I on Youtube:

Leica I on Facebook

The article in Hebrew on YNET

Full gallery of photos:


Filming in Midair

My friend and colleague Amnon Houri was assigned by a commercial to film a Cessna skydiver’s plane flying at the height of 3000 feet. Lucky for me he invited me to take part in the flight and to shoot some behind the scenes photos. We took our ride with a Bell Jet Ranger III helicopter, handled with a very steady hand by Dov Peleg.

(Dov stands by the Bell Jet Ranger)

At Habonim beach we grouped with Paradive Skydiver’s Cessna and started climbing to 3000 feet height. On the ground Amnon briefed the Cessna pilot to do three different maneuvers for the film, and once we were way up there in the sky, our nose toward the east and our back to the setting sun, they were done with much talent on behalf of all those involved it the operation. All I had to do is point the camera, take photos and some video footage, and enjoy the magnificent view of our little country shore line.

(Amnon filming the Cessna with his video camera)

Here is 6 min video summarizing the experience from start to end:

Photo Gallery:


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Voigtländer Brillant

During the worst of Second World War, Nahum Valach escaped, together with his twin brother and father from the Polish city of Lodz that was captured by the German army. Just before reaching the border, Kalman, Nahum’s brother, decided to go back to Lodz to bring his girlfriend. On their way back to regroup they were caught by a border patrol that separated them and sent them to prison in Kazakhstan. Kalman and his girlfriend never met again. When reaching safety in Russia, Nahum and his father were sent to Komi ASSR and assigned to hard manual labor. Nahum’s father couldn’t survive the impossible cold winter and died from an illness. After a period of working in the woods, Nahum was sent to work in his field of expertise – accounting. His supervisor at the factory was a beautiful Russian woman called Raya. The two got to know each other and eventually got married. When the war ended they decided it was better for them to escape communist Russia. They bundled their two years old child Lea, and sneaked through the western border. They traveled all the way to central Europe, and by 1947 they’ve reached Munich and decided to settle there for awhile. Nahum worked for a Zionist organization for two years, and by 1949 the family finally decided it was best for them to go to Israel. In Israel Nahum was finally reunited with his twin brother Kalman and his sister Tola. Both of his parents didn’t make it through the war.

(Pictures of Lea and her parents taken with the Voigtländer Brillant in Munich)

Among the few things Nahum took with him from Germany was his Voigtländer Brillant camera. At the early 50th Nahum still used the camera, taking pictures of his growing family. When he and his family settled down, Nahum decided to get rid of all of his German’s possessions.  He didn’t want anything to do with the country that was responsible for his parent’s death. But somehow the Voigtländer stayed in its place, hidden inside the closet. More than 60 years later, Lea, Nahum’s daughter, found the camera stored at the cellar of her house in Herzliyya. Fortunately she decided to give me a call and let me try it out.

(Lea in Israel at the early 50th)

When I first took the Voigtländer in my hands I was very surprised how this 67 years old camera still looks so fresh. After a closer examination I realized the body of the camera is made from Bakelite, which is the first plastic substance that was developed at 1907. As opposed to the body of the camera, the shutter didn’t work properly and the lens was foggy. I took it as an opportunity to visit my friend Doron, who fixed Soskin’s Rollieflex for me. This time it didn’t take much to convince Doron to work the camera. Doron took the little parts apart and cleaned the taking lens and the viewfinder glass and lens. The shutter mechanism was in a bad condition, and I asked him not to dismantle it, in fear it will be ruined. After some adjustments it was permanently set for 1/75. With a maximum aperture of f/7.7 this camera could be used only in full day light.

(Doron fixing and cleaning the Voigtländer Brillant)

Before loading the camera with 120 film, I did a short research about Voigtländer. I was very surprised to reveal that Voigtländer Company was founded in Vienna in 1756! The founder was Johann Christoph Voigtländer who built it originally as an optical company. During the years the company success with camera lenses pushed it forward into making cameras. Voigtländer great achievements were the first all-metal camera in 1849, the first zoom lens (36-82/2.8) in 1960, and the first compact camera with built-in electronic flash in 1965. In 1956 Voigtländer was bought by the Carl Zeiss Foundation, and in 1966 it was sold to Rollei. The brand name Voigtländer is still active, and today it’s owned by Ringfoto, what makes it the oldest name in the cameras industry.

Though making many groundbreaking photographic products, the Voigtländer Brillant is not such a surprise. It resembles a TLR (Twin-lens reflex) camera, but it is just a box camera with non-identical twin lens that serves as a viewfinder. That means you can watch the view through the viewfinder nice “Brillant finder” but you have to do the distance measuring by yourself, and then set the focus of the 75mm taking lens. The Voigtländer Brillant was first introduced in 1932 and went through a series of changes through the years. Nahum bought his Voigtländer Brillant at around 1947, and with some of his camera specifics I can relate it to the V6 series.

