Sunday, April 22, 2007

Serious About Series

I'm not talking about the NHL playoffs here. Really, I'm not. I'm promoting what is considered to be a dinosaur in today's photographic world. Back in the day -- not so long ago, really-- the USA made the bulk of their little photographic gadgetry, especially things like filters and the metal adaptors that fitted them to your camera. At one time, not all cameras had screw threads in front of the lenses, and there were no "standard" front diameters like there are with SLRs. Whereas now we have 49, 52, 55, 58, 62, 67mm, etc. filters, years ago there were only what are known as Series Filters. A Series filter was given a designation as IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, or IX. Each progression of the Roman numeral designation meant a larger diameter filter. For example, Series V filters are 30mm across, Series VI are 40mm, and Series VII are 50mm. You could find an adaptor that fit your lens, and the Series filter merely fit into the adaptor with a screw in retaining ring holding it in place. The beauty of this scheme is that you could own a bunch a different adaptors that used whatever diameter filter you needed. Some adaptors snapped over your lens, some have bayonet mounts, and some are standard filter-ring diameters that we are accustomed to using today. You could also find lens hoods that used the Series designation.

series filters

The reason I am bringing this up is that although I have been using these filters for some time, lots of people know nothing about them. If you are using vintage cameras with odd front filter diameters, then the Series filters are a great thing to know about. For the most part, they are no longer being manufactured, but if you attend any photo show, you'll see some. Those circular Kodak filter boxes that are an art deco yellow and black are a giveaway that there is probably a series V, VI, or VII filter inside. I also recently picked up several hundred (thousands?) of the filters and the adaptor rings from an estate. Amazing...

Series VI filters are great for rangefinder cameras, and Series VII and VIII are especially useful for SLRS. You can find + and - diopters, 25A red filters, yellow filters, diffusion, and more commonly, color correction filters. With a few metal adapter rings and some commonly-used filters, you'll have some very useful tools available to you. I'll post more about them later this week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Kindness of Friends

Tech Pan windfall

Last night, my friend Cynthia dropped a brick on me. Actually, it was three bricks -- of Kodak's TechPan film. A brick contains 20 rolls, for a total of 60 rolls of this amazing film. Turns out that they were going to discard it at her workplace, and she intercepted on my behalf, knowing that the surest way to make me happy is to give me free film. Even though the film was dated to expire in 1985 and 1992, I am pretty confident that it will be okay. For one, it's a very slow film, rated at 25 ASA, it's black and white, and it's a very stable film. I'll shoot a roll of the oldest batch first and see how it turns out.

Tech Pan is one of those marvelous films that Kodak produced, up until about 2 or three years ago. One of its primary uses was in graphic arts, as it could be shot as a high-contrast film for non-continuous tone images, or as a continuous tone lower-contrast pictorial film -- depending on the developer that you choose. Technidol LC is my developer of choice for this film, but one can use other standard developers at low concentrations to get a similar effect. I have also read that Tech Pan was used a lot in astrophotography since its resolution is extremely high. Did I mention that it is virtually grainless? One of the selling points was that it produced images in 35mm that rivalled medium format negatives. It's true. It does. Shooting 120 TechPan is therefore like shooting Large Format. That's true, too.

Unfortunately, TechPan is no longer produced, yet highly sought after. I sold 4 rolls of non-expired TechPan a few months ago on ebay for over $100. Crazy. A lot of people have probably stockpiled supplies of the film, and for good reason. I will use mine, and I still have a few hundred feet of bulk rolls of TechPan in my fridge. Geez. I'm sitting on gold, um, I mean silver.

Here are a few sample images from TechPan:

3111 Packard

chimney abstract


Thursday, April 05, 2007


Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

I read today that Monte Zucker, a renowned wedding and portrait photographer, recently (03/16) passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 78. Monte's articles in Shutterbug and Popular Photography and elsewhere were always interesting, and I am sure his legacy will be the way he taught his craft to others. I think he had fun with what he was doing, and his articles were often not about how one had to have the latest gadget to get good photos, but how to use the light and basic concepts to get good portaits of people.
For those people that actually knew Monte Zucker, I know they'll miss his presence. For those of us that only knew him from his writings, we'll miss his enthusiasm and experienced writing about his subject(s).

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Camera That Launched Careers (or not).

The Camera that launched a thousand careers
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

Yes, the sought-after Pentax K1000 is the camera that has most often been sold and recommended as the "Student Camera." Pentax must have sold millions of them by the time they retired it from production in 1997. Reliable, simple to operate, and with lots of lenses available, these cameras are still highly prized by anyone wanting a basic, no-frills SLR for photography class. The SMC Takumar lenses are very good... and the 50 mm "normal" lenses are sharp.
Karen Nakamura has a nice write-up of the K1000, and I highly recommend her wonderful website. Matt Denton also has a nice page on the K1000.

You can download a free manual from Pentax, too. Sure, it's a simple camera, but remember -- students have to learn sometime.

So, while I have this camera for a short while (It'll be sold for the Michigan Photographic Historical Society), I'll run a roll of b&w film through it and test it out. I hope it eventually ends up in the hands of an appreciative photography student. Then he or she can shoot film and see the wonder of this medium.

Other things:

An interesting article appeared in the NY Times about the chemistry of non-digital photography - really interesting, with obvious sleuthing aspects.

The Cheap Shots Exhibit was reviewed in today's Ann Arbor News by John Cantu. Nice review of our show!