Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Contax 139Q

It's difficult to look at a complex problem through a pinhole.

I methodically removed another set of screws and part of the body and cover. A little bit more of the enigma was revealed. Underneath the smooth case, the plastic body that had very few marks or guide points, a covering built to keep the workings safe, lay an intricate mess of gears, wires, and clockwork pieces. I examined them carefully. I traced the mechanical motions, the switches that were flipped, and the cogs that were turned. Everything, if it was working right, would execute in a smooth pop click in 1/1000th of a second.

As it was, I had installed batteries and gotten the little red lights to flash in the viewfinder, raising my hopes. I trudged on, taking a look at the machinery. I could tell that there were lots of pieces I couldn't see. Little moving parts, intricately arranged to capture a moment without pause. I was starting to dig deeper into their functions. When I pressed the shutter release button, a small electrical signal would activate the mirror, which would set of a chain reaction that opened the shutter, closed the iris, locked the film, and allowed the roll to be cranked forward. It would then turn a dial that registered the number of exposures that had been taken. The entire working would do so at a rate varying from whenever I wanted to 1/1000th of a second.

I had unwittingly found myself at the dining room table, the clouds rolling in and darkening the valley, while I scattered tiny screws and tightly fitting pieces around me. As I undid the puzzle the workings became more confusing. I would only have a tiny window into what I could only assume was the actual problem. But I couldn't quite see in—it seemed I was closer. But who knows when I could only see into through a pinhole with a tiny pen light?

It started to rain outside, the wind was a constant hiss outside. I realized that my technical skills did not extend to an ability to fix my camera. I resigned myself to not solving the problem for the day. I carefully put each screw back in place, exhausted and not much more illuminated. Sometimes things take more time, and puzzles don't get solved immediately. A solution would present itself later, I wasn't worried.