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Kodak Signet 35 - Best Value in Classic 35??
Old 02-10-2017   #1
artphotodude
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Kodak Signet 35 - Best Value in Classic 35??

I'm coming to you from a background in Medium Format (Minolta Autocord, Hasselblad, Pentax 67, Holga) and Large Format (Graflex Graphic View, 8-Banners Pinhole) and most recently digital (Canon and Nikon).

Now am putting all of that behind me to embrace Fuji's world class XPro digital series. BUT, there are still times that 'the film is the thing', more to the point, a classic lens can see things better than modern computerized perfection. Of all the lenses I used over the years, two groups leap to the forground as top performers. Zeiss (specifically the Planar), and Kodak Ektars.

Well, quite by accident, recently stumbled across a gorgeous little American-made rangefinder at an antique store for a mere $20. I've read that the Ektars in them have a very good reputation and the cameras themselves are considered real finds. The viewfinder was pretty dark and gummed-up, but because of the robustness of the parts (despite the small size), it turned out to be easy to disassemble and clean/adjust (thanks to a walkthrough on iFixit), and I just got my first rolel of test shots back (just ordinary 200 speed Fuji print film). PLEASED doesn't quite do it. This little thing is amazing! Almost no parallax despite focusing down to 2 Ft., and gorgeous performance across the entire aperture range.

Truly-shocked by the wide-open performance. Silky-smooth bokeh and tack sharp at the point of focus (see the lamp pic below). Honestly, only the Blad with a Planar ever did that for me before. Also, while there seems to be a very slight fringing on highlights of out of focus areas, it is once again comparable to Gaussian lenses costing dozens of times more and even at its size, it has a 6-blade aperture, so no obnoxious pentagons throughout the image.

Have always liked Tessar formula lenses because of their flare-resistance (I shoot into light sources a lot), but generally, they are just too soft wide open to be useful, but this little guy really shows what American optical could do back in the day. Can't wait to take this on a real project with some Provia 100F, Illford Delta and Kodak Portra 160!

BTW - a lot of these appear on eBay to come with a Series-V holder and the perk of this is that it is just about perfect as a lens-shade too.


A couple of outside links to check out for those interested in these,

Great shot from Japan showing some GORGEOUS Bokeh!!!!
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cqyid2fUsAEMm3Q.jpg


Also, another Site from Japan showing one of these lenses mounted on a Sony Alpha at 6000x4000. Ridiculous detail across all but the very corners (the fact that this old lens is being compared beside a Biogon and Summicron, should tell you something!).
http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/img/dc...29/561/070.jpg
http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/img/dc...29/561/069.jpg
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Ice-2017.jpg (45.6 KB, 61 views)
File Type: jpg Lamp-2017.jpg (38.5 KB, 79 views)
File Type: jpg Rocks-2017.jpg (78.6 KB, 54 views)
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Old 02-11-2017   #2
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I think it is the best value in rangefinders. lens is as good as my similar aged Leica or Contax glass. Downsides: f3.5 max, shutter speeds extremely limited, very squinty viewfinder. But for $30 or so? Steal of the century.
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Old 02-11-2017   #3
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Your pics look great. I have seen many of these cameras for sale, but unfortunately none of them have ever been functional.
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Old 02-11-2017   #4
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Not as nice looking (AKA ugly) but also check out the Signet 80 that can be had cheap. The 50 is very well regarded, built in meter, prism based 1:1 viewfinder (with good contrast) and a quick loading feature that doesn't use a take up spool.

Downsides are more limited shutter speeds, not pretty (though solid feeling) and the viewfinder position is a little odd. The viewfinder only has framelines for the 50, the 35 and 90 needed an auxiliary bright frame viewfinder.

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Old 02-11-2017   #5
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Kodak really concentrated on making good looking cameras back then, and the Signet 35 still maintains some of that art deco influence that made the Bantam Special and Brownie Hawkeye line so attractive. Kodak made lots of excellent Ektar glass, as anyone who has used their large format combinations can attest. My Commercial Ektar 8.5 inch is my all-time favorite lens in any format.
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Old 02-11-2017   #6
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I've had a Signet 35 for more than 40 years (yikes!) now - my dad gave it to me as my first 35mm camera. He had purchased it new around 1952; I'm fortunate to still have our old family albums with many pictures made with it.

The three main drawbacks from my POV: f/3.5 is very limiting for indoor or other low-light work, which means it doesn't really work for me as an only camera; the limited range of shutter speeds compounds the difficulty; and the shutter has proved to be not terribly reliable. More's the pity, because it is indeed a lovely object, a very pretty example of a distinctive style of industrial design.
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Old 02-11-2017   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatchetman View Post
I think it is the best value in rangefinders. lens is as good as my similar aged Leica or Contax glass. Downsides: f3.5 max, shutter speeds extremely limited, very squinty viewfinder. But for $30 or so? Steal of the century.
f3.5 seems fast to me since most of my work is on a tripod (Hasselblad not withstanding - f2.8), but it is true, the viewfinder is small. Was happy that it appears to be pretty accurate. I think it's 'Pre-cropped' it for parallax.
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Old 02-11-2017   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shawn View Post
Not as nice looking (AKA ugly) but also check out the Signet 80 that can be had cheap. The 50 is very well regarded, built in meter, prism based 1:1 viewfinder (with good contrast) and a quick loading feature that doesn't use a take up spool.

