Old Gear, Old Friends, New Memories

Zeiss Ikon Contina and Sigma 600mm FD Lens
Zeiss Ikon Contina and Sigma 600mm FD Lens

I stopped by a dealer to see if he had any Maxxum lenses.  He did, but nothing I really wanted.  I did however come across this Zeiss Ikon Contina IIa.  The Selenium meter works, the shutter seems to work well, the leather case is in decent shape other than the “Zeiss” medallion missing from the front.  The glass looks clean, and I look forward to shooting some with this iconic camera.

One really cool aspect of this camera is that the focus, aperture, and shutter speed setting are all different rings on the lens assembly.  It’s zone focus, so I imagine I’ll use it for general outdoor shooting at f8-f11 for a good margin of error.

He also had a Sigma 600mm Reflex lens for a Canon FD.  As part of the negotiation, I had that thrown in to the deal.  It wasn’t perfect, but it’s cheap tuition for whatever I learn from it.  Of course, my Canon AE-1P still wasn’t functioning, so it would be a while before I could try it out.

On the ride home, I was listening to an old episode of The Film Photography Podcast and they mentioned how Canon mirrors jammed occasionally.  The cure most of the time was to remove the lens and give it a good smack on the bottom of the camera.  Especially for the T70/T90 range of cameras.  Hmmm…..would this work for my camera?  Sure enough, it did.  I snapped a few frames from the vacation roll and all is well.

As I started messing around with the Sigma 600mm, I found the original warranty card and receipt.  The first thing I noticed was the price – it cost more than my entire spend on film camera gear this year!  The condensation on the mirror was worse than I had hoped, but no worries there.  As I went to put the receipt back in the case, I noticed the name.  This lens was originally bought by a former coworker of mine.  I hated the job, but he made it enjoyable.

My wife said I should send him a letter.  I actually started to do that this morning – but then as I was remembering all the ways he made me laugh over the few years we worked together, I remembered how much he loved his cameras.  How was it that I ended up with one of his old lenses?  Unfortunately, a quick search revealed the answer: my former coworker had passed away in August of 2013.

Walter J. Phillips.  65.  A 32nd degree Mason.  A great guy.  Walt still worked at that same job where I met him.  He had a lot of funny sayings, including “Your ass is itchy” when he thought you were full of BS.  I still use that jokingly with my wife – and it still makes us laugh.  Walt also deserves the credit (or blame) for encouraging my passion for good beer.  Every month, Walt would split a case of some new micro-brew with me and one other guy so none of use would be stuck with a case of beer we didn’t like (because at that time in PA you had to buy a case of beer – no six packs).

So while I’m saddened to learn of his passing, I’m grateful one of his possessions found it’s way to me.  Hopefully I can use it to create some memorable images that he would be proud to see.

Rest in Peace, my friend.

In memory of Walter J. Phillips, March 18, 1946 – August 13, 2013.


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