Tuesday, August 24, 2010

when it was good, it happened to be very good. . .

. . .problem is, my recently acquired Kowa/Six was not always (or at least not consistently enough) good. Later today I will be sending it back to the seller.

To be sure, I'm bumming about having to return the camera, but after running two test rolls through it, what I was seeing is that the camera worked fine, quite wonderfully, in fact, so long as I was using it indoors or outdoors in low-light or shady areas. Problem was taking it outdoors. More specifically so, taking it outdoors and using it when the sun was out.

In those instances, this tended to happen. Blah. What a hot, hot mess.

But I suppose I should backtrack a bit. I bought the Kowa/Six after learning about it and its potentials from a flickr contact. I was drawn to this particular camera because it had a Model II exposure finder. (This meant that I didn't receive the regular hood with the item, but that's fine--I'd rather have the meter.) My first problem with the camera had to do with the fact that while the meter was, indeed, sensitive to light, its readings were wildly off. Holy cow. For instance, if a correct-ish reading was f2.8 @ 1/60, this was coming up f22 at 500. Just nuts. I even tried swapping out the battery it came with and trying a new one. The readings were still wildly off. I was bummed about having to find other ways of metering the shots, but I was--at least at that point--determined to make it work with the camera. I shot my first test roll and, as I said to start, the indoor shots and/or shots taken in indirect/low light--a sampling of which appear below--were okay, pretty good, in fact. What I noticed, however, with the first roll was a kind of banded light-leak formation that appeared toward the center and top of each image taken outside, in direct sunlight. I did a little research on Kowa light leaks (and, while I was at it, on exposure finders) and learned that in cases where the seals on backs aren't well maintained there can be light leaks. As far as the meter situation went, I read of at least one other person whose readings were as wildly off as mine were. Yet by that time, I had pretty much decided to write off (or work around) the exposure finder's quirks.

But back to the light leaks. My sense was that my problem had less to do with light seeping in through the sides, top and bottom of the back than with perhaps a shutter issue (i.e., that was the only way I could account for the center banding marks--side/top/bottom light leaks would leave a different kind of mark on the negs), but I went ahead and taped up the top and sides of the camera anyway and took it out again. Could taping the camera have intensified the light leaks? Of course not, but that's how I felt. The banding problem was much worse this time around. To be fair, the day I headed out to test the taped-up camera was a pretty sunny day.

My sense was that this would make for a really great indoor or low-light camera. Problem was, I want a camera that I can use both indoors and out. Between the banding problem (something that's clearly beyond my knowledge, talent and patience to remedy) and the wacky-ass meter, well, it just wasn't, I didn't think, a camera worth hanging onto. So it will be heading back to the seller later today. To be clear: I am not at all suggesting that the seller mis-represented anything about the camera--everything seems to look and sound like it's working as it should be. The only way you would know that things are off would be to shoot a test roll or two of film.

In the meantime, I've found a listing for another Kowa (this one is a Super 66) and I think I'll give that a go, keeping my fingers crossed that this one will respond to the outdoors and to sunlight better than the last one did. Thank goodness for return policies, huh?

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