A Golden Calf????? I'm NOT making this stuff up!!!!
Sunpet is a Hong Kong company that has various cameras made in the China mainland.
Some of their cameras are sold by the distributor Powershovel (under the Superheadz label), and by the distributor Sakar (under the Vivitar label).
One of the Superheadz lines is the “Golden Half” series, which are a group of at least seven, compact, simple, half-frame 35mm cameras – http://www.subclub.org/shop/superheadz.htm. They are all the same except for the outer covering – much like the Ricoh Auto Half E of yesteryear, only much lighter!
These are fairly easy to find, but typically only at what I call CRAZY prices. By a few strokes of luck, I stumbled across one, labeled Telepathy (above left), in good condition, for little more than the cost of shipping.
So if you are interested in half-cameras, read on!
Besides the compact size, and lack of features, the surprising feature of the Golden Halfs (or is that Halves?) is the 22mm lens. That may sound very wide-angle, even for a half-frame, but 22mm is the diagonal of the half-frame 35mm format – half, of course, of the 43mm diagonal of the full-frame format.
Is a 43mm lens on a full-frame 35mm camera considered “wide-angle”? The viewfinder on the half-frame 22mm Telepathy displays identicalty to the view from a 45mm lens on a full-frame Minolta SLR -- as expected!
Most half-frame cameras use a 28mm lens on their cameras with a few having 25mm wider lenses (ex., the Ricoh Auto Half), and a few longer, such as 32mm (ex., the Olympus Pen D). Then there is the Olympus Pen F which used 38mm as its standard lens – surprisingly long. This makes 22mm seem pretty wide for a half-frame 35mm camera, but it really isn't.
What is even more interesting is that Superheadz and Vivitar both sold a full-frame, 35mm camera with a fixed-focus, 22mm lens – both also made by Powershovel. The Vivitar model was called the Ultra Wide & Slim, while the Superheadz version was sold under more than a dozen names and several colors, such as the Black Slim Devil.
In any event, I can't help but wonder if they are the exact same 22mm lens on these half-frame and full-frame 35mm cameras. They are both fixed-focus, two-element lenses and have an f11 setting. The Golden Half models, however, have an additional setting of f8.5. On the full-frame models, the 22mm lens is definitely very wide-angle -- and reportedly shows predictable, substantial, light fall-off. But if only the central portion of the 22mm lens' image circle is used, as in a half-frame camera, the light fall off would be significantly reduced.
A 22mm lens on a full-frame 35mm camera, at f11, has a DOF from two feet to infinity – with a hyperfocal distance of four feet. A f8.5, it's closer to 2.5 feet and 5 feet, respectively.
Superheadz states that the DOF for the Golden Half cameras is 5' to infinity, which means a hyperfocal distance of 10'. That would make sense – and it's easy to check out using the f8.5 setting.
The lens could be glass or plastic. The results I've seen are favorable for certain subjects, but I'll need to run some resolution tests.
Still, the 22mm lens is short enough to make the body of the camera very thin – as thin as many 110 cameras – 1”.
There is a single shutter speed on the camera – 1/100 – so exposure is controlled by the aperture – two Waterhouse stops (f8.5 and f11), the film speed (it was obviously designed for ISO 100 speed film), and electronic flash (added through a hot shoe). These three settings are controlled by a ring around the lens.
The camera has three settings: f11 (sunny), f8.5 (cloudy), flash (f11).
At first, this seems extremely limited – like a Hit-camera. Use ISO 100 film, use f11 in the sun, switch to f8.5 under clouds, and flash for indoors & night shots.
Using faster film would help in some situations, such as shade, but not too much.
What I discovered is that the flash fires at all setting – not just the flash setting – as long as the flash is turned ON, of course. Unless my camera is malfunctioning, that means you can use flash at f11 and f8.5. Why they would set it up that why is anyone's guess. And why they would not make the FLASH setting at f8.5 is even stranger.
Unfortunately, using either f11 or f8.5, with a small flash – such as the Vivitar 50, Yashica CS-10, or Minolta Pocket Flash 110 -- you can only correctly expose at around 2-3 feet! Why can so many 110 cameras, such as the Minolta Autopak 470 use such a small flash? These 110 cameras have MUCH faster lenses!
With the Golden Half cameras, a much more powerful flash is required for any meaningful distance – but it offers some new possibilities. For example, the Vivitar 283 – a real blow-torch! At f8.5 with ISO 100 film, subjects can be 15 feet away! (At f2.8, the subject can be 43 feet away.)
But, more importantly, since the Vivitar 283 -- like most other hot-shoe flashes -- can be set to automatic mode in order to automatically set the exposure of the subject – just choose the auto-exposure zone for the f-stop you select. In the case of the Golden Halfs, that's f8.5 or f11. You can use the camera without the flash turned on in sunny situations -- or use it with the flash turned on to correctly add flash “if and when needed”.
True, the flash adds to the weight of the “Golden Half”, but it may not be as big an obstacle as you might think. The 283, for example, fits perfectly UNDER the “Golden Half”, fits perfectly in your hand, and turns the “Golden Half” into a HORIZONTAL half-frame camera.
A powerful auto flash can turn the single-speed Golden Half into an auto-exposure camera!