Welcome to our 52 cameras, 52 weeks photography project using vintage and retro film cameras.
Week 52 – The RB Graflex Series b
Well here we are, the final week! There is a lot to get through so let’s dive in. It may come across as a bit short hand but I need to squeeze a lot in, stick with it! Back in week 25 I had tried to feature the Graflex but it properly fell apart when the rather important cloth shutter tore in two. I vowed then to rebuild it and bring it back, little did I know what I had let myself in for.
Straight away I will introduce you to Erik Gould, I know him from twitter and he is a Graflex nut! He, from the beginning jumped right in with advice and help that was pivotal to what follows.
Quickly – The RB Graflex is one of the first SLR medium format cameras, made from wood, nickel coated brass, and leather and vulcanised silk. Held together with wood screws and glue. This one dates somewhere from 1910-25, interchangeable lens, waist level finder seen through a long leather hood. Normally a plate film back but this one is setup for 6x9 format on 120 film via a removable cassette back. Apertures are set as normal on a lens ring but the shutter is where it gets a little different and the root of my problems. Simply a pair of rollers top and bottom house a long silk curtain with 4 slots in it, it is wound on to the top one tensioning the 6 step spring on the bottom one so when released it quickly winds back allowing one of the slots to expose pre-determined exposure of the film, it uses the 4 differing slots and 6 tension setting to produce 24 odd shutter speeds. That is the best I can explain! Used by many famous photographers and the press it has gained a cult following.
Back to week 25! I had a dead camera and no idea about how to fix it. I had to either replace or fix the torn curtain. Curtains are as rare as rocking horse poo so fixing seemed the only option, long story short that man Erik jetted a piece of cloth from the USA followed by a mass of collated info on repairs etc. I patched said curtain and refitted, now to set its pre-tension, I followed the instructions and the bloody spring snapped! Disaster, springs are rarer than the cloth so I was in a real fix! I finally found a company called Springmasters in Birmingham to whom I sent the bottom roller-spring combo to custom make one. In no time I got back a metre length of off the shelf spring they thought might work. I measured cut and shaped it then refitted to the body, blow me down it worked, it worked well. I set about gluing, cleaning and oiling everything else till I thought it was ready. I videoed the curtain in action and emailed to Erik, He thought it was a tad quick so I ran a test roll of my daughter, sure enough underexposed and I struggled with focusing. I let some tension off and ran a second roll, still too fast and the focus seemed to be the camera at fault so, more tension off till I though it acted exactly like Erik advised and I raised the ground glass until focus matched the film plain using a makeshift ground glass out of tracing paper much as I had done with the Bronica. I decided to leave it at that until this week. I can tell you it took dozens and dozens of hours, sweat and tears! Also many conversations with Erik who was amazing and I cannot thank enough, honestly a complete legend, I must have bored the crap out of him.
Here we are then, a strange camera the likes I have never used before and just a week to get to grips, not helped by the loss of my spot meter, I would have to use my back up incident meter. I had already formed, as you can imagine a firm bond with this camera so I was keen to get it right. We were set for changeable weather in the form of storm Brian so I would shoot whenever I could and just see what came out. First roll Rollei RPX400 B&W. I fumbled around for a day or two finally getting the 8 frames and nervously developed it. It was ok as far as it goes, it proved the camera worked despite my school boy errors. Double exposure, fingers fouling moving parts, accidental misfires, bad focusing etc. There were however some encouraging frames.
Roll 2 was again a 400, JCH Street Pan, more determined to concentrate I set out for Dartmoor in strong winds and changeable light. Several hours were spent around a Bronze Age settlement trying different settings etc. I thought it had all gone much better but once developed I could see not only had I struggled with exposures with this difficult contrasty film but my focusing was off still. I decided to go with a third roll, my favoured Ilford FP4+, I gave it everything! I really knuckled down to get things right. I think I have too, I felt much better with this one and started to understand the working process, it is very different. Having just scanned these before writing I feel real satisfaction, in fact the whole 6 months were worth that mushroom shot! The Kodak lens is really pleasing and sharp enough. When using the camera there is undoubtedly a nostalgic feel, a little bit of folder, a look of a box camera while being a WLF SLR, all my favourites in one vintage package! The Graflex is staying with me so I have plenty of time to get acquainted further. I hope you see the progress in the images and I hope I can include the phone pics of the build progress. I have however rambled for far too long – 52 weeks too long!
Thanks again Erik! Also Craig for the processing advice this week and many others, and of course Russell without whom none of this would have been possible!
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Week 51 – MY Kodak 3a model B4
I am close to the end of this project and the things I have experienced throughout it have changed my photography. Take a look back at week 17 and you will see a camera almost identical to this, this one though is mine and completely influenced by that week. When I first considered medium format Em, at Emulsive film suggested a folder but I was sceptical. After getting a few folders under my belt during this project I was rueing that decision. That first big 3a sold me and I had to have one! Several came and went through Russell’s shop but were not quite the one, then this one appeared, it was broken but otherwise perfect and I wanted it, a deal was done and she became mine!
It is almost identical to week 17, c 1908 it differs in one main aspect, it is bigger! The first one took 118 film giving 6 x 10cm frames on 120 film, this one was built for 122 film with 6 x 14cm frames on 120 film. Now, it had some issues, firstly the shutter was sticking so went off to Lyndon for repair, it leaked at the back but a length of black wool sorted that. I needed spindle adapters for the smaller film, I made my own from 2 spare spindles and the core tube from a till roll. While the shutter was away I popped on a spare shutter combo and ran a roll quickly to test for leaks etc. there were a couple of issues similar to other folders I had used - Hood too small for one but an easy fix. The second was getting the film to travel flat. A couple of tips to improve this are to only advance after extending the bellows then set your shot up while it settles. Bellows are exactly that, they suck and they blow – they will suck your film forward and will blow dust on your film when closing, carefully is the answer! I went a step further using 2 measured strips of card to extend the width of the film rails stopping any forward movement. Once I got the lens back I ran a second quick roll to determine the shutter speeds, Lyndon had informed me there were now fewer speeds, no timed and bulb either. He gave me a guide to what they were. That second roll showed me how much they were out and that everything else was ticketty boo.
Here we go then, here is what I plan for this camera and how I intend to take it forward. I want to use it as it would have been in its heyday, at present I shoot, scan then choose a suitable image and attempt a print, but with this I intend to go straight to the darkroom and produce 1:1 size contact prints for a scrapbook, it takes postcard size pictures for this reason and although mine will be narrower I think it is a good way to take a step further into the whole process, I will scan prints for sharing. I can tell you they don’t do the real prints justice, so much detail and sharper.
I selected 2 films, Ilford FP4+ not only because it is my favourite film but it also dries flat which is ideal for contact printing. Secondly I choose Bergger Pancro 400 for some extra speed given a storm and bad weather had been forecast, it also I hoped would dry flatter than the curlier HP5+ I would normally choose. I made up a mask for printing from a piece of glass masked with black tape to my finished picture size.
Well as predicted storm Brian played out for a lot of the week, but I did manage to run the films in-between. It was a grey day for the first roll and low mist for the second making life difficult. I am still treating these as test rolls, I think I have the shutter speeds dialled in, I am fairly close with overall exposures too. The finishing process is long so only managed to get to first draft prints but I am very happy so take that into consideration! The camera is clearly happiest with the aperture closed right down with longer exposures, it gets quite soft otherwise particularly at the edges as you will see, I need to tweak the mask and a few other bits but very little. I tried to get 5 frames from each roll but will defer to 4, it will be better for the whole process. I look forward to nice slow days shooting slow images and tinkering in the darkroom. I think for a 110 year old camera it has done well in the hands of a printing novice. I see a lots of fun times to come.
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Week 50 – Rochester Optical Pocket Premo C
Here we are, a half century! This one is for Russell my co-conspirator. It is a little different this week but first the Camera – Russell’s new baby was made by the Rochester Optical Company, the Pony Premo is a little folding plate camera. The company was purchased by Kodak but I am not sure who made this one, it is an early one I think from around 1906 -10 ish. There are no markings for lens etc. I believe it to be a 105mm lens, focus by bellows on a sliding rail onto a ground glass hidden by a cute door. Old school marked aperture, shutter just I/B/T…I would only need T for timed! A spring loaded back takes plate holders giving an image size of 3 ¼” x 4 ¼”, There are 6 plates of which 4 were good, all housed in a leather pouch. A simple but lovely camera that Russell is rather taken with.
I said different and so it is, I would be having a go at learning the beginnings of paper negatives, one of the oldest methods of photography. A sheet of photographic paper is loaded under safe light conditions into the holders. The usual photographic taking process then developed in the darkroom producing a negative image. This is then placed over another piece of photographic paper, light exposed through it and developed for the positive image…that’s it in the simplest terms! Yeah right…
I lost Monday, picked up the camera Tuesday and acclimatized myself to it. I had 2 options of paper, fresh multigrade variable contrast and some aged grade 3, my reading told me the variable would be low contrast and grade 4 the preferred – grade 3 it was then. I cut the paper to size as we were just testing I wasn’t exacting. I chose a solid brick mural and setup on the tripod. ISO 6 was the suggest starting point for the paper and I chose to bracket the same scene at -1/0/+1/+2.
As you can see it went terribly! I developed in standard 1:9 paper developer, Frame 1 nothing! Frame 2 just went black in 30 seconds and attempts to control the other 2 failed. I did however have a hint of an image. I expected this to be hard so wasn’t to upset. I scrapped the dodgy holder and reloaded with variable for Thursday. I also had another read up discovering the paper was sensitive to blue light and a yellow filter was necessary! In the morning I had to go to Exeter for business where after telling my tale I was gifted some grade 4 paper, old but sealed. In the afternoon I selected a band stand and repeated my bracketing this time -1/0/+1.
Better! I developed these in Rodinal 1:100, it would be low contrast but much slower. 4 min each later we had some negatives! Not great but there. I attempted contact prints to see how they looked and they were hard work! Friday was a damp squib so I decided test the gifted grade 4 and repeat the previous set. I set up a still life of a globe on a box with plain grey background. Same bracketing etc. but this time I developed in double dilute paper developer. Again pleasing results but muddy and flat. I test printed all the same to get a feel.
I tried to improve on my favourite with some success and it was easier than the last set
Saturday I work, so I loaded up with the grade 4 as it was the best so far and aimed to rope a few boys in for some simple portraits. I just wanted 3 images with the same exposure so I could: develop 1 each in paper developer 1:9 – 1:14 – 1:19 to see if I could cut through the muddiness. Well! I fecked it up! Simple setup, still testing so nothing fancy needed, zone focus and we just snapped and counted.
First shot wig man I over exposed and as I pushed the shutter arm to close the shutter I must have caught the shutter set arm moving it to instant. Consequently the next image got a short double exposure, I repeated this on 3 and fumbled the holder removal pulling the dark slide. What an ass! Still not all was lost. I salvaged wig man just, I developed it 1:9 developer and that went fine. I also clicked that very first blank slide had probably been loaded the wrong way round! So the last day had arrived, try to make some images from what I had learned. I knew they wouldn’t be great but I would be happy with something to show. I loaded all 4 holders and walked the barbican. Frame 1 I over exposed and failed to save, frame 2 of the Citadel wall seemed to go OK. I realized frame 3 was a loss when discovering I hadn’t locked the bellows properly and the focus shifted, I made absolutely sure of frame 4.
After all that I finish with 2 tiny iffy images, am I disappointed? Hell no! In 5 days I have worked my way from nothing to pictures. This is an unforgiving process made to look easy by the skilled hands of folks like Don Kittle, they have however put a lot of work into it, so given time to improve I see some fun exciting adventures ahead. I will be doing it again for sure.
Week 49 – The Mamiya c330
The last couple of weeks have left me smarting a bit if I am honest, I like to see nice images and they had been thin on the ground. Emulsivefilm’s DeltaDefJam had come around again and I wanted to at least hold my head up amongst my peers. The Mamiya c330 was just the ticket, a 1970s TLR aimed at the pro and serious amateur market it promised quality. 1.7 kilos of simplicity is what you get, no meter, Aperture and shutter rings around the taking lens, interchangeable lenses mounted on rack and pinion bellows for focusing which holds 2 sweet 80mm lenses. You view through a lovely bright ground glass with a fancy system for parallax correction involving an indicator needle and exposure correction scale, simple but effective.
