Thursday, November 26, 2015

Svema FN-64 - try this film!

I have been using various b&w films over the many years of my photography. Some of them have come and gone, only to pop up in small quantities long after they have been discontinued, such Panatomic-X, which remains one of my favorite slow-speed b&w films.  The problem with some of these finds is that it's a small quantity, and I am using long-outdated film.  Someone else may have different results because their film wasn't stored properly over the years.  So, while using outdated film is an adventure, it's certainly not something I recommend for serious work, or repeatable results. What then, about some of the oddball films out there?  The Film Photography Project's Mike Raso has been an incredible sniffer-outer of some unusual film stocks in large quantities.  Last year, he was able to import a lot of 35mm film manufactured by Svema, the Ukrainian film company.  For most of us, Svema 64 was a film we had only seen in the guise of outdated single rolls from Russian sources.  I once shot a roll that dated from the 1970s. Then, the FPP started selling a slew of Svema films, ranging from ultra-slow ISO3 to Svema 200, and the Svema 125 color film (also a real favorite).

The new  Svema films are all on polyester or PET bases, making them exceptionally resistant to curling after development. That makes them scan beautifully, with everything being perfectly flat.  Some of them are on a very thin base (Svema 100) that is also super strong (reviewed here).  The Svema color 125 has a muted "old-school" color palette that I find very likable, and quite different from the supersaturated Fuji colors.  I highly recommend it for portraits.

 However, my favorite Svema film is the FN-64.  At an ISO of 64, it's not super slow nor really fast, and is a good choice for many situations.   I have been using it a lot in my Olympus Trip 35, and the results have been very good.  I use Rodinal to develop it at 1:25 for 6.5 minutes, and the negatives are very impressive to me.  Some grain, and of course other developers will give different results. The Massive Development Chart has plenty of information to guide you on that.

A few examples from the Olympus Trip 35:
somewhere in Wisconsin
UM campus diag, Ann Arbor


UM building, Ann Arbor

Minneapolis reflections

Hyatt Regency hotel, Minneapolis
The wonderful aspect to all this is that this film is fresh-dated, and is available in quantity. The bulk rolls of 100 feet are a bargain.  I highly recommend trying the FN-64.  I have yet to make any darkroom prints from it, but I will be doing so this winter.   You can always but a couple of  rolls and see how you like it.  I think you'll be pleased with the result.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Is the Holga Factory Closing?

Last night I saw a post on the A3C3 Facebook page, telling us that the Holga factory in China had closed  and whatever stock retailers had would be it.  Shocking!  Freestyle Photo has a page up that indicated this is the case, and it's not April Fool's Day.  So, if this is true, it comes as a complete surprise.  Holga has been the mainstay of toy camera users for nearly 20 years, and has been producing 35mm to 120 wide-format pinhole Holgas, twin-lens Holgas, etc.  Still very basic plastic cameras, and probably cost a fraction to make compared to the selling price. I found this Wall Street Journal article on the Holga factory, which is quite interesting.  Hand-assembled.  Maybe they cost more to make than I thought. In doing some searches, I found this blog, which showcased some of my work from 2012!

After reading the FB post, I went online to Amazon and bought a spare for $31.  I'll leave that one in the box until I actually need to use it. The plain old Holga 120N -- my favorite.  You may love this article I found from 2012.

So, stock up while you can.  In 2002, I paid $15 for a Holga, and now they are over $30 each.   You can also buy a true bargain, the Debonair Camera from the FPP store for the very reasonable price of $19.99.

UPDATE:  It's official. Phone call to Freestyle confirms closing of Holga.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Adjusting One's Vision

I am behind in posting here -- It's been a very busy month, and I was away on a work-related trip to Minnesota.  Between that and catching up, and scanning many, many rolls of film, I have a lot of posts coming up soon.  However, I am switching gears here for a bit to talk about a bit of a revelation I recently had.
Regulars to this blog probably are familiar with my toy camera work, and my love of trying different lenses that are going to give me a different result than the usual sharp and contrasty perfection we all crave.   I have been using a Nikon 1J1 for several years now as part of my photography toolkit, and it's a perfect small mirrorless system camera for taking on trips.  My recent trip to Minnesota was by car, so I took a few cameras, but not my usual gear.  I packed a bag with my Minolta XG-M and lenses, Olympus Trip 35, Yashica A TLR, and the Nikon 1 bag.   Part-way through the 6 days on the road, the Minolta SLR stopped firing its shutter, making me rely on the other cameras to do the job.  Basically, readjusting my shooting to the tools I had.  The Nikon 1 is a good camera for trip shots, and while I did some shooting with the 28mm and 50mm  35mm equivalent lenses, I wanted something less than perfection, and more along what I wanted from a toy camera.  Thus, I put on the 16mm f/1.6 C-mount lens as shown below. (I also used a 25mm c-mount lens with an adjustable aperture, and while both give me very desirable effects, the 16mm gives me the vignetting.  Examples from both lenses are below.)
There is only the one wide-open aperture setting, and the lens focuses from about 2 feet to infinity. I have to use the 1J1 in totally Manual mode, as well.  This combination gives me exactly the kind of dreamy, slightly vignetted images that are sharp at the center and fall off towards the edges.  No software is involved in making the images I like, and straight out of the camera images look like they were done with a cheap toy camera, but better.

I love this combo so much,  that I may just use it like this most of the time.  Obviously it's not great for every subject, but it makes some deliciously soft images that perfectly (to me, at least) provide the emotive reaction I had when shooting the scenes in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.    Sometimes it takes a happy accident to point out a direction one should take, and I might not have shot with the 1J1 nearly as much if the SLR had been working reliably.  Adjusting my vision accordingly, the Nikon 1J1 with the c-mount lens provided me with a creative tool that enable me to come back with some different images than I would have shot with the SLR.

Eagle River, WI

Land O' Lakes, WI

what the sign says

grassy dunes at AuTrain Bay, MI

AuTrain beach

AuTrain bay
Vilas Theater, Eagle River, WI