(A look through the “Brillant” bright Viewfinder)

Soon after I loaned Nahum’s Voigtländer Brillant I had to go for my annual reserve training. This year it fell on February, probably the coldest month in the year, especially at the area of the Negev desert. Though I really didn’t want to go, the idea of taking the Voigtländer Brillant for a shootout, gave the ordeal a whole new perspective. On the field it turned out to be just an extra weight, having to carry the heavy camera on my back without knowing if it works properly.

Seeing the results I’ve got from the Voigtländer Brillant, it gave me the feeling that I jumped forward in time and the photos I took only a week ago at the desert are at least 30 years ago. I’ve got a similar feeling when looking at the old photos Lea’s father took in Munich at the late 40th, only with the black and white photos the time span is indeed very long.  Once again I was reminded how cameras and photos play with our mind and memories. Lea’s father Nahum died in 1991 but her mother Raya is here with us, and very much alive. Reviving the old Voigtländer Brillant brought back some stories and memories. Old photos were scanned and narratives were re-told and re-written. Though we live the moment only one time, that moment could leave a ghost behind. These stories are about those ghosts.

Voigtlander Brillant on Youtube:

Voigtlander Brillant Facebook Page

The Hebrew version on YNET

The full Gallery of old and new:


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Rolleiflex Original Standard

I was making a video about the exhibition of the pioneer photographer Avraham Soskin, when I saw it for the first time. She was hiding under hard glass, protected from the touch of human hands. It was out of reach – a museum artifact. It was Avraham Soskin’s old Rolleiflex.

About a month later I met Rani Soskin (the grandchild of Avraham Soskin) in the museum, and he asked me to send him a copy of the video I made. Only when I received a mail from him saying that he liked the article, I got bold enough to ask if I can try to take some photos with his grandfather’s camera. To my surprise he thought it was a good idea, and we scheduled a meeting.

The Herzlilenblum museum for banking and Tel-Aviv nostalgia was established by the Israeli Discount Bank in a restored building on Neve Tzedek Quarters. Since I work with the bank for many years, I have close relations with the museum manager (Yudith Ben Levy) and curator (Irit Fenig). When I asked for their help they gave me complete access to the show rooms. In fact, they were very excited to see if this old camera could come back to life.

Before the meeting with Rani Soskin I had my doubts. Avraham Soskin traveled from Russia to Palestine in 1896 and opened his first studio in Jaffa. When Tel-Aviv was founded in 1909 he moved to the New Hebrew town, where he worked for more than 50 years, taking thousands photos of the city he loved. My guess was that he bought the Rolleiflex in the early 40th, for shooting outside the studio. Soskin died in 1961, and left his belongings to his grandson, Rani, who never used it again. So this Rolleiflex hasn’t been in use for 50 years! It was a solid guess that the camera doesn’t work.

(Photos Soskin took in the early years of the 20th century)

Working or not, I had to fight my way to revive the camera. I held my breath while Irit Fenig, the curator of the museum, took the camera out of the glass cabinet and placed it in my hands. You have to understand that Soskin is Israel’s most historically acclaimed photographer, and the camera I was holding in my hands was his personal working tool. I was very excited about it. I sat to the table in one of the office rooms and peeled it from the leather casing. The moment of truth has arrived. I tried to cock the shutter release knob, but it didn’t lock. I moved it back and forth but nothing happened – the shutter didn’t budge. We were all very disappointed.

(Soskin and his Rolleiflex with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Tel-Aviv, 1961)

(Soskin’s Rolleiflex today)

I was ready to leave the museum with the promise to ask the advice of the elders of Allenby street vintage cameras workshops, when Irit asked me if I care to take the camera with me and try to fix it. Well, of course I was willing to do that, but I wasn’t sure Rani Soskin would agree to let the camera out of the museum perimeter. I was wrong. Apparently Rani had his trust in me, and he agreed to let me go on with this little adventure. Later he told me that he believe his grandfather would rather see his camera work again than sit useless.

I was walking the old streets of Tel-Aviv: Lienblum St., Kalisher St., Nahalat Binyamin St., Allenby St. – and I could feel Soskin there with me. After all, I took his old Rolleiflex. Tel-Aviv has changed deeply in the past 50 years, and I wasn’t sure if he would approve this change, or me taking his Rolleiflex…

Allenby Street goes all the way to the beach, and right there, just before you reach the promenade, there are three old stores with a lot of old cameras. I do my best to keep good relations with the owners of two of them, though only by writing these words I may be fracturing the delicate fabric of their pride. As you can probably understand, the three stores circulate the same almost gone business, and fight over a very thin crowd of clients. First I went to visit Nahum Guttmann, the old photographer and camera merchant. Guttmann came to Israel in the late 40th and worked for many years as a journalist photographer, before settling in a little store, selling and buying used camera equipment. I love the man for his photos, and I respect his advices, though he is no technician. Together we tried to operate the old camera, with no further success. It took me more than an hour to get out from his store. Guttmann plays a fundamental part in the photographic history of Israel, and has some amazing stories to tell.

