Rare? No really, really rare! Robot 375

I bought a large collection recently and sorted through the vanload later, seperating the treasure from the good from the junk and...I'd seen the nice bits like the Canon 50mm f0.95 rangefinder lens (always wanted one - it's now on my Sony a7) but at the back with a couple of old German wind-up Robots was something really odd. Marked Robot, a large long roll body with a big wind spring on top and a pre-war Robot II at the core. I'd just finished my book on half frame and reduced format 35mm cameras and I knew a bit about Robots so I had a vague suspicion of what it might be - the legendary Robot 375. So I set about researching it. 

I discovered that there may be as few as 10-15 survivors as it had been made as a strike recording camera, mounted in the tailplane of the JU87 Stuka dive bomber. Thjis was one of the classic WW2 attack planes and had vanes attached to the wings so that it screamed as it dived - for terror effect. The plane had to drop its large, single bomb or it couldn't pull up out of the dive and the camera would be triggered as it pulled away, recording the accuracy of the strike. The rare but not as rare Leica 250 was also used. The Robot 375 could take 375 images on a 10m roll with one full wind, hence the name. There were 200 made, it seems and #1 is on display in the Berning mseum in Munich. This one has the serial # 047008 - perhaps the eighth made. 

Strangely, it was wearing a Ross 53mm f1.9 lens in a basic but well made focussing helical with Robot screw mount. The original lens would have been a Zeiss Biotar 4cm. It would seem to have been a war salvage item used with whatever lens could be pressed into service. How it came to be in Australia is anyone's guess. It went straight off to Fritz Kergl (Kameradienst) in Germany, the acknowledged master of Robot repair and holder of the parts repository - the shutter was just running through on winding and as it is at heart a relatively common 1930's Robot II, repair is not difficult. 

It is probably the rarest camera I'll ever handle and I soon realised that I have a family connexion. My father served in the Royal Navy in WW2 and was a gunnery rating on HMS Scylla, a light cruiser modified to defend the PQ convoys to Murmansk against Stuka bombers flying off the Norwegian coast. His task was to shoot them down and so, ironically, my family may be partly responsible for the rarity of the camera.


New collections

A couple of months ago, I arranged the purchase of a couple of significant collections and as soon as my health improves, these will be released into the shop. One came from a gentleman who ran a big photo business in rural Victoria and was a keen collector. This was literally a truckload of gear ranging from the merely interesting to the astonishingly rare. The other is an eclectic collection from a friend, also in the photo business, who has decided to ease his disease and cut back to the stuff that he really needs and includes a great range of odd curiosities, decent books and really interesting cameras, including a collection of miniature and spy cameras. See the new stock for details. I am also about to negotiate a purchase, I hope, (if the price is right!) a collection of fine condition Kodak folders in the century old bracket - lots of black leather and red bellows. No bargain ornaments but lovely items for the discerning collector. Watch this space! 



During the refit of the shop - as we expanded into the back section - I did one of those REALLY dumb things. Having finished painting the floor and rushing to get away, I decided to step over instead of going around, slipped on wet floor paint and crash. Pulled a hammie, wrenched a knee and rolled in paint. The next day, after tidying up, I discovered that the other knee had been hard hit too when the quads went out in sympathy. Dumped me on the front path outside my house in the rain. It took four paramedics to extract me up the gravel pathway at home (I live in the forest) and a week in hospital to get barely mobile again. Consequently, I'm not too quick off the mark at the moment and because of the refit, a lot of my stock is stored away - everything has been delayed by at least a month. So if you ask a question at the moment, you may get a response like - "I've got one somewhere but it's in a box and I'm not sure where." Forgive me - I'm getting better but taking it very easy! 

To compound the horror, my wife took carer's leave off work to help me at home and then came down with a nasty cold and refused to get out of bed. Then she gave me the cold and so I spent two weeks feeling lousy and sounding like a set of disappointed bagpipes. Always happy to share, I then passed the cold on to my friend Ken who had come into the shop to help out and so everything ground to a halt. No good deed goes unpunished.

Ironically, I skidded while setting up a safety barrier. Bugger. And I sometimes wonder if those wet floor signs they put up in supermarkets are more of a safety trip hazard than the wet floor itself?


Damn you Fuji!

I've always been keen to point out that the older style Polaroid (and Fujifilm FP100) give better results than Impossible Project 'spit the chip' types. So imagine my dismay at the news that Fuji is about to discontinue it. Perhaps it was too much of a challenge to their Instax line. This effectively orphans not only older folding Pola's but also Pola backs for medium format cameras like Hasselblad and Mamiya RB67, specilaised Polaroid cameras for microscopes and slide copying, four image passport cameras (great fun) and others. This news comes on the heels of their decision to discontinue 5x4 film packs, over a year ago. 

The price of FP100c and bw has already jumped from $25 or so to over $35 in expectation of dwindling stocks. I understand that some boutique film pack makers in the US may be producing or about to produce their own versions in classic film pack size (quarter plate) including the legendary P/N type which they're already doing in 5x4 - film that gave you both a print AND a negative. Imagine, a 5x4 instant black and white test print and an easy develop negative (just soak in water and dry later). I hope this is true.


Polaroids and their films

Girls love Pola's and I've sold a few over the past months. So I decided for the first time in my life to do the press-click-whirr routine (I've used peel apart about a hundred years ago for quick catalogue shots). 

Unfortunately that Impossible Project SX-70 Cold Tone Monochrome pack I bought (claimed New by seller) was impossibly weird. The middle third (vertical strip) was nice and cool but the thirds on either side were distincly brown. Worst rule of thirds I've seen! Dud film?! The 600 model that showed up gave me a chance to try colour for free but the film in it must have been waaaaay too old - dull and yellow orange. Ah well, at least I was able to check for function and focus!

SX-70 Sonar with working (!) auto focus on offer soon, with new leathers and tripod adapter.. One Step Express (600) too (built in flash) available now. SX-70 close-up set also available.