I intended to run it alongside the Bronica s2a which would give me a whole bag of my favourite 6x6 images hopefully. Each would have a pair of Ilford Delta films of the 400 and 100 asa variety. A quick rummage in the filter boxes turned up a nice set of black and white filters but no hood. Loading was straight forward and I was pretty confident there would be no light leaks as it had just had new seals. The only slight question mark was the lenses which had some marks.
The week started slowly with work and dreary weather, I did manage an hour or so over the river Tamar at Torpoint but just 3 shots to show for it and not feeling too inspired. It was Friday before I really got a chance to get my teeth into it. I got an early start and tried my luck on the other side of the city taking the water taxi over the river Plym to Mount Batten. It was a much better day with sun, clouds and a mind willing to work. The Mamiya made it easy, it can focus really close and equally sharp at infinity, everything looks super sharp and almost 3D like in the viewer. It is quite however heavy and doubled up with mighty Bronie my back knew it had been worked hard. There are lots of boat yards to meander around plus the breakwater pier and a pebble beach. The later was a real boost for inspiration and I found when I got down low I could create little Micro landscapes in the rocks and pools. I was so taken with this idea I returned on the Sunday and shot more with the Bronie.
In short it performed really well, excellent consistent images only limited by my short comings, I did lose one frame completely but that was me. I have to say it is a bit of a lump for a TLR and setting up for exposures is a bit fiddly compared to others, ergonomics were not high on the designers mind but you can forgive this given the high quality images it churns out with ease. This isn’t the tidiest example around but it certainly performed well. I am looking forward to the film party now!
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Week 48 – The Kiev 80
Kiev 80, or 88, or even the other several names it carried I believe aside from a few alterations here and there they are much of a muchness. I had the 80, mid to late 70s hunk of hammered out iron built in an ordinance factory in the soviet Ukrainian city of – you guessed it Kiev! The decision to run this came with several points. 1, it had given Russell and me a headache just getting it to work. 2, a chance to sample interchangeable film backs. 3, it came with a monster 300mm prime lens as an extra. 4, I was interested how it compared to my own Bronica s2a as they are both Hasselblad copies.
We will pick away at the what is on this all manual medium format 6x6 SLR as we go along, I will miss lots so please do look it up, it has a cult following and more is written about its quirky personality than the techy stuff. So we loaded the first back we shall call “1”. This went wrong straight away as the 2 indicators that should concur red or white didn’t. A quick online search revealed I had set the counter too early! Grrr, A very precise order must be followed > load cassette > place in film back off camera> wind on until Frame 1 indicator can be seen in rear window> THEN set counter > Advance and cock shutter> then attach film back! What a setup! Anyway FP4+ was in and set, I taped the joint with dark slide removed as I suspected light leaks having seen tell-tale sticky black lines on the dark slide. Film back 2 was loaded with colour, Portra 160vc expired. We were off, let battle commence…
A battle it was too, all started well with back 1. I photographed the returning fishing boats, swapping lenses. I had a solid metal tripod but this seemed to struggle with the monster 300mm Tair-33 prime lens, I could sense movement. Everything in fact felt off balance and ratchety, once halfway through the roll I untapped and started swapping the film backs around. Then I went to put the Vega 90mm on, I had already done this once with no issue but this time it would not fire, I removed the lens causing an unexpected fire. It did it again meaning 2 lost frames! Then it was fine. Bloody frustrating as I had done nothing different! It was at this point I figured out it was best to remove the film back, sort your lenses out and cock it, when you knew all was ok pop the back on again. I don’t think it is broken but just finicky stubborn mule. You really have to work this camera, precisely too or it will bite you! I worked for a few days seeing of the FP/4+ and then taping up the second back to give it a light tight chance. I worked the shutter speeds as much as I could, I suspect a little lag on the slower end but nothing that can’t be allowed for in later rolls. You just have to spend real time learning the camera.
So the results are mixed, I lost 2 frames to the lens shenanigans, and as expected there is a lot of light leakage on the untaped frames. The protected ones are fine, the 90mm lens is a fine sharp lens and nice to work with. The 300mm needs a faster film and shutter speed even on a tripod, a couple are slightly off. The waist line viewer is clear and bright and outside off its contrary nature the camera did its job. As a Bronica user I thought it lacking in finesse, quality and looks. When all said and done it is considerably cheaper than similar others so you can’t complain too much. It is I suppose much like me, grumpy, stubborn, and a bit creaky > works well if it can be arsed!
For me it made me appreciate my big Bertha, I realise I have no real need for a big medium format lens. The appeal of 2 film backs is goer though, I can see a real usefulness to having a different speed film in the bag for those changeable condition. Frustrating at times with mixed results I still had a lot of fun this week and that is why we do this? Right!
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Week 47! – Double trouble!
The Robot 2 iia
So Russell’s daughter Roma had gotten here GCSE results back and they were good! In fun we teased him that for passing her photography one he should give her a camera. Much banter later I ended up promising to shoot anything of his choice this week if he did – he did not disappoint and tried to make me suffer! Enter the little clockwork Robot. This will be short for reasons that will become clear! First I needed to do some research as it is a little different. This one is from around 1951 given that is when they started to accept standard 35mm cartridges, however it still needed a type N take up spool which was missing. I crafted one from a normal 35mm spool and it seemed workable. The 40mm Zeiss Tessar f2.8 lens looked like it had been cleaned with a Brillo pad but I have used worse! Basically there is a big knob on the top you wind up like a clockwork key which both powers the shutter that you can manually set from B to 1/500th and it auto advances what is, on this type 24mmx24mm frames. The lens houses an aperture ring, f2.8 to f16 and a guessing focus ring.
Film choice was easy as I had 3 part rolls of Ilford FP4+ left over from hand rolling sprockets. I loaded up the first one and set off on a walk. I actually found the little thing a lot of fun! My spot meter is somewhat bigger than it so I wish I had a better feel for sunny 16 rules as I think that would be perfect for it, sadly I am rubbish at this so I used basic metering. 16 frames later I knew I had passed the possible frame count and went home. Once in the changing bag I was gutted to find it hadn’t advanced at all, it had pulled the tape off the spool. I reloaded with lots of scotch tape. Round 2… A much shorter walk this time treating it as more of a test, again I enjoyed the way it worked. Its viewer is small but clear and it is nice in the hand, it is just a fun enjoyable camera. This time it stopped on 10, sure enough it had advanced! Sadly on developing it revealed lots of overlap. I have scanned these for you to see. On to roll 3 – well, this is a repeat of roll 1 as it did not advance again, this time I opted to manually add half a turn on the advance knob but in doing so I had torn the sprockets. I admitted defeat…for now!!!! Please read on…
Part 2! Rollei Magic – last minute stand in.
Several weeks ago I had willingly agreed in exchange for repairing my Kodak’s shutter to run a test roll through a repaired TLR Rollei Magic. Lyndon who services Russell’s cameras had bought and rebuilt the dropped Rollei and replaced the dead selenium meter cell, this is vital for its auto exposure system. Without it the camera is dead. I chucked in a roll of HP5+ planning to run it at box speed with no filters then I would have a good idea on the meter performance without complicating with adjustments. I set off to shoot movement for a camera challenge, it jammed after the first 6x6 frame. I unloaded said film in the darkroom and promptly fumbled it onto the floor and scrambled around trying to find it! I rerolled it and set it aside. I waited 2 weeks to return it to Lyndon who fixed it easily and on the next 2 week cycle we gave it another go, I reloaded at his house with the same roll. I popped it into a changing bag and advanced 2 frames, I looked at the counter and it was on 2 of 16! We had left the 4 x 5.5 mask in! You get an option on this camera, I needed to use 6x6 as there was no 4x5.5 mask for the ground glass so I was just going to have to use my judgement. I will be honest I forgot several times and shot as 6x6, even when I remembered I got some slightly off. It was however, as an auto exposure system ideal to carry around along with the Robot. I found the focusing through the viewing glass as you would expect from a Rollei, impressive! Making it fun and quick to use. On developing the roll I was pretty impressed with its metering too, loads of shadow detail and never more the ½ a stop off. The Schneider lens was as I expected nice and sharp. There is a lot of dirt from my darkroom floor and I did damage a couple in the scramble but that is all on me! In hindsight I should have abandoned the Robot earlier and pushed the Magic further testing the aperture priority option. Lyndon thinks he can sort the Robot so there is a chance it will return. I apologise for a quite scrappy week but it is what it is! I hope next week’s soviet incursion is a little less troublesome…but I doubt that.
Week 46 – The Ensign Autorange 820
“That one!” Russell said, he went on to excitedly tell me it was a rare beasty and I might never get the chance to shoot one again. I was somewhat bemused to hear this handling the rather ordinary looking 6x9 folder. He showed me the 2 listings on EBay, £1750 & £2100! NO WAY! I was intrigued, so accepted it and took it home, A little research told me when new in 1955 it would set you back £53 pounds which was over a month’s wages, about £1000 now. That was twice the price of the next Ensign down, it was their flagship camera. Ensign shut around 1960 with the Autorange their last design and probably contributed to their down fall with low sales.
So what is so special – NOTHING! Yes it has a range finder, others did. It had the high quality f3.8 Ross Xpres lens and Epsilon shutter but so did the much cheaper Selfix 820. It took 120 film with a choice of 6x9 or 6x6 and that has a built in fold out mask which is cool as you won’t lose it. Focusing with the wheel is nice and moves the whole bellows. I can tell you the focus spot is good and clear in good average light but not so much in bright or dull conditions where it almost disappears. The “bright” framing screen in the eye piece does the same, this is frustratingly quite some way in from the edges meaning you have to really check what is actually in frame.
I picked Ilford FP4+ as my first roll and set up the 6x9 framing, I would shoot it from a tripod exploring the lower end of the shutter speeds B to 1/25th. I took a walk by the river Plym where the city abruptly meets the country side, I would walk under the flyovers where the young folk meet and do young stuff, then cross the footbridge over the railway lines and into Saltram House grounds finishing at the tidal marshes where Canadian Geese were arriving on mass. It went really well, I enjoyed the walk and slow setup for each frame. Conditions were difficult for some shots with deep shadows under the flyovers and high highlights in the sky. I used an orange filter predominantly deliberately leaving it unfolded the whole time checking for leaks, there were none. Longest shot was 56 seconds, this was my only bulb shot. I did consult with mentor Craig Pindell and a development in DDX and time were agreed. They are I think quite nice, I am pleased! Well exposed and sharp the lens and limp sounding shutter were spot on.
Roll 2 I decided would be hand held on a city walk, I selected Ilford HP5+ and folded out the 6x6 mask. Off I set nice and early to avoid the predicted rain, I switched around the filters between orange and yellow or none at all. I used all the shutter speeds from 1/50th to 1/500th. When pushing on the filters I found the bellows unit that moved with the focus pushed in, this was irritating. I think I managed some fairly interesting images but I preferred the slower style of the day before. I opted for my preferred Rodinal developer for HP5+. They again came out almost spot on exposure wise but an annoying light leak had appeared! I think this is when the front unit moves as you push on the filter so that needs looking into.
On the whole I enjoyed the camera, it works really well. I had a great time with the slow stuff and it rewarded me with pleasing images. Is it worth all that money? As a camera, NO WAY! It is good but really? As a collector’s piece then I suppose it is, it is rare and people want it. As a user I think there are better all-round folders I would rather own and use for a fraction of the cost. On a personal note I found I preferred the 6x9 to the 6x6 which for me is somewhat of a surprise.
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Week 45 – The Canon AE – 1
Just because he made me shoot the fancy Nikon last week and I know he sniffs at Canons I opted for the Canon AE-1 this week. Not the whole story but I’m sticking with it! I actually wanted to try my hand at some different lenses that I hear a lot about on twitter.