(Nahum Guttmann in his store on Allenby Street)

Guttmann suggested I’ll try my luck with a store called ‘The golden camera’. I had never been there before in my life, always preferring his rival on the opposite side of the street. But I felt this camera deserved a complete checkup, so I took Guttmann’s advice and entered the glass walled store, stuffed with old cameras I could only dream to shoot with. I hit the little bell on the front desk and waited several long minutes for the manager to come. When he came, he looked at me behind his technician metal magnifying glasses, showing me in his way that he can’t spare me much time. I showed him Soskin’s Rolleiflex and asked if he could fix it. “This is a unique model” he told me immediately, and he searched for the model mark on the body of the camera. Finally he came to the conclusion that this model carries no sign or mark. He disappeared into the dark of his store and when he came back he placed on the desk the greatest camera catalogue I’ve ever seen. We identified the model of Soskin’s Rollieflex by the special design on the head of the Finder, shaped like a cross, and the aperture of the taking lens (Zeiss Jena Tessar f3.8). I was truly surprised to see that this camera model (The original old standard) is dated between the years 1932 and 1935. With this information I was more eager than ever to make this camera work. But the man behind the desk reminded me again that he didn’t have much time, and that I’m invited to leave this treasure behind. I told him that this is not my camera, and it has to get back to the museum in one hour. He wasn’t too impressed. Apparently he wasn’t caught by my excitement over the old camera.

I was down to my last resort – Photo Doron. I found Doron inside his little full of used camera equipment store, dissembling Sony video batteries in order to learn how they work. I know him for quite some time now, ever since I got this analog photography bug. He, for one, has had enough of me. I come a lot, I show him damaged cameras, I ask for his advice – but only rarely do I buy something or let him fix a camera. A real nuisance… “Now hold on”, I told him before he had time to dismiss me with the wave of his hand, “Just look at this”. Doron lowered his spectacles and took a long look at the Rolleiflex. “Can you fix it?” I asked him. He could, but he wanted me to leave it and come back later. I couldn’t. Not this time and not with this camera. We haggled for a while and agreed on the fee. I had one condition, though. I wanted him to let me film the process.

(Doron working on the Rolleiflex)

Remarkable! This 80 years camera came back to life. Some oil, a little dusting and the mechanism is moving like clockwork. With a working camera in my hand, loaded with 120 Kodak 160NC roll, I went to do some tests. It took me some time to understand all the details of how to operate the camera – How to rotate the handle between shots, where the shutter speed and aperture indicator is situated. I think I was so happy to see the shutter blinks again, that it was hard for me to concentrate on the task. Finishing the 12 photos just in time before the museum closed; I placed the camera back in the show room, and strolled to the lab. At this stage of events I already knew it will turn out just fine, and I was making phone calls – next week I’ll have another shootout, and I’ll make this camera deliver wonderful photos.

(Photos from the test shooting, taken in Tel-Aviv)

(An american ad for the Rolleiflex)

Now that I knew the exact model of the camera, I could prepare to the shootout and do some research. Rolleiflex is a twin-lens Reflex camera (TLR) made by a German company founded in 1920 by Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke. Rolleiflex cameras were very popular, used by professional photographers all over the world. They use Medium Format film, measured 6 by 6 (centimeters), which was the common film size of the time, until the late 50th when 35mm film took over, leaving the Medium Format to professionals seeking higher detailed photographs for various uses. The idea of the two lenses built on the front of the camera is that the photographer view the landscape through the upper lens, and the photo is taken with the lower lens which sits right behind the shutter and film. The two lenses are synchronized so the focus that is set through the finder goes to both lenses. This twin-lens patent was a hit, and Rolleiflex was awarded the Grand Prix at the World Exhibition in Paris, 1937.

Avraham Soskin’s Rolleiflex is the Standard 621 (Probably dated to 1932). It has a Compur Rapid shutter that goes as fast as 1/300. The taking lens is a 75mm Carl Zeiss Jenna Tessar, with f/3.8 aperture. Though a lot of specifics changed over the years, the genuine built of the Rolleiflex stayed the same. It is a very reliable camera and the fact that Soskin’s Rolleiflex still works proves it.

Here are some of Soskin’s photos, taken with his Rolleiflex:

(Rani Soskin with one of his Grandfather’s albums, dedicated to photos taken with his Rolleiflex)

For the task of shooting with the Rolleiflex I called my friend and colleague Shahar Ziv. He is a producer and a very talented video editor. We invited the beautiful Ingrid Feldman to model for us, and she was happy to join our team, only for the thrill of the adventure. We had short time for the operation, so the best thing was to shoot at the Herzlilenblum museum. The place is very unique. The house was built in 1909 by the Frank family on the land they got by winning the famous seashell land lottery, done by the Ahuzat Bayit foundation in order to divide the land between the 66 founders families.

