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Retro KAP anyone?

Buried in the Jurassic layers of my toy box, betwixt layers of coal and dinosaur bones, I unearthed the Ricoh FF9 camera which I bought when in short trousers. This camera dates from 1982 and was quite advanced for its time having a number of modes which include a 1 minute intervalometer for "Filming growing plants" as the instructions said optimistically.

I dusted off the fossil detritus, loaded a reel of Kodak Colour Plus and lofted the camera on a 3D printed mount using my Gibson Girl kite which itself dates from 1943. To complete the retro image I suppose I should have donned plus fours, a tank top, striped blazer and flat cap, but these are now too deep in the geological layers to be recoverable.

The film was sent to the local apothecary who performed magical tricks with special chemicals to reveal the astonishing image shown here. No, this is not a bleached desert landscape seen through a dust storm on a hazy day but a luminous field and mountain backdrop bathed in spring sunshine. I am sure you will agree that the results are quite astonishing and can rival anything possible with today's digital photogimmickry. This Ricoh is available online for little money, so why not go retro and replicate this experience, tee hee!


  • more pictures please! Great stuff!

  • Wonderful work.....brings back many memories (as an ex dark room junkie) .... where dabbling in chemicals brought pictures to life.
    Highly recommend digging into the KAP forum archives and past publications in the aerial-eye and the AKA kiting magazine where fellow KAPer Brooks Leffler (Editor) published many articles on this subject (use of film). Enjoy a snippet from the aerial eye, volume 1, number 2 / spring 1995 article "film for aerial photography" by Steve Eisnehauer


  • Thanks WW, Steve's article is relevant and interesting. It reminds me that colour slide film is dye-based and thus supposedly free from grain. Whether with slide or negative film there will be some detail lost in the scanning process, although I did ask the apothecary to scan my film at maximum resolution. It may be that the grainy texture is nothing to do with the film but was a fleeting cloud of passing locusts which are a terrible scourge on the Isle of Man at this time of year. For proof, just take a look at our ravaged vegetable garden.

    More seriously, though, I will fly next with good quality slide film and hope that the results do not slide further, if you'll excuse the pun.

  • edited April 2022

    For-What-LITTLE-It's-Worth: My first KAP rig, built in APPROXIMATELY the mid-1980s, from an ESTES ASTROCAM 110 model rocket camera, which used 110 film. I also used part of the rocket tube that came with the ASTROCAM, and a spare nose cone.

    I purchased the Astrocam rocket kit with the intent of 'cannibalizing' the nose cone camera for KAP use. I did however adhere the included decals to it anyway.

    I also used a free-flight model airplane {mechanical} dethermalizer timer. This rig also had a fabricated pendulum rig made from wood dowels I fiberglassed. {The pendulum rig itself is currently missing.}

  • Gosh, I had never heard of the Astrocam which was clearly a truly innovative KAP system. This reminds me of one of the best toys I ever had, namely a water rocket. This was sold as a package that comprised a foot-long, rocket-shaped pressure vessel fitted with tail fins, plus a special pump that latched onto the nozzle flange. Also supplied was a wooden dowel that could be inserted into the nozzle to provide an alternative thrust method 'for use indoors' when the rocket was fired dry. The brilliant thing for a juvenile techie was the scope it provided to experiment with varying the water:air ratio to optimise peak height. I do wish I still had it. This remains yet another project to reincarnate - among many many others!

    Thanks CGKiteman for a very interesting article. Do you have any photos from your early sub-orbital flights? Elon will be jealous.

  • edited June 2022

    Oh yea we definitely need more retro KAP. I had been considering using some negative film for KAP at some point so I could make use of the wide exposure latitude. I would probably use my Canon T70 35mm SLR for that due to the automatic film wind feature.

    The T70 does accept an accessory known as a command back which has various features including time lapse shooting. It seems pretty versatile in that you can set the interval in one second units from 1 second to 23 hours, 59 minutes, 59 seconds. Though Ive never come across this device so I'd imagine it's a bit rare.

  • edited June 2022

    Oh and colour slide film certainly does have grain. Though modern slow speed and medium speed slide films have extremely fine grain. Particularly the professional film stocks like Fuji Provia and Fuji Velvia. Faster slide films will show more prominent grain. With KAP, you would probably be forced to use fast film in order to use a fast shutter speed and a decent aperture. With medium speed film, you would probably be shooting with the aperture wide open while keeping the shutter speed high. There is also Kodak Ektar 100 which is supposedly the finest grained colour negative film.

  • No problem using Ektar 100 on a bright sunny day, I have been using it a lot with my 35mm cameras in the past. Exposure 1/500 and aperture 5.6 and fly!
    I would not recommend slide film, it's much less forgiving exposure wise.

  • Hey that's great you're using Ektar 100 for KAP. I bet the results are great. And interesting to know that 1/500 is fast enough for shooting from a kite. I was going to try 1/1000 (when I get a film camera up in the air.)

    I was thinking that it would be good to use infrared film for KAP. But the filters required for B&W IR film steal a huge amount of light (about 3 - 5 stops.) So that's a big downer. I have used an IR colour slide film in the past and if I recall correctly, the filters for that film didn't steal anywhere as much light. But the film has been discontinued for a long time. A real pity cos I got some funky colours on the two occasions where I used it.

    And yea I have my reservations about using slide film for KAP. I'd imagine that interval times for film based KAP would be pretty long and it's likely that the light would change during the long duration shooting session.

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