Sunday, November 29, 2009

The $5 Camera...Mamiya 1000 TL

I learned photography on an old Praktica LTL that was my dad's. He used it the whole time I was growing up to take pictures of my family, our vacations and everything else. The old M42 screw mount body was built like a tank and took great pictures, and it's humble origins in communist East Germany ensured that the price was right. It was the perfect camera for a college kid wanting to learn how to take good pictures, and I used it to great effectiveness back in the early 90's.

Alas, the old Praktica doesn't work so well anymore. The mirror is really dim, the film advance doesn't seem to work correctly, and the focus ring on the old 50mm Pentacon lens is so stiff as to be unusable. I retired it several years ago, after it shot a roll of film and left huge gaps in between the pictures, meaning I got several shots that were halves of two other shots! Disappointing, but the Praktica had more than done it's duty. I still have it, and will never get rid of it, but it is retired for good.

So, during a recent vacation to the Outer Banks, you can imagine my great joy when I found an old camera bag in a thrift store, tucked into the back corner of the room. I opened it to find this:

I wasn't familiar with the 1000 TL, but I was familiar with Mamiya. Before digital, I can remember salivating at their medium format stuff. At $5, the 1000 TL didn't even warrant testing. I figured if it didn't work, I could put it on eBay as a parts camera and at least make my money back.

I began looking around in the bag, which looked to be mid sixties vintage (the 1000 TL was made from the late 60's through early 70's). There were several vintage Hoya filters, a lens hood, a bayonet mount converter (to what, I have no idea), and a Soligor 135mm f/2.8 lens. Hoo boy. Jackpot.

But, when I got it out of the store, I discovered that the light meter actually worked. The shutter snapped crisply, and everything seemed to be in order. Best part was, it was an M42 mount, just like my old Praktica, so all my old lenses and teleconverter would work.

By today's standards, nothing in this kit is impressive, but back in the day, this was a solid piece of photographic equipment. It has shutter speeds from 1/1000 all the way down to 1 sec, plus B. I already have a shutter trip cable that can lock open the shutter for any amount of time I want. It has a self timer which will trip the shutter after about 10 seconds. It doesn't have a hotshoe, which is perhaps the only thing lacking that I really could have used, but since I don't plan on shooting indoors much with this camera, it's not really a problem.

It looks very clean inside and out, although, as is common with cameras this age, the light seals look cruddy. I've already ordered some black string and light seal foam to completely redo the whole thing. Nevertheless, I have a roll of Superia Xtra 400 in it right now, just to see if this thing works or not.

Regardless of how it turns out, I'm pretty happy to have found this. If it works well, it will be all that much better.

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