Friday, October 02, 2020

Holga Week 2020

While I confess that I don't really pay much attention to camera-themed events (with the exception of World Wide Pinhole Photography Day), Holga Week strikes me as a good opportunity to let the Holga love out. 

I know, today is October 2, and Holga Week runs from Oct. 1-7.  I've been working on issue 3 of Monochrome Mania, and it's totally focused on medium-format toy the Holga.   Last night I was going through sheet after sheet of negatives from my Holgas - and realized that I have almost 1000 images with them.  Probably more than most people, so for me, a week isn't really a thing.  Years, more like it - almost 20 years of Holgas.  Of course I'll do some shots this week, because I would, anyway.  However, I am always happy to see toy cameras get some love and attention, whether it's World Toy Camera Day, Diana Day, or Holga Week, it's all good.  People need to understand that these plastic cameras are not just some bit of fun to get picked up now and then, but also that they are creative tools that let us show things in a different way.  If images from Michael Kenna can't convince you that a Holga is a very special camera, then I guess nothing will.  

I don't think that $40 for a Holga is outlandish.  I have every Holga I bought, and almost 20 years later, my first Holga still works fine.  Simply plastic fantastic, with a simplicity that will allow you to be creative.  So, if you are on the fence about buying a Holga or using one, give it a try. It's still my favorite low-fi camera for a lot of reasons, and I own a half-dozen of the 120 models. I have owned the Holga 120 wide pinhole, and still have the Holga 135 Panoramic and Holga 135.  Their plastic construction and plastic lens is part of the charm. Yet, the images made with them can be jaw-dropping beautiful.  

The Holga 120N is easily modified, and a quick web search will reveal a lot of ways that it's been modified by people. Last year, I modified one my Holgas to have a hexagonal image mask.  I am doing a long-term project with it, and hope to have some interesting results.  A lot of people have asked if the Holga is a good introduction to medium format photography.  My answer is no.  Your expectation of medium format is a larger, more detailed negative -- and you'll get that with a twin-lens reflex as the entry to medium format.  The Holga and the Diana and similar low-fi 120 cameras will give you something, but you need to know the limitations and make them work for you in composition, lighting, and subject. 

Another point is that because the Holga has limited adjustments for exposure, you can easily tape a colored orange, yellow, or red gel over the lens to compensate in b&w film, or use a neutral density filter for color (and yes, it works for b&w, too).   You can also use an external flash for poorly lit situations, or use the B setting while on a sturdy tripod for long exposures.  An adapter allows you to use studio strobes for anyone wishing to do so.  You can add a thread mount filter ring to the front of your Holga by firmly screwing in a 46mm to 49mm adapter ring, allowing you to use 49mm filters.

The Holga 120N takes readily available 120 film.  In bright daylight, 100 ISO film is fine, but 400 ISO film will be fine in almost any situation.  If you haven't used a Holga before, don't sweat it.  Before long, you'll appreciate its quirky features, and think less about the use, and more about the image.  Light leaks?  I just use artist's black masking tape or gaffer tape.  My biggest fear is that the back will come loose, so I use gaffer tape over the metal clasp on each side to avoid that. That's pretty much the only weakness of this plastic fantastic icon of the toy camera world.

And now, for some images from over the years from my Holga cameras:


Thursday, September 17, 2020

The B&W 100 ISO Club

I was recently looking through my film stash and picking out some rolls to bring along on a photo outing, when it struck me -- there are a lot of "medium" speed b&w 100 ISO films out there. Or are there? How many are merely the same film with a different name, repackaged for another outlet? So, began to tally up what I have here, and then I looked online to see what was available. Generally, speaking, I find 100 ISO to be that sweet spot for films that I can use for landscape photography, walking around photography, and any situation where I really don't need the extra speed. It's a good choice especially for older manual cameras that may not have a good range of faster shutter speeds, and for shooting under conditions where using a lens at wider apertures is desirable. In addition, 100 ISO films tend to be finer-grained than 400 ISO, but that is not always the case.

In this list, I have 27 names of 100 ISO film. You can be assured that the following companies make the film with their name on it: Adox, Astrum (Svema), Foma, Ilford (Harman), Kodak,Orwo, Tasma. More recently, Lucky Film in China released the Lucky SHD 100 in 2017, but it may have stopped production in 2019, so Lucky isn't on the current list of manufacturers. Likewise, the Shanghai brand was started again in 2019, but I cannot verify that they are making the film in China.