Downsides are more limited shutter speeds, not pretty (though solid feeling) and the viewfinder position is a little odd. The viewfinder only has framelines for the 50, the 35 and 90 needed an auxiliary bright frame viewfinder.

Shawn
I have the whole Signet 80 set up. The 50mm is decent enough but the other lenses are pretty mediocre. The camera itself is big and feels cheaply made. The Signet 35 is a much better camera all around.
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Old 02-11-2017   #9
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I really love mine. Even though it's a bit fiddly, it's a fun camera to shoot. And the results are great, the lens really is terrific. The top shutter speed is a bit slow, but the shutter also seems pretty reliable, a tradeoff I can live with.
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Old 02-11-2017   #10
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I've been tempted by these, more than once, at flea markets.

Unhappily for me, the examples with operating shutters had very cloudy viewfinders.
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Old 02-11-2017   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Graybeard View Post
I've been tempted by these, more than once, at flea markets.

Unhappily for me, the examples with operating shutters had very cloudy viewfinders.
Seriously, these are NOT hard to clean. Mine took just a few minutes and now is quite acceptable. Here are the repair guides on iFixit: https://www.ifixit.com/Device/Kodak_Signet_35

The only trick is using a fine piece of string to hold the frame-count advance arm away from the wheel until you get the top back on. I did this through the wind-knob hole and once in place let go of one end of the string and pulled it through. Works great now.
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Old 02-11-2017   #12
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Mine sits on my fireplace mantle. The RF patch is so dark as to make it impossible to use. I shot one roll of film and zone focused.

Kodak Signet by Dan Fogel, on Flickr
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Old 02-11-2017   #13
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Hmmm, that red dot...
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Old 02-11-2017   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artphotodude View Post
Seriously, these are NOT hard to clean. Mine took just a few minutes and now is quite acceptable. Here are the repair guides on iFixit: https://www.ifixit.com/Device/Kodak_Signet_35

The only trick is using a fine piece of string to hold the frame-count advance arm away from the wheel until you get the top back on. I did this through the wind-knob hole and once in place let go of one end of the string and pulled it through. Works great now.
One can only be pleased that things worked out so well for you; if only things were so for me.

My own, clearly, ham-handed attempts at minor camera repairs have proceeded to such an unhappy end in the past that I now must let such work be done "by others", as it sometimes says in contracts.

I, all too painfully, remember that faint "ding" when an irreplaceable part went dancing across the floor, never to be found again.

I envy your ability to repairs things for yourself.
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Old 02-11-2017   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trip-xa View Post
Mine sits on my fireplace mantle. The RF patch is so dark as to make it impossible to use. I shot one roll of film and zone focused.

Kodak Signet by Dan Fogel, on Flickr
Little bit jealous! Yours is in a bit better shape than mine cosmetically!
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Old 02-11-2017   #16
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Here's a photo I like from my Signet 35

No Title by Rob F, on Flickr
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Old 02-12-2017   #17
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After reading this thread I went to the auction site to see what these cameras were going for and had to laugh when I came across this auction for a Signet 35 listed as Good Condition:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Koda...-/192102771012

Accompanied by this picture:



Looks like it was living at the bottom of a lake.

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Old 02-20-2017   #18
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While waiting for a Signet 35 to arrive from the auction site, I stumbled across a Signet 50 in pristine condition, and mistook it for a rangefinder. Sadly, no. But still a lot of fun to shoot, and was pleasantly surprised that the light meter was still accurate after all these years.



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Old 02-21-2017   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
After reading this thread I went to the auction site to see what these cameras were going for and had to laugh when I came across this auction for a Signet 35 listed as Good Condition:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Koda...-/192102771012

Accompanied by this picture:



Looks like it was living at the bottom of a lake.

Best,
-Tim
I keep seeing this same camera on eBay and I keep clicking on it because as a small thumbnail it looks like it's covered in a gray leather or something special.

What always amuses me is when a seller describes a camera as in "great shape for its age". Which translates to junk.

As for the Signet 35, I've had two of them, sold one that didn't work and managed to buy one that works on only one shutter speed. I love the idea of this camera. It's the coolest-looking thing, and I can imagine astronauts using it (because of the big knobs and shutter trigger). The shutter's just too fragile. I have a Signet 80 as well. Nice looking, smooth, weird, just completely delicate through and through. What was Kodak thinking? They could have set the bar just a little higher and been truly great.
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Old 02-21-2017   #20
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I think the OP has discovered the hidden truth of old lenses: Any medium speed lens from that era can shoot fantastic photos. And F3.5 is medium/slow speed with 35mm. An F3.5 in a large format 8x10 lens would be very fast. But with small sensors, anything below about F1.8 is considered fast, and that is where the aberrations start showing up.

