I found this camera late last year in a unique little shop in the Melbourne CBD. I'd spied it in their window the day before, and returned the next day in their limited opening times window to go have a closer look.
I have a couple of USSR-era cameras in my collection, and always on the lookout for something unique to add to it.
The writing on the top of this one really caught my eye, and once I discovered the camera seemed to be "working" – at least all the elements were working, and the shutter seemed to fire – it had to come home with me.
The "Chiaka" camera is a 35mm half-frame, so if you load a 36 shot roll of film, you can shoot 72 photos. I decided for my test roll, that might be a bit of overkill, so went for a 24 shot roll of Delta 100 I had in the 'film fridge' and loaded it up ready to take out on my daily walk while at home during this Pandemic.
If I'm shooting digital, I can shoot 48 photos at the click of a finger, but load a roll of film in a camera, and I'm often a lot more picky about what I'll fire the shutter for, and often when I'm out shooting will compose a shot, only to decide it's not worth taking.
With this camera, and being keen to find out if it actually worked, or if I was wasting my time, I was a bit more 'click-happy' than I usually am, and went out with the aim to photograph anything I saw that fit into the following categories "texture", "pattern", "shape". In suburban streets, there is plenty to find walking around that tick these boxes.
I also wanted to make sure I tested a range of apertures, at least 3 of the shutter speeds (not that it has many), and cover different focus distances.
This camera has a focus scale on the lens, so you have to estimate the distance you are away from the subject you want to be in focus, and twist the lens to align to approximately the matching distance marker.
I home developed the Ilford Delta 100 in HC-110, and upon pulling the film out of the development tank was excited to see that it looked like it had worked reasonably well. Upon closer inspection of the negatives, some shots were a bit under or over exposed and details in shadows seemed to be lacking, some shots also seemed to be almost in focus but quite a few were very much out of focus. I'll put the very out of focus shots down to me accidentally forgetting up update my focus distance between two shots where I had something closer and then something further away, but the softness that was across all of the shots is sadly due to the quality of the lens.
I was excited to add another half-frame camera to my collection, but sadly this camera will be staying on the shelf as a collectors item.
About Madeline Bowser
I've been photographing with film for what seems like forever ... well since the late 90's. I shoot both film and digital, but film is where my heart is and I get the most ongoing enjoyment from and what I enjoy sharing and teaching to others. I also travel the world hunting down old cameras and unique locations to photograph in, and exhibit and sell my travel photographs.
When out shooting film, I often get asked the questions 'can you still buy film?', 'I thought film stopped being made 10 years ago' and 'why would you want to shoot film when you can shoot digital'.
My answers are, 'yes', 'no, it didn't', and 'I also shoot digital, both have their place in my mind'.
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