The woman with the mobile phone must think I’m creepy. Or possibly daft. Perhaps both. She is sat on a bench in the sunshine, having a chat with a friend, and I am stalking around the arches of the building with a camera as old as I am.

Precisely, as old as I am, in fact. I was attracted by a Zeiss Ikon Contina on ‘a well-known internet auction site’ at a ridiculously low price. I found some details elsewhere online, and when I learned that it was only manufactured between 1963 and 1965, I was sold; it was pretty much exactly my age. It’s also small, light, easy to use, and has the looks of an antique Vespa or a 1950s espresso machine. In theory, it has a selenium meter and, although the needle appears to fluctuate, it does so in an apparently random fashion, unperturbed by prosaic things like changing the aperture. So, Sunny 16 and off we go.

The photos in this post were taken in Dundee on a bright summer’s afternoon. The strong light and clear air gave a delightful edge to the old stone buildings. It is a beautiful city, which has benefited in recent years from some superb redevelopment by the waterfront. The 45mm lens on the Contina seemed like an ideal Goldilocks focal length – not too long, not too wide. I’m reminded that Zeiss made some very lovely glass, back in the day.

I have recently moved exclusively to Caffenol for development. The idea of making a developer from common household ingredients appealed to my first principles approach to life, and the environmental attractions are obvious. I’ve found that the resulting negatives are pretty much indistinguishable from those processed in a standard one-shot developer.

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It has certainly given a good range of tones to these images, which were shot on Fomapan 100 and developed in Caffenol-C-H (although with household salt rather than the potassium bromide) for 16 minutes. The Fomapan 100 Classic is an ‘old school’ film; it doesn’t sparkle, but it is very reliable, works well with the Caffenol, and is incredibly cheap, encouraging experimentation and a willingness to make a few mistakes along the way.

It’s a liberating experience to use an old camera with a simple iris diaphragm, focusing by guesswork and metering by rule of thumb. In a city of fading grandeur and bright new purpose like Dundee, I’m sure it felt completely at home.

~ Ian

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About the author

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Ian Hill

I have taken and developed black and white films on and off since I was a teenager, with varying degrees of commitment and success. I love experimentation, and re-discovering traditional processes and techniques. I live in Cumbria, and take a lot of photographs...


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  1. Good to see photos from Caffenol.
    Just one correction, Caffenol CH is for high-speed films (400-1600) which need potassium bromide or iodized salt as restrainer and anti-fog. On the other hand Caffenol CM is for medium speed films (100-200) without p.b. or salt.
    Nice work !

  2. Lovely photos of the ‘City of Discovery’ Ian. The V&A is quite a building. I enjoy taking photos with a camera of a similar vintage to myself, and have a Leica M2 from 1962, which is when I also came into the world!

  3. Great images!
    ahhhhh, Western cameras, Japanese cameras so great: the real artisans photo gears.
    You are a great photographer.

    1. Thanks! I think the cameras from the period made in Germany were of great quality. It was after the period that Japanese manufacturers really took the market.

  4. Quality photos, little camera has a fine lens on. Looking forward to using the one I recently received.