The Ilford Sportsman

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by wwillemse, Mar 14, 2015.

  1. Since I always massively enjoy the "exposé" of more or lesser known cameras here with some photos, I figured I'd try to contribute the little bit I can. Fact is that I hardly have cameras that apply, and the one camera I am about to show isn't mine either - it's my dad's; I've ran two rolls through, for fun. Now it will probably go back to its owner.
    I've got nowhere near the knowledge on the inner workings and company histories as the frequent posters do here, so I cannot tell too much background story on this camera. The info I dug up on the various internet sites that have shreds of info, then.
    The Ilford Sportsman series cameras are rebranded Dacor Dignette cameras, mainly sold in the UK and the Netherlands. Introduced in 1957, there are 4 "redesigns", this one being from the third series (1959) which introduced a choice of 3 shutters and a model with a real rangefinder. This specific one is the second most luxurious, with a Prontor SVS shutter with a wide(r) choice of shutterspeeds, a 45mm f/2.8 lens but not the rangefinder. So, it's a really simple straightforward camera, quite sturdy, small. I haven't been able to find out when this one was bought, but probably 1960-1961 somewhere. It's in its original leather jacket, and generally well taken care off. It didn't need any repairs (though the frame counter doesn't appear to work), and probably it could be better with a disassmebly to clean it properly, but I'm not (yet?) too skilled at that, so I shot it as-is.
  2. And without clothes...
  3. Frankly, using the camera has not given me much fun. Probably I am a bit uptight about handling, but this camera just got on my nerves more than once. The main offenders are the viewfinder and the aperture/shutterspeed rings.
    The viewfinder is fuzzy, rather dim and being clueless about whether I have focussed more or less right just doesn't suit me. I fear I am too much a SLR man in that respect.
    However, the two rings are worse: they're coupled, so they move together - a "P" mode avant la lettre, somehow. One has to push a little metal thingy sticking out, which pierced my finger and once nearly cut me, and then you can move either ring independent. The 'texture' on the shutter speed ring is very pointy and sharp, so rotating that is again an attack on the skin. Robbed the fun quite a bit.
  4. This is that pin, on the right.
  5. So, the results.
    Well, it was a cheap(ish) camera in its day, so expectations should be accordingly. Let's say it mostly has some sort of "Lomo" charm, which in some cases works for me. All in all, I kind of like the results that I could get with this camera, but it is rather unpredictable, mainly because of lots of flare and glare unless the sun is really outside the frame, nor coming from the sides... which is a bit limiting :)
    The two roles were Kodak BW400CN and Fuji C200 (the low-end cheap current one), developed in a normal lab, scanned on my Reflecta scanner.
  6. 2nd example
  7. Don't see many of these in the USA. This camera and others with similar specs were an economical way to have a 35mm camera with a good lens. With slightly fewer shutter speeds than the top of the line models and scale focusing rather than a rangefinder they were more affordable. I wonder what its original selling price was. Thanks for posting.
  8. The colour film really revealed how little contrast this camera was producing; the images have been livened up a bit, the 'straight' scans were pretty horrible.
  9. Another one; this didn't need a lot of extra contrast, and I like the rendering for shots as these. Problem is, I never was quite sure when the effect would show up, and when not.
  10. Last one, which came out surprisingly decent looking...
  11. So, there it is. Typical examples on eBay seem to go for about 10 UK Pounds, which seems fair, even a bit on the high side. I had some fun seeing the unpredictable results back, and to me that is the main attraction of this camera. But that renders it to limited use - at least for me.
    Hopefully this didn't bore you to death, luckily my other gear is well-known often discussed stuff, so I'll only bore you once!
  12. Mike, prices I found from 1959 for the UK market were 18 UK Pound for this model, 19 for the model with rangefinder, and the cheapest (with a f/3.5 lens and Vario shutter with 3 speeds) 16 UK Pounds. I cannot find good devaluation figures for the 1960s, but it would be around 250-300 Pound today in comparison for the model shown here. So, indeed, relatively cheap.
  13. I don't remember seeing ads in my dad's old late 50's to early 60's photo magazines, but likely the Sportsman wasn't officially imported to the USA. In the USA the bargain cameras were usually viewfinder 35's with modest shutters and f4.5 to f3.5 lenses (a few 2.8's). Again, informative post.
