Alan's Blog




Gear that changed my (photographic) life:
Halina 35X Super - My First Adjustable Camera

Having been an enthusiastic photographer for more than half a century I've used a huge range of equipment in that time, some of which I still own – even an original Asahi Pentax Spotmatic with a 50 mm f1.4 Super Takumar lens (I still use this lens when copying my old negatives and transparencies) as well as a medium format Mamiya 645J with an almost complete range of lenses from 35 mm to 500 mm.

In terms of 'life-changing' I would probably say my first adjustable camera was that. I'd always had plastic boxes with plastic lenses until then – like the Kodak Brownie Vectra – or worse! My first adjustable (metal!) camera was a Halina 35X Super which I bought second-hand for £9 – and needed to take out a loan to pay for it! I was a teenager and a poorly paid apprentice in those days back in the late 'sixties.

On the same day I bought the Halina, I bought my first copy of the Amateur Photographer magazine and some sort of plastic exposure calculator, like a rotary slide-rule, there being no exposure meter built in the camera. The photographs below show the front (left) and rear (right) of the exposure calculator - yes, I still have it from all those years ago.

I certainly didn't have the money to buy an exposure meter, so I used this calculator together with the exposure recommendations written on the paper that came with my first roll of 35 mm file (Agfa CT18 colour transparency film – process-paid for 29/11d (a fraction under £1.50 - this was pre-decimalisation). This was the start of what proved to be a very expensive passion that has lasted throughout my life. In those days I sacrificed a great deal of other pleasures in order to pursue my passion of photography. Of course, in those days, the greatest expense for a photographer was the cost of film and processing – and this was an on-going major expense that didn't stop until digital cameras started to become the main instrument of choice for most people. I spent almost all my income on photography in those days - one had to have a real passion to do that as a 'working class' lad.

This camera started me off into being a 'real' enthusiast of photography. I knew little about photography but read everything I could lay my hands on. A few weeks later, I started attending evening classes under the tutorage of Mary Allen who was a renowned professional portrait photographer. She was writing her first book during this time which became the 'bible' of black and white portrait photography (Portrait Photography – How and Why Focal Press 1973 ISBN 0240507495). This was followed by another book some years later (Portrait Photography in Practice David & Charles (Element) ISBN 0715384104 1985). Her enthusiasm was infectious, and she encouraged me in every way, despite me only having what, even in those days, was a somewhat rubbishy camera (she never looked down on this at all – just gave me all the encouragement I could have wished for). She got me into using black and white film and was with me in the darkroom teaching me how to develop my first roll. An amazing lady. One of the students on these evenings was a wealthy man who owned a Hassleblad 500C and a range of lenses which just showed how poor my camera was. At that time, I'd never even heard of Hassleblad! He too was a great guy and we became good friends. It was Mary who taught me the basics of photographic composition as well as how to process and print my black and white films.

Sadly, I didn't keep that camera as I needed to trade it in to buy my next camera, my first SLR, a Pentacon Pentaflex SL with the Domiplan type lens (although it was given a different model name) – I always wished I'd put up more money to buy the camera with the Tessar lens, but money was tight in those days for a working lad.

My Halina 35X Super together with Mary's skill, knowledge and enthusiasm, gave me the passion in my life – a passion from which I (and my bank account) have never recovered!


All comments on my blog should be addressed to: