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Captured Cherry Blossoms

Working with old cameras is sometimes a labor of love. It takes time to get them ready for a day out. Plus, some of these cameras are fair-weather friends. Paper-based billows are not compatible with Oregon's wet winters. So, on the first decent day of Spring, I brought out the next batch of cameras to be tested.

I headed down to the waterfront where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Planted in 1990, the trees honor the dedication of the Japanese American Historical Plaza. People flock to the rows of cherry blosssoms to sit, stroll, view, and entertain. People and animals from all walks of life weave amidts the boardwalk and trees, exploring every angle of the blossoms.

On this day, I brought out two untested vintage cameras and gave one of my previous ones a second shot. As you may recall from a previous article, the Spartus Six-Twenty had old film in it and returned some very poor shots. It started out the day with a brand new roll of film. It was joined by a Kodak Junior Six-16 Series II and a Yashica 635. The Kodak is a classic 1940s folding camera while the Yashica is a 1958 twin lens reflex camera. The Yashica actually takes 120 film or 35mm film so I used 120. The Kodak takes discontinued 616 film so I used 120 film with a 3D printed adapter.

I started with a few classic shots of the cherry blossoms. Steel Bridge. Lamp posts. Pretty early on, it was apparent the Kodak was struggling. Instead of smoothly advancing the film, turning the dial felt like reeling in a fish. For the first shot of the day, only the Spartus returned a decent shot. With it being so crowded, I was fighting to get photos without people. In this shot, I leaned into it, asking the couple if they where okay with being photographed. The photographs on the left are from my normal, modern camera while the ones on the right are from the Spartus.

You can see the Spartus did much better this time around. However, there is a dark line down each frame. The camera is also hard to hold perfectly still, being a waist-level camera with no strap.

Turning around, we're graced with one of the few shots from the Kodak, a simple bridge shot. The top is from my modern camera while the bottom image is from the Kodak.

I decided to try some close-ups of the cherry blossoms. The Kodak was grinding away on film at this point and the Spartus provided a blurry picture, but the Yashica took this opportunity to dial itself in and work. The one on the left is the modern camera while the one on the right is the Yashica.

Look at those soft, pastel colors! The Yashica doesn't provide crisp, modern photos, but instead gives photos with a gentle coloring that's hard to duplicate. This picture made me appreciate what a gem the Yashica is.

I walked over to the Steel Bridge, slowly getting away from the crowds of people. From the bridge, I captured the skyline with three of the four cameras.

The modern photo is in the middle for easier comparison. When viewing these photos, bear in mind that I don't move between shots so all three photos were taken from the same spot. The Spartus takes decent pictures, but I started to notice the contrast is always weak, resulting in "flat" images. Not to mention that pesky line. The Yashica really shows off the looming stormclouds but the pink is lost on this one.

Walking back along the waterfront, I decided to try something different. I wanted to see if any of the cameras could do a long exposure to show the people milling around. This is the one picture that I was able to get from all three vintage cameras.

At the top right, you will find the modern shot. The top left is from the Kodak and was the one solid picture I got from the camera. After this, it stopped working entirely. Later, I found out the winding mechanism had been grinding off pieces of the adapter, leaving tiny blue shavings in the camera. The bottom left is the Yashica which tried to do what I asked. I got a beautiful streak of a person walking through but at the tradeoff of being completely overexposed. The Spartus faired slightly better with a miniscule blur. This isn't the easy set of pictures to try with older cameras. You have to find a way to stablize the camera and then very carefully pull the level or push the button. None of these have cable releases.

Next, I attempted to capture the sunlight through the trees. Unfortunately, the Spartus struggled at this point and didn't advance the film, resulting in a neat triple-exposure shot.

For fun, you can see the shots I was trying to take (modern in black-and-white and Yashica in color) which resulted in the Spartus triple-exposure in the top left. The people perfectly aligned with the outline of the trunk while the entire background became cherry blossoms. A shot like this would typically be grossly overexposed but this one worked.

At this point, I'm down two cameras but the Yashica is happily plugging along, enjoying its day out in the sun. It lets me take one more picture, bringing the total up to the full 10 possible before it runs out of film. I tried to crop these two exactly the same for a fair comparison between the modern camera (left) and Yashica (right).

As I put the cameras back in the case, I felt rain drops prickle my skin. I had caught a sun break and the rain was starting up again just as I was finishing. You can't ask for a better ending than that.

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