  14. Wow, people would pay extra for that softness and dreamy quality these days, although I suspect it wasn't what Ilford had in mind.
    That linked shutter speed and aperture was supposed to make things easier. but in my humble opinion (we've had disagreements on this before, as you might expect), it's just a pain in the ass.
    The B&W images are quite nice, and there's a very attractive 'impressionist'/pictorialist look to some of the color ones.
    Thanks for joining in.
    You may have noticed that not all of the cameras presented here are "classics"in some people's minds.
  15. Ah, yes, I know "classic" is a bit a variable terminology; if it wouldn't have been, I would have kept my mouth shut on this camera for sure!
    It's not the fact that shutter and aperture are linked that is a pain, for me. It's the stupid little knife of a switch that makes it cumbersome and painful. But yes - it's also a solution to a problem I don't really have.
  16. my other gear is well-known often discussed stuff, so I'll only bore you once!​
    Oh, and by the way, repeats are also a way of life here, as I think you know. So don't be bashful about chiming in on anything that you're actually using -- sort of the point here, if there is one.
  17. Flare is real strong. Did you check if the lens has any internal haze?
  18. Interesting results, thanks for posting. The Wallace Heaton Blue Book for 1960-61 lists the Prontor SVS version at £18-17-6, the best part of a weeks wages in those days. The de luxe ever ready case was £3-5-1. A Leica 111g with Elmar lens was £88.
    Not in the Blue Book was the same company's upmarket Ilford Sportsmaster which had four shutter buttons. Each one was for a different focusing distance. Really handy when covering sports events no doubt.
  19. Always good to try an old camera, but your lens has major haze issues. Low build quality means nearly all these cameras are landfill now - a Kodak Retinette does the same thing better, a Vito B or C has a much better lens.
  20. Great post, Wouter. I have the Dignette version and I have to admit that I ran a short length of film through it after it arrived, inspected it and promptly put the camera back on a shelf where it's lived ever since. I think your results are very good considering the limitations of the beast... Even at an early age, I felt Ilford was letting the side down by re-badging these low-grade European creations, market forces or not. Even the Sportsmaster was just an undercover version of the ludicrous Dacora-Matic 4D,aka the Hanimex Electra II... I really like the fishing boat image. Thanks for all your work.
  21. Thanks Wouter, always nice to see one that is a bit unusual,and I have yet to see a Sportsman in the flesh. Those coupled aperture and shutter speed rings are the bain of my life, and the inventor of those needs to have a harsh talking to:)
    Love the glow, and I suspect that the lens has a lot of internal haze or fungus, but that look can work well at times.As JDM has stated, some pay high prices to get that "look". Works well in the colour shot of the tree, and I love the polish on that case!
  22. With regard to the lens hazing, as said I did only simple elemental cleaning, nothing that would require a screwdriver. Since I have no intention to use this camera seriously, I'll leave it as it is - at least it's working. Once me and my screwdriver would be done with it, it would be dirtier than ever, non-working and looking worse ;). But yeah, the camera was unused for some 15 to 20 years at least before I tried it again, so it wouldn't be a big surprise if it degraded over time.
    That said, I have some slides that appear to be made with this camera, from approx. 1966, and while contrast is certainly better, sharpness/detail rendition isn't vastly better. So as Rick said, limitations of the beast, probably.
    Thanks all :)
  23. Hi, Wouter thanks for bringing back some memories for me of Ilford's range of 35mm cameras, which ranged from 'Basic To Better To Best', to steal a line from the Antique Roadshow. I don't have a Sportsman, but I do have a couple of Advocates, which were actually British-made unlike the Sportsman. Ilford had a strange sort of policy over camera names, keeping to legal-connected ones for the relatively rare-ish Advocate and much more highly-sought after Witness, before going off in another direction with your Sportsman. The one consistent theme is that Ilford never actually made any of 'em - they were all sub-contracted out, because Ilford preferred to keep to what they knew best, ie making photographic film and associated stuff. (Pete In Perth)
  24. Lomo-style indeed. I'm reminded of the technique used in some older movies for flashbacks where the directors used soft focus. I have several rangefinders and viewfinders that have the same sort of setup with the aperture and shutter speed rings coupled. I've never been a fan of that either. It's fine if the light doesn't change, a pain if it does.
