Steve's Web Site

A History of my Photography

Other Cameras


    While I primarily have shot 35mm over the last 30 years I have always had an interest in medium and large format. Also in notable antiques. I have acquired all these cameras for one reason of another over the years.

Argus C3

Argus C3 Matchmatic from the front

    The Argus C3 was the camera that put 35mm still photography on the map in the U.S. Over a million C3's were sold from the 1940's through the 1950's. My father had one during the 1950's and halfway into the 1960's. They were a leaf shutter, interchangeable lens rangefinder camera. There was no interconnect between the shutter and the film advance, so double exposures were easy to do, especially accidentally. The shutter speeds were limited and not the values we are used to today. There were separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows so you had to compose you picture in the viewfinder then move your eye over to the rangefinder window to focus and if you had remembered to cock the shutter you could take a picture.

Top view of the C3

    The version shown here was called the Matchmatic. When I first saw the second Harry Potter movie there was a boy using a camera that looked a lot like a C3. So I looked on eBay and discovered the Matchmatic version. A small amount of money allowed me to purchase one which came with the manual, the flashgun and four flashbulbs. The only problem the camera has is a dirty rangefinder, but since I didn't buy it to take pictures that was not a problem.

Rear view of the C3 showing the viewfinder and rangefinder peepholes

    The Matchmatic has a selenium type light meter mounted in a shoe on the top of the camera. You set the film speed on the meter and read out a number to set on the camera. The shutter speed dial and the f-stop dial were not marked in normal fashion, instead they had consecutive numbers on them. The sum of the shutter speed and f-stop numbers should equal the number from the light meter. This was the predecessor of the EV system used by some cameras today. For flash use you read a number off of the rangefinder distance scale, subtract a value for film speed and set it on the f-stop scale. You could not make things any simpler. At least not back then.

Bottom view with the tripod socket on the right and the rewind knob on the left.

    There was a wind knob on top with the frame counter and a rewind knob on the bottom. The film counter was a manual reset one and you pushed down the pointer to be able to advance the film. When the roll was complete you held the pointer down while rewinding the film with the knob on the bottom.

C3 with the flashgun attached

    Various flash guns were made for the C3. My dad had one that originally took the big Edison screw base bulbs. He later bought an adapter that took Press 25 bayonet bulbs which were smaller and cheaper. I later bought him another adapter that allowed him to use the smaller M2 flashbulbs like I used in my Starflash camera. His camera had a case the had to be removed to attach the flashgun. My Matchmatic came with a case bottom that had a hole allowing the flashgun to be attached in the case. The flashgun that came with my C3 was mostly plastic and was designed for Press 25 type flashbulbs.



Pentax ME-F

Pentax ME-F with winder and 50mm f2 lens

    I bought this camera for my daughter when she got interested in photography in high school. The ME-F was an ME Super with a limited auto-focus capability. I originally purchased the camera with the 50mm lens and the winder used from a camera store in La Jolla. I later added a 28mm, 135mm, and 200mm lenses. Later on I added a telephoto zoom lens. I also provided a a camera bag and a flash unit. She used this combo all through high school.

Top View of the Pentax ME-F

    The ME-F is an electronic camera with aperture priority automation as well as manual shutter speed control. The one thing I found I disliked is that the shutter speed is controlled by up/down buttons rather than a knob. After a while one of the buttons didn't work well and changing speeds could mean cycling through them in one direction only. The only way you can see what shutter speed you have selected is by looking in the viewfinder. The auto focus worked only with a few special lenses but but the focus indicator worked with most other lenses to show when the subject was in focus. The camera used four button cells in the bottom and so was expensive to replace the batteries on.

    The ME-F had a problem with occasional shutter jams. After one such jam it was left for over a year in the jammed condition. All the springs were left in an extended condition and even after I cleared the jam it was still dead. I donated the camera to my local camera repair shop for parts.


