Yet another quick post with little-written content but with a bunch of random snapshot images. This is what I end up with when I carry the same roll of film over weeks and only occasionally have a chance to shoot. I am basically on pilot light mode right now and really hope that the next year I can do something a bit more organized work. What I can book as an achievement though is that I could gather some courage and I asked a stranger for a portrait on a street again. It was a really nice experience and I am happy with the result, but you can judge yourself if you scroll down to the second photo.
This time I had my Olympus OM4 Ti in my bag in the last few weeks loaded with the same Ilford HP5 I used in the Kiev before. As usual, the film was developed and scanned by me.
If you followed the Camerajunky Facebook page you may have already read about my planned reunion with my beloved Kiev 4 camera after a long period in which it was hidden in a box. I really felt that I needed to use it again, and my recent discovery about the beauty of Ilford HP5 film gave me the final push to do so.
I don’t know why, but from time to time, I feel serious urge to go back to the basics and pick up a fully mechanical camera such as the Kiev and leave the sophisticated OM4 on the shelf. In addition, I really do like the character of the little Jupiter 8 lens. Especially the quality of the background blur it produces is really appealing to me. I know that many find it not so pleasing, but hey great things are usually dividing after all. It is not the sharpest nor the fastest lens I have ever touched, but an unmistakable character for sure. I also learned that the grain structure and tonality of the Ilford HP5 ISO 400 film is also very unique and close to me, so I thought, I should combine the unique lens with the unique film. I usually use lower sensitivity film so it could be that other medium speed films have similar characters as well. I guess I will need to try more. Until that, I leave you with some random but to me very catchy shots.
A photographer is never really putting down his camera, no matter what crazy thing she or he is doing for a living or filling the days with. Since we are not living in an ideal world, most of us have to face the limitation of time and availability of light in our everyday life.
But limitations are not necessarily bad things! They teach us to utilize our possibilities more creatively by forcing us to see and think in ways we would normally not choose to. This, of course, influences our work as well as ourselves and vice-versa. Eventually this feedback loop can contribute our personal and photographic development similarly to the way the ever-changing environment influences life forms and pushing them towards evolution.
Currently, my job is to sit in an office and convince computers to obey to the needs of their human masters. Making their lives easier by sending them nice, well formed and most importantly correct invoices. As interesting as it sounds, but it is somewhat fulfilling to my geek side which likes to brain wrestler with abstract problems.
But it makes my photographer side starve because the current situation has a very little room for photography. Especially now when the winter is coming. Days are shorter and shorter, so more and more frequently I end up to spend most of the hours filled with natural light in between walls in my natural working environment.
To overcome this obvious contradiction, I decided to make occasionally a “bring your giant medium format camera to work day“. I started to bug my colleges and taking portraits of them during lunch brakes or when I need to wait for my computer to finish a long-lasting blocking task.
The point is, you don’t need to stop being a photographer, just because the conditions are not ideal for the kind of photography you are normally up to. Try to get out the most of the situation and who knows this might drive you to completely unforeseen paths and discoveries.
Jogi is a musician besides being a software engineer and in my opinion, they are making pretty cool music. Their website http://www.theflamingdugongs.at/ is not complete yet, but worth to have a look at.
Kyrylo was so pleased with his portrait that he visited me at my desk (2 floors below his place) to shake my hands right after I sent it to him.
Naturally, it is not my top priority to photograph at work, and I always make sure that this does not have any effect on my everyday responsibilities. It took me quite a while (about 2 months) to get these images. Though they are not perfect, I enjoyed taking them they are part of my journey.
Pajtás is a simple box camera made in Hungary in the 50’s/60’s and as you would suggest this was not a high-end piece of technology even at those times.
Normally I seek for perfection in photography and related equipment and I try to write about cameras here which are capable to produce respectable results or at least represent fine craftsmanship. The Pajtás is far from perfect in any of the aspects of build and image quality, therefore it was not particularly exciting for me until now. So why do I yet write about this camera and most importantly why should you read this review, knowing that I will probably conclude that this camera is crappy but lovely at the same time?