  25. I love your analysis.. "I'll leave it as it is - at least it's working..". I have this softness too in some budget
    lenses that I expected better but age and design ..well one for the consumers. I too really liked the boat
    that came off perfect. The first with the table cloths was also good. I am intrigued by an "Ilford" camera but
    as your research and the comments bear out. This was the American equivalent of an ANSCO camera ..
    they made film not cameras. Thanks for y great post that was for me interesting because I don't know this
    model or the lesser Dacor models much either .
  26. I have found the linkage be useful at times when I need to take photos in quick succession and want to change aperture in between but you also should have the facility to adjust them individually quickly and easily.
  27. I enjoyed reading your post and seeing your Sportsman results. Some of these cheap viewfinder cameras from the 50s and 60s are kind of fun to play with, arent they?
    I'm not sure just where the Sportsman was in the price range of cheap cameras back then. I think many of the cameras of the same period and in the same price range as the Sportsman were just junk, but I think it was possible to at least get decent snapshot-size images with the Sportsman/Digna 35. I have also used quite a few of the various lower-end "Tower" (Yamato) 35mm cameras sold by Sears about the same time, and I've gotten a few nice photos even with the ones with triplet lenses.
    These Sportsmans must have been very popular for many years, judging by how many are still around. I think the reason I got one was just because I was curious to see what kind of photos one could get back then with these cheap mass-market cameras.
    My Sportsman is almost the same as yours, with the same shutter and lens (it appears they changed a few small cosmetic details every couple of years). It's a pretty basic three-element lens, but I did manage to get a few nice images on color negative film (I will try to show one here for reference). The only repair I did was to clean the lens elements and calibrate the lens focus at the film plane.
    This roll was developed at the local photo shop, and the negative scanned on my old Epson 3200 flatbed scaner.
    Next time, you might try using a clip-on lens shade to get better contrast. I got my best images in late evening, or somewhere without direct bright sunlight.
    Sunday evening in the 文林路 night market, Taipei.
    Chicken hearts and duck tongues on a stick, a favorite night-market snack.
    Ilford Sportsman, Dacora lens, 400 ASA color negative film
  28. John - interesting you should mention Yamato/Tower 35mm cheapies in the same sort of context as the Ilford Sportsman thread. I find these amazingly cute (and therefore collectable) because they're so compact and often cheekily reminiscent of much more splendiferous full-size offerings from Leitz etc. I think I'm up to around 9 or so in the Trophy Cupboard. Most Yamato stuff came with the same sort of triplet 'cooking' lenses as the Ilford Sportmaster, but they also went more upwardly mobile offering 4-element F2.8 optics such as on my Pax M4. I actually used the Pax more than a decade ago, because it was so compact but it was no certainly no toy! The F2.8 lens was quite sharp and the CRF focussing was spot-on.
    Photo attached of my Yamato collection, with the Pax M4 at top right. (Pete In Perth)
  29. Peter, while reading up the information, I read about those higher-end models. I never have come across any of those (but I mainly check eBay, so I might miss a lot). They sure do a lot more interesting than this Sportsman. All in all, I do not mind Ilford focussing on film and paper - I need those supplies more than I'd need another Sportsman really :)
    John, that looks nowhere near the results I managed to get :) Much much better - basically the last colour photo (of the small fishing boat) was technically the best result I had. Yours has a lot more punch to it, and a lot less fuzziness.
    As written, I didn't quite find it fun as I didn't like the handling and the viewfinder-with-guess-your-distance. As a compact, silent, pretty sturdy built camera, it ticks quite some boxes right, no doubt. But I guess I got too spoiled with more modern toys...
  30. My father had an Ilford Sportsman back in the early sixties. It was a simple camera but I remember his results were a good deal better than your posted pics above. I expect the interval of 50 years has something to do with it.
  31. Hi Wouter, like Colin above, my father bought one of these in the mid '60s. It's identical to yours. Your sample definitely has some hazing in the lens as none of our shots show this problem.
    Having said that I have just been reviewing some of dad's slides and negs which I scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 5000 and the overall sharpness is not that impressive. Still, at least he captured the memories. I last saw the camera about 30 years ago and from memory the shutter had seized and it was consigned to the back of a cupboard.

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