I have been working on this project for a couple weekends now, but I thought I’d document it properly with better photos. I have spliced together an antique camera and my Pentax k10d before, but this time it’s more personal. The camera spliced with my Pentax now is an AGFA Ansco Ready Set Pronto No. 1 camera issued to my grandfather during World War II. When I was young he related to me the story of how it came with a small can of paint and orders to paint the body of the camera green when he was in an open bottom tent in the pouring rain at bootcamp in the south (Kentucky maybe?). The mottled texture of the green paint reflects the less than ideal conditions to paint; The bellows, track and lens housing were manufactured green already.
The shutter is on the outside of the lens, therefore it gives the lens a sort of weather protection, and has preserved the lens all these years. I would guess the last time this camera took photos was Berlin, 1945. (some of the original photos from Berlin are found in an early entry).
My grandfather would have preferred the details of making this work to any of the photos. My grandfather was more pragmatic, but last we spoke he mentioned “You’re more like me that way.”
This works because a lens is a projector, which is projecting the image of what you see through the viewfinder onto the film, or in this case a digital CMOS. The Agfa’s bellows rides on a track and the design allows the lens housing to move along the track at any time. This is key since this is a single element lens (only one piece of glass). Normally the focal length on a single lens camera is constant. These old cameras in general were 120mm. The track however gives some freedom when being used with a DSLR. You can slide the lens housing increasingly out for macro-zoom effect, and increasingly closer to the CMOS for infinity focus until 120, infinity is reached. Not all antique bellows cameras allow this slide, as they’re often designed to automatically lock at their prime position.
The old AGFA doesn’t have an fstop control, but I’d guess that the AGFA’s timed shutter has an fstop of about f6, and it’s instant shutter is about f4. The instant shutter seems to be about 1/350, depending on it’s mood. I would guess some 3 in 1 oil would get it cranking to 1/750, but I only use the timed mode, which keeps the shutter open until you hit the shutter lever again. This allows the Pentax to use manual mode to set the shutter speed. I then use shutter and ISO to control the exposure with an assumption of f6. The light meter can be made to work using tav, but the Pentax runs to dark if I try, as it tries to suck in light through the AGFA’s tiny lens, so I chimp the histogram instead. The Pentax’s focus recgonition continues to work, so when I adjust the AGFA’s lens position during a shot, the Pentax still beeps and blink when it thinks it has good focus.
The landscape in this set was taken in the Blackhawk area of Illinois with the setup shown.
The last time I did this with a camera I named it Frankensteintax. I’ll call this one Grandfather’s Eye.