Boyer Photax IV-F

Photax IV Test Shots - MACBA Barcelona.

People sitting outside of the MACBA, Barcelona. Shot on another old and leaky camera – this time a Photax IV-F.

We found this camera in a flea market while wandering around Paris. It is an old bakelite medium format design, make in France in the early 1950’s. This one cost almost nothing, in part because at some point the camera had taken some impact damage, leaving a small crack in the casing.

The most distinctive feature of the camera is the threaded lens barrel, which screws in to the camera to reduce the overall size when it is not being used. This works surprisingly well, although given the cracks it is hard to argue that it is any more robust than the typical paper-bellows construction of its contemporaries. Another more hidden but unusual feature is the curved film-plane, which helps compensate for the somewhat basic optics.

Indeed, everything about this camera is incredibly basic. Nothing indicates the focal length, but it appears to be about 80mm. There are two unspecified f-stops, selected by a lever on the front of the lens that moves a disc behind the lens. The lens and aperture holes are tiny, so very roughly I would guess that this camera is approximately f16 wide-open and probably f22 or less when stopped down.

The shutter is similarly simple, offering only 1/25th, 1/100th and bulb modes. Surprisingly, it still seems to be quite accurate (measured acoustically).

The viewfinder is possibly the smallest that I ever seen, and looks completely out of proportion to the rest of the camera. This one is quite aged, and it is almost impossible to see through clearly enough to even identify the subject, let alone the framing.

The camera uses 620 film, which annoyingly is almost but not quite the same as 120. It is the same length and width, and has the same paper backing and markings – but unfortunately it uses narrower diameter spools. I was able to load a film by un-spooling a roll of 120 format film and rewinding it on to some old 620 format spools inside of a dark-bag. The film was expired ISO 200 slide film which was cross-processed in C41 chemicals – the results from which are probably best described as “interesting”…

Here are a couple of images that were not completely wiped out by the light-leak or underexposure:

Cotet Thermometer, Portal dels Angels, Barcelona.

Photax IV Test Shots.

1 Comment »

  1. Love the first shot of the people outside the museum. Light and shadow, the gestures expressive and clear from a distance. I want to thank you for what you have been sharing/ teaching. The old cameras and what you can do with them… So interesting…

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