In your bag No: 1523 – David Grimshaw

David shows some rarefied swag in his arsenal. That Pilot’s looking sweet for an octogenarian.

I wanted to share my bag and its peculiar contents with your readers. I love taking pictures and collecting cameras. I studied photography in school, but lost interest as the business switched over to digital. I ended up using my art education to pursue illustration and comic-art jobs instead, but photography has remained my hobby. I have about 60 cameras in my collection, of which about eight or nine get fairly regular use. Pictured here are two of my favorites.

The Pilot 6 is a medium format SLR dating from 1936. It’s about two thirds the size of a TLR, and consequently smaller than many 35mm SLRs. The shutter is incorporated into the mirror, and nominally has three selectable speeds (the dial changes the spring tension on the mirror, which has a negligible effect of the exposure time). The Pilot series of cameras were made in the Kamera Werkstätten factory, in Dresden. The Jewish owners sold the factory to an American, then fled Germany just before the outbreak of WWII. After the war, the Russians arrested the American owner and confiscated the factory. Eventually the old Kamera Werkstätten factory was rolled into VEB Pentacon and produced Praktica cameras. The son of the American owner reclaimed the factory after the fall of the Berlin wall, and Noblex cameras were produced there until relatively recently. The novel mechanism and the history behind the Pilot 6 make it one of my most loved cameras, I have three, and the one here came with me on a trip to Japan. The strap was custom made for me at the Anshare Project shop while I was visiting Naha, Okinawa.

The next camera is an Ihagee Exa. The Exa cameras were ones that intrigued me growing up, but before the internet were hard to find and expensive in camera shops. Thanks to ebay I now have far too many of these things. The Exa of course is the simplified little sibling of the famous, beautiful and enormously complicated Exakta system cameras. Like the older Pilot 6, the Exa possesses a shutter incorporated (partly) into the reflex mirror. However the Exa has a brilliant, yet simple mechanism, for controlling the shutter timing – although you only get three and a half shutter speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and 1/150. I was primarily attracted to the camera for its interchangeable finders, and usually use the waist level finder, although here it is fitted with a prism. The prism, by the way, is remarkably good with a relatively high magnification (by modern standards) which allows 1:1 viewing with a 50mm lens, making it a breeze to frame shots in your mind before even lifting the camera to your eye.

The Exa is wearing an ISCO Iscotar triplet lens in the photo. The Pentacon 3.5/30, which is an amazingly underrated lens, also works with the Exa, as well as with the next camera…

The Firstflex 35 is a newcomer to my collection, and one which I have been searching for for over five years. The Firstflex 35 was produced by Tokiwa Seiki in 1958, and contains such cutting edge features as an instant return mirror, pentaprism viewfinder and automatic aperture (stop-down) actuation – a feature not even the famous Pentax had in 1958. However the shutter is an odd affair, very similar to that used in the Exa, but limited to only one shutter speed: 1/125. It features an Exakta bayonet lens mount, however its own lens, a Tokinon 2.8/45 won’t mount on Exaktas do to a very slight (and probably purposeful) difference in the location of the locking pin on the lens. Known serial numbers suggest that only around 3000 of these cameras were produced. Normally I wouldn’t carry three cameras with me, but I couldn’t wait to get a test roll through the Firstflex.

In looking for cameras to use, the quality of the viewfinder is important to me. For practical reasons I prefer cameras without meters (less clutter, and tend to have high magnification), and when possible, ones with a plain ground glass. For what I suppose one could call romantic reasons, I prefer cameras that are simple and well made, and if they have an interesting history, all the better. I don’t find excess complication or features sold on “potential” attractive. The three cameras here exemplify these qualities I think.

For the past five or six years I’ve primarily been shooting Agfa Precisa in 35mm, and Ektar or Portra in 120. Recently the last shop in town to develop E6 decided to discontinue processing slide film for some idiotic reason (they were still making money off it, but it was a hassle providing a specialized service nobody else in the city offered, apparently) so I’ve started using C41 in 35mm too. The pencil case holds some of my pens and pencils, and the bag is a Case Logic laptop backback that has gone with me on trips all over the everywhere. It is large enough to hold my laptop, some clothes, and a camera or two making it ideal for carry-on requirements.

You may find photos I’ve taken with the Pilot 6 here:

Photos taken with my various Exas here:

Photos taken with the Firstflex 35 here:

And if curious, some of my illustrations used on articles over here:

David Grimshaw

Thanks for sending in your bag shot David, as well as giving us a little history lesson on these beauties.

Keep them coming folks, we need more submissions, so get your bag on
Send me a high resolution image of the bag. Optimum size is 1500px across. Please ensure there is a bag in the shot, unless you don’t use one. The more you can write about yourself the better, make it appealing and tell us a story. Snapshots of your gear with a camera phone and no words will not be featured.
Oh and don’t forget your contact details (twitter, flickr, tumbler et al). Send the bag shots here. Please understand that there is a long wait now as there is a backlog of submissions. Not all make the cut, so make sure yours is funny/interesting/quirky. And please make sure the shot is of good quality, as the ones that are not do not go up.