Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Olympus 35RC - A Reliable Camera

There are not too many small rangefinder cameras  that I have kept over the years.  I have fallen in and out of love with Canon QL-17s, Yashicas, Argus C4s, Zorkis, Retina IIas, Minoltas, and the Konica Auto S2.  None of them have had the reliability and compact size of my Olympus 35RC.  This camera was traded to me in 2006 by Ross Orr, for a M39 lens that I had.  Over the years, it has been used sporadically, but every time I use it, I have been pleased with the results, and the reliability of this shutter-priority  as well as fully manual compact rangefinder camera.  Perhaps the best review of this camera is on the Cameraquest website.  I am sure that my reading it long ago had me wanting one immediately.  If that isn't enough to interest you, this page is also very informative.

In March, I had the opportunity to travel to Yale University for a workshop.  I didn't want to bring a lot of gear with me, so I brought this camera, my Nikon 1J1, and a Yashica A TLR.  The Oly distinguished itself by taking excellent exposures in all situations, and when I felt I should override the meter and shoot manually, it was never a problem.  The camera isn't large, but it's also not so tiny as a Rollei 35,or an Olympus XA. The 42mm focal length is just fine, and the largest aperture of f/2.8 is not limiting for the kind of photography I do.  The top-mounted shutter speed dial is also well-placed. In short, a well-designed, fairly simple camera that does the job.    I'm going to have to remember to keep this camera in my backpack for everyday use.

Some color shots from expired Agfa 200 film:

Some shots from a roll of Kodak Tri-X

Sunday, April 13, 2014

At long last...Mamiya C330f... my dream camera!

Several weeks ago I helped a widow part with her deceased husband's photographic gear.  I got all the items cleaned up, tested, photographed and sold on ebay for her, and she did quite well as a result.  One camera that did not go to ebay was a Mamiya C330f outfit.  I paid her for that at a discounted price, and did not charge her a commission for the ebay sales.  I had always wanted a C330, as it was the final version of a remarkable series of TLR cameras from Mamiya (actually, the C330f was followed by the C330s).  This beauty came with the 80mm and 135mm lenses, waist-level viewfinder, prism finder, lens hood and lens caps.  It certainly is a tad heavier than the Rolleiflex and no heavier than a Hasselblad.  What I love is the extension bellows which gives me the ability to close focus to less than a foot away. This is an awesome feature, and I put it to the test this past week.  I like the camera so much, I sold my Rollei and my Hassy.  If any camera can get me back in the darkroom to print again, it is this camera.

The Mamiya C330 was designed to be a professional-grade system (it even says "professional" on the front of the body), and everything about it says versatility and reliability.  All I had to do was replace the foam light seals on the back and I was ready to start using the camera.  I didn't have a manual, and one is very helpful with this camera.  Thankfully, Butkus.org has manuals.  This site is also very useful.

Using the camera comes pretty naturally to me.  The focus screen is nice and bright, and the controls are easy to find.  It does pay off to read the manual, as this is a more complex beast than the Yashica A or my Rolleiflex Automat.  I used my Gossen Pilot light meter and several different rolls of film.  I have yet to send the color Fuji 400H off to be developed, but I did develop the B&W. One roll was 30 year-old expired Kodak Panatomic-X -- what a wonderful film!  I shot it at ISO 20, and the results were excellent. Others were shot on Ilford FP4+.  T love the out-of focus blur of the background when the subject is close by!

Calla Lilly, shot on Ilford FP4+

Fig tree, on Ilford FP4+

on Ilford FP4+

on Ilford FP4+
All these images were taken at Matthaei Botanical Gardens last Tuesday. I can't wait to do a lot of shooting with it this summer.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Svema FN64 Test!

I greatly appreciate Mike Raso and the Film Photography Project's aims to increase the use of film and film cameras.  In doing so, they opened up an online store which gives folks a chance to try out films that they might never see otherwise.  A few weeks ago, Mike sent me a small package with three rolls of the Ukrainian-made Svema FN64.   Now, the last time I tried a roll of Svema, it was one that had been produced in the 1970s.  This latest batch of film is not that.  This is a fresh film, and FPP is selling it in individual rolls and in bulk rolls.  I have no idea how they find this stuff, but the word must get around!  Anyhow, the film has an ISO of 64, and is made on what looks to be a PET base, not acetate.  Therefore, be careful when respooling from bulk rolls, because that film base has "light piping" -- it transmits light like a fiber optic.  The good thing is that the PET base is very flat and not prone to curling and scans very well. My first question after shooting a roll of something new is, "Do I like it?"    That is, if I like the appearance of the negatives when I hang the film to dry, it's a good chance I'll like the results.
My first roll of the FN64 was shot in my always-dependable Nikon FM2N with a 50mm f/2 lens -- the standby.  I shot the film at the box ISO of 64.  The film was developed in Rodinal 1:25 for 6 minutes and 15 seconds at 20°C.  I greatly enjoyed seeing the used developer pour out as a dark purple -- much as when I used to shoot the Agfa films.

I shot the roll walking around the campus during my lunch hour last week -- one of the days where it seemed like we are finally in the grip of spring and not winter.  The film has some grain which may be more noticeable due using Rodinal.  However, the grain is not unpleasing, and the shadow detail is very good. I am pleased with the results from the scans, and it looks like this film would produce some good prints.  I'll shoot the other two rolls, and probably buy a bulk roll soon.  Thanks to Mike and the FPP for giving me a chance to try this out!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wassaic, NY

Earlier this month, Adrienne and I went out East to visit family as well as my visit to Yale for a conference. It was a bit warmer there than in Ann Arbor, so I was eager to go out and do some exploration and shooting. We drove over to the "hamlet of Wassaic", which is about 5 miles from the farm house where Adrienne's mother still lives.  I forget how beautiful and wonderful it is to have mountains and valleys, having lived in Michigan for 33 years.  Dutchess County, NY  is filled with small communities and is quite rural over much of the county.  However, its only a couple of hours by train from New York, and Wassaic is the N terminus for the commuter line that goes into the big city.  Located in a valley surrounded by mountains, it is said that the community has the least amount of sunlight as the mountains flank it on the East and West.    Despite its small size, it once housed the first evaporated milk plant, built by Borden in 1861.  That building still stands, and is owned by the Pawling Corporation, which has a visitor's center there.  Wassaic has a vibrant arts scene, as evidenced by the former Maxon Mill, which has been concerted to an amazing artists' space with galleries and studios.  The Wassaic Project looks to be a pretty cool thing, and if I lived nearby, I would certainly look into it.
It was a thawing March day, which was a relief from Michigan's weather.  We drove around and Adrienne also enjoyed seeing things she overlooked while growing up so close by.  It is true that we take so many things for granted when we are young, and going back to a place much later is like seeing it for the first time. I shot with my Nikon F100 mostly using my 24-120 Nikkor AF zoom with Tri-X and Arista Ultra 100 (perhaps Fomapan?).  The film was developed in D76 and scanned.   I am pretty happy with what I got there in such a short time.  It would be nice to go back when things are green and see more.
Gridley Chapel

The Mill

The Mill

yes, a train runs through it.

Outside the old lime kilns

the Mill

Inside the lime kiln

this place just wants to be photographed

inside the lime kiln.

outside the lime kiln

the old Borden evaporated milk plant.