Let’s get the camera out of the way first and quickly! My go too 35mm is a Pentax Me Super for those that don’t know, aperture priority in auto, full manual able, light comfy and hellishly pretty. The Canon is fully manual capable but in auto is shutter priority so I would need to think on that. A bit bigger than the Pentax and to me not so pretty – but still a good looking camera, I do like the mid/late 1970s SLR’s! The AE-1 sold over a million units and for good reason, simple and effective it did the job for the keen amateur and was affordable. This one is all black and nicely brassed, rubbed in all the right places. Promising!
Lenses – I tend to stick to the 50mm or equivalent usually with just 135mm I occasionally use with the Pentax to get a little closer if my feet can’t. Chatter inferred the 100mm option was lighter and more usable so a Canon FD 100 was first in the bag. Next was a wide, so many people seem to prefer the 24/28 range over 50mm so a little 28mm canon FD was added also. Finally the one thing I liked from my digital spell was macro, I have close-up filters but they can be a faff! By the time you’ve hunted in your bag and screwed it on the moment – read small moving object has passed so, a 50mm macro FD was the last edition.
Film – EmulsiveFilm had a fresh film party! DeltaDefJam, any of Ilford’s 100/400/3200 options so I went for the Delta 100. I popped a Kodak colour 200 in the bag more in hope as the forecast was grim, rain rain and more rain! Truly though I can’t complain with so many places around the world being battered by storms, I can only work with what is put in front of me. I did manage half a dozen colour shots but time ran out, they will follow.
Let’s do just a short over view then so you can get to what I think are pretty fun pics considering. The camera it’s self is a beauty, simple to learn, easy to use. I ran the full set of shutter speeds from 1000th down to 2 seconds AND bulb! Just over half the film I zone metered and split the remaining on the camera meter using both auto and manual, I was happy with all and quite impressed! The 28mm I struggle with, closer up I found it useful and sharp but found it lacking at infinity, this could be this lens itself, maybe it is off a tad. The 100mm I made myself put on, not for any other reason than I am used to a 50, it did well though! The apples shot wouldn’t have been possible without it along with a couple of others. Now I saved my favourite till last! The 50mm macro, what a great little lens! As a 50mm it does the job, a tad slow at just f3.5 but usable. The macro was a game changer for me, no faffing just a twist and you right up close. Easy to focus I could have shot the whole roll just on that. It is nice and sharp and when used fast gave great shallow DoF and loads of bokeh. Equally I did pretty well with it on a tripod dodging rain in my back yard messing with the bulb option and the garden fairies.
Summing up… in short - I had great fun!!!!!
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Week 44 – The Nikon F5
Ok, from the off! As I write this I am still in a quandary over this camera. Do I like it?
This is the point I tell you a little about it but I can’t! I would be here for EVER! It has buttons, dials, LCD windows, servos and switches everywhere! You will have to go google it but make a brew and get comfy as you will be there for some time. A 35mm camera from 1996 hailed as one of the best cameras in its class, favoured by press and pro’s it is as near to digital as you get. Russell matched it up with a Nikkor 50mm f1.4 and the Nikkor f4 300mm prime, He dropped the bomb shell it was sold and I only had it for a few days to shoot it, he then followed it up with the 4 figure package value and scared me. I have shot his Nikon D300s a couple of times and the similarities are uncanny so at least I’d have a vague idea. On advice from the twitter crowd I set the meter to matrix and started off with aperture priority as something I was comfortable with.
I loaded a Kodak 200 colour plus straight away while dropping a Kodak 400 ultramax into my bag, later I added a much expired Agfacolor ct21 slide film in case I had time left for some fun experimenting. I tried a few shots on the way home just to get a feel for it but ended up smashing through 12 asap largely due to unknowingly catching the second shutter release on the side with my hand wrestling its weight. Once I knew it was there and looked up how to switch it off I didn’t miss fire again.
The following day brought a bright day and a family trip to the Cornish coast. Ideal for me as I wasn’t overly enjoying the camera doing as much as it was for me. I can hear you all piping up “you can use manual” and yes I know that but I wanted to see what it could do. So! Beach, boats and kids gave me lots to point this monster at while playing with the lenses and setting. We had barely arrived and the 200 was gone, in with the 400. I spent an hour wandering on my own then joined them on the small beach, poof the 400 was gone! In with the Agfa and by the time we left I had pretty much done those 36 too, you can burn film with these auto advance things can’t you. I did try both lenses and particularly liked 300 for close-ups without alerting my girls to my actions. I got in manual for a few but mainly used semi auto and found that handy for snapping away with not so much faffing while out with the family. Day 3 I finished off the questionable expired roll walking down to drop it back.
Developing – Boy this is where it gets sketchy! The 200 went in first, I did it all as you should and pulled it out of the rinse to find nothing! Not a sausage! The developer had expired, I was pretty distraught and immediately mixed a new batch then developed roll 2 way into the early hours of the morning, and happily they worked. A few hours kip and in with roll 3, roll 3 was experimental and came out poor, I had prepared myself for that but loosing roll 1 leaves just 25 images.
Those 25 images are causing the quandary, I was sure that all the fancy in camera techy stuff would spoil the experience, but those same electronic mind boggling abilities had given me a full 25 decent return with little idea of what I was doing or what it could really do. I can see why people rave about it. I cannot complain about weight, I have heavier. It did everything I asked and never flinched. The 300mm lens was awesome, the close-up on Lily’s face was from 3 meters and you can count every hair on her face even on 400 film. Sadly I could never afford this kit but I did kind of enjoy it much to my own surprise.
What I have decided is once this project has finished I won’t be home developing colour. I started it for economic reasons but I have never really been happy with the results. For the few colour I will shoot for myself it makes sense to use a good lab and concentrate on my black and white work. I hope you enjoy my remaining images, I did my best in the time I had.
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Bronica s2a Revisited.
Cast your mind back to week 31 and you will remember I ran a few rolls through this beauty with the hope of shooting it at my sister’s wedding. Alas it let me down, I loved everything about this lumpy beast except it would not focus. It would not reach infinity and no matter how crisp you got the image on the focus glass it actually focused 20% behind the subject. Off she went to the repairers for assessment, after much scratching of heads and some tweaking they thought it was improved, it wasn’t, but not fixed. I was gutted, I had made my mind up if corrected it would enter my fold. A specialist repairer would be unviable so as a last resort I searched the web, I found several articles referring to a foam seal under the frame of ground glass deteriorating causing similar issues and further talk of adjusting the shims the ground glass sat on. I set about it more in desperate hope than anything, replaced the foam gaining some improvement then attacked the shims. Hours later I thought I had it, the distance scale matched a measured distance, and a test roll was needed!
Test roll 1 – Ilford FP4+ and a yellow filter fitted I took my youngest to the park to try it out. First shot from a tripod I lined up a seed head dead centre. Set the aperture to 2.8 and dialled in 1/1000 of a second – MAXIMUM test! I shot the rest of the roll using Lily as my test model. Straight into the developer and after scanning I was blown away by the results, sharp and on point, I was over the moon!
Test roll 2 – Ilford FP4+. I let it sit for a week or two to settle just in case the seal compressed and non-focus returned. I took her out on a day trip to Start Point on the south Devon coast and reeled of a roll carefully, I was being really careful with it fearful of returning issues. I need not have worried as you can see.
Test roll 3 – Ilford FP4+, it is my favourite. A few days break in London was the perfect field test/excuse to throw some real life at it, bouncing around in my bag for miles of walking, we did the usual London sightseeing in all the places we could fit in, I noticed the weight but I can live with that, I fell more in love with the now named Bertha with every frame.
Test roll 4 – Ilford HP5+ @1600 – This roll was more for me. I shot half the roll at night on the Thames clipper ride back to our hotel on the last night then finished it of once we got home. I have never had much success pushing HP5+ so I wanted to try developing in DDX to see if that was better, well it was! My best results pushing film speed to date!
Am I happy? YES YES YES! Bertha is home with me now forever. I think lots of good things well come from this partnership. She isn’t perfect and I made some mistakes as I will show you at the end. She did however do everything I asked and did it well. The shutter, while like a gunshot going off is on time and surprisingly stable at lower speeds hand held - and the focus is tack sharp! …happy bunny!
Week 43 Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 520/2
I have done a couple of Zeiss Ikons, even the super Ikonta. But this was picked from a handful of offerings for a reason. I was looking to test and push some of my weaker points as the 52 weeks reach the end and with a 6x9cm format I needed some practice composing the frames.
Jason Avery had set a new camera challenge to capture movement, something in the picture had to be moving, this meant a chance to practice my weakness of working quickly. I wanted to do it with something a little more challenging than some super-fast auto focus SLR. So why the Ikonta? This is a later model 520/2, post 1935 as that is when the option of the Compur-Rapid shutter was available with its top end of 1/400th, it also dropped to 1 second giving an inviting array of options. It also had the legendary Tessar lens on which opened to f4.5 giving me some speed. Lastly the normal sports viewer that opened as two metal frames on top had been replaced with a coated glass contraption with frames lined out on it, this would be invaluable for panning etc. The tiny bright waist viewer with its reversed image would just be too difficult. I will add at this point that this model had the option of 6x6 & 6x9 but the 6x6 mask was missing.
Roll 1 I decided was going to be panning and freezing the subject to use the upper end of the settings, I picked Ilford HP5+, I considered pushing the iso but came to my senses and went with box speed. I jumped on the car ferry to Torpoint Cornwall in the hope of some interesting options. First shot of the ferry’s chain drive was a simple start so I felt good. After that well it was awful! I had picked a day when the world seemed to stand still, I managed a pan shot of a motorbike, the ferries going to and fro and some distant gulls squabbling. Nothing outstanding though, I also managed a couple of riverscapes in which I forgot to adjust focus completely. Next day I took the last 2 frames with more success, the one of the BMX bike is the one that I think I got spot on.
Roll 2 had meant to be the other way around with attention on long exposures showing movement blur on water and such but family priority, read I do as I am told! Resulted in a family day out to the Cornish fishing village of Polruan on the river Fowey, it was sunny and bright so I loaded a roll of FP4+. It is a quiet village with just a café, pub and shop and not as commercial as the usual places around. I left the tribe for an hour on the little beach and explored the cottages on the steep hill side rising from the harbour, they are tightly packed with just a maze of paths winding between the haphazard rows of vastly different heights. At first I struggled to get shots of the views without something encroaching on the shot until I realised that was the character of the place and I should leave them in. I had a wonderful time resting the little Zeiss on wall, steps and rocks so I could use the slower speeds and shut down the aperture. Again for some inexplicable reason I forgot focus a couple of times, something I am usually good at which has annoyed me greatly.
I am both happy with some and disappointed with other, too many mistakes with a lower keeper rate than I would expect. The camera worked well aside from about half a stop of lag on the shutter, nothing I wouldn’t expect from a 70 year old camera. I got some good shots on both rolls but there were too many mistakes so I need to work on my setup when trying to work quickly. I am glad I did it, too often I read or hear peers say they are struggling for inspiration or they are in a rut, Jason’s little challenges and Sunday online chats are an opportunity to try something fresh.
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Week 42 – The SX-70 Polaroid Land camera
As I pointed out last week I was off on holiday, several days in our capital London. I wanted something that would be easy to process once I got back, suited the trip and a new interesting challenge that was fun for my family as well as me. Instant film was the clear winner! Russell let me take a decent one, a collector’s piece – the SX-70 Land camera
Let’s get through this in instant style! Folded it is a slim camera sitting in a tanned leather shoulder case that allows full manipulation of said camera. Open the top flap to reveal a brown leather trimmed black body, pull up the viewer sat on top, a second pull opens the bellowed body and a push back on the front locks it in place. There is a focus and rudimentary exposure wheels on the front plus the all-important trigger button. Bellow them is the slot where your picture is delivered and the pull down flap to load your film cassette.
