Friday, February 15, 2019

Shooting with a Leica IIIa - One roll review

Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan of the Barnack Leicas (all models that predate the M series) for glasses wearers.  In my humble opinion, the viewfinders are not a whole lot better than that of an Argus C3.  I feel quite differently about the M series.  This particular Leica IIIa came my way as part of an estate to auction off.  I try to test cameras as much as possible before selling them, and sometimes that includes running a roll of film through them.  Now, onto the camera...

This Leica IIIa was made in 1937, according to its serial number and online data records.  So, here is a 35mm camera that's over 80 years old, looking pretty much like it was made yesterday.  That's not going to be the case with most cameras, including Leicas.  However, it's jewel-like appearance invited me to take it out and test it.  I suppose the ever-ready leather case kept it looking so good all these years.  It's as if a time machine dropped the camera into my lap. 

Okay, it looks great, but how does it work?  One of the pitfalls of using the Barnack Leicas (and the Ukraine-Russian copies) is that you must trim the film leader to the right shape so that when you blind load the film from the bottom, it does not bind up with the gears.  Once you have that accomplished, you are ready to shoot.  It's pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

The weather has not been conducive to going out and testing a camera such as this, but finally I had an opportunity to do so last week.  I loaded up an expired roll of Plus-X pan and used my "sunny-16" mojo for estimating the exposures.  One nice feature of the IIIa is that you can set the rangefinder viewer to infinity for quicker street shooting. In full afternoon sun, making an exposure is pretty simple. 

I won't get into the differences between the different Leica models, as I am not a Leica historian, and you can look it up elsewhere.  However, the operational differences between the IIIa and a more recent IIIf are not many, the main differences being flash synchronization and a self-timer on the IIIf.  Both have a front slow shutter speed dial for speeds below 1/20 second.  It wasn't until the modern Leicas - the M series that all the shutter speeds from B- 1/1000 were on one dial.

I have to say, the Barnack Leicas are simply wonderful pieces of craftsmanship and are relatively easy to use. They are very compact, use no batteries, and with a lens such as the collapsible Elmar f/3.5 lens, can easily be carried in a coat pocket or a small pouch. You have to make sure that the collapsible lens is fully extended before shooting. So long as you can be comfortable with the tiny viewfinders they are really worth investigating if you want to shoot with a Leica.  The prices are far lower than the M-series, except for rare models or those of historical importance.

The Leica IIIa performed well, and I did get some decent images from it. The expired Plus-X Pan was very curly and cupped after developing and drying, and I had to weigh the sheet of negatives down for a few days to get them flat enough to scan properly. I wish I had used a roll of Iflord FP4 or Ultrafine Xtreme 400 instead!

I was able to test the camera thoroughly, and it's now up on eBay.  I hope that whoever buys it takes it out to shoot and does not let it just sit in a display case.  These cameras are wonderful tools, and should be used!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Street Candy ATM 400 - One Roll Review

There has certainly been an explosion of boutique-branded 35mm films of late.  Some of them are new emulsions, such as the Ferrania P30 and the Bergger Pancro 400 b&w films. Others, such as Kosmo Foto Mono 100, Lomography’s Berlin Kino and Lady Grey films are merely repackaged and relabeled films from the OFM (Original Film Manufacturer) that are standard well-known film stocks.  On the other hand, we have the JCH Street Pan, and now the Street Candy ATM 400 films that are non-standard emulsions from OFMs that were designed for other purposes but have found their way into our 35mm still cameras due to the enthusiasm and diligence of the people that brought them to market.  Add to that list the new films from the Film Photography Project under the Derev Pan label.  Mike Raso gave me a roll of the Street Candy ATM film to test, and finally, after over a month of delay, I have finished the roll and developed it.  Of course, you can buy this film at the FPP Store!