The history of lens making is trying to get the quality of a slow lens, from a fast lens. And Kodak did know how to make some fantastic lenses in the 1950s. But it's easy with an F3.5.
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Old 02-21-2017   #21
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I've always been impressed by any glass with the Ektar name on it.

Interesting thread.

B2 (;->
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Old 02-21-2017   #22
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Forget the style, forget the lens, forget the RF, the coolest, baddest thing was the the slide rule on the back. With this you could compute exposure for any condition. Throw away your light meters, just carry the Signet 35 along with your M3.
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Old 02-21-2017   #23
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The old professional photo guide had something like that but it was round.

I love the slide rule idea though, much more readable and would look way cool expanded on the back of an M2.....

B2 (;->
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Old 02-21-2017   #24
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Well my auction-site Signet 35 arrived today. Man is it Tiny. I was expecting it to be much bigger. It's cute as hell.

It was an "as-is" camera so it needs work. Looking thru the viewfinder was like looking thru dense fog. The shutter speeds are SLOW. But I think it can be salvaged. The lens is pretty clean.

Can't wait to get it "back on the road". I appreciate this thread introducing me to this little camera. Looks like it's gonna be fun to shoot.

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Old 02-21-2017   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillBingham2 View Post
The old professional photo guide had something like that but it was round.

I love the slide rule idea though, much more readable and would look way cool expanded on the back of an M2.....
Kodak even made a circular version too. I have a Tourist back that has one.

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Old 02-21-2017   #26
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Are you sure Shawn? I have several Tourists and the ones with the faster lenses have a linear calculator like the Signet 35. Maybe you are thinking of the circular plate that selected red windows for exposing 8, 12, or 16 frames on a 620 roll plus 828 film with adapter.
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Old 02-21-2017   #27
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Are you sure Shawn? I have several Tourists and the ones with the faster lenses have a linear calculator like the Signet 35. Maybe you are thinking of the circular plate that selected red windows for exposing 8, 12, or 16 frames on a 620 roll plus 828 film with adapter.
You might be right, I might be thinking of that. Unfortunately all of my Tourists have bad bellows so I never shoot them. I have a good Monitor though.

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Old 02-24-2017   #28
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I prefer the Signet 40. You get a little faster shutter (goes to 1/400, and pretty accurate too), a larger body that's easier to handle, and more art deco looking than any of the other Signets.


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I need some help regarding repairs for the Signet 35
Old 02-24-2017   #29
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I need some help regarding repairs for the Signet 35

Dear Board,

So I have one of these that I bought at a garage sale for about $ 5.00. It looked interesting so I bought it last year.

Cosmetically the camera is fine and it has a perfect leather case. The lens looks to be in good condition and when testing it all apertures work properly.

What doesn't work reliably is the shutter button. The actual button that contacts the arm to fire the shutter appears to be worn on the underside that actuates the arm.

If I press the shutter button while wiggling it then it fires on contact most of the time. But that isn't a good way to go.

Are there any links for repairs or can anyone offer me any tips to repair the arm-shutter button connection. I've removed the screw at the bottom of the shutter button in hopes that I could then remove the button but I'm lost as to how I can do that?

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Tim Murphy
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Old 02-25-2017   #30
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The actual shutter button may be locked up for some reason - it has a lock unless the film is wound and shutter is cocked. You can override that with the tiny little sliding lock at the front bottom of camera. The trigger button should go WAY down, I don't see how it could fail to trigger the little arm if it is working properly.
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Old 03-24-2017   #31
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Really is a fun camera to shoot. Here's my little $19 Signet 35 auction site find.

Sun flare extraordinaire:



Protest camera:



Found a Kodak Wratten K2 filter and the original Kodak No. 22 holder for the Signet 35. Excited to see how that works.

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Old 13 Hours Ago   #32
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Hey Guys: The O.P. Here with an update. Not able to get a 'Serious' shoot in (so busy this year), but did some more hobbying with the signet, some Delta 100 and an orange and green filter.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/artpho...57687681871646








The 3rd deserves a click. This is pound for pound one of the sharpest lenses I've ever shot. But #2 is the most amazing. Even at a relatively-short focal length, the bokeh is nice and creamy and the sharp areas are Crisp as can be.

This is likely going to be my final film camera.

No Less AMAZING is the light meter I've been using with it. A G.E. PR1 selenium. Still within 1/3 stop after 60+ years and even has very effective incident metering!!!
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Old 12 Hours Ago   #33
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those really are sharp. how are they scanned?
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Old 12 Hours Ago   #34
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They were done on a Noritsu RGB/Lambda. There is a slight repetitive pattern in the shadows that I'm not wild about, but if I can figure out how to get rid of it in Photoshop, might wind up going this route on everything. At $1 a shot isn't bad.
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