A Stunning View

WILL YOU BELIEVE ME if I say the picture below was taken with a box camera? There is nothing incredible about the thing. And nor is it impossible. To get the clouds into the picture, you require in the first place, clouds in the sky. And to differentiate between clouds and sky, a deep yellow, or orange filter. The picture below was taken with an Agfa Isoly II with a pale orange filter with a filter factor of about 3.

I will be honest here. I don't have a print of this picture with me, only the negative. The picture you see here was made by photographing the negative against a white background using a mobile phone, then using the computer to invert tones. Finally, contrast was added online. 

I can assure you, you can get an identical effect by printing the negative in an enlarger, and adding contrast by using a hard grade paper and a high contrast developer.

Remembering Abhoy Da

HERE'S A SET OF PICTURES made with an Agfa Isoly II box camera. These and several others were taken in the hill region of North East India, and printed superbly by my friend, Mr Abhoy Paul, who jointly with his brother, Mr. Panna Paul, ran Studio Monalisa in Shillong.  

My adventure with photography began in Mr Paul’s studio, and I shall ever remember him for the hints, tips and advice the gentleman had to give me. He was also a very good friend.

My acquaintance with Mr Paul was made way back in 1985. Many years later, after I had relocated to a different place and was working on this site, I remembered my friend, and included a reference to him in a post titled “The Box Camera in India”. Years passed, and nothing seemed to materialize. I had hoped the Paul brothers would be around, and would get in touch with me through the site. I had hoped this would that this would be a fine way to revive our old acquaintance.

I did get to hear from the family, but not from the brothers themselves. I received a message from Abhoy-da’s son, Arin. Sadly, Studio Monalisa in Shillong shut business many years back, and both Abhoy-da and his brother have moved on, Arin tells me. I am deeply moved. I shall miss my friends so much.

This view of Shillong was printed by Abhoy Da.
The lack of focus at the left edge is due to
improper scanning.

Mr Abhoy Paul with son Arin at the Ward Lake
in Shillong
I remember seeing Arin at the studio counter back in those days. He was a fine lad, energetic and bubbling with enthusiasm. Today he has grown up, and is a film maker in Mumbai. I am so glad Arin got in touch with me. He is the last link I have with the Paul family, and shall ever remain a precious friend.

Arin, then and now...

Father and son, a long time ago...

Ravindra Bhalerao 

The Camera Shutter

FURTHER ON IN THIS site I have described the box camera scenario in India, the various models which appeared on the market, and some of my experiences while hunting around for a camera. Perhaps I have not recounted how while I was on my camera hunt, I was also lucky enough to receive a gorgeous gift from an old aunt who stayed in Bombay. It was an old Agfa Isoly - I camera marketed by Agfa Gevaert India Limited and assembled in their camera factory at Baroda. My aunt had shot but a roll or two of film on it, and the camera was as good as new. But mechanical wizard that I was, I decided to open up the box, tinker around with the screws, alter the internal arrangements, all in the hope of ‘improving’ the device. And a week later, I was left with a box which was truly no better than a box.

Before I consigned the instrument to the dustbin, I was wise enough to salvage the lens, and the shutter. And for thirty long years, the shutter has remained with me, carefully put away in an envelope and stored in a trunk. It is still in working condition and is operated by turning a shaft at the back by inserting a pin or key sideways through a slot cut in the metal. Speeds offered are B, 1/30 and 1/100 second. I think this is an example of what is known as a 'Singlo' shutter.

Was it a wise thing for me to tinker around with the camera in the first place? Yes and no. The camera was destroyed in the process it is true, but what use would it have been to me anyway, now that roll film is no longer available in our country? So I would say that it was good I decided to try out my brains on the innards of this old box from the house of Afga. The camera was lost, but in return I have with me the shutter and can see for myself the mechanical genius of those magnificent men of old who devised this wonderful array of springs and levers for a camera.

Classic cameras are here...

This website originally started out with a detailed exposition of box cameras of old, and all the accompanying trappings, and yet how lovely it would be, I have lately felt, if one could have a site here dealing with various other types of classic cameras too.

Consider for example this single lens reflex. It’s a Pentax, and although its auto function is dysfunctional, it has given me many happy hours of pleasure. Just load up with a roll of 35mm film, go out with an exposure table, and shoot! And how delightful when the pictures are back from the processing laboratory!

Or consider this twin lens reflex from Rollei Fototechnik, Germany. In years gone by, Rollei have brought out updated versions of two of its outstanding cameras, the Rollei 35, and the other a twin lens reflex. Both had fixed focal length lenses, both were equipped with exposure meters, but were capable of full manual operation too. 

This site is all about classic cameras, and in the days to come, you may expect to find here a lot more than just box cameras. So then, friends, be on the lookout for something exciting coming your way!