I took two packs of Impossible Project colour film each giving me 8 shots and the battery to power the process. These come in at a hefty £16.50 a pack which at a little over £2 a picture is pricey! This along with the unpredictable quality of the final result has always been a put off for me, in fact much to the despair of Polaroid fan Russell I am guilty of being a bit of a film snob when it comes to instant film. Russell ran me through the load and usage tips and sent me on my way with the fading words of “be careful not to get your finger in front of the lens!” I did this once!
London arrival and we were off! I had several cameras of which a couple were being tested for the final weeks of the 52 project so mixing them all up was a bit of a challenge. My first shot was of the Gherkin building looking straight up, it spat out the picture which went straight into my pocket for the lengthy 45 minute process time. I waited impatiently to see the result before taking anymore. It wasn’t half bad! A few funny streaks that can apparently happen with this film but it looked ok!
I won’t walk you through every shot but over the next few days I pointed at things I thought were fun, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Windsor castle etc., you get the idea. I met up with twitter pals Sandeep and Polaroid geek Martin Weston who gave me some user tips – i.e. needs to be bright, how to use the exposure dial and after that things improved, in fact I enjoyed it! It was a lot of fun!
Fun! That’s the key word. The type of camera, a skilled user and good conditions can produce really nice pictures but in general the have a 70/80s feel from when these beasties were at their height. There is colour shifts depending on brightness, a soft look but full of character. In hind sight I really wish I had used it to capture snap shots of my family in front of these iconic structures, instant memories of our trip. This for me is the perfect use for these bundles of fun. I actually want one now just for those special days, at night we passed the good size prints around the family and the kids loved that, much better than phone shots that sit unseen! – Prints, that is the crux! Physical touchable memories of an occasion…I am converted!
Lots more photo below
Week 41 – The Goerz Taro Tenax
This week and next week were going to be hard in that I have planned some leave and would be leaving early Sunday, a day I normally square up all the processing, scanning and writing. Next week is sorted with something quite new to me and will be coming on the trip, but this week I needed something that fitted the schedule. Russell made a few suggestions but I felt we had been there before or that it might come back and bite me. Then I spotted the long extended bellows on the shelf. Enter the Goerz Taro Tenax…I duped my wife into researching it! She delved deep with this on google - c1912, a half plate double extending folder, simple 125mm lens pairing, F stops from 6.8 to 45 and shutter from 1 second to 100th + T & B. focusing is by rack and pinion projected onto a ground glass. It is from one of the original 4 that made up Zeiss Ikon and the last one of the group I have to shoot. A good reason right there. Secondly it gave me a chance to tackle the 1952/3 Ilford Ortho again, I have done all right with it but I would like to produce a nice small set with a vintage look. Third and finally I get another go at practicing sheet film which has been a bit hit and miss if I am honest! So the scene is set – an old man with very old film, 65yrs old, and an even older camera, 105yrs old!…
I did the usual under red light conditions of cutting down the sheets to 9x12 and loading 3 slightly iffy plate holders and packed them in a light tight bag. I had said last the time that I felt it needed to be between my previous rating of asa 25 & 50 so 32 it was. Day 1 rain! Day 2 locked into work. Finally day 3 I got 2 hours. First frame I chose the old school building at work. I set up, did all my stuff, checked – re checked! Took the shot… the film popped out as I replaced the dark slide! Grump! Repeat, this time all went well and I wander down to the Barbican and took my final frame as good as the second. You need to bear in mind that also after this I shot 5 frames to test a Kodak conversion appearing in week 51, and then did an 8 frame shutter test on the undead Graflex for week52, please do tune in for that!, and processed them so I am pushing the envelope in this shortened week! Anyway after work that evening/early morning I developed those two frames in DDX to see if it did better and they looked pretty good, some expected and understandable light leaks from the holders along with old film fogging but all else seemed ticketty boo.
Test shots done I reloaded 4 holders this time. Bolstered by the positive response to my interview published by emulsive film that day I set off on a Dartmoor drive with the family, they were very good at putting up with my faffing and I managed all 5 shots slowly but without hitch. I tried a landscape but I suspect this will struggle for detail, a group shot of my girls for something a little closer, a derelict church and an old stone bridge. All good subjects for a vintage feel. I kept with the DDX theme when developing and was pleased to see similar results.
Now, given the bigger negatives size scanning was not an option so I made a small mask to help produce some contact prints and at time of writing I have 3 reasonable prints given the films age and condition, I have confidence the other 3 will follow suit. There is only 6 I know but this is quite a lengthy process and time is not my friend. I think some tweaking in the dark room and with more experience I could cut though some of that fog and push a little contrast in there maybe but they will do nicely. I may add a little contrast post print scan bit will leave all else as is…there is a mountain of dust in those bellows! I got out what I could.
So, I achieved what I set out to do. The sheet film process went much better than before. I think I got as much from this film as I am capable of right now and the camera performed well! It does have a bit of misting on the lens and the leather covering is a bit dog eared but it is too good to sit on a shelf. Its bellows are light tight and a good clean made for clear focusing on the ground glass, it will make a great learning camera for anyone thinking of glass plate negatives…hmmm, there’s a though!
Week 40 – The Gallus Derlux
The Gallus Derlux, I remember its appearance in the shop and I also remember Russell pointing at it a lot in the following weeks usually with me shaking my head in answer with a slightly worried face. I don’t know why but the little chunk of metal was quite intimidating. However I stupidly paid the shop a visit with wifely in tow this week who spotted it and decided I should shoot as it was pretty …argh, I had to do it now! I left with it in my bag with Russell’s parting words of “I want sprockets”.
So, Gallus is a Jewish company that was firstly based in Germany and were making the Derby Deluxe already, they moved manufacture to Paris France in 1945 and changed the name to Derlux. A 127 half frame camera made of aluminium and polished it has quite look, simple in design with distance focus and aperture ring on the lens. The shutter release is in the front top which is cocked by a twist of the shutter speed select knob, that has to be lifted and dropped at your chosen speed of the curtain shutter, beside that is another Knob for advance. On the other side on top is your viewer with a couple of frame counter windows on the back…that is pretty much it really. I researched on the web but there isn’t a whole lot on there so I just did what felt right.
With sprockets being ordered I rolled an Ilford FP4+ 35mm into backing paper and cut down a roll of HP5+ 120 for roll 2. With the kids of school a few day trips were planned so there was my shooting opportunity. I loaded up the slower sprockets for a forecast bright day and spent it at Tavistock, a local market town on the moors under dark ominous clouds. I had noticed a little lag at 1/25th when playing with camera so decided to slightly push it up a stop rating it as asa 200, I still though really never got above 1/75th and f8. We wandered and I snapped away where I could metering with the spot meter, I tried to capture the feel of the little place but it was not exactly bustling with action. Once home the usual process commenced and I was able to scan after work that evening. They were a little disappointing really, I was convinced the longer straight flat back would work with sprockets but blurry spots were there in most where the film had not run straight and flat. There were a few good shots and exposures were not too far off but overall sprockets were not the call and the HP5+ would have given me more flexibility. I loaded roll 2 and the next day we set of on a coastal road trip, would you believe it we had bright sun! I could, maybe should have pulled the film speed to asa200 but I didn’t, I found myself shooting in the 200/500 bracket at its top f18 for most of the day. We first visited the river town of Kingsbridge for lunch where I shot several, then we stopped at the long pebbled beach of Slapton where I quickly finished the roll shooting the family skimming stones. Once more to the processing… Grainy! I processed this fresh film in my usual manner with fresh developer but just too grainy for me, I can only put it down to the smaller frame size. There is a line through many where I think the double curtain shutter is out of time and there are a couple of scuffs where the curtain probably made film contact. The focus was much better on these though with the film rails keeping its passage straight and true. There is one really wonky one where I fired prematurely but that was just a one off.
Overall I liked it, it was quirky looking and wanted to perform well. For a 1945 camera it has a few little creases that need ironing out in the shutter timing but it isn’t much and looks worse than it is. I think it is the sort of camera that appeals to a collector. I enjoyed the experience, something I probably will never get the chance to use again. So much polishing!
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Week 39 – The Zenit Photosniper
We had a problem this week and it was mine, I had a massive commitment to work in the form of a cricket and beer festival that was to last all week. So after declining the use of the Photosniper for several weeks I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to wheel this beasty out and have a crack at sports photography. It would be on private land and I had some nice vantage points to shoot from without fear of a tap on the shoulder from the boys in blue or worse, finding myself spread eagle on the ground being shouted at by armed police which did not appeal!
Why the issues in public? Well, it is a basic Zenith 12s with a prime 300mm f4.5 Tair lens screwed on which is then in turn bolted to rifle stock giving at a distinctive aggressive look, the original model was designed for military use in the late 40s but this was a newer remake from 83-94, also the kit comes with hood and filters for the 300, a Helios 58mm f2 44m4 lens with some screwdrivers and bits to fill up the enamelled metal case with leather back straps, most uncomfortable I might add!
Film – Time to process would be restricted so against my nature I went with a colour Kodak 400 ultra Max coupled with a Kodak BW400CN, I could develop at the same time without too much stress on adjustments timewise.
Day 1 & 5 would be the busiest so planned to do most of my work in the middle 3. I shot mostly from the balcony but did manage some wanders around the boundary, It does have TTL metering but I had no battery so settled for external metering of the scenes and leaving it locked in for a series of shots. A cool feature is setting the massive aperture ring, when closed down the viewer darkens but the twist and cocking of a further ring then locks it open, you focus by means of wheel neatly positioned on the front of the stock once you have your composition you squeeze the trigger one and the locked ring spins back to your chosen aperture a second squeeze captures the scene. The rifle style grip gives excellent balance making hand held 1/60th speeds simple with this long focal length. On one of my walks in I carried the 12s body coupled with the Helios like a standard 35mm and grabbed 3 frames. The whole experience was enjoyable and interesting. The weather as usual was changeable but I battled through.
I put them through the developer as planned together, at first look they looked inconsistent and not quite right. Upon scanning it was clear all were not good. My first thought was an issue in the development but half were ok and mixed well in both rolls. I did however notice the curtain shutter was clipping the left side while what seemed to be judder lines and uneven exposure were visible. I didn’t keep individual frame notes but my ruff over view ones told me the shots in the 1/500th and 250th were where the problems lay, below that all seemed fine. The smaller lens at 1/60th were bang on so a service is already underway, thank you Lyndon for that.
Overall I am pleased, a decent keeper rate for fast sporty shots which given the issue is good for me in this fast shoot style. The three small lens shots came out very well. I had fun with it and it certainly draws attention, this is a good reason to select where you shoot it carefully or you risk someone shooting back!
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Week 38 – The Pentax Spotmatic 1964-1976
Why a Spotmatic? Well I wanted to challenge my ideas that the Pentax Me Super was MY perfect 35mm SLR, also Jason Avery was running a little double exposure challenge, I kind of remembered the instructions on how to do from my ME manual and though it would be the same-ish. I pulled a couple of m42 50mm lenses of the shelf so I could play. First on was a Meyer-optic Domiplan 2.8, a poor effort at looking like a zebra lens. The E. Ludwig Meritar 2.9 looked the part though!
I screwed on the Meyer first with its 49mm filter thread meaning my own set of filters were compatible and I could slip on a cokin holder to assist in the multi exposures. With an Ilford FP4 loaded I set off in earnest with a desire to shoot architecture with this lens for a few days then swap lenses for roll 2…the weather had other Ideas! It took 3 days to get half way through the roll dodging huge rain storms, I attempted 3 or 4 double exposures but really didn’t enjoy the process that much and left it at that.
I decided to switch to the Ludwig mid roll, I am sticking to my purposeful usage plan and felt nothing good could come from rushing through shots to get in 2 rolls. I found a filter and hood for it which I think is 35.5mm and set off in search of interesting building, this and the Meyer lens darken your viewer as you move the F stops up of which I am not a fan of on 35mm, The Ludwig does have a fixed roll back system that is helpful. I found both a little tricky focusing on the spot system leaving me more in favour of the Me Super split focus prism.