What is it?  
Vincent Moschetti  introduced this film  in 2018, and the original use for it was in surveillance cameras in ATM machines.  Because of that, the OFM produced the emulsion on a thin polyester base so that more film could be loaded into a reel  for the ATM cameras. I did not test this earlier version of Street Candy, but I suspect that it was similar in handling to some of the thin base films from Svema.  The Street Candy ATM 400 that I tested is on a thicker polyester base, and is easy to handle.  Vincent makes the case that the Street Candy ATM 400 gives a "gritty" look to street scenes, and yet delivers a good range of tonality.  The data sheet for the film gives some standard processing times, and he recommends that the developers and times for Ilford’s HP-5+ can be applied to the Street Candy ATM 400 film.  So, as to the identity of the OFM, maybe it’s Ilford?  In any case, it’s good to see an emulsion that does not require me to test for the best developer/time combination to get usable results or require some strange developer that I don’t normally use.    I love the 80s-look of the branding, and Street Candy implies some slightly illicit activity.

My results
I originally loaded the roll into my Nikon FA when I was in NJ for the FPP recording sessions.  I shot about a dozen frames in NJ, and about a month later I took the FA out to shoot, and when I went to take some photos I realized that the batteries had died.  I shot a couple of frames using the manual 1/250 sec and came home.  I decided not to trust the FA in cold weather, so I rewound the roll and loaded it into my very trust-worthy Nikon FM.  Therefore, the remainder of the roll was shot yesterday in downtown Ann Arbor.

I developed the Street Candy ATM 400 in D76 1:1 at 20C for 11 minutes.  Standard agitation, and a water rinse to stop, and then 8 minutes in fixer, followed by a 1 minute water rinse, archival wash, another 1 minute rinse, then a final soak in distilled water with Photoflo to avoid spots from the Ann Arbor water.  I hung the film to dry overnight and scanned it this morning.

The film has a slight cupping to it, and does not lie perfectly flat like I would have expected.  Once I cut the film into strips to fit the scanner holder, the remaining film still hanging curled up like a spring.  That too, was unexpected.  So, perhaps I am wrong about the backing being polyester. The film scanned fine, and I did not have to tweak the scans to achieve a proper "look".  I am presenting the scans here without any post-processing other than to remove dust spots and stray cat hairs (!!!!).

I find the overall results to be quite satisfactory, and the film’s grain is not detrimental to the images, and is in fact, very nice. I shot the film under a variety of conditions,  and I certainly find it to be better for me than the results that I got with JCH Street Pan.  It’s a bit different of a look than I get with my go-to film Ultrafine Xtreme 400, but not too punchy.  If you are looking to try something different, I think you’ll like Street Candy ATM 400.  For me, I’ll stick with a film that I already know and love, and that would be either Ilford HP-5+ or Ultrafine Xtreme 400.   The slight cupping and spiraling of the film after it dried was unexpected, and is a minus for me.  I like my film to lie perfectly flat, and that's what I get from my favorite films.  Still, after all is said and done, the Street Candy ATM 400 is worth a try, and you may like the look that it gives to your images.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Some Iced Coffee... my last rolls of Mr. Brown

A few years ago, I did a one-roll review of the Mr. Brown film from the Film Photography Project Store.  Over the past month, I have managed to shoot my last two rolls.  The first roll was shot at ISO 6, and developed in my caffenol recipe for 15 minutes at 20°C.  It was quickly apparent to me that the negatives were overdeveloped, as they were quite dense.  Well, one fix for that was to try the second, and last roll at a higher ISO and cut a smidge off the development time in caffenol.  Since Mr. Brown is now out of stock, you may wonder why I am publishing this now.  Well, I imagine that there are some users that have yet to shoot all that they purchased and have some rolls left.  Also, film photography is also about experimenting and sharing results, so here we go.

First of all, here is the Caffenol recipe that I use:

450 ml water
27 grams Sodium Carbonate
8 grams Ascorbic Acid
20 grams Instant coffee
5 grams Iodized salt

Mix in 30°C water and let cool to 20°C before using.  Development times can be from 10-15 minutes, depending on film, so experiment to see what works for you.

