Monday, February 01, 2016

Konstrukting the Konstruktor

Ever since I was introduced to the Holga back in early 2000, I've enjoyed playing with lo-fi photography (or, lomography)  The quirkiness of each individual plastic lens and camera body makes for unique and sometimes surprising images, and working with film reminds me to slow my shooting process down, and take care with the limited amount of frames I have to work with on a given roll.  I've gone through several Holgas over the years, built a pinhole camera from a cardboard punch-out kit, and tried a few funky fisheye and extra-wide-angle plastic cameras just for fun.

Several years ago, I built a home made twin lens reflex camera from a kit that D bought for me.  Since then, the little black box has accompanied me on many adventures, producing unique images with a nostalgic feel.  The last few times I've brought it out, however, I've had an increasingly frustrating battle with red streaks across multiple frames of my film. While I understand that light leaks are "part of the personality" of a plastic camera, I really wanted cleaner shots... and I have spent a lot of time experimenting and running rolls of film, spreading gaffer tape over every crack and crevice that could possibly affect the film box to the point where the camera exterior was more tape than plastic.  I *thought* I had it beat....

...then I picked up my 2 rolls from my last trip, and it was filled with more "light leak" streaks that I've encountered yet with this camera.  I recall the sun's location when I was shooting the worst of the streaked shots, and I know that I had my camera inside my bag at all times outside of when I took it out to make a shot (in order to minimize potential exposure) so I've come to the conclusion that these are not leaks from the camera back.  The interior of the film box is quite shiny, and it looks as though I'm getting some kind of reflection from the front of the camera (in horror films, this would equate to "the call is coming from inside the house!")  It seems to happen in bright light when the sun is to my right, the angle seems to make the sun reflect off the interior when the shutter is released.

Coincidentally, I'd been eyeing the Konstruktor lomo kit for quite some time, but had held off buying it for myself because I rarely carry two kit cameras with me on any given trip.  Building another kit would require me to decide which camera I wanted to take with me, and I wasn't sure I was ready to give up on the TLR entirely.  The plethora of red streaks on my latest film helped nudge me in the direction of New Toy, and so, inspired by frustration, I clicked away and bought a Konstruktor.

The box says "build in 1-2 hours" which is initially true.  However as with other kit cameras, the instructions are somewhat minimal (more like pictures in a Lego set than instructions) Here is the initial build in high speed:

What I did not show in the video, however, was the first time I loaded the film and found that the film advance knob was locked up.  Admittedly, I had forgotten one gear for that part, and that was my first "take apart and rebuild" attempt, but the knob kept locking even with the proper gear in place.  I searched online, but could not find anybody else with the same problem, though I did find one person who suggested spinning the film take-up clockwise (even though the instructions, every other video, AND the camera's direction arrow clearly point counter-clockwise)  Clockwise didn't work either.  After much rebuilding and testing on my own with the back out of the camera, I concluded that two wheels needed to move together, and the "film counter" disc in between was preventing that from happening.  Every review online said that the film counter was not accurate, and my TLR never had a film counter anyway, so I opted to remove it... which seems to have resolved the sticking issue.

Stickers on to personalize the camera, and I have my new toy:

I have loaded film for testing, so fingers are crossed that I've built it correctly.  I plan to take it out in bright conditions if possible to check for light leaks (aka "personality") and will go from there.

The mystery of my TLR does still bother me.  I have poked and prodded and removed lenses and tested it with a flashlight and the red streaks still make no sense.  I seal Every. Single. Seam. with gaffer tape and still end up with streaks.  I am tempted to load one last roll in the TLR and shoot alongside the Konstruktor, in the same conditions, and maybe even wave it around in bright light just to see if it really is an internal issue.  This is one downside to the TLR as compared to the Konstruktor... the TLR doesn't come apart quite as easily and so unbuilding/rebuilding is not much of an option.  I admit, I'm tempted to start another TLR from scratch as well, but I think I'll do one last test on my current one instead.  Maybe I forgot one crucial piece of tape last time I was out.... just to ensure I'm not going crazy, I'll take pictures of it with my cell phone so I *know* for sure what is taped shut. 

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