How did I get on, well I liked the camera overall, it didn’t come close to my Me Super though, Looking at the pictures the Ludwig was by far the more contrasty of the two lenses, the Meyer was actually very flat. I would therefore choose the Ludwig, its looks and sharpness are better too. I was very happy with my regular compositions, I had a few of the inside of my bag and also one of the street I was walking along that I didn’t know about! The double exposures! Disaster! I attempted to put my reflection in the life ring, I am there but very faint. I tried to make the railway lines run into a post-box…but no. I had little more success in reversing the lighthouse but on all I somehow advanced a half frame and fluffed it and neighbouring frames. We will gloss over those as a lesson learned not to be repeated…I shall just enjoy the nice ones!
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Week 37 – The Wirgin Edixa Reflex
I think Russell must have read my mind, in recent weeks I had felt a little flat with the direction the challenge was taking, I wanted to push my own skills forward while experiencing some great fun cameras, which was lacking recently in the skills. I think I got that this week with the Edixa. A late 1950s German SLR, built like a tank and similarly weighted this angular black and silver chunk of metal felt trustworthy. Along with the standard Cassar f2.8 50mm lens I got a set of m42 extension tubes, a Sunagor 70-200mm zoom with both eye line prism and waistline view finders. My trusty tripod, a yellow filter and hood with a roll of HP5+ and Kodak 200 I was set!
The HP5 was loaded immediately and I worked a few frames on the way home. The advance sounded sweet and the trigger button on the front felt right with a really useful sliding locking switch alongside. The following day I had a few free hours to play so packed up the whole lot and visited Mutton Cove one of my favoured haunts when I want to concentrate. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot! I have played with extension tubes a bit on digital but with film it was new, I didn’t get drawn into stacking all of them trying to see my reflection in a fly’s eye, instead I sampled the shorter ones keeping it sensible. Zoomy stuff is kind of new to me too, I don’t own one. I shot one at frame with the 50 on the tripod then screwed the fully extended 200 on a repeated the shot. I know which I prefer, see what you think? Like the tubes it isn’t necessary to whack on 200mm all the time I found it useful at the lower distances too. All in all a very satisfying shoot, nice solid results with just about ½ a stop over exposure probably due to a little curtain lag on the focal plane shutter.
I loaded the Kodak for the weekend with the intension of underexposing to compensate for the lag. I got that bit right, but that was about all! I did everything, macro, zoom, street you name I tried it! I just couldn’t visualise the images. I swapped viewers to try seeing differently but nothing, I ended up stopping on 21 and winding it off…
So, I liked the camera! Loved playing with the accessories! And while the black and white was in I felt in control, working DoF, the composures and planning how I would process it for my taste, as soon as I put in the colour it just fell apart. I was actually compelled to write a page of drivel that might have made it out before this, just a few paragraphs on how I intend to finish of the remaining weeks.
Hope you enjoy the pics, I like quite a few, and even one or two of the colour…Cheers!
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52 cameras 52 weeks…Taking stock!
I hold my hand up, I do have a problem with G.A.S! I want EVERYTHING! It explains why this marathon project appealed, however there was always the end goal of my learning something about myself and where I was happy to take my photography. I am just typing away here with no planned text so forgive my ramblings, I just want to write it down as a constant reminder to control my enthusiasm! Here are some conclusions I have reached as to how I see what I do over the last dozen or so weeks and life in general after.
I already kind of know what set of cameras I think will fill my bag. Apart from a few fun or interestingly quirky ones most will challenge present thoughts if only to affirm my choices. At any time I want in my bag the following – My Pentax Me Super, I just cannot see me not having it to be honest! For 35mm it does everything I want and has personal meaning. The Zeiss Ikoflex is now my favourite TLR, the Yashica 124g is better in many ways but little Ike tugs my heart strings while making me work hard to get good pictures. I see the failed Bronica s2 replacing the Yashica, same format but as an SLR it gives me a different perspective and I just love how it feels in my hand. 2 cameras I hope will feature in the final weeks that I am also, along will the Brony hoping to persuade Russell to let me adopt, first is a Kodak 3a red bellows which with 6x12 frame size makes for a really interesting format and I just love the big arsed folder! Finally, the labour of love since it died back along – The R.B. Graflex 6x9. I hope it will be week 52 but there is much work to do. It has got deep under my skin though.
I am pretty much now sure I am going to concentrate on black & white, primarily Ilford’s with FP4+ as the mainstay and HP5 and PanF filling in either side. This makes perfect sense to me in my attempts to learn the zone system, perfect my development work and take it through to wet printing. I will still shoot and develop colour for budget reasons till the project is finished, but after that I will be using it sparingly and sending to labs for what I think will be more consistent less stressful results. That’s not to say I won’t still play around with old stock occasionally.
FORMAT & COMPOSITION
Format is clear from the above, I see 35mm for fun family stuff and those quick snappy shots while 6x6 & 6x9, 6x12 too as my solid photographic work. Using these to capture my growing attraction to my surrounding landscape seem favourable to me. I live in an area very much dominated by man’s encroachment on nature and natures fight back, it makes for stunning composures I have yet to do justice too. I the sea, the city and rolling moorland, I see a future of slow tripod work and that excites me! Large format is an itch I want to scratch and will eventually fall into place but my setup isn’t ready for that just yet.
WHAT NEXT THEN?
Presently I am trying to do too much, the exploring of gear and my love for vintage cameras satisfied by this project, coupled with trying to forward my own work and join in the many fun projects in the wider film community are time consuming, normal life stuff is affected sometimes So, I will be combining them altogether, I will be shooting less and hopefully with more meaning and quality.
Week 36 – BENCINI COMET III
I am by now settling into particular formats, styles and types of camera I like and want to explore further. I still however have a yearning for a folder of which there is one I have my eye on, and a little box camera. The Comet falls into the posh box category. A fixed shutter at 50th or bulb with a fixed aperture of f11, there is a focus ring on the 65mm lens requiring guestimates. The camera itself is very stylish with typical sleek Italian styling, made c1952 of polished aluminium trimmed with black leatherette giving this tall thin pretty boy a classy look.
So with an eye on @SummerFilmParty I picked some film, first up Lomography colour negative 100 expired was the only film I had that qualified and I was prepared to risk cutting down to the 127 format it takes, then I picked out similarly expired Ilford delta 100 I knew previously had shot pretty well. Cutting down 120 film to 127 has risks so these were fair game as practice rolls.
I knew the Lomo 100 needed shooting much lower than its native 100 having shot one before badly at asa 50 so I rated it at asa 25 and set off on a walk through town and along the seafront, I struggled to be honest, and its slowness just wouldn’t let me get into the shadows so I ended up concentrating on more open cityscapes. It was hard hot work in blazing sun, I just didn’t feel it. The camera itself was nice to use but the 16, 2cmx3cm half frames seemed to never end! I was hoping for some nice colour shifts to compliment the Lomo film but results were flat low contrast bland images, I felt I had let myself down. I put the softness down to the expired film but some of the resulting compositions had me at a loss, there seemed to be a trend toward down and to the right. I put this down to my holding position as the viewer is directly above the lens so should be straight forward.
I loaded the Delta a couple of days later, it was still bright but lots of grey clouds meaning I was in safe black and white territory. I was determined to make up for my first roll and work on composition. I took a trip over the bridge to the Cornish side of Saltash passage as a scouting mission for future personal work. I took a little yellow filter that I could hold in front, but the lens just wouldn’t marry up with any hoods. I used sunny 16 for exposure with a quick preliminary meter to set the tone. I worked hard on composure! Trying different things, I fully expected some loss of shadow detail and knew the delta would have some issues, lack of hood gave a risk of glare but I could live with that. I wasn’t however expecting such soft images particularly toward the edges! The down to the right was clearly there again even with my careful framing. I was somewhat frustrated!
I have to say, given the effort in the design and styling I expected more, lens quality was definitely overlooked! I was pretty disappointed, the simple Kodak brownie box knocks it into a cocked hat. That said, it is a perfect candidate for Lomo budget colour photograph that seems to be trendy once you get used to its little issues.
Let’s quickly move on… :s
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Week 35 - Miranda MS-3
This week ended up being one of the most challenging so far. The chosen weeks camera, an Ensign Rollfilm Reflex had, after much testing, cleaning and reading up on failed me at a pivotal point of the week leaving me in a bit of a pickle.
Luckily I was running a second camera alongside for another camera challenge organised by Twitterer Jason Avery. It was to buy a camera under the value of £5 sterling. I decided I would use it as this weeks stand in camera and push a few ideas. Heres my week
I had struggled to decide/find a camera that met my criteria, quirky – old! Whilst kicking my heals at Russell’s shop a chap came in to sell a camera, a Miranda MS 3 with a Pentax SMC 50mm lens on the front. After a look over he pointed out there was some fungus on the lens and the body was not exactly pristine so was of very little value if any. He then broke into a smile and offered the chap a roll of Fuji c200 to which the bloke agreed and Russell passed me the camera with the words under a fiver…£3.29! I couldn’t argue and accepted. I did however feel I had used my friendship as an advantage so pulled off the lens and handed that back being the only value on the camera. Once home I attached a Cosina 28-50mm zoom that I had picked up at a booty a while back for 1 due to a chip, dead centre of the front glass. I had bought it for my Pentax Me Super. Miranda kits came with Cosina lenses so a good matchup, this leads us neatly on to the Miranda.
The Japanese camera manufacturer Miranda had ceased trading in 1970. British electrical stores Dixons had bought the name in the mid 80s and commissioned Cosina to produce a home brand camera using that name. Cosina did a lot of Pentax stuff so no surprise the basic shape and working of the MS come straight of the Me Super, a 35mm SLR of aperture priority function. Similar meter system and layout. You can shoot in manual. It is cheap, plastic and just not as sweet in the hand though with several features missing.
The first roll in was an Ilford PanF 50asa, ideal for a sunny Friday. No sooner had I shot the first frame and my phone rang – youngest daughter was ill and could I pick her up, that was the end of that. It was Monday before I got out again with daughter in tow and between us we cleared half a roll on a tripod on a dull day, it then rained non-stop for the rest of the week so, I covered it with a bag and shot the roll anyway, I and the camera got very wet! I was pleasantly surprised by the results, some issues with the hood and rain on lens but good.
then took it a step further. I dug around in the spares lens box and pulled out
a fungus ruined Vivitar 135mm/f2.5, £0 and a Cosina 50mm/f2. £5 tops, remember,
the body is worthless! I popped in a budget Kentmere 400 BW and had a fun walk
that ended in the local park. I really enjoyed it, this is my standard Pentax
set up so I found it quite natural. The results were again surprisingly good,
some issues with 135 aperture sticking but hey it cost nothing! The Kentmere is
a little grainy and not a flexible or forgiving as say HP5 but it is £3.30 and
did a decent job
For a 30+ year old plastic cheap camera with budget lenses we pulled of a good week, you could at a pinch get the bloody lot for well under a tenner and it never missed a beat while rendering good images. To put it in perspective the body with one lens & film cost less than a disposable camera! I know which I would choose. I won’t be swapping it for the Pentax though!
Thank you Jason Avery for another fun challenge!
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Week 34 – The Rolleicord VB
I had dropped off the Serine 105 and was just about to enquire about the forthcoming week 34 when Russell plonked the Rolleicord VB on the counter with the words – Can you film test that? Okay! A bit pushy lol, but I thought why not. I had ran its more desirable sister in week 1 and had been a little underwhelmed by it despite everyone raving about it. I found my Yashi 124g almost as good and easier to use. Then I remembered one of the first film camera reviews I had read, a review by one of my early mentors and a man responsible for bringing me into the film community – Shawn Mozmode! So all I am going to say about the camera is read here! ---
Shawn Mozmode, Me and my Rolleicord. You can google it or find it at EMULSIVE
Done it? Cool, we will move on. Shawn was in my head now so I decided to run with it. I would spend the next few days tipping my cap to a milestone man in my photography. I didn’t want to copy him but just a hint of his style. There had to be humour, quirkiness in an urban setting. He uses colour and B&W, expert at the selfie and a lover of portraits. I chose 2 films new to me – Kodak Ektar 100 for colour and on the recommendation of Sandeep a c41 B&W, Ilford XP2 400.
