Not Overly Complicated: The Canon T50

T50 ele2
Welcome to the 1980s

I never intended to buy a Canon T50. I had rescued a T70 body from impending landfill, and after a clean and new set of batteries, it seemed to work. Needing a lens, the typical eBay rate for a 50mm f1.8 was around £30-£40 quid. So as is often the case, I ended up buying one attached to camera for a tenner. In this case the camera was the T50.

While the AE-1 and AE-1 Program had wowed the market since the mid-70’s (and continues to do so as a regular hipster choice – and at hipster prices), 1983 saw the release of a new Canon entry in the beginners market.  Gone was the sleek-lined black and chrome look the AE1/AV1 shared with it’s competitors in the Olympus OM and Pentax M ranges, and its simple, classic engraved logo .  Instead we were given the future of camera design.  It was big and chunky, plastic, noisy and a more flashy screen-printed logo.  Welcome to the Eighties.

The T range is considered to be a bit of an ugly aberration in the Canon SLR series – a short lived 1980s mistake between the classic A series and the EOS range of cameras which evolved into the DSLRs of today.   In a non-revisionist opinion however (as a young Praktica user in 1983 I seriously wanted one of these..) I have to say the T50 is not the ugly duckling of popular opinion but a beautiful design classic of the era.

It’s certainly a bit on the minimalist side.

T50 top
The new logo

It has a big black shutter button, a function selector wheel, film rewind lever, a hotshoe and a big black thumb grip.

When I say function selector though, it’s more of an on-off button.  The T50 is (almost) a fully automatic  point and shoot camera.  ‘L’ is off and ‘PROGRAM’ is on.  BC checks the battery and ‘SELF’ is the 10 second self timer, which operates in ‘PROGRAM’ mode.

T50 control
the various functions..

And PROGRAM is a glorious unknown.  There is no indication of aperture or shutter speed other than the sound of the mirror slap giving you an idea of duration.  You do have a viewfinder warning where the ‘P’ indicating PROGRAM mode flashes when you’re going to get camera shake.  Or need a flash.

The other manual intervention is setting film speed.  There’s a dial in the usual place.

T50 ISO
manual intervention – film speed

There is a slight opportunity for manual control. The A setting on the lens is for fully auto operation. But when you move this to an aperture setting, the camera responds with a shutter speed of 1/60th. No metering indication other than an ‘M’ for manual in the viewfinder, so you’re on Sunny 16 for this.

And that’s as complicated as the T50 gets.  It takes AA batteries (thank you Canon), has a remote control socket (don’t have a remote control) and takes a dedicated flash (included in my £10 bundle).    The other thing about the T50 in addition to its opinion-dividing looks is the audio.  Its built-in auto winder is one noisy fecker – no Leica street photography stealth with this camera, it’ll definitely attract the attention.  Especially if you keep the shutter button pressed where it’ll go off on a 1.4fps continuous burst.

Using it is a blast.  Stick in a roll of film, compose and focus the nicely sharp Canon 50mm 1.8 and press the button. I used  Kentmere 400 to ensure decent shutter speeds in what was overcast weather.  I was pleased with the results.

traditional
Menu includes drink
oneills
O’Neill’s, Dublin
Hairy Lemon Dublin
The Hairy Lemon, Dublin
el campello statue
Sculpty thing, El Campello, Spain
but is it art
but is it Art?  Dublin
beach costa blanca
Three trees on a beach.  Costa Blanca, Spain
bernardo
Bernardo O’Higgins, Liberator of Chile.  His Da was from Sligo

And that’s the Canon T50.  A big beautiful point and shoot with a Canon FD lens.  It’ll wind on for you but you need to manually rewind.  It has manual control but only at 1/60th and no metering.  You can get it for the fraction of the price of an AE-1 or AV-1.  But don’t use late at night – you might wake the neighbours.

The Ricoh KR-5: SLR Minimalism.