Pentax Super Program

Front view of the Pentax Super Program. There is a place for a grip on the right front side that is missing. The white area on the prism housing is to allow backlight for the LCD displays in the viewfinder

    Since I had a number of Pentax K mount lenses that were still fully functional I decided to try and find a camera body to go with them. Pentax is nice enough to provide scanned copies of many instruction manuals for older cameras and accessories so I  looked for a camera that was interesting. The Pentax Super Program (PSP) looked like Pentax's answer to the Nikon FA in many respects. I was able to pick one up on eBay for a reasonable price.

Top view of the PSP with the rewind lever and the exposure compensation dial on the left  On the right side we have the shutter speed set buttons and the shutter mode on/off switch with the shutter speed LCD below them. and the wind lever and film counter on the right.

    The PSP has four exposure modes : Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program. To use Program or Shutter Priority mode you must have one of the newer series of lenses (Pentax-A) that has electrical contacts to feed Aperture information back to the camera. The Pentax-A lenses also have a lock on the aperture ring labeled A in green which the lens must be set to to use Program Mode or Shutter Priority Mode. The Viewfinder has two LCD displays and there is one on top of the camera that duplicates the left viewfinder LCD. The following chart details the exposure modes and display functions:

Mode Shutter Control Aperture Ring Left LCD Right LCD Notes
Program Auto A Shutter Speed f stop  
Shutter Priority M A Shutter Speed f stop Set desired shutter speed via buttons
Aperture Priority A Desired Aperture Shutter Speed    
Manual M or X or B Desired Aperture Shutter Speed +- f stops Set desired shutter speed via buttons

    In all modes if an exposure compensation value is dialed in an EF will appear on the right side of the right LCD.

Close up of the right side showing the shutter speed LCD which was added on this model and dropped on the Pentax Program Plus. The small bar on the right side of the LCD indicates that the shutter is cocked.

    The LCD display on the top showing the shutter speed was a vast improvement over the earlier models. Even if it is tiny it is handy to be able to see what shutter speed you are using from the top of the camera. This model also had a shutter speed range of 1/2000 sec to 15 sec. The metering circuitry does not function when the shutter speed is set to B.

Here is the lens mount with the newly introduced electrical contacts for talking to the lens. These are in a totally different location from the contacts on the ME-F

    Pentax introduced an new series of lenses with this model to support the program mode. All my old lenses did not have the electrical contacts so can only be used in Manual or Aperture Priority Modes. The depth of field lever only works in these mode anyway. I purchased the camera with a 50mm f2 A type lens. All the modes do work with this lens. The old 50mm f2 on the ME-F had bee left on the camera and it's Iris return spring was over extended making it inoperative.

Right side of the camera front showing the self timer switch (with arrow) which is slid to the left to activate the self timer. This will expose a red LED that blinks when the self timer is activated. Below that is the depth of field lever. at the bottom next to the lens is the lens release button.

    The self timer is activated by sliding a switch on the front to the right which exposes a red LED. When you press the shutter release the LED will blink to show self timer use. It has two rates speeding up for the last two seconds. The self timer may be cancelled at any time by sliding the switch back to its normal position. Alas the self timer doesn't pre fire the mirror so it cannot be used as a substitute for a mirror lockup which this camera lacks.

Left side of the front showing the sync socket above the LCD illumination button.

    Since LCD's need outside illumination a button is provided on the left side of the mirror box to illuminate the LCD's when needed. Pressing it lights a small yellow LED in the viewfinder, which shows as a yellow light in the white window on the prism housing. The top deck LED has no illumination. Above the illumination button is the flash sync connection, which is a standard PC connection.

View of the top and rear  showing the grip and film reminder holder. Notice that the motor drive control is at the front of the camera.

    I did a quick run through using the camera with the motor drive from the old ME-F. Because of this I failed to notice that the shutter release button didn't turn on the meter properly. Using the illumination button to turn on the meter solves this and the half press on the motor drive also works. However I noticed the motor drive has its own problems.

    One nice feature of this camera is the exposure compensation dial has a wide easy to turn knob with click stops. When any value of exposure compensation is dialed in an EF appears in the right viewfinder LCD.


