Friday, September 12, 2014


Hey, amazing news! I bought a tool.

I know what you're thinking. Swarovski crystal handle, hand-hewn from the crystal mines of... No? You weren't thinking that? Oh. You were thinking "What have you gone and done now, Alf"? Ah. Well, yes, fair enough. As it happens this elegant example of the screwdriver manufacturers' art was not the primary goal.

It was the 30-odd pieces of black plastic and an assortment of screws and springs.

Oh, and some instructions. In Chinese. Not Chinglish, for which I have an inexplicable fondness, but actual hanzi. Thank goodness for the interweb, where I could find not only the instructions in English but also several articles on and additional photos of the building process. The end result is this:

A 35mm Twin Lens Reflex camera. (Stick "Recesky" or "Garraflex" (or both) in Google and you can learn all about it.) It's something between an Airfix kit and an Ikea flatpack, both of which I have some experience with. Such as checking you have all the parts and counting the screws before you start; I had a couple of spare washer head screws at the finish, which could have caused worry had I not known they were extras. A couple of very similar parts were transposed in their tray locations too, which held me up a little. So no, I didn't make it within the suggested hour, but it was less than two.

And it actually works. I put a test roll of film through it and got it developed yesterday in my local independent camera shop (Pause for a moment and dwell on the excitement that there is a local independent camera shop. Actually there are two. Amazing.) They all came out, all in focus, and no light leakage. Really pretty impressive, and bags of character. (That's code for "tiny area actually in focus" and "dark corners/vignetting") My previous camera use has been purely means to an end stuff; this is more "Have camera, what can I photograph?" Different experience entirely, and seeing the familiar through the reverse image viewfinder adds a Through The Looking-Glass aspect too. All in all a fascinating thing. Ridiculously satisfying too, especially making the shutter work. click click click click click


The scanner elected to make them a little redder than they should be, but you get the gist. The double exposure was unintended - although I did plan to try one anyway, albeit not quite like that... You know those Easter Island heads? Look at that sundial and tell me you don't see their extremely flat-headed cousins.


  1. Have you seen this one?

    1. I have, Nick, yes (clickable link). Unfortunately you don't actually get to build the light chamber section, which is the interesting bit, so I wasn't entirely grabbed. Plus, well, I know it's shallow of me, but it's pretty ugly, innit?! :)

  2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (get it out with Optrex). I think there is some interest to be had in the construction of the flappy mirror bit of an SLR, but yes, it is plug ugly.

  3. Congratulations on completing the assembly. I always need a couple aspirin and a sit down after tackling an assembly from Chinese/Spanish/French/Serbian instructions.
    OCD helps in requiring that I count each of the parts twice and read the instructions twice. Having written work instructions for a living I sometimes wonder if anyone ever tried to use my instructions. Probably not. Instructions are only there to point out why it didn't work afterward.
    Having a camera shop in the neighborhood or even in the county is remarkable. Having two is just decadent. Here in Richland, Michigan there isn't anyplace to buy film anymore. Here I sit with 10 cameras in the house and not a roll of 35mm to be had. Perhaps I'll have to go on line and buy some. Then I'll have to set up the darkroom again.
    It's been 40 years but it's just like riding a bicycle, in the dark, no hands, through a woods. I'll have to buy a lot of film and developing chemicals.


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