The $5 Dollar Time Machine

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Saturday, January 7th 2012

My lovely girlfriend Julia Starr and I drove to a local swapmeet (a.k.a. Flea Market) in the small town of Nipomo, CA. It was my first time at a swapmeet since I lived in the Mojave Desert. My Father got me into the swapmeet business when I was just eight years of age, so I was raised with all the knowledge of what to ask, how to haggle for better prices, and when to pass on certain items. I was no stranger to this place and It was great to experience another swapmeet so far away from home. If there was one thing I knew, it was that you never know what you’ll find when you hit up your local swapmeet.


Nipomo Swapmeet

Julia had never been to a swapmeet before and so I explained to her some of the little nuances of proper swapmeet etiquette, “Yes!, that’s right!… there is etiquette that will help you score better deals if you follow them properly.” One that always works when you find an item you like is to play dumb and let the sales person wow you with their knowledge of the item. Most times they will forgive your ignorance when you throw them a lower price. The other approach usually comes after you discover that they know nothing of the item which you may know tons about. That’s when you hit them with all the knowledge you have about that item and this intimidation approach will often times leave them thinking “Man, this guy really knows his stuff!”

Nine times out of ten will they submit to your lower bid just off your knowledge alone of the item that you are interested in. The last and final approach is always a good sure shot in case if you don’t know much about the item! Tell them that you have a friend who knows all about it and drop them a crazy outlandish story with a humorous twist about an experience they once had with the item. This will lighten the mood, “break the proverbial ice” so to speak and sometimes get you a better deal.


Okay, so now on to the topic at hand, Julia and my experience one sunny Saturday afternoon. So there we were, looking for cat toys and a scratching post for the two new cats we adopted on New Year’s Eve 2011. We didn’t find any pet items, but we did run into a vendor who was selling an awful lot of women’s clothing and ever more strange was the fact that the clothing was all dated from 1930-1960’s with old sales tags still intact from Sears, Macy’s, and Bloomingdales to name a few. Perhaps he knew something about the local demand for the style of clothing that he was selling.

Regardless, Julia had a field day and found an awesome vintage dress and blouse. The vendor had a few other items on a table such as shoes and old picture frames. Julia got herself a set of old high heel lace up ankle boots like the kind you would see ladies wearing circa 1890 and up. We were almost finished when my attention was immediately drawn to a curious camera type device sitting in a cardboard box full of other items.

Here is a small gallery of images I took of the camera including a mystery film roll and an image of an old Japanese advertisement for the Perle, courtesy of Rebollo.

The vendor had no knowledge of the camera and neither did I. He was perplexed about it’s operation, but as a photographer myself, I’ve had some experience with older cameras, but this one was the oldest camera I had dabbled with to date. I managed to pop open the lens and the first thing I noticed was the name “Schneider” and “München” on the ring of the lens. This was definitely German Engineering.

“München” is Munich and “Schneider” is what I knew as the very same Schneider Optics of Germany where I get all my filters and lens attachments for my video gear such as Century Optics which is a subsidiary of Schneider Optics of Germany. Anyhow, he only wanted $20 for all four items. I felt bad to even attempt a haggle at that price, so I gave him what he asked for and we parted ways. I knew that I had a real curious gem in my hands and it was not until we got home that I discovered that there was a single used up roll of film inside the camera.


Welta Perle

I was getting anxious to start some research on this excellent find and this is what I discovered. The camera is a series of folding cameras made by Welta Kamera Werks, Germany in the 1930s. It was made in various formats, including 4.5×6cm, 6×6cm and 6×9cm for 120 film, 5×8cm for 129 film and 6.5×11cm for 116 film.

Specifications of the 6×9cm model:
Type: folding camera
Manufacturer: Welta Kamerawerk
Years of production: 1932-1936
Film: 120 film rolls
Lens: Weltar 1:6.3/105mm
Shutter: Gauthier Vario with speeds 1/25 – 1/100 sec.
Diaphragm: 1:6.3–1:32
Viewfinder: brilliant viewfinder

Another version of this camera had slight differences:
Lens: Schneider Xenar 1:2.9/105mm (4 elements)
Shutter: Compur with speeds 1/10 – 1/250 sec.
Diaphragm: 1:2.9–1:32

“This is an old Japanese advertisement for the Perle, courtesy of Rebollo

Well, that’s about it for this blog entry. I will post again when I find a place that can develop the mysterious roll of film. I hope it’s still salvageable, I cannot even imagine what in the world I will find on that roll of film if anything at all. It’s a Kodacolor-X color negative film 120 C-22 and from what I discovered, that particular type of film was only manufactured from 1963-1974 by the Eastman Kodak company, so at the very least the images that are on that film roll may be 37 to 46 years old!

Until the next travel blog, remember to get out there and “Shoot the Planet!”



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