Sunday, May 15, 2016

DIY E-6 Developing

Lately, I have been developing my own color transparency film (E-6) as well as C-41 color negative film.  Doing color transparency (positive) film is pretty straightforward with the easy to obtain Unicolor E-6 kit, which can be purchased from the Film Photography Project Store as well as Freestyle and other vendors.  I have the 16 oz kit, which does a minimum of 6 rolls of 35mm film.  The process is simple -- mix up the chemicals as directed, and you end up with three bottles -- First Developer, Color Developer, and Blix.  There is a pre-wash and a rinse cycle between each step, followed by a last wash.  Temperatures can be a bit lower than the C-41 kit, with adjustments made in the length of development times.  However, the First Developer step is the critical one for the timing, and you will need to increase the length of time for each additional roll you develop, as the chemicals are re-used.  The kits instructs you on this point, but it's easy to forget if you set things aside for a while and forget about the previous rolls.  Put a piece of tape on the First developer bottle (and yes, you DID label them, right?), and put a tick mark for each roll you develop. The Color developer and the Blix apparently do not need the same compensation.


  1. Use a hot water bath and monitor your temps.  Try and keep them within a degree or two of your target.  Immerse the developing tank in the bath to keep the temperature stable.  I just use the hot water from the tap and keep adding hot water until the temp is about where I want it.
  2. Keep another container of water that is near the developer temp for the rinse cycle and you will need enough for 7 tank-fulls of water for each rinse step.  
  3. Do keep the caps on the bottles during the process and keep them in the order you'll be using them. Only open the cap to pour back the contents from the developing tank.  You don't want to accidentally knock over a bottle and lose the contents!
  4. I use amber glass bottle made for chemicals. Avoid using bottles made for food or drink.  
Once you get your first roll done and see the color positives on the roll, you will be hooked.  At $31 for a quart kit, you'll get over a dozen rolls of 35mm film processed.  At the going rates for mail-order labs, you'll save yourself over $100.

What about mounting the transparencies?  
The only reason to mount them is if you are projecting them.  I have thousands of mounted slides in my files, and I only occasionally have projected them.  It does make it easy to handle individual frames, and the slides are easy to file and label.  However, most of my recent E-6 film is stored in the typical plastic 35mm pages that we put negative strips into.  After I scan them, it's still easy to hold the page over the light box and examine the sheet.

My last roll was definitely color shifted to the blue side, and I think it is because it was roll #6, and I had not compensated for the used developer in the First Developer step.  It should have gotten at least another minute.

last roll, Retrochrome 160 - note the blue shift, which is actually pretty cool.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

More From Berkeley

I am still developing some film that I shot in Berkeley, CA almost a month ago.  This latest roll of Ilford HP-5+ was finished up a couple of weeks ago in Arbor.  I may have stated it before, but HP-5 has become my favorite 400-speed film.  This roll, developed in the last of my remaining Kodak HC-110, came out with beautiful gray mid-tones.  The Berkeley shots were taken between 7:30 and 8:30 am, and it was great getting out of the hotel and walking around with a camera before things started getting busy.

Here are a few for your enjoyment.

Friday, April 08, 2016

To the Looking Glass.

 Last Sunday, I flew to Oakland, California with some colleagues from work to attend a workshop at UC-Berkeley.  It's been about 30 years since I was last in California, and that too, was a work trip.  I have a friend on Flickr (Therese Brown) that used to live in El Cerrito, just N of Berkeley, and she gave me a "Film Is Not Dead" T-shirt from Looking Glass Photo (LGP) about a decade ago.  In advance of the trip, I promised myself that I would visit LGP and wear the T-shirt if I had the time during my 3 days in Berkeley.  The store used to be much closer to campus, but now is about a 3 mile walk.  So, on Tuesday afternoon, I had an opportunity to do just that.  The nice thing about going anywhere today, is that one can look on Google maps and see just about anything.  A place that is new to me, is much more familiar after looking at street view, etc., to plan a route.  I walked through some interesting neighborhoods and really enjoyed seeing green and flowers, and considering how mucked up our spring weather has been in Michigan this year, visiting California could not have come at a better time!

