The Suzuki Optical Co. Press Van is a rare but typical Japanese rangefinder built from 1953 to 1954. It is a mechanical beauty, the first with a fully automatic frame counter on the top of the camera. The camera has two viewfinders: one coupled for the focus, and one for the framing. It has no lightmeter in the camera, so I use a very handy Voigtländer VC-II meter.
The distance dial is the knob at the top right, as on the Plaubel Makina 67. You must therefore insert the film upside down (from right to left) and turn the left knob to advance to the next image. The lens is an Asahi Kogaku Takumar 1:3.5 F=75mm (later Asahi Optical Co. and later still, Pentax). Don’t be confused with the later Press Van 120 built from 1954 which is a simpler variant, it has two frame windows in the back and no counter.
I began photography as an amateur, developing and enlarging black and white and colour transparencies, in the mid-seventies to eighties when I was at school. Then my work took my time away and I stopped photography. I began digital photography in 2008 and restarted my analogue lab by buying old cameras and films.
In 2012 I discovered Caffenol (see here and here) with the Caffenol Cookbook. I am since 2013 only developing my films with different variants of Caffenol. It is not toxic, not dangerous for kids or pets, and eco-friendly, which is important nowadays, and you get really excellent results with it. Especially the CL stand variant, which uses very few ingredients but it must be weighed very precisely to 0.1 grams.
As I was a pure ILFORD film shooter in those times, I didn’t use Agfa, Kodak, and Fuji’s black and white films until one day I decided to buy a roll of NEOPAN 100 ACROS and forgot it on a shelf. Now as it has expired, I convinced myself to try the film in a little Rotterdam trip in September. I’m happy I did that!
I developed the film in Caffenol CL stand for 65 minutes @ 20°C-68°F (recipe here). When the film was drying I saw that this film was different. I was really astonished about the pronounced shadow and highlight curve, which gives really dark blacks, but with details and really high highlights. No dull greys with this film!
I really must try the new ACROS II!
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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