Monday, July 5, 2010

parading around with diana 151

In an attempt to better manage my camera buying tendencies (note that I'm not willing to call this an addiction those others might) I decided a month ago or so that I would focus my acquisition-attentions on Diana and her clones as well as on twin lens reflex cameras--preferably boxy, faux- or pseudo-tlr's like the ansco rediflex and the imperial reflex. Well, what I mean to say is that I would try to focus my attention on Dianas and tlr's, unless, of course, something else strange and wonderful and new (to me) happens to catch my eye. . .something like this, perhaps? So maybe what I really, really mean to say is that I won't actively be searching to purchase any ole' functioning camera just because it's in my price range (read, in most cases, under 5-10 bucks).

I'm not sure if it's the result of ebaying at US holiday times or not, but I've gotten pretty lucky of late with acquiring original Dianas (aka Diana 151s). In the first instance, I assumed--based on the seller's images and description--that I was bidding on another Diana clone, the Windsor. I have another Windsor (or two) and didn't technically need another. But my rule of thumb is this: if i can pick up a clone (or better yet, a Diana 151) for under 20 bucks (with shipping), well, it's hard to pass up. This Windsor (with box, manual, etc.) was had for about 18 bucks with shipping and arrived in like two days. Just crazy-fast. Of course, even if something looks to be or is, in fact, described as NIB [new in box] or NOS [new old stock] there's still no guarantee that the shutter and/or film advance will work. Heck, even if the seller indicates that either had worked for him/her, it doesn't mean that it will continue working once it arrives. In fact, the shutter on my first Windsor worked wonderfully well the first half dozen times I clicked it but then it totally ceased to function. Shame too cause based on the undeveloped roll of "found" film inside, the camera was capable of taking amazing images. [Note: I'd underscore that this shutter issue is not confined to Dianas--there have been other cameras I've purchased online whose shutters have stopped functioning correctly shortly after I received them.]

Anyhoot. Eager to unwrap this Windsor to see it its shutter and film advance worked, I was surprised to find that the first thing to fall out of the Windsor box was a still-coiled and still-in-plastic neck strap along with a plastic camera lens cover with "Diana" embossed on it. The Windsor manual was inside, along with the camera and Windsor camera lens cover. The shutter and film advance felt good--great, in fact. And everything moved really well, really cleanly--the focus ring, the sunny/partly cloudy/cloudy aperture lever as well as the one that allows you to shift between I [instant] or B [bulb/long] exposures. My first thought was that this camera felt more, I don't know? Can you even say "substantial" or "well-made" where Diana and her clones are concerned? I think now of receiving by mail (and while vacationing at my mother's house) my first Diana camera (the highly overpriced Diana +). It was two years ago mid-June that the camera arrived. Having grown accustomed to the weight, feel and substance of the Holga--and thinking that it was kinda representative for all plastic/toy cameras--my first thought upon handling the Diana was "are they serious? this cost that much money? shoot! and how will I even get this home in one piece on the plane?" . . .but I digress. Plus, I've written elsewhere on my love/hate relationship with the Diana +.

Back to the camera inspection: I noted that the piece was a little dusty. Other than that, it appeared to be in like-new, if not mint, condition. It wasn't till I started cleaning the lens, viewfinder and top of the camera that I noticed the top plate said "Diana" and not "Windsor." Funny to think that I missed this when I was fooling with the focus ring up front. Equally funny that I didn't even think to check the top plate or focus ring when the plastic cover marked "Diana" fell out of the box. Durh.

As luck would have it, the camera arrived two hours before I was to leave for the 4th of July parade taking place up the street. This meant that I could do the test roll in the Diana 151 with scenes and subjects more varied than I'm used to working with--especially when running film through a camera the first time. I find it helpful (as a point of comparison) to photograph the same scenes and subjects with test rolls--hence the number of images I have of the tall tree on Preston Ct., the bench in the forest across from where I used to live, or the swinging bridge.

I do regret now leaving the aperture setting on cloudy and using 400 speed b/w film on a terrifically sunny day as the images were all considerably over-exposed. Never mind that I hadn't a clue, really, how to shoot street/parade scenes. Ah well, the tree on Preston Ct. waits.
Despite being over-exposed, the shutter didn't stick (i.e., 16 images appeared on the developed roll of film), the film advanced smoothly and evenly and without scratching the film (this is never the case with the Diana+), and perhaps most surprising of all, no major light leaks. Again, it was a terrifically sunny day and I had the camera hanging around my neck for about two hours.

A sampling of my favorite images from the test roll appears below. For whatever reason, I was happiest with those images taken at the 4-6 ft. setting. When the focus ring was set for the greater distances, nothing appeared to be in focus. But maybe that had more to do with having the aperture set at cloudy? I'd also mention that at the time of this writing, I'm waiting for the delivery of another Diana 151. Again, I'm not sure if what I consider to be my recent (and quite surprising) luck with getting Diana 151's has to do with ebaying during a holiday week or not but this one was also had for under 20 bucks. . .and with shipping. I've spent a good amount of time trying to get a 151 at a decent price, but haven't had any luck at all for the past year and a half that I've been looking. And then, bam!, two in one week? Strange. Maybe Diana 151's have fallen out of favor?


veronikapot said...

nice writing! I was wondering,
I have just aquired a Diana 151 after my Diana F+ was stolen.. for the Diana F+ (as it is made in these times) I used mostly 400ASA but should it also be used for the 151 ? As in the time that came out around '60 there was mostly only 100 ASA ?
I can't find anything specific on the 151 and the film speeds te use, hence my question.


remediate this said...

sorry for the extremely lengthy delay in reply--for what it's worth, I use both 400 and 100 in all my Dianas. I don't see that much of a difference moving up from 100 to 400. I actually prefer working with 400 to guard against underexposure--that's harder to work with than images that are a bit over-exposed.