So much for not buying any more cameras. A few weeks ago a Kiev 4a crossed my radar and was destined for my day bag within a few minutes.
An initial inspection suggested that everything was working okay, the longer shutter speeds were indeed longer than the shorter ones. The rangefinder patch moved, suggesting that it was at least attached. Even so, it made good sense to put a test roll through, even though I’ve always hated them.
There are two main options, shoot nothing photos until the roll is complete, then feel uninspired and irritated by the results. Alternatively you can try to take a roll of nice photos, only to find that the camera is broken and all you get back is rubbish. (I did this with a Canon 700N in Dorset a few years ago, 6 frames from 36).
Having lived in Worcester for ten years, I kid myself that I know the city. I’ve wandered around a fair amount, I’ve shot the Cathedral a fair few times and the thought of walking through the city and knocking out a whole roll filled me with a sense of jaded dread.
Given that the roll needed shooting, I decided to explore part of city I didn’t know so well. Testing a camera requires a formulated approach, one where one has controlled for as many variables as possible. Using a meter and noting the settings used for each frame would produce the best results, while varying the subject and conditions, to test lens and focus, to ensure the shutter speeds were accurate.
I did not do this.
I decided that I would guess.
I shot the camera the way I plan to shoot it in life, with C41 film and a guess or two. A meandering route led me out of Worcester. After stopping to photograph a nicely restored VW Beetle, I found a stables that I had no idea was there. I got chatting with the team, before discovering a wildlife reserve that again came as a complete surprise.
I had the best day. I met people, cows, horses and I got to stroke a baby donkey, finishing the roll in the garden when I got home. I shot most of the roll at f/2, varied my shutter speed a little and was surprised at the uniform results the lab returned. Rangefinders are really ace at the stuff they’re ace at, but I struggle with the minimum focus distance. Also the Kiev lacks frame lines, has a habit of locking focus at infinity, and I cover the rangefinder window with my over-sized paws all too often.
I’m probably going to keep the camera, at least for a few more rolls, I like it’s size, and the results so far. The thing I’m going to take from this experience is to try and remind myself that you never know what there is to find and shoot if you don’t go looking for it.