In alphabetical order:

Adox CHS 100 II - Have yet to try this Adox film. Alex Luyckx has a review of it. It's a classic, single layer panchromatic emulsion that is fine-grained. Since the actetate base is clear, it can be used for reversal processing. DataSheet

Adox Silvermax 100 - If you read Adox's description of its Silvermax 100, it discusses the special Silvermax developer used to achieve the fantastic tonality, and adds, "In conventional developers results will be close to those achievable with APX 100 (old version-Made in Germany)." That reinforces the claims that APX 100 is something else. DataSheet

Agfaphoto APX 100 - I loved the original Agfa APX 100, back when it truly was an Agfa film. Developed in Rodinal, APX 100 turned that developer a deep purple when poured out. This new APX 100 doesn't do that, and of course, since Agfa went out of business in 2005, the name Agfaphoto is owned by Lupus Imaging and Media GmbH & Co., which does not produce the film, but relabels another manufacturer's product. There's nothing wrong with this current film, as it's very likely Kentmere 100. However, you may as well buy the Kentmere and save money on buying something just because it says APX 100. This is NOT the same as the film that I used a decade ago. The last of the REAL APX 100 was made in 2005, and the film has held up well in storage, should you find some online. Data Sheet is here.

Arista 100 (= Fomapan 100). Arista is Freestyle Photo's brand, and it's a well-known name. Currently, I am 99.99% certain that Arista 100 is the same as Fomapan 100 Classic. The Arista bulk rolls are in the same packaging as the bulk rolls of Fomapan. Prices of Arista 100 and Fomapan 100 are pretty close. It's available in 35mm, 120, and sheet film. It's a great value, and Freestyle's been selling tons of it.

Astrum Foto 100 - From what I have been able to find, Astrum is the current company in Ukraine that bought out the Svema factory. The films that it sells under the Astrum name appear to be essentially the same as the old Svema products. The Astrum Photo 100 is on a mylar base, is a bit contrasty, and fine-grained, same as the Svema 100. As far as I know it is only available in 35mm. It is said to have near-IR sensitivity with a red filter and a few stops of overexposure. I have not tried using it with the red filter.

Derev Pan 100 - A film marketed by the Film Photography Project, Derev Pan 100 is a Ukraine-made panchromatic film on a tough mylar base. It was probably an aerial surveillance film, and exhibits very fine grain and wide latitude, producing a lovely tonal scale in landscape images. It definitely lies flat in the scanner. The mylar base means that you need to be careful in loading the film, so it is best to load under low light conditions. It is available only in 35mm.

Fomapan 100 Classic - An all-around good film, inexpensive, and available in bulk rolls. Also repackaged by Kosmo Foto, Freestyle, and Lomography (Earl Grey). 120 and 35mm versions. I have shot Fomapan 100 labeled as such, as well as the rebranded versions from Freestyle, etc. This is a dependable film that delivers results that are consistent and to my liking. I have to wonder why people spend a few more $$/roll to buy a "boutique" film, when the Fomapan 100 is what they are shooting. Buy it in bulk and respool it yourself and add your own label, such as "KickAss 100." Available in 35mm, 120, and sheet film. Data Sheet

Fomapan R100 BW - This intended as a reversal film, to produce postive b&w images on a clear base. The film is intended to give a proper spectral repsonse as gray scale, and it is a replacement for the Agfa Scala film. You'll need to specially develop to get a positive, and the film is also available in Double-8mm and 16mm reels to produce movies. The Foma Black and White Reversal Processing Kit for Fomapan R100 is necessary for the b&w positives, and can also be used with Adox SilverMax and Agfa Scala film. Data Sheet

Fujifilm Neopan Acros II 100 - This is not the Fujifilm Neopan Acros that we knew and loved. This new film isn't manufactured in Japan by Fujifilm, but in the EU - perhaps by Harman for Fujifilm. It does not appear to be repackaged Kentmere 100, but an emulsion coated by Harman to Fujifilm's specifications. Data Sheet

Ilford Delta 100 Professional - A T-grain film, much like TMax 100, Ilford Delta 100 is excellent. For some reason, I don't use it all that much, probably because it is more expensive than Kentmere 100. It delivers excellent results and is available in 35mm, 120, and sheet films. DataSheet

Ilford FP4 Plus – While this is advertised as an ISO 125 film, you can shoot it easily at 100. The heir apparent at ISO 125 after Plus-X was discontinued by Kodak. Seriously there is nothing wrong this film. It's a great b&w film that is available in 35mm, 120, and sheet film. Data Sheet