Koni-Omega Rapid

Front view of the Koni-Omega Rapid

    I bought this camera off of eBay because I wanted to see what it was like and it was cheap! This is the Rapid which was made by Konica. They also made a version with interchangeable film holders and call it the Rapid M. The cameras were imported by Berkey Photo Marketing which has since disappeared. The camera was meant to be a press camera to replace Graflex cameras but it found its place as a favorite of wedding photographers. It was large enough to look impressive to the bride's mother. Yet despite it size and excellent build quality it was not too heavy and was easy to operate.

Rear view of the Koni-Omega Rapid showing the three accessory shoes, the viewfinder window, the exposure counter, the back release, and on the right side are the focusing knob and the film advance.

    Konica made two different models the Rapid and the Rapid M. The difference between the two was that the Rapid M supported changing film backs in mid roll, the Rapid did not. Separate backs were used for 120 and 220 film. The backs were easy and fast to load. The film was advanced and the shutter was cocked by sliding the wind lever out then in. This was a very fast operation and was what gave these cameras the Rapid name. When you pressed the shutter release the action pushed the film pressure plate forward to assure maximum film flatness.

The right side of the camera showing the focusing knob and the small black knob which close the internal baffle and locked the shutter release for lens change.

    The camera was normally sold with a 90mm f3.5 lens made by Konica. Two other lenses were commonly available, a 180mm and a 58mm. All the lenses were made by Konica and all had leaf shutters. The camera body provided the focusing, using a split image rangefinder and parallax correction. The viewfinder was not wide enough to cover the 58mm lens so a separate optical finder was sold with that lens. Focusing was performed via a large knob on the right side above the film advance. There was also a 135mm lens that is pretty rare.

Left side view showing the grip and the shutter release as well as the lens.

    Using this camera is a study in excellent ergonomics. The left hand stays on the grip and fires the shutter and the right hand alternates between the large focus knob and the film advance lever. Everything is interlocked but not intrusive. It is impossible to make and accidental double exposures but easy to make a deliberate one. The shutter supports both bulb and electronic flash but the selector switch is hard to change so once set it stays there. You can't release the lens without closing the internal baffle and if the internal baffle is closed you can't fire the shutter.

The front of the camera showing the depth of field scale, the shutter speed selection and the aperture selection.

    Mamiya bought the design and production rights to these cameras and the Mamiya versions were sold as Rapid Omega 100 and Rapid Omega 200.



Canon A1

Front view of the Canon A1 with 50mm f1.8 lens

    A while back I had been considering writing an article on this web side comparing the Pentax Super Program with the Nikon FA as the first all exposure mode 35mm SLR's. Further research showed that the Canon A1 was the first all mode camera and had predated the Nikon and Pentax by five years. I figured I should include the A1 in the article, so I watched eBay to see what they were selling for. Later on while on medical leave I dropped in at my local camera repair shop and they had three A1's for sale, all at good prices. I also bought the dedicated motor drive and a winder, as well as four lenses. This provided me with a complete setup to compare with the other two cameras.

Top view of the cannon A1

    The A1 appeared before it was practical to use a microprocessor in a camera. As a result the A1 used IIL (integrated injection logic) or I squared L in its circuitry. They made a very big deal of it in there literature, even trying to make it sound like they were using a microprocessor even though they weren't. the IIL family of logic lived a very short life and I couldn't find any reference to it in my old logic texts. Depite this I found the A1 to be an excellent camera. It provides all four exposure modes plus TTL flash exposure. It has an LED display in the viewfinder displaying both shutter speed and f stop.

Rear view of the A1. The lever to the left of the eyepiece is the viewfinder blind.

    The A1 was designed for its own dedicated motor drive. This motor drive could drive the A1 at an amazing 5 frames per second. To do this it required twelve AA batteries. The motor also provided a vertical release but no power rewind. If you didn't need all that speed you could use the winder for the AE1 and get a simple single frame film advance. When Canon introduced their AE1 Program they introduced a new winder for that and it supported both single or continuous shooting both on the AE1 Program and on the A1.

Bottom view of the A1. The electrical contacts for the motor drive are on the right and the cover over the mechanical connector for the motor drive is on the left. Notice that the tripod socket is not centered under the lens.

    I was very impressed by the A1 and more information may be found here.