Lots of Film...

I did bring a couple of film cameras - my Minolta XG-M and Olympus Trip 35, along with my digital Fuji X-100S.   I'll have some photos up after I process the film.

Arriving at the store at 1035 Ashby Avenue, I was a bit sweaty from the long walk in the warm, sunny afternoon. I was immediately impressed at how many people were working there, and the store's size was much larger than I anticipated.  A real, full-service store with photo paper, chemicals, FILM, darkroom accessories, and all of the other digital and types of equipment one might need. It looked like they have a darkroom, too.    A couple of women that work there were immediately making comments about my old LGP t-shirt, as it has not been available for some time.  I didn't mind being a photo geek at all.  I bought some film, a Looking Glass Photo coffee mug, and a tripod mount for a cellphone.   It was fun stepping into a store that had everything that a photographer may need, and especially catered to the analog community.  If you need a Holga, they had plenty of them in stock, too.  There are also used film cameras and lenses for sale, along with all of the cool digi gadgets you might like to see.
Kodak Ektar and Portra films

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Quickie Review - The Beacon 225

Last September, I purchased a lovely Beacon 225 in the lether case for the sum of $5 at the PTO Thrift shop in Ann arbor.  It was a banner day, because that is when I also bought the Olympus Trip 35 that I have enjoyed using.  The Beacon sat on the shelf over the winter, until I decided to re-spool some 120 film onto 620 spools a few weeks ago.  I loaded some 1997-expired Verichrome Pan - a perfect film for simple cameras such as the Beacon 225.

The Beacon 225 was made by Whitehouse Products in Brooklyn, NY, between 1950 -1958.  Whitehouse Products is another of those post-WWII camera companies that lasted about a decade. The Beacon II is very similar, but it's smaller and takes 127 film.  The Beacon 225, like the Beacon II, has a collapsible lens box that snaps into place when pulled away from the body. Then, the shutter will fire.  The Beacon 225 takes 12  6x6 cm images on 620 roll film.  The shutter speeds are Instant and Bulb, with aperture settings for sunny ("brite") (f/16?) and cloudy ("dull") (f/8?).  The lens is a 70 mm coated doublet.  There is a tripod thread on the bottom of the camera.  The red window in the back is set in a rectangular frame. The camera is mostly black plastic of some sort, and is actually rather attractive.  It collapses to a respectable size that would fit into a coat pocket.

On March 20, I shot the roll of Verichrome Pan, mostly along the beach in Muskegon, MI.  The wind was really gusty, and sand was blowing all over the place.  What better conditions to use a cheap camera?

I developed the Verichrome Pan in D-76 1:1 for 9 minutes.  Overall,  I am quite pleased with the results, and the subject matter was perfectly suited to this camera.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

6x6 Folding Cameras

Agfa Isolette 4.5

6x6 Folding Cameras

When I first started getting serious about being a photographer, I picked up a medium-format (120 film) folding bellows camera for something like $15. It was an early version Agfa Isolette which surprised me with the quality of the images I got from it. That was back around 2000-2001, and the camera was probably given to someone over the years. I have had a few other 6x6 and 6 x 4.5 folding cameras, as well as 6x9 folders. In my opinion, a 6x6 folder is the optimal MF pocketable camera. You get the full benefit of the square negative, portability, and 12 exposures/roll. While a 6x9 cm folder will give you more film real estate, you also have a larger camera, and many of the cameras available are quite old, with problematic bellows, and the additional problem of anything Kodak probably needing 620 film. There are a plethora of folding cameras out there by Balda, Franka, Certo, Voigtlander, Zeiss-Ikon, Kodak, and Agfa, to name a few. Here, I want to focus on only 6x6 folders, which I believe offer the best value and ease of use.

For some reason, there are fewer choices for 6x6 folding cameras, and your most common examples available are those made by Agfa and Ansco. Most of the models are post WWII, made from 1946-1960.

Ansco Speedex

The Speedex B2 and Standard and the Speedex Jr. were made in USA. The Speedex B2 (B2 was the Ansco film size = 120) appeared in 1940, and featured ½ sec - 1/250 shutter, + B.

