Apple Extended Keyboard II

Apple Extended Keyboard II
Apple Extended Keyboard II

 

I’ve now been reacquainted with what might be the best keyboard ever made, the Apple Extended Keyboard II. I’ve been using one at both my home and office desks for a month or so and they are as great as I remember. The one pictured above is a filthy mess because I haven’t gotten around to cleaning it yet. Some day I may take it apart and give it a good scrubbing.

There are downsides to using these keyboards..

  1. No USB ports.
  2. Caps Lock key actually locks, making remapping it to the Control key impossible. This isn’t great for Vim users like me.

Neither are reason enough switch back to any other keyboard.

Apple IIc

I found an Apple IIc and monitor in storage so I thought I’d see if it would fire up. It did.

Apple IIc
Apple IIc

 

The IIc uses an internal 5 1/4 floppy and the only one I could find was “Writer Rabbit” so I popped it in, turned it on and everything, surprisingly, worked. I have no idea what to do with it now, but it seems a shame to put it back into a box in the basement.

Here’s a quick (1:00-ish) video of Jessica playing the game.

The Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Scanner

I’ve always hated scanning color 35mm film. It’s fiddly to work with and no matter what I’ve tried the color is always off. Then I met the Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner.

IMG 0670
Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner

I started to see mentions of this scanner on various forums recently. Seemed too good to be true. The claims were that it could scan an entire, uncut roll of color 35mm film, with Digital Ice, in 5 minutes. That, and the color were supposed to be basically nailed right out of the box. Originally, the F-135 Plus sold for $8000 (in 2007-ish). Word was I could get one on eBay for around $300. I was sold! I won an eBay bid for $330. The risk was that the units were listed “As-Is” with no returns allowed. A week later the scanner arrived and I got to work.

The scanner requires its own proprietary software and only works with Windows XP. I read that some folks were doing this successfully on Macs via Parallels. After a couple botched install attempts I got everything working and scanned some test strips. The maximum resolution of the scans is 3000×2000. That’s fine for proofing and small prints, so I wasn’t worried about it.

Whoa! It’s so fast! And they were right, the colors looked as good as I’ve ever been able to manage. I have no idea how I didn’t know about the F-135 before. It completely changes the game for me when it comes to scanning 35mm film. No more fiddling around trying to get things flat and lined up in the V750’s flimsy holders. No more swearing at Vuescan or Silverfast and manually setting scan settings and cropping. No more hours wasted trying to get colors to look even close to realistic. I love this thing.

It turns out that I’m not the only one. There was a run on them happening. The same company that sold me mine for $330 was selling the same units just 2 weeks later for over $800. As-is for $800! The reason I know this is that mine fried itself the night I got it and I was out my $330. I loved it so much that I wanted a replacement immediately. Not so easy.

I finally found a dealer who had actually taken over servicing the Pakons for Kodak. He had 56 refurbished units a month ago and was down to 4 when I called, so I paid $950 on the spot and the replacement arrived today. It works perfectly and is very clean. The consensus is that hundreds of them became available when CVS shut down their film labs and one company was setting prices at around $300. And they ran out. That pricing wasn’t sustainable, and now everyone is scrambling. Prices are over $1000 today and climbing.

That seems crazy but if you’d shown me one before I’d seen the “old” price and told me it cost $1000 I’d have happily paid that amount. Painful timing, but it makes me excited about shooting color film again. And I’ve only scanned one roll. The image below is from my Olympus Stylus Epic (Portra 400) right out of the scanner and shows Steve looking almost as happy about finding some KBS at Founders as I did about finding the Pakon F-135.

2015 Roll 003 02 edit
Steve with KBS (Porta 400 self-processed. Scanned using Pakon F-135)

Marco.org: A Voyage to 2009

A Voyage to 2009:

The ideal Kindle would have hardware page-turn, Home, and Menu buttons and a touch screen for UI navigation, selection, and text entry.