Ektar is a vivid colour film loved by many but it can, I believe, be a little finicky. I loaded it up and set along with my all my compatible Yashi hoods, filters and attachments. The sun was bright and the sky was clear and blue, perfect for this film. I just rolled with it and let things happen. The Cord was really easy to get on with. I loosely metered the shadows and played with composition and colour. I quickly realised why I had not been impressed with the Rolleiflex. It had been hyped as the god of TLRs and it was never going to reach expectation. This little fella however with its simplicity just felt right! I put the film through my usual process and while not perfect with a few iffy ones, they are probably some of my best colour work. It left me thinking maybe I CAN shoot colour after all!
Next up the XP2, I love my black and white film process and this film was off my normal track, developing as colour seems alien and not having the control in development was a bit scary. I couldn’t have been luckier, the sun vanished and nice cloudy skies appeared, perfect BW territory for me. Again I metered the shadows letting highlights fall wherever. I had 2 hours of fun! A little silly at times but hey! I shot a few selfies, mixed in some bikes for Shawnee but alas no portrait presented itself. Now, you might see a few damaged areas on both films, TBO I had a mare of a time loading tank reels in the humidity. I struggled post editing the WB on the XP2 and ended converting to BW in lightroom but I am pleased overall but really it is hard to see it fitting my work flow.
The Rolleicord is a great little camera giving much more bang for your buck than the flex. I would even go as far as it being better than my Yashi! I hope I haven’t done you a dis-service Shawn and thanks for your support!
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Week 33 – The Sirene 105 - possibly
Every little plate camera that arrives at the shop I have to touch and play with, I have since the Ernemann resisted! I buckled this week when Russell plonked the Serine 105? in front of me. Why do I question it, well it is marked up I.C.A. AKT GES Dresden. The model name is supposed to be on the handle but that is missing, other very similar models were, around the 1914-26 time, the Volta and the Lola but they had too many inconsistencies. The setup it has according to the ICA site I found puts it around 1920. A pull out bellows plate camera for 6.5x9 plates, it is the budget version with just 2 lens elements that screw in front and back. This by the way I read gives 3 options, normal or reverse them for macro and lastly just the front one screwed into the back for close portraits. The other budget point was it only ran f11 -12.5-18-25-36 with shutter speeds of B-25-50-100th. My opinion is the shutter is too fast for the apertures available but what do I know.
All I wanted from the week was to practice my previously poor sheet film work flow without busting my wallet. I decided to give the 1950s Ilford Ortho first crack as I could set it all up under safe lights. I left in the glass plates to support the film and all went well! So, next day after my work runs I grabbed 2 hrs just sat by a jetty carefully going through the motions and scribbling madly. I rated at 25asa which meant multiple exposures. It didn't go particularly well to be honest, I either missed a point or forgot something, e.g. the out of focus ring, I did everything to the letter! Except bloody focusing! I swore to correct that on the next set. I developed in DDX, they are OK with that aged look but don't really do what I wanted.
Set 2, I decided to cut down my favourite FP4, I replaced the glass with black card as I thought it was causing light problems behind the film and I cut card stays to hold down the film corners to stop jamming. This was all fiddly in full blackout but I did it. Saturday we had to pick up daughter 2 from Dartmoor so while waiting I set up a shot, did everything right but when pulling the dark slide the holder came too! First bolloxed. No more that day. Sunday I had to work, a friends christening and they agreed to a portrait. I got nervous fluffed the dark slide replacement and blew it, take 2 same shot, got it all but missed the focus. After I settled in a small on site garden and tried the close-up shot again, slide issues again! I was stressed now! I took a knee, had strong sweary words with myself and hit the last 2 with total commitment. I dev'd in DDX again in a standard tank and got as suspected 3 from 6. ALL worth it for the close-up shot.
The camera works. It works well when used correctly. I have however much to learn in this style of photography. It pulled me back a peg or two and rightly so. No doubt another chance will come and I will know more but for now you have little to view. Sorry!
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Week 32 – The Yashica Minister II
A bit of a fluke this one, and probably the right camera at the right time! I was hunting through boxes looking for a particular Yashica Electro 35 for Russell… which he had right next to him btw, just couldn't see it! Anyway, I saw what I took to be the 35 and pulled out what was the Minister II. As I held it I kind of liked its look, typical mid-60s, 35mm brush steel and black body, an all manual rangefinder and not a battery flap in sight! I had a scary looking week with sis's wedding with all its planning, stuff at work to do, plus the weather was forecast, and bore out to be miserable! No @summerfilmparty for me sadly. I decided to chuck in a colour roll and use the on board E.V.L system, to see how it turned out then if there was time run a second. I would meter off camera and compare the two. As I ran that first roll of 1 year expired Kodak 200 it became clear a 2nd was just not going to happen so I mixed the 2 methods up to see, without notes, if I could pick them out. Lets clear that one up now, I couldn't. To be fair the weather was so bad I think the scenes were pretty evenly lit so shadow detail / highlights were not an issue, perhaps more contrasting lighting would be a different story.
I found using the Yashica Minister fun, pretty quick and easy, an ideal little carry camera particularly for the all manual lovers. All the focus and exposure controls are on the 45mm Yashinon lens, the focus ring has a handily placed protruding thumb piece making for smooth pairing of the split image in the big bright viewfinder, the yellow centre spot is clear even in the dull horrid conditions. Exposure is a joy, set your film speed on the meter window, point at your composition and read off the EV number and dial it in on the ring at the end of the lens. Then with the ring just behind that choose your preferred available match up for your requirements of speed, DoF etc. It really is super easy! If you want to spot meter then dial in your required speed then turn the EV ring until your aperture value comes into line.
It wasn't all plain sailing, aside from struggling motivation wise in the to the skin soaking perpetual drizzle I forgot to allow for parallax correction far too often. I found the shutter release button super sensitive and fired just before I was ready a couple of times. The train is a prime example, I had to be quick so estimated distance, gave it a stop extra from the shot just taken, poked the lens through the fence and hit the shutter release. NOTHING! I had gotten into the habit of not advancing till ready to avert misfires. So I advanced and patiently waited for the back and promptly misfired!
The resulting images given the weather, lack of interesting targets and my dire efforts with colour are pretty good, the camera performs way better than expected. The lens is sharp, it is light and easy to use. It made what could have been a washout kind of fun. If I see one going for a bargain, and they are nice and cheap! I would find it hard to pass up.
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I know I only did the Bronica ETRS a few weeks ago but I have good reason for revisiting similar. Firstly, one of the reasons for this year long G.A.S. indulgence is to find what I like, how it might suit the direction of my hobby and fit my work flow. Second, my sister has asked if I could cover some photography at her wedding…NOT I might add as pro type photographer and while most will be shot on a digital I wanted to mix in some film. The Bronie s2 as a 6x6 would be easier than the ETRS's 4.5x6 when it came to composing the shots. Third, I have been questioning why I own 2 TLR's and would something a little different in MF give me fresh approach! Lets see…
With the wedding in mind and my complete terror of this responsibility I decided to shoot in a certain way, those closer to mid-range shots that would be required. Having several colour rolls, chemicals mixed I chose the dreaded colour for the first 2 rolls. NOT my comfort zone, both a little expired and have given me a headache before with colour shift. Roll 1 was Kodak Portra 160vc which I would shoot and develop as normal. An afternoon family day at Saltram House gardens in the sunshine would give me plenty of interesting possibilities. Roll 2, Kodak Portra 160nc which I would rate at 400asa and pre bath in Rodinal, something a few have been talking about on twitter recently. I also shot a 3rd roll as portrait practice, an FP4+ that I hoped to shoot on the day and roped my 2 available youngest in as models… I have included a few below.
I will admit this behemoth monster of a camera really caught my eye. She has sweet lines, classy chrome trim on the fat black body, no fuss, no batteries, just a straight up and honest MF SLR, 4lb in weight so heavy, but lovely in the hands. Easy to manoeuvre the focus ring on the 75mm Nikkor lens which at f2.8 is fast enough! Couple that with a shutter speed topping out 1000th and running down to 1 second there is ample play time right there! Removable film back for 120 & 220 with a Polaroid option out there I saw lots of fun ahead!
I really enjoyed using it, it felt playful, comfortable and quite different from the TLR. Small issue with the advance, wound on fine, frame spacing good on 12 of them but insisted on 2 false frames every roll that wound off! Odd, but talking today to an experienced repairer it is likely to be a quirk to that particular back and shouldn't present a problem. The results were however more concerning! I had missed focus across all rolls… not by a bit but by a few feet. Beautifully sharp but not where I wanted it! PANIC! I really thought I had lost the plot, maybe my eyes? Maybe I just wasn't seeing it right on the ground glass? Anyway today I had to assist Russell retrieve stuff from the above mentioned repairer who took a look at Big Bertha and immediately spotted that the critical focus was way off along with infinity focus, he can reset it so this isn't over just yet. I will keep you posted! In the meantime I shot most of the below pics knowing where I was focusing but to the unknown eye they are ok. Take a look.
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Week 30 – The Ricoh 16
This Ricoh 16 is one of those little fun cameras Russell likes to pick up when he can. He definitely has a tendency toward the quirky and this fits the bill! A tiny little sub miniature that you can slip into your trouser pocket if you wear the looser fit like me. I am a comfort over style man! It isn't a toy camera at all, well made with nice looks, it has a full range of apertures on a lens ring. A tiny knob on top gives you speeds of B, 50, 100 and 200. You focus as a distance finder again with a setting ring on the detachable lens, yes there are interchangeable lens options. Made in 1959 it has the black and silver look of the period which for me was more appealing than the preceding golden option which was a bit too much bling for my taste.
The film – this may have presented a problem, as the name suggests 16mm is what is required and there was none to hand immediately but as luck had it Terry, Calor-gas-Terry, posted on twitter he had bagged a couple of 200 foot reels of 1980s HP5 movie film, a quick conversation and he returned to purchase me one for the princely sum of £2 which he gifted me… what a nice man!
The next problem, fun part! Getting a piece of a 200 foot reel into a tiny reloadable cassette in pitch black I figured would be a challenge. I cut a test piece to practice loading in daylight which went well so off to the darkroom with ruler and scissors. I estimated the 20 frame lengths the camera can hold plus spacing and ample spare to cover my ass, approx. 18 inches. I will not bore you with details as it would be lengthy but! Many cassette parts, curly film, sweat, cursing and growling I got it in and sealed up and ready to shoot. It was fiddly, you have to do it accurately but very doable.
Shoot day – I rated the expired 400asa film at 200 and set of on my usual travels metering quite loosely with my spot meter and just freely shot at things at different distances trying to mix up the settings to see what it could do with the intention of the usual second roll improvement. It is marked up for 20 frames but you can choose more, or less as you wish. Once done I developed with my preferred HP5+ method 1:50 Rodinal for 20 minutes.
Results – I was expecting really grainy images given the tiny 10mm x 14mm frames coupled with expired HP5 but they weren't too bad being less noticeable in the busier close to medium distance shots. It focused well and exposures were ok but next time I would probably rate at 100 asa. The one thing I did notice, and it may be a quirk of the size and 28mm lens length, but parallax error occurred in the distance shots, I know I had the cricket pavilion dead centre with wriggle room! Odd, close-ups were bang middle with no correction on my part. Also the image you get is smaller than what you see in the viewer resulting in some chopping off which was annoying.
Summing up – With some unsurprising fogging on the 30 plus year old film and no filters to fit to change it up a gear I didn't run a second roll, I got what I needed from the first and really didn't think I would get anything from running a second. It is a bit of fun, an experience but not my cup of tea. I struggle to see the practical use of it but maybe there is none, it is just a fun and quirky camera.