(Top: The famous photograph made by Soskin of the seashell land lottert, on the white sands of what will come to be Tel-Aviv.

Bottom: A stamp with drawing of the same event with Soskin and his Large Format camera taking the photo)

After many years of decay, the house at the corner of Herzl St. and Lilenblum St. was magnificently restored and made a museum. Using its rooms and halls for photography is a great idea and it fits with the old fashion style I wanted the photos to have. Ingrid brought a dress that resembles the style of the 20th and she was very patient during the long minutes she had to stand and pose while I did my light metering and focusing. Though Soskin himself used only black & white film for his photography, my style is different and I only use color; Two different approaches, done with the same camera, 50 years apart.

(Behind the scene – Yaniv and Ingrid. Photo by Shahar Ziv)

For the indoors locations I’ve used one roll of 120 Kodak color film, 800asa:

(Rani Soskin with his grandfather photo on the back wall)

For the second roll (160asa) we went outside to the streets of Neve Tzedek. It was a very windy day so we took shelter at a beautiful restaurant called Catit, where we’ve been invited to take more photos:

This is me taking a self-portrait:

After taking the last photo it was time to say goodbye. Soskin Rolleiflex proved its capability to take photos after more than 70 years of service, and now it was time to place it back under glass and neon lights. People go on with their lives, getting older, while a camera like Avraham Soskin’s Rolleiflex stays locked in time. I hope the light will blink again through the taking lens, and future photos will be made. A camera is like a time machine, collecting photos through the ages. Humans, on the other hand, walk on the flat line of history, having to take one step at a time. Soskin’s Rolleiflex enabled me to take a look at the past, and I used it to mark the present. Now these new photos are in the past, but the future film rolls are there, waiting patiently for their turn.

Credits:

Article and Color Photos: Yaniv Berman

Production: Shahar Ziv

Model: Ingrid Feldman

Film lab: HaPhoto, 33 Allenby St. Tel-Aviv

Thanks to Yudith Ben-Levi & Irit Fenig of the Herzlilenblum Museum.

Special thanks to Rani Soskin

All Black & White photos showed in this article are made by Avraham Soskin, all rights reserved.

Avraham Soskin’s Rolleiflex on Youtube:

My other entries to the Photographic Time Tunnel

Rolleiflex Original Standard Page on Facebook

This article in Hebrew on YNET


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Hasselblad 500C/M

It was a very exciting moment when Yael showed me her Medium format camera – The magnificent Hasselblad 500C/M. She bought it about ten years ago because her teacher at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem told his Photography students they must own a Medium format camera. It was a great expanse for a student, and it took her many years to appreciate it as an asset. Nowadays, though rarely used, Yael’s Hasselblad has a place of honor in her closet, and every now and then, when the muse is right, she takes it for a walk & shot. I was honored to borrow it from her, and immediately thought of ways I can make the best of the two weeks we are going to spend together.

So what is a Medium format??? Apparently the size of the recorded image has several standard measurements, both in Analog and Digital photography. The most common is the 24 by 36mm, film canned in the 135 film canisters, also called 35mm or Full Frame. The Medium format, which is usually 6×6 cm, comes in the 120 film roll (12 frames) or 220 film roll (24 frames). And then we’ve got the founding fathers, the large format with film as big as 4 X 5 inches (102x127mm). For me it was the first chance to play with the big guy’s toys, and I felt like going from earth to outer space. Well, the Hasselblad was the camera chosen by NASA for the landing on the moon…

There are many medium format cameras, but the Swedish Hasselblad considered being one of the best in the market. Using Carl Zeiss Lenses, it is a powerful tool with very sharp results. Medium format cameras are usually used by professionals for fashion and commercial. The high resolution enables enlarging parts of the picture and having outstanding sharpness.

Though the 500C/M is “small” for a Medium format Hasselblad (V-System series), it’s still a heavy and very large tool for street photography. The use of the high mirrored Focusing screen, even if large and bright to watch, takes a lot of experience to get hold of – what you see inside the screen is a mirrored reflection of the view, so the landscape is reversed.

Yom-Kippur arrived and it was a chance to make a grand use of the Hasselblad. I loaded it with Kodak ISO 100 120 film, and placed it in my video Lowepro backpack. Yom-Kippur in Israel is a very interesting occasion. I won’t get into the religious ideas of the tradition, but it’s very similar to the Christian habit of going to confession. The Jewish people punish themselves with one day of fast with no other activities then praying. The country is completely shut down for 24 hours. No cars, no shops, nothing! The non-religious people make this a holiday and opportunity for some quiet time with the family – or better yet, they take the bikes and drive the free-of-cars roads. Some even go open and calls this day – The bicycle holiday! So here I go, in the spirit of the day, riding on my bikes, rolling fast toward Ayalon high-way that leads into Tel-Aviv.