The hidden, error-prone touch zones would be optional and off by default, since the hardware buttons would remove the need.

(Via Marco.org)

These are exactly what I’d like to see.

On the other hand, I don’t mind the pseudo buttons. I like the Voyage more than Marco does, and I’m not as ready to write Amazon off, but a better device would be welcome. For now though, the Kindle Voyage is the only viable e-reader option, and it’s a pretty good one.

Replacing my Olympus Stylus Epic

You will almost always find an Olympus Stylus Epic on or near my person. The unassuming little Stylus Epic is in my opinion the best compact film camera for carrying everywhere. It easily fits in my pocket, is weather resistant, has a very nice f/2.8 lens, a spot meter, and goes from pocket to photo about 25 times faster than my iPhone.

I’ve been carrying an Epic for about 10 years now, and the second one I’ve owned finally stopped working consistently. Occasionally it just doesn’t fire, and there’s a hairline crack somewhere which affects the top center of every frame. Not ideal, so I began looking to replace it.

Today on Craigslist, this showed up…

Olympus Stylus Epic
Olympus Stylus Epic

A nifty, like-new condition Stylus Epic Deluxe. In the box with all original paperwork, case, strap, etc. It’s not black, but the champagne color is pretty nice.

I paid $10. How great is that! This is undoubtedly the best ten dollars I’ve ever spent on photography gear.

The Online Photographer: I Had Better ‘Fess Up

It seems fair to conclude from the evidence that I’m the victim of some persistent delusions when it comes to my own photography. For instance, every time I buy a new camera, I truly believe that I’m going to use it for the rest of my life and will never have to re-sell it. This flies in the face of all of a huge body of evidence to the contrary

That’s Mike over at The Online Photographer admitting the same problem I suffer from. I too buy each new camera with the intention of it being my one-and-only for the rest of my life. That almost never happens. I’m glad it’s not just me.

Leica IIIf

I’ve always wanted a “Barnack” Leica, if for no reason other than the nostalgia of using a piece of photographic history dating back to the mid-1930s. I’m not a (deliberate) collector, so condition and rarity weren’t important to me. I ended up with a “user” IIIf.

The camera is not really a IIIf but rather a IIIc built in 1946 then later converted by Leica into a IIIf. It came with a lovely chrome Canon 50mm 1.8 LTM lens, which was a nice bonus, since prices on the Canon LTM lenses keep going up. When this photo was taken, I was trying the 28mm Voigtlander Color-Skopar and 28mm accessory viewfinder. The Leica IIIs were made with a 50mm lens in mind, so I’ll probably keep the Canon on it most of the time. I’m also looking for a nice post-war 50mm collapsible Summicron, since that would be a great fit.

After two or three rolls of film I can say that it’s a delight to use. By “delight” I don’t mean that it’s easy or convenient. It’s neither of those.

To visualize the photo, you look through the left viewfinder for focusing, then you need to switch to the right window for framing. Both are quite tiny and not nearly as bright as the later M cameras that I’m used to. The film is advanced by turning a knob and it is rewound using another knob. No sir,  none of those newfangled levers on this camera. None of this can be done quickly.

Loading the film is even more awkward. The leader must first be trimmed manually with scissors so that it doesn’t get jammed between the shutter curtain and plate. The trimmed leader is then connected to a separate take-up spool. The final assembly is then carefully pushed up into the bottom of the camera, making sure the sprockets on the take-up spool are engaged with the film leader. (I missed that last part with the first roll and ended up shooting the entire roll without the film advancing. Not good.)

There’s of course no meter, so exposure must be set manually. I don’t mind that, since I shoot other meterless cameras.

All of this sounds rather cumbersome, and it is – a little. But the camera feels wonderful in my hand. It’s a precision-engineered mechanical marvel capable of making fantastic images. It just won’t do it quickly. I read somewhere that each camera took 40 man hours to build. A little patience is a good thing. 

Below are a few images from the first practice roll.