Roll 1: Mr. Brown at ISO 6, shot with Nikon N80, 15 min development time. The negatives were very dense, so I had to adjust the curves in the scans to get a normal-looking image: 

You can tell that the highlights are blown out.  So, after that, I decided that in Caffenol, Mr. Brown could be rated at ISO 12-25, perhaps even higher. 

Roll 2.  Shot in my Nikon F2S, 105mm Nikkor, I rated the film at ISO 25.  Quite different subject, with the high contrast ice and dark water, but I also figured that I would develop it for 1 minute less in the caffenol, for 14 minutes.  I still had to do some adjustments in the scans, but still very good for this type of subject, which is about as contrasty as I could get. These are all along Mill Creek in Dexter, MI.

Overall, very good.  So, this tells me that Mr. Brown is certainly a film worth trying in Caffenol, with the added benefit of being able to shoot at a higher ISO than 6!   Of course, you may want to also try this recipe with other low-ISO films to see what you get.  I'd be happy to hear about your results.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Review of Kodak's NEW Ektachrome E100

Last October, I received my five 35mm rolls of the new E100 Ektachrome that I had ordered from the FPP store.  Of course, I was elated to see Kodak Alaris finally ship their product after what seemed to be a long wait (not anywhere as long as Film Ferrania!).  Considering that this new E-6 film had some hurdles to overcome in the digital hegemony, I am pleased that Kodak Alaris took a chance on bringing it forth.  I have been shooting slide film since the mid-1970s, and while I don't shoot it as often as I did over a decade ago, I still find it relevant to my photography. 

Since Kodak pulled out of the E-6 market in 2012, we have been left with only one E-6 emulsion manufacturer -- Fujifilm.  I'll admit that I have been shooting fresh Provia and some fresh and expired Velvia in the last few years, and there is nothing wrong with either film.  However, given Fujifilm's penchant for dropping well-liked film stocks, who knows how long before they are gone?

As a long-time user of film from Eastman Kodak, I loved Ektachrome, and its varied emulsions.  For me, an ISO 100 slide film was my mainstay when shooting nature and macro.  While faster emulsions were available, I used them far less often.  Kodachrome 64 was a superb film, too, though I shot it less often than E-6 film.  Since Kodak had withdrawn form making ANY slide films, I was using old stock that had been refrigerated.  The problem there, of course, is that as films age, the results will not be optimal.  So, I was pretty excited when Kodak Alaris announced in early 2017 that it was bringing a new Ektachrome into the world.  I didn't expect it to take over a year before it was available, but it has been worth the wait.

So far, I have shot two rolls of the new E100, and both were developed by The Darkroom in San Clemente, CA.  While I have an E-6 kit at home, I did not want my results tainted by personal goof-ups.  One roll was shot in my trusty Nikon N80 in Aperture-priority mode, and the other in my also trusty, full- manual Nikon FM.  I got the film back uncut, and cut it into 5-frame lengths to fit my archival print file pages.  I am not putting the film into slide mounts because it's easier scanning in strips.  I can mount it in mounts later, should I want to.  The film was scanned on my Epson V700 photo scanne at 2400 dpi. 

As an experienced E-6 shooter, I trusted my instincts when shooting with this film, compensating for the lighting conditions when it was appropriate.  A polarizer was used in some instances.  I am very pleased with my results, and the E100 film is everything that I had hoped for.

N80, Mackinac Island, MI

N80, Mackinac Island, MI

N80, Mackinac Island, MI

N80, Whitefish Point, MI

N80, Mackinac Island, MI

N80, Tacquahmenon Falls, MI

Nikon FM, Looking Glass Creek, NC

Nikon FM, Bat Cave, NC

Nikon FM,  NC

Nikon FM, Bat Cave, NC 
Nikon FM, Chimney Rock, NC

Nikon FM, Chimney Rock, NC

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Canon T60 SLR - A sweet shooter!