The next week I went with it to Tel-Aviv:

Juli’s restaurant in HaCarmel market:

Hasselblad 500C/M on Facebook

Hasselblad 500C/M on YouTube:


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Miranda Sensorex

Alexander from Jerusalem knew about my crazy bug with film cameras and tried for a long time to raise my interest in his SLR’s collection. A trip to Jerusalem doesn’t take more than one hour drive from Tel-Aviv, but still, I had no big rush to see a Canon or a Nikon. About a week ago he called me and said he has something very special for me. An SLR I just can’t miss. When I asked which SLR he was talking about, he whispered only one word: “Miranda…”. “Miranda who?” I asked. “Check it out” he said, and the conversation was over. I went quickly to the nearest Internet portal – in this case, my Ayo (That’s how Gefen calls my IPhone), and googled “Miranda camera”. Well, of course I was interested – Miranda is a beauty.

Miranda got me thinking all over again about what is it with old cameras we just can’t resist? Is it the mechanic ingenuity that runs by many small metallic parts as a clockwork and snaps light upon chemical papers? Is it the time-lapse that runs through the tool every time we touch it? Or maybe it’s only the end product that we get after 36 clicking or so? I’m sure it’s all of the above and more… You may add your own likeness to this list. When laying my eyes on Miss Miranda I was aware to the fact that beauty is a very important quality, and was immediately drawn to it. I held Miranda in my hands and was amazed how nice it looked. But it was also very heavy in comparison to other cameras I knew (about 988g with the lens). Well people, what can I say? It ain’t heavy… it’s my camera.

And now for some history if you’ll like: Miranda is a Japanese camera manufactured first in 1955 by a long dead company originally called Orion Camera Co.  A lot of thought and ergonomics went into their line of products, but eventually they didn’t last the race and had to close in 1976, leaving behind enough cameras to fill both collectors and users cabinets. The Miranda Sensorex was manufactured between 1966 and 1972 and considered to be a very popular model at the time. It has two unique features that I find to be very interesting. First, if you consider the ergonometric aspect, is the front-mounted shutter release. It will take you some time to get used to it, since we are so used to the shutter release on top of the camera, but once you’ve got it, you’ll ask yourself why it isn’t more popular in the world. The second feature, even more interesting, is the interchangeable prism allowing you to release the viewfinder and look at the prism from above like you’ll do with most medium format cameras. I, for one, am not familiar with this technique. Getting used to it let you take photos from a lower angle. It’s very confusing shifting and rotating the camera in all directions until you get hold of the opposite way in which you have to grasp the view. Nevertheless, having done just that may reward you with something a little bit different.

As always, in order to know a camera, you have to shoot with it. I must admit that lately I’m changing cameras like you’ll change your socks, and with time it’s starting to make me want to stick with just one favorite one. I wanted Miranda to be my companion to take with me for the long yellow brick road of my life. I have 3 lenses for it, ranged from 35mm to 200mm, and it has a very convenient Through-the-lens (TTL) light metering system that makes it easier to shoot. And sure, she is a looker, and you always want to be with a beauty by your side. But the thing that made me go on to the next camera was the weight she carry with her almost Full Metal Jacket of a body. It was like carrying a stone in my bag, rumbling all around inside of it. By the end of the roll I was happy to be done with it and leave it behind when going out. Hell, it was a hard breakup for the both of us. Miranda will find her way, I’m sure of it. Such a beauty doesn’t goes to waste. No doubt she will find her glory behind some glass window drawing dirty looks. Someday I’ll settle down with a camera, and when that day comes, you’ll be the first to be invited to the wedding…  My only hope is that you won’t go whispering behind my back: “You see this guy, he gave up a Miranda. Just look at what he ended up with… The poor bustard…”.

Anyway, here are the results from our short love affair:

The Dome of the Rock overlooking the wailing wall in the old city of Jerusalem

The Wailing Wall

Tel-Aviv beach at sunset – My favorite setting

Ingrid Feldman – a model and a make-up artist. I took a similar photo with the Kiev 4AM.

Chompi the cat

This is Mazen the butcher from Tira.

Miranda Sensorex Page on Facebook

Miranda Sensorex on YouTube:


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Kiev 4AM

Here I’ve got a sad story about the last roll a camera took before dying in my hands…

It wasn’t a love story of any sort, and when I looked at her for the first time she didn’t leave any impression at all. Leonid told me that in those days (early 70th) he used to shot with his Zorki, but when he got a job with the Russian news company he was given a more professional tool – The Kiev camera. It was a crude beast in comparison to the Zorki, but considered by the craftsmen’s of the era to be a working horse. Since then he had a few Kiev cameras, but they all died on him eventually. “It is possible to fix the camera”, he said, “but it is too complicated operation, getting inside this body stuffed with little parts, and fishing for that torn spring. Better to let her rest in peace. Be glad that she gave you this last roll”.

