Imperial Flash Mark XII Test Roll

Part of the fun of buying antique cameras, or even just crappy plastic cameras, is that you never know what kind of results you’ll get. Could be the focus is off. Could be some crazy vignetting. Could be that those things add charm. Could be that the images are just crap.

I’m not quite sure with this one. I think I need another test roll…

So, after my last run-in with Main Photo, I sent in the real test roll I’d meant to send in the first place. I finally did get an e-mail from Jose at Main Photo, “advising you that your film is fog every time yo take a picture” and letting me know that I didn’t have to pay for the developing or printing if I didn’t want the film returned to me. I returned the e-mail and thanked Jose for letting me know, but to please print the proof sheet as requested and send me my negatives and print, and go ahead and cash my check.

Today I received my developed and uncut negative roll, along with an invoice stating that I would be refunded $10 for the proof sheet they were unable/unwilling to produce. I can understand why they didn’t give me the print I’d requested, being that a.) the images were quite fogged; b.) they were exposed sprocket-style, at a non-standard width; and c.) only four images really came out of the entire roll. I’m expecting to get a $10 refund check in the mail shortly, or some other communication from Main Photo. We’ll see.

At any rate, I know what the problem was with the fogging: I didn’t seal up the red film-counter window in back of the camera well enough. See, this camera was originally designed to take paper-backed medium-format film, and I modified it to take normal color 35mm film. Since color 35mm film isn’t backed with paper, my hack-job of sealing up the red counter window shows up as a red glowing orb in the middle of each quasi-successful image. By adjusting the images in Photoshop to be grayscale (using the blue channel, for anyone who cares), and by burning in the center of the image that was overexposed in the camera, I was able to get a general feel for the kind of images the Imperial makes.

Maybe it’s from the overexposure, but the center of each image doesn’t seem as sharp as the outsides. Also, it focuses best at a considerable distance. Anything closer than, say, ten or twelve feet is no good.

I’m not especially smitten by the images that did come out, but the quality can definitely be improved by some better hacks on my part. I’ll affix a thicker piece of cardboard inside the counter window, seal it up a little tighter, and put another 35mm roll through. Now that I know my scanner’s capabilities (I *can* scan my quasi-panoramic images, though you can’t see the cool sprocket-holes), next time I’ll just ask for my film to be developed only, not printed, to save some cash. And we’ll see if the quality improves.

Even so, I don’t see me using this camera on a regular basis. Really, though, I bought it for the novelty of having a green camera. It’s a pleasant bonus that it’s also functional.