My grandfather’s camera: the Kodak Bantam f/4.5

Back in 2009 I picked up a few of my grandfather’s cameras from his house, right before I moved out to Colorado.  I finally got around to shooting a roll in June when I was staying at a vacation rental in Fountain for a few months (I wrote about that here and here; this could be considered Old Cars, Pt.II).

The top-of-the-line model of 828 film cameras back in the late ’30s, I’ve always liked the look and feel of this camera.  It’s sleek and compact, with things that snap into place at the press of the button or just a flick of the thumb.  Everything about this camera cries “Quality!” with every ounce of its rather hefty weight.  This was one of three cameras I brought from my grandparents’ house when I left Ohio in 2009 and whereas the Kalimar A was a camera that I used out of necessity, this was the one I really wanted to use.  The trouble being that it took 828 film which is fucking expensive.  I bought a roll ages ago from B&H Photo because they’re nice enough to roll some Tri-X down to 828 size but it costs $20 (now $24) and you’re only getting 8 exposures.  127 film is looking pretty good now, at only $13 per roll.  I did find this which has inspired me to at least try to load some 35mm film to give this a shot.



Back in the day Kodak had an annoying history of introducing proprietary film formats for use with Kodak cameras ensuring that they could only be used with Kodak film.  Then when the film stopped selling well Kodak would discontinue the film size rendering these cameras, if not completely useless, then very expensive.  And this was a camera that cost the equivalent of $500 in 2021 dollars.  While I might champion their cause today, Big Yellow did have some rather questionable practices back in their heyday.

The roll of 828 film only gives you 8 exposures, with quite a lot of space in between; I have no idea why.  But here are a few of the cars and Jeeps that Regan my landlord has lying around his property waiting for restoration:

Here’s frame No. 1:

It has a better composition than its duplicate, but the rudimentary flip-up sights don’t really lend themselves to precise framing.  This film was spooled using 35mm film and unfortunately several of the perforations were torn; this one in particular was a very large flap that hung over the film and blocked the light from the top of the frame.  There was enough film left for me to get a bit more in:

I haven’t seen it for years, but my grandpa kept a war diary all the way through World War II where he served under General Patton.  From what I remember the pictures he pasted inside were small and square so I don’t think they were taken with this camera, but it is of the right vintage and I wonder if I’ve seen everything.  It’s a credit to the manufacturing standards in Depression-era America that this 80-year-old camera still functions as it should when its last servicing was before the birth of my parents (see header pic).  I wouldn’t vouch strongly for the accuracy of its fast shutter speeds, but besides that I can’t complain.  I can imagine some pretty good things might have come along in the 1960s if Kodak and others had tried to compete with Germany and Japan in the manufacture of fine cameras.  Instead we got shit like the Instamatic.

Now the actual size of the pictures is larger than a standard frame from 35mm film, and went into the sprocket holes on each side, but my Pakon scanner can’t deal with that, so I worked with what I had and ended up with images that were 1.7:1 (cropped very slightly on the sides) as opposed to 1.5:1. I had to use TLX Client Demo to alter the frame width and then recropped using Affinity Photo.  This flexibility is one of the great advantages of the Pakon over other scanners, and makes it if not easy, at least workable to scan frames that are a non-standard size like this, or panoramic, etc.  I’m glad I have this camera that belonged to Grandpa, it’s a family heirloom to me, though the camera is a bit more dated than those I usually shoot.  It has all the handling of other medium format cameras of that era but with the disadvantage of a smaller frame size, plus the film is very expensive.  At $24 (now) per roll and only 8 frames, you’re looking at $3 per image, so you’d better really make them count.  I didn’t, I just wanted to use that roll up so I could put the camera back into storage for the rest of its life.  I’ll probably never use this camera again.

A breakdown

It’s not the first time old Ruby and I have had difficulties together.  In fact I think it’s time #3 if I’m remembering correctly.

One of my passengers had just restored a CJ-7 so he was tinkering around a bit, and a kind fellow stopped to help us as well; what was determined was that the fuel pump gave out and it couldn’t be fixed on the side of the road.  We had to be rescued to finish the tour.  Just Enough Extra Parts indeed.

Project Part 3 Outtakes – Advanced Photography (redux)

This bunch fits into two categories:

Ones I printed that we decided didn’t fit into the main themes/categories of the project, or were not as strong/have technical issues, but are still nice.

Ones my instructor had liked but I decided not to print because I’d already printed 25 images and only needed 15.

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Bulldog bites the dust

Well thankfully not really, but unfortunately my favorite Jeep is out of commission permanently due to mounting expensive problems that make it unfeasible to repair.  Bulldog always held the place of honor out in front of the Mill Hill Saloon but now she’s just sitting in our back lot like all the other Jeeps.

She ran fine one tour and then I had a couple days off, went to take her out for another tour and could tell almost immediately that something was wrong.  I don’t have the entire story on what was wrong, but obviously someone drove the Dog and broke something underneath.  I wish I could have sent her out with a bang like what happened with Blue, but unfortunately she’ll just fade away.  I’m heartbroken.

Black, 1983-2019

Another one bites the dust.

And here was Black’s last tour, with another Jeep come to rescue us.

This was the first time we’d brought it out for the year and I was tasked with making sure the vehicle was ready to go for the summer.  It could have gone better.  Whatever was wrong there (carburetor problems I think), there were also structural problems with the frame that were getting more serious and so just like that another of my favorite Jeeps was retired.

Views from Rampart Range Rd.

Rampart is one of the forest service roads running from Colorado Springs, passing by my town, Woodland Park, and continuing on North along the front range of Colorado.  We do tours up there during the Summertime but only the bottom 6-7 miles so that is the part I know best.

The first time I traveled this road was back in 2007 when my friends picked me up from the airport and took us to Woodland Park the back way in their minivan.  It’s a story I like to tell, mainly because if someone in a minivan can drive it, it’s really not that rough a road.  I’ve passed many a regular car up there and would have thought my own Chevy Blazer wouldn’t have much trouble.  Well…

That’s never happened on a tour.

The good news: the tires were only a year old and I made sure to spend the $15 extra per tire for lifetime warranty.  I’ve already got two new free tires out of that deal.

On rough roads in Colorado, you’ll find plenty of people willing to stop and help change a tire.  Unfortunately, none of them will be pretty girls.  Oh well.