Last December, I was fortunate enough to take a solo trip to New York City after my semester finished up. I settled on staying in the Lower East Side, where I could easily walk to museums and other unique spaces without breaking a sweat.
As a Canadian visiting NYC, I very much wanted to blend in. This made my choice of camera somewhat difficult. I soon made up my mind with a Konica C35MFD that I picked up for $6 at an estate sale back home. The camera likely hadn’t been touched since the 80s, and excessive tape around the flimsy battery door made the body sticky. But after some care and shooting a test roll, I was amazed at the sharpness of the compact f/2.8 38mm lens.
Though its autofocus and auto-exposure mostly remained a mystery to me, I took a chance on the stealthy and sharp camera and packed it away in my luggage.
CineStill’s BwXX (Kodak EASTMAN DOUBLE-X 5222) was an obvious choice for me in NYC. Perhaps it was a fledgling attempt to imitate the famous Weegee, but I could only envision shooting black-and-white in Manhattan.
When loading the Konica, I was surprised to see CineStill list BwXX as a “variable speed” film. Though its base speed is 250, which I went with, they claim it could be rated as fast as 1600. In hindsight, I likely would have benefitted from going up to 400.
Probably due to the capabilities of the Konica point and shoot, quite a few photos suffered from underexposure. For example, many shots as I walked south on Allen or Essex Street at night were far too shadowy.
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That said, the BwXX negative’s grain and the depth of its blacks affirm it as one of my favourite panchromatic stocks. Even in underexposure, the grain remained fine. The stock also upholds an outstanding level of contrast between lights and darks, especially in bright daylight. I find that other stocks shift toward greys too readily.
While I could’ve filled an entire roll while walking through the Lower East Side, I eagerly traversed through NYC’s boroughs with the Konica around my neck. Greenwich Village and Queens offered me a notable change of scenery. I nevertheless found the quietest moments steps from my door in Chinatown, and stealthily shot away.
I’ve been back in my hometown of Toronto for a while now, though I have no black-and-white film on the go. It’ll be difficult to top my experience in NYC, and I’ll have to see if I end up returning soon.
Thanks for reading,
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Great article and images, Joe. I have a similar Konica 35 that I unfortunately paid too much for (more than $6!) but I absolutely love it. Like you, I was surprised at how sharp the lens is. I use it mostly for casual things, like when my wife and I are traveling and I don’t want to take a lot of gear. I usually shoot HP5 Plus or one of the more inexpensive Kodak or Fuji film stocks and I’ve never been disapointed by the results. The heft and size feel just right, too, for someone used to using heavier machines like the Nikon F–not too small, not too big. Thanks for the article.