When working with old cameras you should be very careful; any wrong turn of a button could lead to a disaster. I’m not sure what the turning point with this one was, but when unloading the film it suddenly happened, I couldn’t wind it anymore, and it just kept turning to no end. A sad moment indeed, but I didn’t have any real feeling for this one. It was hard work to shot with, it’s heavy and you have to do the focus from above, which is just hell to get used to. I wasn’t sad about her death, just disappointed…

But then I got the roll back from the lab. Of course the film had many flaws – Flashes of light at the sides, dots and scratches. But still, I just loved the photos. At that moment I felt the sting. I’m not sure I’ll go searching for another Kiev, but I sure will miss this one.

The story of the Kiev cameras is an interesting one. After the Second World War Russia raided German factories for machinery and raw materials. A very prestigious establishment was the Zeiss Company and factories in Dresden, manufactures of the Contax cameras. The Russians transferred it all to Kiev and made it their own. They called the camera by the name of the city that accommodates it. So you can say that the Kiev cameras are actually Contax. About 30 years later they still made these cameras (Kiev 4AM) with very similar specifications, but it wasn’t anything like the early ones from the late 40th (Kiev 2) that were totally German by design and parts.

So what actually the Kiev 4AM had to say for itself?

It’s a rangefinder camera with two parallel rangefinder windows that should be kept clear while you hold the camera. It has a Zeiss/Contax bayonet mount. My Kiev 4AM has an Arsenal Helios-103 53mm lens, f/ 1:1.8 with 0.9m to infinity focal range. The Shutter speed on this camera goes from B, 1/2 up to 1/1000. This Kiev 4AM is from 1980 (Indicated by the two first digits in the serial number), but I’m told that later models has reached a shutter speed of 1/1250. But I haven’t said anything about the nicest part of the Kiev, in my opinion anyway, which is the vertical slat shutter that works like a guillotine – Snaps from the top with a nice click that doesn’t bother the camera when it moves. On the down side you’ve got the weight of the camera – which is about 560g…

Two things you have to know before handling this camera: 1. Winding the film by turning the shutter knob clockwise must be done before changing the shutter speed. 2. At the end of the film, when you want to wind it back, you should find the exact point of the right lower ring, so it’s pushing the film release pin inside the camera. It’s not an easy task, because sometimes the inner lever is too worn to do that. At this point, when I thought I could wind the film back, I got this Kiev 4AM killed…

I had my doubts about this camera from the very first moment. It felt heavy and clumsy in my hands. I loaded it with film and went out for a nice travel with two of my friends (Clarisse from Paris and Marta from Rome), that came to Israel for the first time. We had a wonderful day, walking through the beautiful streets of Tel-Aviv and Jaffa, meeting interesting people, eating good food and taking photos every now and then. While Clarisse and Marta were shooting like crazy with their little digital cameras, I was awkwardly carrying the Kiev, slowly focusing, and clicking with a bitter taste of failure in my mouth.

I took some photos on the weekend in Kibbutz Glil-Yam.

Before I was done with the film, I made some photos at the studios where I work on a show.

 This is Leonid Basin, The owner of the Kiev 4AM

Getting the scanned images from the lab made me take the camera out of the drawer of dead cameras I’ve got in the closet (with the dead bodies of a Canon Canonet and my grandfather’s Canon EX EE) for a second look. I played with the dead knob, reloaded the camera with used film, played with it some more, and… Surprise! The camera came back to life! You just can’t imagine my surprise. I called Leonid and told him about it, and he also couldn’t believe, after seeing it dead with his own eyes. I guess this Kiev is meant to last, and maybe the feel of film inside of her chamber made her want more clicking and more touring.

In the following YouTube episode of “My Photographic Time Tunnel” you can see how beautifully it operates:

Kiev 4AM Page on Facebook


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Altix V

(Here are pictures taken by Yitzhak Nitzan in 1962 and 1977 with the Altix V).

Yitzhak Nitzan bought his first camera at a Tel-Aviv Camera shop in 1956 when he was 22 years old. He used much of the money he saved during his military service to buy it, and he had high hopes that it will serve him for a very long time. In those days, many Israelis preferred to ban German products, but at the same time acknowledged the fact that they were the finest in quality. Mr. Nitzan didn’t think twice and chose the best camera the clerk at the shop could offer him for his money – The German Altix V. During the next 30 years this camera served its purpose, until it was replaced by an automatic point and shoot. Now, at the age of 76, Mr. Nitzan has found it again, and offered me to take it for a ride. This camera is a strong one, so he didn’t fear I would ruin it. “What’s the different”, he said “Nobody in my family is interested in this camera anyway”. It is very exciting to use such an old camera, but soon enough I forgot that fact, and was running with it down to the beach and into the waves. Don’t worry, the Altix V survived the ordeal and came back from the dead of the closet to tell its story once again!

Ever since I started my photographic journey I was hearing about German cameras, and yearning for a Leica Rangefinder for street shooting.  But until I’ll have the money to buy me one, the Altix V offers a sneak pick into German optics and engineering. And of course, I couldn’t be more surprised at the smoothness of the aperture inside the Carl Zeiss lens and the delicate mechanics movement of the little machine’s body; especially after so many Russian cameras I’ve been handling lately, and which I love deeply.