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Week 29 – The Kodak Box Brownie No2
Why another Box Camera I hear you ask? Yes I know we only did one 2 weeks ago. Jason Avery on twitter had come up with a bit of fun #boxcamweek and it sounded fun. I had really enjoyed the Coronet cardboard jobby so why not have a go at another. Russell let me rummage through his box of boxes, all a bit rough and ready but I pulled a rusty mucky Kodak Brownie number 2 out that needed a spruce. I took it home. I scrubbed away the rusty edges with the back pad of a dry sponge, glued the curly leatherette covering back down then polished all the exterior with balsam wax. I gave all the glass bits a going over with white vinegar, the fixed lens came up well but the bright viewers were not great. Inside got a good clean too, the rust removal on rollers with a careful lube.
Camera now looking grand with an aged look we can go through a couple of differences with the Coronet. The Kodak body is mean to be aluminium but the rust says not! Shutter is faster at 1/50th and a slide out plate with holes stamped in for aperture options of F11-16-22, which is about it really.
Roll one – the usual FP4 was loaded and I did a few test light evaluations, the loss of a stop of light with the faster shutter made it hard to get a shot in with any filter for effect even at f11 so I decided to have a crack at multiple exposures across the whole roll. In fact all were x3 accept the sundial which was x4! The one of the street scene looking at the pub a meagre x2. To be honest I wasn't overly confident with my math re exposures so a very tense time through developing, I need not have worried as they were pretty damned good! I hadn't done too badly with composure either considering the viewing glass, the tripod was a must!
Roll 2 – HP5 for a change of pace. At asa 400 it gave me a couple of stops of light to play with so set about a day of single exposures. I just wanted a day of taking photographs so jumped on the foot ferry to neighbouring Cornwall and Mount Edgcumbe Country Park and just had fun. I thought I had it all in hand. A great historical place set in lovely woodland, open parkland and right on the Tamar River bank. I am going to pick out one picture in particular – The Folly tower looking over Plymouth Sound with the city in the background. I have taken this view in my digital time and really wanted it on film. I was lucky in that stormy skies added some drama and I could just about justify the light orange filter. Here is a fun fact. The folly was built from the stones of a couple of ruined churches of Plymouth in 1747 by Baron Richard Edgcumbe. It was built complete then the story goes he ordered it to be distressed by using gunpowder. They over did it a tad and dropped it completely so had to rebuild it again! Anyway back to the roll, I knew I had on a few frames accepted slight under exposure so wasn't surprised with a few dark ones after developing so a little post tweaking has been done. I am confident I could print them so I won't be beating myself up. The folly shot is as though and I am very proud of it indeed.
Summing up? Nothing but joy, good honest images with a look of their own, not razor sharp but who cares! I am now looking for a nice box of my own. I had to work the exposures a little but that is the fun part…loved it!
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George Hare Improved Field Camera
Normally I get a camera, chuck in a roll - develop and scan – assess then repeat in the hope of improving and learning something along the way. Well this week is a little different and honestly a lot earlier than we intended! We don't normally plan but Russell part purchased this old girl some weeks ago with an idea to research, tweak and repair its case then test before deciding if it was going on the shelf. When he first got it there was no makers name to help identify it. A lengthy trawl of the tinternet revealed it as THE GEORGE HARE IMPROVED FIELD CAMERA. Built between 1890 and 1899, a large format bellows plate camera made of wood, brass and leather. The compur shutter on the front probably replaced the original curtain shutter, its housing being in the box now replaced with the more traditional type on a front plate of wood which doesn't quite match the quality of the rest of the body. The lens is brass with no name or size on it but I guess 4 inches-ish or 100mm in new money. It came with 5 double sided glass plate carriers now neatly set up with black tin sheet film cassettes for 4 ¾ x 6 ½ inch in size.
The film size presented a problem, had it been 4x5 or 8x10 then buying a pack would have been ok as it would get used up eventually but the odd size might not raise its head again for a good while. There was however a pack of film in the case! It was Ortho and expired in the 1950s! Yes 65 years ago, this could be problematic but hey, worth a shot. I took the pack and a holder home to attempt a load. A quick google told me Ortho film could be loaded under safe light conditions which was a bonus, being able to see what I was doing. Next day back to Russells and we went out to shoot it. We took the nice wooden tripod and I set about taking my first LF pictures. I did everything I thought I should, focusing under a makeshift black sheet I stole from wifelys fabric stock using loupe, making notes on EVERYTHING! Loaded carrier, pulled back dark slide…pop! Done, repeat, I thought it went well. Straight home to develop. Now, I had tested some film off cuts prior and there was some fogging. After a chat with film gurus Erik and Craig a suggestion of using paper developer to cut back the fog and add contrast was offered as an option so I gave it a go, again under safe light meaning I could watch it unfold! Unfold it did… very quickly…too quickly! They went very dark. I would normally scan here but I can't at this size so straight to contact print, and they printed OK!
Process proved I got 2 holders and loaded 4 new sheets, this is where it gets sketchy, I came down with a virus, I spent 3 hours over those 4 shots dodging rain and feeling increasingly awful, the final shot was a real effort to concentrate. The following days were somewhat blurry but I developed the first one in a more diluted version of the first but that was way too weak so I went for plan B, a 1:15 Rodinal mix which I found I could control by eye and ended up with 3 fairly good negs. I was at this point suffering fevers lost voice etc. and had no drive whatsoever. Last night, Sunday, I knocked out some feeble prints and viewing this morning I am compelled to do them again tonight. Hopefully when you read this there will be 5, maybe 6 reasonable scanned prints to see below.
For a first foray into LF on a strange 130 yr. old camera with much expired film I think I did ok. I learned a great deal and had fun to start but sadly fate dealt me a curve ball and spoilt it a bit. Using the Ortho film under safe light conditions was a highlight, a rare chance to watch the whole process unfold. Then going straight to print allows me the fun of saying for the first time – I made a photograph!
Update – a heavy waste basket and several hours later it is clear that my skills, read lack of! Just are not ready for these difficult negatives. I am not disappointed, I am lucky to get images from 65 year old film left in a loft. Strangely the 2 first dark images printed best.
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First, I have said I didnt want this to end up as camera reviews and I always end up babbling on about this and that so I will try not to! So, the lubitel is from the USSR – Been around since the 50s, still made by Lomography as the 166, it is plastic and basic! Google is your friend.
They made millions of these bloody things and I had till now managed to dodge the huddle perching on Russells shelf but he got me this week. I dont mind a toy camera, they can be fun but everything I read insisted this TLR was not a toy, more a basic amateur camera…Lubitel translates to amateur apparently! No matter I had it now so I would make the best of it. I have recently dipped a toe into the darkroom and those in the know tell me I should be honing my skills on producing good negatives so I will be using a lot of FP4+ from here on in fine tuning my exposure and development…that is not to say there wont be the occasional transgression. Both rolls this week are FP4, developed in DDX at 1:6 for 10 minutes. I will be metering with a spot meter as usual.
Roll 1 – I didnt get the camera until the Wednesday and didnt load the 120 until Thursday due to a busy work schedule, even then I only managed an hour out at Radford Lake where many old wooden ships rest and rot. I kept everything simple with just a makeshift hood and the usual B&W filter glasses. I hand held or rested on flat spots for anything under 1/60, I tried a few Shallow DoF etc. and it wasnt too bad, I found the shutter release awkwardly too close to the cocking lever so used a cable release from then on. The big bright viewing glass is great for composure but the ground spot in the middle for focusing, even with the little pull out magnifier is just useless and I ended up using the distance scale on the viewing lens. Saturday I took 3 on the way to work then managed a clumsy double exposure and finished off exploring a couple of 7 minute long exposures that did not really come of that well. The rest? Well, not bad! Quite good actually, swirly bokeh, reasonably sharp and not bad exposures… I was surprised! Incidentally as a side note, the castle type folly you see in some is where wifelys Great Grandma was born, her family once owned the big house and surrounding parkland.
Roll 2 – Sunday morning, one roll to shoot! I packed the tripod and set off to Plymbridge woods, the River Plym runs through its deep valley lined with pine plantation with lots of abandoned quarry workings, railways, cottages etc. I started with a few simple shots to warm up then taking the advice of a wise man I tried some adventurous long exposures in the very shaded valley bottom, the longest up in the 20 seconds with a deep orange filter. These were using bulb mode, I much prefer these slow cameras when they have better low end shutter speeds, 1 1/15 just doesnt cut it for my preferences. I climbed the steep bank and finished the roll walking back on the old rail route. It went I think very well with a couple of exposures straying a bit, some of the results are a shade dark but then it was dark so a fair representation of conditions.
Thoughts – It wasnt nearly as bad as I thought it would be, I am really pleased with the results too. If I saw one in a flea market in the tens of pounds I might be tempted or NOT! I will not make comment on the new prices… A good medium format starter camera if you like plastic.
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Week 26. Wow the half way mark. To celebrate the occasion and to give me an antidote to last weeks pressure pot i have been entrusted with a cardboard box. The Coronet No2. What do you get? A cardboard box with a lid on the front held with two clips, not opposite each other but on the left side on top. Two bright prism finders on the same side for landscape and portrait. On the top is a handle and a pull out bar for timed shutter. Back to the left side and there is a knob and taking switch. On the front is a hole containing a Meniscus lens with a single f14 aperture a simple shutter of 1/25th only, below it is a switch to swing the 3 foot only focus portrait lens into place. Other than the 120 spool holder and a little red window in the back to count your 8, 6x9 frames that is your lot.
Roll 1 Ilford FP4. I loaded straight away. I had no expectations other than probable light leaks and unbalanced exposures, the f14, 1/25th were approximates with little info on the web. I cobbled a set of filter glass and a holder, yellow, orange, strong orange, green, and a hood held on with rubber bands. I was not looking to create any particular look with the filters, that would be a bonus, they were there to give stops shifting the aperture tighter and i planned to multiple exposure as well for the too dark situations. Using the spot meter, i metered as normal and went with an aperture matching up with 1/25th, then use the filters to pull it back to f14. I wandered the usual haunts of the Barbican where the tall ship trainer was in dock and slowly worked the exposures. For some idea as to what i used, the shot of the men working on the ship was a straight f14, 1/25th while the Lido pool and fountain was a strong orange x2 exposure. The marker stone a straight x3 exposure. I saved one frame and attempted long exposure portrait of a determined five seconds that would have been good except i forgot the portrait lens and got nowhere near allowing the parallax error. Other then that and the obvious mismatch of hood i was really pleased.
Roll 2, another FP4. I changed the hood and lost the filter holder just sliding the glass in behind. I did pretty much the same as the first roll but with some good cloud cover i tried a more adventurous approach attempting to utilise the filters to their best, double exposing with the orange on the ship, green on the cafe. I repeated my portrait attempt remembering the close up lens and measuring the required three feet, much better.Still a bit of parallax correction wise but closer. BTW, if you are wondering why the girls are looking off into the distance it is because they kept getting the giggles. Not great for a three to five second exposure. 30 minutes for those two frames, lol. A few light leaks crept in with a bit of fogging on a few, the lid just is not tight enough and being paper covered cardboard, tape was not an option, so i can live with the otherwise pleasing results.
Did i like it? Damn, yes, capital YES. It is simple and basic yet with a little thought you can get creative and push some boundaries. The lens is reasonable the middle getting much softer as you get to the edge giving a tilt shift effect. I was glad of the slowness too, something that is increasingly where i want to be. If it were mine i would strip of f the felt around the inner lid to easily fix that leak. I would also concentrate more on central points of interest to ultilise the centre sharpness that is wasted on attempted landscapes. I had lots of fun, i really did.
Week 25 –
R.B. Graflex series b
Week 25 –
Kodak 2a Hawkette
WEEK TWENTY FIVE!!! –Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta!
Yes, yes! You get the drift! Please read on. For some time, well almost since the beginning, Russell has been trying to get me to shoot the horrible Kodak as he thinks it is great. I however do not. Then 2 weeks ago he bought in a Graflex and it really caught my eye so after some pestering we shook hands on a deal – I would shoot the Graflex for week 25 on the understanding I would have to shoot the Kodak thing for 26!
