SEM Baby

SEM Baby Orec

I like to think I don’t have a “type”. I like colorful, little plastic cameras that make snapping noises. I like tin and Bakelite 127s. I do have some nice cameras – cameras that are too good for me. These are mostly gifts from people who never in a million years would have given me grampa’s camera if they knew how I really am. I mean, here’s my list I compiled of “needs” for the recent camera show:

1.) Black Bratz Camera

2.) Argus C3 lens 3.5 50mm

3.) Winpro 35

See? A variety, right? (I didn’t find any of these at that show, by the way, so if you have something to spare…? Actually I did find a Ziploc with disassembled Argus C3 parts in it, including 2 lenses. They were asking $8. I almost bought it. But then I didn’t. I could’ve thrown everything else in the bag away [no I couldn’t] and kept the lenses. But then I would’ve had 2 lenses and I would need another body. Gah! It got so complicated that I simply set the bag back down.)

Anyway, I don’t have a type. I think. I bought a SEM Baby from a Paris Flea Market camera seller. Oh so cute! The day wore on. We had lunch. I traded my C3 for a wind-up shaver and a French Photax camera. As we were leaving, heading for the bus stop, breezing past the outdoor sellers who were packing up – my friends were so burned out from the market, they could already feel that fluffy couch back and the Airbnb and taste the negronis. I lingered at a table that had the cutest camera I’d seen yet!

So cute! Right?

I offered the vendor half the asking price, since the shutter didn’t work. He jumped on it. [That shutter didn’t work, but it appeared to want to work and I thought I could get it to work, though this has not yet come to pass.]

I noticed at some point that another camera I had acquired that day had a button on the front of the body that releases the film advance to the next frame, just as this camera does. Since they were both manufactured in France, I blew it off as a French thing.

Film advance release button.

I didn’t notice until I got all the way home… “Hey! Wait a second here!” They are the same camera body. So, I guess I do have a type.

 

 

 

 

 

The body of the camera(s) is heavy metal. Though the camera is small, the heft of the body allows for some steady shooting. I put a roll of Efke KB400 in the SEM Baby. I’m kind of surprised by the results. I’m not sure if the diffuse glow in the bright areas is because I didn’t clean the lens, or what, but I like it!

Saint Germaine!

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know what this big ugly building is, but it stands out like a sore thumb.

 

Montmartre cemetery.

 

 

At a place called The Astoria Bar near Montmartre I was served a giant snifter of Cognac. The entire time I sipped at it, this guy held court over a girl at the bar. She disappears in this long exposure – like the puffy cloud print. Poof.

 

As I photographed with this camera, I felt it was saying goodbye to France.

 

 

 

I visited Man Ray’s grave at Montparnasse cemetery. It had been vandalized, so there wasn’t much to see. Someone had scratched “Man Ray” on it in black chalk. I left a Junk Store Cameras patch there. I thought he might be able to use it. Just up around the corner is Susan Sontag’s grave. Someone had left a roll of Fujicolor 200 on it, which of course I snagged. It was weatherbeaten, but I eventually put it through the Orec SEM Baby. It’s out for developing right now. I’m not sure if it was already exposed, so I didn’t shoot the entire roll. The leader was torn, so I trimmed it. Any day now … It was fun walking around Paris with what we ended up referring to as Susan Sontag’s film.

Film left on Susan Sontag’s grave. If you left it, thank you!

 

 

The shutter mechanism on the camera that wants to work but does not, is on the outside of the body. This out-of-body experience gives easy access to the stuff that works. I gotta dig deeper to find out what’s going on.

It is my understanding that the reason these cameras seem so alike is due to one company morphing into two.  SEM (Société des établissemenets modernes de Mécanique) was created in 1938 as a weapons manufacturer. They manufactured the Reyne Cross III cameras. The SEM Baby was probably manufactured in 1949.

04-17-23: Susan Sontag’s film is back from the lab! After waiting a couple of weeks, I finally messaged the lab. They said, “We ran into an issue with the roll because it turned out to still have some residual remjet on the film.” Then, “Essentially this was ECN-2 film(not C-41) but it looks like someone may have attempted to remove the remjet in order to allow the film to be processed in C-41. ”  Interesting. Anyway, the color shifts are weird, but I’m not completely convinced that my scanner isn’t on its way out.


 

Saint Germaine, Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

At Taschen, Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suggested exposure times are listed on the back of both cameras.

 

To rewind: Pull out the little knurled knob on the bottom right side (as you are looking at the back of the camera) of the body.

 

 

 

5 Responses

  1. Marcy Merrill…you are one of a kind. What kind you ask? Not really sure but since you love Paris you are okay in my book! I loved leaving cameras full of film in small villages and libraries and outback stores when I hiked the SW Alaska Coast and…like you…I hope to one day find out what photos they took. I am looking forward to you next adventure my friend.

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