Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Adventures with Acme, Part 2

Last week, I discussed my recent purchase of a cheesy toy camera on eBay.

Toy cameras have been popular with artists for several decades. The cheap plastic lenses, light leaks, and other imperfections of these cameras can result in interesting photographic effects, and the simple mechanics of the cameras prevent one from becoming caught up in technology. With a toy camera, you can concentrate on seeing your subject, and not endless fiddling with camera settings. One of the more popular brands has been the Holga, originally manufactured in Hong Kong beginning in 1982. They are now being manufactured in China and have been refined somewhat, but still have their quirks. Diana is another brand of toy camera that has been popular among artistic types. It was made in Hong Kong in the 1960s and 70s. The brand has been revived in the form of the the Diana F+, which is now being is being sold by a company called Lomography, which also markets Holga.

I noticed the Acme camera which I purchased on eBay for $14.66 bears a striking resemblance to the Diana, as you can see below.

At the wonderful web site, I have learned that the Acme was made by the same Great Wall Plastic Company in Hong Kong where the original Dianas were produced. Great Wall turned out clones of the Diana under many brand names. For unknown reasons, several clones, including the Acme, had fake rangefinder light meters built into the camera bodies.

When the Acme arrived in its original cardboard box, a couple of problems became immediately apparent. The lens was just press fit onto the camera and could be easily pulled off. This was easy enough to fix with a little gaffer's tape. The shutter lever on the side of the lens barrel was intact, and the shutter worked. The switch on the other side of the lens for instant vs. button exposure also worked. Unfortunately, a third switch for selecting aperture was missing. The description on the box indicates "3 Apertures for Various Weather." Que sera sera--whatever the aperture will be will be.

More problematic was the fact that the knob to wind the film was cracked where it fit over its associated shaft. I made a couple attempts to fix it with super glue, which failed. I tried screwing the knob to the shaft, which resulted in the shaft cracking. The more I worked on it, the more the brittle plastic of the mechanism crumbled. Finally, I made a replacement shaft out of an oak dowel, with a little oak paddle on the end that would slip into the film spool. The oak paddle broke off after winding the film through a couple exposures, so the next repair used an ebony paddle on an oak shaft, which so far has worked.

I was careful to take the camera into a totally dark room to remove the film when I made these repairs, and store it in aluminum foil until I could put it back in the camera. Unfortunately, on one occasion, I neglected to move the locking lever on the back of the camera to the closed position after reinstalling the film, and the back of the camera fell off. I probably also suffered some light leaks when I removed the broken winding knob from its shaft with the film in the camera.

A few exposures survived all these events, and this is one of my favorites. It's a low spot in our neighborhood where mist was rising from the ground one morning. I can't explain the peculiar glow and all the other crazy artifacts on the image.

In postprocessing, I put a negative filter on the image, which I also like:

In future posts, I'll present some more conventional images, if you can apply that term to pictures taken with this type of camera.


Julie said...

... *chuckle* ... what a joy to read!

My father would be ever so chuffed with your efforts to make do!!

I love the name Acme: I thought that was just Road Runner lingo.

As for the image ... stuff that short stories are make of.

Good post!

David C. said...

Thanks. Interactions with people from the Commonwealth tend to expand my vocabulary. I had to resort to the Web to learn that "chuffed" means "pleased." I used to work with a fellow from South Africa, and I was puzzled when he talked about wearing a jumper, which in the US is a dress, but then I found out in the UK it is a sweater.

Julie said...

Really ... a jumper is a dress! Hah!!

Does anyone over there wear a frock?

I checked out your girls last night: lovely photos and stories.