My neighbor Alvar has loaned me another camera to write an article about, in this case the camera was used by his father for years, I appreciate the trust he has had in me.
The device has piqued my curiosity and I have investigated it thoroughly. The 1947 SEM-KIM, manufactured in France by Société des Établissements Modernes de Mécanique (St, Etienne) which was even dedicated to the manufacture of weapons, was a popular camera with various levels of performance. It seems that in this case it is a the most complete of the range as it has an Anastigmat Cross 43 mm / f2.9-22 lens and a Gauthier-AGC-Prontor II (# 255) shutter (B and from 1 to 1/200 sec.) with timer and connection for flash.
It was fairly advanced as an amateur camera for its time. I have seen articles and offers about the SEM-KIM, but almost none with an AGC shutter and its features. It also doesn’t seem to appear in the below price list.
When I held it in my hands I noticed that the lens was loose, the lens had a whitish halo, speed and diaphragm rings were very hardened, the self-timer jammed, the viewfinder disabled by dirt, and the leather case damaged. With rubbing alcohol, sewing machine oil, ear sticks, shoe polish, and a little patience and magic, she turned into a fully functional, clean and enjoyable camera.
You will see that it incorporates a “light meter” in the form of a table: If you know what time it is, what month / day you are, where you are, what the weather has been etc… you can set the shutter speed and the diaphragm. ALMOST NOTHING! On the other hand, taking a photo can be entertaining: You pass the frame while pressing the safety button, set speed / aperture / distance, arm the shutter (and the timer if needed) and with already bored people you SHOOT. There are always doubts about what will happen and if the next photo will be superimposed, but it is a JOY!
Shooting in B&W
In honor of the type of photos he must have taken in his young years, I loaded the camera with a Kodak 400TX B&W film expired in 2016 and here you can see the unedited shots taken at the Albéniz Palace (Montjuïc – Barcelona).
Shooting in Colour
Facing an “anachronistic” adventure, I decided to reload the camera with Kodak ColorPlus 200 ASA color film, forget about the camera’s “light meter” and use my Sony A37 camera as a light meter… all whilst wondering whether this SEM-KIM has even known colour photography before.
When I was little my family made color slides (6×6 cm). Colour film was developed in 1935 (Kodak-USA and Agfa-Germany) but in 1947 it would not have been very popular and this makes me think that our SEM- KIM, at least in the beginning, did not take color photos.
Here are the result of several unedited shots inside the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (Montjuïc – Barcelona).
In both cases, B&W and colour, the quality is not very good, especially in the backlights and contrast – probably due to a lack of coating on the optics. In 1947 it had to be acceptable especially when family photos were small (7 x 10 cm). That said, I have tried digitally editing all the photos, and with little work it gets a good result! See the samples – this sort of editing was unthinkable at the time this camera came to market.
Garden of Acclimatization – Montjuïc – Barcelona
Return to the Owner
Once the adventure was over, I had, to my regret, to return the SEM-KIM to its owner, so I decided to present it to him as a gift. A new box with the photo of the camera attached, a crib lined with red cloth, manufacturer’s labels, the instruction booklet downloaded from the internet and printed, printed documentation, and the refurbished camera and a new case was my choice. I hope Alvar will find the time to use it, at least once. I also hope he keeps and passes it on to his heirs.
To my wife Iselda for her great patience
To my neighbor Alvar for his generosity
To the dancer who posed for a shot for her kindness.
To Jomafoto for his collaboration
For my part, this has perhaps been the article that I have enjoyed writing and creating the most.
I hope this story has attracted your attention / curiosity and that you also liked it. Thanks for reading it.