Kentmere 100 - This film is one of my favorite 100 ISO b&w films, period. It's also repackaged as Ultrafine Extreme 100, and possibly, Agfaphoto APX 100. I reviewed the film in 2016, and it really is a great all-purpose film. It's been renamed by Harman as Kentmere Pan 100 (2018). Kentmere 100 is available only in 35mm . Data Sheet

Kodak Tmax 100 - When Kodak discontinued Plus-X Pan, I was not too sad about it. Plus-X was an okay film, but I really loved Verichrome Pan a lot more. However, TMax 100 is an excellent, fine-grained film that delivers consistent results, has excellent tonal range, and I especially like it in 120. It does well with common developers, too. TMX100 is available in 35mm and 120, and of course, sheet films. DataSheet

Kosmo Foto Mono 100 (=Fomapan 100) - I reviewed Kosmo Foto Mono in 2018. Any comments on Fomapan 100 apply here. I love the packaging, and I give kudos to Steve Dowling for coming up with this branding. Available in 35mm and 120.

Lomography Earl Grey 100 - I reviewed this film in 2011, and at the time, I believed it was Fomapan 100. I have not inspected any recent rolls of this film , so do not know if the source has changed. It makes sense to stick with what works, and I hope that the Fomapan 100 is still the source for the Earl Grey.

Lomography Potsdam Kino 100 (= Orwo UN54) - I recently reviewed this film and since it is ORWO UN54, the review applies to the Orwo and Lomography films. I think it's a very good film with moderate grain. It's good to see these Lomography films from Orwo in general use, as they probably would not get much attention otherwise.

Lucky SHD 100 - This film was released in 2017, and it's apparently not the old Lucky 100 (which I shot over 15 years ago, and it lacked an antihalation layer). This new film seems like it was discontinued in 2019, but I don't have much information on it. Made in China, and likely a very limited distribution. Check eBay for it.

Oriental Seagull 100 - Manufactured by Harman, it is probably Kentmere 100, packaged exclusively for the Japanese market. Here is one review.

ORWO UN54 - Orwo's branding leaves something to be desired, but it is a good 100 ISO film. See my review under the Lomo Kino Potsdam 100. Available only in 35mm. DataSheet

Rollei Blackbird Creative 100 - This is a strange film that I have yet to test. It can be shot at ISO 25-100, it's orthopanchromatic, and is supposed to have extremely high resolution. It's coated on a Mylar base, and is said to have deep mid-tones and rich blacks. It appears that light piping is a problem, so keep the film in a black canister and load in dim light. There is little information available about this film, typical for Maco/Rollei branding.

Rollei RPX 100 - I have just started shooting with this film. RPX 100 may be the "same" as the old APX 100, but Rollei of course, does not make film, and neither does Maco, who bought the rights to use the Rollei branding. What's the film's origin? I really don't have an answer to that question. It is purported to have extended red sensitivity, and is available in 35mm and 120. After I finish shooting the couple of rolls, I will have a review here. Data sheet

Revolog Snovlox 100 - Revolog, infamous for its crazy color-treated films, has a b&w 100 ISO film, from their description - "Snovlox is a black and white film. The effect of this film is similar to the Volvox film, but due to their white colour the effect reminds of snowflakes. Want to magically transform your beach pictures into a winter-wonderland? Then this film is perfect for you!" This film is Kodak TMax 100 that's been treated (pre-flashed?) to have a snow-like effect. If this is your thing, it's worth a try.

Shanghai Film GP3 100 - From China, this film is currently available in 35mm and 120. The 35mm is in plastic cassettes, which makes it a pain in the butt to open in the dark. A leader retriever should be used to pull the film out of the cassette in the dark to load it into the developing tank. The film isn't exactly cheap, and costs 2x as much as Fomapan. The 35mm is apparently coated by ORWO, but it's not readily available in the US. The 120 GP3 is being carried by a few US sellers, but you can buy it cheaper on eBay direct from China. If the film was noted for high quality, I'd say go for it, but I have yet to try it.

Svema Foto 100 - The FPP sells this film, and it's a fairly good film on a thin mylar base. Light-piping may occur, so keep the film in a dark container, and in general, load in subdued light. To me, the mylar base is so thin that it's a problem to put into the negative sheet protectors. In my opinion, there are better 100 ISO films, but this is an interesting film. It can be somewhat contrasty, and I find it to be a good film for landscapes with clouds.