Altix is a brand made by a German camera maker called Eho-Altissa from Dresden. The Altix series was manufactured in 1938 until 1959, which was the year the company merged with the giant Kombinat VEB Pentacon together with Zeiss and many others companies. The model Altix V was made in 1956 and distributed heavily to the world; with a few interchangeable lenses (I used the Carl Zeiss Jenna Tessar f/2.8 50mm). The camera is a “Viewfinder Camera” which means that you can’t see through the lens or do the focusing by the viewfinder. What you see through the picking hole is just an idea of the real thing, not closer than 3cm from the real lens point of view.  How do you focus? The range is marked on the lens, and you have to figure it out yourself, or ask the models to hold a meter for you… I did my best with it; some photos were a success but some came out of focus. I guess I need to be more accurate next time, and take my time before releasing the shutter. Using such a camera demands more from the photographer but rewords him with better skills.

A nice thing about this camera is its small proportions: 11cm in width, 6.5cm in height and 8.5cm long. It really fits into your palm, but still is easy and comfortable to handle without pressing anything by mistake. All you have to do after winding the film to its right position, is to rotate 3 rings on the lens – The Aperture (smooth as laying butter on a toast), distance (I’m not so used to this one) and shutter speed which goes from 1 to 300. Another ring enables you to remove the lens if you have others in your arsenal.  I wish I had a wider one…

Yitzhak took a really good care of his camera and kept it in a dry location inside the closet. The camera looks as if it was just used yesterday. Apparently not too long ago (just around the year 1975), Yitzhak gave the camera to his son who went on a field trip from school. In order to help his son with its handling, he wrote him instructions and attached them inside the case. It was a very emotional moment for him to discover it inside the case when he re-opened it. When I took the camera I promised to fallow his instructions, written 36 years ago.

After toying with this old but smooth instrument I loaded it with 200ASA Kodak film and placed it in the backpack for my everyday use. I guess the best way to know a camera is to take it along with you. It’s the end of Gefen’s summer vacation, so we went to the beach, the Zoo and to a market in old Jerusalem. Please observe the results and share your thoughts.

Photos taken at Herzliyya Beach by sunset:

Not everything is perfect. Here are my mistakes with measuring the distance and therefor having my targets out of focus:

Filming at an Haunted Warehouse – Friedman Street no. 14:

This is me shooting with the Altix (Taken by Amir Kriezberg, left on the little photo):

Altix V Page on Facebook

Here is the first episode of “Photographic Time Tunnel” on YouTube:

Hebrew version of the review on MegaPixel magazine


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Yashica Lynx 5000E

There’s a lot be said about Yashica cameras and a lot more about the Lynx series in particularly, but the thing that focused my whole attention while shooting, with no regards whatsoever to the camera qualities, is the fact that this camera belongs to my father. He claims to buy it in the early 70’ while he was doing his military service, and used it for at least 15 years before placing it at the back of the closet for his children future use. In those 15 years he went to university, married my mother and had me and my sister. One of my reasons for shooting with a used camera is for its romantic aurora – The things it saw, the memories that went through the lens. My father’s Rangefinder holds a lot of it for me, and I was thrilled to revive it.

Here are a few photos taken back then by my father:

It’s the time of the 1973 war, in the Sinai Desert.

(My father is on the right)

The Lynx series started in 1962 with the 5000 version, which is the predecessor of the Lynx 5000e who sold between 1966 and 1971. With an excellent 45mm Yashinon Lens, this camera is a great rangefinder camera, which used to be a great substitute for an SLR, and sold for a very reasonable price. It has a battery run light meter that helps with the measuring, but in my father’s camera it was long gone and I didn’t bother to find suitable batteries (two 1.3V RM640R). I figured that by now I can rely on my own experience and if I will stuck to daylight and open spaces I will be fine. I think I passed the test…

Operating this camera is pretty basic; all is situated on the lens – ASA, Speed, Aperture (f/1.8 to 22), and of course, the focus. When using the light meter you have to push a Switch button on the front body of the camera, and then search for an “Over” or “Under” lamps flashing inside the viewfinder. If they are absent you can take the shot or replace the batteries… For a very bright light or a shallow depth of field, this 45mm Yashinon lens has a very high shutter speed of 1/ 1000, which was uniquely fast for its time.

As a family camera, I chose to take Yashica when going out on a father and daughter fun day in Tel-Aviv. Gefen is now on her summer vacation, and she wanted to go on a train ride to the big city. I loaded a 200ASA Fuji film, and placed my trust with family ties – Dear Yashica never betrayed us!

Gefen reads the morning paper.

Tel-Aviv train station.

Walking in Rothschild Boulevard. The tents are still there…

A green chair among the tents.

Visiting friends.

Eating a Pizza.

And having a pool party at aunt Anat.