My first and probably strongest reason is that this camera is one of the not too many which were made in my homeland and therefore holds a significant value for me. It also means that this camera is not as well known outside of my region so unless you live in Hungary or nearby, there is a pretty good chance that you have never heard of it.
On the other hand, the Pajtás could be interesting for those who like the history of photography or history in general because of several reasons. First of all this camera features an Achromat lens which can give us an insight into the dawn of photography as the very first daguerreotype cameras had lenses with similar construction. In other words, the images taken through the lens of this box machine can show us a little bit of the taste of the character of the photographs that were taken centuries ago.
In addition, this camera is an iconic relic of industrial design from a not too distant, yet completely different era where the market was driven by strange forces. These were among the toughest years of socialism in Hungary. Production was planned in 5 years cycles and there was literally nothing that was impossible to sell. In these times this camera was the affordable and available option for almost a generation.
Through these glasses, we might see this camera a little different and at least for me, it is special to hold and even better shoot with it.
All in all, if you are interested in history, strange unique cameras, or even Lomography than this article is for you.
As always I try to collect as accurate information about the history of a camera as possible, but it is possible that I state something wrong. If I did, please send me an e-mail or leave a comment. Corrections are always welcome.
The members of the young pioneer organization were called Pajtás in socialist Hungary. It was the equivalent of the word comrade for young people. Oddly I had no idea about this meaning of this word until I started to read about this camera. But it has to be said that I was born in the 80’s when socialism was already quite melded in Hungary.
As the name suggests, the camera was intended for a young audience and it was extremely successful. It was affordable, reliable and most importantly available, so many had received a Pajtás as a present for various occasions such as graduation.
The camera was made between 1955-1966 by Gamma although the emblem has changed to FFV from 1960. FFV stands for Fővárosi Finommechanikai Vállalat (Metropolitan Works for Precision). Interestingly Gamma is still an existing company, even though they don’t manufacture cameras anymore.
The designer was János Barabás (1900-1973) who was mainly responsible for lens design at Gamma and we can thank him for the many great lenses used by Hungarian cameras.
The price of the camera in 1964 was 160 HUF and it was possible to buy a leather case for an additional 45 HUF. 
The camera is almost as simple as possible. It is made of Bakelite which allowed mass produce it on a low price.
The back has another nice feature, a little red window which keeps us informed about the number of the actual frame. Basically, the back of the film (in fact the covering paper) is visible through this window so you can see the printed numbers on the paper. While this is a robust solution, it is advisable to cover this window most of the time, especially if you use higher sensitivity film.
The film can be advanced by a knob at the top of the camera while you have to keep an eye on the frame counter window. There is no other way to determine how much you need to advance the film but to look at the window. This mechanism also makes it easy to take multiple exposure or overlapping shoots.
The shutter release is a simple column and a rotating switch around it with two positions. The red dot means locked and obviously, the white mark indicates that the shutter is free to press.
Since it is not possible to focus with this camera, the viewfinder is rather simple. It contains a lens for correct framing, but this is not a great pleasure to use. It is bright enough but considerably blurry to my eyes. To be fair, this viewfinder does the job just well enough. It gives you some approximation about what will be on your photograph and if your subject is not too close the parallax error is not significant.
To be fair, this viewfinder does the job just well enough. It gives you some approximation about what will be on your photograph and if your subject is not too close the parallax error is not significant.
There are only 2 shutter speeds available M (Moment)1/30 sec and T (Time) which stands for bulb. There is a better offering in aperture settings though you can select f/8, f/11, and f/16 options. Both the shutter speed and the aperture settings can be selected with dedicated dials on the front plane of the camera right below the lens.
All apertures are completely rounded and as far as I can see (without disassembling the camera) it is done by a metal plate with 2 holes on it. When the maximum f/8 aperture is selected, the plate is completely off the way, but as you turn the switch for selecting smaller apertures the appropriate hole slides into place behind the lens.