IMG_20171104_091347
feel the love for the KR5

The resurgence in film photography, especially with younger photographers has led to a sharp increase in the price of old film cameras.   In 2008 I bought a mint Nikon L35AF for a measly £3 . With the ascendancy of DSLRs and Mirrorless systems, people couldn’t get rid of their film gear quickly enough.

10 years on and classic compacts, SLRs, rangefinders and medium format cameras go for premium prices, although only for certain cameras with a certain cachet.  Cameras like the Canon AE1, Olympus MjuII, Pentax 67, Mamiya 7, anything Contax or Leica all seem to be a costly camera of choice for the affluent young blogger or YouTuber.

I however grew up on a Praktica MTL3 and whatever cheap M42 lenses I could get, and even though I progressed to the heights of Praktica B mount and aperture priority exposure, I still have a fondness for a more budget approach to film photography.

So while looking on the EBay for a 28mm lens to go with a battered but working Pentax K1000 rescued from impending landfill, I managed to obtain for the princely sum of a tenner:

  • A mint Ricoh KR-5 with 50mm  f2 Riconar lens
  • A Sirius 28mm lens
  • A Sirius 135mm lens
  • An olive green Miranda bag
  • A wee sync cable
  • A blower brush (essential for negative scanning)
    I don’t think I’ve ever felt as pleased with myself.

The KR5 it should be said is a basic beginners camera of the most utilitarian order. But my god it’s beautiful.  A solid mix of metal body and plastic casing  – the name and model is cut into the plastic, none of your sticker nonsense here – it has a solid, unfussy design.

It’s jet black – front, back and top with minimal controls.  You get a shutter dial, film speed dial, lever advance and shutter release button (threaded for cable release).  A self-timer on the front and that’s your lot.   Even the shutter speed dial keeps it basic.  No wide range of speeds either..

IMG_20171104_091408
Complex state of the Art controls

A modest fastest speed of 1/500th is complemented by a slowest of 1/8th with B the only setting below this. So any milky water shots, you’re on B and counting.  In reality of course if you’re street shooting or doing a photo-walk, this is going to cover most situations unless you’re using Ilford Delta 3200 on a bright summer day.  Equally in the studio under flash – sync of 1/60th, lens at f8 and set the lights accordingly.

Exposure is measured through a simple CdS exposure meter powered by two G13/SR44 batteries.  A useful feature is that the meter only works when the lever is half-cocked to show the red dot as seen above.  Unlike the Pentax K1000 whose meter is always on and needs a lens cap on to stop battery drain, the exposure is only read when the lever is in this position.

Simplicity is extended through to the viewfinder screen.

Ricoh viewfinder
Underexposed Rhein and bridge

It’s big, bright and has a needle that moves up and down.  No LED’s or even +/-  indicators.  When it’s in the middle you’re good to go.  Even the focussing circle in the centre is unfussy and is clear to see when you’re in focus.

And that’s the KR-5.  Next step is to load film and shoot.

 

Thomas
Kentmere 100 using studio flash.  50mm lens
Drummer, Grafton Street. Dublin
Grafton Street, Dublin.  Tri-X 400.  135mm lens
dublin larkin
O’Connell Street, Dublin.  Tri-X 400.  28mm lens
Keiserwerth
Kaiserswerth, Germany.  Kentmere 400.  50mm lens

And that’s the Ricoh KR-5 in all its wonderful simplicity.  You may ask what’s the difference between it and any of the numerous other manual SLR’s of the 1970’s and 80’s and there’s undoubtedly more sophisticated, desirable cameras out there, cameras with greater versatility and even ones with more than 7 shutter speeds.

It’s strength is in the simplicity of use and its limited options and functionality which puts the onus on the photographer.  It combines Eastern Bloc utilitarianism with a bit of Japanese reliability and sleeker design.  It’s not too heavy, the shutter’s not too loud and the solid black look and stripped back functionality make it the Johnny Cash of cameras.

And you can pick them up for next to nothing.