I took the large box home, I will not go into any detail as it will become clear as we go on but I read, studied and learned, liaised with Erik Gould who has expertise in the camera and went for a dry run … nothing! Fiddled twiddled and finally took the back plate off, the cloth shutter had broken! I was gutted! 3am I finally gave up any hope of rescue. I awoke in the morning and trudged to Russells to pass on the bad news. Now whether it was the fuzzy head from lack of sleep I don't know but in that 30 minute walk I decided I would not quit, I would not be beaten and formulated a plan to run a rebuild as a side project where if successful I would shoot it on week 52. You will find this on Soperfect images home page where this is… the bad news was I now HAD to shoot the Kodak L
I got to Russells and explained, he sniggered and dragged the glossy fake wood looking plastic monstrosity from the shelf. We were already on Wednesday and not a frame shot so I immediately loaded one of the expired Delta 100s and set off …STOP! [Cuts to chase] when I developed the roll every frame was black on the negs so positive white, in my hurry and drowsy state I made the school boy error of not checking it over properly, the bellows were shot and leaking light like colander.
We are now at Thursday and no camera and no pictures, I am drained and very miffed! Back to the shop where a line of Zeiss folders had just come in, Russell passed me the pick of the bunch, I took it home, checked it and loaded it with expired Portra 160vc colour.
The Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta – I have done a couple of Zeiss folders now but this is more advanced. Tessar lens – light meter that gives you your combinations, 120 type 6x6 frames that auto stop when advanced etc. Google it if you want the jargon but it looks and feels quality – its been a LONG week! I shot the Porta using the camera meter rapidly around the harbour trying to see things in colour and got it in the developer asap. I scanned it in the early morning, they were ok with some colour shift but the heavy beast had done ok. All the knobs and twiddly bits were in good positions where you could work with comfort and not have to be searching too much for things. The centre spot in the viewer for the rangefinder was small but bright and clear. The next shoot day was Sunday, today! I loaded one of the expired Delta 100s that have done well before and set off early with the tribe as my 2 youngest were part of the junior half marathon. We were only there three hours but I tried my hand at some sports photography – man that is hard, especially with a bulky rangefinder. I have just looked at the scans and to be honest they suck, the film either rubbed on a stiff roller or this one film is just not at its best. My panning of moving targets while trying to be in focus was rubbish really while my hurried exposer settings were riddled with errors…speed is not my forte! Over all, the camera is good and does everything it should but just isn't my bag, the extra size and weight with the meter system makes it clumsy for what is reported to have 35mm qualities. The focus wheel and shutter/aperture rings are too easily accidently moved if you aren't careful. I wish to draw a thick line under this week, get some rest and smash next week… Please do look in on the Graflex, it should be interesting.
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Week 24 – The Voigtlander Bessamatic
Well I don't know where to start! A bit of a funny week that really kept me on my toes. I will try to keep it short but it won't be easy. I arrived at Russells to see what was in store and he pulled out this little package – A Voightlander Bessamatic c1959, a 35mm SLR with a F2.8 colour Skopar X 50mm lens attached. With it also - a Skoperex f3.5 35mm wide, a Super-dynarex f4 135mm prime, a set of Voigtlander filters and a hood – a great kit! At 2lbs in weight it is heavy and built like a tank, but a tank with finesse! Really superb build quality all round. I would advise looking at many review sites as the complicated mechanical workings that make this one of the most enjoyable cameras I have used would take far too long to go into here but quickly - You have to advance and cock shutter to view through the big bright viewer, you focus via a fairly standard split prism. First dial in using shutter ring on the front a desired speed, then on the right side of viewer are 2 needles > turn large knob top left until they align. The interlocked shutter aperture mechanism has now given you a pair of suitable settings that by turning the shutter ring can be changed for any preference retaining the same EV value! Pretty cool eh! Thats not all, at the same time two further pointers on the lenses open or close synced with it showing the D of F your settings will give you! You want to use an external meter? Easy, just set the shutter speed FIRST then turn the meter knob until the aperture you want lines up…easy as, it really is.
Roll 1 – I fancied some fun so went for a slide colour film, an expired Provia 100f that I would cross process as c41. It is a straight forward load – I decided to run this one on the cameras meter then go spot meter on the second roll. I had to hump the block of iron in my hand as there was nowhere to attach a strap and no case, I think Russell will be getting one. It really was simple and enjoyable to use, the advance lever in the standard top right corner purrs on the out and in stroke, you find yourself deliberately doing it slowly just to listen. When it comes time to press the shutter button there is a lovely metallic swish that is gorgeous. If you recorded it and played it backwards I swear it must whisper “buy me”! I quickly ripped through the roll and had it in fresh developer ASAP. I looked at the negs and was worried – looked at scans and was horrified! They were massively over exposed, I checked the meter against many of my own and it was fine, I did every possible check to camera and it seemed sweet. There must have been a reaction during processing which can happen. I have included some images – some untouched so you can see, others heavily adjusted or BW conversions just to have something – My apologies!
Roll 2 – I decided to run a second, FP4 B&W. I mixed up the metering with on and off camera, I wedged it into half a case and went about it all over again. Having a strap is even better, you just look down and everything is there for you the see and adjust. I had a great afternoon shooting, it begs you to use it. Back to process and a massive relief all was good, very good I thought.
I loved this camera, it is super easy to use whichever way you meter, you lose some shadow detail with the on-board but it is good enough. It sounds and feels superb like a fine time piece. Lenses switch out easily and are very sharp. Ah, I forgot the filters. There is a nifty scale by the meter knob matched to their values, and you simply turn the meter knob and line up the markers to the clearly marked values. ANYONE could use this fully manual camera and get good results while experienced folk can delve as deep as they want. The one down side is all those trick mechanisms will be costly to repair and service. If you ever see one on a shelf and pick it up, I doubt you will want to put it down. I made a bold claim to Russell – I would trade ALL my 35mm cameras for this one and I stand by it. Hope you enjoy the FP4s and the Provia gives you a giggle.
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Week 23 – The Mamiya 645.
TMax Party week, a week of fair weather and the kiddie winkies on hols meant a chance for some photographic fun. The Mamiya is another one of those cubed multiple attachment medium format SLRs, in fact go back a month and read the Bronica week there is little to say different! The 2 main differences were for this one there isn't the option of interchangeable backs and the mirror recoil is much gentler. I went all tripod and slide in square filters so I could play a bit and get the beasty down in the slower shutter speeds.
Film 1 – Ilfords SFX 200, a black and white film mimicking infra-red film but my twitter buddy Sandeep informed me could be shot like regular B&W film. It was a nice sunny day with the right sort of clouds. I wandered the harbours dropping in yellow, orange and eagerly popping in the red filter to darken those blue skies. There was my first school boy error! If you look at the ice cream van shots the writing has all but disappeared, I had been so focused on the background I missed how it would treat the central character! That said the results are very good over all, a film for first time out I thought I did well with and it has a feel and glow I really liked. Then we get to our second film…
Film 2 – Kodak TMax 400. A film I have struggled with, I just cannot get to grips with this finicky film. The 3 days it took to shoot it ranged from even overcast grey to super bright harsh clear skies so developing for all image metering was difficult. I tried stacking filters for effect, a couple have graduated ND filters behind orange and that didn't really work giving a look like I used a lightroom filter badly! I tried 2 shallow D of F of my kids, one close and one far with the latter not really working for me. I am just not a great fan of this film type and the images just miss something for me although these are probably my better efforts.
The camera itself was nice to use, simple, straight forward and sharp. I cannot see myself going down this route though, I prefer my 6x6 TLRs. If interchangeable lens/viewer options are important to you this modular type system might be for you if you don't mind heavy! Which of the several available makes would be down to aesthetic taste?
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The Univex Mercury 2
Several weeks ago I was passed this camera more as an oddity for Russell's shop. I think he saw it as more of an ornament, a dressing piece if you like. He liked its quirky look! I gave it the once over and all seemed fine except for a lot of fungus on the lens, when I say a lot I really do mean a LOT! He sent the lens off with a batch of cameras for repair just to see if it might be improved.
So, while its off being cleaned – the camera. Short version! Universal Camera Corps were better known for cheap plastic toy cameras but in 1938 produced the Mercury to compete with higher end cameras. Work moved to the war effort, then in 1945 they returned to cameras with a revamp – The Mercury 2! A half frame viewfinder with a magnesium/aluminium body machined to ridiculous standards, I have never seen a film door fit that flush! It has an odd semi-circular protrusion on top to house the innovative rotary shutter, a black fake hide cover wraps around the main body. The viewer is in portrait mode and while the eye piece is tiny it is clear and bright. As you look at it front on the left knob is the advance and the right one is the shutter speed. The screw on lens is a coated Tricor 35mm f2.7, between that and the body is the distance focus ring with many bold increments assigned. It takes 35mm film which gives you 46 frames from a 24 and 70 from a standard 36…ah, the lens is back!
The lens was better but still heavily marked so I thought just one film. I easily loaded an FP4 and set off on a long city wander with an aim to push every angle, close up and depth of field option while capturing a bit of normal Plymouth that usually just gets passed by. I had to go without a strap as that is on the case that I did not have. I carried a light meter, my trusty universal clip on yellow filter/hood combo and a note book. With so many frames I was fairly loose with metering notes concentrating more on getting the camera set in the right order. You have to advance the film BEFORE setting shutter speed! I also deemed the fast F2.7 and the heady 1000th of second top end shutter speed combined with lots of distance markers a sign I would need to be pretty close with my focusing guesses! All went well I thought, I had a few miss-fires, forgot to put the filter on a few times etc. Then I got to 46, it kept going – 52! – I got concerned – 56! I gave up! I had all sorts of possible disasters in my head, film snapped, incorrect load – had I shot 56 nothings?
Results – straight home and in the tank! 30 minutes of torture, out they came! Lots of tiny cute images but just 45 and a half, the last one had clearly got lots of exposures overlapping so, it takes 46 and doesn't tell you the roll is finished. Once scanned it was clear the lens fungus had softened the images but not too badly really, they have a real era feel about them. It had caused flare though where brighter light was present which is a pain meaning I pushed the blacks and pulled the highlights in post mainly and I presume the smaller images make them a little grainier. If you spot the two pictures of the magnolia flower one was taken centre frame the other using the parallax correction markers in the viewer from 18inches and they work. I tried my hardest to make shallow D of F images but it just wouldn't!
My conclusion – it is a beautifully made funky camera that was immense fun to shoot, the lens is an issue if you want sharp and they are as rare as hens teeth to find. It is a fun collectors piece that is totally useable if you can live with the lens.
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Week 21 – The Pontiac, Paris, Bloc Metal 41
For several weeks now Russell has hinted he wanted me to take out the Pontiac. If I'm honest it didn't thrill me! I don't know why as I like my folders, in particular 6x9 format. This eats standard 120 so pretty straight forward. It looks a lot like the Agfa Billy Record with its hints to Art Deco just not as well finished or built in my opinion but then the Agfa is German! The Pontiac is French built c1941, cast alloy body painted black with some chrome trim. A little brilliant finder quite difficult to see through sits to one side and on top of the home grown f4.5 Anastigmat lens housing their own shutter marked T P 25 50 100 150 and a distance finder ring perched on the front.
I choose to load it with an Ilford Delta 100 which although a little expired would rate easily at box speed. I had acquired 8 of them and the 2 i had used had behaved well. Loading was a small hassle and I had to do it 3 times as the markers were really hard to see through the red frame counter window. Once I had it I shot the first roll pretty quick along with a little box brownie I had repaired and was testing. The weather was ok with sporadic heavy showers that broke into short spells of blue skies with dramatic clouds.
Results – I developed quite gently safe in the knowledge I had been very careful re the exposure so I was hoping for some nice negatives. Ah but no, they were really thick with clear evidence of light leaks. I popped down into the cellar and candle tested it and sadly light was visible through the shutter which I can do nothing about with the usual electrical tape so the decision to stop there I think is prudent, no point wasting film.
I have adjusted the blacks and lowered exposure levels in lightroom for presentation, it isn't the sharpest lens either but it is ok, there is also a lot of dirt in the bellows. There isn't much else I can say other than I hope someone out their will love it. I didn't, but that is a personal taste thing as I am holding it up to the Billy Record which impressed me.
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