The leather case is pretty nice, it protects the camera very well. In the meantime, it has a hole in the back to read the frame-counter without dismounting the camera. My only concern is that you cannot separate the front part of the case (covering the lens) so you cannot use it as a half case.
The lens is an 80mm f/8 Achromat manufactured by MOM (Hungarian Optical Works). It is a classical landscape lens consisting of 2 elements: a positive crown and a negative flint element.
The lens which was designed and manufactured by Charles Chevalier for Daguerre was an achromatic landscape lens in the 1830s. Although that lens was different from the one that can be found in the Pajtás, the basic concept is the same. The achromatic lens was a huge step because for the first time it corrected some of the main aberrations which can be found in an optical system.
An achromatic lens or achromat is a lens that is designed to limit the effects of chromatic and spherical aberration. Achromatic lenses are corrected to bring two wavelengths (typically red and blue) into focus in the same plane.
These lenses are typically featuring low apertures because the rays entering the lens far from it’s axis need to be cut off by the stop in order to maintain image quality.
The lens used in the Pajtás camera gives no big surprises. It is focused to the hyperfocal distance so everything on the photo from some near distance will be sharp. It is also supported by the relatively small aperture, that is why depth of field is quite big.
The lens looks coated as I can see some purple cast on it when the light is appropriate. In general, it is not too prone to flare. Of course, there are not many elements in the lens so there are not many surfaces to bounce and reflect on. On the other hand, the interior of the camera is highly reflective so flocking could probably improve image quality and contrast.
Image quality and sample shoots
As you would expect, the image quality is not at all amazing. It is decent from a camera like this and I have to admit there is some charm of the strong character. Sure, most of the effects produced by the lens can be mocked by clever applications on any smartphone, but that is not the same. You must know that you work with a high random factor when you shoot with this camera.
So far I shot only 1 roll of Lomo Lady Gray 400 film with this camera as the first trial. In general, an ISO 400 film is probably too fast for this low shutter speed, but since winter is coming and we are having many dark days it was a good choice. I have some Hungarian Forte Supercolor 100 film in my refrigerator (expired in 1995) which could be a stylish combination with this camera.
The lens is sharpish in the center but blurs everything off around the edges. It sometimes even creates the impression of shallow depth of field, but this is not the case.
Distortion is apparent, but I couldn’t hold the camera perfectly perpendicular against the staircase and my scanner is also not the best in keeping the film flat. Anyhow, I think that the geometrical distortion is not the biggest issue compromising image quality here.
The numbers and circle signs on this shot (almost all shots have some) belong to the back of the covering paper of the film. I am not sure how they managed to get to the photos, but they did. If anyone has any idea, I would be happy to read it in the comments.
Also, there are signs of light leaks on almost all of my shots. This most likely happened, because the camera does not seal light perfectly. I am seriously considering to use some black tape next time I put the film into my Pajtás.
This frame was partially overlapped because of my fault. I have not transferred the film correctly.
There is no flash connection on this camera, so in theory, you cannot use flash with it. On the other hand, the 1/30 of a second is slow enough to fire flash manually at the right time. But probably the best strategy is to shoot in bulb mode in very low light or in complete darkness and fire the flash while you keep the shutter release pressed. I have done some successful experiment with the latter technique so I can recommend giving it a try.
Conclusion and recommendations
The Pajtás is not a rare camera, it is extremely cheap and just as light to carry. It is extremely easy to use as well. I believe it is even able to produce nice images in good hands.
Because of the simple construction there is literally nothing which could break in it. It is relatively safe to pick one with good cosmetics as it is almost certain that it will work properly. Eventually, this is not the camera we would expect completely accurate shutter speed from.
My only concern is the back which is a bit flimsy to me, but it can be secured by some black tape. And of course the Bakelite body is very rigid and therefore fragile, so it is advisable not to drop it.
If you like box cameras and the imperfection of the images they produce, or you are a fan of the retro design, then this camera could be a good choice for you.