Tasma NK-II 100 – I really wanted to like this film, but many of my negatives had a band of dark grain running across the frame that showed up in skies and less dense parts of the image. It's on a thin Mylar base, like the Svema 100. While the tonality was very nice, and I liked my overall results, the odd dark specks really changed my mind from my initial review. It's nothing to do with my developing technique – it's either a coating flaw or a bad batch from the factory. Perhaps it was only a few bad rolls, but I have seen it several times. Only available in 35mm.

Ultrafine Extreme 100 (=Kentmere 100)- I reviewed this film recently, and it's a great film. Kentmere 100, at a great price. I think the 120 film is especially a great bargain, and it's the one I buy for my medium-format cameras. The Ultrafine films are available from Photowarehouse, AKA Ultrafine Online.

Washi F Flourographic X-ray film – This is a unique film that may appeal to those that like to experiment with oddball films. It's an orthochromatic film lacking an anti-halation layer, and noticeable grain. You'll get some nice ”glow” where there is any reflectance of the sun or other specular highlights. I consider it to be an interesting film if you are looking for some atmospheric effect in your shots. Available in 35mm and 120, it should be loaded under subdued light. Film Washi is a small producer and repackager of interesting films, some of them handmade. If you are looking for something different and a creative spark, their film lineup is definitely worth consideration. I did a quick review of the Film Washi S and F films in 2019. The data sheet is here.

My advice on 100 ISO b&w films

In looking through all the different emulsions currently available, it's obvious that there are a few films that have a great cost/result attribute, and that would be Kentmere 100 and Fomapan 100. Apart from them being readily available either as the manufacturer's brand, or in a re-branded label, they have dependable results, a great track record, and can be developed with just about any developer. In the end, I recommend finding one emulsion that does what you want and stick to it. Regularly shooting the same film and developing with the same developer will give you better, repeatable results, and confidence that you'll get the shot. You get to know the quirks of a film and can bend it to your will via a developer or how you expose it. However, as these films do vary in their characteristics – grain structure, spectral sensitivity, latitude, contrast, and the physical attributes of whether they curl, cup, or lie flat, there may be a film to try so see if it's “right for you.” There lies the beauty of film – so many variables, and so many ways to mess up. There are a lot of reviews on many of these films - and its obvious that people will have differing views of the same film. If you find a film that really sticks with you, it makes sense to buy it in bulk rolls and reload your own cassettes. In doing so, you'll save money. 

My favorite developers tend to be HC110 and Rodinal, followed by D-96 and D-76. 100 ISO film is pretty much my go-to for average shooting, and I tend to use Kentmere 100 for the bulk of those shots.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Kodak Brownie Twin 20


This attractive 620 film camera features both waist-level and eye-level viewfinders, hence the Twin part of the name.  The camera was produced from 1959-1964,  and you will often see it for sale in the box with flash, a space for batteries, and the space for a roll of film. The lens has an aperture of f/11, and there is zone focusing.  While there is no B setting, there are three apertures - EV13 - f/11, EV14- f/16, and EV15- F/22.  The shutter speed is approximately 1/100 sec.    The reflex viewfinder is very easy to use, and I find myself preferring it over the eye-level finder.  The camera came with a screw-on flash that uses AG-1 bulbs.  It's quite attractive and modern-looking, in that mid-century style.

I feel the zone focus and ergonomics are the principal attraction to this camera, and if it had B exposure along with a tripod socket, it would certainly rank among the top of my list.  I found that a press-on 33mm Series VI adapter fits over the front of the lens barrel, and allows me to use a yellow filter, which I feel is a great addition for skies.    

Remember to move the switch to Exp. 1-12 after loading the film 
and advancing to frame 1.

The only really oddball thing about this camera is that Kodak expects one to switch a lever on the bottom of the camera to "Load" when rolling on a new roll of film, until exposure 1 pops up in the red window.  Then press  the lever to Exposures 1-12 so that the wind-on stops exactly at the next frame number.  If you forget and start the wind-on in the 1-12 position, you'll never get it where you want it to be.  You then have to switch back to "Load" to get to the next frame number in the red window.  Might as well leave it on Load all the time.  Its sister camera is the Brownie Reflex 20, which has the same features, but lacks the eye-level viewfinder.   That one is definitely worth a try if you should see it in a shop somewhere.

