Going Vintage!

Well hulloo there! Glad to have you here. I'm in a pretty good mood today, so I think I'm gonna rave a bit about one of my favourite subjects, photography. Topic of the day: going vintage!

As many of you undoubtedly already know, I'm quite a photography aficionado (or freak, if you prefer that word). As it happens, not too long ago I managed to lay my hands on a very old, almost ancient camera: a Kodak Anastigmat Junior 620 to be precise. For those of you who can't immediately sum up a list of memorable cameras of the past century, I added a picture of the little critter:

yes, you're seeing this correctly: a camera with a bellows! *

There's a peculiar story to how this beauty came to me, and if you're curious about it, be sure to click here.

A few years ago, my parents, my brother and I went on a trip to Norway. In case you can read Dutch and are interested in this episode, you can find a travelogue of the trip here. What I failed to add to that blogpost at the time, however, was the fact that we suddenly returned home halfway through the vacation. And the reason for that is this: we were just four days in Vass, a godforsaken spit of land deep, deep in the endless hills and forests of Scandinavia, when we received a phonecall from home. My grandfather, happily in his eighties and strong as ever, had just, and very unexpectedly, deceased.

Vass, one of the most charming spits of godforsaken land you could encounter

Since we believe family sacred, we decided to return home immediately. The trip home over Oslo appeared to be impossible, so we hastily bought ourselves tickets for the ferry from Kristiansand (in the southernmost tip of Norway) to naar Hirtshals (in the northernmost tip of Denmark), where we landed in the early evening and continued driving for another 225 miles until we reached Germany, where we could use our good old euros again instead of having to purchase Danish crowns for just one night's stay. We drove further home the next day, and arrived there 460 miles later in late afternoon. Short and good: our trip to Norway lasted a total of only eight days, of which we spent half getting there, and back again. It was hell, as you can imagine, but it was totally worth it as well, cause like I said before: family is sacred. And in dark times like these you need each other.

Kristiansand. Picture taken from ferry terminal

Funerals: they're all pretty much the same, I guess. Some are original, others are traditional, but in the end it's all about saying goodbye. And rituals, hundreds of rituals, ranging from administrative fuss to emptying the house of the deceased. It was no different with my grandfather's: before long my family came together, and started sorting out the impressive collection of stuff he collected in his long and fruitful life. And during that last typical ritual, quite some interesting stuff came to light. For example a collection of agricultural implements so ancient we donated them to an archaeological open-air museum (this is no joke!), tons and tons of furniture and crockery from different generations, and also, as you've probably guessed by now, this amazing piece of photographic nostalgia.

I've done some research, and managed to discover the following. De Kodak Anastigmat Junior 620 (or  "six-20" in short) was produced in Stuttgart, Germany between 1933 and 1939. Hitler had just become Chancellor and Queen Elisabeth the Second was still playing with dolls when it was made. My grandfather himself was still a teenager in those days, so I suspect the camera belonged to my greatgrandfather, or at least originally. Which means that the little beauty standing on my bookshelf has now reached its fourth generation in our family. It's spent most of its time hidden away in a soft velvet box in one of the uncountable storage space in my grandfathers house. But its days of peaceful dust collecting are over. For now that I'm its new owner, nothing will be able to stop me from putting it back to work. No matter what it takes.

this dashing lady had only just learned to write her name when 'Junior' hit the shelves

Unfortunately I soon learned that what it takes is... a lot. As you can probably imagine, much of the methodology is all but straightforward for a digital guy like me. The fact that it uses film instead of an image sensor won't raise many eyebrows, but the fact that the film originally used in this camera, aptly called 620 film, has been out of production since halfway the nineties will probable make some of you snigger. I hear you: that's just the kind of thing that happens to me. There is however a film with nearly identical properties, the 120, but the spool of this bloody thing is so different from the 620 spool that it won't fit in ancient cameras like mine.
This makes clear I'll have to do a certain conversion. Either I cut/grind/gnaw the flanges of the 120 spool to the same diameter as that of the demised 620, or I respool the 120 film on an old 620 spool. This last method is described here in quite some detail. Unfortunately both methods demand a certain amount of handiness, and that's one of the things that I can't be blamed of possessing. Still, I'm happy, brave and motivated as ever. A first 120 film and 620 spool has already been purchased online. All I can do now is wait for them to be delivered. Exciting, right?!

A 120 film and the different spool types. The left spool has been out of production for, well, at least half a century, and the middle spool is actually a 620 spool

And that's only the beginning. The hard work will start as soon as can start taking pictures. Focussing with this little monster? Impossible. You kinda guess how far your main subject is, and enter it using a prehistoric dial. Lighting? Plain guesswork, though some error can be removed during (post)processing. Developing and digitalisation? For those things I'll be depending on a photo lab. Grobet in Antwerp seems a good choice - they've already helped me make the first baby steps in the analogue world. I'm sure they'll be able to keep up the same level of helpfulness in the future, when I start popping silly questions.

Oh well, while the whole world is throwing its analogue junk and starts snapshotting digitally, I'm doing the opposite move. Though for the more serious work I think I'll hold on to my 500D for just a little while longer. And for action shots in snow or underwater I'll trust on my sturdy TS3, just to be sure. After all you never know when the film industry will fall to pieces.

* on a totally unrelated note: did you know that the word bellows as well as the word Belgian are derived from an old-Germanic word for 'bag, bladder'? Apparently the Belgae tribe, back in the days when the Romans ruled the western world, wore pants that were considered to be pretty baggy. However, the tribe name might also have come from their legendary fierceness, since the Dutch words gebelgd ("resentful") and verbolgen ("wroth") could also be traced back to that same old-Germanic root word. So next time you encounter a youngster with a pair of pants almost falling to his ankles, you better not make him angry. Unless you want to awaken Ambiorix!