Most Sundays come and go as all Sundays do - a relaxing day hanging out with the family, coupled with a hint of despair that the weekend is over. And then there are the Sundays that unexpectedly find you at an antique festival where you stumble upon a camera from the 1920's that you have never heard of before, and its price tag only $10. It was a good day.
I had never heard of a Ihagee (ee-hah-gay) camera before. So in researching my find, I learned that Ihagee was a camera manufacturer founded in 1912 and based in Dresden, Germany. Its best-known product was the Exakta single-lens reflex camera. However, the camera I bought was a Luxus Duplex, a 3 x 4 inch plate camera manufactured during the mid 1920s. It looks very similar to a small press camera with the front camera door folding down to allow the lens and bellows to slide out on rails. It shows some wear and tear, but the mechanics are in great shape for a 90 year old camera!
My original intention was to add my new acquisition to my collection of working vintage cameras, and display it proudly with the others in my living room. But the more I looked at it and played with its movements, the more I wanted to shoot with it. I have experimented with shooting my Canon 5D mark II through a Crown Graphic press camera, as well as Rolleiflex twin reflex camera, both with limited success. I was inspired to give this camera a try, and that I did with the help of my 2 favorite assistants, and instead of my 5D, I this time used my Sony A6000.
One of the issues with shooting through a leaf shutter is the highlight in the middle of the image. It is the nature of light through a leaf shutter to intensify in the center, but this is harder to control when capturing using higher ISOs. That is where using my Sony A6000 helped a lot with its real time exposure view. So, over the course of 3 days, I tested this process. I learned that as with all successful photographs, lighting is the most important variable - but instead of the beautiful soft light I am always looking to use, this process with this camera works best with a more harsh and direct front light source, as it needs contrast. Below are some of the more successful images.
As far as processing for the above images, I used Adobe Lightroom to tone down the center highlight, remove color and added a little contrast. Very little processing overall. I was surprised and really happy with the vintage feel of the images. Aside the modern day subject matter, the pictures remind me of pictures from the early days of photography. The splotchy dark patterns on most of the images are from residue of some kind on the ground glass that is not easily removed, which in my opinion adds to the character of the process. This camera is 90 years old - the dirty viewfinder, the small tears in the leather and the not so perfect bellow folds all have a story to their existence. In my opinion, the imperfections are a big part of what makes these images work.
Inspiration is a crazy thing...and I'm very grateful for the inspiration this sweet little score has brought me. Time for more testing!