Yahsica Lynx 5000E on YouTube:

Yashica Lynx 5000E Page on Facebook

The Hebrew review on MegaPixel Magazine


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Olympus Pen EE3

A few words should be said about the way I percept analog photography before engaging my review (or rather written experience) on this small and surprising camera.  When I choose to take analog camera to my outdoor exploring, I’m usually considering the camera itself as an inseparable part of the creation. Suddenly the tool is no longer a mere gadget I operate in order to have a photo, but rather some kind of a brush and color I pick for drawing the impressionist image of my active reality. I guess it could be said also on digital, but my feeling is that the digital era brought a lot of sharp and very distinct realism to the documentary moment taken by the lens. When using my digital equipment I feel the urge to achieve the best results from the processor and lens. When living in the analog realm, the expectations from the tools in use (camera, lens and film) are at another dimension. I start looking after the little odd qualities I usually regard as mistakes or defects, and find them more appealing when staining the delicate texture of the celluloid. Again, people may claim that you can Photoshop anything today into the picture, but the analog image, even damaged and totally wacked, is something that you’re usually prefer on leaving alone and let it be as it was intended by the moment. That’s why I like old cameras, and that’s why I search for those cheap and very common cameras, worn by use but still grinding by the clicks!

By the standards I described above, the Olympus Pen EE-3 (The EE Stands for Electronic Eye) is a must-try! It is a real Lomographic camera, and I wish it will be re-discovered and used by all those fast and happy-clicker shooters. The main uniqueness this camera brings with it is the half-frame concept, introduced the first time to the world in 1959 by the Pen series, designed by Maitani Yoshihisa of the Olympus Company in Japan (Mickey from Toronto corrected me about this bit – 35mm half-frame cameras are dated far more early then that. He, for one, own a Half-Frame Ansco Memo from 1927). The concept, scorned by many film lovers, is about using only half size of the common 35mm frame (18x24mm), and by that exploiting the film and producing more photos from the 135 cassette (72 instead of 36). Sure the product you receive has less detail (and tends to be grainy), but by playing with this unique form, you can make a conceptual use of the double frame (or triple), displayed adjusting to one another and sharing two sides of a photographic idea. I’m calling all the Lomographers among you, which regards shooting pictures as a way of exploring the far edges of the duplicated reality, to check this fabulous vintage tool for your purposes and enjoyment.

But using only half of the 35mm frame is not the only thing that makes this camera an unprofessional though semi-artistic brush. The Olympus Pen EE-3, introduced in 1973, is designed by all standards as a Point & Shoot, fully automatic camera, aimed originally to the people who want to push only one button in the process of taking a picture. The name of the brand “Pen” hints that this camera is easy and fast to use, like a pen you pull from your shirt. At first I had my doubts and tried to push and rotate any button or ring installed in this small plastic-metallic box, but soon enough I realized I shouldn’t overdo it. Only one thing is required to do prior to the shooting: The camera enables you to adjust the sensitivity of the film by rotating the ring around the lens to the right position (25 to 400ASA). The light-sensitive electronic-eye around the lens (A selenium meter window, which gives the camera its iconic look and is totally solar – no batteries required for this one!) will adjust to the light and set the aperture automatically at the moment of releasing the shutter, which is set at a fixed speed of 1/200 second. If there is not enough light for shooting at these settings, a red flag will show at the viewfinder, and you’ll be forced to point the camera against a more lighted area.

When shooting indoors you may set the ring to aperture priority, ranging from f/3.5 to 22. At this position the shutter speed will be fixed at 1/40 second. The EE-3 model includes a Flashmatic System which means “automatic flash exposure”. When using a flash connected to the matching strobe, you can set the ring (the only one installed in the camera) instead of ASA or Aperture to Object distance (1 to 4m). The Flashmatic system will do the aperture exposure calculations for you.

The lens equipped in the Pen is a D. Zuiko Wide Angle with a great depth of field, required in a Point & Shoot camera with no focus ring. This way you have all your objects always in focus. I guess most of you SLR lovers find it so very strange, but that’s only one more reason to focus the search of your artistic point of view in other aspects of the use. The lens on this camera is 28mm, which is equivalent to 40mm on a full 35mm frame.

Running amok with the Olympus Pen is fun. Having 72 pictures in stock makes you pay less attention than usual to the quality of your work, but the way I would recommend to do it, is by taking two different point of view pictures of a one idea or story you wants to display. Here is what I achieved with one roll of Fuji 100 ASA, while roaming to the Hezliyya beach and the Tents demonstration in Tel-Aviv, at the almost unbearable heat of August 2011:

Driving to the beach

A viewpoint to the beach

A black flag…

So we sat and played on the sand

Games

Jogging in Tel-Aviv

Collecting the trash of yesterday riots – The tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel-Aviv

No pictures please

Interviews all around – The media goes crazy!

Relaxing on the roof. Good night.

Olympus Pen EE3 Page on Facebook

Olympus Pen EE-3 on YouTube:


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