Friends of...

In recent times I've been cursed with back damage and several people have very kindly chipped in with help with the eternal and inevitable housework that goes with retail business. It occured to me that I should formalise this in some way. Set up a 'Friends of the Store' group for instance where occasional help is rewarded with advantages like a discount on purchases, free items of interest, heads-up on special collectibles that I buy in, free use of the studio and related gear, loans of some equipment - you get the picture. I already refer to the 'Special Victims Discount' for collectors with specific fetishes - perhaps we could call it the 'Special Victims Group"? :-) Looking for thoughts here. 



The studio booth at the rear of the shop is almost ready to go. It's a small, confined space but large enough to handle small product photography and portraiture. I'll be making it available for loan, rent and one on one workshops - everything can be supplied including an appropriate professional camera, pro-flash, continuous lighting, modern and old style and coffee. BYO model! Drop by and talk about what you want to do. I'm also investigating more expansive spaces locally so if you know of things like derelict or empty sheds, old warehouses or factories within a short drive of Tyabb, let me know. Anywhere that has some privacy - power would be handy for BIG flash but not essential.


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.

Another survivor was offered by Westlicht auction house in Vienna early in 2018 - that was a very nice outfit complete with the firing solenoid and even the pilots trigger - and with an estimate of 8-10,000 Euro!

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?