A day with Big Bertha

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rod_larson, Jun 24, 2013.

  1. The old saying goes "idle hands are the devil's playground" and when my hands are idle they like to walk
    through the big auction site but one idle day I spotted this Kodak Medalist II described as having been
    used right up until the time the shutter started to fail. It had a buy it now price that was well below the
    average completed auction price so I went for it. When it arrived the shutter blades were covered with
    oil and when it was stripped down it was pretty evident that everything was covered with 60 years of
    grease and grime so a total cleaning was in order. When that was done the Medalist was ready for action.
    The Kodak Medlist II was based on the Medalist of WWII fame and went on the market after the war. It
    sports Kodak's famous Ektar lens, which some say is the best lens ever made. For the Medalist II it is the
    3.5/100 version. Whats unusual about the Medalists is the collapsable lens barrel. Turning the large knurled
    ring moves the barrel in and out and also serves as the focusing ring. The camera uses 620 film and there
    is a service that will modify the camera for 120 film but I find it very easy to just wind 120 onto a 620
    There is a ton of info on the net about the Medalist series of cameras so I won't bore anyone with what
    has already been said and instead flash some camera porn.
  2. Here is a topview. You can see the frame counter on the left. Loading a new roll of film is an
    exact process in order to get frame counter to read correctly. By the way, this is a 6x9
    camera so you get 8 exposures per roll.
  3. This is what the camera looks like with the lens tube collapsed.
  4. On cold day last October i took it to a bridge opening. A band led the way across the bridge.
  5. Of course there was much speechifying by the politicians who all took credit for building the
  6. The arches of the new bridge have an LED lighting system. On special occasions it can be
    programmed to put on quite a light show. Have to get down there sometime at night and
    try to get a photo.
  7. Very nice. 6x9 negatives where big enough that budget-conscious photographers could get inexpensive contact prints
    which were fine for photo albums. Of course if one could afford a Medalist then a few more cents to enlarge probably
    wasn't an issue. Great results, btw.
  8. After the ribbon cutting pedestrians could stroll on the bridge the rest of the day. One of
    the photographers covering the event came over to me and said he had never seen a camera
    like mine before and asked if he could take a picture of it. Being the modest person I am I
    let him.
  9. Love that camera! The top view is very elegant and the Ektar is a top class lens for sure and obviously does color well too.
    That is quite a beautiful bridge as well, no doubt that politicians do a good job of bridge building :)
    The Medalist is right at the top of my must-have -one list!
  10. Now that's what I call a camera, very rare in my part of the planet, and very well-pursued on the auction sites. It's interesting to see how it borrowed quite a few construction details, knobs, etc. from the original Kodak 35 rangefinder of which I have a couple; both models share that sort of "built from spare parts" look, though the Medalist is somewhat more handsome. Fairly typical of the no-nonsense, sturdy US design of the era. Your example looks super-tidy, Rod; please post some more images from the camera when you get the chance.
  11. This is another camera/lens known as "Big Bertha". The Beseler Topcon Super D with the R. Topcor 30cm 1:2.8 lens. Close to 10 pounds of optical excellence.
  12. Fascinating.
    Thanks for showing it off.
  13. Now that's an impressive lens...the camera behind is pretty cool too.
  14. Probably the only camera that I've always wanted but never bought. The pics from these seem really, really good, but the camera's odd shape and ergonomics were just too much for me to overcome. You have a beauty there.
  15. Nice job, Rod. I always like the looks of the Medalist. Nice lens that Ektar. Heavy mug, though.
  16. John, lugging that ten pounds around all day should make your biceps bulge. I had to
    chuckle at the picture of the lens mounted on the tripod because I can remember way back
    when being told not to hold the camera by the lens because it could damage the mount but
    with a lens that big well.........
  17. The 100mm f/3.5 Ektar on the Medalists has an additional lens element compared to the other Ektar lenses. I'm pretty sure Kodak constructed it from pure magic.
    The Ektar on the Medalist had internally coated lens elements, the Medalist II has Kodak's improved single hard coating.
    The Medalist is an over-engineered beast like the Ektra, but way more reliable ;)
  18. Hi Rod, was the shutter easily accessible atfer removing the front element? I have a Medalist 1 with a shutter that needs cleaning...
  19. Dinis - It is pretty easy to take apart. The photo shows the assembly with the front element
  20. Remove the three screws in the above photo. Once they are removed you can remove the
    front covers and then remove the two screws by the red arrows.
  21. Remove the aperture ring and the flash cocking ring.
  22. If I remeber correctly remove tha two marked screws and another but I don't remember
    which one.
  23. You now have access to the shutter components.
  24. Rod, thanks for the instructions and exellent photos. That is very helpful.
  25. Looking at the internals of a Kodak shutter is always cool. Supermatics and Kodamatics are just tanks, but they are so humble on the inside. They were amazingly able to build solid and reliable shutters out of stamped steel parts that looked like they came from a Big Ben alarm clock. Value engineering in the best way!
    I've never had any problem getting a Kodak shutter working again.
    This is the exact opposite of German leaf shutters, of course. The Japanese hit a middle ground.
  26. I've always been happy with the ergonomics of the Super D, I find squeezing the front shutter button to be very effective, generates very little shake.
    But I've now migrated to a Pentax LX system, because the viewfinder is so amazingly good (large, bright, easy to focus), and the K-mount lenses have a practical digital future on my K-5.
    Also, both the LX and K-5 weigh a lot less than the Super-D.
  27. Awesome camera!
    I've always wanted one too, but the price has always been steep. When it was released in the late 40s, at $260 - $270, that was a lot of money then!
    There were also a lot of cool accessories available:
    Rob, you can also file down a 120 spool to fit the camera instead of respooling. It is messy with the shavings, but I have done it successfully for use in a Kodak Tourist II camera.
  28. According to an inflation calculator, that's over $2500 in 2012 dollars. (Not to mention the 5% or so federal excise tax!)
  29. The only problem-if you can call it that-with a Medalist I or II is that they don't deliver crisp color by today's standard. In the 40s lenses were really designed for b&w and color correction was in its infancy.
    But if you like the look go for it.
    BTW, I have a Medalist II
  30. In my opinion the medalist camera delivers incredible color. The Medalist II 100 Ektar is completely hard coated inside and out. Kodak called the coated lenses "Lumenized" and the lens bezel has a small L contained in a circle to designate this process.... I shoot my Medalist II with Fuji Reala 100 re-spooled onto 620 and get wonderful color negatives.....The Ektar lens is truly incredible and the fact that these cameras mostly still work as found 70 years later is astonishing.....
  31. More from My Medalist II[​IMG]
  32. Just one more from My Medalist II[​IMG]
  33. Neat trip down memory lane. I owned one in the late 1960s and had the back for using cut film. Definitely a beast that could double for a weapon in bad neighbourhoods!

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