A mislabeled rangefinder from the 1960's yields surprising results.
After hunting around and doing some research, I decided that my next camera should be a rangefinder. So I did what any Newtownian does when they want a vintage camera: I headed to the Smile Please counter at Newtown Old Wares.
“I’d like a rangefinder, please. One with a light meter.”
“Right you are, then.”
After some rummaging behing the counter, and a test look through a few he was refurbishing (Voghtlander? Nah, the rangefinder’s off. Canon? No, the light meter’s not working), he produced a camera, stating that it had just been disassembled and cleaned, so the spot should be quite bright.
I had a cursory look, deemed it satisfactory, and named it Giselle (chosen for it’s 60’s appeal, all simple shapes & clean lines):
The year was 1963. Disney released its 18th animated film “The Sword & the Stone” into theaters. The Beatles exploded onto the scene with the one-two punch of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” & “I Saw Her Standing There”. Beatlemania was quick to follow. Kenya & Zanzibar gained their independence from the British Empire. John F Kennedy was shot & killed in Dallas, Texas. In Japan, the immensely popular Tetsuwan Atomu, or “Mighty Atom”, was turned into a television series. It would later find fame in North American as Astro Boy.
And in Tokyo, in the Konica factory, a series of rangefinder cameras were released: the technologically advanced Konica Auto S (the first CdS-metered, auto exposure camera), and the entry-level Konica EE Matic (later succeeded by the EE Matic Deluxe, which added a better lens & wider ASA control). Somewhere in the middle, Giselle was released, an awkward middle child in a family of superstars.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Giselle is engraved as an EE Matic S, but the EE Matic S had no rangefinger. It just a point-and-shoot. But Giselle DOES have a rangefinder, and a good one:
For those of you (like me), who has never used a rangefinder before, the little yellow blob mid-viewfinder shows a double-image of what’s behind it. You point the blob at what you want in focus, then turn the lens until the images line up. It’s deceptively easy. She has the lens of an EE Matic, a 40mm 1:2.8 Konishiroku Hexanon. She lacks the ASA range of the Deluxe, only allowing 200, 160, 100, 64, 50, 25, and 10 (!) via a dial next to the shutter release.
EE stands for “Electric Eye”, the fancy-pants name for the battery-free selenium light meter around the lens (similar to the one found in the Olympus Trip 35). This meter controls both the aperture and the shutter speed, with the only settings (accessed via a slider on the bottom of the lens) being “Auto”, or “Flash Sync” (meaning aperture of 2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/30). I only figured this out through trial and error, and reading manuals of similar cameras, having never found an online manual for this model.
If the Electric Eye light meter says you don’t have enough light to get a good shot? You get the Red Light of Doom. The green circle in the viewfinder goes red, and no matter how much you depress the release, it won’t snap. Giselle has standards.
For a test roll, I grabbed some Foma Fomapan 100 expired black-and-white film that had recently come in the mail from Lomography. That is also where I made a mistake: don’t use a film you’ve never tried before as a test in a camera you’ve never tried before. It makes it difficult to nail down the variables.
When I saw these pictures from the university, I was not happy; while the photos are clear & sharp, they were awash with grey tones and heavy grain. I pushed on through the roll.
That’s more like it! Given some perspective, and some decent light, and the Konica gave the grainy, expired film some serious contrast, with some lovely bokeh in the background.
Pleased, I loaded up what was left of a mangled roll of AGFA CT Precisa, and took Giselle on a few trips. First along Stephens St:
…then some cloud-watching…
…then to a burrito picnic in Camperdown with some friends…
…and finally on a walk through Newtown’s alleys, where I met a new friend.
Despite Giselle’s ISO limitations making her a daylight-only camera, I am hugely impressed with this model, oddly labeled & unidentified as she is.