  • The standard Speedex appeared ca. 1950, and featured an f/6.3 - 22 lens, B, ½ - 1/100 shutter speed, and a black plastic top deck. 
  • Speedex Special - ca. 1952, had an Agfa Apotar f/4.5 lens and Prontor shutter. 
  • Speedex Jr. - 1945-48, 1 shutter speed. Basically, a folding box camera. 
  • Super Speedex - 1953-58, couples rangefinder, Solina 75mm f/3.5 lens, Synchro Compur shutter with 1 sec - 1/500 (same as the Agfa Super Isolette). In 1953 it sold for $120. 
  • Ansco Titan - Ansco Anastigmat 90mm lens with f/4.5 lens, 1/2 sec - 1/400, T, B. 1949. 

Agfa Isolette (sometimes spelled Jsolette)
  • Agfa Isolette - The original model was made from 1938-1942, and was dual format with a mask and two red windows for 6x4.5 and 6x6 negatives. There are various lens and shutter combinations. 1960 was the last year of manufacture. 
  • Isolette 4.5 - (1945-1950) 6x6 only. Apotar f/4.5- f/22, 8.5 cm lens in Compur-Rapid or Prontor-S shutters. 1-1/500 sec, T, B. 
  • Isolette I - (1951-58) Vario Shutter, B, 1/25, 1/50, 1/200; Agnar 85mm f/4.5 lens. PC sync on rim of shutter. 
  • Isolette II - (1950-1960) Prontor-S shutter, B - 1/300, Apotar f/4.5 85mm lens. 
  • Isolette III - (1952-1958) uncoupled rangefinder, Solinar or Apotar lens, Synchr-Compur (B, 1- 1/500 sec) or Pronto shutter, B - 1/25 - 1/200 
  • Isolette V - (1950-52) 85mm Agnar f/4.5 lens, Vario Synchro shutter, B, 1/25, 1/75, 1/200 sec. 
  • Isolette L - (1957-1960) can use 35mm or 120, uncoupled meter, Pronto Synchro shutter, Apotar f/4.5 lens, B, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200 sec. 
While many of these cameras are quite usable, the one single problem that most have is the green grease that was used on the focus helical has solidified. This usually requires some dis-assembly, and use of Naptha to free up the helical. In some cases, you may think the helical is working, but you are only turning the lens via loosened mounting screws. Once you have a free-moving helical, and if the lenses are clear and shutter is firing properly, you’ll have an excellent pocket 120 film camera.
Ansco Speedex, ca. 2003

Things to check for in buying any folding camera:
  • Pinholes in the bellows 
  • Fungus or haze on the lenses 
  • Properly working shutter 
  • Focus mechanism 
  • Clean interior. 
  • Winding knob turns freely. 
Using a 6x6 folder is quite easy - press the release button to drop the bed and the self-erecting lensboard pops up and extends the bellows. Figure out your distance, aperture and shutter speed for four situation, cock the shutter and fire. Advance film to the next frame, and repeat. While these lenses are not as fast as most TLR cameras, they are probably going to produce excellent results at F/8 and smaller apertures, anyway. Most of the Ansco/Agfa 6x6 cameras feature a “cold shoe” on the top deck, which can hold a rangefinder attachment or a flash with a PC connector. The Isolettes have an array of lens/shutter combinations that often have a PC connector for flashbulb, and later, X-sync. Any single model will have several variations.

Ricoh Six Image

Other Manufacturers

Balda, Certo-Six, Franka Solida, Ricoh-Six, Voigtlander Perkeo, Zeiss Ikonta , Zeiss Nettar, Zeiss Nettax. There are as multitude of confusing names and features in the Zeiss-Ikon family, and the Ikonta B is a place to start exploring. Luckily, the majority of 6x6 folders were made in Europe, so 120 film usage is a certainty in those cameras.

Prices are all over the place for the Isolettes, but the higher-end models will always command more money. Most sellers do not know what model Isolette or Speedex they are selling, so carefully examine the images to see see what model you are bidding on. Go to Certo6 and Camera-Wiki to get more information on the various models.