Being a camera addict I usually carry around at least 2-3 cameras of different kinds. Most of the time I have my actual favorite film camera in my bag plus a small compact for measuring the light. This set is mixed up with my medium format madness and the expectation of my family members of having good digital images about family occasions so I frequently bring my budget DSLR.
The fact that I always acting like a packman packed with cameras and lenses has 3 main consequences:
I cannot easily write a “What is in my camera bag” type of post since my bag transforms every week. (Ok, I have 3-4 different setups I used to carry around depending on my mood.)
My bag is very often reaches the mass of a medium size star with a huge gravity field which attracts more cameras.
I use many different kind of films and sensors so it is hard to select matching images to create unified looking set for a thematic series. It is also happening because I love casual shooting during pointless walks without a concept.
To overcome on the 3rd consequence I decided to use the images of my very last roll of film and present it as a diary recorded in photos. Even though there are different topics covered in this series and the photos were taken during several walks in the last couple of weeks, it has a quite unified look due to the same roll of film.
Camera: Cosina CSM
Lens: Cosinon 55mm f/2.1
Film: Fomapan ISO100, 36
Developer: Kodak D76
Scanner: Canoscan 9900F
Period: 2012 Jan-Feb
Morning at the river
We are living very close to the biggest river of Hungary (Danube) and I like so much to have a walk early morning (before work) at the side of it. There is a tiny island I used to visit because it is really quite and peaceful at the mornings especially at this cold part of the year. You can hear an army of birds using twitter though. These shoots were taken on an extremely cold day at the temperature around -20 degrees Celsius.
The place we live in is a quite lovely little town with a great history which I don’t even try to introduce here. It almost all the year filled with tourists and their cameras. Seriously, I could start the local …camerastyle.com site focusing on tourists’ equipment. (I do love these sites: tokyocamerastyle.com, saopaulocamerastyle, csmcamerastyle) Anyhow there are tremendous amount of photos taken about the town every day so I don’t really feel like to shoot there as much. Still I always find a little detail worth to capture.
Bus stops are great contrast against the downtown, they are regularly dirty, covered by graffiti and offensive adverts about products I will never buy (because I spend all my money on film of course). These are places used by everyone but seemingly belongs to nobody and therefore nobody really cares the way they look like.
Portraiture is a very exciting branch of photography probably because of its subject. It is indeed a very ancient and natural thing to depict our fellowman. Therefore an enormous amount of portraits has been created over history and especially nowadays.
Most likely this is the reason why portraiture is not easy to do well, fortunately, all of us genetically attracted to faces. People are hard-coded to recognize human faces virtually everywhere and in anything even if there are only a few random craters and some shadows on the surface of a dead planet.
I also do love good portraits, and I am generally taking a lot as well. Unfortunately, I am not as good as I wish to be.
It is rather hard to catch the moment of emotion in the right composition among proper lights to get a really special portrait. In addition, as it is an interactive process you have to be connected to the other human-being on a level which is challenging and exciting at the same time.
This is overall very rewarding for me and I am going to keep shooting portraits for sure, hopefully on a higher and higher level.
I was planning to post some of my portraits here for a long time ago, but on the other hand, I decided to push myself to publish new works as much as possible.
Finally, the time has come and I have developed a few rolls of film a few days ago. So now I have some new photos which I will mix up with a few not so new ones.
The recent shoots caused a quite a bit of excitement because as always everything was experimental. I have tested a new focusing screen in my Pentacon Six as well as 2 new types of film (Fuji Across 100, Lomo Lady Gray 400) and this was the first time I used Kodak D76 developer.
It turned out all good, however, there were lessons to learn again.
Some new shoots
Some not so new shoots
These two pictures were among those I shoot on my first few rolls and developed myself around 2007-2008. The guy was my roommate during the university and these were taken in our kitchen next to a big window.
By the way, he is also a photographer and shooting film too from time to time. He is the founder of a really nice blog called 100ASA.
Naturally there are many more portraits in my collection which deserve a frame in this blog and certainly many will show up. I only need to find the occasion and the context to merge them with recent works and publish. But hey this is only the round 1. I hope some of these cached your eye.