Last month, a friend gave me this Canon T60 that she picked up at an estate sale for $10.  I promised her that I would shoot with it.  The Canon T60 was the very last FD-mount SLR that Canon sold.  Note the emphasis on sold.  Canon didn't make it, but Cosina did.  Like a bunch of other manual cameras produced at the end of the reign of manual SLRs, The Canon T60, Nikon FM10, Olympus OM 2000, Yashica FX-7, and Konica TCX, were all made by Cosina.  Whatever is on the outside, it's Cosina inside.  Not that it is necessarily a bad thing, as you'll see.

The Canon T60 appeared in 1990, well after the Canon EOS series had been introduced.  There was enough demand for cheaper alternatives using the FD-mount, that Canon contracted the camera's production with Chinon, and in the process, ended up with a traditional-looking sleek SLR that was certainly quite different from all the other FD-mount cameras, as well as the rest of the T-series.

The T60 is a lovely, all-plastic camera. It is lightweight, and coupled with a standard 50mm f/1.8 FD lens, makes for a sweet carry-around SLR. Unlike most Canon FD-mount cameras, it has a vertical Copal Square shutter, APERTURE-priority and manual control, and requires 2 LR-44 cells to operate.  The vertical metal-bladed shutter keeps it in line with the rest of the T series cameras - T50, T70, and T90.  Unlike the other T-series cameras, it has manual film advance.  Again, this is a Cosina camera, not a Canon! The controls are easy to use, and the camera has a nice feel in the hands.  The viewfinder is pretty good, and the shutter speeds show on the left side of the viewfinder. Focus is with a split-image center spot, surrounded by a microprism collar.

ISO settings: 25-1600
Shutter speeds: B, A mode, 1-1/1000 sec. L for locking the camera and turning off the meter.
Exposure Compensation dial: none
Depth of Field Preview: none
Film door has a small window to see what film is loaded.
Self-timer: yes
Tripod socket: yes
Film Advance and Rewind: manual
Flash - ISO hot shoe, for generic flash. No PC socket. The sync speed is 1/60 sec.
Shutter release: ability to use screw in cable release.
Lens Mount - Canon FD and FL(?), metal lens mount.

Basically, it's the plastic body.  I am sure if handled properly and not abused, the T60 will be just fine. If the 2 cells lose power, there is no manual mode on the camera, so it's dead until you put in fresh LR-44s. It would make a great "student camera" and certainly does not suffer from the AE-1 squeak and issues with older FD-mount cameras.  As an A-mode camera, I would love it if it had a +/- compensation dial. But face it, this camera was designed for a particular price point, and in that, it succeeds.

The feel of this camera reminded me of the Yashica FX-7 Super, which I really liked.  Its light weight and precise feel of operation really made it a fun camera.  I shot with a Sunpak Auto 311 flash and had great results.  After putting 4 rolls of film through it, I cannot find any fault with the exposures in A mode, or the flash photos at 1/60 sec.  I shot it with Ilford HP-5+, and here are a bunch of examples, including some with the FPP gang in NJ.

grain silo and ladder, Chelsea, MI

BBQ, Chelsea, MI

Alley in Chelsea, MI

Mike Raso with Canon Sure-shot Max

BMW dealership, Wayne, NJ

Obscura Darkroom, NJ

Tick-Tock Diner, NJ

Mat ponders the 4x5

Start them young!  Obscura Darkroom Opening, NJ

Buying one?  This is a more recent camera than any other FD-mount Canon. The FD series of lenses are quite affordable, and typically good quality. The only factor might be the mirrorless uses that could drive up the prices on some of the lenses.  Put a 50 mm lens on it and be done.  The T60 cameras on ebay are usually in the $25-$60 range, depending on lenses, etc.  It's certainly a more ergonomic camera than the T50 and T70 cameras, and not a beast like the T90.  Its sleek, all-black finish will charm you into buying one.  Make sure that you get one that has not been mistreated.