Yellow filter attached with Series VI 33mm adapter

I took the Twin 20 out on an excursion last week to Spruce Pine, NC, and shot a roll of 1997 expired Tmax 400.  I have had good luck with this expired film, and used a yellow filter while shooting in the sun.  I developed it in HC110-B.  I am pretty happy with the results.  Zone focusing worked well, and I kept the aperture at f/11 on all of the shots.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Simple, Yet Effective. The Imperial Six-Twenty

The Chicago-based Herbert George Camera Co. (founded in 1945 by Herbert Weil and George Israel), which in 1961 became the Imperial Camera Co., manufactured a slew of simple plastic cameras. Since they were made in many colors, and some were "official" cameras for either the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, they have became collectibles in their own right. It's easy to dismiss these as mid-century plastic cameras, but imagine the millions of snapshots that probably resulted from them.

While many of them are better-made than the flimsy Diana, they are very simple snap-shot cameras, and may often give results that even a Diana would be envious of. The lenses are simple meniscus glass lenses, with a fixed aperture of about f/11 and shutter speed of about 1/30- 1/60 sec. Most of the cameras they produced took 127 or 620 film, with a few that took the Instamatic 126 cartridges in the latter half of the 1960s. 

Although they are basic snapshot cameras, many did have some very nice styling and often incorporated a flash (bulbs only) in the body, or via a flash attachment.   With so many other toy cameras available, they often get overlooked, but they are toy cameras in every sense of the word. My first example of an Imperial Mark XII looked to be in excellent condition.  However, after shooting a roll of long-expired Tri-X, it appears that the lens is not aligned correctly. Every single image was slightly out-of-focus.  I have since ordered another camera on eBay, and look forward to testing it.

Pretty, but oh so awful images!

These cameras are simple.  My latest acquisition is an Imperial Six-Twenty Snapshot Camera.  Originally labeled as the Herco Six-Twenty about 1950, this camera must date from as far back as 1961, when Imperial became the brand.  This camera is the most basic of plastic box cameras, measuring about 3.25, x 3.35 x 2.4 inches, weighing just over 6 ounces without film. I had seen results from the Six-Twenty online, and knew that it was capable of pretty acceptable results.   

taped that yellow gel right over the lens.

After I cleaned it up (amazing how grimy these cameras can be!), it was ready for a test.  I loaded a roll of re-spooled 1997 expired Tmax 400, and taped on a yellow gel over the lens. I figured that it would be great if I got any sky in the photos.  I took the camera for a quick trip to the Asheville River Arts District  - a great place to test out a camera.  I shot the roll and processed it it D-96.  I am really thrilled with the results. 

You don't have to spend a lot of money on this model, and price-wise, they are worth about $5-$10.  If you don't mind respooling 120 onto 620 spools, there is a whole world of inexpensive cameras to play with.  Look for the Imperial Debonair,  Imperial Savoy, Imperial Mark XII, Imperial Six-Twenty, Imperial Deluxe Twin-Lens Reflex, and  Herbert George Sabre 620.  These will all give 12 6x6 cm images.  Prices on eBay generally run from less than $10 to over $50, depending on the model and the color.   If you don't mind respooling your film, these cameras will be great with 100 ISO films.   

Oh, and here are a few of the "best" images from the Mark XII:

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Is the Diana+ Glass Lens Worth It?

In 2015, Lomography introduced their 75 mm glass lens unit for the Diana+ series of cameras.  Like anything from Lomography, you have to wade through the hyperbole and decide if the latest and greatest thing from them is worth a dent in your checking account.  As lenses, go, it's relatively inexpensive - $49 from Lomography, and perhaps cheaper from resellers.   I acquired mine last year, and initially, I used it with the Diana to Nikon F-mount adapter.  Results were okay, and certainly better than the plastic meniscus Diana lens.  After all, the Diana + glass lens has three coated elements!  It's also a much better built unit than the plastic lens.  Everything about it seems to be more robust.   To use it, you unlock the plastic lens from the barrel, and replace it with the new lens.  Easy.  However, even with a 35 mm frame, you lose the vignetting effect that the lenses give on 120 film.  I finally replaced the old lens on my Diana+ with the new glass lens, and shot a roll with it a few weeks ago.   

I like the Diana+ Glass lens a lot.  I used the smaller frame mask in the camera, which is about 42 mm square, same as the original Dianas.  I did not see much vignetting, so the next roll will be used with the larger mask, to give a 46.5 mm square.  One of the things I enjoy about the Diana+ is its ease of use and versatility.  Lomography gets full marks for taking a fairly basic toy camera and making into a system.

Here are a few scans from the negatives. All but one are from the Vance Birthplace Historic Site near Weaverville, NC.  I used expired Kodak Tmax 400.  It had been a while since I had used the Diana+, and now it's back in my bag for more adventures. Is the Glass Lens worth it? I think so.  

on my deck.